Pieces of the Puzzle
An Android: Netrunner Strategy Article by Guest Writer El-ad David Amir
Android: Netrunner The Card Game | Published 23 June 2014

“They see our business as a puzzle because they only see the pieces. We see the whole picture. That is why we succeed.”
    –Chairman Hiro

Since its release in May, Honor and Profit has lead to a new surge of Android: Netrunner deck-building experimentation and the rise of a whole slew of new, tournament-quality decks for both Corp and Runner.

Today, guest writer El-ad David Amir provides some insight into the deck-building process and looks at some of the new card combos permitted by this latest deluxe expansion.

Guest Writer El-ad David Amir on Deck-building and Card Combos

Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game®, which means that before players sit down to their games, they can customize their decks from a constantly evolving pool of cards that grows with the game’s monthly Data Pack and the occasional release of a deluxe expansion. Accordingly, the ability to assess the value of any card within the growing card pool is integral to a player’s success within the game.

Some of the cards are straightforward. These include cards such as Hedge Fund (Core Set, 110), Melange Mining Corporation (Core Set, 108), and Private Contracts (Cyber Exodus, 59), all of which just accelerate the rate at which the Corp can gain credits. Other examples include the Runner’s icebreakers, which offer different ways to get Runners through ice. Other cards, however, are more difficult to assess. Their roles are less straightforward, and they permit much of the ingenuity of the deck-building; a clever player can use these cards to construct a well-oiled contraption with many interlocking pieces. The sum of the parts will be greater than the whole.

All Cards Are Not Created Equal

That said, that ability to craft wildly innovative card combinations and decks might become a trap for the unwary. Space is at a premium, and you need different cards to handle different situations. For example, let’s imagine a Criminal who needs to decide which decoder icebreaker to include in his deck. He might choose Peacock (What Lies Ahead, 6); it’s in-faction and can break any code gate, at a cost. However, this selection assumes that the Criminal can safely bank upon a steady flow of credits; Peacock can become expensive in situations where the Corp has rezzed multiple code gates.

Another option is Yog.0 (Core Set, 14). This decoder will cost more to install and requires an influence point, but it can break a lot of small ice for free. The selection of Yog.0 raises a risk, though, as it will be thwarted by ice with more than three strength.

A third alternative is Gordian Blade (Core Set, 43), which is the most expensive influence-wise but offers the greatest flexibility.

An aspiring Runner will choose which program (or programs) to put in his deck based on his assessment of potential game situations and Corp ice compositions.

The Alchemy of Card Combinations

Of course, no cards exist in a void; each is measured within the context of the deck that contains it, where card combinations can alter the relative weight or shortcomings of any one component. Our fledgling Criminal might employ Datasucker (Core Set, 8) and Bishop (Second Thoughts, 21) as support for Yog.0. And voilà! A combo has been born.

Likewise, a Corp that runs Chimera (Cyber Exodus, 60) – a flexible piece of ice that has the downside of derezzing at the end of turn – could install it in a remote server supervised by Akitaro Watanabe (Core Set, 79), therefore mitigating the repeating rez cost. Even better combos can turn disadvantages into advantages. The tag from Vamp (Trace Amount, 21) is a liability unless the Runner can follow it up with a Data Leak Reversal (Future Proof, 103).

Even while combos may increase the value of their component cards, many combos can be further improved by tweaking their respective components. Installing two copies of Access to Globalsec (Core Set, 52) and an Underworld Contact (A Study in Static, 69) will provide the Runner with a recurring credit, but drawing the pieces and paying the resources for them will slow her down. An alternative might be to play a Runner identity with one link, reducing the need for one Globalsec. The next step in refining this combo might be to run The Helpful AI (What Lies Ahead, 8), which provides a bonus even in situations where the Corp does not have trace. Meanwhile, since The Helpful AI is a connection, the Runner could run Hostage (Opening Moves, 4) to fetch it and get the required link, and Hostage can also perform double duty to fetch the Underworld Contact.

A deck that includes many such combinations while also maximizing the use of each component separately from the others will be highly robust. In a tag-heavy Corp deck with Data Raven (Core Set, 88) and Dedicated Response Team (Future Proof, 118) each card stands on its own in addition to forming a combo. An ideal deck will focus on combos where the pieces have their own worth.

Ignore Everything You Just Learned

Sometimes, a combo is so strong that a player might be willing to invest in assembling the disparate pieces even if they don’t function well on their own. One such example may be a deck that partners Accelerated Diagnostics (Mala Tempora, 52) and Power Shutdown (Mala Tempora, 58) with Jackson Howard (Opening Moves, 15). In such a deck, the Corp uses Power Shutdown to trash all of the cards in R&D and then uses Jackson Howard to set up ideal three-card combinations for Accelerated Diagnostics. Eventually, this sort of deck can play four or five copies of Scorched Earth (Core Set, 99) in a row. By mitigating the unpredictability of Accelerated Diagnostics, this deck transforms it into a powerful click-generator and card-draw hybrid, and its central combo results in a flatlined Runner. Of course, there’s risk involved in trying to assemble the combo, but winning the game is certainly a worth the risk.

New Data Analysis

Let’s analyze a couple of combos in Honor and Profit, the latest deluxe expansion.

Harmony Medtech (Honor and Profit, 1) is a Jinteki identity that allows either side to win as soon as they reach six agenda points (one less than the usual seven). Harmony Medtech is an example of a symmetric card; it benefits both players equally. The trick to exploiting it, and similar cards, is in breaking their symmetry and “unlevelling” the playing field. Enter Shi.Kyu (Honor and Profit, 11), the perfect companion to the Harmony Medtech ability. When Shi.Kyu is accessed, the Corp can pay one credit more than the number of cards in the Runner’s hand, forcing him to take the negative agenda point, and now the Runner’s win condition returns to the regular seven points.

Another example is Feint (Honor and Profit, 34), a run event that initially appears to do nothing, as what is the point in successfully running HQ if you cannot access or manipulate cards? The value of Feint, however, is that it combos with other Criminal favorites. It enables Emergency Shutdown (Cyber Exodus, 43) while triggering the abilities on Gabriel Santiago (Core Set, 17), Desperado (Core Set, 24), and Datasucker. It can also enable the subsequent installation of Data Leak Reversal or allow the play of Quest Completed (Fear and Loathing, 81).

Balanced Experimentation

Building a well-tuned deck calls for creativity chastened by an eye to economics and risk assessment. By learning how to gauge the effectiveness of combos while considering the trade-offs between situational cards and their powerful combinations, a resourceful player could surprise even the most prepared of opponents. The secret to designing decks that are both imaginative and effective is to balance the various parts while keeping the big picture in mind.

Thanks, El-ad!

It’s an exciting time to build decks in Android: Netrunner. The game’s network has expanded to include Honor and Profit, and the upcoming release of Upstalk, along with cards like Mutate (Upstalk, 4) and Lamprey (Upstalk, 14), means that you’ll soon be able to configure your decks in more fashions than ever.

What sort of card combos will you aim to build into your decks? Are you the sort of player who’s simply looking to push for greater efficiencies? Are you looking for card combinations that lend greater weight to their individual components? Or are you the sort of player who wants to discover a new endgame? Head to our community forums, and share your card combos and deck-building ideas with the game’s worldwide community of fans!

Based on the classic card game designed by Richard Garfield, Android: Netrunner The Card Game is a game for two players set in the dystopian future of Android. It pits monolothic megacorps against subversive netrunners in a high-stakes struggle for the control of valuable data.

Netrunner is a TM of R. Talsorian Games, Inc. Android is TM & ©2014 Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Netrunner is licensed by Wizards of the Coast LLC. ©2014 Wizards.
    
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