Netrunner: Breaking the Wall of “Static”
This is an opinion article, if you wanna start mumbling about how things are wrong and not precise in this article then we can agree to disagree. I’m open to discussion but please don’t poke me too much.
You know how you start playing a new game and there is that “static” that just exists and is just so hard to avoid? Oh, you have no idea what I am talking about?
Well no, it’s not just a Netrunner pun. Well yeah, it kind of is, you got me there. But we’ve all experienced how the opinion of many usually just entirely erases the opinion of the few. Well it’s always just a couple rainbow unicorns that break that static and end the silence of the few. But this article is not going to discuss breaking that static in just any game. It’s going to be focused on Android: Netrunner.
How many times have you been to a tournament where people played a deck with Astro, or a deck with Eli 1.0? How about a deck with Scorched Earth, or even Hedge Fund? Well, no need to answer that, because we all know the answer. The answer kind of makes me sad. Especially if I look at the amount of cards that exist in the game. There are about ~750 different cards in the game. It’s kind of silly to think that we are using the same cards over and over again. Then again, there are many good arguments as to why we do that. Let’s dig a bit deeper though, shall we?
How easy is it to actually say “I am playing something new!” when all you have done is change a couple ICE and how the deck gets to the end-game. Because, we’ve all done that at least once during our Netrunner lives. We changed our ICE suite and kept the same agenda suite or the same economy. Or maybe changed the economy and kept the ICE. Or…..you get my point.
How intuitive do we get by playing AstroScript in all of our NBN decks? How “new” is it to play another NAPD? How new is it to actually install Oaktown renovation? Where the heck are all the other renovations anyway? Well, I don’t have statistics, but I love talking about those things nonetheless. Here comes the element of surprise. My favourite of all elements in games.
The element of surprise allows you to catch your opponent when he is least expecting something. Surely sounds very inconsistent as a tactic, but it’s really fun. People have done great in high level tournaments that way (hint hint). Playing the unexpected. Not silver bullets though, just something entirely different and viable on its own.
The simple fact here is that some cards are just way better. Heck, why would I play Character Assassination or Bifrost Array when there are such better alternatives. People have tried those and they apparently failed because you can’t make them work well enough with the rest of the cards in the deck. Of course an agenda suite has to go hand in hand with the rest of the deck in most cases.
Trying to build something new though. How well can we really do that, when our minds are set on doing the same thing every time. We don’t have to just start rethinking the staple structure of decks, but the entirety of the deck itself. What I mean is that, you can’t just take a Weyland deck and think that it’s going to work just as well as other decks if I build it the same way as I build every other thing. Maybe it will, up to a certain point, but the cards are different and for that reason they are meant to be played differently too.
We were fast to realize that with Jinteki and at least some people specialized in mind-games and learning how to bluff and stuff. (Read my own version of Neural Tactics on that matter if you are interested here.)
I am sorry for asking so many questions without answering them. You see…that’s usually the nature of my articles. I like to raise the questions and let my readers to the thinking for themselves. It’s just pass on the “subliminal messaging.“
I spent Saturday night playing a video game called Void & Meddler. A game that is basically a noir-cyberpunk adventure game with super cool pixel graphics and really good cyberpunk-y music to accompany them. It has a screen that shakes with static and cracks at various intervals, making the game all more flavorful and thematic. Netrunner didn’t take long to come to my head and start making connections to each and everything in the game. I love cyberpunk and even more jazz-noir style settings, but that game just hit me in the right spot for some reason. After I was finished at about 3 a.m., instead of actually writing a review for it (which I will and it will be published on IGN Greece and then here in English) I ended up being so in the cyberpunky mood that I started deckbuilding for the tournament that was to happen the very next day.
I thought, “let’s not take the same old Silhouette/Nisei shit again…let’s make something new.”
I actually had been playing a Reina deck with very good results and that had somehow allowed me to get back on the horse with understanding how to play Anarch decks. But that wasn’t enough, I needed more. So I built a MaxX deck, and that MaxX deck had a bit of everything in it. It was full on anarchy from every darn perspective one would see it from. Sure, it played Siphon plus some cards that would recur that card, but as I said earlier, you need some good cards to balance stuff out.
So, here’s the deck: Anarchy Reigns Supreme
It’s a deck consisting of 45 cards, with only a few of those coming in doubles or triples, thus making the deck have ~36 unique cards in there. It’s silly you’d say. No consistency, but why would one need consistency when one has the element of surprise. The deck miraculously only lost one game even to my own surprise but I’ll be damned if I was to say it wasn’t fun to play. Surely some cards need switching there, since they are either super circumstantial or just don’t work at all, but the rest just worked wonders.
What I loved the most about the deck, was the fact that my opponent thought he knew the deck but he really didn’t. There were silver bullets flying all around the place creating a storm of anarchic chaos that was engulfing my opponent’s corp deck, one piece at a time. It was full on cyberpunky hacking anarchy. I loved it.
Unfortunately, my “Because We Built It” deck wasn’t as good, but that’s probably because I thought that stellar ICE was going to work. Well, you know what my good German friend Marcellus says, “Weyland is great, you just don’t know it yet.” I tend to believe the same, but I haven’t come round to finding how to make that happen. One day though, one day.
I specifically love the agenda Underway Renovation which I have NO IDEA why no one plays it in their Weyland decks. It’s an amazing card.
Even through the games that I played with the two Netrunner students that I started teaching the last few weeks, I taught myself so many new things about this whole new type of creativity in deckbuilding since I was able to see how newer eyes react to new and old things happening. We deckbuilt together, we explored how scared one should be when having seen certain cards. What to expect from certain archetypes and how often it is that people play that stuff as well as how sad and consistent that pattern of decks is at tournaments.
Really cool mentor/mentee program by stimhack.com by the way, you should totally check it out. I am having tons of fun playing Netrunner with my students and teaching them about NR stuff.
My point here is, that at the end of the day, it’s not just about efficiency and consistency. Maybe we need to start looking at the game from a whole perspective. Reinvent the wheel. Break it, make it a square and then try to make it roll again. Maybe it will roll in such different ways that we will be as astonished as we were when we saw that a runner like Valencia (who has 50 cards in her deck and everyone found stupid when she first came out) can be the world champ if played with a bunch of wacky resources.
Go out there and break those agenda suites people. Play some Labyrinthine Servers, some Unorthodox Predictions, a few Restructured Datapools and a couple Helium-3 Deposits. I don’t know, find something that works with them. Break the meta. Break it with hammer and not a chisel that cuts one piece at a time. Break the whole thing and start over.
Do the unexpected.
-Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis