Netrunner: Trimming the “Garden”
No need for introductions and other things alike, whoever knows what I’ve done in Netrunner, already knows what kind of a cocky junk-deckbuilder bastard I am so I do believe that there is indeed no need for further explanations on that.
For a recap though, I’ll just say that I have been playing the identities Jinteki: Nisei Division and Silhouette non-stop for almost a year now (since the Belgian Nationals where I got 2nd in the summer of 2015). In this article, I will be explaining how I’ve “trimmed” my Nisei “Garden” decks, why and where it is going from here.
Believe it or not, I have heard tons of shit about playing Nisei Division and how effective or good it is with the builds that I run it, but nonetheless, it did make 2nd place in Belgium and 3rd place in Greece against some very formidable opponents, so I always tend to believe otherwise. From the very first build of “Little Garden” to the “Retro Garden”, all the way to the latest “Garden Renovations” and the 2.0 version, I have been tweaking the deck according to the current meta in order to match my opponents and all the shenanigans they are preparing and I have to say that I have reached a point where I can make very good changes in no time when it comes to deciding what to remove and add to the deck.
Why a “Garden” by the way? Because my good French friend Jeremie suggested I name it like that, because it has a little garden on the ID picture and it looks super friendly despite what it’s hiding.
I of course still have some very funny pieces in there, so don’t be alarmed if some jank flies through the deck unexpectedly.
But let’s take things one by one!
Why pick that ID in particular?
Well, the thing is, Nisei Division is indeed quite shit when compared to many other identities and even I, myself, have said in numerous situations and occasions that Replicating Perfection is just a better choice (and most probably Palana Foods too now) but the thing is that, I have made a decision to bring something different and I have been very successful in doing so thus far. The reason why I play Nisei Division is because I can relate to the actual feeling the identity conveys, that being the mind games on top of the psi games. The opponent is always baffled and confused when it’s time to play a psi game since they never know what to bet, however experienced they might be with psi games. The fact that I gain a credit out of psi games always confuses everyone without having seen any exceptions as of yet (even against very experienced players).
After so many tournament wins and so much consistency through almost a year of Netrunner events with this ID, I can say that I have found my home with it and I won’t stop playing it anytime soon. I was very tempted by Palana Foods since that ID will shift the meta a lot (due to the fast economy it makes, being something that Jinteki really needed) but I still won’t fall to that temptation however counter-intuitive that might be.
Be reminded that, playing someone’s successful decks, doesn’t mean you will be successful yourself. Piloting is a major part of playing a good deck and that can be seen when lots of people tried playing my Silhouette deck and half of them failed entirely and the other half started hating on it and calling it “stupid” because of its lack of various mechanics that they are used to seeing in other decks. The people that bring hatred on the table just because they fail with certain things are clearly idiots who don’t understand the game well enough yet to realize that it’s either not their cup of tea (not their playstyle) or they just don’t know how to play it.
Why don’t you play more Psi cards?
There are not a lot of psi cards and the ones that are available, 3/4 are pretty bad. Sentries at 4 and 3 strength that a mimic with a datasucker will have a lot of fun breaking and generally ICE that is expensive to rez and only has a couple subroutines in the best of cases. I love Bullfrog and I tried to justify playing it, but it eventually didn’t make the cut in most of the versions of the “Garden” decks I built. Caprice, Batty, Future Perfect and Snowflake though are all great psi cards and there are many decks that choose to play them even if they aren’t Nisei Division for the added psi games benefit.
A lot of people ask me, “why don’t you play Batty?” My answer to that is that I am not relying entirely on the psi games and even if I was, I don’t like the fact that Batty gets trashed after being used and my experience from playing Netrunner in the past 3 years has been that having something that will stay on the board longer than just one turn (let alone just one run) is way better than the opposite. I do play a lot of Cricks and I have other ways of recurring that, but I have found that shuffling other cards back in the deck is way more effective than playing Battys. Do NOT assume that I haven’t tried a card just because it is not in the deck. I am after all an experienced Netrunner player and being able to build an effective deck in just 5 minutes allows me to see all options available to me. I do not disregard cards right away and I do wait until I see how they work after a lot of playtests.
There is a reason why all my Netrunner friends call it “Stupid Nisei Division” now.
I have said in a past article of mine, that it’s easy to see what cards you like sometimes and what cards generally fit into your deck better by putting them in the deck and then seeing how much you actually get to play them. A perfect example to that is the “Quality Time” card that I always slotted (and I find to be a great card by the way) but I never played because I just didn’t like it in-game.
Anyway, back to the point for the Psi cards. Once again, Nisei Division might not be the best and most effective ID, but even with just 9 to 12 psi cards in your deck, it’s very nice to have them and I can’t recall how many times the psi games of a Future Perfect or a Caprice Nisei made a huge difference for me money-wise during a game.
I actually have a little notebook now where I note all of my psi games, both the ones I won and the ones I lost (if my opponent allows me to note them of course, because I always ask) and I intend to post the results after I’ve recorded at least 5 tournaments to start with. Look forward to the “Stupid Nisei Division Journal”!
What is up with you wanting to kill people?
This questions has been asked quite a few times and I’m just putting it here to explain why I put certain “damage” things in the deck.
Flatlining your opponent is a very satisfying way to end the game but more importantly it relaxes you in big tournaments. If you get to flatline then you get out of the stress and pressure that you had when trying to score points. I did have a deck version that didn’t run a lot of damage (no Scorched Earth) and that was only because I wanted to fool people that knew me (because the Belgian Nationals made me quite famous apparently) and immediately protected themselves against me or played more carefully. I literally removed all damage from that version of the deck and I ended up 3rd on the Greek Nationals because of that.
Melvin being smart against me when the only 2 cards in my hand were both Scorched Earth.
Despite the mind games though, I find it very important to have more than one way of winning a game. Even if the flatline is out of the question from the very start of the game (just because they installed a plascrete or because they are playing an ID that is generally hard to flatline) having cards that deal damage can still change the way that the runner plays against you. They will be more careful and that immediately gives you a few more clicks in the game to do your own shenanigans. The tempo that is provided by careful players is pretty much what I am talking about and can help a lot when you know you won’t have someone running 3 times every turn on your servers.
I do love Scorched Earth since it’s a huge rock that just punishes the unaware and the ones that are not careful, but tagging goes a much longer way than that. In the 1st version of the Garden Renovations deck, I had a Snatch and Grab for the people that did not want to take a tag but had some very valuable resources in their play area. The card helped me tons of times and even though it was a one-off, it provided a lot of solutions in many situations that I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with all the money that my tons of assets had made me ( I swear, I never had money problems with that deck, ever).
You can see in the first version of the deck, that even though I played Scorched Earth, I still played Celebrity Gift. I managed to hide it quite a few times but in many other occasions, where things were rough, I had to show the Scorched Earth to my opponent just to gain some money without spending the extra click to draw a card (with the purpose of concealing my Scorched Earth in the process). Quite soon I realized that Celebrity Gift isn’t the great card and definitely not the only money card. It was then that I realized that not many people were playing Whizzard (4-5 months ago). I switched to assets and when I saw Sundew I was already considering of going with Replicating Perfection, but for the reasons that I mentioned in a paragraph above, decided to stay with Nisei Division anyway.
Sundew is an amazing card. When you have so much other economy in your deck already that is really hard to trash for non-Whizzards (Mental Health Clinic and PADs) you don’t really care if you lose a click rezzing a 2 credit thing that the runner will have to spend 2 credits to trash him/herself. If that wasn’t the only thing, with the amount of money that you have, you are basically inviting them to make a successful run so that you can fire you Sea Source and burn them. There are quite a few things you can do with the combos that the card provides. And in the best case scenario, they just leave it there so that it can provide you a steady income of 2 credits per turn.
I have also become the arch-nemesis of Melvin. And you can also see Robert at the back, struggling to remember how to play the game.
You can also see, that I recently changed from asset economy to operations economy again just to counter the Whizzard trashing that was going on. I was still able to beat all the Whizzards that I played against with my asset economy deck, but in most cases, it very much relied on my card draw and how much I could protect one or two assets against the runner. Right now, the operation economy that I am running, allows me to scare the runner on purpose by showing him Sea Source and Scorched Earths at will through the Celebrity Gift. I have found that the latest iteration of my deck still needs the big influx of money instead of the surprise attacks that the kill combo can have. Most people already know I run damaging stuff anyway, so I just show it to them and scare them even more, thus forcing them to run less during their turns. A poor runner is a sad runner.
The weird inclusions
Lots and lots of people keep asking me “why Self-Destruct? What good did that ever do you?”
Well, to be fair, some cards are indeed shit. I for example played sub-boost with Architect, which although amazing, the Sub-Boost could have been another useful card that would have seen more play. Same thing for Bullfrog, Self-Destruct, Snatch’n’Grab, Chum and many other cards that I choose to include. Even Ronin was a weird inclusion at some point.
However, I do strongly believe that playing at least one or two weird cards in your deck, provides that different approach that will startle the runner and keep him a bit scared. If anything, most people haven’t played against certain cards more than once (if at all) and they don’t know how to react to those. A perfect example to that is Midori who allowed me to kill 3 Fausts in a single tournament once by replacing Pups with Swordsmen when the runner least expected it (since they thought the upgrade in the server was just a Caprice or something similar).
The Self-Destruct in particular is actually there so that I can protect my server even more in case the runner does win the psi game on Caprice and gets in to steal an agenda. Just like AshXY1231213342324 (w/e the number is), Self-Destruct can be rezzed right after you lose a Caprice Nisei game and can be immediately trashed in order to blow up the server, thus saving you from losing that agenda (at that point). It also does 3 net damage which can also be a great surprise and even though I haven’t killed that many people with that, it’s still a nice hit on the runner’s hand.
There are quite a few shenanigans that you can pull and I always suggest to new players to try out various cards to see what they like instead of listening to all the people that play the exact same stuff. Just because they play exact same stuff, doesn’t mean it’s the only stuff that will get you victories. I will sound cocky again, but I got more success than many NBN and HB players out there with cards that all those players would consider shitty and would laugh at.
The current state of the deck
I just love the current state of the deck, it won me two Store Championships in a row and it has just been doing very well apart from just 2-3 games in a period of 4-5 tournaments. I feel like I’ve found a way to keep it flowing well throughout my games and be it that I play with assets, upgrades, weird operations or just killing ambushes, it always feels very natural to play.
You may ask, “you went away from assets, but why are there so many other trash-able things then?” Well the answer to that is that, even though I went away from assets, I decided to make my deck VERY annoying to all those Faust lovers. Now I am playing x2 Snare (I have explained in my Neural Secrets article why it is important to play 2-offs and not 3-offs for some cards), x3 Shock (still trash-able but does something in Archives) and x3 Hokusai (trash-able but super annoying and cheap).
The Hokusai Grid came from a dicussion that I had with someone where I was telling him “playing at least x1 Neural EMP is so important.” I immediately realized that Hokusai Grid is x2 credits to rez as well and it fires EVERY time there. Apart from that, it also needs to be trashed for 4 (or 1 by Whizzards) so it’s a win-win situation. It does indeed not provide you a kill when you want it just like if you have Sea Source – Scorch – Neural but it sure is awesome.
Apart from that, the 54 cards deck is just amazing. Global Food Initiative allows me to extend my deck while keeping almost the same amount of points and thus allows me to go for a longer game (I’m a fast thinker/player anyway so I don’t have any issues with longer games) and allows for my agenda density to be much lower. Anyone who says “you should play Museum of History in a 54 cards deck” is entirely wrong and I have proven that by getting 7 tournaments (4 and 2 in a row actually) with a 54 cards deck even before Museum of History was a known card. You can do so many more things and if you slot the right things in there, you won’t have “bad draws” very often. That of course means that you are an experienced player and you know how to handle not having ICE or the right economy at the right time. You need to know how to click through hard situations and how to not tilt just because you are not getting what you need. It is obvious that the consistency of cards is not as good as in a 49 card deck, but that’s exactly why I mentioned at the start of this article that the deck needs a good pilot as well in order to be successful.
Few words about my Silhouette
- No, I won’t play Andromeda with Rebirth, I do not think it’s consistent enough and I do like having my expose ability from the very start.
- Yes, I did go with more Plascrete Carapaces, because the current meta is very fucked up and killing a runner is quite easy if you are NBN and you get the right cards at the right time (early or mid-game).
- Yes, I haven’t changed the deck much other than that and I am basically waiting for Executive Party, Political Operative and “Freedom Through Equality” to come out so that I can slot them in and try out the deck with those cards. Executive Party is a card I have already tested and it really does make the deck go twice as fast with even less money issues thus allowing you to have to click for credits less times than you do with the current version of the deck.
- The deck is just my Nisei Division deck. It fits my play-style, I like the theme and I have very much become the “Constantine of Silhouette” as my good friend Robert says. I love the ability, I have learnt how to use it and I do not expect other people to do just as well as I do just because they picked it up. It requires a lot of practice, a lot of Netrunner knowledge (ICE strengths and costs, opportunities to run and play certain cards etc.) and a little bit of balls to make certain moves throughout certain games.
Happy Silhouette start!
I will make a more comprehensive article at some point regarding my Silhouette as well, so look forward to that.
General deckbuilding and playing advice for the current meta
- Regarding your agenda-suite, at the moment, 3pointers can lose you the game super fast and you are better off playing 2 pointers (and GFIs) so that the game lasts just a bit longer for you to do your corp magicks.
- Play 2-offs of tricky cards. Not Hedge Fund obviously, but a Snare or a Scorched Earth can be there a bit less allowing you to slot other things. Play 3-offs of things that you know are VERY important, like Komainus, Caprices and Cricks.
- A game a day, keeps the loser at bay. Very lame pun, but try to play at least one game a day on Jinteki.net and you will have a much better understanding of the meta as well as what kind of things you can build for yourself. Playing against other fancy jank-builders will give you ideas as well. I may pride myself to be a good deckbuilder but I didn’t even think about the FanSite-Library combo which almost cost me a win once. Don’t worry I beat that guy anyway.
- Play different things. Just because I play the same things all the time, doesn’t mean I never played other things. Play everything at least 2 or 3 times before you decide what you like and then FOCUS on playing that one thing more than anything else. Even if you end up last in 3 tournaments in a row, keep tweaking it and playing it actively. I lost all of my tournaments in the 1st year of Netrunner but I still played PE for about 2.5 years. That taught me a lot. Now I can deckbuild any good Jinteki deck in no time.
- Do not deckbuild silver bullets just because your meta is full of something. For all you know, people in your local store might come next time with Edward Kim decks and you’ll be looking at tons of terrible match-ups for your corp deck. Build according to what you believe will give you the right speed, economy and tricks you need in order to play the game without too much stress on yourself. If you are stressing to constantly find answers, there is something very wrong with your deck or you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Do not play NBN. Jesus, if you wanna play something easy then go play UNO. It’s good to try it out, but do not fall into the trap of playing the shittiest and most easy faction the game has to offer. There is a reason why the faction is so consistent and good but that doesn’t mean you should fall in that trap. Unless you DO LIKE IT, do not force yourself to play that just because you want to win. You can train in playing something you like more and eventually end up winning with that. Trust me, it will give you more satisfaction. ( I personally played TWIY* at some point just because I wanted to win and it was just stressful.) I do harness a certain hatred for the faction, but apart from all the salt, I am saying this for your own good, so that you get more out of this game and so that you don’t fall into the trap of “just wanting to win” since the game is amazing and it offers more than just that.
- Upgrades protect your servers better than ICE at the moment. Even though there is a lot of Whizzard rollin’ around, upgrades are still the way to go when it comes to protecting your servers, ANY server. Pick them carefully and go wild when choosing what to play because most people know how to play against an Ash XY2121312 by now, but not against a Strongbox or a Rurh Valley or…or…or…
There are quite a few other things I want to mention, but we will probably talk about those in another article.
That is all for now and even though I have quite a few more things to say, I might edit the article in the next 2-3 days or just write another one to answer more questions. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and I hope you have fun playing Netrunner as much as I do next time you play with your friends at your place or at a store for a tournament.
-Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis