Hack the Planet: Netrunner Deckbuilding Basics

by Jay Earle

So, I’ve been teaching a friend of mine from work how to play Android : Netrunner and he asked me for advice on building decks, so I thought I’d make a full article on the subject.

First, general advice for both sides. This is a game about economy, both of actions and of cash on hands. You want to be able to maximize your cash for minimum actions (and minimal cards. Drawing a card costs an action and playing a card costs an action, so using a card costs two actions). At first I thought Magnum Opus was horrible because it takes 2 mem — half your starting value– leaving you hard-pressed to field a full swath of ICE breakers, but I’ve come to realize that it’s one of the more important Runner cards as it seriously bumps your economy, doubling the efficiency of bit grabs once it’s out. Similarly  while Melange may look bad — spending your entire turn for credits — keep in mind that you’re more than doubling your credits per action when using it. With a nice fort to protect it, a few turns of Melange in mid game can leave you set for creds for the rest of the game. And Adonis Campaign, despite it’s large influence cost, is often worth including and defending for the long term credit boost, as once you install it you don’t have to waste any more actions on the bits. In the same way even Pad Campaign, although a slower trickle, can be very valuable as you don’t have to waste actions for the bits. As the Runner you should trash it given the chance otherwise you may find your opponent with a large stack of creds late game.

Having covered the economy, let’s focus on what each side specifically needs (besides Electrolytes) First we’ll tackle the Corp. The first rule of thumb for the Corp is that you need ICE to keep those pesky runners away. I like to go for somewhere between 20 and 25 pieces of ICE, with the majority being first turn rezzable. Too little cheap ICE leads to a first turn where you leave yourself vulnerable to the runner. You want to see at least two pieces of ICE in your opening hand. With a 49 card deck and 5 card opening hand about 1 in 10 cards will show up. Thus 20 ICE in deck should give you 2 ICE at start. (I’ll let someone else do the statistics for why my Jinteki deck never seems always need a mulligan despite 23 pieces of ICE :-P)

Finally, the Runner. Where the Corp is always drawing new cards and therefore places no advantage on card draw, the runner loses resources to get further in their deck so wants to make doing so as efficient as possible. Diesel and Wyldside should always be considered in your deck, even out of faction. Obviously not every deck wants 3 of each, but 2-3 Diesel and a Wyldside or two (as faction points allow) can easily let you get the card advantage you want, especially against Jinteki. While not quite card draw, if you’re Shaper (and thus not burning influence), using Aesop for cash, or just plain like link (looking at you new Anarch console) Rabbit Hole can be quite useful for deck thinning. Six creds to remove two cards from your deck may seem expensive, but sometimes every bit helps.

Generally speaking as the Runner you want to get to the end game quickly (look for an upcoming article on the three phases of the game) so in deckbuilding it’s important to keep this fact in mind. At the end of the game you’ll want the ability to break every piece of ICE the Corp blocks you with, as well as the economy to be running as often as possible so you can hit Agendas. Thus you might want to plan out your end game rig and make sure it works. For instance I failed to do this with the initial version of my Whizzard deck and realized in playing it that I didn’t have the mem for my ideal rig while still dropping viruses, like Parasite to take out nasty ICE. If you plan out your end rig you can see what your decks needs are and prep for them.

Finally, a word on meta. There are some cards that have a strong meta use that you might want to include or not based on your environment. For instance, I was disagreeing with Mike on Wyldside in Chaos Theory: he thinks with the already thin deck you don’t need the card advantage for it so you’re better with 3 free influence, while I feel it’s still a strong meta choice against Jinteki. Of course the most obvious meta pick is the neutral armor from the data pack. It’s probably a must have right now for it’s strong meta potential against the tag and bag decks running around, and if you’re criminal there are several other strong meta options against said deck, both in stopping the tag and in stopping the meat damage.

So, that would be my general advice for new runners as far as what to keep in mind for deck building. Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments here.

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