Hello, and welcome to another Hack the Planet. Today we’ll be looking at the AI breakers.
So, first off, what are they? Most ICE in Netrunner is one of three types: Code Gate, Barrier, or Sentry. To break these ICE, most ICE-breakers fall into a corresponding category: Decoder, Fracter, and Killer.This leads to a Rock Paper Scissors style match up game where the Runner needs to acquire the correct breaker for the ICE the Corp is laying down. So how do AI breakers fit into this? Basically, they’re the wild card. AI breakers can break any of the three types of ICE, even typeless ICE like Data Mine. To balance this they usually do so much less efficiently (Crypsis/Darwin) or with more inherit setup/limitations on their use (Atman/Knight).
So, what’s gone wrong with AI and why is there a slew of meta emerging specifically for them? Basically, they’re too efficient. Designed to be a spot job that’s less efficient to run, the fact is that efficiency in cost is less of an issue as the bit economies of most decks has greatly improved, and instead they are *more* efficient in terms of deck space/memory than running a full breaker suite. Where before you would need 2-3 copies of each type in your deck to guarantee a full rig quickly – and even then still need to find the correct breaker for the given situation early game – with an all AI deck you can just run 3 breakers total and as soon as you find one you can break any type of ICE. Further, since 1 breaker will have a smaller memory footprint than a full suite you are better able to include other programs in your rig. While your full rig will be less efficient credit wise, it is set up faster and smaller.
So, what’s to be done about this upswing in AI only decks? I think FFG is pursuing the correct route (assuming they don’t want to errata/MRP cards) by printing strong meta that stops the AI only deck, leading the environment to shift away from these deck builds. With enough anti-AI ICE in the environment we should see a return to the AI breaker being used in the support/ bootstrap role that they were intended for instead of as the sole breaker in the deck. Really only time will tell. That is what makes this a Living Card Game, after all: it constantly evolves and changes as new cards are released, new deckstyles become popular, and new ideas are tried.