Go Hard Or Go Home: A Look At Aggressive Strategies in Netrunner

I love to go fast.

I’m a fan of winning, too. In a perfect world, I’ll win as quickly as humanly possible. Afterall, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. We’re all reasonable people and have things we’d like to do: Eat lunch, go home, have some down-time before the next round. The list goes on.

It should come as no surprise that I love aggressive decks. But in a game like Netrunner, where the meta is constantly shifting to favour one archetype or another, they can be hard to stick to.

Back when I first started playing competitively, -around July of last year-, I exclusively piloted aggressive Corp and Runner decks. At the time, the best option was Classic Andromeda Aggro and Making News Fast-Advance Aggro. With the subsequent release of Near-Earth Hub, Fast Advance got on the crack and snorted hard.

My initial Near-Earth Hub list came together with the help of my peers (current TWA panelists Jesse, Liam and Wilfy), and unlike most lists, it didn’t spam out assets and upgrades just to get that card draw.

The ability on Near-Earth Hub should be looked at as an upside; something that compliments your overall strategy. Not something that becomes your strategy. We’ve spoken about this many times on TWA. In this case, the reason is simple: If you want to make an aggressive deck, you shouldn’t include cards that aren’t aggressive.

By drawing these cards, and then installing them to draw a card, all you’re really doing is slowing down your overall plan. If one of those Marked Accounts you’d chosen to play had just been a better card in the first place, you wouldn’t have to install it in order to draw the card you actually want. Make sense? Less clicks wasted on installing pointless Assets. Less clicks wasted storing money on them.

More clicks spent winning the game.

While the meta has shifted significantly in the past eight months, (and in my opinion, away from Fast-Advance strategies), I still standby this simple fact: The best thing about Near-Earth Hub is that your Jackson Howard now draws you three cards the first turn you play him. This means you’re drawing your FA pieces as quickly as possible, so you can get back to your primary function: Scoring.

When this hyper-aggressive Near-Earth Hub list first hit the meta, Runners didn’t know what to do. They often didn’t know where to run, when to run, or how to go about their own rig development. This kind of stunted reaction is always expected when a new deck hits the field. In Netrunner, unfamiliarity can be punishing, especially on the Runner’s side. Anyone remember the early days of Replicating Perfection?

The best thing you could hope for when playing Near-Earth Hub was that your opponent would pay five credits to trash your SanSan off the top of R&D, or when it’s unrezzed in a remote. The fear of SanSan was so palpable that most runners were willing to destroy their economy to cripple the Corp’s strategy. At least that’s what they thought they were doing.

Unfortunately for them, the (second) best thing about Near-Earth Hub is the ability to play three copies of Biotic Labour without succumbing to NBN’s terrible in-faction ICE. As such, the Corp player would just score an Astro out of hand with a Labour, often moments after the runner went to zero for trashing an unrezzed SanSan.

Things have changed since then. Runners are wise to the aggro-Corp act. Gone are the days when old-school Andromeda lists would comfortably play one copy of each breaker.

And that’s what made Andromeda so great: You could reliably spend your first turn splurging out a Security Testing, followed by a Desperado or a Datasucker or a Dirty Laundry or a Sure Gamble- You get the idea. Your hand was never clogged up with a bunch of inflexible programs.

Aggressive Runners like Andromeda were consistent enough to get their key pieces in the first turn or two, and then you’d start face-planting into that ICE, because really, if you were playing anything but Jinteki, what’s the worst that could happen?

You’d start poking and prodding, forcing the Corp to spend her credits to protect her servers, or you’d be getting accesses that came with a free credit or virus counter courtesy of your Desperado and Datasucker. It felt great.

When the time came for a breaker, it was the last thing you were looking at doing. Special Order and Express Delivery got you the single copy of that breaker you needed before slamming it into play to shred that poor Corp’s server.

The aggression came in the poking and prodding. But these days, playing with only one copy of each breaker can be too slow, and poking and prodding is much worse than it used to be.

Andromeda lists have shifted from the aggressive archetype. It may be that she wasn’t always suited best to an aggressive style, but actually a Midrange one. We’re beginning to see a proliferation of Data Folding and Underworld Contact economy lists. We’ve also seen the very cute, (if hit-or-miss), Au Revoir economy decks.

Andromeda is best suited to these builds due to her large opening hand size: You get access to the pieces of your, (arguably convoluted), combination of cards as early as possible. And while some will argue that Au Revoir fits perfectly into a Chaos Theory list, I will never be able to get over spending so much influence just to save on that extra memory.

So, coming out of Order and Chaos, who steps up to fill the shoes of the aggressive runner?

Why don’t we give MegaBuy a call?

Yes, everyone by now has put a pile of cards together and given MaxX a try. Some people have abandoned her, leaving cries of “I milled my good cards!” echoing in their wake. But a few of us have held on.

The most popular MaxX list you’ll see kicking around the internet is one with Eater/Keyhole/Siphon. While this list is good, and has proven itself in many tournaments with many pilots, I still argue that this is not what MaxX was built for.

The Eater/Keyhole/Siphon lists are Midrange decks. Often, the runner will play a Day Job into a Liberated Account, followed by an I’ve Had Worse to dig for their eight-cost, three-memory rig before they can actually start doing anything. This is fine, but it isn’t an aggro deck.

Even after you have your pieces and start running with Keyhole, you still need to get into archives. In this situation you can neither rely on getting the rest of an actual rig together, (the memory won’t allow for it), or putting all your chips on Hades Shard while hoping that you don’t lose it to MaxX’s ability.

There is nothing wrong with this strategy. I think it’s sound. But it’s at home with a runner who lends themselves to the Midrange or Control archetype. Wilfy Horig has nailed it with his Valencia List that we discussed in Episode 25.

No, what MaxX wants to do is go hard or go home.

So that’s what we’ll do.

Deck: MaxX Reanimator Aggro 1.5

As we’ve spoken about in past episodes, the biggest issue with Anarchs was the inability to quickly assemble a rig and fire off reliable accesses. MaxX fixes this. Her superior card draw, coupled with the sheer amount of recursion available makes her an aggressive force to be reckoned with: Less clicks spent drawing. Less clicks spent installing.

More clicks spent winning the game.

This list can threaten multiple servers from turn one. Often, you don’t have to be fearful of facechecking due to your instant-speed access to Parasite or Mimic. Cards like Inject help MaxX put those reliably in your bin where they can be easily fetched with a Retrieval Run or Clone Chip.

The list pours its influence into Desperado and Clone Chip, wasting no time with Siphon or Legwork or The Maker’s Eye. This list wins with Medium, Nerve Agent or a combination of the two. Having the constant threat to be able to hammer out R&D or HQ puts a lot of pressure on the Corp. She often won’t have a safe place to hide her agendas. Especially if you’ve been draining her credits by forcing her to rez ICE, only to kill it outright.

And you’ve no doubt noticed that there is no Levy AR Lab Access. Let me be clear: I loathe this card. It is narrow, inflexible, and not at all what MaxX wants to be doing.

When playing this list, having your entire deck in your bin is pretty much where you want to be. Wasting what could otherwise be a Clone Chip on a card that pretty much reads “Well, you gone done goofed, start over”, is not what you want to do if you want to be aggressive.

Levy is a panic button. And MaxX doesn’t panic, so you can’t either. You gotta be with her for the long haul. Have more faith in your playskill and your deck.

I’m the first to admit that I sigh internally when I sit down opposite a Jinteki PE player. One could argue that you need Levy in those matchups to not just straight-up lose. But I would rather have a very good chance against 90% of decks and a bad chance against the other 10%, than to skew that ratio.

Go hard. Or go home.

The modern aggressive runner, as Shielsy recently pointed out, can’t afford to afraid of anything. This list is no different. You want to put the Corp under pressure in every way you can. You want to force her to spread her ICE thin, you want to force her to waste turns purging viruses so you can start hammering those servers for value all over again.

The best spot to get into with this deck is one where every run feels fantastic. Sure, one could argue that it’s a rare occasion, and that indeed any runner that feels like that is in a good position. But MaxX’s consistency, and the solid, straight-forward gameplan of this deck means that it doesn’t meander away from it’s roots or try to be something that it’s not.

And if you’re winning, why not switch out for some win-more cards?

You could easily cut Knight or David from this list to fit in a few more brutal run events. The caveat will be that Lotus Field and fat pieces of Control ICE will often be an issue for you. But if your meta is still rife with Near-Earth Hub or classic Replicating Perfection, just cut those narrower breakers and go steal some agendas.

Coming into the SanSan cycle, Corps are going to be switching things up. The introduction of cards like Clot, Cortex Lock and Traffic Jam will mean a change of pace for a lot of decks, and I’ll warn you that if your meta shifts to a proliferation of Control Corps, you can’t really afford to roll with such an aggro Runner, particularly if the Corp knows what she is doing.

But we’ll worry about that when it comes.

Until then, fuck you, motherfucker.


Brian Holland, (affectionately known as The Big Bad Wolf), is the host of The Winning Agenda Podcast. He may one day be a published author, but until then, he’ll wallow around, complaining about card rulings. But that probably won’t change even if he does get published. You can check out more of his inane ramblings on twitter @bwholland

Go Hard Or Go Home: A Look At Aggressive Strategies in Netrunner

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