I look at my opponent, I look at the board. I have 3 NEXT ICE rezzed. I have ICE six deep on R&D. I have 3 deep on my remote. I have money. I have an agenda that can win me the game in my hand.
And I don’t have a prayer in the world.
Later my opponent would tell me that he didn’t have any idea how he was going to win, but he won anyway. Serves me right for playing NEXT Design? Well he was playing Surfer Kit; I call that a wash.
I read an article this week (well… Skimmed), about having a plan while playing Magic: The Gathering. You must have a Plan. Get a Plan. When you’re off your Plan, work out how to get back on your Plan. That sort of thing.
Netrunner is not Magic, it’s asymmetrical and I think it changes this mentality of the Plan. The Corp and the Runner must approach the game differently. The Winning Agenda had an excellent episode about this about a year ago. It’s not an original idea in Netrunner that the Corp sets the pace of the game and that it’s up to the Runner to respond. I think the bulk of the planning is for the Corp to execute and for the Runner to interrupt.
On the Corp side, this explains what we currently see in the more widely successful Corp decks.
Near-Earth Hub Fast Advance is successful partly because the Plan is simple: Score out one AstroScript Pilot Program, leverage into a second and wrap it up from there. ButcherShop’s Plan is this plus a kill package so if the Runner makes a mistake, there’s another avenue to victory. Plan A is scoring and Plan B is also extremely effective.
Weyland has problems in the meta that are well documented. But the root of it is that; Plan A is scoring which is difficult and; Plan B is murder which is well documented to be easily avoided. If the Plans are reversed, the Corp often must sacrifice one for the other. Pick wrong and lose. Pick right and you still lose often because you can’t go back to Plan A when Plan B fails.
Weyland partly fails because its ability to murder (that is, Plan B), is so powerful that, by design, the ability to protect servers and score agendas (Plan A), had to be less powerful than other Corp faction.
Foodcoats (and to some extent every control build), works because the Plan is to; build; get money; and leverage that using Ash and Caprice Nisei to score. Caprice makes this Plan possible, which is why control decks like Replicating Perfection took off after her release.
I’ll come back to Jinteki, stay with me.
We now come to the Runner. The Runner’s Plan is quite simple and often the same: Disrupt the Corp’s Plan. Break the chain. Stop them from executing. If you steal two AstroScript Pilot Programs, you probably win. If you get out the Plascrete Carapace, you probably win. If you win the first Psi game, you probably win.
Noise always comes back in the meta because his native ability is to disrupt the Corp. Andromeda’s ability is useful because it affords the Runner consistent options to disrupt the Corp. Account Siphon; Inside Job; Parasite; icebreakers; they all disrupt the Corp. They stop the Corp from doing what it needs to do to win.
The Runner’s Plan really revolves around how the Runner intends to disrupt the Corp. Trashing cards, ruining the economy, vomiting icebreakers and copious amounts of cash are all ways the Runner frequently does disrupt the Corp.
And now we come back to Jinteki and specifically the recent flavours of Industrial Genomics; an identity that is close to my heart.
Industrial Genomics is difficult for the Runner because disruption is difficult. You sit there thinking that if you run Archives you can then go and trash the Ronins and the other fun stuff. But you might die if you run Archives. Even then, you have to play Russian Roulette with the remotes. Imp disrupts pretty nicely as does Account Siphon, but there are counters to both. So how do you disrupt IG? I don’t know, if you do, tweet us @WinningAgenda
Okay, so we know what a Plan is and why it’s important. How do we use that information to score or steal the winning agenda?
There are two major facets to your Plan in Netrunner: Deck building, and playing.
In deck building, you must consider how your card choices affect your plan. What ICE support your plan? Which economy cards allow you to execute your plan most efficiently? Are your Icebreakers essential to your plan to disrupt the Corp? What if you don’t get them? Do you use so-called ‘silver bullets’ to disrupt the Corp’s plan?
As a Corp, is the finite Operation economy going to enable you to install and rez your ICE and execute other parts of your plan? Or do you need the larger payouts that Asset economy provides? Asset’s can masquerade as agendas; does that assist your Plan, or hinder it? Asset economy is more easily disrupted and trashed from R&D, allowing the Runner to see more cards. How does that affect your Plan?
What about ICE? Should you primarily use gear-check ICE designed to ensure the runner has a solution to pump out early scores? Or is taxing ICE more part of the plan, allowing the Runner in, but only once every one (or two or three), turns? How do these decisions affect the agendas you use? How susceptible are you to R&D lock if you use cheap gear-check ICE?
For example, we infrequently (that is, never), see successful decks that use big agendas and gear check ICE, partly because R&D can be very porous at any stage of the game and the high variance means that the Runner can usually score three agendas fairly easily.
For the Runner, consider that using Resource based economy in a deck that floats Account Siphon tags can lead to disaster. If Data Leak Reversal or Keyhole are your Plan, then a full breaker suite is probably not needed, and a stealth breaker suite is completely insane.
These may seem like obvious examples, but the principles always apply. Every card in your deck needs to work towards your Plan. If it’s not, cut it. Find something better.
Now of course, having a Plan, and having cards that suit a Plan, don’t necessarily breed success. I’ve played enough Weyland: Because We Built It to know that. The deck works, but it’s not good because the Plan is easily disrupted and it’s difficult to get back to the Plan once that happens.
When playing to your plan, always be thinking about what the next step is. Do you need the right card? Consider drawing cards. Do you need money to execute your Plan? Get money. Ok, these are not new ideas, but they’re always worth thinking about. What does your Plan need? Do that.
When you’re on Plan and it’s working, there should be very little standing between you and winning. But remember to consider the things your opponent can do to take you off your Plan.
And what happens if you do get off your Plan? You gotta get back on it!
Ask yourself what the path back is. The Runner has all their breakers and a decent level of credits? Maybe you can ambush them to trash a program. Maybe you can close their accounts. Maybe you can bait a run in a taxing server. Maybe you just have to install an agenda in a new server and bluff it as an Asset.
Often as Corp, you’ve got to try and stop the disruption, but sometimes you’ve got to try and play through the disruption. If what you need is to score an AstroScript Pilot Program, work out how you’re going to do that. Do you draw for a Biotic Labor? Do you install one naked and pray? The game situation will dictate, but the key thing is to do what you think will get you back to your Plan.
As Runner you have to ask what you can do right now to disrupt the Corp in the most effective way. Do you get an R&D lock going to disrupt the Corp’s ability to get agendas? Do you gather resources and wait for the right time to strike? Do you try to go and find the Caprice or Ash that’s in HQ? Do you trash the Eve Campaign or the Breaker Bay Grid?
By the way, my opponent in the game from the intro didn’t see it. He totally disrupted my Plan. Surfer Kit was something I didn’t see coming and it ruined my Plan. There was no Plan B. He didn’t need a Plan to win at the end of the game. He already had a Plan to disrupt.
He’d already executed it perfectly, despite what he thought.
Sam Hall is an avid Netrunner player and listener of The Winning Agenda. When not scratching his head at the gaming table, he is most likely watching 007 Films, or running through Arrested Development for the 30th time. Check him out on twitter, @the_horseshoe