A key idea in Magic: The Gathering is the concept of the Fundamental Turn, by Zvi Mowshowitz, in which he describes a particular ‘turn’, which varies depending on the format, in which the outcome of a match is decided. Unfortunately, due to the asymmetrical nature of Android: Netrunner and also its built-in check and balance mechanism, this concept isn’t easily importable to Netrunner.
Assuming a ‘normal’ game of Netrunner, in which the Corp’s game plan is to win by scoring agendas (and not by murdering the Runner), a ‘Critical Turn’ could be defined as being the combination of the Runner’s turn before the Corp scores an agenda, and the Corp’s turn in which it scores said agenda. Following this idea, there would be multiple Critical Turns in any game of Netrunner, which is dependent on what archetype the Corp is. For example; over the course of a game, Foodcoats would have three or four Critical Turns (depending on whether or not Global Food Initiative is one of the scored agendas), Near-Earth Hub Fast Advance would have four Critical Turns, and Harmony Medtech would have two Critical Turns.
How the Runner and the Corp approach these Critical Turns will play a major role in affecting the outcome of the match.
Let us consider a hypothetical gamestate: You are playing as Noise, in the Foodcoats match-up. You’ve got your WyldCakes engine, but no Faust in play, and you’ve been happily milling some cards into Archives. There is an unrezzed ICE on R&D, HQ, and two unrezzed ICE in a remote server, which has an Adonis Campaign, Breaker Bay Grid and two unrezzed cards. The Corp decides to install into the server, trashing the Adonis, and advances the card twice. The Corp has, say, 18 credits. Both of you are on 0 agenda points.
The Corp has thrown down the gauntlet. It has declared a Critical Turn.
What are your options?
- Contest this remote server.
- This seems very daunting at the moment. You’d need a click to get Faust into play, perhaps another to get D4V1D as well, and have to contend with 2 unknown ICE. Furthermore, there would be at least one Ash and potentially a Caprice as well.
- This might not be the best option at the moment
- Mill a few more cards and then hit Archives, hoping to snipe a few agendas (and maybe even win the game!).
- This seems reasonable, given that the Corp needs its whole next turn to advance out what seems to be a Global Food Initiative
You choose option 2, and steal one agenda. Next turn, the Corp advances out the Global Food Initiative, and the dance continues. You either get lucky with your next mills with Noise and win, or the Corp lucks out with Jacksons Howards and they win. It’s all luck, they say.
- The better option here, option 3, would be to start attacking other central servers, like HQ or R&D. Install a Medium and hit R&D, or, install an Imp, and hit HQ. Steal other agendas before the next Critical Turn happens.
However, I would like to present to you option 4. And here, you need to consider the question:
“How did you, as Noise, let the game evolve to this state in the first place?”
A Critical Turn is a turn where the Corp is threatening to pull ahead significantly, but also the turn in which the Corp is at its weakest, as the resource to pull off a safe Critical Turn is immense. Near-Earth Hub Fast Advance needs to spend 8 to rez a SanSan City Grid and score out an agenda. Foodcoats needs two turns to score out an agenda (one turn to install, the other turn to advance it out); this means four extra clicks for you as a Runner. If you also choose to contest the scoring server, the cost to rez ICE is also huge.
Option 4 would be:
- Devote a significant amount of your play in the turns preceding the Critical Turns to setting up your gamestate so that you are best able to take advantage of the huge opportunity that opens to you during these turns. And to do this, you need to weaken the Corp’s Critical Turn. Ways to do this are:
- Destroy the remote. Against Corps that uses remotes, like Foodcoats or Harmony Medtech, nullify the remote server as early as possible. Run it early, get the Corp to rez the ICE. If you can get it, get rid of any upgrades, economy etc. If you can’t get it, then start parasite-ing the ICE. With no remotes, they cannot score out. Even if you can’t achieve this, the Critical Turn will be significantly delayed, and be much weaker when it happens.
- Destroy their economy. Against Near-Earth Hub Fast Advance, trash as many pieces of asset economy as you can reliably afford. You want them to end their Critical Turn on as low credits as possible, then you can start attacking elsewhere when they don’t have the resources to defend. Against Corps that need remotes, remember that the cost of rezzing ICE is huge. Advancing a 5/3 costs 5 whole credits (and 5 whole other clicks that could otherwise be gaining them more credits as well).
- Threaten central servers. Set up a central threat that is so strong, e.g. Medium or Nerve Agent, that the Corp has to respond, and thus further delaying their Critical Turns. This is akin to stealing
- Once all the above fails, then you can ‘just mills some cards’ and hope to win. This still works.
Depending on gamestate and match-ups, you will find that you need to do all of the above, in varying degrees, in different matches.
This is why the current meta favours Anarchs so well. They can utilise all of their economy to compete with the asset economy of the Corps, as the Faust/David/Parasite/Cutlery combo is so good at completely destroying servers, and they have the supreme multi-access threat of Medium. If you are playing Shaper or Criminal, then your options change a bit. Perhaps you ‘destroy’ the remote by making it so cheap to run that they can’t reliably set up a safe Critical Turn. This would also mean that you need to manage your resources well and you don’t blow it all up doing other things.
The core idea is that delaying a Critical Turn, even by one turn, is huge. Four clicks to the Runner is huge. Play your game so that the Corp never has a safe Critical Turn. Agendas will then start piling up in central servers, and you can steal them from there. Of course, you’re never going to be able to compete well during every single Critical Turn every time, but you need to make sure you’re always thinking about these key points in the game and have a plan how you’re going to approach it.
Craft every click you utilise around the concepts of these Critical Turns. How much is playing The Maker’s Eye now going to affect my play during an eventual Critical Turn? How much do I really need to run 3 times with Medium now, in the context of an eventual Critical Turn? How much is this 1, or 2 credits now, and potentially more later, from this lousy Pad Campaign/Eve Campaign/Marked Accounts/Mumba Temple worth, to the Corp, in the context of an eventual Critical Turn?
Sometimes, the answer to these questions might be “not much”, in which case, you can safely ignore the issue and go about doing other things. Other times, the answer might be “a whole lot”, in which case, you better put your heart into it and deal with it as best as you can.
A credit might be just a credit if the Corp has an infinite amount of credits. But it might be a whole lot more than a credit if they are at 7 but need 8 to Fast Advance with a SanSan; here it might mean four more clicks to the runner, which might mean four more Medium runs, four more Noise mills, or another Clot appearing on the table.
Lastly, what can you do from the Corp’s perspective? In the current meta, options are limited, as inevitability happens somewhat early into the game, and is in the favour of the Runner. Options are:
- Present a Critical Turn when the Runner is not ready – this is the Rush/Agro concept. Play loose [Editor’s Note: The author is the loosest bloke you’ll ever play against] and just go for it when you think the Runner may not be ready. If you can get away with less setup (i.e.; rushing an Astro behind an ICE without using SanSan, or rushing an Accelerated Beta Test and getting a good trigger with it), you’ve saved yourself a lot of credits and clicks and pulled ahead significantly.
- Compress these Critical Turns as much as possible – Near-Earth Hub Fast Advance is best at this, as every turn might be a potential Critical Turn. Harmony MedTech also does this well as they only need 2 Critical Turns to win the game. For Foodcoats – just take the two off the Eve Campaign, trash it and move on to the next agenda!
Always present the Runner with a decision to make – take three off Adonis, trash it and install another thing into the server, even if it is another Adonis! The more decisions the Runner has to make, with imperfect information, the more likely they are going to make a decision that favours you.
Figure out what the other person wants to do and stop them from doing it!
crushedguava (Reddit/OCTGN/Netrunnerdb), is a guest writer for The Winning Agenda and an avid gamer. He listens to TWA during the long drive to his day job. He has multiple opinions but finds it difficult to articulate them. The Editor believes he is perfect and doing so.