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Android: Netrunner» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Things to Consider for the Beginning Deckbuilder rss

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M. A.N.
United States
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I am writing this for my wife, who is interested in deckbuilding, but is a little overwhelmed by the prospect. If it's useful to somebody else, then great.

A couple things to take into account:

My deckbuilding experience is limited. I can build a legal deck that wins at least as much as it loses in my local meta. I've not yet been to a tournament, I don't spend a ton of time on OCTGN, this is my first card game, and I fully recognize that I still have a lot to learn. That being said, please let me know if there is anything objectively ridiculous contained in this post. My intent here is to provide some basic advice to the new player who may not be familiar with all of the mechanics, thematic elements, synergies, resources, &c. that exist in this game. I myself am still learning these things, and arguably, so is everybody who plays the game, as the card pool expands and the meta evolves.

Let us begin...

Mandatory Reading

There are some great resources available to this community. People here are generally gracious about answering questions, offering advice, and helping players develop their understanding and skill. Android: Netrunner (A:NR in the local vernacular) is not the first card game to generate such a robust community of players. A lot of the mechanics of this game are most easily explained through analogy that refers to other games, most commonly Magic: The Gathering (M:TG). This makes sense, as the original designer of both games is the same man: Richard Garfield, and there are some overlapping mechanics. If you haven't played M:TG (as I haven't), deciphering the jargon utilized by experienced players can be difficult. Additionally, there is some vocabulary that is unique to A:NR that it will be helpful to know if you plan on participating in the BGG conversation, either actively or passively. All that to say, read this:

And for a more broad look at the game as a whole:

In case you missed it, both of these posts are on the BGG info page for A:NR. Now it's here too.

I will assume that you have a basic understanding of the rules that govern A:NR, as well as the in-game terminology as defined by the rule book (R&D, Heap, Run, &c.)

My Mistakes

Making mistakes is part of the learning process, obviously. Some are useful, some are embarrassing, some simply waste your time. Here are a few of my more egregious mistakes that I invite you to not repeat:

-Putting non-neutral agendas of another faction in my deck
-Omitting economy cards in both corp and runner decks
-Omitting a means of breaking sentry/barrier/code gate ICE subroutines (a deck can be built with ICE-type specific icebreakers, it should be noted)
-Relying too heavily on one type of ICE

I made these mistakes because either I had an incomplete understanding of the rules that defined a legal deck, or of the tool/resource interactions that a player encounters in a game. The lesson here; know the rules. If there is a rule that you have some doubt about, look for the answer here, on the Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) website, or elsewhere. If you can't find the clarification that you need, ask the community!

Moving Parts

There are several different forms of currency in A:NR; credits, clicks, cards, time, hand size, even agendas in some instances can be traded for something. Trading one thing for another is the root of this game, and it's important to maximize the "profit" of those trades. This is done by using cards that benefit by a certain play style (a typical set of actions used by the player piloting the deck). This is a topic that could encompass its own thread (and probably has), but for this post, I will just say that, when first starting out as a deck builder, understand that these relationships exist, and should be considered when deciding which cards to include in your deck.

If you're getting into A:NR now (late September, 2013), you're lucky. The card pool is still manageable for a new player. We have the core set, one deluxe expansion, and 1 and 1/6th of a cycle; all in all, 308 tournament legal cards, including 20 identities (feel free to correct my math). At first blush, that seems like a lot, but when you consider other CCG's or LCG's, this game is still in its toddling stage.

There are a couple of reasonable ways for a new deck builder to learn the cards in a way that would allow him or her a game literacy sufficient for building a decent deck. Good old fashioned trial and error is still a great way to become familiar with cards and card combinations. Another thing that I have found helpful is to look at other people's decks to see what they may have discovered. Build a deck off of somebody else's deck list and play with it. You will most likely learn something. While trying to build a certain GenCon-winning Jinteki deck, I had to figure out cards to approximate or replace cards that only came one- or two-of in the core set, as I only own one. This helped me to understand the original author's intent, and the intricacies exploited to make a great deck.


For the purpose of this conversation, I am defining theme as: the overall victory strategy of a deck with regard to the typical set of techniques available to a particular identity, as implemented in the deck. Simply put, no single deck can do everything all the time, but it can do a handful of things well most of the time.

A simple example; the Anarch identity Noise: Hacker Extraordinaire has a number of in-faction cards that provide him with the tools to access a large amount of cards from R&D, also known as an R&D Dig. Many Noise decks are built around gaining access to R&D, then accessing a large number of cards from that server, typically with Medium, with the (statistically supported) goal of some of those cards being agendas. That's not to say that remote servers are always ignored by a Noise deck, but typically, an R&D dig Noise deck will try to focus on ensuring access to R&D. A good deck, it is important to note, will have the capability to adapt, should the R&D dig technique cease to be a viable path to victory.

This theme, when dissected, reveals several different forces at play, which will afford us the opportunity to examine some mechanics in depth.

Remember: in order to steal an agenda, a runner must gain access to it. In order for a corp to score an agenda, it must deny access long enough to advance it (we can talk about other victory conditions another time). In our Noise example, the runner is maximizing the value of each R&D run with Medium, which allows a progressively larger amount of cards to be accessed with each successful R&D run. The corp, though, probably isn't keen on allowing an opponent playing a Noise deck unfettered access to its R&D.

Enter ICE. On the most basic level, ICE attempts to stop or delay access to a server by ending runs, inflicting damage, draining the runner's resources, &c. Of course, the runner wants to use his tools to minimize or negate the effects of ICE during the course of a run, and the various types of ICE require various types of icebreaker programs to do so. In conjunction with these interactions, the player has further opportunity to benefit by installing cards that reward an action by conferring even more power. Keeping with our Noise example, let's take a look at Datasucker, and talk a little bit about synergy.


Datasucker is a program that, when installed, gains value as the runner runs on central servers (R&D, for instance). That value is a virus counter with each successful run on a central server that can be used to lower the strength of ICE, making it possible to break subroutines on that ICE with a weaker icebreaker. Therefore, it behooves the player playing Noise with Medium to make more runs on central servers, specifically R&D, because with each successful run on that server, the net cost of making a successful run decreases, while odds of accessing an agenda increase. As an added bonus, Noise's identity bonus states that whenever subtype virus programs are installed, the corp must trash the top card of their R&D, further benefiting the runner by causing the corp to burn resources to protect a server that isn't paying any bills.

The relationship between Noise, Datasucker, and Medium illustrates synergy. Synergy, in A:NR, can be defined as a relationship between abilities that increases the value of each individual card conferring those abilities when used in conjunction with one another. Another way to put it is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With the above example, Medium, Datasucker, and Noise's identity ability are all pretty good on their own, but when used together, are much more powerful.

When designing a deck, these synergies, thoughtfully applied, are what make the difference between a decent deck and a good deck. In great decks--decks that win tournaments--every card choice takes these relationships into account. This is both the beauty and the challenge of building an A:NR deck.

In Conclusion

While we have used a runner identity as an example, the concepts of synergy and theme and game literacy translate to the corp side as well. It's simply a matter of discovering and exploiting these elements across the game.

As a new deck builder, keep the following things in mind:

-Know the rules; develop game competence
-Learn the card pool; develop game literacy
-Determine a goal and a course of action; deck theme
-Understand card interaction; synergy

Don't be afraid of making mistakes, or building a deck that isn't going to win every time. It's okay to try "unconventional" things. Unless you have decided to give up your career and pursue a career as an A:NR player, the stakes really aren't very high at this point. It's a game, designed to be fun. If you aren't having fun, you may be doing it wrong.

There are certainly other things that are helpful to consider when building a deck, and I encourage anybody with the inclination to add helpful tips for the beginning deck builder to do so.

Also, what's for dinner?

Exeuent, pursued by a bear.
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