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Subject: Runner "Endgame" Archetypes rss

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Thomas R
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So I've been thinking quite a bit over the past few months about runner "endgame" strategies in Netrunner. What I'm talking about here is the idea that most runner decks have a state that they try to push the game into that makes them very likely to win the game. The classic example of this is what's generally termed a "R&D lock" where the runner can see every card that the corp will draw is seen in R&D by the runner before it can be drawn. If a full R&D lock can be achieved before the corp has drawn 7 points of agendas, the runner can (almost) guarantee victory by stealing the final agendas before they can be scored.

With that as a starting point, I've been thinking about other archetypes of endgame that a runner might aim for that could, at least in theory, be similarly successful. While I would not be surprised if there were quite a few, my initial thinking identified two more in addition to R&D lock.

First, the idea of "control" decks. These are decks that seek to lock down control of remote servers as their primary end-game. They are, I suspect, most easily identified by their inclusion of The Source as a method for disabling Fast Advance strategies and requiring the corp to actually install agendas in remotes, leaving them vulnerable. Here are a couple of examples: Zoning in Netrunner (the thread that really got me thinking about the archetype), Runner Control Decks and Endgame (where I started exploring the idea), and
Red Riding Hood (a recent example).

You'll note that two of these decks have forms of central pressure built in (Indexing and HQ Interface) as methods to shorten the game clock and keep the corp from getting enough time to find a way out of the pressure. The example deck that didn't contain a central pressure option actually had problems closing out games, so I suspect that some sort of "and once they're jammed up with agendas, here's what happens" plan is probably necessary in decks of this type. Currently I lean toward multi-access on HQ as a way to deal with this, but there might be other options.

The second major archetype I've been thinking about are what I'm tentatively calling "timing exploitation" decks. Which is a fancy way of saying that they create a huge one- or two- turn advantage and use that small window to just win the game. For most of A:NR's history, this has basically meant Deep Dig strategies (Whizzard Deep Dig as a random example). These rely on setting up a situation where you get one or two turns of absolutely unrestricted access to R&D (free runs, basically), usually set up with a combination of Vamp and Parasite, and then you use Medium to cascade into enough cards to win the game.

The problem that Deep Dig decks have historically had is that, with one Medium on the table, two full turns of free access isn't enough to win most of the time. Eight access is eight medium tokens, allowing you to see seven cards on that last run. Even if we assume that you steal some cards and trash others on interim runs, you're still probably not seeing more than 12 or 13 cards, and that's not (statistically) enough to win the game. Keyhole, however, has changed that. Install Keyhole and then run the rest of this turn and all of next turn with it is seven hits, or 21 cards. That's on par with having THREE Mediums installed, and in most games it's going to be enough to just win right there.

So, with the explanations out of the way, I think it's worth doing three things: consider which of the existing archetypes win the most, discuss what would be needed to make an archetype more viable, and see if we can identify additional archetypes.

At the moment, I think the idea that R&D lock is the best understood and most explored archetype isn't especially contentious. I also suspect that most people would agree that it's also a very "tier 1" archetype as it seems to be highly successful in play, and the cards used to accomplish it (R&D Interface, primarily) are considered to be quite strong. I think that there's been quite a bit of exploration of "control" archetypes, but that they aren't quite "there" yet. I suspect that, given the card pool, even the best control deck can only be "tier 2" at the moment. Keyhole's a fairly new card, and a lot of people have written a lot about it, but early results seem to suggest that it may have been the missing piece that timing exploitation decks needed to actually be a "tier 1" threat. The jury's still out, really, but it's looking promising.

Given the deeper understanding of it, I suspect that R&D lock archetypes are the "winningest" option at the moment. It's possible that Keyhole will allow timing exploitation decks to compete on equal footing with R&D lock decks, but we haven't had enough time to explore the space to know if the positive early signs are strictly pointing to the power of the strategy, or if it's just that corps haven't figured out appropriate counter-play yet. Despite the work that people have put in on them, I suspect that control decks are missing some key pieces necessary to be really competitive.

If that's accurate, then I don't think anyone's especially worried about the "viability" of R&D lock, at least not at the moment, which means that we don't have to devote a lot of time to figuring out what would make it stronger.

I would say that timing exploitation's current power cards are Keyhole, Parasite (+Datasucker), Vamp, Account Siphon, and Emergency Shutdown. It's possible that Joshua B. is important, or at least useful, as well, which would bring in All Nighter, both as ways to magnify the impact of your exploitation turns. The common theme for most of those cards is a combination of getting ice out of your way for R&D runs and making sure that the corp doesn't have the credits to do anything about it for at least a turn or two. What other cards in the current pool are powerful when trying to set up a key one or two turns? What gaps could new cards fill for this archetype to make it more powerful (an anti-Jackson Howard card to make Keyhole more reliable, for instance)?

So far I think it's pretty clear that the absolute key card for control decks is The Source, but what else is important? Some way to do something about the fact that HQ is jammed up with agendas? So HQ Interface or Nerve Agent, perhaps? More ways to dominate remote servers (bad publicity and Blackmail, perhaps)? More ways to mitigate The Source's downsides (it's pretty economically challenging to play The Source multiple times when you're stealing agendas in between)?

And, finally, what archetypes am I missing here? I think that these may be the major ones out there, but I wouldn't be surprised if I've missed something. Similarly, is it worth exploring the various sub-types within each archetypes?
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Zeb
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Eventually, I expect milling the corp deck will be a viable endgame condition for the runner, but it clearly isn't one now.
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Grant Cain
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We will have to go to the jury to vote on this, but I would like to propose that "money lock" may be an archetype that can be explored. By this I am talking about decks that keep corps poor to the point where they cannot even advance agendas (things like AS and Vamp being primary). I have almost never seen a corp recover from a Vamp/AS lock on their headquarters when the runner has accumulated 20+ credits and the breaker(s) they need. The endgame is that without credits, agendas just naturally build up in HQ or Archives if they have to dump them.
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R. Fetterkey
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Christkid5 wrote:
We will have to go to the jury to vote on this, but I would like to propose that "money lock" may be an archetype that can be explored. By this I am talking about decks that keep corps poor to the point where they cannot even advance agendas (things like AS and Vamp being primary). I have almost never seen a corp recover from a Vamp/AS lock on their headquarters when the runner has accumulated 20+ credits and the breaker(s) they need. The endgame is that without credits, agendas just naturally build up in HQ or Archives if they have to dump them.

Money is becoming both easier to get and easier to ignore for the Corp. In some respects "money lock" seems like an outdated strategy to me.
 
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Thomas R
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Zebadiah wrote:
Eventually, I expect milling the corp deck will be a viable endgame condition for the runner, but it clearly isn't one now.

Good point. Of course, for milling to be viable, even once the right cards are available, you've got to have some way to keep the corp from scoring while you mill them out. So maybe it looks like a "control" style deck, but instead of attacking HQ to get all the agendas that are stuck there, you lock down the remotes and mill the corp out?

What would we need for that to be a viable strategy? Just a better way to get tagged at the beginning of your turn to turn on Data Leak Reversal, or would we need an entirely different milling card?
 
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Thomas R
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fetterkey wrote:
Christkid5 wrote:
We will have to go to the jury to vote on this, but I would like to propose that "money lock" may be an archetype that can be explored. By this I am talking about decks that keep corps poor to the point where they cannot even advance agendas (things like AS and Vamp being primary). I have almost never seen a corp recover from a Vamp/AS lock on their headquarters when the runner has accumulated 20+ credits and the breaker(s) they need. The endgame is that without credits, agendas just naturally build up in HQ or Archives if they have to dump them.

Money is becoming both easier to get and easier to ignore for the Corp. In some respects "money lock" seems like an outdated strategy to me.

I don't know that I'd dismiss "money lock" as an idea, but I'm not sure that it can really be considered a full-blown archetype on its own for two reasons. 1) It's not indefinite. R&D Interface was the card that enabled R&D lock because you install it and it works. Money locking someone is currently event dependent, and in theory you could run out of events to keep doing it before the game is over (or not draw your events close enough together to maintain a lock). 2) Keeping the corp broke isn't, in and of itself, a path to victory. You need to have a finisher (even if it's just waiting until the corp decks out from mandatory draws). I suspect that money locks look at least somewhat similar to "control" style decks in that it's about dragging the game out until a large number of agendas have been pulled from R&D while they can't be scored and then snagging them all at once.
 
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Zeb
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anathomical wrote:
Zebadiah wrote:
Eventually, I expect milling the corp deck will be a viable endgame condition for the runner, but it clearly isn't one now.

Good point. Of course, for milling to be viable, even once the right cards are available, you've got to have some way to keep the corp from scoring while you mill them out. So maybe it looks like a "control" style deck, but instead of attacking HQ to get all the agendas that are stuck there, you lock down the remotes and mill the corp out?

What would we need for that to be a viable strategy? Just a better way to get tagged at the beginning of your turn to turn on Data Leak Reversal, or would we need an entirely different milling card?

We would definitely need more cards that can mill better. If you think about it, corp decks mostly have 49 cards, then we subtract 6 for the opening hand and first turn. That leaves the runner with 43 cards to dispose of. It's not feasible to purely stall the corp through all 43, so we need acceleration.

A common DLR setup will mill 2 cards per turn in addition to the mandatory draw and can't be set up until turn 2 at best. The turn before decking, the tag removal isn't necessary so that's an additional mill. Even then, it will take about 21 rounds to mill the corp. Noise viruses won't help because all the actions will be used on DLR mill.

 
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Grant Cain
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It is interesting because "Money lock" works with many of the other strategies (which is why it may not be one in itself). As you mention, control is about knowing that the corp can't score from hand because of The Source and knowing you can get into the server when they put the agenda in. I do think this is a strong endgame. It is hard to define a strong endgame archetype by cards always being there because all archetypes would have at least SOME of that (The Source you can only have 3 copies of). With LARLA and Same Old Thing, we are seeing many events over and over again already.

All of this to say that Money Lock may not be an archetype in its own right, but maybe it is a way to speed getting to an endgame situation favorable for the runner.
 
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dan dargenio
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I don't think the issue with mill is necessarily that we don't mill well enough, but rather that it's easier to just go into archives and score points than it is to actually mill every card from the opponent's deck. There are some exceptions, like noise vs cerebral imaging, and of course jackson howard makes scoring from archives more difficult, but I find it hard to imagine a deck that would prefer to mill every card than just end the game sooner by scoring the points you mill.
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Benjamin W.
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Excellent analysis. I think the identification of timing exploitation as a strategy is crucial- the old noise-shop decks were basically this, going off in a single turn and trying to win off a lightly defended archives. One thing I thing to recognize about R&D lock is that it requires the ability to run R&D cheaply every turn. That can be via Atman, datasucker, desperado, emergency shut down, ice destruction, and so on. On the other hand, the timing exploitation decks don't need to make one cheap run a turn, they want to make multiple cheap or preferably free runs over a few turns. Many of the same cards end up being used here, but its a useful distinction to bear in mind.

Also, I think that timing exploitation also benefits from some control style elements. After all, while you only need a small window to win, it can take a while to engineer this window, and in the meantime you need to stop the corp from winning. Cards like the source can be perfect if you expect to be able to pawn it and win in a turn or two once you get set up. One of the reasons R&D lock is so strong is that it can be set up quite quickly, and this allows the runner to out-race fast advance corps. I suspect that if the tempo of the game slows down a bit, then timing exploitation will get stronger.

I think that a lot of discussions of Anarch's assume that, in order to be competitive, they need to be able to be as good at R&D locking as other factions, but I suspect that the future of Anarch is more timing exploitation. I've been experimenting with a keyhole and ice destruction Whizzard deck, and my hope for fear and loathing is that there is an Anarch card to further support the keyhole timing exploitation strategy.
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Stan Adecla
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mediohxcore wrote:
I don't think the issue with mill is necessarily that we don't mill well enough, but rather that it's easier to just go into archives and score points than it is to actually mill every card from the opponent's deck. There are some exceptions, like noise vs cerebral imaging, and of course jackson howard makes scoring from archives more difficult, but I find it hard to imagine a deck that would prefer to mill every card than just end the game sooner by scoring the points you mill.

Bingo. I don't think FFG wants to make a mill deck in Netrunner viable. It would be as bad as decks that can play 18 Account Siphons. Just unfun to play against, really. Data Leak Reversal is great because it sparked a lot of minds into action, but really, it's best used as a foot on the head of a corp not poised to win near the middle of the game.
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Zeb
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wakkowolf wrote:
mediohxcore wrote:
I don't think the issue with mill is necessarily that we don't mill well enough, but rather that it's easier to just go into archives and score points than it is to actually mill every card from the opponent's deck. There are some exceptions, like noise vs cerebral imaging, and of course jackson howard makes scoring from archives more difficult, but I find it hard to imagine a deck that would prefer to mill every card than just end the game sooner by scoring the points you mill.

Bingo. I don't think FFG wants to make a mill deck in Netrunner viable. It would be as bad as decks that can play 18 Account Siphons. Just unfun to play against, really. Data Leak Reversal is great because it sparked a lot of minds into action, but really, it's best used as a foot on the head of a corp not poised to win near the middle of the game.

As much fun as milling is, I hope that it doesn't become viable as well. It's only fun for the person doing it.
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Thomas R
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Christkid5 wrote:
All of this to say that Money Lock may not be an archetype in its own right, but maybe it is a way to speed getting to an endgame situation favorable for the runner.

Right, this. I suspect that money locks are really about prolonging the game. This isn't really a new idea. People have talked about Account Siphon "prolonging stage 1" of the game for a bit, and I think that still makes sense even with the framework of endgame archetypes. Account Siphon, or any other form of money lock/denial (Vamp, and perhaps cards like Emergency Shutdown and Xanadu), push the corp to take longer setting up, which provides the runner with more time to set up as well. Basically trying to keep the corp from winning while you set up whatever your endgame is.

bwald wrote:
Excellent analysis. I think the identification of timing exploitation as a strategy is crucial- the old noise-shop decks were basically this, going off in a single turn and trying to win off a lightly defended archives. One thing I thing to recognize about R&D lock is that it requires the ability to run R&D cheaply every turn. That can be via Atman, datasucker, desperado, emergency shut down, ice destruction, and so on. On the other hand, the timing exploitation decks don't need to make one cheap run a turn, they want to make multiple cheap or preferably free runs over a few turns. Many of the same cards end up being used here, but its a useful distinction to bear in mind.

Also, I think that timing exploitation also benefits from some control style elements. After all, while you only need a small window to win, it can take a while to engineer this window, and in the meantime you need to stop the corp from winning. Cards like the source can be perfect if you expect to be able to pawn it and win in a turn or two once you get set up. One of the reasons R&D lock is so strong is that it can be set up quite quickly, and this allows the runner to out-race fast advance corps. I suspect that if the tempo of the game slows down a bit, then timing exploitation will get stronger.

I think that a lot of discussions of Anarch's assume that, in order to be competitive, they need to be able to be as good at R&D locking as other factions, but I suspect that the future of Anarch is more timing exploitation. I've been experimenting with a keyhole and ice destruction Whizzard deck, and my hope for fear and loathing is that there is an Anarch card to further support the keyhole timing exploitation strategy.

I'd push back on this to some degree. If you have all three R&D Interfaces installed, you may only have to run R&D every other turn. Or 1 click in 8, leaving you 7 clicks to do whatever it takes to prep for that run (probably taking credits or something). Whereas timing exploitation is about running 6 or 7 clicks in 8. Which is to say that I think you've got the right idea, but that the difference between the two is actually greater. Paying six, or in some cases eight or ten, credits to get into R&D may be fine and sustainable for an R&D lock endgame. It is almost certainly unworkable for a timing exploitation endgame.

I agree that control-like elements can help with timing exploitation, but that's probably true for R&D locks, too: all strategies, regardless of endgame, have to have a way to keep the corp from winning while they GET to their endgame. Maybe that's Inside Job, maybe that's Crypsis and piles of credits, maybe that's The Source, but everyone's got to have something.

I also agree regarding Anarch as a faction. They've always been good at resource denial. Vamp and Xanadu pressure credit supplies, and Parasite + Datasucker has always been the best way to reduce the number of ice in their deck. Plus Whizzard, Imp, and Scrubber for trashing cards. It's just that I think it took Keyhole to turn those little advantages Anarch has always been able to generate into actual wins (other than the old Noiseshop glory runs).

Zebadiah wrote:
wakkowolf wrote:
mediohxcore wrote:
I don't think the issue with mill is necessarily that we don't mill well enough, but rather that it's easier to just go into archives and score points than it is to actually mill every card from the opponent's deck. There are some exceptions, like noise vs cerebral imaging, and of course jackson howard makes scoring from archives more difficult, but I find it hard to imagine a deck that would prefer to mill every card than just end the game sooner by scoring the points you mill.

Bingo. I don't think FFG wants to make a mill deck in Netrunner viable. It would be as bad as decks that can play 18 Account Siphons. Just unfun to play against, really. Data Leak Reversal is great because it sparked a lot of minds into action, but really, it's best used as a foot on the head of a corp not poised to win near the middle of the game.

As much fun as milling is, I hope that it doesn't become viable as well. It's only fun for the person doing it.

I think I agree with all of this. For mill to be a "good" endgame it would need to be risky/impossible to score out of archives. So, maybe in a world where there were six or ten Shock-like effects that meant that it was possible to run Archives and flatline if you didn't win. Or maybe milling that removed cards from the game rather than putting them in archives.

But, on top of that, it's probably better if neither of those happen because milling as a victory condition really isn't that interesting/fun. It's highly non-interactive, and reminiscent of all the things people hated about "Noise-shop" decks last year.

Actually, that gives rise to an interesting question: do some archetypes have more interesting counter-play than others? Is it, for instance, more fun to try to figure out how to get rid of The Source than it is to try to figure out how to defeat an R&D lock? Or is it the other way around? Or are they both just interesting in different ways. That is: are some endgame archetypes viable while being un-fun in ways that mean we'd generally like to see cards come out that make them less viable?
 
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Benjamin W.
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anathomical wrote:

I'd push back on this to some degree. If you have all three R&D Interfaces installed, you may only have to run R&D every other turn. Or 1 click in 8, leaving you 7 clicks to do whatever it takes to prep for that run (probably taking credits or something).

Well, it depends how aggressively the corp is drawing to get past your lock. If you have 2 RDI's (a much more common occurrence than all 3 hitting the table), and the corp spends 3 click's drawing they already see 1 card you haven't seen; letting them see another 4 next turn may be enough for them to draw the game winning agenda.

On a different note, I've seen some hyper-aggressive criminal decks that don't bother with R&D locks, using indexing to try to pull out early wins instead. Maybe this is a criminal variant of timing exploitation? The idea is to dig deep and then grab 1-2 agenda's off the top of R&D, requiring 2-3 runs, and then to do it again a few turns later, which seems similar to making a bunch of keyhole runs in a turn and then scooping the agendas out of archives.
 
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Sam Suied
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on your "timing window" idea, i've won a local tournament with a deck based on setting up a 2 turn keyhole window with vamp http://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/1920/clockwork-gamer-tour... It works quite well in practice
 
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Thomas R
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bwald wrote:
On a different note, I've seen some hyper-aggressive criminal decks that don't bother with R&D locks, using indexing to try to pull out early wins instead. Maybe this is a criminal variant of timing exploitation? The idea is to dig deep and then grab 1-2 agenda's off the top of R&D, requiring 2-3 runs, and then to do it again a few turns later, which seems similar to making a bunch of keyhole runs in a turn and then scooping the agendas out of archives.

Actually, this is something I've been mulling over, too. I used to run a Gabe deck of this pattern that used Maker's Eye instead of Indexing, and it didn't really feel like it had an end game. I think it was kind of a "burn events for fuel and hope you win before they run out" sort of approach. The game never settled into any repeated pattern, I don't think, it was just constant pressure in different direction depending on what I'd drawn.

Which is a long-winded way of saying: I don't really know how to describe these decks. To me, they don't feel like they HAVE an endgame. They feel more like they're just going to pressure everywhere and kind of hope the game ends before they run out of the ability to maintain said pressure. They're not aiming to achieve a specific game-state and then hold things in place until the game ends in victory, which is what the "endgames" I've mentioned above sound/feel like to me.

SamRS wrote:
on your "timing window" idea, i've won a local tournament with a deck based on setting up a 2 turn keyhole window with vamp http://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/1920/clockwork-gamer-tour... It works quite well in practice

I've been playing with a similar deck recently, too, and its success is a big part of what prompted this post from me. I'd experimented quite a bit with "control" decks previously, but after having them underperform when compared with R&D lock decks, I wasn't sure what to think. Having a highly-successful "timing exploitation" deck to play with has gotten me thinking about things at a high level in which R&D lock is merely a type of endgame rather than a more generalized "winning strategy".
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dan dargenio
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bwald wrote:
anathomical wrote:

I'd push back on this to some degree. If you have all three R&D Interfaces installed, you may only have to run R&D every other turn. Or 1 click in 8, leaving you 7 clicks to do whatever it takes to prep for that run (probably taking credits or something).

Well, it depends how aggressively the corp is drawing to get past your lock. If you have 2 RDI's (a much more common occurrence than all 3 hitting the table), and the corp spends 3 click's drawing they already see 1 card you haven't seen; letting them see another 4 next turn may be enough for them to draw the game winning agenda.

On a different note, I've seen some hyper-aggressive criminal decks that don't bother with R&D locks, using indexing to try to pull out early wins instead. Maybe this is a criminal variant of timing exploitation? The idea is to dig deep and then grab 1-2 agenda's off the top of R&D, requiring 2-3 runs, and then to do it again a few turns later, which seems similar to making a bunch of keyhole runs in a turn and then scooping the agendas out of archives.

Indexing + Same old thing can often function as R&D long lock long enough to win the game. Once you get to the point where you can R&D lock, it's easy to have saved up 2-3 instances of indexing, which is comparable to a 5-card R&D access. Of course, it's also awesome to abuse people who leave open R&D against gabe because they're trying to protect HQ early.
 
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Thomas R
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mediohxcore wrote:
bwald wrote:
anathomical wrote:

I'd push back on this to some degree. If you have all three R&D Interfaces installed, you may only have to run R&D every other turn. Or 1 click in 8, leaving you 7 clicks to do whatever it takes to prep for that run (probably taking credits or something).

Well, it depends how aggressively the corp is drawing to get past your lock. If you have 2 RDI's (a much more common occurrence than all 3 hitting the table), and the corp spends 3 click's drawing they already see 1 card you haven't seen; letting them see another 4 next turn may be enough for them to draw the game winning agenda.

On a different note, I've seen some hyper-aggressive criminal decks that don't bother with R&D locks, using indexing to try to pull out early wins instead. Maybe this is a criminal variant of timing exploitation? The idea is to dig deep and then grab 1-2 agenda's off the top of R&D, requiring 2-3 runs, and then to do it again a few turns later, which seems similar to making a bunch of keyhole runs in a turn and then scooping the agendas out of archives.

Indexing + Same old thing can often function as R&D long lock long enough to win the game. Once you get to the point where you can R&D lock, it's easy to have saved up 2-3 instances of indexing, which is comparable to a 5-card R&D access. Of course, it's also awesome to abuse people who leave open R&D against gabe because they're trying to protect HQ early.

This is actually a pretty good point. I hadn't really considered the idea that an endgame strategy might be a preponderance of available events rather than by some combination of things that you install. It's kind of weird, though, because, as you say, you might play those events opportunistically early, possibly running out before the game ends...

I suppose that there's some amount of luck around access order in any endgame that goes late enough, so these event-based endgames may just be more susceptible to variance. Something to think about, I suppose.
 
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