A deck building epiphany

Here is a statement that I can’t quite get my head around:

When new or intermediate players try to build a Corp deck, they often build around groups of cards that seem to go together. However, the way they form these groups is a bit off. They group cards by how they work rather than what they are for. They put a bunch of net damage ice in a deck without a clear idea of how they are using that damage. They build annoying servers full of Data Ravens, but have no way to force the runner to run through them. A good Corp deck has a clear path to victory, and every synergy in the deck moves it forward along that path.

The statement comes in this blog post by Abram Jopp.

It underscores to me how little I understand deck building still. This was confirmed for me when my local group held an online draft recently – a fun experience by the way. I got to see some of the decks my meta-mates constructed at our Tuesday night meet up. I was impressed by how well they had assembled decks with clear game plans and paths to victory. In my drafting, not having a good idea how to build a deck, I just tried to draft all the money and ice/breakers I could and hope I could come up with a playable deck once I was done with that.

I’m not sure when the switch flips for newer players where you begin to really grasp these things. It is clear to me there is a switch. I’m still searching for it.

Do you think the distinction Jopp makes about the way newer deck builders assemble decks is correct?

Did you have a moment when you felt like you figured out deck building?


Word salad!

It’s hard to tell from such a short post, but it seems like you might be trying to insult someone. Maybe … don’t?


Interesting, I’d never really thought about it in the way the OP describes.

That seems like one possible weakness for a weaker player, but there are others, such as:

  1. Pet cards
  2. Not including enough econ and draw (especially on the runner side)
  3. Trying to do too much, eg, a fast advance deck that also plays with tags, tries to kill the runner and shoot down their rig
  4. Not considering matchups against common archetypes
  5. Only thinking about the best case scenario, not the average case
  6. Not considering opportunity cost, eg, when you put a card in the deck, the question isn’t just whether it does something useful, but whether it’s better than any of the other cards you could have included instead

Yes, having typed it out, 1 and 6 are very similar.

I think I became a better deckbuilder just by thoroughly playing with some of the popular archetypes at the time. I started playing just before Upstalk came out (which contained NEH), but I only actually started playing NEH some 3-4 datapacks later. Until that point, I’d played alot of HB, dabbled around with basic scorch kill and PE kill, and then made a Tennin fast advance deck - when I played a bunch of games with NEH fastrobiotics, it became obvious why it was streets ahead, and gave me a better understanding of how it can lose.

I think there’s nothing wrong with being original in deckbuilding and wanting to go your own way, that approach can be successful at all levels (Timmy Wong is a good example). But to do that you first need a solid grounding in whatever the mainstream decks are at the time. Just hearing about how a deck is meant to win doesn’t give you that: we all know CTM wants to overwhelm the runner with powerful assets, score breaking news into (tag punishment) and try to cover the runner in tags, but only playing the games with and against gives a good understanding of the typical decisions you’ll have to make.

That’s how I think I turned the corner anyway, others might have different experiences


I am still not great at deckbuilding, so take my advice with a large grain of salt, but I think one thing that has helped me get less terrible at it has been sticking to a deck for a while and iterating on it.

I think the best way to apply the advice you’ve quoted is probably to keep it in mind both when you first start putting a deck together and when you are adjusting it. So pick a basic archetype/strategy from the list in that article, and try to build your deck with that strategy firmly in mind. Then, when you sit down to tweak it after some testing, think about it in terms of which parts didn’t seem to help your planned strategy during games.

If you want more direct guidance on building the first iteration of a deck, I found this article very helpful when I was just starting out. It’s focused on core set cards, it oversimplifies a bit, and some of its recommendations are not quite in line with more recent deckbuilding advice, but the basic deck skeletons there should still help you build a deck that’s more-or-less functional, and you can iterate from there.

You can also start with a net deck. That’s probably a better option for getting a good deck out of the process, but many net decks are pretty well tuned already, so I think they may provide a bit less practice in identifying and fixing the problems in a deck. On the other hand, playing good net decks can give you a better feeling for how a deck should work, which is very helpful, so you should definitely play net decks sometimes. Plus being familiar with popular decks will help when you’re facing them, and when you’re adjusting a deck to deal better with them.

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I think what the statement is saying is you have to have some reason for including the cards in your deck rather than just because it is a good card. One of the examples the quote goes on to say is about net damage. Bio-Ethics Association is a strong card but if you have no way of capitalising on the damage (either through decking with attrition or flatlining with burst damage) then it is not the card for your deck. The card works by dealing net damage but it is used to fork the runner into a lose-lose situation.

Another example that is more straight forward and obvious is using taxing ICE out of Weyland but also using cards that give away bad publicity. If the runner is getting 3 credits every run then you are better off to go with gear checking ICE rather than taxing ICE. Spiderweb is a good taxing piece of ICE but with stacked bad publicity, it may as well be a Vanilla or Ice Wall.

That is what I inferred from the statement. It might not be what Abram was meaning but it is probably a good thing to keep in mind when building a deck.

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All he is saying is Pizza and Icecream are great foods but not in the same dish. Know what you are trying to cook before adding the ingredients, rather than the other way around :+1:


Which is not that easy to achieve :wink:

@FightingWalloon: On your page & still learning. But perhaps they have all already done draft and for you it was the first time? I had the same feeling on my first & only draft :wink:

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Let’s be real here, though. Draft is RealAssNetrunner™. You really have to have a good grasp on the fundamentals of the game, let alone deck construction, to make a decent draft deck. It’s not easy. I wouldn’t feel too bad about making a bad draft deck.


I think one of the things that can be hard to grasp is the flow of a deck. How do you spend your clicks and credits? Given a handful of cards from your deck, what is the priority of plays? Sometimes you can have good econ, but it’s too taxing on clicks to efficiently play your other tools. Maybe your ‘good stuff’ is awkward in tempo and telegraphs your play.

The ebb and flow of actions and money is the difference between a deck that is a stack of cards put together and one that will consistently pull off its plan.

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