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A (Mostly) Low Quality Discussion on Card Balance

Reddit posted a link to this ‘interview’


I was disappointed to find it’s not an interview at all, and isn’t really worthwhile. I did find this quote, though, which was both telling and startling to me:

My opinion:

The Core set features many of the most powerful and IMO properly (non-conservatively costed) cards to date. Apparently Lukas does not agree, claiming ANR early design was conservative in both power-level and costing. He then goes on to say that he would prefer cards sit in a binder forever than be played. We already have ubiquitous cards; they were given to us in the Core set. No serious Netrunners are complaining about Desperado, or Parasite, TME or Sure Gamble. We play these cards because they improve the experience of the game. I think Lukas and the design team need to really reevaluate their entire philosophy of Netrunner. We need every pack to be designed like the Core set; there is no reason why every Cycle can’t introduce more ubiquitous options. I, for one, would much rather see more cards we can play than cards we cannot, and that doesn’t seem to mesh with Lukas’s quote here and the card designs we are being given.

What do others think of this quote? It is totally contrary to my own beliefs about ANR design in its entirety, from ‘early’ to current. Perhaps by ‘early’ Lukas means the first couple Cycles, which would make more sense. Even so, the apparent preference for binder fodder over powerful/usable cards from a design perspective is baffling to me.

His binder comment may also be him saying that the ANR design would rather err on the side of under-powered than overpowered, which I think is a defeatist mentality. I don’t think it is impossible to reasonably balance Netrunner.


The way I see it, binder fodder is a complete waste of time, energy and resources that could have been better spent creating something that actually does something.

Every Salvage should be stapled onto the designer’s desk as a reminder to never make the same mistake again.


If you are going to dissect what he says line by line, you are going to find things to be startled about. He knows a lot of the core set was improperly costed (undercosted) and has said as much.

Also, he is 100% correct in what he is saying about binder fodder, just isn’t being super eloquent about it. It is way more desirable that a card be UNDERpowered and not played, than for it to be OVERpowered and break the format/need errata/ban/restriction etc.


He also seems to be speaking in the past tense as one does who has learned from the experience and evolved.

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I don’t know. Sansan cycle is really not giving me much hope that they have any plans to not be overly conservative in the future. Seems to me that binder fodder probably still sells decently and hey, you don’t have to put much work into playtesting/balancing it.

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Not saying they’re doing a perfect job, but blue sun, max, leela seem like bold cards.


Yes, those are all great. Without a doubt, some of their best work.

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The problem is that errors are going to happen. Erring to low and wasting cardboard is better than erring to high and breaking the game.

Usable is a weird thing. For example, does Duggar’s count as binder fodder? It’s not been very present in many competitive decks, but I’m happy the card was printed.

Nasir is in the same boat.

Have you not played against Leela, Earthrise, Blue Sun, or Grail? Or D4V1D, IHW, NEH, and Daily Business Show? Or Lotus Field, MaxX, and Clot? They’re not exactly softballing right now.

Also, they intentionally packed the core set with goodies to make it a good starting point. I’m kinda okay with that.

If I was going to point at cards from core that are undercosted, it’s actually going to be Mimic, Yog, and Sucker on influence, as well as Astro. Parasite is fair. Siphon is fair. Desperado is bit to good, but not gamebreakingly so. (I’d rather it be viable to play other consoles in the faction).

If we’re talking stuff like Disrupter, I’m on board. But Vamp and Scrubber were shouted down when released, and they’re showing up again. Ditto Reina. Hell, I’ve seen Stronger Together kick the ass of a meta deck piloted by the best local player (no seriously. It was hilarious).

I think he’s more aiming at Genesis and Spin, which seemed to mix between powerhouses(Andy), role players (RDI), weird stuff that became relevant later (stealth chips) and garbage(Creeper).


The order of preference here isn’t:

  1. Binder cards
  2. Powerful Cards

it is:

  1. Powerful cards
  2. Binder cards
  3. Overpowered cards

As someone who played a decent bit of ONR, this whole thing amuses me. ANR has always skewed pretty conservative.

I probably would’ve made Desperado only fire once per turn, made Astro a 1/3, and maybe given Kate’s link to Noise instead; but for the most part the core set did a pretty good job of avoiding anything too overpowered.


Lukas has managed to keep the game healthy for three years. I don’t think the game would have been fun and playable if he erred on the side of overpowered for every single pack.

There aren’t that many weak cards anyways and those that are weak are exactly those that Lukas is talking about. Early on, there were at least two mistakes made when it came to costing that were very significant:

  1. Recurring credits to install are priced too high (Eg. Inside Man, Dedicated Server)
  2. Assets’ trash cost is too low (Dedicated Response Team, Dedicated Server, Security Subcontract, etc.).

There are also many cards that were extremely powerful in the original game and that, for some reason, didn’t have the same impact in this new version. Chum (Fatal Attractor) faded from relevance, Uroboros (Haunting Inquisition) is solid but doesn’t see play and Deep Thought simply isn’t working right now despite all of them being extremely popular in a higher-powered environment.

But still, as I see it, there’s not actually a lot of “binder fodder” in Android: Netrunner. Most cards are useful or are bound to be useful sometime and not too long ago Vamp, Dyson Mem Chip and Scrubber were seen as awful cards. And many cards that are not particularly useful like Midori, the acclaimed yet unplayed Bad Times or Satellite Uplink are cards that need to exist to complete the game and would be sorely missed in the design if the time came to be.

Does Salvage suck? Sure, but I don’t think those cards are actually common in number.


you can’t compare a 6 str Code gate who incapacitate the runner for 6 clicks and end the run without a trace and Uroboros. Seriously, no.
Haunting Inquisition was great but Uroboros is just garbage and overpriced.


And changing from Sentry (Fatal Attractor) to Code Gate (Chum) is also a big change. Too many ways to break a str 4 code gate cheaply, compared to only one (mimic+sucker) for sentries.

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Lukas quote seems right to me. Design is hard and you can’t make all cards equally playable. You’d rather accidentally make a card unplayable than game breaking.

Also, all cards don’t have to be for the competitive seen. Beach party is probably never going to see any competitive play, but it still allows someone to make a janky deck that draws 15 cards with gameday.

Plus, I think they’ve pretty clearly gotten better at design and understanding the power level of things. The only thing that’s been so unplayable at all levels at all levels is the board. Where as early packs where filled with garbage like salvage all the time.

Realistically, most packs you’re looking for 1-2 good general good cards (Jackson Howard, lucky find, napd) 2-3 faction good cards (mental health clinic, lady, faerie) and ideally the rest are good role players in specific deck types or enables of new kinds of decks (Gutenberg, ronin, midseason, dedicated response, stealth) with a smattering of cards that are for casual players to do silly stuff (game day, starlight crusade, sage). It’s this sideways space that’s the hardest because you’re going into uncharted territory. Early advance ice was an example of how they weren’t super familiar with the power level. Stealth and grail are two good examples of how they got it just right.

But I’ve got to say I’ve been pretty impressed with their design, and I definitely think they’re getting better.


Broken ass Sure Gambles! Those things are everywhere!

Don’t even get me started on Hedge Fund . . . .

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That’s another thing, having a limited number of generally good powerful cards (that have a really high power level) is a good thing, because cards like Jackson Howard and Hedge Fund make the game better. You can’t have too many of them though.

I’d also argue that the bustedness of desperado is good, because it makes for a really fun and interesting play style. Though it certainly has limited the design space of criminal.

couldn’t disagree more with the OP. conservative design is what’s kept this game healthy.

The philosophy you espouse of erring on the side of powerful, more playable cards is a good one - in video games. When you can go big every time, then roll back problem mechanics, you end up with perpetually fun new content that doesn’t damage the game in the long term.

In a card game where you’re trying to avoid a ban list, this kind of approach inevitable leads to out of control power creep, where the game never truly gets more complex, it just discards old strategies for new, better ones.

Time and time again so-called binder-fodder cards have been resurrected by new interactions; if not at the highly competitive level, then at the very least the casual/semi-competetive level (read; 90%+ of their customers). IMHO the beauty of this game is in finding new ways to fit cards together, not simply whittling down the carpool into 45/9 of the most powerful cards and going from there.

TLDR: thank you, but no, I have no desire for this game to become MtG.


Flickerwisp might have stated my own opinion better than myself.

If I had to throw out a number, I’d say 25% of the ANR card pool is usable, and I think that’s generous. I personally think this is an unacceptably low figure, especially in a game with no collectible factor. Honestly, I’d rather have two well-designed, game-changing big boxes a year, that have been thoroughly and seriously play tested, than a bunch of data packs that by and large consist of cards that the vast majority of players will never play with once.

It is so easy to avoid this with proper play testing that it does not excuse the heaps of underpowered/overcosted cards we already have.


Out of the Core Set, Noise, Deja Vu, Stimhack, Grimoire, Corroder, Datasucker, Medium, Mimic, Parasite, Yog, Gabe Account Siphon, Inside Job, Special Order, Desperado, Femme Fatale, Sneakdoor Beta, Bank Job, Kate, Diesel, Modded, TME, Akamatsu MC, Gordian Blade, Magnum Opus, Aesop’s Pawnshop, Sure Gamble, Crypsis, E:TF, ABT, Adonis, Agressive Secretary, Biotic Labor, Ichi 1.0, Rototurret, J:PE, Nisei Mk II, Snare, Neural EMP, Chum, NBN: MN, APP, Breaking News, Closed Accounts, Psychographics, SEA source, Data Raven, Tollbooth, SSCG, Hostile Takeover, Scorched Earth, Archer, Ice Wall, MMC, Pad Campaign, Hedge Fund, Engima

are clearly playable - quite a bit larger than 25%. Or were you talking about spin cycle (that’s where they did the worst, I think, and still ~48/120 are playable)

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I have to be honest, the last card I can think of that I had no interest in was cybersoft macro drive (and I can now see a point to it with chameleon). There certainly aren’t any cards I’ve seen in or spoiled for the upcoming cycle that I’m not excited about playing with or against, even if it won’t be at the top tables.

I agree that they could have more aggressively costed some marginal abilities etc, but at the same time far more than 25% of the card pool can be used for an enjoyable (which is the point), and I would also say competitive, experience.

Anyway, what would you do if they they hadn’t released server diagnostics? :wink: