tl dr: I think the Corps should have a new base ability which reads :click: :click: :click: : shuffle HQ into R&D. Draw as many cards as you shuffled in.
With the advent of the Red Sand Cycle, a lot of us are looking to the future where Jackson Howard no longer exists. I think that JH was poorly designed in a few ways (don’t get me wrong though, he’s an amazing card.) Jackson Howard does a lot of different things (which is why he’s pretty much a must include for the vast majority of decks) but for this article I’m only going to be focusing on his ability to correct agenda floods (where the Corporation draws an overwhelming amount of agendas in a short period of time), and to this end I think he is a poor solution. Let me explain:
- Agenda flooding is a game problem that is unqiue to the corporation side:
Agenda flooding is a game problem. It’s the same as mana flood (or drought) in MtG. Sometimes the random aspect of a shuffled deck leaves you with no viable outs. Generally as a community we have decided to skip playing this small percentage of games which is why we have the opening hand mulligan. The problem arises when the agenda flood isn’t in the opening hand but happens part way through the game. It’s important to note that the Runner does not have an analogous problem. If they are short breakers they can draw 4 times and discard whatever is least useful. This is not an option for Corps as it either puts agendas into archives where they are often more vulnerable, or leaves the corp with a five agenda hand (obvs the best solution for corps experiencing agenda flooding is to start scoring them out, however this is not always feasible.) Essentially the difference between a Corp agenda flood and a Runner’s bad hand is that the runner can attempt to correct their bad hand with in game abilities, whereas the corp cannot.
- Jackson is a card solution to a game problem:
In both cases the Corp and Runner can include in their deck cards to help mitigate bad draws. For the Runner it can either be tutors (like Special Order or Self Modifying Code) for the Corp it’s Jackson Howard. This may seem a little obvious but these cards are only useful if they’re drawn. With Jackson Howard this poses a few problems. First is that he can be trashed out of R&D or HQ before he is needed (or he can be shut down entirely with cards like Rumour Mill). Second if the situation where a corp gets agenda flooded necessarily makes it less likely that a JH is drawn. For example: let’s say the corp starts their turn with 2 agendas and 2 non-agendas in the deck. If they mandatory draw an agenda and their first click is to draw an agenda, now they have been flooded. In this case the flooding agendas preclude the drawing of a solution. And that’s not including cases where all the Corp’s JHs have been trashed out of R&D or are near the bottom of the deck. My point is that if Jackson is a Corp’s only defense against agenda flooding then he is only useful in those scenarios where the Corporation is both agenda flooded and has a Jackson Howard (which is: probability of agenda flood x probability of a JH)
- Jackson Howard is a faction card that takes up a lot of the Corp’s deck space and influence.
Corporations are de facto strapped for deckspace compared to runners as they are forced to include the agendas in their deck. In addition they need to include ‘basic’ cards like ICE and economy cards often leaving them with only 10-15 slots for their tricks (or whatever makes their deck unique). When 1/3 to 1/5 of these precious tricks slots (as well as a 1/5 of non-NBN deck’s influence) is taken up by Jackson Howard, this drastically limits the variety of viable Corp archetypes as these slots must be taken up by ‘power cards’ that help the corp score. Adding more room here would allow for more of the ‘fun’ Corp cards to see play.
Given these problems I propose a somewhat radical solution to the problem of Corp agenda floods, that the Corp be given a new base ability which is :click: :click: :click: : Shuffle HQ into R&D. Draw as many cards as you shuffled in. I settled on this new ability because:
- This ability is always available to the corp. It does not have to be drawn, and it can’t be trashed.
- This ability does not slow the Corp’s clock. A Corp will naturally deck themselves given enough turns. Cards that reshuffle from Archives into R&D buys them extra turns (see Museum of History), this ability does not do that.
- This ability shuffles ALL cards into R&D and draws new ones. This precludes this ability from being used to sculpt an idle hand (so cards like Special Report and Disposable HQ still have value).
- The cost of the ability is extremely high so that the ability will probably only be used as a last resort, rather than giving the corp a strong base ability the runner can not deal with.
- Not only does this ability not help sculpt hands, it does not help the corp retrieve cards that have been milled. This means that cards that do such (like Preemptive Action or Whampoa Reclamation) still have a lot of value.
- As a side effect of this ability it does allow corps to break an R&D lock (at the expensive of a turn plus refreshing R&D for the runner), which I think adds an interesting new decision to the game.
I have playtested with this ability and can confidently say that it is not obviously broken. The cost is high enough that it is usually an extremely wasteful way to spend one’s turn, and if one is digging for a certain card it is usually better to simply draw for it. I would really encourage people to try building and playing Corp decks with this rule and see what they think.
Thank you for reading.