Article on Concerns about Competitive Play

Mead Hall in Minneapolis does a 10 week league. Each league night is 3 rounds of Swiss with the standard prestige system. The winner gets 1 alt prize card and a second prize card is given away in a random drawing. The league is scored as follows:

5 points for showing up to a league night
3 points for missing a league night
1 point for winning a game
1 point for bringing one ID you haven’t played yet in the league (max 1 point per week)

After 9 weeks, there’s a cut to top 8, and week 10 is a double elimination tournament. It works pretty well for encouraging people to bring new IDs, although part of that may be due to the fact that the Minnesota meta is full of self-admitted Netrunner hipsters who refuse to play standard decks most of the time (I’m one of the few exceptions). The last league was won by a 54-card Chronos Protocol deck that beat my Prepaid Kate on stream (Batty psi game trashing Atman 6 before Archer encounter, oof) paired with Siphon / Vamp / Opus CT piloted by the player who won our Regional with nonstandard EtF and Whizzard decks. In that league I played Mushin Cybernetics twice, Biotech rush, ITD EtF, and some other weird stuff in addition to my usual mix of good standard decks, and I played against everything from Mushin Medtech to London Library double Femme (lost that game with ITD EtF!). I made the top 8 despite winning 0 games with Cybernetics or Biotech, because the point for bringing a new ID each week kept me in the running.

IMO, rather than banning IDs or cards, it’s better to provide positive incentives to play with nonstandard stuff. We’ve found that people really want the league point for a new ID most of the time, so probably 75%+ of the league brings at least one new deck each week. You could increase the “new ID / new card” incentive to push that further, or add league achievements for doing nonstandard things, e.g. “win a league game as NBN without AstroScript in your deck list” for 2 league points. You’d need a long list, but I think it could be done, and I know at least some metas have tried stuff like that out with some success.


Apologies for picking quotes, but there are a couple remarks in this post that I want to highlight in particular without a big block-quote:[quote=“whatisthistreachery, post:19, topic:5540”]
Isn’t this what Netrunner nights are for? I don’t know about anyone else, but our weekly nights are packed with jank. […]

I do see how people can start arguments about casual vs. competitive if your only Netrunner play is GNKs and online. You get out your cards, build a deck, and show up and get stomped by someone running the newest flavor of NEH. But is it really a problem? […] It’s their fault for not putting in the time - researching why they got beat by NEH two months in a row, coming to casual nights and improving, looking up decks, getting involved in communities.
Firstly, our weekly nights are widely varying mixes of “Leela Gang Sign jank” and “NEH Fastro fine-tuning.” There’s no requirement to not bring NEH Fastro, so the people who want to just hone their competitive game bring their competitive decks, and wind up playing the people who want to use Hemorrhage in Criminal run-heavy decks. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily – although it certainly can lead to frustration on the part of the latter players, who sometimes feel like there’s no escaping the top-tier competitive decks – but the thing that stands out most to me is that it’s not really anybody’s “fault.” Which is my problem with the second paragraph I quoted.

Approaching this like it’s a zero-sum, at-fault kind of thing strikes me as counterproductive at best. It’s not anyone’s fault that they don’t particularly enjoy playing against PPVP Kate and Noise, anymore than it’s anyone’s fault that they think it’s a waste of time to play The Professor. Yet our community – particularly competitive players – often view the two differently, as though the latter opinion (“it’s a waste of time to play The Professor”) is inherently more virtuous or correct than the former. They’re both just opinions on what’s fun about Netrunner, neither having more inherent merit than the other.

For some people, aspiring to top-tier play is what makes Netrunner fun. I think that’s great, and that’s why I think it’s fine if people want to bring NEH Fastro and PPVP Kate to our weekly game nights: they’re having their kind of fun, and I wouldn’t ask them not to bring decks they have fun playing. But other people find fun in other ways, and while the top-tier aspirants also have fun at tournaments and in leagues, other people don’t – and they don’t have anything that appeals to them specifically the way that the top-tier aspirants do. That’s my chief concern. I want to have more of everything: more competitive tournaments, but also more events that appeal specifically to people who aren’t served by those kinds of competitive events. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with who’s fault is what, or who’s wrong for liking something.


I’m not sure I see what you’re saying is factually incorrect here. He’s talking about >50 years ago, which would exclude Magic. I believe he’s trying to refer to the notion of games being either public domain with controlled professional leagues (see Basketball, Boxing, etc) or one-time things you buy and don’t have any community organization (read Monopoly). I think the point is still factually incorrect because Scrabble’s been having tournaments since the 70s and I’m sure other classic board games were similar, but the point is that the nature of game communities have changed and changed recently, if you consider the history of gaming is quite long indeed. That point didn’t seem terribly crucial to the article, but I think your objection is unfounded since he’s referring to earlier than Magic.


Totally agree. Wasn’t trying to make a zero-sum statement, and I wasn’t trying to make the word ‘fault’ be heavy.

I was personally a bit frustrated when Cambridge PE was all the rage - I went a whole week playing against nothing but it, with two different Runners I wanted to test! We all have those nights where someone wants to test a competitive build and someone only brought Protestors Val and BWBI glacier, and everyone else is already matched up.

It’s all about flexibility and seeing the merit in every part of the game - your examples are good examples of peoples opinions and valid scenarios, but if those opinions effect them so much to have a truly negative experience it just may be their own doing from lack of communication and intent.

We often state whether we are testing competitive decks or not, and bring at least two decks. This feels like a great system so far, competitive and jank in one box. New players are given priority and discretion.


This article just made me sigh a bunch.


High-five! I love it when people agree on the Internet.

This is a great idea! I do it myself, with one Corp/Runner pair of “fun/not super-serious” decks and one pair of “bring it for real” decks, but now that you mention it, I realize that it might be worth trying to popularize a bit more.

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This is true in the general run of things, but part of the reason that the article used the words privilege and entitlement with regards to competitive players is because competitive players don’t always see how the general structure of organized play pushes people into their play style. You saying that it is the casual player’s fault illustrates this because when their play style brushed up against a competitive play style and the casual player had a bad experience from it, it’s considered to be the casual player’s fault they had a bad time (didn’t explain they didn’t want to play competitively, should have expected that from a tournament, should understand that games with rules about winning and losing will get played with those objectives in mind, etc). Organized play is largely designed to encourage the competitive mindset (win, and win against any who challenge you) and there isn’t currently an organized space for casual play aside from unstructured free time like netrunner nights (and @Brodie pointed out how those can be discouraging, too. The player from my anecdote generally wasn’t annoyed losing on tournament nights because of everyone understanding that players are out to win at any cost but rather was frustrated on regular netrunner nights when he kept picking up games against people playing rush/FA).

I guess the point of the article is to recognize that casual play is:

  • valid
  • unsupported from an organized play standpoint (ie there aren’t a lot of good events for casual play. Not to say there couldn’t be, but there aren’t currently).
  • often in conflict with competitive play, because competitive players and casual players are often seeking different things from a game that might be mutually exclusive.

If we as a community want to value casual play (if that’s in doubt, consider that the competitive players rely on casual players actually buying the game to support the company. Do not doubt that most of the money is coming from casual players and they’re the ones supporting the infrastructure for competitive play) it seems reasonable to make some efforts to provide infrastructure to support it. Saying that casual players can just take or leave the options offered to competitive players isn’t recognizing point 3. You could argue that casual players should come up with their own entertainment, but that’s ignoring the privileges granted to competitive players by point 2. We’re given the backbone of a competitive scene in terms of GNKs, Tournament season and rules support for tournaments (finally!). What do casual players get, aside from the cards? Maybe we can help that side of the game become as rich as the competitive side.


I’m one of those people you’re talking about, who chooses not to put in the time and thus gets trounced at all events. I’ve come to realize that while I love the game, it’s too much to put in the time to get competitive without other aspects of my life taking a hit. I’m fine with this. I come in the bottom half of most tournaments I enter, go to a lot of casual nights, etc. Wrote a big, fat article on the community and contribute to a Netrunner tumblr.

I’m not active on Stimhack a bunch, because as someone who isn’t competitive, I don’t find a lot I can contribute to conversations. I by no means have anything against the competitive set—I’ve had lovely conversations with @mediohxcore, @dashakan, @HEacho and other familiar faces of the scene, and I can confirm all of them are incredibly friendly folks, and I’m sure they’re highly representative of the community. Yet sometimes I still get the sense from comments like these that I’m not worthwhile as a member of the community unless I get NRDB Decklist of the Week. It also speaks to this part of the article on entitlement I found resonant:

This attitude can then subtly spread to being entitled to things from other members of the community- expecting a higher degree of respect because of how much they ‘invest’ in the game, changing it from something that is done for its own sake (or the sake of fostering a passionate community), to something that requires external validation or political gain to be worthwhile.

This also seeps into my feeling that we get overly defensive over our preferred styles of play. As an example, as soon as the mobile RPG was announced, it was pooh-poohed by many, with folks asking for an official digital adaptation of the game itself or a pen-and-paper RPG instead. All these styles of play are perfectly great, but we get indignant and sometimes aggressive towards preferences outside our own, which makes for a less welcoming community.


trust me, no one good at netrunner cares about NRDB <3


My experience, and it is pretty long with going to game nights every week, organizing them, running tournaments, organizing casual pubrunner stuff, etc. breaks down to this:

The biggest problem LCGs have with casual player retention is the LCG model itself. It feels, for most people, like the format should be friendlier to them than a CCG, but this is actually backwards. There is a relentless pace of new cards that come out, and since there’s no rarity, most people who will make the time to come to a game night will have most of them. And there’s tons already, with more arriving every month (mostly :wink: )! So we teach an excited new player how to play, they have fun, they pick up a couple packs on their way out, and perhaps they come back next week, but unless they are super dedicated they’re going to be grappling with one of the worst feelings in gameplay: losing to things you didn’t know were possible, while staring down a mountain of cards to buy.

This isn’t a casual-competitive distinction, really. The game nights I frequent most have a pretty strong social bias away from bringing “The Good Decks” and only those; most of the veterans I know who want to rep their tournament decks will only play those against other vets. We have a pretty good culture of “game nights are for fun decks unless cleared ahead”, GNKs are pretty casual anyway (to try to encourage attendance), and tournaments are, well, tournaments. So we have what I would call a “casual-focused” scene.

This isn’t a panacea, though! I haven’t seen too many of the rush of college kids who exclusively netdecked The Good Decks from the internet since it was pretty clear the normal netrunner night wasn’t for them. Plus: the relentless pace coupled with relatively few opportunities to play competitively burns people out there too. So you can and do lose players on both ends of the spectrum.

A few other random observations:

  1. I don’t think restricting cardpools for events really works: as soon as a player buys in, they want to use those cards. It’s ironically easier for a more “competitive” player, who has all the cards and uses NRDB every day to participate in these than a more “casual” player, who just has a few packs here and there.
  2. Figuring out what the demand level for whatever a “casual” organized play experience would be is harder than you’d think.
  3. The current OP experience is frustrating even to “competitive” players.
  4. The cardpool for the game bakes this tension in: there are tons and tons of cards that, from a competitive point of view, are “binder-fodder”, while there are a bunch of cards that, from a casual point of view, are way too powerful. This is magnified by a marked interest in silver-bullet-style hard counters, which pressure casuals to buy in harder and don’t relieve any pressure for competitive players.

In any case, the broad lesson of the article, which was unfortunately obscured by it’s rhetoric, is great, but also—I’d like to hope—blindingly obvious: Netrunner is a game that is trying to appeal to players with a wide range of desires when it comes to what constitutes fun. This is inevitably going to lead to disagreements about what the game “should be”, and the author would like the community to be aware of this and be respectful of others if you aren’t already.


My point being that Magic is the obviously correct reference class, not Monopoly.

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Ok… but I think he’d be ok comparing Netrunner to Magic in that context, especially since he does so later (when arguing that cash contributed to making Magic’s community less friendly to casuals and is concerned it might do a similar thing to Netrunner). The opening bit was kind of ancillary to his point, but I think he was trying to say that Magic and Netrunner’s dynamic of sole distributor supporting the competitive scene is relatively new in gaming, and contributes to relatively new problems between competitive and casual players.

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I think, for me at least, the definition of “worthwhile member of the Netrunner community” is a person who is friendly and welcoming. Anything above and beyond that is gravy.

Seriously, I find this community great because 99% of the players make me enjoy my time playing the game. If that weren’t the case, I’d totally have put the game down many months ago. Unfortunately, it’s easy to feel like you’re not contributing without the community at large playing your decks or reading your indepth articles on high level strategy, but there’s a very small amount of people who can deckbuild at a high level (I’m certainly not at all in that category) or put words to the depth of this deep game (again, another thing I certainly cannot do!) so the rest of us just need to be content with being decent folk who make others want to come back and play this game just because the general populace is so welcoming and friendly.


This, this is the most important thing.


From reddit:

Competitive play needs to be actively supported more than casual play simply because casual play doesn’t need strict organization. Anyone can play Super Smash Bros in their house with their friends, but if you want to have a competition, you need someone to organize everything; incentivizing players to actually come to the event. Top-down prizes aren’t the goal of competitive players, despite what many casual players believe. We just play because we like getting better and winning more as a result, and competitive events are the place we go to seek success and validation. Prizes merely help to justify the more basic desire to win. When there is no support for doing very well, people feel less motivated to do well, or even feel like their efforts to be the best would be better spent becoming better at something else.

The VAST majority of Netrunner play, (and M:tG play for that matter), IS AND IS GOING TO REMAIN CASUAL. Competitive play needs organization to even happen, and for that to be successful, you need to cater to competitive players.

I think that FFG could do more to support leagues rather than GNKs. GNK tournaments are fun, but aren’t what competitive players are looking for in general. We love to play large events with lots of very strong players. I would be 100% supportive of FFG if they were to redirect their GNK efforts towards local league support, (sort of like the pokemon league that wizards has for casual pokemon-card-playing kids). However, turning attention away from the most competitive events, such as the ANRPC, regionals, nationals, and worlds, because they don’t cater to everyone is backwards, and threatens to alienate the most passionate fans that the game has.

I suppose you’re asking for FFG to provide more support, because competitive players asked that for a long time before getting off our asses and making the ANRPC. I think it would be pretty reasonable and a positive change to commute GNKs to some sort of non tournament event. It wouldn’t be easy to commute the efforts of competitive players running competitive events to running casual events because that’s not what they want to put their effort into. If there is an untapped desire to run casual events from other players and they would organize in a similar way to the ANRPC, maybe you COULD run more casual events without taking anything away from anyone else, (though I don’t know if this is reasonable).

Finally, I think you have a few misconceptions about the way competitive players think. We don’t have disdain for what you call “swiss cheese” decks, in fact, we love them. We just can’t copy them effectively, so they don’t tend to drive metagame discussion. Part of what we feel makes netrunner awesome is that the hidden information factor makes these decks a lot better than they might be in another card game to bring to a tournament.

We don’t dislike playing against people’s homebrews in tournaments. We recognize that some players enjoy playing this way and love to see them have success in any environment. In fact, some of the most famous tournament victories are those won with unique strategies, and many of those decks have turned into the “netdecks” that you see as a potential problem.

Finally, I think despite your assertion that there ought not be a line drawn between competitive and casual players, you make a lot of points that assume that line is drawn. You’re right that there are many players that enjoy both competitive and casual play, and the way to make the game as fun as possible for those players is to have both types of events, not to take away support from tournaments, which by their very nature, are suited towards competition.


I don’t like a lot of the points made in this article at all, and I’m going to outline why. I know this might seem like I’m preaching to the choir, but I want to give a somewhat balanced argument for both groups and I hope I achieve that:

  • Competitive players have tonnes of fun. I love to play competitive Netrunner. I know plenty of people who love to play janky stuff as well, though. There’s a player who plays around our meta called Jason who practically solely plays Custom Biotics and Exile (and has a tonne of fun with them). He likes playing against the more competitive players of the meta because doing even remotely well with his knowingly-suboptimal decks is what he likes. Here’s the thing: there are people who don’t play super competitively who enjoy playing against competitive players, there are people who play competitively who enjoy playing against non-competitive players. I’d suggest that most of both groups like playing against the other group.

  • As for net decking, I don’t really see why people who netdeck and people who don’t can’t co-exist. This follows on from my previous point. I don’t mind playing against weird homebrews that wouldn’t ever win a serious tournament at all. It feels like there’s a very big double standard in this article: it is assumed (wrongly, at least in my case) that competitive players don’t like playing against homebrew ‘swiss cheese’, but even if that was the case, why should they cater to something they don’t enjoy? If you don’t like playing top tier decks, that’s fine, have fun however you want! However, it’s a double standard to then complain when people want to have fun in their own way.

Here, I want to take the time to respond to one particular comment:

I’ve come to recognize this as a great example of the entitlement competitive players have- they feel entitled to have every other player at a tournament treat their ideal of fun as the most important one. This tends to be phrased as ‘treating the tournament with respect’.

I’ve never heard the phrase “treating the tournament with respect”, and honestly if people are hostile to you for bringing a deck you enjoy to a tournament, please don’t treat that as representative of everyone. I don’t feel entitled and I absolutely do not expect or hope everyone decides they want to play the best decks to appease me, in the same way that I hope casual players don’t feel entitled to me not playing decks that I enjoy playing. I have fun playing against jank with whatever decks I have. These two groups can coexist and I find that most players do enjoy playing against the other group. Anyway, carrying on…

  • There’s already money in Netrunner. Not a lot, but certainly, prizes sell for money. Unless you’re at the top tier level of Magic, it’s exactly the same there, you get playmats and boosters, which is very similar to playmats and alt arts. Hell, just look at regional prizes: roughly £100 for a plastic ID and £50 for a playmat. Has this changed anything? No! Money doesn’t make a community toxic.

  • There are a lot of great resources for competitive Netrunner, because people who like that sort of thing have made them. Look at the ANRPC or this amazing website as perfect examples. If you’re passionate about janky homebrews you love, nobody’s stopping you from making resources to promote that sort of thing. There’s no real reason why either ‘side’ needs to be seen as a threat to the other.

  • Lastly, I do believe FFG could have a little more support towards casual play. GNKs are great, but it may be a better thing to convert them into something else, scale them down and make more of them, or make something that’s a ‘smaller’ GNK (something that’s kind of like an FNM type deal but for Netrunner). I feel a little more inclined to bring more competitive decks to GNKs because I want the sweet looking alt arts/playmats.

I love playing competitive Netrunner. This shouldn’t make me less entitled to have fun than someone who doesn’t like playing competitive Netrunner. Likewise, somebody who doesn’t shouldn’t feel less entitled to have fun, but I don’t think that’s the case. If you want people to ‘stop netdecking’, consider someone who’s super competitive who wants people to ‘stop homebrewing’; it’s the same type of request. Fulfilling either request would stop one subset of players from having fun, and that’s no good to anyone. If you don’t like playing against competitive players, that’s up to you, but don’t assume competitive players hate playing against you or that every competitive player feels the same about you as you do to them.


The only people I push to not play jank are my KoS teammates. :stuck_out_tongue:


On the ATL team, we were very close to all playing Power Shutdown corp decks and changing the team name to Shut Down For What.


This is like an internet thing, right? Has anyone ever actually seen this argument happen in meatspace?

I mean, we have the one crazy homebrew kid who’s always complaining about how terribly designed all the more powerful cards in the game are, but even he tends to place at the few tournaments he enters.


Do you feel like the article was calling for that? I don’t, and indeed the author identified as a competitive player, I believe. I think the aim was more to address the notion that Netrunner Culture (if that’s a thing) is structured to support the competitive player and not the casual player and competitive players should keep those privileges in mind when considering how to shape and consider their community. I know Stimhack is a competitive community site and wouldn’t expect anyone here to stop playing competitively, but perhaps it would be worth our time to make sure casual players are enjoying the spaces we occupy and we’re not unknowingly taking up all the air in our FLGS.

EDIT: For what it’s worth, I identify as a competitive player.