Core set is not OP

I have heard people say that they thought the core set was too strong and there were too many underpowered cards in the sets following. I’m going to argue that the game has actually been proceeding the way it should.

In what has been up till now a non-rotating game, power creep is inevitable. Power creep is when new cards are better than the old ones (usually made that way to excite players about the new stuff), but then even newer cards have to be stronger still. Eventually the old cards become worthless. It’s one of the fastest ways to kill a game.

The reason why it happens is because whatever card everyone is using at the time becomes the “new normal” and is soon taken for granted. Take a look at Corroder, people used to complain about it being too powerful, but now no one uses it any more because Paperclip is the new normal. We wouldn’t expect them to print a fracter even stronger than paperclip any time soon; but before paperclip was printed, we probably didn’t expect anything stronger than corroder.

(You can try to print ‘side grades’ but with the amount of testing everyone is doing they will quickly find out if the new card is slightly better or slightly worse than what they had before.)

So if it is inevitable, how do you deal with it? The best way in the short term is to make sure power creep proceeds as slowly as possible. You let people upgrade some of their card ‘slots’ on odd occasion while still needing to keep lots of their old cards. In the long term you can use things like rotation and ban/restriction lists which is basically what Netrunner has done.

I made a mathematical model to try to predict how many core set cards you would expect to see in decks today.

Let’s say a deck uses 20 distinct cards. Let’s say that every second expansion, they can improve one of those cards to a new card. (Not every single expansion, since they have to make new cards for other factions or other archetypes than what you’re playing). However, the same card can be improved more than once - for example I might change Wall of Static to Himitsu Bako, then later change Himitsu to Vanilla. This means each card has a 5% chance of being changed each time.

There have been 36 expansions, which means 18 changes. The chance of a card surviving from core set till now is 0.95 ^18 which is roughly 40%. I would expect that 8 out of my 20 cards from my core set deck are still in my deck today.

Then I checked some modern decks to see how well my model holds up.

Rich Girl Andromeda has

  • Account Siphon
  • Inside Job
  • Special Order
  • Sure Gamble
  • Desperado
  • Bank Job
  • Crash Space
  • Gordian Blade
    The designer said he also wanted a Femme, so that is 9.

2015 world champion corp deck has

  • HB:ETF
  • Accelerated Beta Test
  • Adonis Campaign
  • Archived Memories
  • Hedge Fund
  • Enigma
  • Tollbooth
  • Ichi 1.0
    That’s exactly 8.

Conclusion: Power creep has definitely happened - you wouldn’t have much luck with a Core-and-Genesis deck in a modern tournament - but it is happening at the right rate to keep the game interesting without killing it. There is no need to demand that they print cards of equal power to the most powerful Core set cards in every expansion.


Pointing out that some decks are “only” 40% from the core set doesn’t prove your point, but counter it. Core set cards make up 113 cards out of the total 972 cards in NR as a whole. That’s 11.6%. You pointed out that you’d see 40% of a random selection of cards that are from the core set. So how can there be any dangerous power creep if a solid portion of the competative cards came from 4-ish years ago?

I’m not going to deny that cards lately have been powerful, but they’ve been powerful in a good way. Many new deck styles have been opened up in the last year or so. Faust decks, tagstorm decks, stealth decks, chameleon decks, asset spam decks, varying flavors of glacier, even some new FA tricky decks that never advance 4/2s. Of course if you just focus on the “problematic” decks like faust and asset spam, you’d declare power creep is ruining netrunner.

But the game has been pretty healthy as of late. NBN got it’s FA toned down a bit while opening up a new deck style. Runners are not just Whizzard with spoons and the like. The future is bright for this game as long as you play it.


I’m not sure you’d find many people saying that the entire Core set is OP. I’m sure you’d easily find people saying that specific cards from the Core set are far too good. Desparado has been good enough that it outshines every other printed console for criminals, even after the MWL. Alone, they’re fine, but together the synergies between Datasucker and Parasite have been a problem ever since I started playing (and gets exasperated further when Medium is added to the mix). The IDs of Kate and HB:ETF have made almost any other Shaper and HB identities worthless because of how much money they make over the course of a game. Astroscript Pilot Program. There’s other offenders as well – cards that could probably be tuned to be slightly more expensive to install, play, or use (or perhaps need to cost more influence) – but the above have caused real problems for the game and it’s design.

So no, Core isn’t OP, but a specific set of cards within it almost certainly are, and there’s a good bit of the others that are probably a little too good as well.


It’s a pretty tough task in general, given the amount of testing that gets done by the producers vs that of the community - a little underpowered and they’ll never get used, a little overpowered and it becomes the new normal.That’s a generalisation of course, particularly when it comes to combo cards, but you get what I mean.

However, power creep seems like it would only arise when you end up more powerful than the most recent cards and, importantly, that that situation keeps repeating itself - in other words you can be more powerful than old cards potentially, but if you’re not more powerful than recent cards it’s not necessarily creeping. So I wonder how it would go if they just continually measured them against the core set cards in terms of power level, rather than comparing them to the current meta (or whatever LCGs and CCGS do). You’d definitely get the odd card slipping the net and being more/less powerful of course, but would in general that create something more stable? And would that be better or worse that now? (or other stages in the game for that matter)

FYI: My opinion on the core set is that I just seem to keep going back to them for staples over and over again, it’s a little bit dull (though I’m not up-to-date, just about to step into O&C - haha!)

40% of the MWL list is from Coreset. Not a proof, but a serious indication. The coreset still contains some of the best cards in the game.
I disagree with the powercreep idea. Those cards are powerfull because the synergy with the coreset is powerfull.


This topic…

I threw the core set box at my friend once, he blocked it easy enough, but that let me go in for a nice juicy punch to the ribs, so whatever, it’s balanced enough.

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Personally I’ve never worn a corset, but they seem a little tight around the ribs.

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Adam wearing a corset might be too OP for the girlies to handle.

That’s why I had my ribs upgraded to titanium. Hurt like hell, but now my corset is only a minor inconvenience.


I don’t understand where you got these numbers at all. Also the game has not just moved slightly ahead… we don’t just take a card from a deck in 2013 and find the most suitable upgrades. A lot of decks have moved far beyond the strategies we were using back then and have entered completely different territories. Some of these are because we have new toys(like asset spam decks in general) but some of it is because we just are more comfortable playing around certain things/playing with certain strategies. 3 plascrete was the norm for awhile afterall.

In general I agree with the idea that powercreep is not bad, I like new and exciting cards personally cause it shakes up the game and lets me play with new things.

To be sure, they have pushed the boundaries lately (and have communicated they would), vanilla being a particulary eggregious example imo, but otherwise I think you are confusing a supporting cast with defining cards. Temujin, for sure good economy, does not change your gameplay the way Desperado does. And sure, a modern deck with siphons and same old things is more powerful than a core only one, but does that make SoT a form of power creep? The deck gets more pointed towards a certain direction, but it’s still siphon which is your star. And core has a lot of these star cards.

In the genesis cycle, which designed in one go with core, I think the only candidates are atlas, faerie, imp and DLR. After that… clone chip/SMC in C&C. Jackson and Caprice in spin. None in H&P, D4v1D in lunar, but that if you really want to find one there. Same goes for IHW in O&C and Faust in sansan. They are defining cards for their time, but are no parasite or scorched earth, you know. Global food in D&D is similar. Yes, it made glaciers work better, but then the cards that make glaciers work are from way back. You can tell that towards the end I’m having to look hard for such cards. They may be defining for their time, you’d expect them in every deck of their kind, they aren’t of the same nature as the cards from the core.

I don’t think this is a problem. In core they had to diversify the factions, give them what they were good at. You’d be a fool not to run sucker or parasite in anarch, diesel/MO in shaper. It’d be strange if they changed the nature of corps over a cycle, and apart from making shaper flexible in C&C, opening up glacier for jinteki in spin, they haven’t.

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Psh, youse a Skulljack