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Deck testing and building methods?

When you are trying to develop a new deck, what do you do?

I’m working on a Reina deck right now. I have an idea for the deck and some cards that I think might work together. I have a decklist and have played it a few times on Jinteki casual just to see if it might actually be able to do something interesting.

I’m still very early on in the development of this deck and it may not turn out to have a good idea at the heart of it. But I’m curious what process other people use to build new decks.

I’m hoping for a little more than “play a lot and tweak the deck based on your play.” Any specific insights or processes or stories about your own deckbuilding process that might help other aspiring deck builders?

To start off with, its a good idea to have a core identity (not Identity) for your deck. What does your deck do?

Usually the identity is tied to your Identity, but not always. Sometimes many different runners can use the same flavor of deck and do similar things to the corp.

A general idea behind a Reina deck might be: Tax the corp by causing his ice to be very expensive. When the corp cannot rez ice, I can steal any agenda I want.

Based on that principle, we start to include cards that benefit that plan. Xanadu. Hernando Cortez. Cards that force the Corp to rez ice or rerez it. Emergency Shutdown, Forged Activation Orders, Crescentus.

From that initial principle, we also find our win condition. Are we trying to score 7 points? Mill the corp? A bit of both? If the corp cannot rez their ice, Keyhole might be a way to trash their helpful cards and put agendas in archives and run the corp out of cards.

We also need to pay for our plan. Sure Gamble. Daily Casts. Liberated Account. Temujin Contract.

We also need to be able to break ice or otherwise get into servers. Paperclip, Eater, Faust.

Once you have settled on a plan for what you want to do, start condensing to the core elements of the cards you have selected. Maybe you dont want to have to run HQ before derezzing ice, so drop Emergency Shutdown. Maybe you dont want to derez ice at all. Remove Crescentus and FAO. Maybe you want to trash ice that they cant rez. Put in En Passant.

Find happy mediums for what you want to do, then test them out. Eventually you will get a feel for how certain cards play and either enjoy them or not. You will also get a feel for why the majority of players use particular cards like Ive Had Worse.

There is no shame in building a deck you have seen off the internet and then trying that out. You may find a deck you really enjoy or find a way to improve it or tweak it to your preferred style. This also gives you help since you can start with a solid foundation without having to second guess all 45 cards in your deck.

Hope that helps!

You really do need to play a deck a lot to see if your idea has merit. There’s no getting around that, and you’ll never find golden advice that tells you any different. However, here are a few ideas that can help when testing/building:

  1. Figure out your core strategy. You need to understand what your deck is trying to do to win (lock the remote, lock R&D, deny resources, score agendas fast, kill, etc). Most of your cards support this core idea, and very few should meander off from the main strategy, otherwise you’ll have an unfocused pile.

  2. Look at when you play cards. If a card is something you’re putting down most of your games and does a lot of work, it should be considered as 3x. If it is helpful sometimes, 2x or 1x. If you never play a card, look at why.

  3. Determine why certain cards are never played. You need to determine if a card is just too narrow or if there’s some external factor (not enough econ, having a hard time meeting requirements, etc). Narrow cards should maybe be cut, useful cards that are hard to play might merit revising part of the deck’s core strategy/engine.

  4. Look at what your deck does well. You need to keep an eye out for what the deck does well (locking remote, fast rig, bonkers econ). This tells you were you can trim back, or where you can focus if you’re going all-in on your strategy/themes.

  5. Look at what your deck does poorly. The above, but in reverse (examples are manages tags poorly, econ sucks, slow to set up, can’t trash assets efficiently). This tells you what you need to add cards for, or what matchups will be bad for you if you decide not to tune for them.

  • If your core strategy is strong enough, it is OK to scale back on it to fix a bad matchup. Especially of that is a meta deck. If you can’t beat a meta deck even with tech, your deck is probably bad in the current meta.

  • If your core strategy loses to a specific non-meta deck, it is OK to not tune to that deck. Since you’re less likely to see the specific counter deck, keeping your core strategy un-watered down is best.

  1. Play a variety of decks. It is important to play using a variety of opposing decks. Just because your deck is 100% awesome against one deck doesn’t mean it isn’t horrible against everything else.

  2. Play against it. I think it is important to play on the opposite side of the table after you’ve put enough rounds into your deck to give it a good baseline strategy. This helps you figure out where it applies pressure and puts the other side on the back foot, which might allow you to identify additional tweaks.

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How do I build a deck? There are a few ways, but they all quickly lead to playing a lot of games. Most common starting points are finding a net-deck I like, or playing against someone who is showcasing a play/combo that I like and trying to build something from there.

Deck building is 90% playing games, and less than 10% forum posts.

Thanks for this feedback. Really helpful.

I did not mean to suggest I was not interested in play testing. I just wanted advice – such as yours – to help me get the most benefit from the time I do have to put into play testing. Thanks.

Do you listen to Run Last Click? The last episode (towards the end) @mediohxcore and @Joseki discuss your situation of when to stick to deck idea when early results aren’t promising:

A lot of the process is do you have the time/willingness to test or do you want to rely on what others have done and had success with. It also comes down to how you see yourself as a player. If you think you might be a great deckbuilder, then maybe try out different ideas and see how they go. Someone like Chris Hinkes sticks to the same deck for months and keeps refining it and surprises a lot of people with his creation and wins or places high with an off-meta deck, someone like Abram Jopp, tries out different decks and see if it has early success, and if it doesn’t win a high percentage of games scraps it and tries something else, then there’s someone like Timmy Wong, that builds a deck the night before an event, doesn’t test it much, and ends up winning or placing high. They’re all great deck builders, but they approach it differently.

Some of deck building does come from experience as a Netrunner player/deck builder. That is can you sense that the idea at the core of the deck is worth it iterating and refining, or is it far outpaced by other decks.

Some general tips:

  • I look to successful decks and borrow packages (i.e. econ, agenda, breaker, ice, etc.). Then, when I build a deck I can try some different packages that look to synergize with the deck’s goal and test.
  • I try to play at least 5 times before changing anything with the deck, then it’s only a few cards each time.
  • Collaborate. World’s has shown us that a lot of the successful players are preparing as a team. This can be partially achieved in the Stimhack forums. Just post a list and thoughts on the dedicated archetype thread and see what others that have been playing a similar deck has found.

shoot the decklist to @lpoulter and in a few days he will have played it 50 times and you know whether its decent or not :wink:


pick a philosophy. Stick too it. Don’t cheat on money for more fun cards. Don’t cheat on draw for more fun cards. Real-talk yourself about where your idea stands right now.

You’re welcome to the one i’m working on if you want it.

I would be interested in seeing your deck. For my part, I find that I can’t build a Reina deck that does not feel like it would be more competitive if it were Whizzard.

I wouldn’t worry about that. Nobody in the world can make a Reina deck that’s better than Whizzard is right now, so its probably too extreme to expect that from yourself as a new player.

I suppose this brings up another interesting point about deck-building, which is learning realistically what the upper limits of its strengths are and being satisfied with only achieving that. This involves asking yourself questions about why you’re building a deck (such as choosing Reina to begin with) and tempering your expectations towards achieving that goal instead of winning all the time.

Reina has a different philosophy than whizzard. You can’t build them the same.

She taxes the Corp to rez ice. He gets free resources to trash assets. I see how those two things are different.

Where do you see these leading to different deck shapes?

Whizzard is control orientated. His decks need to be able to build to control board-state, then win.

Reina, because she provides zero benefit without the corp rezzing ICE, is a pressure ID.

So early in the game a Whizzard runs to trash assets to control the corps board-state but prefers to set up rather than try to get single accesses. Varying from this general plan depends on the game (examples: The number of draws before a jackson is used may make HQ a high-quality access. You may know the corp archetype uses restructure and you may wish attempt to force them to rez ICE to keep them away from 10 creds). Whizzards running game plan is typically: 1. Remote 2. HQ 3. RnD

Reina early game wants to play a card that benefits her upon a successful run. She doesn’t hurt the corp until they rez ICE so you need to either hurt them when they don’t or build your board by making successful runs. What is “nice” for Whizz but important for Reina is an archive threat because you need to spread their ICE thin to make running manageable. Reina’s gameplan is typically 1. Central 2. The other central 3. Archives/remote. A variance for that would be traditional HB where you cannot let them tuck campaigns away in a secured remote.

You probably won’t find a Reina as competitive as whizz right now. I have been taking Whizzard to tournaments 3 years now and i’m just sick of him so I refuse to play him even if it means a greater chance to win. So I am attempting to teach myself a new way to play netrunner. The deck is a total work in progress as evidenced by me trying grifter haha!.


That all seems interesting and on the mark. How do their decks look different? Is it just a matter of a few cards, or are they totally different?

a couple classics:



So you see she is usually paired with heavy HQ pressure. I am working on a more well-rounded approach but may end up in the same place, who knows.