Criminal’s problems can probably be quickly summed up with the fact that they simply lack the right tools. Now, criminal has lots of tools, lots of fun and some effective tools, even. The problem is, they don’t have enough of the -right- tools. Let’s observe:
The easiest place to get agendas from is R&D. Establishing a solid R&D lock is also really important against a lot of corp decks. Shapers and Anarchs both have built-in R&D pressure, but Criminal has none whatsoever. Okay, so criminals can just import them.
Next up is recursion. Being able to bring back stuff that’s been trashed is super important, because sometimes it’s unavoidable - an unlucky Batty, a Keegan Lane protected by a Data Raven, or even just some unfortunate damage can get rid of key programs. Shapers and Anarchs both have built-in recursion. This either means you need to add lots of copies of these key programs to your deck (thus not only taking up precious card slots, but also resulting in dead draws), or criminals can just import them.
Finally we have efficient, reliable breakers. Criminals have some strong breakers, but their problem is that they aren’t reliable. Faerie is only useful once. Same with Spike/Shiv/Crowbar. Femme is expensive and only useful against one piece of ice (that will probably get replaced). Rex runs out of power counters. The Breach/Passport/Alias can’t get you into remotes. The rest of their breaker suite that IS reliable is is incredibly inefficient. Aurora, Leviathan, and Gingerbread are jokes, Ninja is crap against low-strength sentries, Garrote is an MU hog and super expensive, and Peacock is inefficient at best. Mongoose is Criminal’s best breaker by far, and it’s only JUST been released. Criminals have to import breakers to reliably and cheaply get into servers.
Notice the trend? Criminals have to import ALL of these tools. Sure, Shapers and Anarchs have to import stuff too, but these three major tools are all covered by their in-faction cards, allowing them to spend their influence on more efficient options available in other factions. Criminals can’t afford to go for the most efficient options, since they need to spend all their influence on just the basic tools needed for a really good runner deck to function (in a competitive environment). I haven’t even gotten into stuff like protecting against Fast Advance, consistently trashing assets, instant-speed answers to threats, etc.