This topic deserves a long and thoughtful article on a website somewhere, but I don’t have a website and I’m not really all that thoughtful about this game. But I do think this might be a useful conversation for some of us.
So, when you go to build a Corp deck, how do you start? What are the initial steps and foundational decisions you make?
For me – in all honesty – the answer is that I netdeck. I have found that I am not very good a deck building. Nearly every deck I play when I am trying to win games is a netdeck of some sort.
But here I how I would answer my own question:
Find some cards I’m interested in. Usually this is an ID, but it could be something else in the card pool that I’d really like to try to build around or experiment with.
FInd a win condition. Am I trying to win by scoring out? If so, how? Fast advance? Behind ice? Exchange of Information? Or is my goal to kill the Runner? Again, how?
What tools do I need to achieve No. 2? Ice? Kill package? What FA tools? Defensive upgrades?
How will I get enough money and cards? After Hedge Fund what else goes in the deck?
At this point, I try to play test on Jinteki with the deck, and usually discover the deck has glaring flaws. I hold off trying to slot “tech” cards until I feel like the Corp has a chance of achieving its win condition.
As I say above, I’m a terrible deck builder and have never built a deck from scratch that I thought was nearly as good as netdecks. But here is the state of my current bad process.
How about you?
How do you build Corp decks? What lessons can we learn from your efforts and process?
I find cards I like and want to play, then try to put them in the best place possible. Stinson + CI + Clearances was an easy one, because that’s already a deck, but other stuff like just AgInfusion. That card seems busted.
Or I’ll want to play a specific strategy. A 44 card deck with only 6 Agendas sounds like my bag. Just make their accesses so low value that you don’t mind them getting random looks at R&D, then just score your 5/3’s and an Echo Chamber or something. Easy game.
I find deck building for Corp more challenging than for Runner. This is partly because (regular) runner decks are more about giving the runner options and tools during game play, while corp decks are usually less about pilot options. Good Corp decks often kinda of play themselves…so Corp outcomes seem a little less influenced by pilot sophistication than Runner outcomes. I see all kinds of ridiculous jank sub-optimal runner decks winning store champs, while this rarely seems the case for Corp decks.
I find it interesting that some good Corp decks have complimentary cards to support a primary win condition, while other good decks have complimentary strategies with multiple win conditions whose cards aren’t obviously complimentary in isolation. Excluding HHN shenanigans, I think it’s really hard to find just the right complimentary strategies and a balance of the cards between them for a single deck.
I find Runner decks harder to build for the same reason. I want tools for all sorts of situations, but picking the right tools for each, depending on what kinds of situations I might face, is the hard part.
When I first started I figured the best thing to do was to create the ultimate rig. MOpus gets me all the money I could need, and then I find the most powerful breakers I can. Ankusa seemed awesome to me at first, but then I played a bit and understood that the situations where it’s good just simply never come up, and by the time they do you’re already winning. So then I decided to try a high Strength Maven strategy, backed up by a couple of regular Breakers to help against the “Cannot be broken by AI” ICE. But again, the situations where this kind of rig was better than just playing regular Breakers came up so infrequently that it didn’t matter.
Conversely as the Corp, you make a decision about how you want to win the game, then you build the deck to achieve that goal. That is super straight forward for me.
For me, Corp decks are about a plan for winning and what that looks like, usually around the strength of a certain combo of cards. I really like poor choice situations for the runner, and work towards the best way to set them up.
Starting with your agenda plan is often a good idea, and it helps inform your mix. Is your plan to score out? Fast advance, never advance, always advance? Flatline?
Do you plan traps? They should match your agenda plan so one looks like the other and vice versa. Junebugs stick out in a never advance plan, but Mumbad Virtual Tour plays the same as agendas.
If your primary line of play is countered, what is the backup plan? What is your economy plan, and does it meet the needs of your primary and alternate win condition?
Ice needs be worked out. Are you rushing or need to protect early cards? Make sure you have a good selection of ETR ice you can rez fairly inexpensively. Taxing ice is helpful in the long game. Pay attention to have a balance of types, number of subs, strengths, and rez cost. None of that is set in stone, but being aware of it can help identify weak points. For example, too much costly ice can cripple you.
After the basics of agendas, win condition, econ, and ice, you might have room for some tech cards. Sprinkle for flavor and watch for opportunities to fill gaps in your plan and mitigate vulnerabilities.
This is all really basic, but you have to start somewhere.
Something else I thought of later is working through your overall strategy from the beginning of the game to ultimately reach the board state that wins you the game.
The point of this exercise is visualizing not just the ultimate array of cards that gets you the win, but the steps and stages to get there.
Along the way, pay attention to where the Runner will poke holes in your plan, or perhaps where your whole idea comes crashing down.
In this stage I have realized I had too many situational cards that will jam up my hand, combos that are too vulnerable while getting set up, telegraphing that will spoil my plan, economy that was too fragile, and pieces of the plan that non-bo in odd ways I hadn’t initially looked at.
The crux of winning is not simply having a game winning set of cards in the deck. You have to get those cards in the proper board state. Strong decks will have clear paths to that state, weak decks won’t know how to do that or trips over itself on the way.