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Having more fun with draft than constructed

Quinns’ review of Terminal Directive is a wonderful homage to the game Netrunner once was and the game he once experienced in his greener days.

It includes the following description of the game from those days:

I don’t want to get too technical here, but the reason Netrunner is so good is the foundation designed by Richard Garfield. It’s a deadly game of bluffs, with the Corporation player managing a wealth of secret information and the Runner trying to figure out when and where they should probe those secrets. If you choose right, you can turn the corporation from a cat into a mouse. If you choose wrong? You might be dead. But every turn players are drawing new cards from their deck, as if they were pulling the lever on a tiny slot machine, constantly changing the game state. There is always hope!

He goes on to observe that the game has evolved to one where the point of the competitive meta is to squash that hope and remove as much uncertainty as possible from the game.

I’m sure players with more experience are better placed than I am to respond to his review and his critique of the current state of the game. His observations about the loss of innocence that comes with becoming a good player and never being able to go back to the fun of the early game is interesting to me.

But the review resonated with me on a certain level. Last night at my FLGS, I played 5 games of Netrunner – 3 using constructed decks and the entire card pool and 2 using draft decks. By far, the more enjoyable games were the ones with my draft decks. Reading the review this morning – and the part I quoted above in particular – I can see that it was largely because the games played with my draft decks were very much in the spirit of the game Quinns loved. The constructed decks were more efficient, powerful, and elegant in every way compared to my draft decks, but I had more fun playing the draft decks by a wide margin. (For the record, I was 2-1 with the constructed decks and 1-1 with draft. I would have been 0-2 with the draft decks if I had not won to Batty psi games.)

I don’t know if it is that “fair” Netrunner is more fun or that draft removes most of the ridiculously powered cards from the game, but I sure enjoyed it a lot and I think I understand some of what Quinns was writing about.

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As a counterpoint, I don’t enjoy draft formats (or, for that matter, “janky” decks) because constructed decks are more efficient, powerful and elegant. Not just my deck, but my opponent’s too.

So in that sense the fun/competitive dichotomy has always rung false to me. My most enjoyable games, win or lose, have been tuned meta deck vs. tuned meta deck.


I am sure lots of players share your feelings on that.

I don’t see how that diminishes fun for two reasons:

  1. Netrunner is still a card game. Therefore each match will have uncertainty given by decks shuffling, and that can’t be avoided in deck building
  2. Deck building is part of the game itself

So I would rather say that hope is moving from actual matches to the tests and experiments lying behind deck tuning (in a continuous exchange of inputs and feedback, which I find amusing and very “scientific” and “artistic” at the same time) Although the hope moved away from practical games can never go below certain thresholds proper of uncertainty games as card games.

I actually kind of wish there was a official draft cube that could be re-used as much as you want. Yes I know people have built their own, but I’d rather have a single purchase that you don’t have to constantly deconstruct when you want to play Constructed.

I like both draft and constructed a lot. The current constructed meta for Netrunner is not great, so it makes sense that at the moment draft would be a lot more fun. But with the right changes (coughMWLcough), they both could and should be!

Can I use this opportunnity to plug the ID draft feature on ANRena? I’ve been playing it online now and again (I don’t play online much) and have had a blast. The system still has a couple of problems, and the pool is probably too large, but it leads to some really great games and I’d love to get more of a community going.

Draft vs Constructed, ah, the age-old debate.

Draft uses more deckbuilding skill, and is a higher skill-test of a format.

Constructed cares more about the matchup, meta, and in-game skill-tests that are more complex/complicated than Draft.

Draft is more fun for deckbuilders, Constructed is more fun for people that like how a game plays out.

(Constructed is also more for Combo players, as it’s difficult/impossible to assemble combos in Draft.)