For what it’s worth I live in an area with no local meta and I’ve been active for about a year, going out of my way to travel to tournaments I can afford.
Card games aren’t exactly the easiest hobbies to sell to your friends in a vaccum, they’re expensive, require time to learn, and have social stigma ascossiated with them. Add to that the fact that Netrunner’s always kind of been a well kept secret in the card game community (I’ve been playing card games for about 18 years and I somehow missed out on this) and the barrier to entry can be quite high.
I’ve recruited the 5-10 friends I have across the country that would be interested just by getting them on Jinteki every week, sending them top decklists, explaining how they work, and just letting it rip. The next step for me is an open offer that if any of these friends want to go to tournaments with me I can lend them a spare set of decks. It isn’t much, but I think the most we can do is generate interest in the game, and if they want to make the investment by buying cards that’s their call. In this respect, Jinteki is the ultimate accessibility tool; I’ve managed to hook WAY more players than I ever have for MTG, Hearthstone, Duelyst, and Eternal combined.
Netrunner is pretty objectively easy to buy into competitively compared to other card games, and the core into deluxe box casual model makes a lot of sense money wise too. I don’t think the solution is to make competitive play more accessible by either tightening the available cardpool in tournament play, designing so that competitive decks and strategies are easy to grok, or discouraging non traditional decks because they can potentially provide negative play experiences for new players.
The community here is great, and I’ve seen that you guys are good at hosting your fair share of teaching leagues and tournaments online. I think that’s the direction to continue to take to really make sure the playerbase keeps growing. The only ones who can really grow the playerbase for a niche game like this are us, the passionate players who know how to sell the experience.