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How should knowledge about opponent deck contents be handled?

It’s something that bugged me about Netrunner that there is a lot of inconsistency in how much knowledge players have about what’s in the other player’s deck. The amount of advantage you can gain from knowing or not knowing your opponent’s list ranges from minor, clicking to draw instead of playing IHW until you’re sure an NEH isn’t on Scorch, to massive, running last click or not running last click against an off-theme snare that tags you and trashes your proco. Or install advance advancing a 5/3 in a naked remote in deck that doesn’t actually have a single ambush.

The view suggested by designers and most players is that you shouldn’t know what’s in your opponent’s deck. It creates an interesting dimension where runners can run HQ, R&D, hell, -even Archives-, for information rather than points, credits, or card draw. It rewards players for putting unusual and creative includes into their deck since they are less likely to be expected: surprised the viper remote wasn’t really secure because i’m running Gingerbread Man? Thought I would need credits to rez anything that’d stop this Maker’s Eye run, but I’m playing Special Offer in Blue Sun? Whatever it is.

I don’t really disagree with those virtues, but I am bothered by the inconsistency with which it is possible to ensure that players don’t have knowledge of their opponent’s decklist. By the time someone gets to World’s grand finals, it is impossible for them to not have an awful lot of information about what the other finalist has in their deck, and that’s the absolute highest tier of play. But in the first round of a regional, a stranger has no idea what I’m playing. It takes away some of the uniformity that makes a larger community and larger play experience beautiful. I can’t beat that stranger by hiding a GFI on the table as though it was a Breaker Bay Grid like I saw Hoyland do at worlds, I can only hide a GFI on the table that might be a BBG or maybe a random Snare on the table. My opponent has a different level of knowledge at the different level of play. I can’t play the same game these other people played. But I want everyone to play the same game.

Tournaments have rules against scouting, but it’s not super clear what scouting is. What if my game finishes early and I want to watch a friend’s game? What if I feel pretty certain he’s got a game ending R&D lock and feel more interested in another friend’s game? At what point is it scouting? If I leave to go get a snack instead of spectating at least one game or having a private conversation with someone else about what someone else brought, I might actually be behind.

I feel like it would be more consistent if everyone’s decklist was printed, public, and presented before the game. The consistency and logistical issues seem to outweigh the benefits, that I acknowledge, to secret decklists.

If the benefits are really so critical, I wish things would at least swing harder in the opposite direction: really clear rules about how deck knowledge is handled, or the ability for players to change their deck between games to combat deck knowledge, or some other thing I haven’t thought of.



Well, in my opinion it is quite impossible to keep some secret deck tech throughout a tournament.

MTG has printed deck lists of the top 16 as handout for each of the players, I believe?

So I see two possibilities here, either every player gets all the information available in the top seats or you introduce kind of a sideboard to the tourney scene, like ten additional cards for each deck which you can swap with cards from your deck after you know the ID of your next opponent, to keep a minimum factor of variance and tech.

Meh, novelty and surprise can only get you so far, usually at lower levels. At higher levels efficient decks with good fundamentals is what wins games. Look at @mediohxcore 2014 decks. Everyone knew the decklists basically before the event even started and he won, IIRC he even said that it didn’t matter that people knew the decklists, it is the power of the deck and skill of the player that matters. Sure novel decks tend to win some in SC season, but that is often by good players that want to jank it up and are still good enough players to beat the smaller field.


If your whole deck relies on a gimmick or trap that you need to keep hidden, it’s probably not a good deck. On the other hand, I simply don’t think something like this is necessary. Skilled players will play the same.


Netrunner players are going to want to spectate other games. Spectating is part of what makes the game fun. With spectators it’s impossible to keep deck tech a secret, so it makes sense to keep players informed and provide deck lists after cut to elims. Otherwise, well connected people who are filled in by spectators will have a distinct advantage.


I’ve always maintained that I should be able to hand my opponent my deck list and then beat them anyway. If my chances of winning drop through the floor as soon as my opponent knows what cards are in my deck, I don’t have a good deck, IMO.

I actually think my opponent knowing my list might help in a couple small ways. Sure, it hurts you in that if they know what ice you’ve got, they have a much surer grasp of when it’s safe to facecheck, but if you’ve got a 1x Architect and they know it, they have to factor that in their decision to run until they see it rezzed. Similarly, if they know you’ve got a 1x Aggressive Secretary as a ‘rogue slot,’ your IAA play might give them more to think about if they haven’t seen the AggSec yet.



This definitely helps make the game more fair to players with fewer friends or who stepped out for a moment during swiss.

It bothers me a bit for decklists to provided for one phase of the tournament but not the other though, a bit like playing a swiss of go and cutting to a top 16 of chess, to me, to exaggerate. The current system at least feigns consistency and pretends decklists might be secret in both phases (although it’s a thin facade and worse than an up-front inconsistency).

As for the rest of you guys, geez, I promise I’ll never try to play Devil’s Advocate on the internet ever again.

People are simply giving you their perspectives, which, to be fair, you asked for. No need to be upset by it =)


Oh, I’m not upset at all! I think it’s kinda funny since I am not actually a strong believer in people’s right to or effectiveness in surprising people with random snares or gingerbread men.

I feel sideboards is a bad idea because they’ll likely all just be silver bullets and counter cards such as Plascrete, Film Critic, CVS, etc. I think publicly available decklists isn’t as bad, but I’m still not a fan. If you’re running any unconventional or “surprise” cards, then word that you’re running them will inevitably get out. I don’t have issue with the opponent knowing which cards are in your deck so much as them knowing how many of each card is in your deck, which I feel can have an even bigger impact on how they play.


Surprise is a good thing but never gonna last long,face it.

No one will agree with me, and that’s fine, but I think that even having a cut is against the spirit of the game. However, cuts are necessary to card-game tournament structure and for creating hype. There was an idea going around here for a while that you should be able to play a different deck in the cut than you did in swiss, and I like that idea more and more as times goes on.

The fact is, if you go to a tournament alone you are at a huge disadvantage compared to someone going with a group of friends all watching and talking about games. That’s messed up.

Some of the game’s best players actually believe that knowing what your opponent is doing in top 8/16 keeps certain “undesirable” archetypes out of top contention.

I don’t think tournament rules are the answer though, I just think we as a community need to be more hush hush about what we see. I don’t care if your best friend is the finals and you saw an Aggressive Secretary out of his opponent in swiss. You need to keep your mouth shut! It’s totally cool to watch and @thebigunit3000 is right that spectating netrunner is often just as fun as playing, but wait until AFTER the tournament to discuss!


EDIT: I have no idea why part of my post is bolded and can’t figure out how to change it, but it has no special emphasis, apologies.

bblum mod edit: fixed it for ya

Even if I’m optimistic about lots of people being hush hush about what they see and forgoing the opportunity to swap information with others and improve their chances of winning, there’s still a chance that you make the top 16 cut, and during Swiss you watched another top 16 player play with your own eyes. People want to watch the best players the most, don’t they? And even if everyone keeps quiet, you gain an advantage if you spectate games, and gain more advantage spectating games strategically by looking for IDs with high information value.

You retain a disadvantage for players who aren’t well connected, they won’t know which players are the best ones to prioritize watching both for enjoyment and incidentally those are also the most important lists to find out.

Different decks for the top 16 is something I’ll toss in my pile of "better than what we have now"s for sure.

I like “different decks for the top cut” in theory, but it’d have to have some caveats or qualifiers for me to go for it in practice. I wouldn’t want to see it incentivize a system where you bring Deck A, which is a workhorse you think has the best chance of winning through the Swiss (say, NEH Fastro), only to switch to an entirely different Deck B (say, RP glacier) because you think that the top cut is likely to tech against your Deck A. To me, that’d go against the spirit of these competitive events.

Personally, though it smacks of sideboarding, at first glance I think I’d favor something like a 5-card swap going into the top cut. Your new list must match your old list for 40 (or 44) cards, but you can swap 5 out, chosen before the start of the event. That way you can maybe ditch the boring tech cards you include to get through the Swiss for some more interesting or specialized answers in the top, but you can’t just completely switch gears.

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One funny [probably unusable] idea I had inspired by yours was allowing people to bring 44 cards and a set of 10 zero influence cards, shuffle the zero influence cards, and add 5 to R&D when the game starts, removing the other five from use. Thus, it’d be possible to bluff agendas as Aggressive Secretary even though you’re running not just 1 Aggressive Secretary, but 0.5 Aggressive Secretary!!

I’m not really offended by the idea of people workhorsing through Swiss and playing a top 16 meta deck for the cut, but I can understand why that might bother you, I think that’s a different strokes for different folks thing.

I think it’s just simply impossible to prevent the passage of knowledge. The best example I have of this is last year during SC season. I was playing in the finals and we both knew each others decks. I knew he played Twins, and that I couldn’t deal with a double Janice. He bluffed out the Twins play on a 3 pointer, which caused me to go an opposite route to try and win. My knowledge of the situation actually hurt me, while he used it to his advantage.

I don’t think it’s necessary to keep what you are doing really secret - most decks have a backup plan which they can utilize on the chance their main condition is compromised. I run a kill deck that will tag storm you and Psycho-Beale out if you drop Plascrete before hand. Yes you know I want to kill you, and you know that I can Psycho-Beale out the win, but now you are playing around this while I am sitting here tempting you to make a single mistake.

If you’re doing very well, you should not be watching games. That’s scouting.


Unlike magic, i think in Netrunner hidden information is a thing. Over the course of a tournament, informations will be shared, which you cant really prevent.
But still in at least two sitiuations i can remember, a regional and a national, hidden deck information was not leaked to a player in the top cut, giving bis opponent a real advantages…
In both events, people who where still in the tournament were not allowed to watch matches but had to leave the room.

At one time, it was the second game of a winners bracket and i was facing against a NEH. I didnt have any information about that deck and thus played very carefully. My opponent went to five points until i found out by a Biolab that he was playing the fast advance variant.

Another time, losers final of the german nationals, my opponent was not aware that i played one scorched earth silver bullet to punish tags from Account Siphon. He lost the game due to that fact.

Did i still manage to win the first game? Yes.
Would i have been able to win the second game? Maybe. Was i the better player in both scenarios? I dont think so.

Player skill does matter, but so does deck choice.

And i really like about Netrunner that its not only a mathematic game but also a game of bluffing, deduction and reading your opponent.

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