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Jakodrako's Primer on Netrunner Abilities


Paperclip vs Eli appears to check strength during resolution, if it takes 3 credits to break Eli with Paperclip.


Paperclip specifically says break X routines if able, which I guess is the difference (triggers a check on str).


Exactly, you can’t trigger it without a valid game state, but nothing about drawing a card off Geist changes whether that state is valid. You still have a stack with legal targets. Why would the game say: “illegal state: -1 card in STACK from that moment ago when I saw everything and knew everything!” I understand why you’re pointing this out, as most players in this thread like finding weird inconsistencies or trying to interpret intention based on various rulings.

The issue that

doesn’t require the game to “memorize” every card in your deck. Why would it? It just needs to see the card as still on the table and also “copied” in the heap.


But the triggering isn’t what’s important here. It’s that the board state must be tracking the stack size. What’s important is:

We know two things from this:

  1. The board state tracks stack size (SMC point).
  2. The board state we resolve using SMC is the one that the game was before Geist drew (FAQ).

It follows trivially that the stack we are searching has to have Geist’s card in it (or, at least, another card in it).


You’re making assumptions that it does this. It only checks to see legal targets, as I’m saying. Not that there are X cards in the Stack.


In order for you to be right about this, and Geist work as expected, literally no info can tracked about the stack in the game state except if it is empty/non-empty; we’re both making some assumption on the board state that has no precedent.

However, I am more comfortable with the assumption that deck size is tracked then isn’t. It is a deck building constraint, and known knowledge at the start of the game. To think this just magically turns off seems dubious.


That’s not true, playing Diesel with 1-2 cards left in the deck is legal, but playing it with zero cards is not. It just checks to see if the state is legal for the card/ability to be used, not for the number and exact names of cards (I mean, unless it asks for that, specifically).


And, even if it does count the number of cards, and check names, why would that matter? If you go to search for that “phantom” card, it won’t be there, so you can’t install it anyway. Doesn’t really seem like a problem to me.


Let me try again.

Geist’s draw is in the deck during the game state at the moment SMC is trashed. By the FAQ, you aren’t searching your current stack. You’re searching the stack that existed the moment SMC was trashed. That stack has to contain Geist’s draw. Otherwise, it’s nowhere.

This assumes that the stack, in the loosest form, is considered part of the board state. It has to be true if we’re making observations about if it is empty or not.


Man this rule is really hard to parse. This is gonna be my best attempt at de-generalizing the rule and re-writing it specific to SMC.

When a card has a trash ability that is triggered, any reference
to the game state within that resolving effect is based on the
game state as it was at the moment of trashing, but with the
trashed card considered a new copy of that card in Archives or
the heap.

Turns into

When SMC is triggered, any reference to the game state within resolving SMC’s ability is based on the game state is it was at the moment of trashing, but with SMC considered a new copy of itself in the heap.

If this is correct, then it seems like it’s just a matter of whether or not that top card being in your grip vs top of your stack is a change in game state. To me, it is. When you draw a card, you change the game state. Hell, your ability to click to draw a card is governed by whether or not it has the potential to change the game state. If there’s a card, you can draw. If there isn’t, you can’t. Right? Then inherently a card changing from one state (top of your stack) to another (in your grip) must be tracked by the game state.


Okay, the reference is to the game state when it was trashed (which it still is in the process of doing, by the way), so what do you think happens?

My question is: why does this matter?


This weirdness is why I tend to believe ‘Search your stack for a program’ is an instruction. ‘Your stack’ isn’t part of the game state other than being a Game Object. Specific cards aren’t tracked by the game as being part of your Stack or not. To my knowledge the only thing the gamestate tracks regarding your Stack is ‘More than 0 cards? Y/N’ It doesn’t track specific cards in it, and, so far anyway, it doesn’t track how many besides being non-zero. (Look at being able to play Diesel with a non-empty stack, regardless of how many cards are in it.)

Let’s compare ‘Search your Stack for a Program’ to ‘Install a card Hosted on Street Peddler’. In both cases, we’re following an instruction. ‘Search’ and ‘Install’. Both of them give a qualification to that instruction, ‘Your Stack for a Program’ and ‘A card Hosted on Street Peddler’. However, ‘Your Stack’ is a Game Object and not something that is true or untrue of the game state. As opposed to ‘Hosted on Street Peddler’ which is a question we have to ask of each card, to determine whether it’s a valid Card for our instruction. The gamestate is what tells us which cards are Hosted on Street Peddler, and the ruling says we shouldn’t ask the Current gamestate, but instead look at the gamestate while Street Peddler was still installed.

We’re looking at the gamestate to determine whether a condition was true. (Note: lowercase, as this isn’t some trigger Condition…) ‘A card was in your stack’ is not something the gamestate tracks; we don’t track specific cards in your Stack. ‘A card was hosted’ is something the gamestate tracks, because it’s in a visible area.

This is my reading. I’m open to being wrong. :slight_smile:


The scenario was already described above; you have 1 card left in R&D, you’re Geist, you pop SMC.

What the rule above seems to indicate is that I search my deck and install that card… because I am referring to the game state before it was drawn.

What should happen (in my opinion of course) is Geist forces me to draw the card, and I fail to search SMC because it is now empty.


Yep, that’s allowed. Why is this a problem, again?


The rule indicates that instead [quote=“PaxCecilia, post:135, topic:7958”]
I search my deck and install that card… because I am referring to the game state before it was drawn.


I’m not certain, but it looks like part the sticking point here is this:

This opens up two different questions:

  1. What elements constitute the “game state?”
  2. What elements of the game state is a particular card’s effect (in this case, SMC) referencing?

Clearly, stack size is part of the game state, and I would further suggest that the position of a particular card in your stack is likewise part of the game state (otherwise, arbitrarily shuffling should be allowed in the same way as swapping 5cr tokens for 1cr tokens – and it clearly isn’t, vis a vis Mr. Li/Motivation/Test Run/etc.).

The question is whether or not SMC’s instructions actually reference that element of the game state. Is the “your stack” part of “search your stack” a concrete enough reference to what the game state knew about your stack at the time you trashed SMC? My inclination would be “yes,” but I honestly don’t have any idea without a clearer explanation of what on earth “reference to the game state” is supposed to mean.

  1. Why is game state limited only to binary variables? Certainly, for example, your credit count is a part of the game state (otherwise, we could never play Sure Gamble).
  2. The question isn’t just whether or not a card is hosted on Peddler, but where it is being installed from. If we believe that “reference to the game state” does not include the current position of (potentially effected) cards, then Peddler should trigger Exile, no?

Anyway, all of this is part of why I still think referencing a previous game state is an extraordinarily stupid way to solve the “problem” (again, caused by one of the most idiotic and pedantic complaints to date). Even if these particular problems are cleared up, the fact that there aren’t a ton of problems is only due to the limited set of trash abilities available. Given recently published cards which, for example, behave differently based on a player’s credit pool, the idea of referring back to some previous game state strikes me as a ruling with the potential to open up lots of stupid and unnecessary complications in the future if they wish to explore/exploit more of the design space.


If the deck is not part of the board state, then it cannot be interacted with on any level. You can’t draw from it, you can’t search it, you can’t do anything to it. A card game that doesn’t define it’s deck as part of the game’s state is fairly ridiculous.

You can say that it’s a black box, and from the outside, you can only see if it’s empty or not, but that doesn’t change that it must be a game object that has states and can be mutated (no differently than any other object in Netrunner), and Geist drawing from it is a definite mutation (we can observe it going from non-empty to empty).

For example’s sake, let’s assume a 1 card stack pre-SMC. Rewinding the game state during trash abilities means rewinding the deck (thus, rewinding the mutations, as we did every other element). The stack is not empty in this game state. It went from 0 cards to >0 cards. That much we must agree on? Do we now have a non-empty stack with 0 cards?


I believe that all this mess comes from the fact that we have no official solution regarding how to resolve triggers that are triggered from other triggers. The FAQ contain this “chain reactions”, which is the case of a trigger going off during the resolution of another trigger, for example ABT+ foundry.

the Case of Geist + SMC could be treated similarly to a Chain Reaction and the resolution of SMC has to wait for Geist’s one being solved first. Essentially, as I wrote before, it seems that nested triggers (i.e. a sequence of triggers that are triggered from another trigger) stack up and you have to solve top to bottom. The magic however happens when from a trigger (say Clone Chip being trashed), you trigger 2 simultaneous triggers (for example Geist and Tech Trader). In this case IMHO you pile up Trader+Geist on top of CC and you solve both of them choosing the order before moving one step down in the pile to CC.


Case of Geist + SMC could be treated similarly to a Chain Reaction and the resolution of SMC has to wait for Geist’s one being solved first.

This is correct, and it’s what actually happens. What you describe in your post is a very accurate description of how you handle chain reactions. But it’s only a component of the problem we’re talking about.

The problem is the FAQ entry for how to resolve cards that trash as a cost seems poorly written and open to interpretation depending on what you define the “game state” as.

What most people expect ought to happen

  1. Pay 2C and trash SMC.
    1.1 Geist’s ability triggers and you draw a card.
  2. “Search your stack for a program and install” fails to resolve because you draw the program and your stack is empty.

What the FAQ seems to indicate is

  1. Pay 2C and trash SMC.
    1.1 Geist’s ability triggers and you draw a card.
  2. Search your stack for a program, treating the game state as if you were still in step 1.

The disagreement is over whether or not the card you’ve drawn is considered part of the game state in step 1. To me, I don’t see why you would interpret it any other way.


I think we should all step back here. We’re getting into a drawn out debate, and I think we all see the points being made by each other, but are taking sides based on how we feel the game should either operate or otherwise be defined.

I think we can all agree, at least, the FAQ entry as wrote leads to at least ambiguity, if not outright contradictions to known interactions, and should be clarified in some manner.

Let’s wait to hear back.