Fair, but there’s a big difference between a “deal with this or lose” card and a self-protecting “deal with this or lose” card.
I think mostly people dislike it because it grinds out the game though. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently.
I play a lot of Race for the Galaxy; for those who aren’t familiar, it’s an engine-building card game with a heritage drawn roughly equally from eurogames and from CCGs. The designer is Tom Lehmann, who I respect a lot: he has a lot of smart things to say about game design, and is usually happy to share.
He’s written about the design of the end game conditions for Race, one of which is that a player has 12 cards on their board at the end of a round. Apparently it’s not uncommon for people to say “But the game finished just when I was getting started!” So should the game go longer? No. The 12 card limit is the result of a lot of playtesting, and represents the point after which the winner is probably determined. If the game continued past that point, it would often be a somewhat unnecessary continuation towards a foregone conclusion. Once one player’s win chance drops below a certain amount - say 5 or 10% - it’s desirable that it immediately drops to 0, so that players can maximise the time spent playing the interesting bit of the game.
Hopefully you can see how this also applies to Netrunner. Quite a few of the disliked archetypes - Museum asset spam, DLR, Sandburg/IT Dept - commit exactly this game design crime of dropping one player’s win percentage close to, but not precisely to, zero. I came to Netrunner from board games, so I’m not completely au fait with the card game lingo, but these sorts of decks seem to be referred to as “Prison” decks. I’ve seen a few people say that it’s desirable that they exist, and I can only think “Why?!”
Surely it’d be better that they just won the game outright once they get to a certain point? Yes, the opponent can concede, but in a tournament setting it’s understandable that people will want to continue until their chance of winning is 0%, not 2%.
Anyway, I’m not totally sure what the point if this is apart from to get my thoughts out there and see how people react to them. I guess I don’t feel that we should be giving a pass to these sorts of cards in the interest of “meta diversity”. They can be better.
For example, imagine a Sandburg with an extra clause that said the corp wins the game if they keep it rezzed for X turns while having Y or more credits. That would very closely replicate its actual effect, but the game would end once one player had almost certainly lost, rather than limping on for turns until we can drop the “almost” from that phrase.
TL;DR: Power cards that don’t directly advance a player’s win condition are bad. Ish.