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My Rant - Inspired from Damon's 2014 GenCon Interview


#1

I want to chime in on the “Damon Interview”. I have always valued his perspective. He is highly intelligent and clearly understands the game from a birds eye view. He also however likes to speak from a “self fulfilling prophecy” designer perspective I believe. He wants so bad for his design to be in line with the meta. The truth of todays cardpool and his “vision” however are not in line at this time IMO. That will hopefully change over the next 6-8 months, but his overall tone and demeanor is more prophetic than grounded in fact. I think he is speaking in terms of where he is trying to steer the meta (and our minds), versus where it really is. Netrunner is a game of misdirection, and false information. Damon is the lead designer of Jinteki. He is extremely calculated and careful about every word he uses (can you put the puzzle together?). Take it for what it’s worth, but I think he is planting seeds for the future rather than speaking to the present.

I thought his idea behind science and math was pretty interesting, because I see it all the time, even in top players. I think there is a HUMONGOUS difference between building, testing, and playing a “new conceptual” deck vs grinding it into a pulp to truly find out how to make it work, or if there is merit at a tier 1 level. Just because I built a new deck idea that’s original, play it 10-20 games, does not mean that I am even close to understanding if the deck is viable or not. I have left many potential tier 1 decks on the shelf because I simply cannot focus on too many decks at one time (usually only 1 each side seriously). Any deck that I would consider to be original in anyway and also consider tier 1 always took 100+ games to make all the tweaks to get it there.

So I agree that the “average” Netrunner is more focused on the math of the game versus the science. and I think it’s an insightful way to state it. The truth however is that the “average” Netrunner lacks the time and/or ambition to truly put a deck through the ringer and might also lack the confidence in their own interpretations, or have misguided interpretations from their testing to keep building positively upon their original idea. Net decking a top players deck and tweaking it to your playstyle is a much safer and efficient way to play the game. I think people gravitate to the Math/efficiency of the game, because it is a way to interpret in absolute terms and can create a level of clarity and certainty for a player that gives them confidence. I have always believed the “math” to be part of the equation to being a great Netrunner, in fact in the current state of the game I believe it’s enough for someone to be a top Netrunner. But as the game has progressed this has become less true, and If Damon is as smart as he wants us to believe he is, I think we will see the meta start to open up significantly and open even more doors for a more dynamic and diverse field.

I do love his end statement of question everything. This is one of the reasons I have spoken up at times when people assign absolute values to cards and ideas and speak/write in such certainty. It is a very dangerous approach to this game and I have personally seen it drive some very excellent Netrunners and brilliant people out of the game. They become convinced in their own absolutes that they become blind to a whole array of new ideas that are blossoming right in front of their eyes.

I really have no point in writing this other than that I was moved by the interview, and after reading some other reactions to it, I wanted to get my piece out there. Take for what it’s worth.

-End Rant-


#2

Netrunner is an incredibly mathematical game based on efficiencies.

My argument against his statements is: “Sorry Damon, people ARE doing that. And Andy/NEH is best across the board. What are you going to do about it?”

It’s not a big deal though. If anything, it warrants the discussion, what specific ideas do you have to hard counter the top tier meta, and combine them into a deck that works across the board? I really struggle to find the answer to that question.

At the moment, based on this line of thinking, I’m specifically trying Source/Fall Guy Gabe and NoiseShop with a Chakana (included 2 Djinn’s to tutor if needed) as hard counters to fast advance.


#4

I am not sure “hard countering” the top decks is the right answer, because it’s a reactionary way to build decks, and by definition you are already behind the power curve. I always try to build decks that are solid versus any opponent, but might have cards that also tend to be accentuated in certain matchups. Forged Activation Orders is a great Criminal example. It’s great in any deck, but shines vs Jinteki to prevent brutal face checks. Compromised Employee is a great econ card in it’s own right, but shines versus taxing ICE decks, or tracing decks. Imp is a great example in Shaper decks. Will always be useful, but can be a game saver in a Scorch/Astrobiotic/SanSan/ect deck. I don’t feel I am ever at a disadvantage for playing those cards, but they also get a boost versus what might be a popular and strong deck type.

These are just a couple examples of building an overall winning deck that compliments my playstyle and is also built with some of the top corp decks in mind. I think if you just go straight to the obvious and “mathy” hard counters (like The Source/Chakana for NBN), you might be missing the “sciency” (I.E. experience of 100’s of games logged against it) of how to beat it, which (IMO) is simply just accessing more cards from centrals.


#6

I totally agree with this. It has always been the most efficient way to win at Netrunner and was the reason Jinteki were awful for so long (the runner had no reason to ever check remotes so the traps were useless). But accessing more cards from centrals, in itself, kind of is a hard counter because there are increasingly many matchups now in which you don’t want to access too many cards for fear of a flatline (or the forthcoming Weyland advancement trap).

The only card in the current card pool which fulfills the efficiency criteria while preventing unwanted accesses is Keyhole. I think this card will be a major player in the next 6-12 months - particularly once Anarchs re-emerge in the new box set.


#7

Sure, but you can get an idea if a deck has potential after 10-12 games IMO. Then the nice thing about the internet is that you can find people that agree and also have experience and then you get nice network effects, viz. my tinkering with CI after BLC and Iain with UC, then wishing I had more time to refine, then finding PeekaySK’s and RyanBurke’s stuff online.

100% agree with this from a design perspective. You can’t simply hard counter every archetype out there; decks need to be able to function well on their own merits without having “bad” matchups (e.g. EtF versus CI-pre-BLC). That’s why I want more faction-specific utility cards, not more faction-specific counters. e.g. Planned Assault vs. Sealed Vault. One adds thematic utility, the other exists solely because someone felt siphon needed a hard counter.


#8

But are you factoring in your card evaluation of Sealed Vault that Account Siphons are everywhere? I got double siphoned by Kate of all people in the first round of my last competition. It’s almost verifiably true in a scientific way that I will encounter X siphons during the course of a tournament, where I will probably encounter X - 10 makers eyes.

I think that’s what this Damon dude was saying. That we should consider these things in our deck-building and card evaluations, rather than just go, well it hard counters this so I rate it low in my binary maths led mind.

Plascrete is the ultimate example of this. It’s dead in decks where you won’t die to meat damage, but you almost must run it just in case. Is my deck really worse off than what it was when I had an open slot there? That’s what I think he’s saying the community should experiment with. Not evaluate new cards against existing archetypes but use the card pool to address specific problems we encounter regularly. And experiment with the options they’ve provided. I think.

I think Chakana is a fantastic card in Noise (just one) because with Djinn tutor’s and recursion I can smash fast advance with it, but 99% of Noise decklists I see won’t touch it. Damon’s assertion is that Chakana is excellent because of it’s proveable scientific value, rather than the binary value it has as a card on it’s own. Once again, I think.

I’m still trying to understand his (Damons) argument to be honest.


#9

If you’ve never watched the video in the below link, I strongly encourage you to do so. It’s probably one of the best explanations I’ve seen.

In a nutshell, this is Netrunner. Netrunner has a cyclical metagame, and NEB just happens to be near the top right now. This is either partly due to the design space of the current game, or partly due to the implicit assumptions that many players make about the game that Damon was referring to in his interview. Regardless, I think the answer to the OP’s question is at 5:52 in the linked video.

Tangentially, though not wholly unrelated to the topic at hand: I’m not the first one to say it, but I believe we will be seeing new runner archetypes emerge soon that rely much less on economy and set up much faster (which is a threat to any non-ETR taxing only fast advance style decks), which I think Damon was also alluding to in his video. We’ve already have cards like Overmind, and we know the “dog trio” of breakers have been spoiled. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a new piece of hardware come out that plays with power counters. Which would make a lot of the new hardware trashing Ambushes (Shattered Remains) and Ice (Taurus) more useful, and on and on the cycle goes.


#10

I want to add a few of my own thoughts to this conversation about how I feel about the design of the game, (cards printed to counter top decks, cards printed to encourage new strategies, and how to keep the meta fresh).

(1) There are a lot of what I consider to be design failures in Netrunner. Having cards to counter decks helps a lot, don’t get me wrong, but many of these cards are either super narrow, underpowered, or both. The problem with narrow counters like Sealed Vault and Plascrete are twofold. First, it’s not fun to see a narrow counter when you play the game and your opponent isn’t playing the card you’re trying to counter. No one wants to have to play useless cards in their decks. Plascrete might work very well at stopped the meta from being overrun with Scorched decks, but the fact that it counters these decks so incredibly well and does nothing against most players means that you end up playing a game that’s less skill-based and more about drawing your counters. Compromised Employee to NBN:MN, Sweeps Week to Andy, and Jackson Howard to Noise are examples of good, “soft” counters; cards that are useful no matter what but that also help to thwart a strategy, (though Jackson has a different problem: that’s he is so good that he’s in every deck and as a result we are just countering Noise without trying, with no consideration of the metagame). The other issue with printing “hard” counters is that the metagame has to be so overrun with a particular card, deck, or strategy before playing them is a good idea, that essentially, people are only going to be playing counters if you already have lack-of-diversity problems. If Sealed Vault sees any amount of play, it’s only because the designers failed to deal with Account Siphon in a more elegant way, and if it’s actually a good card, that implies Siphon is ubiquitous to far too much a degree.

(2) Introducing new strategies is important, but if the designers want them to be Tier 1, they’re going to have to accept a couple of things about how this game works that I don’t think they are willing to accept. The power level of the top tier is set by cards like Parasite, Datasucker, Account Siphon, and Desperado. No doubt that the designers know this. However, because this is the case, you can’t really effectively change the metagame without printing more cards at this power level or outright banning, restricting, or errataing these cards. Introducing new strategies is awesome, but if you never accept that the cards you’re competing for deck space with are the ‘unfair’ cards, you’re going to fail to dethrone the top decks. Sure, because of hard counters and whatnot, there might be a tournament or two where it’s wise to bring a usually tier 2 deck because it’s well positioned in the metagame, but that will not make it a tier 1 deck a month down the road. Essentially, if they want the winning/top X decks at tournaments to look different than Andy/NBN, (something they failed to do in a long time now), they can’t just print new strategies at a “fair” power level, blame the players for not being creative enough, or print counters, they need to actually match the power level of things like Astroscript and Siphon with new strategies and synergies, and give players a reason to NOT play those cards. This is a huge design challenge. Most of the time, it’s probably better to just ban/restrict/errata these cards, because there just isn’t a lot else you can do besides power creep if you don’t want to meta to settle with a ton of these overpowered cards at the top.

(3) The biggest design failure in Netrunner, to me, isn’t Siphon or Astro, it’s the printing of unplayable cards. Damon can claim that I’m looking at cards from a ‘math’ perspective all he wants, but the vast majority of the cards I dismiss for math reasons could have been printed at a lower cost or with better numbers in some other sense, and they wouldn’t have broken the metagame. There is no good reason to overcost these cards. If they want me to try out these cards in the first place, they should be costing them aggressively, because the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of really strong cards (math-wise), that I could play. I don’t take issue with cards because they do “different” things, and therefore don’t fit into my deck. I take issue with them because they’re 3/1 agendas, and therefore are hard to fit into a deck in the first place. I take issue with them because they’re narrow. I take issue with them because they cost too much. I take issue with an ID because there is simply not enough influence to make playing it worthwhile over the alternatives. It sometimes feels like not very much thought put, at all, into tweaking these numbers.


#11

ANR certainly has a cyclical metagame, but I feel that there are a few differences with its meta that separate it from other games. First, to use the video’s example, Character A (NEH or what-have-you) rarely saturates the meta enough to force players to start using Character B. Second, it is my opinion that more players, rather than find ways to beat NEH, would rather play something similar. I could be totally wrong on this; I know many people here voice how dynamic their LGS meta is. That’s fine, but I think ANR occasionally goes through periods where one or a few Character A’s go unchecked for too long because they never tip the scales enough. Some may see this as speaking to ANR’s balance, but I see it as a detriment to the meta, and a testament to the mentality of the ANR community.

@mediohxcore Your third point is a good one, and echoes what @hypomodern (I think) said in the new Anarch ID thread: the game needs more great cards - that’s what makes for a healthy meta. The difficulty from a design standpoint is not just giving existing archetypes more great cards, but printing new, great cards that open the possibility for other archetypes to compete and shine with existing ones.


#12

Yes :). Because my evaluation is “if you need a hard counter to account siphon, here it is”. In re: plascrete, it used to be mandatory 3x, then 2x, now most of the top runners I follow are experimenting with 1x or 0x. I’ve done well without in a lot of builds.

I haven’t seen the interview nor do I care to do so, but I’ll just say that reasonable players don’t engage their robotic maths brain solely—they’d look at the card pool and the common decks to evaluate strengths of new cards: does this make anything currently strong stronger? Does this open a new line of play for, say, CI?—and math is a science-based approach so I’m really not sure where to go with this argument. We humans use experience (evidence) and math (efficiency analysis) to evaluate options. That’s science, guided by heuristics.

As @MadmanMSU points out, Netrunner isn’t supposed to be fair and balanced, and that’s great! It’s asymmetrical and constantly changing! I just feel like we heard all this “players need to experiment more and nobody in top netrunner is using the right analysis rubric” before. Because we did. Last year :).

Unrelated to the video in question, my contention is that they shouldn’t try to hard-counter things, they should be focused instead on lifting other strategies up by rebalancing existing cards and making cards that open alternate lines of play. Soft counters—things that have a negative impact on a dominant archetype without locking it down (crash space instead of plascrete, say) while also supporting other lines of play (tag removal)—are my preference if they don’t want to rebalance existing cards.


#13

Another thing with regard to Andy specifically:

If I’m a great player, the consistency that Andy provides me, (or even the consistency that overall good-mathy cards in general provide), is going to help me beat the vast majority of players a whole lot of the time. Even if I can build a deck that counters the metagame slightly better than Andy, I’m still very likely to play her, just because of the way in which good-mathy cards help you outright crush players who are worse than you. If I decide to bring a meta-call deck instead, I open myself up to losses to players who are worse than me when I could have just beaten them with the best/most powerful deck. I think this is a large part of the reason why Andy is so dominant: most of the best players just want to opt for consistency because that’s the best option for them to leverage their play-skill. She may or may not be the best runner at any given time, if everyone is playing perfectly. She might only be better than Kate/Gabe/Reina by a little bit. Still, she plays the most powerful cards, and is the most consistent ID, so the best players are going to play her a whole lot of the time just because she is so good at never losing to players that are worse than you.


#14

Hey Hypo, sorry I didn’t mean you specifically, royal ‘you’ … My original assertion to this Damon dude would’ve been, I’m pretty sure the playerbase has done that and Andy came out tops.


#15

I’ve said this since last year when the “Andy Fear” started. Andromeda is popular in tournament settings, and does well at the top of tournaments, because her ability is to smooth out variance. This is not going to change. Controlling variance is huge if you have a shot at winning (e.g. if you think you’re better than the field and you actually are). This is currently confounded—though less so over time!—by the fact that Criminals had/have the preponderance of “plain great cards”. There’s a reason why “Good Stuff/Scumbag Gabe/Andy” dominated early—they had more Good Stuff to bring to the yard.

At any rate, until they print an Anarch and Shaper ID that says “you begin the game with an additional 4 cards”, we’re likely to see Andy at the top tables in large numbers :).


#16

Just putting it out there, but what would a hard counter Andy deck look like? And how would it fare in general?


#17

In my experience, most corps are too afraid to wipe virus counters. I’m not sure why.

In a typical andysucker deck, those datasuckers are big econ. I’ll throw a single piece of ice over archives, then wipe all the tokens on the next turn, and it really shuts down the Andy tempo.

That’s just a limited example, not all Andy decks use datasucker, but I’m genuinely surprised to not see more people do this.


#18

Mediohxcore, I would like to address your 3rd point–the printing of unplayable cards.

First, power level is relative, there always has to be a worst card or bad cards. Even if the cards are as close to each other in power level, it makes for a boring game. Flat power level is less fun to play with. If every card is equal in power, there are no “big plays” or dramatic changes.

Second, bad cards provide a frame of reference for good cards. A big part of games like Netrunner is distinguishing value. There are cards that are purposely made underpowered or overcosted and it’s fun to explore them.

Third, not all cards are made for tournament play. Some cards are designed for different kinds of players, including the casual majority. Other cards are designed for fun combo decks like Pawn + Exile; they’re not optimal for tournament play, but they are fun for a different kind of Netrunner.

What you call unplayable may be what draws other people to the game. Sure, Data Hound is bad, but when my little sister sees that she can put a bunch of cyber dogs in her deck, she loves it. Considering the primary market for ANR is casual players like her, it makes more sense for the design of the game to focus on pleasing that market first.


#19

I also think that core set cards will always be the benchmark. Every one of the ‘problem’ cards listed in this thread (apart from andy) are core set cards. I like that about the LCG model to be honest. I can rock up with a core set Gabe deck that stands a very real chance against a bunch of full-collection lists. Ditto NBN.

Of what I’ve seen so far, ‘MUSTHAVE’ cards (read: jackson pimphand howard) from data packs are few and far between, and are more about fleshing stuff out then setting new level’s of power. It must be so in the LCG model.


#20

Additionally, people are overlooking the obvious. Some cards released look terrible or “inefficient” simply because the rest of the cycle hasn’t finished yet. The mythic Ice are good example. Same thing for Dagger. Dagger is pretty useless without stealth cards, but as more get released, Dagger starts to look better and better.

Those are both obvious examples, but serve to illustrate the point. If you watch the Gencon interview with Lukas, I believe it was, he talks about how the designers playtest with the entire cycle of cards. They also debate about the order to release them in, which has its own issues.

To say that some cards released are “bad” or broken is too simplistic, you have to look at the whole spectrum.


#21

The designers are also several cycles ahead and, as humans, often forget this :). Case in point: Lukas expressing surprise that CI wasn’t common at Worlds 2013 which seemed crazy until a couple months later ;).

Release order is hard for cards that require support, for sure.

But on a broader point: does anyone actually think Dagger is bad, or do they actually think, as you point out, that there simply aren’t enough stealth credits yet to make it good? In my experience, the latter is much more common than the former :).


#22

It’s certainly the case in Call of Cthulhu, the only other LCG I know much about. The Core Set cards are still quite relevant, even… 7 cycles and 7 big boxes later :).