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Netrunner and Balance Part 2: Our Glorious Future

My theory is that FFG is far too old-fashioned and hierarchical a company to know how to effectively address and serve the Netrunner community.

Why not adopt a community-organized ban list, broader MWL, and “watch list” and make it available for use on community tools such as NRDB, Meteor, and Jnet as well as adopting it as a kind of open-source standard for public play. There is precedent with this in the ANRPC Museum ruling last year.

It has been argued that this could lead to “fragmentation” of play formats, but FFG is clearly going to do nothing about the issues addressed in the article. Why not do something?

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This has been my major concern with the game. I have seen tournament sizes shrink and buzz for the game dwindle. Even in probably one of the more exciting cycles and on the eve of one of the better looking big boxes.

It may just be a sign of the times. But I really would rather the game have much, much more left ahead of it.

Rotation will help, maybe. Maybe not.

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I really don’t understand why so many people prefer functional errata over bans. Errata to make a certain card unique or limit one per deck doesn’t bother me because everything I need to be aware of is at the deckbuilding stage. But errata that changes the wording on a card is so annoying, both for players and TOs, especially if it were to become a widespread solution. The FAQ for Netrunner is obnoxious as it is, and MWL adds enough confusion for players new to the competitive scene. Asking them to remember what errata’d cards say during an event when nobody has reprints? Ugh. And I’m sure FFG doesn’t want to reprint cards if they don’t have to.

Bans are so much cleaner and frankly address the problems in a much more direct and efficient way. Again, it leaves all the hard stuff at the deckbuilding stage and let’s people play the game with as little interruption and confusion as possible. That’s one of the key strengths of cards games: the rules are on the cards! Errata takes that simplicity away.

I know it’s been said before but it bears reminding that Magic is one of the oldest, most successful and enduring card games of all time and it utilizes banning, which as a CCG with an actual economy involved is even more audacious. But they do what it takes to keep the game balanced. Netrunner has so much less to lose for utilizing bans.

Also bans don’t have to be any more permanent than the MWL is now. There’s no reason to not reexamine cards later, say after rotation, to see if the ban is necessary to stay.

If FFG isn’t going to ban cards, then at the very least they need to update the FAQ and MWL far more often than twice a year.

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Not quite, you do need to be aware of uniqueness during games. It’s not too hard to keep track of, though. It might become a problem if they added such errata to a couple dozen more cards, but they very reasonably don’t seem to be inclined to do so.

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I guess what I meant to say is that it’s no more difficult to remember that a card is unique than it is to remember that, if I see an Astroscript in the opponent’s score area I know there can’t be any more copies in his deck. Or to remember that if my opponent has 3 Parasites in his heap, he only has 12 more influence in his deck. But you are right, it is something to be aware of during a game. But it’s nowhere near as intrusive as a card having a straight up different function that what it says on it’s face. That’s a big problem, especially for new players. If we errata’d Sifr to give brain damage instead, newer players going to their first tournament can’t pick up their opponents card to read it for the first time and see what it does. That’s a big no-no for me. Again, that takes away a key strength of this genre.

My 2 cents: I think the only card that probably needs a ban is parasite. At its core, it warps so much of the game, even before the publication of Sifr. It’s exceptionally easy to get it out on a paid ability window, and there are plenty of ways to reduce ICE strength to 0. With parasite removed, runners now need to interact with the ICE, even if they want to destroy it. So you can stack large ICE, and it remains relevant.

Ban Sifr, the meta won’t change too much. Ban parasite and the game shifts in a healthier way.

These discussion always center around what cards to ban or errata… I’m curious. What cards if any in the last two cycles have made Netrunner more fun ?

I think temujin was actually quite good for game.

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If only FFG had some way of getting updated cards out to players, so you could have the current text on cardboard.

If only they could print things… on demand…

Nah, that’d make too much sense.

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Banning Diagnostics is a very poor choice for two reasons.

  1. It’s click compression. Click compression is kind of what ANR is about. Yes, it compresses clicks better than any other in conjunction with stacking your deck and doubles, but at the end of the day, it’s not far removed from, say, Shipment from MirrorMorph. What makes CI and the lot work isn’t just that they have the best click compression - it’s that they have ALL the click compression. (Yes, that doesn’t include Boom! combo, but see below.)

  2. The MWL would punch a hole in Diagnostics combo decks. Anyone who plays them often could tell you that the decks are super influence-tight.

Here’s the typical influence mix in CI7: 2 Power Shutdown (4), 3 Shipment from Kaguya (3), 2 Shipment from SanSan (2), 2 Global Food Initiatives (2), 1 Reuse (1), 3 Jackson Howard (3). If the deck lost 3 influence, it would basically be forced to lose both the GFIs and its best line of defense against Vamp in Reuse. That would not be crippling, but it would make the deck much less consistent.

Hasty Pudding CI’s influence mix is usually 2 GFI, 3 Hasty Relocation, 3 Shipment from SanSan, and 4 flex slots (often either Jacksons, Reuse, or redundancy effects like Localized Product Line). The deck could still work without 3 influence, but it’d lose all its flexibility.

NEH Shutdown combo plays 2 Boom!, 2 Power Shutdown, 3 Diagnostics, 3 Breaking News, and 1 Global Food Initiative. Losing 3 influence would essentially force the deck to go down to 1 Boom!, which essentially means the deck is all-in on the combo since the odds of drawing Boom and 24/7 would drop seriously - not to mention that it would be basically screwed against Plascrete + IHW. My aggressive prediction: I think putting Diagnostics on the MWL list would kill this deck.

Maybe I’m just hyper-sensitive, but what the call to ban Diagnostics really sounds like is “Netrunner shouldn’t have combo decks.” Which is a really extreme position.

I’m from the school of thought that you should avoid banning cards because their one archetype is overpowered. You should ban them because they empower multiple archetypes that are all meta-warping. Hence my stance re: Sifr, Faust, and Rumor Mill (the latter not just because it kills Jinteki glacier dead, but also because it neuters Jackson, who’s pretty integral to the function of the game, and forces most every corp to pack several currents and/or fast-advance plans to cope).

I agree. Temujin at least brought us back to a fundamental mechanic: the Run. Though it might be a bit too good, I think MWL treatment gets us further away from where we want to be, which is centering play on the interactive parts of the game.

SAU is likely fine without CtM, though it’s obviously still really good. CtM is the problematic part, I think. Ban that, or throw the two on a Restricted List.

Sandburg in a Netrunner world without Rumor Mill might be too strong but I don’t think Bioethics should be banned or even MWL’d. Without it, the runner can ignore PE’s (or PU’s to a lesser extent) unadvanced remotes and just play the is it an ambush, Ronin or agenda game with advanced remotes.

It is the same as Blackmail and Val. If you had to actively get the bad pub first before blackmailing, I don’t think it would be an issue. If Blackmail and Val were not allowed to be in the same deck, it would solve all the problems. Val would just get a psudo-Desperado ability and Blackmail would need to be built around more.

In other languages erratad cards are more common, additional to the FAQ. The German Meru Mati says it protects R&D and I have to explain them this is not true. So the problem you are discussion about is already real. For a long term player it adds step by step. First WPN, afterwards Astro OK no big deal. But wa have already lot’s of strange translation mistakes. I heard of people putting the errate text into the sleeved cards (never seen this).
I just want to say while I don’t like functional errata too, the problem it causes are there already in countries with own translations.

One thing that I would appreciate, if they would print a datapack with the corrections.

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I’ve seen this opinion both brokered here and elsewhere (both in general and in response to this article). I think Banning parasite is straight up one of the worst ideas you can have. There were a couple people saying stuff along these lines (someone responded on Reddit saying they thought the game was unbalanced because the Runner could destroy the Corp’s board, and the Corp can’t do the opposite). I’m thinking about writing a full second article about my ideas here because I think they are really important, but I’ll just respond here a bit on why Parasite is important and why banning it is a bad idea (and why Sifr is the one that needs to go).

Fundamentally, the Core of what makes Netrunner a great game is the degree of interaction the two sides have, and a large chunk of this comes from the Runner’s ability to interact with every portion of the Corp’s deck. The runner can destroy assets, upgrades, installed ice, steal agendas, access cards from hand, etc. Its core to the game that even ice aren’t permanent, and Parasite represents the first mechanic for doing so.

The most common complaint I then see about Parasite is that “oh, it would be fine on its own, but datasucker and clone chip make it too easy to destroy ice”. The thing about this is Datasucker as your method of destroying Ice adds a large degree of interaction to the game. Because it only effects central servers, and the most you can get in 1 turn is 4, the Corp inherently has a great deal of control over the Runner’s access to Datasuckers (especially with CVS, which can turn off Archives for free). Sifr of course breaks this because the Corp has no control over the size of the ice a runner is able to destroy. The fact Sifr gets rid of anyway to interact with it because there are no resources the Corp has control over (and Hardware is the most resilient card type) is the reason Sifr is broken.

Finally, there are meta and balance considerations. If you actually look at the top 16 worlds, you’ll notice something. Half the Anarch decks don’t have parasite (Siphon), and the other half only run 3x and run 1x piece of recursion (Deja Vu, which isn’t primarily about recurring parasites). Temujin Whizz, the Regass Anarch deck that was running 3x times, was largely using Parasite as a means of overcoming Anarch weakness to Gearcheck (I talked to Dyer / Alex White at one point who were talking about CUTTING the parasites, but decided that the gearcheck usage made them worthwhile). Neither of the Shaper decks in the top 16 (the faction most commonly splashing for using with datasucker) used it either. Dumblefork typically debated between running 3rd parasite or 3rd Faust.

The truth is before Sifr, Parasite was hardly dominating the meta, and it was a card that strengthened Anarch’s weakness and identity (as the Faction that works primarily around attacking the Corp’s boardstate). Sifr immediately broke Parasite because there was now zero counterplay to saving your Ice, and is the card that is fundamentally at fault. If you REALLY think Clone Chip / Parasite are broken together, just Restrict them from being in the same deck. I think its wrong, but Parasite is fundamental to the identity of Anarch as a faction.

Finally, what happens if you Ban parasite? Well, ice in this game has been balanced around the idea that parasite can deal with certain kinds of Ice and the idea the Corp can’t just install Ice forever and create super taxing server (which is boring and incredibly Toxic IMO). My guess is when banned Next Ice EtF immediately becomes the strongest deck that everyone plays, which is honestly a horrible future for the game. Faction balance would be completely out of whack, and install ice forever do nothing is the most toxic Corp strategy (similarily to why install recurring credits do nothing is the most toxic runner one).

In summary:
Netrunner is a game about interacting with the Corp board state, Parasite lets you do this.
Parasite is fundamental to the healthy Anarch archetypes (no AI, no Siphon)
Before Sifr Parasite was not breaking the game, and was relavily weak (not recurred, no decks relying on it).
Banning Parasite creates a toxic enviornment where Next Ice dominates and Corps don’t need to think in order to win, because their ice just exponentially scales into victory.

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I was wondering about a Restricted List that said you can’t run Sifr and Parasite in the same list. It seems like that would take care of most of the problems, but there may be issues that I have not thought of with that.

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The issue mostly is that Sifr becomes binder fodder. Even though Sifr is a great econ boost without Parasite, the decks that really want that boost almost always run Parasite too. Of the two options, Parasite is just better and still can be run with Sucker.

If the price of a healthy game and environment is that a few previously staple cards are relegated to binder-fodder then I’d be happy to pay it multiple times over.

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There are several points I want to make after reading your post. I’ll try to limit this to one or to main things. Before I get to those points, I want to note that everyone knows what Diagnostics is and does and that none of the points you mention are actually addressing Kenny’s article. One of his points was that the MWL is not doing enough to restrict degenerate, unfun, unfair strategies. I, personally (and I know there are many, many others out there), feel that Diagnostics combo decks are degenerate, unfun, and non-interactive. You might enjoy them. Some people I know do. But the fact is that AccDiag is not played outside degenerate strategies. It’s an inherently broken card that enables broken strategies. The Hasty deck is not reason enough to keep the card around. The card can’t rotate fast enough, and I want it banned. CI7 can just go die in a ditch somewhere.

Now, the points I want to make:

  1. I, too, have played my fair share of CI7. The patronizing re: influence was entirely unnecessary. I know what cards are in the decks. The fact that CI7 exists, like Dyper, is cancer to the game.

  2. Diagnostics is rarely ever used as intended. Like False Echo, it is almost always only included in one or two decks that abuse it. You know what high level players do when they feel runner decks are degenerate and ignore ice? They go to CI7, which barely plays any ice and just ignores what you do.

My criteria for whether a deck is fair is very similar to @Simonmoon’s criteria. There can be some bonkers weird spicy decks, but they should never be non-interactive. If you like a card because it enables unfun strategies, don’t rail against me because I dislike unfun, non-interactive Netrunner. Think about how your reasons clash harshly with the logic you’ve put forth for banning Sifr, Faust, and Rumor Mill (all of which need to go).

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I think Sifr remains an excellent console for Null and useful in a Shaper deck that runs Atman 0 or any deck that wants to use it because it cannot run D4.

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As someone who recently started playing Netrunner (roughly 6 months ago), I can say that the major appeals and draws of the game to me are the diverse card lists, the lack of a ban list, and more recently after beginning my competitive play, the use of the MWL as a way to help curtail stagnant metas.

The MWL is the most unique way I’ve seen to deal with a stagnant meta, as well as an interesting way to deal with cards being ‘overpowered’ or abused. A:NR is the first game I have ever had an interest in playing at a competitive level, and while this might be the humble opinion of someone who hasn’t really played any competitive games, or A:NR that long, I think the MWL is the best solution to stagnation and card dominance rather than a straight ban list.

A straight ban list, while an easy balancing solution, has always felt lazy to me. Just removing the card from play removes interesting interactions and in turn, limits deck diversity in a way. While certain cards like Faust and Şifr are especially powerful, banning them seems like an overreaction. With enough AI-counter play, Faust is steadily seeing less play, and the issue with Şifr isn’t the card itself, but rather its combo’s with Clone Chip and Parasite. Şifr on its own is interesting and a unique way for the runner to break Ice-subroutines on the cheap, while leaving them open to potential kill decks if done at inopportune times. Just destroying ice with Parasite 3 to 6 times because of clone chip and Şifr is a boring interaction.

As an alternative to the idea of a ban list, I offer you the idea of a tiered MWL. Cards that are used in nearly every deck, should cost a bit more influence than just one. While I understand that this offers its own set of unique balancing issues, I think it is still a better solution than just banning cards. For instance, Parasite costing two more influence might see to less Parasites being run and leading to more diversity, and potentially limiting its interactions with Şifr.

TL;DR: I think a ban list is lazy/discouraging and would prefer a tiered MWL. MWL is the most interesting way to balance a game and would prefer to see it utilized more. Şifr is not the issue, but its interaction with Clone Chip and Parasite is. You guys are all great, thanks for being the best community ever.

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