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Playing Core-Only for the First Time

Unlike most of the players of this game, I did not start playing until the Flashpoint Cycle, so I never played early Netrunner or in a Core-only meta.

Over the last month, I’ve been running an online tournament using only Revised Core cards. I wanted to share a couple of thoughts and invite others to chime in about their experiences in this limited card pool. Much of what I have to share will be really obvious to players with long-experience in the game.

  1. Credits are tight. The game is much slower in the Core-only meta. You have very few clickless econ cards and a lot of your basic pieces are pretty expensive to install or rez. Overall, the econ balance seems pretty good between Runner and Corp, but a good deal slower than the standard game. Stimhack is an all-star card.

  2. Click to draw is your friend. The Runner has extremely limited draw options and very few tutors. I’ve found Anarchs have to include 3x of breakers if they want to stand any chance of getting a full-rig set up before the game ends. Even Shaper and Crim will find themselves clicking to draw a lot. The Corp has few options, but with no real hand filtering ability, it does not want to draw a lot in most cases anyway.

  3. Assets do not spam. If you try to build an asset spam deck you will fail. There simply are not enough assets in the game to do it, and none of the assets create that kinds of synergy with spam that you get in the standard game. Assets are primarily econ or traps. You cannot build a board state with assets that wins the game. This is one of the starkest differences between the Core game and the standard game to my mind.

  4. Fast Advance is a tool not a Win Con. Corp can fast advance, and all Corps have 3/2 agendas to score from hand. But with no way to draw 3/2s and very limited means to score 4/2s or 5/3s from hand, the Corp really cannot build a deck that tries to FA as its primary win condition. Weyland probably has the agendas most able to do it, but does not have the FA tools in-faction.

  5. If you die, it is probably your fault. Net damage and meat damage are real in the Core environment, and you can win games using both as the Corp, but if the Runner pays attention and is careful, they should not die. There are no combo “you just die” moments in a Core environment. There are moments when the Corp creates a fork. Don’t run this and I might score the winning agenda. Run it, and I might be able to kill you. But the Runner always has agency. Take a lesson from me, don’t discard your Crash Space vs. Weyland.

  6. You can know the meta. Especially for newer or less elite players, one nice thing about the Core meta is that you can reasonably expect to know every card your opponent might have in his or her deck. Often in the standard game, players at my skill level spend a lot of time having to guess what the other deck is trying to do or what cards it might be using. In the Core meta, when the Corp installs two cards in a remote, you can fairly easily run through all the options for what those cards might be and make some decisions about whether you want to risk the run or not. Again, it feels much more like you own your mistakes rather than losing to ignorance.

These are a few of my observations. I can see how playing in a Core-only meta might get stale quickly, but I think it is an interesting experience and a fun game. I think it also highlights some of the ways the standard game is vastly different from the Core game.

What are your thoughts about all this?


You are on point with most of this. Econ was painfully limited, and the game tempo was generally much slower.

You are right that a full rig was nearly impossible. However, this was balanced by the fact that rezzing ice is a serious drain. Often running was about getting your Killer out to avoid painful face checks and then forcing the Corp to make tough choices.

Early ANR was a serious economy war, which is why criminal options like Desperado and Gabe dominated. Forged Activation, Emergency Shutdown, Inside Job, and Account Siphon were all much more potent. Any one of those timed well could swing a game irrevocably to the Runner.

Before Plastcrete, Scorched Earth was terrifying. HB had the first FA archetype, and NBN wasn’t threatening until Beale came out. Jinteki suffered the most, considered the back of the pack for two full cycles until it got a deluxe of its own.

Corporations were generally believed to be on their heels in overall balance until Jackson arrived to start his cult.

Those are my memories, at least, of the early metas.

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