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Playing the Opening

Discuss Alex’s post on the netrunner opening here:


Good stuff as usual. Putting my grammar Nazi hat on for a moment, you might want to fix your use of its vs. it’s.

Alright. Netrunner hat back on. One thing I noticed - in example 4, if you hit a Snare there’s a big problem because you have your only Yog in hand. I guess if you have a backup plan (like Deja Vu, Clone Chip or Parasite) you might be ok but otherwise if they put a code gate on R&D you are likely to lose the late game. Honestly, against Jinteki if I get a draw with my one Yog in hand I’d be tempted to mulligan. I really don’t want to have to run Yog out early but the chances of me losing it to net damage are way too high.

This article is basically the Netrunner equivalent of “Who’s the Beatdown” (a famous Magic strategy article about how to identify which player should be the aggressor) in terms of explaining very well a very important facet of the game that might not be entirely well understood amongst the player base. While I knew all of the concepts in the article, I didn’t really have the same coherent picture about why certain cards were good and gave me a better understanding of where I should be placing some of my ice.

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I think this is probably my favorite of Alex’s articles. This explains a very important concept that lot’s of players miss out on.


Great Article, Alex. When I teach Netrunner, I definitely emphasize the importance of what you’re calling “the opening”, and how to scout with purpose and aggressively. This will be a great resource!

What is interesting to me is that all runner strategies want to open in roughly the same way, though obviously they’re all looking for slightly different cards to build for the mid-late game to play during their downtime. Except for Datasuckers and Corroder, because those are forever :).

Maybe Atman now too :).

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From the article:

This agrees entirely with my intuition but leaves me bewildered as to why NEXT Design is struggling (in the OCTGN stats at least) as an identity. Surely it achieves exactly these goals? Are people just building it wrong, or is it that it’s “ahead of the meta” - i.e. it’s exploiting an aggressive early game strategy that not enough runners are actually employing?

A typical start would be a three ICE setup (R&D, HQ, Remote), followed by an economy op; an extra ICE somewhere (probably the remote); install in the remote (agenda/Melange). It seems like the corp should be exiting the early game much sooner. Any thoughts @Alexfrog (or others)?

I personally think HB’s ICE is pretty garbage. The big strength HB always had was good economy due to it’s identity and strong fast advance capabilities. Neither of these strengths applies to NEXT, which generally has been seen as the hardcore rush deck.

This might change when they finish up printing the NEXT cycle of ICE.

There is this, but there is also the somewhat “hidden” danger of over-dense agenda draw without corresponding economy. An early-game criminal is going to pressure NEXT’s HQ even harder than normal, since NEXT doesn’t have any more money than anyone else (and less than EtF!) but has drawn potentially 3 more cards. If those draws are more ICE they probably aren’t helpful (yet); if they’re agendas (EV=0.42), then early econ pressure might snowball faster than NEXT can keep up…

I don’t want to overstate that danger, since I’ve done OK with my cheap-ice NEXT build, but it’s there. If the rest of the NEXT Ice is as nifty as NEXT Bronze, then that’d be cool.

I don’t see much of an argument about the economy for NEXT to be honest - I can play almost the same deck I did before with EtF. Sure, ND lacks the $1 per turn compared to EtF, but if my bonus ICE prevents (or delays) an early Siphon then the ID has pretty much pulled its weight. Tempo is everything. Besides, there are other forms of economy: scoring an Accelerated Beta Test on turn 2 and popping a couple of extra rezzed ICE into play is not to be sniffed at.

I barely use any HB ICE at the moment, the neutrals are decent enough for what the deck needs. But as you say, NEXT ICE could synergise well.

I was mainly interested in the author’s opinions, because he’s made what I perceive to be an astute and correct observation. In my mind NEXT is the ID ideally suited to prematurely moving into the mid-game, yet somehow it isn’t working for people.

Once my Masters dissertation is finished (Monday) I’ll be hitting OCTGN pretty hard :smile:

This. Next design can get ice out, but cant pay for it yet, and the ice sucks, and you are down 3 influence that you couldve spend on more good early ice like Popups and Ice Walls and stuff. HB really needs 3 SanSan, and that leaves Next Design at 3 influence left. If you cut a SanSan, your deck is much much worse than the EtF deck.

Bioroids basically suck, almost universally. People who wonder “when will Stronger Together get enough bioroids to be good” are missing the point. The answer is NEVER, because Bioroids are complete crap. Except basically Eli. Ichi is decent as a lategame ice but does nothing early. The rest are barely playable.

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Well, I think Victor is pretty good in a stronger together deck since the extra strength gets him out of Yog reach, but yeah, three decent pieces of ice does not a deck make. Although I think victor 2.0 might be worth a second look-in the age of Atman a relatively cheap strength 5 code gate looks like a nice thing to have. Not as good as Eli, since it costs 2 more to rez, but if you use bastion then its nice to not have all your ice at the same strength (and to have an end the run codegate).

It you cut a SanSan but play a 45 card deck that’s optimised for 3 extra draws at the start, the situation isn’t so bad - especially with J-How on the scene. It’s not ideal (you’d like 3) but there are other priorities.

I agree HB’s ICE suite isn’t the best, but this is exactly the situation in which you can get by with predominantly cheap ETR ICE - which is catered for pretty well with neutral cards, Ice Wall / Popup and things like Roto and Viper in faction.

I don’t really understand this argument at all. How can it be worse to have ICE that you can’t afford than no ICE at all? (Fringe case: FAO). All other corps are, at most, protecting one or two centrals on turn one and probably trying to generate some money, NEXT has that first part taken care of and can therefore spend more effort on the latter.

All corps have the same economy options at their disposal, with the exception of $1 extra for EtF and Weyland core. You make it sound as if that $1 extra is some huge margin. Sure, it generates a lot of cash if you integrate over a whole game, but turn one is exactly where its edge is smallest - you have at most $1 more than any other deck.

As I say, from Monday I’ll be a lot more free to do some online testing. But how do you rate the success of a Corp deck now? @Alexfrog has said elsewhere that the runner win rate is so high at his level that it’s rare for the Corp to win. What’s your metric - agenda total reached before the runner wins?

Its not worse, but its not better.

EtF gets extra $ to help pay for the ice.

Yes, I get that. But my argument was that where NEXT design has its advantage is in the very early game, where it essentially has a two turn head start compared to other corps. Clearly, economically speaking, EtF overtakes it in the long run but I want to look at the first few turns as this was the point of your article.

For the sake of argument let’s say three turns, because over that timescale EtF has made $3 which is enough to rez a reasonable piece of ICE. So comparing the two IDs: NEXT Design has three ICE in play (assuming the best case, but highly likely, scenario) and has drawn three extra cards, whereas EtF has made $3.

Card-for-card and click-for-click EtF must install three ICE to give itself the same level of protection that NEXT already has (gaining the $3). It then has 6 other clicks to spend. Assuming NEXT takes the same 6 actions then it could give itself an identical position to EtF by spending the remaining 3 clicks to gain $1 each. The boards and credit pools now look identical, but NEXT still has three extra cards in hand.

Naturally, it’s unlikely that both corps would want to take the same 6 actions. In practice it’s likely NEXT is even further ahead because the extra cards afford additional possibilities. Additionally, for my build at least, NEXT has a higher concentration of economy cards than EtF (due to a smaller deck [45 cards] and the bonus draws) so the $ value / card is greater, increasing the value of cards in hand and the draw action.

This is to speak nothing of tempo: NEXT gives you far more chance to minimise losses (agendas and/or $) to early game runs and will likely delay the runner by forcing him to find breakers (plural) before he can achieve anything. An early Siphon for the runner sling-shots his economy while kicking the corp in the groin. I’m not saying NEXT prevents this for sure, but it gives you a far better chance than any other ID. If they’re getting into NEXT Design’s HQ, they’re getting into anyone’s; but there are plenty of other HQs they could get into elsewhere while they can’t get into ND’s.

This is NEXT Design’s window. Other corps might suffer a major setback in turn one or two, whereas NEXT is sitting pretty - it has money to spend in turns three and four that other corps have lost. You can talk about credits gained by EtF, but what about the credits not lost by NEXT Design? That’s economy too, surely? Those credits then let you do things that another corp would no longer be able to afford, such as scoring an agenda you otherwise might not have,

How many times have you seen the corp install an agenda (either a 3/2 it can’t score from hand or a 4/2 advanced once) then get siphoned to the point that they can now no longer afford to finish the agenda and it gets stolen the following turn?
NEXT doesn’t make you immune to the Siphon, but it can delay it for long enough to buy you enough tempo to execute your plans. If that agenda happens to be an ABT then you’ve also just made the runner’s task monumentally harder.

Alex, great insights again. Love it.

I was wondering if you see a prefered first run, when faced with a turn one ICE on HQ and R&D. Should you run HQ or R&D? Or is it justa matter of run both to get as much info as possible / as much pressure as possible?

I think part of the problem with next design is that your opening hand tends to pool agendas because of the identity’s nature. That is, you maybe install three ice, leaving typically 2 agendas in hand after you draw up to five again.

If you haven’t drawn a hedge fund by this point, this is a pretty bad position to be in. You don’t want to allow rnd access, you must defend HQ, and you can’t afford to score an agenda because it’ll break you.

If you didn’t draw into burst econ, EtF has basically overtaken you at this point.

Which is why you pack a high density of burst economy - remember you’re seeing 9 cards (20% of the deck) before you take your first action. Even if you don’t draw one I don’t understand how you rate that this puts EtF ahead. EtF doesn’t have any better chance of picking up burst economy and if they want to protect an equivalent HQ holding they need to spend their clicks to do it, NEXT could just gain $3 and still be in a better position.

I accept the argument that you maybe end up with two agendas in hand a fair proportion of the time, but in that situation you accept that you may have to concede an early R&D run in order to protect them. If I have two agendas in hand then there are now only seven in my (now 36 card) deck, so I’d be pretty unlucky to concede one to a topdeck, even with a multi-access play.

I do buy the agenda pooling argument though, that’s not something I’d considered. Well, actually I had because the deck is designed to deliver agendas quickly but I hadn’t thought of it in such negative terms before. I’ll run some numbers when I get the chance and see what the likelihood of 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 agendas is at the start of play - the mean will be slightly less than 2, but if 2 and 3 occur with significant probability you could have a strong argument.

I suspect the problem is when you both don’t draw early econ and agendas pool in your hand. This is a terrible situation where an aggressive runner will wreck you.

I’m not saying this happens all that often, but when it does you get set back significantly and you basically have a blank identity. You don’t have the econ to defend as well as EtF, and will be slower because more time will be spent taking credits.

This just needs to happen once in a while to push games that could’ve been won by EtF into NeXT Design losses. It’s that 5-10% differential we’re talking about, and honestly probably comes down to 1-2 points in those games.

Fantastic article!

And really motivates me to be more aggressive as runner.

I guess sometimes I do like to, however, play SMC (soon accompanied by either Clone Chip, another SMC, or an Atman on Personal Workshop) and gain lots of econ as shaper, to use my econ threat to make agendas pile up into HQ. That seems to work well, but I need to combine that with a bit more aggression.

Another thing to consider for NEXT design is their superior ability to protect a key asset in the early/first turn of the game. If you can get a melange down and mining for a turn or two at the beginning of the game behind an ice wall or NEXT bronze, you can get a huge economy boost, more than making up for the lack of ETF’s ability. Alix can also be a big moneymaker. If you can leverage your early game board position into an agenda or one of these big money assets, then I think the ability is well worth it-although this might make it less reliable than ETF, since sometimes you just don’t draw the cards you need to take advantage of your start position.

Oh, and great article Alex! Really crystallized a lot of things for me. I was, I now see, underestimating the difference between a cheap/free early access and a moderately expensive access (say, 3 credits). Very helpful.