Since you say you are new, I will do you the favor of spending 3 of my seconds on google to find this for you, Alexfrog’s dissertation on UC should be the final word on this pointless discussion.
"Is Underworld Contacts worth playing?
Underworld Contacts has continually been one of the most difficult cards to analyze for me. Not in terms of what it does, of course, but in terms of whether it is worth it. It’s a card that I have had mixed results with. Sometimes it feels good, and other times it clearly doesn’t justify its opportunity cost.
Lets analyze Underworld Contacts.
First of all, it’s a combo card that doesn’t do anything when not combined with its combo piece. This is inherently a drawback, but can be overcome if the upside is worth it. Its combo piece is Link. Specifically, one link producing card if you are an identity that starts with a link, and two otherwise.
On the plus side, we can include more than one type of link card, reducing the chances of being without a missing combo piece.
Secondly, it’s a sustained economy card, which initially sets us back, but provides long term value.
Early money is somewhat better than lategame money in Netrunner. The faster you set up, the less of a window you give the corp to score early. Additionally, the less resistance you will encounter when trying to win by running central servers, because the corp will not have or be able to afford as much ice. As a result, we need to achieve more return from a sustained economy card than an instant, or burst, economy card, to make it playable.
My experience has taught me that if I play a sustained economy card in the early game, and it has become ‘worth it’ by the midgame, with continuing utility, then it’s a decent economy card. What does it mean to be worth it? I would approximate this as ‘has provided me as much money as a Sure Gamble’. After all, we know that Sure Gamble is a good economy card. If we could play 12 of them, we probably would, cutting lots of other economy.
For Underworld Contacts, this means that we have to take 6 turns with it active. Two turns make up for its cost, and then four more turns provide the Sure Gamble payout. At this point I am ‘even’ with a Sure Gamble, with a long term income stream to compensate me for my loss of short term credits. If I get my Underworlds active in turns 1-3 or so, then they will have paid off by turn 7-9. That’s definitely midgame territory, that’s around 50% of the way through the game. So really, to make the card good, I need active turn 1, or just barely later. This is not a combo that is okay when delayed. I pretty much need it right away! If this was a solo card, which was good if drawn on turn 1, and worse later, it would seem okay, but it’s actually a combo card! I need it and its combo pair active early on. These findings are already raising some red flags, but aren’t necessarily ruling the card out.
Underworld vs. Kati:
Lets compare this to Kati Jones, who is pretty strong if she isnt destroyed with money on her.
A turn 1 Kati, followed by adding $3 three times and taking it, and repeating that cycle, provides the following:
Clicks spent to draw, play, and use Kati: 10.
“Net Gain”: $18, -$2 to play, -$10 for clicks, = +$6. (Sure Gamble is +2). Played turn 1, this payout concludes on turn 9.
Underworld Contacts played turn 1, by turn 9 will provide:
$8 gained, -$2 cost, -1 click to play, -1 click to draw, = +$4.
Worse than Kati, however less click intensive and not as risky, and the money flows in a bit each turn, not in delayed bursts.
Underworld Contacts pairs with link cards. If we already wanted to have these link cards in our deck, that’s fine. But if we didn’t, then we are comboing together multiple cards that are weak on their own, for a not-overwhelming effect. That would be clearly bad. As a result, I think we can safely say that unless we WANT link, we shouldn’t play Underworld contacts!
Let’s look at the probability of getting the Underworld combo going on turn 1, and by turn 3.
The chance of having at least one Underworld Contacts card in a starting hand of 5 cards, with 3 present in a 45 card deck, is 30.3%, according to the hypergeometric distribution. By the time we have drawn 4 more cards, maybe around turn 3 or so, our chance rises to 49.6%. That means that about half the time, we probably draw Underworld Contacts at a time when it is kind weak, or even a dead card later on. Now, a dead card isn’t the end of the world in Netrunner, it’s a loss of 1 click really, or it can be discarded to damage and serve a purpose. But this is certainly a small negative mark against the card.
Let’s consider the times when we draw Underworld Contacts early. In order to get it going, we still need a link card. Obviously, the number of link cards we include is important. Let’s say that we aren’t Kate or Andromeda, and therefore we need to draw TWO link to make it work. This essentially means Rabbit Hole or Toolbox, or else we have a three card combo. Toolbox is too expensive to get going this early, so basically we are looking at three rabbit holes.
With 4 card slots remaining in our starting hand (because one of the cards is Underworld), our chances of getting one are at only 24.8%. After four more draws, we are up to 45.2%. More than half the time, Underworld Contacts are delayed to the point where I generally cannot consider it a ‘good’ card anymore. Okay at best. Honestly, this makes Underworld Contacts pretty terrible for non-link characters.
How about 1 Link characters? Let’s say we have 5 link sources in our deck that can be played quickly, such as Rabbit Hole, Dyson Mem Chip, or Access to Globalsec. Now, our chance of having one in the four leftover starting cards is 38.6%, and after drawing four more cards in the first couple turns, it goes to 64.3%. This is more reasonable.
What other drawbacks does Underworld Contacts have?
Two further potential drawbacks in the card are:
A) It’s a resource. This means that any deck which does not already have important resources that it wants to protect, will incur a penalty for including it, because it will need to avoid tags.
B) It’s essentially a card that weakens your early game to improve your mid to late game (mostly lategame). In the current state of Netrunner, spending many turns simply building up, before engaging with the corp is not really a viable option. By the time you get going you’ll be on the ropes, and will be vulnerable to the corp fast advancing from hand. Therefore, Underworld Contacts really needs to be present as a sustained economy card in a deck that already has a good early game, but needs to improve its lategame. It’s not a card that helps build your rig faster! It’s a card that helps you sustain a lategame attack through ice defenses. Adding it to a deck that is already good late but weak early would simply exaggerate your weakness, to provide an unneeded benefit.
Summary of the weaknesses of Underworld Contacts:
- Underworld Contacts is a combo card that does nothing alone.
- The combo must be assembled early on to pay off.
- The combo paired card must be useful to make it worth it.
- Underworld Contacts weakens your early game in order to provide sustained economy in the mid to lategame.
Well that just makes it look terrible? But maybe it’s not so bleak. Are there any ways to mitigate these weakness of Underworld Contacts?
First of all, there is Andromeda. With a 9 card starting hand, she significantly improves the combo draw chances. The chance of starting with an Underworld Contacts in the opening hand increases to 49.7%. Alongside this, the chance of drawing one of five link cards in the remaining 8 cards is 64.3%. Four more draws takes it to 80%, meaning that most Underworld Contacts early draws will pay off.
The fact that Andromeda is Criminal also negates another of the drawbacks as well. Since Criminals have great early game economy and pressure, but can become weak later on, Underworld Contacts actually fills in a needed role, rather than accentuating a weakness like it would in a Shaper deck.
Of course, you still might not want the card. If you don’t feel that your metagame will make link important, you wouldn’t want it. If you are self-tagging and/or want to ignore tags as part of a non-resource strategy, you wouldn’t want Underworld. And perhaps if you had other sources of sustained economy with a lower opportunity cost, you would prefer those.
For Underworld Contacts to be considered reasonable, I believe all of the following must be true:
- You are Andromeda (or another future identity which in some way mitigates the combo draw requirement). Kate with strong early draw potential might be able to pull it off, but it is very clearly weaker for her. Other non-link Identities should probably not even consider Underworld.
- You already have a good early game, and it is desirable to sacrifice a bit of early strength for lategame power. You don’t already have a strong lategame, rendering Underworld’s benefit there useless. You should not play Underworld Contacts in Magnum Opus decks, or other decks with slow early games but strong lategame economies. You shouldn’t play it in a Noise Mill deck whose only real weakness is a questionable early game with some required setup, leading to a strong lategame attack.
- You actively want Link in your deck, due to your perceived Meta. That is, you would desire to play Link cards even if you DIDN’T want Underworld Contacts.
- You already want to avoid tags, to protect a resource economy. This probably means that you are already playing other, more critical and beneficial resources.
If ALL of these are true, then you should consider Underworld Contacts. If not, you should really avoid being the bad shaper player who really wants to have 3 Underworld Contacts going alongside his Magnum Opus, so you can gain $11 a turn, while the corp already beat you a long time ago because you never applied pressure.
As you test Underworld Contacts in your deck, you should collect data on it. What turn did it become active? How much money did you net from it over the course of the game? Did the loss of short term credits from it cause you to miss an opportunity to provide needed pressure? How many lategame dead cards did you draw due to it? Writing down answers to these questions over the course of a sufficient sample of games will then help you to determine if you should keep Underworld Contacts in your deck.
For me, in the best case deck of Andromeda, with other resources (Kati Jones), who needs added Memory to pay for things like Sneakdoor/Datasucker (which helps justify the Dyson Mem Chips that provide some of the link), I find I could go either way on the card. Sometimes you get a couple early and feel great. Other times I wish that my 3 Underworld Contacts and 3 Access to Globalsec were simply things like more Kati Jones, other economy cards, and more tools like Plascrete, E3, more breakers, etc.
Underworld Contacts is a niche card, potentially good in its niche, but not amazing. It’s net gain is lower than something like Kati Jones, which I see as ‘good’ (actually, great but risky).
It is potentially playable in Andromeda decks, with resources, that also want link. It is pretty much unplayable or at best borderline in any other existing archetypes."