Be warned! This is a pretty long reading, mostly about Chaos Theory, Shaper and foremost my specific decklist. But it’s expanded and covers topics like Runner characteristics and the current Breaker vs ICE Meta within the article, to help understand the decisions I made; it’s concluding with a note how to pilot this deck, primarily addressed to beginners. Have fun scrolling through.
If you want a (presumably) better reading experience you can also go to this article @teamcovenant.com
Why even play Chaos Theory (CT)?
1) Only 40 cards in your deck
Less cards in your deck equals more consistency, reducing the content to its core and making you draw the cards you want faster and/or raise the chance to get crucial cards in your starting hand. Possible combo-cards are also easier to obtain in a timely manner. Five cards less is nice, not massive, but every fan of probability without replacement is still going bonkers.
2) + 1 MU
Pretty straightforward and it may feel like this is “just” a nice bonus. But I think that this is a huge advantage and an incentive to play Magnum Opus. Being able to maintain a full breaker rig plus an Opus without any tricks is very appealing. Though Professional Contacts is a great Resource, it feels weaker to me in conjunction with this identity, given the fact that we get sufficient card draw elsewhere for this already small(er) deck and that we can tutor for Opus.
Conclusion: The small(er) deck helps getting out our main economy tool Opus ASAP / more reliable and we can maintain it better than any other Shaper.
Downside: Zero Link
Being traced is nothing unusual, and you paying one more credit or losing the trace is obviously both bad. But given that Glacier Decks and NEH Astrobiotics are on the rise as it is now, I feel that this is not a huge disadvantage. The missing Link in general is something you can handle, however keep this downside in mind.
A look at the other Shaper
Kate: She has an economy advantage, kind of scaling with the number of Programs and Hardware in your deck. Economy is important, right? Works really well with Parasite-Recursion. Has one Link. Worse with an Opus due to MU issues (esp. with parasites), but generally a tad ahead right now. Kate using Prepaid VoicePad and a ton of events is the current standard. I feel that CT is right behind Kate’s back.
Kit: I like her, but the 10 influence really hurts. Also zero Link. Allows for some cool playstyle (e.g. Gordian Blade only, with 3x Paintbrush) but is not as consistent and slow(er) setting up her (often unusual) rig. However her basic early game pressure is higher and she’s an enjoyable identity. Strong use of Tinkering.
Exile: His identity doesn’t feel like it’s adding much. Triggering his ability is possible with 3 cards now afaik, and that’s a 9 card draw total – at best. No real economy or early game advantage. Good with Parasite-Recursion due to Clone Chip. One Link. Feels boring and pale. He is by all means playable, but with no outstanding strengths.
The Professor: He might be a powerhouse in the distant future, but right now he’s just very special, fun and … weak. Zero Link and just one influence outside of the first copy of a program.
Nasir: The newest Identity, and a very special one as well. He needs more testing and genius ideas right now and probably more options with future cards. Standard stats of 45/15 and one Link. That’s fine. He works best if he can utilize money mid-run, as he can’t hoard money that well. His efficiency also (somewhat) depends on the strength of the enemies’ ICE. Still needs recurring money if he doesn’t run into ICE anymore later in the game. Stealing agendas like NAPD contract is giving him a hard time. My guess: he’s somewhere in the middle of the pack right now. But he’s a very tricky and interesting guy, we will see how he will perform in the future.
Short Runner Overview: Strengths and Weaknesses
I feel that the Shaper faction in general has a good method building up the rig, can run blind with a Self-modifying Code (SMC) on the field, has fantastic R&D threat and just a great late game overall. But even fast (big) rig decks can feel to slow sometimes and some may miss the flexibility and pressure the Criminal faction can provide early on. And rightly they do so.
Games can (!) be over before the Corp. is icing up all servers like crazy, making the Criminal runs impossible or at least not profitable enough and forcing them to (nearly) run dry on econ options (Hello Kati!). Criminals are mainly HQ-centric, however simultaneously maintaining pressure on other servers, but missing the Multi-Access (MA) R&D threat, are run heavy with an economy based around this being successful, and have a lot of tricks up their sleeve.
Anarchs are not considered top tier right now for different reasons, but mainly because their economy is somewhat lackluster (and esp. not consistent). They have awesome breakers though and Datasucker with Parasite, “sadly” working best/better in other factions. But to be honest I’m not the greatest Anarch player and I’ve never tried to really get my head into this faction that much, but I will surely revisit them when the 3rd deluxe expansion “Chaos and Order” hits the stores.
How is Influence being used right now?
While the Criminals were heavily focused on importing some Anarch tricks with their efficient but static breakers and the Datasucker, working best with the Criminals crazy running machine, to help out with those, and sometimes also including the Parasite, the Anarchs in return were trying to fix their economy issue, borrowing the Account Siphon, and trying to spam it with Event returns, getting stacked with Tags. This led to the “Tag-Me Siphon-Recursion” deck most of us surely know. The Shaper faction seems to be able to be a bit more diverse importing cards, though I believe that we already see the right approach out of the other factions for the time being, although surely a lot of other things can be viable and also surprising for the Corp. player. Let me expand on this further, also listing my reasoning getting specific ‘out of faction’ cards.
We don’t need the Criminals running-based Economy. We have our own solid econ and we don’t even need to run, however this can be a blessing or a curse and this is a more complex matter.
Want some ‘out of faction’ Breakers? Yes please, but more about that in the deck list section.
Since we need especially more flexibility and early game pressure, we can borrow some cards here, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought! A lot of those cards are Events. Since we have a lot of in-faction R&D pressure, we can look for some directed at the HQ. Account Siphon and Legwork came to my mind, but Siphon has a hefty 4 influence cost, and we need more to even get it into play. Easy solution: put in a tutor, namely Planned Assault. This works exceptionally well with Legwork and the already available Indexing and The Maker’s Eye. Even Escher is a solid consideration, however room is sparse, particularly in a CT deck. The Planned Assault Multi-Access threat seems legit to me. It’s not the same kind of flexibility that an Emergency Shutdown or an Inside Job provides, that I would have loved to include, but it feels like the best option out of them all to improve the CT deck, because it works well in our environment of cards.
In the Hardware or Non-Breaker Program section the Datasucker seems a bit out of place, because we are not that run heavy like the Criminals. However there are different approaches, making the Shaper an aggressive and pressuring Runner (e.g. Magical Kate). I strongly sympathize with the approach making the Shaper a stronger early game faction and this is another totally viable solution to improve the Shaper. The Parasite alone with Clone Chips seems to be reasonable. We often see this in Kate decks, because the identity ability is utilizing it perfectly, but I feel that this can be a great option for all Shaper and I was willing to include this into my CT deck. It doesn’t take much deck space, it’s not very expensive and it works well.
Let’s just break down the deck in the different card types right now, shall we?
1x Account Siphon, 2x Planned Assault, 1x Legwork, 1x Indexing, 2x The Maker’s Eye, 3x Diesel, 1x Quality Time, 3x Test Run, 3x Scavenge, 3x Sure Gamble, 1x Levy AR Lab Access
2x Clone Chip, 1x Plascrete Carapace
3x Same Old Thing, 2x Daily Casts
1x Corroder, 1x Femme Fatale, 1x Gordian Blade, 1x Deus X, 1x Sharpshooter
2x Magnum Opus, 3x Self-modifying Code, 1x Parasite
Events: I’ve already mentioned Planned Assault and what it can tutor for, but how many cards do we need here? I feel that 2x Planned Assault are sufficient, though 3 can provide an even greater early 1x Account Siphon threat the enemy may be not prepared for. But we basically already have 3 Siphons in a 40 card deck, including cycle cards like Diesel and Quality Time, which can help getting the desired card in the first turn. Also, Influence is limited, right? This is not a card this deck is reliant on, but it’s a nice backup and a huge deal if it works. The next addition is 1x Legwork for a multi-access to HQ if need be. Given the limited space in this deck I have added 1x Indexing and 2x The Maker’s Eye. This is really up to you, some people prefer the one card over the other, though I really believe that the latter is a bit stronger in and of itself. No big deal here. Maybe you want to ride with an Escher instead? Seems legit.
Side note – I thought about cutting the Indexing completely (for a third Maker’s Eye in this case), but the possibility to tutor and recur Events (see: Same Old Thing) is just too tempting, effective and improves adaptability (due to knowing what the Corp. will draw with an Indexing). You can also make a huge power play with an Indexing and a Maker’s Eye. We surely need the R&D threat from those Events.
Let’s head back to the cycling cards already mentioned. I added 3x Diesel and 1x Quality Time. Diesel is just a great card with no drawback whatsoever and I feel that this is one of the strongest Shaper cards. It has zero cost and is thinning out your deck, which is a good thing, just for one click. Quality Time on the other hand is basically drawing you 2 cards extra for 3 credits, using up one click, too. You could achieve the same effect, drawing 2 cards with 2 clicks after a Diesel, valuing 3 credits over 2 clicks. Most players feel that a click is worth more than a credit, and I totally agree, given that you can convert clicks into more credits (or another advantage). An Opus player for example can get 2 credits for a click easily. Looking at Quality Time, it is worth 1,5 credits. That is not a terrible deal, but I don’t consider Quality Time to be a no-brainer like Diesel. Therefore, less Quality Time and more Diesel, but overall sufficient card draw. Some may make a point for an even bigger drawing engine. Adding a second Quality Time and cutting another card can be a good idea. Nothing is set in stone.
Side note – QT is costing money and drawing you a lot of cards and therefore it may be hard to even utilize them without discarding most. Still, cycling through the deck and improving the hand (keeping the best cards for your current needs) is an accomplishment on its own and the main reason to run a drawing engine. Also, it’s not bad at all for a Shaper to have (a lot of) cards in the Heap.
Next we have 3x Test Run and 3x Scavenge, one of the most ridiculous combos in the game. Pay 3 and two clicks to get ANY program with ANY (fixed) cost you can imagine into the game. You really want to avoid a Test Run without Scavenge for a big program, it’s just utterly expensive. But getting this combo piece together, just consisting of 2 cards, is easier with a smaller deck and a drawing engine, so it’s perfect for CT. We shouldn’t rely on this combo to get out all of our programs in time, although one (or two) is totally feasible, and that’s one of the reasons I don’t play 3 big breakers. Still, this can be optimized and is another option to run a CT deck. Also, I tend to combo out my Opus whenever I can. Is Scavenge useful otherwise? Not that much. The best option is to rearrange a Femme Fatale, but that’s not bad at all and can be crucial. You can also do some other shenanigans, that may help you out sometimes if you need a specific breaker from your grip or heap, but they are mostly a side note. Still, run 3 or none with Test Run and I’m in for 3 of both.
Last but not least we look at 3x Sure Gamble and 1x Levy AR Lab Access. Sure Gamble is a pretty obvious include, a click for 4 credits. That’s just damn strong. I added Levy because it’s always bad to go out of cards at any time, and this can happen fast enough with CT. Despite this card being a dead draw/card most of the time, and even in spite of us having an infinite and independent econ option with Opus, this card is just too good here. The reasoning is that basically creating your deck again is adding new options you may need for even later stages in the game, but the main idea is to not get inevitably flatlined in the end by the Corp.
Hardware: Not much here, just 2x Clone Chip and 1x Plascrete Carapace. Clone Chips are for the Parasite and the Plascrete is against Scorched Earth. We will draw the one Plascrete fast enough most of the time and more than one is just filling up too much space, given the fact that this is often a dead card and one is most of the times enough on the field, we can safely keep this at one copy. But feel free to include one more if you’re playing in a Scorched Earth heavy environment.
Wait a moment!? Haven’t you met Dinosaurus? Yes I have, and I experienced mixed results. I believe it’s pretty essential for static breakers, crazy good for those needing more than 1 credit to raise strength and very good on all others (just 1-2 runs and you got your money’s worth, given that we value the MU reduction worth 1-3 credits). That’s sounds great, so what’s the issue? If we build our deck around Dinosaurus we want it early and specific breakers on it (e.g. Morning Star or Femme), but we can’t tutor for hardware at the moment. True, you can rearrange a breaker on it with Scavenge if you happened to get it out before the Dino, but I still don’t really feel it as much as others may do. If you are able to get it early, it first slows you down (economy-wise and thereby in general), promising a great late game. But that’s exactly what the Shaper already has more than any other faction and we don’t need to be slowed down early. Further, we don’t really need the (kind of) extra MU if we build the deck accordingly.
Do you miss another card? Is it R&D Interface? While I believe that R&D Multi-Access is the best way to get agendas, and that seems pretty obvious, I feel that RDI is a bit overrated. It’s slower than MA run cards, requiring more runs to be efficient. Yes, it’s just one card and you don’t have to do anything after it’s on the field to get its effect, but it’s just inferior in our deck, playing with Planned Assault and Same Old Thing.
Resources: Since our deck is very Event heavy I think that 3x Same Old Thing is an inevitable addition. It’s very flexible and allows for Siphon-Recursion. I added 2x Daily Casts for an economy option that is not click heavy, thereby being able to work together with Opus. It’s a slow net gain of 5 credits for a click, surely weaker than Sure Gamble, but with a lower ‘install’ condition. If you feel like cutting it, you can do so, but after all economy is pretty important in Netrunner.
Icebreakers: We will not play with Datasucker, so we need non-static Breakers if we want to be sure to be able to break everything, no matter the cost. We can make valid points for the Fracter Morning Star though, even without the Dinosaurus. After all it’s unmatched in efficiency and worth a closer look. If we take a peek at the currently available Barriers, we can see that he just can’t break a couple of them and nearly all of them you will not see being played (often). Big ICE is being threatened too much by Emergency Shutdown, and putting this kind of ICE in front of HQ often feels a bit pointless. The most important other servers are still available then and the Corp. may be bankrupt. Still, the Morning Star is not always able to break them if need be. It’s heavy 2 MU and 4 Influence, making it hard to fit it in the deck.
Remember what I said about better not adding 3 big Breakers? I feel that this is the best place to make the cut, also because the most efficient non-static Breaker with a low install cost is still the 1x Corroder. And as it happens it’s a Fracter. Hurray! Looking at the currently predominate barriers we see mostly lower strength ICE, Wraparound, ICE Wall, Himitsu Bako and on the top end Wall of Static and sometimes Bastion and TMI. That’s very affordable, though Eli 1.0, which you can find in almost every deck because it’s one of the best ICE with 1 Influence, is pretty expensive with 4 credits per run. You can click through it, yes, but 2 Opus clicks are also 4 credits and it’s just taxing and a nuisance (for every Runner). Some even more expensive barriers you may run into are Wall of Thorns and Heimdall 1.0, but they are usually not occupying 3 Corp deck slots and are scarcer to locate every respective matchup. WoT costs 5 and Heimdall demands 7 credits, clicking through it may be a better option (sometimes even taking brain damage). All in all this is a pretty affordable and manageable part.
Two more to break down, let’s head to the Killer. Mimic is efficient, but static. The rest is pretty awful to be honest, at least compared to Breakers with other subtypes. You can’t be fully pleased with any Killer. The most promising ones are Garrote and Femme Fatale. While Garrote is 2 credits cheaper to install it also costs 1 less to raise its strength compared to the Femme. The base strength of 2 is pretty terrible for both of them, given that they are pretty expensive. Garrote it is, right? Too bad, it has 2 MU, otherwise I probably would have taken it over 1x Femme Fatale, despite her awesome ability bypassing one ICE. And that’s what makes her direful strength-pumping a bit more bearable. We have to already mention the Code Gate Tollbooth here, which is often played in a lot of decks inside and outside of NBN, being taxing whichever Decoder you may run. But with Femme you just pay 1 instead of 5 with e.g. Torch, and that’s a huge Decoder. Another good Meta target is Komainu, but you can find others for sure. We can even rearrange Femme with Scavenge if we have to. Did I mention that we safe 2 Influence picking her over Garrote? Well, that’s another reason to go with her.
Anyway, breaking high strength sentries is a money-sink, if you are forced to do so, and one of the greatest downsides of the deck. But let’s be honest, we are not the only ones having this problem. At least she has an upside trying to balance her significant flaw and we can utilize it even better. Test Run her for a surprise access is also pretty common and viable. She’s flexible and that’s one thing that constitutes a good Runner deck. Sentries in general can (!) be more likely encountered in a pretty wide variety, some choices are more common or even deck staples, for sure, but they are often filling slots for a surprise attack, more than often trashing programs and sometimes doing other nasty stuff. We can at least bounce back better than other factions and recur the program(s). Looking at RP Glacier for example, they nowadays include Sentries like Komainu, Pup and Tsurugi and those have all 2 strength or less, rarely you will see Susanoo-No-Mikoto. But in general: look at your regional Meta, see what is being played and maybe adapt.
It’s time for the Decoder. Again, we are looking for a non-static Breaker being able to access every server. I have my eye on Torch and 1x Gordian Blade. While Torch has a higher install cost of 5 credits it has a higher base strength of 2, and you’re getting your money’s worth after the second run. As already mentioned, it’s a bit ballsy to try to get out 2 or more big Breakers in a timely manner using the Test Run Combo. Installing from hand and esp. with SMC is just bankrupting us, whether it’s Femme or Torch, possibly giving the Corp. a free turn while we have to regain money to even run. This is also a Meta dependent choice, and right now we face mostly very low strength Code Gates, namely Pop-Up, Quandary and sometimes Yagura or NEXT Bronze (this may vary in strength though). Past the 2 base strength of Gordian Blade we can mainly run into Enigma, Lotus Field and Tollbooth. That’s reasonable, except Tollbooth, the Tax-Pain. The solution is Femme and that’s the only real solution every Runner has now. You see a second one of those beasts on the field? Cry a lot. If you really have to brute force your way into this server, pay 7 credits and cry again.
Last but not least we have the other Icebreakers, namely 1x Deus X and 1x Sharpshooter. Remember when I said that I like Shaper, because they can run early with an SMC on the field? Those Breakers help solidifying this point. They can save you from painful ICE, while a Destroyer is trashing your program(s), an AP ICE is dealing damage to you, mostly net damage or brain damage. It’s a safety net and I would suggest to keep both, though I rate Deus X a tad higher, since it can also counter net damage outside of a run, in general saving you from being flatlined. Since we run with an Opus, the Sharpshooter is another great early safety cache.
Progams: not being Icebreakers. We have already alluded to 3x Self-modifying Code, it’s a tutor letting you get whatever program you desire, also allowing you to run and install the needed Breaker in the middle of the run. This card is adaptable, but works better with not utterly expensive breakers, since you may be mid-run, spending even more money.
Next up is 1x Parasite. We can easily get this into play with an SMC (don’t! Test Run) and recur it with Clone Chip. One seems to suffice and is just a neat addition. This may be a Meta choice, but it’s strong nonetheless. Even killing Pop-Up Windows or Pups may be worthwhile in the long run, just try to nuke what’s taxing you the most or something you may not even be able to pass for the time being. You can even go for Sentries that bankrupt you due to Femme, lowering the cost by 2 to pass it every turn. It’s just flexible and feels like a great addition.
How to pilot this deck?
The key and heart of the deck is 2x Magnum Opus. It’s mandatory to our economy and it will dictate our turns / clicks to some extent. It will also secure our staying power if the game goes long. But if it’s that important, why just 2 copies? This is very much up to debate, but I feel that 2 are sufficient, given that we have Test Runs and SMCs upping our chance getting one in our starting hand to whopping 69%, one more will “just” add 5% on top of that. Also, every iteration of an Opus after the first one is a dead card. This is not enough? We have 4 cycle cards in our deck, increasing our chances further. And keep replacement without probability in mind, the next cards we draw are more likely to be what we need.
That being said, you might keep a hand with a cycle card, if it pleases you overall. Not even this in your hand? You can still mulligan! But maybe you see a Maker’s Eye and an Account Siphon or one of these and a Planned Assault? You can keep it, that’s also a legit starting hand. Both servers being iced up? Start hitting R&D, after that HQ. See where and if he rezes Ice, track his money and your clicks and try mainly to get though HQ with your Siphon, it helps more in the long run and is a safer bet (you may get nothing out of R&D). Didn’t manage to hit? That’s not a big deal, you may have already slowed him down just a bit, by forcing him to already rez ICE and denying him more ICE, Operations, etc. next turn. This play may be risky if you run into a nasty Sentry, but it’s usually worth the risk, though it depends a bit on the Corp your facing. Against Jinteki PE you may be more cautious.
Never let the Corp. do whatever they like while stockpiling money. Run early, run often, assuming that it makes sense and/or you can (easily) afford it. After all we are not Criminals, who are gaining nearly always something for doing successful runs. Primarily you want to get your Opus out ASAP, so don’t go overboard on early aggression.
Draw preferably with cycle cards and build your rig. Got Opus, some money and an SMC out? Run! A nasty Sentry is the worst thing you can hit now, since we really don’t want to (and most of the time can’t) SMC into a Femme, and that’s where Deus X and Sharpshooter come into play. This can set you back a bit though. That being said, it’s not wrong at all to bring a Femme into play very early and designate a minor or a random target if you can combo her out. Don’t forget that we can later on Scavenge her, and we can also Same Old Thing the already used Scavenge in our Heap for that.
Since we are, compared to the Criminals, not running very often, try to make your runs count! That’s of course true for every Runner faction. Try to hit hard with every run, esp. if it’s slowly costing you more and more to hit the Corp at all. Use suitable Event cards for that.
Keep track of your MU, playing with Opus you have 3 left to work with your Breakers, SMC and Parasite. Got already 2 Breakers out with your Opus? Sorry, no more SMC for you, but you can still Parasite.
Tutoring and Recursion: Always keep your options in mind, and learn what the cards you can tutor for do cost. How to handle Tags from the Siphon? That’s very much up to debate. Shaking the Tags for 2 clicks and 4 credits lessens the speed and advantage you gained from the Siphon to a noticeable degree. Some players prefer to play safe and are getting rid of them immediately. Others are recurring the Siphon, keeping the Tags, but also the Corps. money low. This can be a calculated risk, but at least beware Closed Accounts. Note that we are also not dependent on Resources. This is a decision you can also make in and/or for every specific matchup, but Tags are always a risk. Playing against Weyland or NBN Making News? Beware! Facing Jinteki, HB or NBN NEH (though this one can be a fallacy)? That’s a calculated risk you may be willing to afford.
Thanks for the read and hanging in till the end. I really hope that you could pick up some information, feel free to comment. I would appreciate a discussion.
Oh! Found any mistakes in this wall of text? Keep ‘em, though I’ve been taught bilingual I am still no native speaker (nor writer).