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Setting traces

I tend to find, because traces are all or nothing, and that because going 1:1 on credits with the runner is generally to your disadvantage, that almost every trace goes off unboosted, maybe one to wipe that smug grin off their face if they are playing a link 1 ID, or used such that runners don’t have the funds to bother trying to match it. While all of these trace 2/5 ICE are pretty underwhelming, I appreciate the space they are trying to fill, actually boosting traces and fighting the runner head on in that arena. Most of the time, the only time I will boost a trace is if I think the runner will match me, and it will give me a window to squeeze out an agenda. My question to everybody here is, when do YOU boost, and what are your methods for deciding what to set your traces as?


I’ll only boost when there’s a clear cut win in it for me:

  1. Ash
  2. Muckraker to either bankrupt the runner early or force them into tag-me mode
  3. Midseasons/Sea Source (for obvious reasons)
  4. Caduceus/ETR sub if I think they can’t afford to get back in and its better for me to keep them out.

I won’t boost for money on Caduceus, clicks on Viper, etc. I’d only ever boost Ichi if I thought the disruption might benefit me in some way, but it’s usually win more when that happens.

Honestly, traces are a very rarely a good thing to be doing. It’s only the total upside of some of the cards that make it worth while. Ash is directly winning the game. Midseasons & Sea Source lead to winning the game. This tends to be a good space for traces and “going all in”. That’s what traces tend to be… that moment in poker where you leverage all of your resources to risk the entire game.

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Tracing ICE is pretty often cheap to Rez and does something unpleasant. It’s only the popularity of the 1 link runners that make them problematic. Caduceus, Draco, Viper, are all pretty good ICE. Data Raven is unreasonably good until you’ve got the runner to go Tagme - and then you’ve got the runner to go Tagme. I like the trace mechanic, I’m just sad that the ID link seems somewhat arbitrary. I’m pretty sure that a 0 link Andy or Kate would get plenty of play still.

There are plenty of times when it’s good to boost a trace. The hard part is figuring out when those times are. I notice a lot of people either failing to boost a trace when they should or automatically boosting a trace high enough that it can’t possibly be beat. Those are the most common options that you’ll want to go with, but in between cases certainly exist. If you have better economy on-line than the runner and they are sure to try to beat your caduceus trace, think about adding one. If they can get into your Ash remote, think about whether they’d spend their ENTIRE bank beating the trace of if you could save a few bucks and still have them ignore it to trash the Ash. If you’re finding that your corp doesn’t want to go credit-for-credit ever with the runner, it’s probably a sign your corp deck could use more economy.


If the thing ash is protecting is unadvanced, it could be adonis. Consider making the trace so they’d end up with $2 if they pay through it. Or consider (especially if you have an interns in hand) making it so they’d end up with $5 if they pay through it and could kill adonis or ash but not both.

If the thing has one or two advancements, make it so they’d end up with $3 and couldn’t steal NAPD. Obviously if you’re protecting a 5/3 and you’re enough richer than the runner that you can afford the full trace, you don’t take that risk, but frequently you’ll be more evenly matched and you need to bluff. Better still, perhaps you’re on 4 AP, so NAPD wouldn’t be game over, but if they paid through it and couldn’t steal NAPD, the tempo hit would also give you a scoring window for atlas/ABT right afterwards.

Caduceus is another great one to boost by 1 or 2 or so. Against criminals you can do it to make their sec testing unprofitable. Or if there’s unrezzed ice behind the caduceus, you can set the trace to make them $1 short of passing whatever’s behind (or use it to bluff that a bigger ice is behind the cad than actually is).


My favorite is adding 1 to Ichi 1.0’s trace against 1 link runners on OCTGN and hoping they just assume that I added 0 :dragon_face:


That feels like bad-sportsmanship. The runner is supposed to know what the strength is, not be guessing. There’s something to be said for paying attention, but it is a horrible interface for that part of the game.


I agree that OCTGN is a poor substitute for face to face play. How am I supposed to kick my opponents in the shins under the table over the internet?

I just think if they immediately go “WHAT?” you’ve got to let them walk it back.


Tricky to do after the brain damage has already discarded a card. :-/

Price of not paying attention… ?

Yeah… I don’t know.

“Trace for tag” subroutines (Ichi 1.0, Hunter, etc.) make you think about this all the time, especially if it’s not the runner’s last click. Clearing a tag costs a click and 2 credits, so if it only costs the runner 2 to beat, they’ll do it every time, right? And if it’s 3 credits to beat, they might as well beat that too (since they can always trade a click for a credit, if not more). At cost of 4 to beat, runner probably needs to think about it. You can potentially use the 2/3 credit costs to leak the runner of important credits for whatever your next ice is. On the other hand, sometimes you can headfake the runner into thinking you don’t care about tags by not boosting at all - Ichi 1.0 vs 0-link runners is the classic example here, but it can also apply to things like Matrix Analyzer. If the runner hasn’t seen evidence of Scorched Earth or Closed Accounts and you don’t boost the trace, they may not even bother paying 1 or 2 to beat the trace and just let the tags float.

I make sure to have an Ichi 1.0 in every deck I play in a tournament setting, ever since his MVP status for me at worlds 2013. About once every 4 games, he’ll hit someone and trash programs or allow you to closed accounts/trash kati/all kinds of nonsense. Other than that, I only pump Ash/Midseason/Making News creds.