I taught Netrunner to three people at a small local convention recently, using the FFG-recommended deck lists, and about halfway through the second game many of their weird deckbuilding choices started to make some sense to me. I'm going to try to explain them by responding to the article's criticisms. Sorry about the resulting wall of text.
Before I get into it, I would like to say that I'd love an update from @Trypios on how teaching with the article's decks went at Cyprus Comic Con.
- I've only been playing Netrunner for a few months myself, and I've only taught it to four people total. (For the first person I taught I used these decks.)
- Since I've never used the article's decks, my criticism is going to be pretty one sided. I'm sure there are benefits to the article's decks that I've missed.
- In every demo I gave, I played Corp and the new player played Runner. All of the people I taught seemed to enjoy the game, but none of them wanted to switch sides and play again, probably because each demo took about an hour. I'm not sure what I could do to speed things up.
- My thinking on the FFG decks has definitely been influenced by the top comment on this Reddit post about them.
First, the Corp deck. A lot of the criticism is about how this deck would cause problems to someone playing it in their first-ever game. But usually someone will be playing against it in their first game, which is different. If they did stay for a second game, I think having just seen this deck in action would help them with it.
I do think the FFG deck might cause problems if you were trying to teach two players at once by having them play each other, but my limited experience has been that that's a less common situation. If I did end up doing a double demo, I would probably sit beside the Corp player and give them a bit more advice than the Runner. I don't know if that would be sufficient to avoid problems. It's quite possible that if I'd been giving double demos, I wouldn't like the FFG decks as much.
The other main point of criticism seems to be that the deck is not great for winning games. I'm sure this is true, but I worry that making it better at winning games might make it worse at teaching Netrunner. Again, this might well be different when giving a double demo, since you'd want the new Corp player to at least have a chance.
Jinteki is quite poor to be able to utilize it’s traps and beginners won’t be able to bluff remotes effectively.
I had very few money problems. The new players were often reluctant to run, though I did try to encourage them to run more. This meant that I had more time than usual to click for credits or wait for economy cards. And I usually got at least one turn out of Melange in the middle of the game.
New Jinteki players won’t play the shell game. They won’t take risks bluffing an agenda as trap and they end up losing. I’m a big fan of the Jinteki church, but it’s a terrible choice for a complete beginner.
I don't think this is a big problem, because the new player is the Runner. I probably didn't bluff as much as I would have if I'd had more experience playing Jinteki and I'd been playing to win. I treated the traps as being there to teach the Runner that traps exist, rather than to really hurt them.
I will admit that I ended up losing a lot. I'm not sure if it's because I wasn't bluffing enough, or if I was too distracted by having to watch my opponents extra closely for things I might have to explain, or if I was too easy on them early in the game, or if the decks aren't that well balanced, or if I'm just much worse than I thought at Netrunner.
The benefit of Jinteki here is all the net damage. The amount of net damage in this deck seemed pretty well suited to teaching the Runner to worry about damage while being unlikely to kill them unexpectedly. In the HB deck in the article, I'm not sure there's enough damage cards to really instill a sense of caution.
As I said before, I want to avoid combo cards like Trick of Light and Chum, in case the player sees it early and doesn’t know what to do with it.
I didn't end up using Trick of Light ever, but I did use Chum later in one game. I think it worked well for providing a glimpse of Netrunner's complexity without being completely incomprehensible to a new player. Also, the complexity of these is offset by their being in the Corp deck. In a typical demo where you're playing Corp, you can explain them when you use them, rather than hoping the new player will figure them out or ask about them when they see them in their hand. And you can decide not to use them at all if you really think they'd be too much for someone you're teaching.
Priority Requisition and Nisei MK II are liabilities. HB has better agendas, in case they get locked. Playtesting showed that Kate easily locks the remote.
I'm not sure how much of a difference this change would actually make. There's no fast advance cards, so all of the agendas under consideration will have to be installed for one Runner turn. And as I said above, I think the amount of net damage in the FFG deck is about right, so I'd be reluctant to trade that away even if HB's agendas are substantially better.
New players use Neural EMP just as soon as they draw it, they don’t know how to set up a kill. Better go for a big remote and scoring.
I don't think I ever actually used Neural EMP, so you may be right that it should go. On the other hand, if a new player did this, it might help teach them that actually flatlining the Runner requires a plan.
Jinteki PE & Restructure? Who are we kidding?
Just hold on to it until after you've used Melange!
Melange Mining Corp. is a difficult card to understand right away and slows the tempo of the corp. The extra credit that HB provides, makes a huge difference.
It might be confusing to a new player who was playing Corp, but my opponents didn't have much difficulty understanding it once they saw me use it. It does slow the Corp's tempo, but that's ok because the new player is the Runner and they're generally already going slowly.
More importantly, Melange is a great tool for getting the Runner to start actually running things. By the middle of the game, they've often seen a trap or two, so they're reluctant to run. Watching me get rich while I pointed out that they could stop me by trashing Melange turned out to be a reliable cure for this.
In the article decks, I suppose that the smaller number of damage cards might reduce the need to give the Runner a really obvious reason to run.
HB is richer, cards are simpler…just make sure to skip the NAPD Contract bad publicity text and the Snare tag. They may ask about Guard wording, that’s nothing.
The complexity wasn't enough to upset anyone or drive them away, so I'd worry that simplifying things further might mean underselling the game.
On the other hand, if you tell me that your demos went faster than mine, then I'm willing to consider the benefits of simplification!
Now on to the Runner deck, about which I have less to say:
Freelance Coding Contract – They might sell important breakers and be locked out. Also, the most they can get out of this card is 8cr, late-game and IF they won’t trash the spare programs.
I mostly agree. I think it does help to teach that cards can have multiple uses, but it's not that useful. I did have a player sell both Pipelines, which was bad. If I were going to use these exact decks again, I would definitely have to pay more attention when the new player uses FCC and stop them from making this mistake.
Public Sympathy. What? How is that going to be of any use? Kate wants to run, not hold as many cards as possible.
It gives the Runner something they can do to protect themselves against all the net damage in the Corp deck. It does make sense to take it out when using the article's Corp deck.
Aesop’s Pawnshop. Again, avoid ‘when your turn begins’ cards. There are no good cards to sell anyways. Probably just the completely useless aforementioned Public Sympathy.
They could sell Ice Analyzer! No, I agree, this seems like a bad choice. I'm not sure the 'when your turn begins' trigger is actually a problem, but new players don't seem to be inclined to sell anything even if they have stuff they could sell.
Ice Analyzer is questionable, just like Professional Contacts. The first is difficult for a beginner to keep track of, the latter is a tempo-loss, since Kate has solid economy already with Magnum Opus. They’re both 1ofs, so I excluded them.
Ice Analyzer's not that hard to keep track of, but new players are reluctant to run without all their icebreakers, so by the time it starts getting credits they have little use for it. Plus they have Modded. I agree that this should likely go.
Professional Contacts is useful because they'll be doing a fair bit of drawing, due to all the net damage and also Public Sympathy. Diesel might be a better choice in some ways, but as mentioned in the Reddit comment I linked way up at the top of this, leaving out draw cards like Diesel means that the new player is "always seeing only one card at a time, which helps keep the game moving and avoids information overload."
Modded is a great card, but Kate is too rich already in a very small 30-sized deck.
Clicking Magnum Opus for credits is boring. Making it easy to get and keep money keeps the focus on the non-boring bits of the game. The new player will still need to pause and get money sometimes, which is sufficient to teach them that they need money.
Net Shield is out, because…HB, no Jinteki.
Agreed. With the article's Corp deck, removing this totally makes sense. Of course, with FFG's Corp deck, this should stay in.
With all of that said, this article was very helpful to me when I was preparing to give demos, even if I didn't end up using the recommended decks. Thank you for writing it!