The Complaint of "Luck"

I’m new to Netrunner and admit upfront that I don’t know much (or anything, really) about the game. I do know that I like it. What I’m curious about, however, is why people, upon losing, claim luck as a factor? Let me explain. On Jinteki, I was playing Adam. I already had three Agenda Points. I made a run on HQ against a Weyland deck. I had to spend five credits on the first ICE and then burn three cards with Faust to break the second. I then accessed HQ and pulled a “Government Takeover.” The person I was playing against wrote: “gg. you’re lucky.” As I reflect on this, however, I want to say a few things. One, you built your deck. Two, you put “Government Takeover” in it. Three, you built up your server and I used my available resources to break it down. Four, Adam allows me to pull two cards from HQ. Five, you only had three cards in your hand. So, I ask, how is that luck? Now you could say that this was only one, isolated incident, but I keep hearing this complaint whenever I play Runner. So, what gives? Is it luck or is it game design?

Also, this is my first post on Stimhack. Hello and nice to meet you all.


Its not luck but it is variance. You are right in identifying that he built a deck around 10-11 agendas thus increasing the likeliness of you being able to access an agenda. Also you started the game out with resources that effectively force the runner to utlilize management from the beginning but have desirable upside if used correctly.

You werent lucky but variance played out well for you and not your opponent. Likely your opponent also made the mistake of not scoring his Hostile Takeover knowing that he is facing HQ multiaccess and you scoring that agenda is a way for him to lose.

They’re just a bit salty is all. I had a game where I lost on turn 3 because my opponent had the right breaker, installed an R&D interface, and then play The Maker’s Eye, and found all 7 points he needed on 4 cards. And while I don’t think I misplayed the game (at least, not drastically enough that I would expect to lose that quickly), I still lost to a factor more or less beyond my control. Now, I was frustrated and I did complain, but in the end it was no hard feelings, and I definitely got over it. Anyone who plays is going to have some bad beat stories, as well as some miraculous wins. It’s just the way variance works.

As for game design, Netrunner is way less frustrating in its variance than something like Magic. Sure, there’s the randomness of accesses, and you can lose to repeatedly pulling the wrong card (or you’re playing Corp and praying they’ll grab the one operation out of the 4 agendas you’re flooded with), but you’re still playing Netrunner, you have options available to you. In Magic sometimes the game just doesn’t happen.


Of course luck is a factor in netrunner. Games like chess and checkers have no luck at all, they are completely deterministic. In netrunner you can control what you put in your deck and what you do when you draw it but it doesn’t change the fact that when you take certain actions (like accessing hq) there is a chance for it to go well and a chance for it to go badly. Don’t read the word luck as a complaint, it’s just a factual statement about the game. People like to point it out because it makes them feel better knowing that the loss is not entirely their fault like it would be in chess or checkers.

Welcome! You’ll fit right in :slight_smile:


Personal bias here,I can assure you that Netrunner is the least luck-involved card game.That’s a bold statement but everytime I lose,even in extremely fast situation (turn 1 Government Takeover turn 2 Punitive),I can always feel it’s my fault rather than luck result in such a lose.In Hearthstone or MTG there are times I feel it’s just bad draw ruin my day;in Netrunner I always feel it’s just my fault to lose games.

And I’m really sick of hearing “oh it’s luck” argument in card game,especially in Netrunner.Somehow when these people win,it’s always their talented pilot and amazing deck-building skill;when these people lose,it’s just pure luck.


Luck is an interesting thing in games like Netrunner, psychologically speaking.

A lot (and I mean a lot) of people have trouble taking responsibility for their decisions. Not just in Netrunner, although that’s the relevant bit here. It’s much, much easier to blame your opponent’s good luck or your bad luck for a loss than to acknowledge that well, maybe running Takeover wasn’t the best call, or that you could have dug harder for Plascrete, or whatever.

That role of variance hence acts as a kind of psychological safety valve and I am betting makes for a better play experience for a decent % of people. However, if you are reading this, you are probably more interested in improving your play, so try to look for other explanations for a loss before you blame luck. If nothing else, you will not learn from mistakes if you simply minimise or dismiss them.


ha! I don’t feel much pity for that particular guy (for all thee reasons you stated. a GT loss is always deserved :stuck_out_tongue: ) but I will say in defense of the “bad luck”/“bad variance” argument, it can often have merit. I think people tend to skew their perception of the variance in a particular game based on whether they won or not - the winner likely feels that they earned the W (even if they did get lucky), while it can be easier for the loser to blame the cards (even when they could have played them better).

The thing is, sometimes this does happen! Everyone recognizes the obvious ones: sometimes you mulligan 3 agendas and no ice into 4 agendas and no ice against a gabe. Other times, a particularly rough variance game can be easy to mistake for a more balanced game if the bad luck is spread out.

I really like at the end of those teamwork cast videos when they give the access percentages on RnD and HQ. A lot of times I’ll think, “wow, that runner really outplayed the corp! way to wreck face” but then at the end I see the access percentages and realize he only accessed RnD 3 times all game and got 5 points out of it - no different then that turn one makers eye that hits 5 points, but much easier to mistake for skillful play.

1 Like

I try and work on the assumption that luck is a neutral aspect of the game and that it can help and hinder either player depending on how they work with it.

Had a bit of an annoying experience recently where we were playing a game of Condottiere and one player kept saying ‘geez, who shuffled these?’, so in the next round I gave him the deck for him to shuffle and then when my gf made the same comment he insisted it was done right.

I think @Clamatius hits the nail on the head; blaming luck makes people feel better. It’s tough to lose and think “well, I guess I just suck at Netrunner.”

I really dislike the “well you’re lucky” post-game discussion, too. And there are other variants, including admitting to mistakes. They all deprive your opponent of agency. As if the fate of the cards and your own play were the only factors in the outcome. After a game, I like to discuss it but also highlight a little bit of everything if possible: times I screwed up, times I got lucky, good plays my opponent made. I’ve had a lot of post-game breakdowns where an opponent says they made a mistake (“oh I shouldn’t have run that 3x Overwriter”) and I note how logical their course of action was (“well you knew I must’ve had a Ronin on the board”).

Anyways, let us not stray into salt or deception, let us take our losses amongst our victories, etc.


If you feel like you deserved the win, the opponent can’t take that away from you by saying you were lucky. The opponent is talking to themself more than you in those situations anyway.


There’s a lot of randomness and luck to Netrunner, but there’s a lot of skill and sound tactical decision making too. Part of that skillset is learning to plan for variance and mitigate its effect on the game. There’s a reason lots of the same people consistently make top cuts, and it isn’t because they are just luckier.


Any player who seriously excuses losses to luck, and nothing else, is a player destined to not be a top competitor.

We all accept RNG as part of the game, but part of playing well is to mitigate it. If you can’t, and you blame random chance for losses… well then you just aren’t at the point to change the random chance in your favor.

Don’t sweat anyone blaming luck for losses. They want a vent to excuse the loss, and you should let them have it. But as a player looking to improve, blaming anything on luck beyond the most extreme cases (5 agenda in HQ on turn 3 post-mulligan level of extreme or something) is not gonna help you improve. There is always gameplay mistakes. Identify and resolve, don’t shift the blame. You messed up, and that’s fine! Just learn from the mistake and keep walking forward!


That person was just salty.

Still, sometimes RNG (Random Nature of the Game/Random Number Generator) will determine games of Netrunner. Both my league games last night went that way. My BS Glacier quickly had 7 of its 9 agendas flooded into HQ without any Jacksons, against Gang Sign Leela. I did what I could but quickly lost. I would consider that game largely determined by RNG. The next game, my Whizzard top-decked 6 points off an NEH that had mulliganed into no ice. I snagged a Breaking News a few turns later and that was it. Very fast games determined by RNG, IMO. My opponent and I joked about it (“Netrunner how it’s meant to be played!”) and shook hands. RNG does have less of an impact in ANR than in other card games, but sometimes you will win or lose on variance. Best to take it in stride; shrug and laugh if you’re on the butt-end, and be sympathetic if it’s to your benefit.


There’s this concept I’m writing about I call “the losing edge” that I think people struggle a lot with. Consider the following examples:

  • Single agenda stolen in HQ
  • Drawing a 2-agenda hand.
  • Getting Goverment Takeover stolen
  • Maker’s Eye stealing two agendas
  • Caprice AND Batty fails

Many people wil consider these events to be unlucky yet they are all highly probable in the long run and will eventually happen to you in a tournament. For example:

  • 20% chance. Or 1 in 5. How many times will that happen in a tournament? 6, 8 times? It’s inevitable they steal it. If you include R&D accesses, 20% chances must be the most common % in the whole game so expect it to happen a lot.
  • You play 11 economy cards and expect to draw two of them. Is playing 11 agendas that different?
  • You play 5 agendas, so 20% of them will be Goverment Takeover. How many agendas will the Runner steal from you over the course of the tournament?
  • If there’s a 1 in 5 chance of stealing an agenda, there’s a higher than 1 in 25 chance of a single Maker’s Eye nabbing two of them. And Shapers fire far more than 1 per game.
  • Yomi aside, this is an 11% chance, like the 11% chance of stealing an agenda from Industrial Genomics’ R&D. If you can win on R&D, you can win on the remote.

A 10 or 20% chance is a huge chance. Massive. You need to win over 85% of your games to make it to the top tables in a tournament. 85% percent, people, that’s like two losses in the whole thing, you are not going to make it if you keep taking a 20% chance to lose.

It’s not exclusive to Netrunner, either. Fans of Fire Emblem often complain about randomness and how that dude got an “unlucky” crit and their favourite unit got killed. They only had a 1% chance to kill you, how is it possible?

Because that 1% chance was repeated for every single enemy, and since you fight hundreds of them someone, eventually will get hit with it. This is the “losing edge”, a supposedly small % that ends up losing you a lot of games in the long run.

And often there’s not even a “losing edge” but serious mistakes like not realizing that a “low agenda density” doesn’t equal to “a low points density” or how not scoring is the most common cause of agenda flood.


Because netrunner is a card game, nonsense like this is inherently bound to happen. Either stop playing card games and only play fighting games or chess, or learn to hate variance with the rest of stimhack.

1 Like

I have stories for this!

At a recent SC, I (corp) mulliganed from Agenda flood into…worse agenda flood. My opponent (runner) was a very new player who admitted a friend made his deck for him and he was still learning to play. The runner legworks turn 1 and hits 3 agendas and said ‘wow, that must be really lucky!’ to which I replied, ‘no, that was a really smart play you made, I had no ICE and no econ operations on turn 1, what was left in HQ was worth checking out, and Legwork is perfect for that.’

Was luck a factor? yes. Could I have played out of agenda flood better? probably, but I didn’t, and the turn 1 legwork was the right call that my opponent made, and that’s why he won.

Another game I was PE on 6 points. Runner is on 1 point and decked (Chronos Project). Runner hits R&D for a medium dig, accesses with 1 card in hand. I had scored 1 The Future Perfect, which is the only 3-point agenda in the deck. I add 2 Snares and a Mushin to sweeten the pot as he commits to access. Accessing any other agendas will flatline the runner, or at least not let him win. The runner access both TFP and wins both psi games.

Was he lucky to hit the only cards that could have won the game for him? yes. Was he lucky to win the psi games? not really, I think of that as a skill play (one I usually win, which is why I play with it).

Luck is a factor in Netrunner, but it’s not the only factor. Players have to build and practice their decks to respond to bad draws and work with what they have. What separates the top table players from the players just outside the cut is often the advice to ‘play with the cards you draw.’ You can’t obsess over the cards you don’t have and blame them for not being in your hand, you just have to win with what you have.


It’s taking me a really long time to learn this, but I’m slowly getting there.


This is a nice video to get to know luck in games

Also it’s not luck when you can control it, i lost yesterday to a 1/5 braintrust access on hand, while opponent had no cards, and i had double emps in my, i could have made HQ harder to get into,but i didnt because i was like naah he wont pick it

Blaming luck for your loss makes you feel better, but it doesn’t make your get better in the game(s)


And welcome!

Yeah, don’t worry about it. Last night I had someone complaining about “lucky” Noise mills… I just told them they obviously hadn’t played much Noise!

I get a 1-in-5 agenda pulled out of my hand all the time, and can’t seem to hit a 1-in-2 when I’m Runner. You just play the odds and hope fortune goes your way.

Someone playing GT in a deck has to go into games knowing that sometimes they’ll just lose. I did really well with a GT deck at a ANRPC qualifier - then in the double elimination rounds someone did a Maker’s Eye and scored that agenda plus another one and won the game (the round before I killed them). Nine times out of ten that probably wouldn’t happen so it was arguably a bit unlucky, but then again it hadn’t happened in all my Swiss rounds, and it was bound to occur at some point.

People are wont to make excuses or look for reasons why they didn’t win a game, it’s human nature. You can ignore comments like these though, and just enjoy playing. You’re never going to convince the other guy it wasn’t luck. :smiley: