The Meta Evolution Project - a casual deck-building / playing idea

Hey hey hey,

So, I’ve been playing Netrunner for nearly two years, and lurking here a long(ish) time and I’d like to start writing/blogging a little bit more about Netrunner, specifically going on a little journey of deck-building and playing, and I’m looking for players who want to help out. Here’s what I’d like to do.

I’d like to create, if possible, an artificial playing environment – a petri dish, if you will, separate from your meta, or the global meta – exploring some of the lesser known (and lesser played) cards from the card pool, with a couple of (hopefully fun) restrictions and conditions. It’s partly selfish (I should acknowledge that from the off; I have lots of cards I don’t play enough with) and it’s partly because it’s something I’d like to write about, and feel other people might enjoy reading about it and joining in with it. So, I should stress, it’s a casual endeavour, and it’s aimed at like-minded people who feel they have neglected cards in boxes at home and who are looking for fun ways to play and talk about the game that maybe aren’t tied up in evaluations of peak efficiency or the most current competitive build (not to imply anything negative about those things; I just want to do something different with this project).

How does it work?

  • A willing band of volunteers build decks, under certain restrictions, meet (online or irl) to play those decks, and feed back (in writing or in conversation) to me and we write up the findings. I’m looking for all sorts: fun synergies, strange occurrences, horrid match-ups, great match-ups, surprise MVP cards, the lot.

What are the deck-building restrictions?

  • Basically, it’s recreating the release of the game, in stages, taking us back to the game’s beginning.

  • To start, the decks will be core set only. After the first round of playing, discussion and writing (which may take anything between a few weeks to a few months), the card pool will expand by the first half of the Genesis Cycle – 60 new cards! And then we’ll add the second half, and then Creation and Control, and on it goes… at each stage, getting people to feed back on how their building process has/hasn’t changed, how the new cards have affected their deck choices, and so on and so forth. As new IDs appear, players are perfectly entitled to switch to those IDs, so the deck-building opportunities develop and previously unconsidered strategies become viable and toes get dipped in the watery depths…

Who am I looking for?

  • Fun, positive Netrunner players, of all experience levels. If it’s all about the best cards for you, the most efficient, that last one or two card slots, this probably isn’t for you… but if you’ve spent time looking at neglected cards in your box/binder thinking ‘one day I’ll find a space for you in a zany deck’, then maybe you can be tempted with this?

  • At least 1 person per faction – so initially 7 to start, but I am hoping/imagining that people will want to take on at least 1 corp and 1 runner, and we’ll need to cover all factions - so we might wind up with 8 or so people, with every corp represented twice and runners twice/thrice or so. If there’s loads more interest, we can have more people. [Note: If people decide ‘ugh I’m sick of playing shaper’, ideally players would be able to switch factions and we’d still have everything covered. (If it winds up that 6 people are playing anarch and only 1 shaper and 1 criminal, well, maybe that’s also worth consideration: is it just the players’ preference? or is there a point in the card cycle when anarch becomes utterly mighty, or the other two not, or so on? <- these are the kind of questions I want to ask and explore.)]

  • People who want to talk about the minutiae of their deck-building choices and moments of game play, and, potentially, people who want to write that stuff down too (edit, to clarify this: not everyone needs to be up for the writing part, just the talking part!). This is important for this project: it’s one thing to say ‘yeah, I can make two core set decks’ but another thing to say ‘and here’s why I’m using 4 influence on 2 x Diesel in a Gabe deck’ or ‘3 x Snare! in my Weyland deck’.

  • People who are open-minded to wonderful things happening, who feel flexible in their ideas about what’s workable and useable in Netrunner. Again, I stress: this isn’t to create the most competitive decks at any given point in the game’s lifespan – just to explore the card pool and push the boundaries of deck-building.

What should you do?
Reply with interest or suggestions or anything else – I have a good idea how I’d like this to work but I’m not sure I’ve communicated that well yet, and discussing it here would be great. I appreciate it’s not for everyone, but I’m hoping there are people out there who are interested and wanted to join in. I’m also not 100% set on it having to be that many / few cards added to the pool at a time, or on the timing schedule. It could be two packs at a time but I think 1 at a time isn’t worth it.

Closing thoughts
Ever play and lose a game of Netrunner, and find it hard to evaluate what went wrong? Was it card choices you made when making your deck? Or that your opponent made? Or your decisions during the game? Or theirs? Or luck? Or shuffling? Or what? Maybe this deck-building playing project is for you! I want to get better at evaluating all of that stuff, and I’d love for you to join me.

tl;dr want to do a casual deck-building/playing thing because you aren’t wanting to do the competitive thing but you still love this game?

I would love a chance to break out all of the historical jank buried in the recesses of Meteor :smiley:

Not sure about the 1 person per faction–that might be too narrow–but the rest sounds fun!

Thanks for the reply: totally agree. Meant at least one per faction - so that every faction is covered. Very happy for doubling/tripling up beyond that.

I actually tried to avoid the word ‘jank’ but since I don’t have a good alternative, yes: there are surely such weird and wonderful things that can be done that people have enjoyed doing and would love to see again / revisit.

I’m hardly an elite player, but I love the concept and would be interested to try - god knows I keep almost, ALMOST putting Snoop in decks and then regretfully cutting it. Or Corporate Troubleshooter. Or [etc.]

Would this be with 3 x Cores, and would MWL be in effect? It’d be a weird but interesting experiment to try to build core-only decks with limits on Yog/Parasite/Desperado/SanSan - and especially on Astro. Less “obvious deck is obvious.”

Hi! Certainly no need for elite players, at all - all skill levels welcome. Since people will be trying odd things, if it takes off, it’s best for people who just enjoy playing (rather than, say, winning).

To answer your question:

  • yes, I think 3 x core to start would be fine.

  • I had thought about MWL and hadn’t really had any firm conclusions. It could be very informative to play from the start with it in effect. That would produce not only an artificial meta but an alternate reality meta because no one has ever core set only, or core set + genesis cycle, following those restrictions. The more I write about it, the more intriguing it seems to me. But, as with all of this: I am very open to suggestions and to what the initial group of players (if we get there!) want to do!

I am interested in doing something like this and writing about it, but I think replaying the real history is the least interesting option - the meta would just be a repeat of the real life one, and I would probably just pull out top Andysucker lists from that era (I think playing with restrictions is fascinating, but you have to play to win within those restrictions, otherwise it’s not a game any more).

I think it would be far more interesting (though less balanced) to create a meta that never existed. What if we started with only the SanSan cycle being legal, and then worked backwards? Or added one randomly chosen datapack every week? I think that would give much more scope for innovation.


I just had a similar suggestion on Twitter, too, which I think is interesting. Obviously not everyone could pick Andysucker lists because all factions need to be represented. I wonder how much the MWL would keep a lid on that being as strong an option - and how much sticking to MWL from the start would create a meta that was divergent enough to be entertaining.

If all the calls are for a non-historical release of packs, whether that’s releasing in reverse order or randomly or by vote or whatever else, well, we can do that!

Honestly it would be more interesting to let people pick factions naturally, I think. I mean, I’d be interested in re-evaluating Anarch and finally giving NBN a proper go, but I don’t think it’s fair on the poor sucker who pulls Weyland and gets to lose week in, week out.

Handling the Core Set is very hard as it contains both vital staples and horribly overpowered meta-breaking cards. I think if anything the MWL doesn’t go far enough.

1 Like

I think the MWL would be good to an extent in that it’d be a very interesting experiment. However, it basically kills anarch/NBN for a large portion of the experiment.

In the core set you’re already playing cards like infiltration to fill deck space, imagine paying for parasite and yog. I think it might homogenise decks too much with a limited pool. Perhaps it could be added later when we have the card pool to support it?

This sounds great, I’m absolutely interested in taking part.

I’d been thinking of doing a similar casuals game maybe at the London Tuesday group but never around got to it. Partly cos I generally play with a couple of friends. I could potentially help a bit with admin if you like.

Someone on the London FB group believes you’re London based, is that right?

I agree with lmm that “replaying the real history” is better mixed up a bit. That’s the way my friends and I did it and it was still interesting - perhaps just less so for more experienced players.

Random/voted choice of datapacks seems like a good plan, and interesting restrictions too. I believe some tournaments use achievements to mix things up a bit? “First person to score out a Government Takeover this month gets their name in lights”, that sort of thing

1 Like

A thought I’ve been playing with: what if we went backwards in the other sense, and voted to /remove/ a pack or card from the pool each time? That would keep the meta interesting as it shrunk, forcing us to get more and more creative with our deckbuilding as time went on. I’m not sure what the end of a project like that looks like though.

Should have said I’m also in London and interested in doing this on Tuesday nights (as long as it doesn’t disrupt them for other players).

Definitely. Not saying it would be forced or that once picked people would have to stick. But for the point of this particular project, I’d like all factions covered.

Few points raised more generally about the limitations of the MWL, or the death of a particular faction or what not: I suspect these ideas, conceived in the light of the current meta (global, local, wherever) probably aren’t useful for what I’m hoping to achieve with this particular project.

both of these maybe fit as future things to try / different projects? I love both ideas of a shrinking meta and ideas of a non-historical meta, and there’s no reason they can’t be explored as projects - but they aren’t the project I am necessarily keenest on embarking upon right now, with this, if that’s ok to say.

Yep, in London, have a space to host events too for future things, perhaps…

I suspect there’s no possible meta with the existing datapacks in which Weyland doesn’t lose. Certainly at no point in the historical meta were they anything other than weak.

Fair enough, but could you clarify what is it you are trying to achieve? I don’t want to be too negative but if you want to “explore the card pool and push the boundaries of deckbuilding” (a noble goal!) I don’t think retracing the real history is going to be effective.

Of course - having a strong direction in mind is good :). This is how I did things with my friends and it worked out well. I’d still be interested in playing this way, and might be able to bring a friend or two as well.

I would humbly suggest it’s well worth adding interesting/fun restrictions to help encourage varied play, esp if you’d like to encourage more experienced but non-competitive players to attend. You touched on it in your intro, what sort of thing did you have in mind? (other than working forward from core set).

Making it beginner-friendly is totally legit and good of course!


Maybe true but don’t underestimate people’s desire to just play around with janky silly decks - technical efficiency etc maybe doesn’t matter so much for this. Personally I’d take the above as a challenge :wink:

I’d like to do this on jinteki and do a deep dive into shaper and hb.

1 Like

As a matter of fact, I might be able to help you. My brother and I play Netrunner casually, and only have a few scattered packs that we got on clearance, which leads to an interesting meta. I could provide some data from this irregular meta of sorts.

1 Like

If possible, make all of the players live together in the same downtown loft.


That would be great.

Ok! That, I imagine, would be a regular meeting place for different people to play. :smile:

Nothing much set in stone, really - I do like the idea of though. Underlying it was this desire for find other people excited by the idea of the project who want to throw themselves into it!

You get it!!

Having a fun time playing in a casual environment (online or irl) that prioritises exploring the card pool over winning, an environment that falls somewhere between a person’s micro, static meta and the larger tournament metas.
I suppose one of the challenges is: if you want to drill down on the card pool of a particular faction, you can sit down with all those cards & noodle away making decks but they exist in isolation, certainly from the current card pool… unless you have other people drilling down on other factions and exploring those cards in concert. And that, in some small way, is underlying this project as I conceive of it. Making any sense?

Maybe. The big tension I see is: you can only explore the cards by playing them competitively, because, ultimately, that’s what they’re for. If this is going to be people trying to build the best decks they can within specific restrictions then I’d very much like to take part (but I think in that case the specific restrictions have to be thought through very carefully to promote the effects you want). If it’s playing games with random junk decks then I wish you well but I’m not interested.

[quote=“lmm, post:13, topic:6439, full:true”]
Certainly at no point in the historical meta were they anything other than weak.[/quote]
I disagree vehemently.

If I did this thing, I can tell you the first thing I’d do with just Core is BABW. Old School Tag’N’Bag was the reason they printed Plascrete.

Only HB even comes close to Core Weyland. NBN was dogshit, and Jinteki was worse.