The mystery of Wu

So, having played around with Kabonesa Wu it seems to me that she is a classic case of a mis-match between mechanics and flavour. Flavour-wise she is a daredevil runner, who likes to run often and run lean and mean. Mechanically, she is a repeatable program tutor.

Anyone who has ever played a CCG/LCG will tell you that tutor effects are at the heart of combo-wombo decks and repeatable card tutors that start in play are the rosetta stone of all combo-wombo decks. Thing about a combo-wombo runner is that you don’t run until you’re set up and maybe only 1-3 times in a game. Which is to say the opposite of Kabonesa Wu.

Which got me to wondering, what happened?

The funny thing is, all of Wu’s rig is on Mars. As is she according to flavour text. It’s not unknown for FFG to foreshadow identities in advance so maybe it was planned but it looks more like something happened which led to her being yanked from Mars at the last minute and revised for Africa.

When you look at her rig in Red Sands you can see a Wu-shaped hole.

  • Daredevil: draw 2 cards when you start a run against a double-iced server.
  • Lean and Mean: if you have 3 or fewer progams installed when you start a run, all your Icebreakers are +2 STR.
  • Network exchange: penalty for installing multiple ICE on a server.
    Cards which aren’t specifically her rig but seem mechanically linked
  • Mad dash: take a risk
  • Diana’s Hunt: mid-run free install when encountering ICE that ends with program being trashed after use.

What I infer from this is that Kabonesa’s ability may have read something like

The first time each turn you initiate a run against a server with at at least 2 ICE installed, you may search your deck for a program and install it. If this program is still installed at the end of turn, remove it from the game. Use this ability only if you have three or fewer programs installed.

Thing is I can see all sorts of variants of that being tried and rejected (on encountering Ice, on approaching unrezzed ice etc) until there’s a very late decision that this needs more testing. In the meantime, they’re designing Terminal Directive (which also seems to have had last minute changes), dealing with rotation, a revised core set and change of lead developer.

So she gets booted forwards into Kitara and eventually someone just gives up on clickless install for Wu and (I suspect accidentally) turns her into what is probably going to be the best non-running runner in Netrunner.

If you consider that Mars, Africa and Terminal Directive were probably built together then you have 2 shapers:

  • Ayla: traditional durdle shaper
  • Wu: run-based shaper.
    At least that was probably meant to be the idea. What you have instead is two durdle runners.

Finally, Kitara has a bunch of shaper support for a run-based runner.

  • Takobi, Cyberdelia and Upya reward repeated runs.
  • Kongamoto may well have been a program until it fell victim to Wu abusing it
  • Flame out is awesome in conjunction with Diana’s Hunt. Install for free, use for “free”, rinse and repeat or bounce with a Brahman.
    Finally there are things like Kasi string which are neutral but fit the theme.

But the run-based shapers are Smoke, Jesminder and Nasir.

I don’t have any special insight into this; I was just curious. I’m not involved in playtesting and don’t know any playtesters. I will say though that I think, right now, Wu is one economy card away from becoming a busted runner analogue of CI.


She’s actually best played as a combo wombo runner right now. Wu singlehandled enabled Dyper to become a deck again. Paper Planes · NetrunnerDB

That said, there’s obvious synergies with chameleon, Brahman, etc. that still have lots of room to be explored. She definitely seems to be a Shaper ID that’s made to combat rush decks or have odd disposable rigs. It’ll be interesting to see how she shapes up. She oddly feels a bit more like classic Gabe in the decks I’ve played (that aren’t dyper). It’s interesting to see Shapers support a more aggressive runner rather than the traditional big rig Smoke/Hayley decks.


These are all interesting points!

Even Daredevil has a bit of flavor/mechanical asynergy, when I think about it with this perspective.

A 5 cost, 2 mu console doesn’t scream thrillseeker to me, it screams big rig with one run a turn followed by clicking Magnum Opus.

And I like big rig shaper, but if I was slap flavor on big rig shaper, it wouldn’t be “daredevil” and it wouldn’t be “Netspace Thrillseeker”.

In fairness to the designers, while I do think the most interesting/powerful Wu decks are big rig, and while tutoring does push you that way, I do think the ability to just slap down a program at any time does put you in a position where you can get running earlier. So you can chase those netspace thrills earlier. So… maybe there’s something there?

More to this point, we’ll have to see how Wu’s future cards from Kitara also shape how she feels mechanically. I think there’s a cool vision of Wu as this runner who uses a lot of disposable breakers and is getting into servers by the wacky shenangians which I think really does have a pretty good flavor - mechanical synergy.

I’m really excited to explore Wu more and see if she can fit my play style well.

I feel like I have been pulled in so many different directions while trying to build for her, probably because I still don’t have a feel for what I actually want to do with her. There’s a part of me that wants to get some burst economy on turns 1-2, pull out 3 SMCs, and Stimhack (of which I would probably run 3x to increase consistency) to set up a full normal breaker rig by turn 3-4 at the latest.

Some people have suggested using her to give 100% guarantee of starting with Magnum Opus on turn 1, but if you use her ability to do that (Click for credit, click for credit, Wu’s ability for SMC to install Opus), you’re giving up 3 clicks on your first turn that you cannot mitigate with Modded. If you have Scavenge you could instead pull for Opus directly and then Scavenge, so you can spend your last 2 clicks getting Opus credits. But I wonder if that is really more cost effective than other ways to find Opus using other typical means (e.g., having 3x in your deck and mulligan to find it, drawing into SMC normally) rather than relying on Wu’s ability.

I have been testing a deck using Deep Data Mining and The Gauntlet for heavy central pressure, and then Dyson Mem Chip for both increased memory and link, with Underworld Contacts for drip economy. The advantage of running more link also helps a lot with the CTM match-up.

Now that I think about it, if I am going to run 3x Stimhack, I wonder if LLDS Memory Diamond might be a great card here instead of Dyson Mem Chip. It’s only +1 more to install but could help mitigate the brain damage from Stimhack. It also would help provide some passive protection against Jinteki or BOOM! decks.

What breakers have people been exploring with Wu? I’m curious to hear what rig others are trying.

I have tried the MU breakers using Origami and Ekomind. It’s pretty terrifying. I think there’ll be a lot of origami decks unfolding.

Looked at conspiracy breakers because you can download them and overwrite them to get them in the bin for cheap on demand.

I sort of want to just run though. That means getting enough money to afford your SMCs. Been mixing and matching Cold Read and Stimhack. I think that you’re right that memory diamonds might be the way to go to soak up the aching brains.

Also tried a Sadyjota + Panchatranta + Gingerbread + Egrest rig deck. After 18 months I realised that Sadyota read subtypes, not subroutines.

First deck was all about Chameleon + Autoscripter + technical writers.


On the “how did you let this get printed???” side, I really am wary of an ID with on demand tutoring like Wu has.

On the “in fairness to the designers and playtesters” side, the fact that they didn’t account for Origami in testing seems pretty reasonable.

I am playing a good stuff shaper deck that relies on the consistency of pulling off the origami-game day combo as soon as possible. So the deck looks like this:

1 Retrieval Run
3 Sure Gamble
3 Peace in Our Time
1 Cerberus “Lady” H1
1 Cyber-Cypher
3 Indexing
2 Scavenge
1 Na’Not’K
1 Beth Kilrain-Chang
3 Technical Writer
3 Game Day
1 Brahman
2 Dhegdheer
3 Self-modifying Code
3 Origami
3 Diesel
1 Levy AR Lab Access
3 Sacrificial Construct
1 Tapwrm
2 Daredevil
2 Daily Casts
2 Femme Fatale

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I go back and forth on it. Sure, Origami is not a terribly popular card, but a quick check on NRDB shows there’s only 34 non-icebreaker, non-virus programs in rotation (I don’t know how to easily cut out Spin without losing C&C from this search).

That seems like a pretty manageable spreadsheet to hand out to a few people and say “hey, is there anything totally busted with Wu in this list?”

At any rate, faster rotation would help prevent stuff like this from slipping through the cracks.

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Speculating—often incorrectly—as to FFG’s internal processes is one of my favourite hobbies. Let me have a go:

As you imply, perhaps her power level was flagged late in the design cycle and she got pulled. However, I think there are more likely reasons than power level. FFG pulling a card from a cycle over concerns about its power level strikes me as a very un-FFG thing to do.

  1. Wu’s absence from Red Sand is some sort of marketing pseudo-strategy based on spacing out the number of IDs in each cycle to get the punters buying packs. (It has not been universally true that each faction gets a new ID in each cycle, btw.)
  2. The same but based on some sort of “gameplay balance” we can’t see because we’re (allegedly) a year behind the dev team. Perhaps Wu was pulled when they realized Core 2 would be later than expected, and they were worried about Parasite shenanigans.

Or, as an outside shot:

  1. Development of IDs and support cards occurs in a vacuum or long before the cycle’s flavour is prepared. (And/or, the contents of a cycle are not prepared entirely by the dev team.) Is that supposed to be Kabonesa Wu on Lean and Mean? Would make sense? Looks like a totally different person though. Maybe she got a rebrand.

Correlation, not causation. Hayley (and more recently Ayla) have been abused in exactly the same way. Personally I think the fault here lies with Encore. If you don’t want people making combo decks, don’t print Time Walk effects. It’s not that complicated.

Ding ding ding. This is the core of the mystery to me. I think Wu’s absence from Red Sand is can be explained in one or more ways—and my suspicion is that “power level” isn’t one of them (see above) but I’m left wondering “What the hell are we supposed to do with this pile of cards?”

  1. Wu’s mechanic seems keyed to the number of ice on servers. The more ice, the more she is rewarded with cards, credits, and improved functionality for some of her breakers (Na’Not’K, presumably).
  2. Wu has a tutor mechanic, but so do some of her (presumed) support cards like Diana’s Hunt (a card which has baffling anti-synergy with Wu’s ability but maybe? some? synergy with Daredevil?)
  3. One thing that’s really clear from Wu’s support cards is you must trash the programs. TRASH ALL THE PROGRAMS. Definitely trash them. All.

It seems like you really want Flame-out on the board, then you use Wu’s ability use Diana’s Hunt to get a run going, install what else you need (and/or draw more cards with Daredevil), trash the programs on Flame-out and then repeat repeat until you Levy? I guess? Maybe we’re meant to use Mass-Driver on Flame-out and then skip the inner piece of ice or something? How about Customized Secretary on Flame-out? (Edit: no, you can’t use Flame-outs credits for Customized Secretary, because you’re not ‘using’ CS when you install a program off. I’m pretty sure. That would make sense anyway.)

All in all, the cards interact weirdly together, seem weirdly costed, and sometimes outright unhelpful. I really wish I knew the full story here.


I guess I don’t particularly see the flavor disconnects that people are talking about. “Runs often” doesn’t make me think “thrillseeker,” but “runs once into deep ice with an ad hoc rig” absolutely does.

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lol yes because “once” is exactly how many times you’ll get away with it.

I think she does a great job, above and beyond other Shapers with normal access to SMC, of breaking into remote servers when a scoring window appeared obvious. Hayley is probably the only other Shaper who could typically threaten a deep remote with no breakers installed at the start of a turn when a Corp is prepared to defend the server. Wu seems to do it with more flair.

I like the idea of using Wu for a utility toolbox approach with programs. I’m really hoping that in this cycle we see some interesting utility programs that have trash effects, even if they aren’t at instant speed. Wu’s ability seems best paired with non-virus programs that have trash effects. I’d love to see a cool Shaper program that has a click + trash cost for a one-time powerful effect. With even a single Sahasrara in play, it could have install cost of up to 3 and still be able to install for “free”, using 'rara and Wu discounts.

Yeah, 2 or 3 stimhack seem mandatory to keep the remote pressure up in the early game. It will be an interesting gameplay decision when to pop SMC for Origami or use it to contest the remote.

I think the Origami build is different than the build I’m considering for purposes of contesting a remote. Origami lends itself to a combo deck that creates inevitability in the mid to late game, and it requires pretty much all of your SMCs to pull off conveniently. The rush build tries to create inevitability by rapidly setting up the final rig and launching the game into the mid to late game.

I’ll have to play around with Origami, it’s an interesting idea.

Took me awhile to figure out how the combo works but now it’s blowing my mind! :smiley:

That’s a good point. I agree that encore is the single card that’s a problem in the deck. If it could build to a single turn of hyper drivers/OOtA to apoc, and get a few equivocation triggers it wouldn’t be nearly as strong. Getting 3 more 4-6 click turns after the fact without allowing the corp to rebuild their board is the bigger problem.

The deck really is really just the Ayla cold one’s deck that abuses the synergy of origami and game day as a draw engine and the consistency of Wu to achieve a full origami rig T1. It’s not new, it just uses a new draw engine & AI now that QT and Faust have rotated. The meta is also in a place of limited defensive upgrades and ice which allows a deck like this to thrive.

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Encore is not to blame so much as Apocalypse

Apocalypse, Notoriety and Equivocation is combo payoff here. And each of them has uses outside of combo decks. Encore is purely a combo enabler with no uses in non-combo decks.


Yes, you’re probably both right. My point was that Kabonesa Wu did not “enable Dyper to become a deck again” since combo shaper never really went away.

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According to BabyNamesPedia…

[ syll. ka-bo-ne-sa, kab-on-esa ] The baby boy name Kabonesa is pronounced as KAHBOWNihSAH †. The origin of Kabonesa is African-Rutooro. The name is of the meaning difficult birth.

“Difficult birth” may hint at the development history of this one. :grinning: