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The problem with 'Play the best decks'

Here is my problem with the advice to “Play the best decks.” That advice assumes a newer player can identify what the best decks are right now. Anyone can go on NRDB and copy the decks that won Worlds or store championship last week, but that does not mean they are “the best decks” in the current meta, at this moment in time, and at the event I am heading to this weekend?

It turns out that meta knowledge is a skill in this game.

So how is a newer player or a bad deck builder supposed to identify “the best deck”? Often, we don’t know what the best deck was at any given event until the tournament is over.

Ask this forum or reddit. People will gladly tell you.

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Honestly, if you’re newer and want to find the best deck, I’d say that your approach is going to hurt you in the long run. I’d advise newer players to bring what they find interesting to tournaments and find out what works, what others are playing, and how your opponents are dismantling your strategy. Bring your favourite decks, or those made with the intention of developing fundamentals, and get crushed. And learn.

That’s assuming you haven’t been playing for months.

If this is one of your first tournaments, but you’ve been playing for a while, I’d say that you should have an idea of what works in general, and that you’d have played enough games online and watched enough videos on streams and YouTube that you can at least recognize a good number of deck archetypes and the cards that you can expect from them. At that point, you should be able to at least finish decently in even a Regional tournament, whether you made a good choice or not.

The more I’ve played the game, the less I’ve cared about the meta, to be honest. When I hear about a deck being broken, sure, I’ll target it with tech, since I don’t want to lose, but I just brought a Palana Glacier deck (with Mutate, even) to a Store Champs, with Quorum legal, and a ton of competitive players (turnout was about 21), and only barely missed the top 4 cut due to losses that were super close (by one credit and a crazy lucky Masanori draw). In general, despite the claims that “glacier is dead,” I found the meta full of amazing matchups due to the ridiculous amount of CtM tech.

So, seriously, don’t sweat the meta. It’s a nice skill, but if you just play what you think is fun, while giving yourself as few auto-losses as possible, I think you’ll have a good time at a tournament. And I don’t think that not playing “the best deck” means that you don’t have a really good shot at winning first place either.

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The skill of reading the meta is only available because Netrunner is a good game.

That there is no ‘One Best Deck’ is a testament to the strength of the game.

Sure, CtM and Whizzard are generally Strong Decks, but they still aren’t winning everything. Tech exists, hate exists, people play different decks or read the field and bring what they think will work against CtM/Whizzard.


I won an SC with a deck that was decidedly ‘not the best deck’ by most estimates. In fact, running Security Nexus and The Supplier, most people will tell you that my deck is ‘too slow’ or ‘objectively bad.’

But I played it a lot, got good at playing it, argued about it ‘really being a good deck’ (I convinced no one of this) but won some tournaments anyways.

You don’t have to play the best deck to win. You don’t even need to play a good deck to win. But you do need to practice a lot and learn when and how to adjust your deck, your strategy, and your tactical lines. Those are some pretty complex and nuanced skills that I can’t sum up in a forum post. Elusive wrote a series of articles on the subject, and really are still pretty high level.

The best I can say is, keep trying new decks. Try to imitate and play decks you lose to. Ask for advice about what could make a deck you are working on better. Make adjustments, even if you don’t really believe they are the right choice, and keep trying them out. For me, it took a long time of feeling clueless and lost before I began to understand some of how to play well, and eventually how to build functional decks.

Oh, but the real problem with playing the best decks is this:
Everyone knows what the best decks are, very possibly card for card. When the person across from you built their deck, they built it with the best deck, your deck, in mind. They have practiced this match up many times, and included tech to beat the best deck. It is still a good deck, but you won’t catch an opponent off guard with it.


This! I would add that you should play decks that suit your personal style and then do a 180 and play decks you are afraid to play. Example? I used to play a lot of glaciery/kill Weyland, because it felt good (I know, I know, they were not the “best” decks). After a while, I got fed up with Runners snatching the “right agendas at the right time” (Project Atlas and Hostile Takeover, I’m looking at you). So, in order to change my habits a bit, I started playing NBN - had a brief fling with CtM for a while, but then it became the ID to beat, so I went back to Haarpsichord, and I’m having a great time not caring about stolen agendas.

That said, I still have to find something to lure me into playing a Jinteki deck…

For Runners, I think it’s really much simpler to find “something for yourself”, since there is much less bluffing (if any) involved and the playstyles are more straightforward. I always find playing Corp more taxing mentally.

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Okay, so I disagree with some things said here. :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. I think “playing the best decks” is a bit too strong. Or can be misunderstood. I think “playing very good, proven decks” is not as catchy, but fits better. You need a general meta knowledge, not a perfect one. The latter helps to win tournaments, but a general feel for good decks should lead you to a good deck, even if it might not be the best for a given tournament.
    For example, I’d say for the Worlds meta Temu Whizz and Siphon Whizz were the best Runner decks. But there were also a couple of Runner decks I regard as still good enough to provide a good learning experience: Dumblefork, DLR Maxx, Andysucker, Link Kate, Dyper, maybe also the Geists (Siege Geist/Aggro Geist). I think you should look in that range of best decks, not the absolute top. There is an argument for not playing combo decks for learning the fundamentals of the game, so you might skip those, but you get the idea.

  2. Given that definition of “playing the best decks”, I really think it is a good advice. When it’s about learning the game, you want something reliable, that has working interactions in it. I agree that many good players will recognize those decks and pull off the according counter-play. I don’t think that’s a bad thing! Learning isn’t about winning every game (although winning helps staying motivated, for sure). When you see how good players play around your threats, you learn way more about the deck and the core strategy in it then if you only play against opponents which you catch by surprise.
    Creating and playing your own decks is fun. You should absolutely do that at some time. But playing the best decks and seeing what makes them the best decks is such a helpful experience, you should not miss that.

  3. I kinda disagree with “just ask, everybody is glad to tell you”, because I feel it’s not that easy. For example, there is this thread from the same author as this one about “which Corp decks are good and fun at the moment?”, and well, it doesn’t have much responses. Maybe the question was too specific, maybe Slack would have been a better place, I don’t know.
    Also, I remember the time just before Worlds when a Stimhack article about Nexus Kate was released. It was a good article about an interesting deck, but a lot of the responses in the forum were like “The most helpful part was the overview over the Corp meta at the end of the article”, so obviously a lot of people didn’t know.
    Asking still is okay, but sometimes you won’t get an answer, so that can’t be the one and only way to find out.

So how should a new player get that feeling? I think in the end it’s “look around you and see”, but to be more specific:

  • Looking at winning SC lists helps. Not every list there is a match, but lists that occur regularly are probably just good decks. Lists winning big tournaments like Worlds are for sure good decks. :wink:
  • Follow the streams of some Netrunners. I’m not a fan of playing online, but I like watching people playing in the competitive lobby, just to see what decks are played there.
  • Don’t forget old archetypes, even if they get out of fashion. They might come back with new cards. This happens a lot, actually.

It seems like not-that-good, but confident posts often get upvoted on reddit. I’d keep it to Stimhack if you want competitive advice.
Edit: Not saying there are no strong players on reddit, but they are much harder to distinguish from the worse ones over there.

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Playing the Best Deck works off the idea that someone will deviate. If I Play the Best Decks, and so do you, then we will always play the same decks forever. New cards will come out, but none of them are in the Best Decks, (because they haven’t won anything yet), so we don’t put them in.

Fortunately, there are always mavericks. As they defeat Best Decks with their new creations those new creations become the new Best Decks.

I agree 100% but since these forums have become pretty barren, I am forced to go over there. :frowning:

Edit: Not barren. Most conversation has moved to slack, leaving this site less-active.

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Trying to do my part, but then people keep telling me to go ask on Slack.


Haha, I get ya. I appreciate your efforts, you do a mighty fine job.

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I’d prefer they’d answer on the Forum so it’d be visible. :slight_smile:


I too am happy that stuff is happening in the forums again.

I keep seeing references to slack. what is slack?

Its a chat app/integration program dealy. It’s cool, but hard to follow conversations and re-read what has been said. Link to the stimhack one can be found here: Stimhack Slack Chat Channel Join it, but also remember that the forums exist, too.


There’s a thread on here with a link for invitations, but I’m not in the mood to find it on my phone.

The one other thing I’d say is your local meta may be very different from the standard, so following tournament results from your LGSs is important. For example, Colorado is super skewed, with much less Whizzard than average. And in the Michigan meta, I know there were/are a number of players who famously played the same style constantly (looking at you, @WhackedMaki) which also affected the meta in unusual ways. Simply copy-pasting from ABR/Acoo isn’t a bad strategy, necessarily, but it is imperfect.


Still do play that same style. Won 3 of the 5 store champs here so all these other decks can take a hike