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The second ice specialty of each runner

This may or may not be common knowledge, I just thought of it. We know that each runner is (in theory) supposed to have a type of ice that they are good at beating with their icebreakers - Shapers have good code gate breakers, Criminals have sentries, Anarchs have barriers. But there’s also a kind of ice that each runner is good at beating without icebreakers.

(At least this appears to be the original design intention from the first few sets; some abilities have since been shifted around, like Criminals leaning more on Link when originally Shapers did. That’s why all my card examples are from spin cycle or earlier.)

For Anarchs, their no-icebreaker-needed type is code gates. While the most commonly played code gates are basically just like barriers with a different subtype, if you look at all the code gates that are printed and don’t get played, you notice that there are a lot of positional ices - cell portal, chum, sensei, hourglass, RSVP, marker. Since Anarchs can destroy the ice behind these (or in front for cell portal) they can then ignore the code gates, killing two birds with one stone.

For Criminals, it is barriers. Criminals want to deny money to the corp, so they love running into barriers and forcing the corp to spend money rezzing them and not getting harmed for the facecheck. Then they can derez with Emergency shutdown to bleed the corp dry some more. Also, since barriers are used more on remotes than other types (where it is important to keep the runner out not just tax them), Criminals can use Inside job to simply ignore them.

For Shapers, it is sentries. A lot of sentries are tracers, and Shapers can beat the trace with their high link from Rabbit Hole / Toolbox or with their high credit pools from Magnum Opus. Other sentries do net damage or program destruction, and once again the shapers are prepared with things like Net Shield and Sacrificial Construct.

This would imply that the third type of ice would be the weakness for each runner. Anarchs were originally typecast as reckless runners which would make sentries their problem; code gates being positional and cheap encourages deep servers which criminals would have a problem with (note that crims didn’t even get a decoder in core); barriers being good at keeping people out makes them a good choice for rush decks which is good against the traditionally slow shapers.


Broadly the pie looks like

Faction Good Ok Ugly
Anarch Barrier Sentry Codegate
Criminal Sentry Codegate Barrier
Shaper Codegate Barrier Sentry

Faction Good Ok Ugly
Anarch Corroder/Morning Star Cuj/Mimic Force of Nature
Criminal Faerie/Femme Rex/Passport Aurora
Shaper Gordian/Cycy Lady/Inti Pipeline

Before we argue that mimic is the best sentry breaker in the game, in a vacuum without support cards it does have limitations. In addition shapers and criminals have some one shot answers to their weakest set (Sharpshooter, DeusX, Atman, Parasite, D4v1d) which are on a higher power level than Criminals’ more temporary effects - crescentus/shutdown/inside job.

I disagree, I’ve got the last two mixed around for each row in your list. I’m not just looking at the power of individual cards but how the faction works as a whole.

For criminals, it’s easy to say barriers are their problem when you look at Aurora, but that card was printed a long time ago when the balance between corp and runner wasn’t really worked out; the game was a bit slower too, so you might have seen things like a nine times advanced Ice Wall where Aurora becomes the most efficient choice to break it. They relented and printed Peacock as crim’s first decoder and decided not to make it quite as terrible in order to get with the times, but it shouldn’t be read as a reversal of the original intention. Code gates still hurt to facecheck more often than barriers and are still a bit cheaper on average than barriers.

For shapers, why would they get deus ex and sharpshooter at all if they were meant to be weak against sentries? Especially when they also have self-modifying code so facechecking never hurts? These cards were meant to be part of their identities not to shore up their biggest weakness. Notice that they also got cloak and dagger before there was a stealth breaker for every type.

For Anarchs, Yog clearly looks better than Mimic in a vacuum, even if it turns out that Mimic might actually be the more relevant card when you look at how corps actually play. The first time you run through an Enigma for free you’ve already made back the two extra credits it costs to install Yog compared to Mimic. Notice that Anarchs also got a second, non-strength-capped decoder in the genesis cycle, whereas they never got another killer till Cuj.0.

Yog is an anomaly, been put on MWL like most anomalies.
Anarch playing Yog tale the risk of being cast out of a server by Lotus Field which is a source of many gameloses anyway.

This is a support breaker, like Mimic, you will always have trouble to play thoses as main ones.

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For the most part the number of breakers, and I would argue the quality of breakers enforces this order. One could argue that one shot special solutions (or AI) should be included in the realm of the pie I suppose.

Anarch: Morning Star/Corroder/Blackat
Shaper: Lady/Inti/Battering ram/snowball/sage
Criminal: Aurora/Breach/Spike

Criminal: Faerie/Femme/Garrote/Mongoose/Ninja/Shiv/Switchblade/Alias
Anarch: Cuj/Mimic
Shaper: Creeper/Dagger/Pipeline

Shaper: Cycy/Gordian/Zu/Torch/Refractor/Sage/StudyGuide
Criminal: Rex/Passport/Peacock/Leviathan/Crowbar
Anarch: Force of nature / Yog

Lotus Field wasn’t printed until the third cycle of packs, and is clearly a hate card meant to balance out a powerful strategy, so we can’t really say that code gates were meant to be a problem for anarchs.

Anarchs first two runners never had any link or any way of gaining it. In core, they didn’t even have any way of getting more credits. And yet they didn’t want to get tagged because they had Wyldside and Ice Carver. So obviously tracers were a problem for them. Also, they had Djinn hosting their programs and no way of protecting it, so a troubleshootered Rototurret was guaranteed to do some severe damage.

Your analysis is good, though not entirely consistent - shapers have more fracters than anarch even though we know anarchs are meant to be the best (but that’s probably just because shapers have more programs in general), and they also have more killers than anarch.

Rex, Passport and Crowbar are all part of cycles. Also, Leviathan is intentionally bad. Cuj.0 is horrible and as for Mimic, we know that the fixed strength breakers ended up being stronger than intended. I will concede that you are right about shapers having better fracters than criminals.

But one way to argue for my listing even if the icebreakers don’t match up is that it could be intentional. If your faction is meant to be good at dealing with a certain type of ice without icebreakers, then you don’t need good icebreakers or many icebreakers for that type.

I think this has, broadly, changed to be a different type of ‘faction pie’. I think that factions are meant to be good/bad/ugly at different areas of the game, and for Icebreakers, Anarch is the best, Shaper is the second best, Criminal is the worst. Listing off the best breakers from each faction, we get:

Anarch: Corroder (!), Yog (!), Mimic (!), D4V1D (!), Faust (!), Knight, Eater, Parasite (!)

Shaper: Atman (!), CyCy, Zu, Gordian (!), Lady (!), Refractor

Criminal: Faerie (!), Peacock, Femme, Passport (!), Switchblade

I get that the original design was that one faction is better at different pieces of ICE, but that didn’t hold true when the game started and hasn’t held true at any point between the last four cycles. I don’t think it’s worth factoring these into a modern discussion of faction balance because to me, it clearly isn’t a design goal any more.

It makes sense that Anarchs get the best icebreakers since they have no in-faction way to tutor for them. Raw power is offset by draw variance.

Course that goes out the window if you print too many/too good card draw mechanics for anarch…

The problem with that line of argument is that anarchs also have some of the most powerful on access effects (Medium, Imp, Whizz creds etc.), which is supposed to be counterbalanced by the inconsistencies inherent in an Anarch deck.

Isn’t that the same argument? Anarch gets the solutions with the most impact but shouldn’t be able to reliably draw them when they need them, and those solutions have flaws that means you want to draw a support card too which further increases your draw variance.

But then they got enough draw that now they can get those most powerful tools when they need them.

Anarch breakers have another limitation - they aren’t that efficient at using credits.A mountain of credits doesn’t guarantee a path through the ice like most shaper and Crim breakers.

On a more broad note, I feel weird in threads like this. I’ve been playing Chronos for so long now that Faust isn’t scary, it’s in fact, downright good news for me.

The reason Faust seems OP is (in part) due to a false dichotomy in Jinteki deck design. Specifically, between what I’ve come to call Snare decks and Pup decks.

This isn’t just PE versus RP, but those are the familiar, most competitive forms of each. Snare decks are about damage, usually avoid worrying about the runner’s credit pool, and generally run less ice. Faust’s inherent weakness to non-ice damage comes up, but the runner uses Faust a lot less because there’s so little ice to break.

Pup decks are more about standard defense. Either plan glacier - slow them down, tax them out - or plan rush -score behind a cortex lock and use that to power forward. RP is the most common form of this, but Tennin is another place where this can work. Faust here is the same. Edit: the same as any other more normal deck (like HB).

You don’t have to play Snare or Pup for this schema to make sense - it’s just a strategic difference.

Recently, FFG has been pushing more and more towards a hybrid strategy. IG, CP and the spoiled Pālanā Foods all push in this direction.


What I’m trying to say is that having powerful on-access effects and cards that facilitate access (by being efficient breakers) is not a good combination.

Also, Anarch now has probably the best draw in the game in the form of Wyldcakes.

I think Shaper event-based draw is probably more powerful than Anarch draw, particularly to power a Faust glory-run.

Wyldcakes works very well because there are other anarch tools to deal with big ICE (D4v1d) and remove cheap multi-sub ICE (parasite) or just anything troublesome (cultery) that can all keep the cost of breaking into a server (by any means) artificially low. Thus the two card draw from Wyldcakes may be sufficient, but only in combination with many other cards.

Raw draw power, particularly burst draw, is better out of shaper – Beach Party Game Day can really fuel a Faust glory run!

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