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Tips for improving from casual to minor competitive player

Will try to keep this brief, looking for some advice on improving as while I enjoy the game, it can be demoralising to get killed on jnet or at GNKs and this discourages me from wanting to play SCs or Regionals, which is something I do really want to do ultimately.

Short background: Been playing a few months, bought about a half-complete set with my housemate, we have played a lot (multiple nights a week) and have now got almost everything. We have built decks for each faction (mostly from scratch, based on what we were familiar with, plus a little net-decking too along the way) and play them against each other in all permutations before revising them and then playing again. I’ve played the BBTLs and a whole bunch of random games on jnet, plus a couple of GNKs (both of which I had pretty poor results in).

I just wondered what other people#s experiences have been, especially if like me you’ve joined the game more recently, without the benefit of growing with the card pool over the years. I find that as soon as I step outside of the comfort zone of our home games - where I know the decks and my opponent pretty well - I struggle to have a clear thought process and feel time pressure a lot more, leading to a whole lot of mistakes and ultimately a lot of losing.

I don’t mind losing games per se (although I would definitely prefer to be winning!), but it’s more the feeling of not really often understanding why I’m losing and being a bit overwhelmed by the entire range of cards and deck archetypes which are out there in the wild. I try to watch a bunch of streamed games and listen to the commentary, have started listening to some podcasts and also try to read a lot on here and in Slack, but I’m struggling to feel like I’m progressing much.

I know eventually I will lose interest if I’m just getting destroyed constantly and I don’t want to end up quitting a game I do really like after investing time, effort (and money) in it. I don’t expect to become a great player (or even a very good one) overnight, but I just wanted to see what advice the good folks of Stimhack could give me to help me move forward.

So please, let me have it - all advice, opinions and viewpoints welcome! If I can provide any more info to help you to help me, just let me know! Thanks in advance. :slight_smile:


I’ve been in basically the same boat (joined in a couple months ago, completed my collection, ect.). For me, it’s been alot of simply playing a decent amount of games with only a couple of deck (usually a tactical deck that has a decent amount of interactivity. Like a standard Andy list). I try to focus on more on efficient moves and understanding how my opponent’s deck functions so that I can pilot accordingly. This is all on Jnet since I haven’t been able to find my local playgroup yet.

I’ve also been watching alot of @beyoken on Youtube for competitive commentary and strategic analysis. His tips are invaluable and have really helped me to think my turns through and play more to my deck’s outs. I’m by no means a competitive player yet, but I think I’m getting there and Ben has helped me to analyze my strategy with a fin-tipped comb.

I think if you’re struggling to understand what you might be doing wrong, getting outside analysis might be a good idea. Try to speak with your opponent and get their opinion. Have someone who is a little more experienced spectate and give tips for things to work on afterwards. Asking for help is never I sign of weakness.

That’s just my 2 cents for what has helped me. I’m sure more qualified people have tons more to suggest. And if you ever want someone to spectate and help with some things to work on, let me know. I’d be happy to help where I can.


Thanks for that, I’ve watched some of Ben’s stuff and should definitely watch more - his analysis has often made go “oh yeah!” as I realise something I doubt I would have figured out myself! :slight_smile:

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Definitely talk through things with your opponents, if they have time! Situations that looked helpless in netrunner often look different from the other side. There’s no substitute for playing a bunch of games; if you can, take a little notepad with you and write down your games–win or loss, try to figure out and write down why. Was it a bad matchup, bad luck, or mistakes you made that your opponent saw and was able to exploit? Good plays you made that let you win? Cards you thought were dead or especially good?

Note-taking is a little easier with online play or casual play.

Then, once you’ve played a bunch, you can look back and see if there are patterns.

Watching good players play–especially if there’s commentary from knowledgable players–is a good way of picking up how folks outside of your local group think about the game too.


Yeah, I definitely need to get better at taking notes and reviewing them - I tried at a GNK today, but most of my matches went close to time, so there wasn’t much opportunity for discussion. Just feels like there’s so much to learn, I know I’m making tonnes of mistakes, so it’s a case of being able to identify them and try not to keep making them I guess, but every game feels totally different because of the range of opponent decks I face. Still, guess there’s no substitute for playing a bunch as you say, and getting input from my opponents where possible.

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Yeah, I think you already have an idea what the most general advice is.

Netrunner is indeed a hard game. I lost for quite a while, and I still lose often. Take notes, seek out outside sources of knowledge as much as you can, and try lots of different decks so you can start to learn how they work. Different decks often need very different counter-strategies. I still haven’t played Asset Spam enough times not to get wrecked by it.

Learning the meta and what opposing decks are up to was and is one of the biggest challenges I face. So much of the game depends on making not just a good play but a good play against the particular deck you are facing that it can be challenging to feel like you know what you are doing.

I’m slowly getting better. I mark this by my increasing ability to see when other players make mistakes in games I watch. I still make plenty in my own games, but I feel like I’m slowly get a better handle on what various kinds of decks are trying to do.

Yeah, I do need to play more different kinds of decks for sure - jnet is obviously good for that, so I’ll try to force myself to change it up a bit more.

Yes, this perfectly sums up how I often feel - like I don’t know what I’m doing. Sounds silly, but that’s really the crux of it - I get overwhelmed by all of the different things I’m having to consider in making a decision and I just get mentally flooded.

honestly your best bet is to play more games and try more decks, against as many different types of decks as possible.

once you’ve played a deck 50 times, you’ll get really good with it and know what it can do, but once you’ve played 50 different decks, you’ll kind of get a feel of what Netrunner as a whole can do. i recommend the shotgun approach to playing a bunch of different decks when you’re first starting out and remembering the ones you’ve liked for later.

when you finally settle down on a deck you want to play, certain tricks from previous decks will stand out, and you’ll start trying those in new ways. when you start doing that, that’s when you transition from casual to minor competitive imo

I know what you mean. For example, you draw a PAD Campaign and being to think about whether or not you should play it, whether it might be better to play another card instead, whether you need to protect it and so on. Soon you are thinking about 20 different things, time is almost over and you don’t actually know what you are doing.

Here’s how I see it: You cannot make choices one by one, you need to stick to some kind of principle. For example, instead of thinking about whether or not to play Hedge Fund, think about whether you need economy. The same goes for playing ICE or spamming assets.

As far as learning goes my advice is:

1) Ask yourself WHY you lost and WHAT you could have done differently in order to win. For example, you might have been poor all game. Was it because you got Siphoned? Was it because your ICE was getting eaten away? Or perhaps it was because you spent two turns and 5 credits scoring a useless Global Food?

2) Ask your opponents after the game or after the tournament about what you could have done. You are bad at the game so they’ll probably avoid the question just to be polite. Still, if they see you are still interested

3) Have someone ask you “Why are you doing that?” after every click. Explain it to him. Chances are you don’t even know and was playing on auto-pilot. This is frustrating but a great way to learn.

4) Play more. No matter how much you read about the game, you can only get better by playing. Reading more won’t make you better, only make you improve faster.


Yep, this seems to be common advice, so I should take it! I’ll probably just net-deck a bunch of recent decks and give them a play on jnet, see how I get on. I find some of the writeups on NRDB can be super helpful in giving you a starting point on how to play a given deck.

Awesome reply, thanks for the advice. Makes an awful lot of sense. I guess I have the same fear as a lot of relative newbies - not wanting to appear stupid. But I understand I need to get over that and seek out the help I need to improve, while also helping myself by playing a tonne. :slight_smile:

[quote=“3N1GM4, post:1, topic:9101”]
I find that as soon as I step outside of the comfort zone of our home games - where I know the decks and my opponent pretty well - I struggle to have a clear thought process and feel time pressure a lot more, leading to a whole lot of mistakes and ultimately a lot of losing.
[/quote]Do you have any other previous competitive experience (another game, sports, anything else where your perfromance was regularly measured against someone else’s)?

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The number one thing that brought me from flailing around to having some competitive success was simply to start playing the good decks. I know that sounds trite, but seriously: play the good decks. Don’t stick with your homebrew, don’t change out a couple of cards for different things (yet), just jam games with top meta decks until you know how they work.

The other thing that helped me a lot was watching basically every competitive Netrunner game ever recorded. This was a couple of years ago, so this may not be feasible now :stuck_out_tongue: While not as helpful as actually playing through each of those games, it helped me internalise a lot of standard lines of play and counterplay that I could then apply to my own game.

The next step is analysing your own play and seeing where you made mistakes and where you could improve. This is by far the hardest part and other people have given advice on this. The biggest change for me was this two step shortcut i) how do I lose this game? (particularly in mid to late game: how can I lose next turn?); and ii) if the game carries on like this, do I win or lose?


I’ve played poker for like 10 years, so I guess that’s the closest I’ve come to another competitive game with parallels to Netrunner.

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When it comes to games in general, I think I follow a pretty general guideline if I want to, as they say, “Git Gud.”

First, I’d try to play against people that are better than me. They do interesting things that, after a few games into playing Netrunner, I’d assume are counter productive. But then, once you see the results of these plays, you might determine that in fact, these plays are ultimately how they won the game.

For instance, playing criminal against AGinfusion, you might play an Account Siphon so that it gets bounced, all so you can land the Legwork you wanted. “Wasting” cards is fine, after all, if it leads to a board state in which you are winning.

Second, when I get “rekt,” then I try to figure out what I could have done differently. Sure, you could ask your opponent, and it’s helpful, and if you’re new and want to get better, asking is great, but I think you’ll eventually reach a cap where what they say to help is only marginally helpful. Instead, if you try to figure out a solution yourself, you develop a habit of thinking about problems relevant to Netrunner that you might be able to use in a game, without the benefit of hindsight.

Third, I like to keep in mind that no matter how good a player I might like to think I am, I will lose, and sometimes, I will be absolutely destroyed. And there will be very little I can do about it. If you’re thinking about entering bigger tournaments someday, knowing how to deal with tilt is important. (Keep in mind that I know nothing of your prior tournament experience with other games, so this is pretty general.)

Finally, no matter what, make gutsy plays. Calculation is all well and good, but sometimes you still have to bluff, and the fact that they can work is part of what keeps me playing.

I probably lost 70% of my first 300 to 400 games of Netrunner, playing on OCTGN back in the day. Call me a slow learner. Honestly I just banged out enough games to learn the card pool and the rhythm of the game. I’m a very intuitive player, though; I rarely math things out or agonize over anything more than a few clicks a game. The only thing required to become a world-class player in this game is experience, IMO. Don’t get discouraged by losing!

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Sure, I have definitely experienced this playing against my housemate (with whom I’ve played probably 90% of my netrunner games) - we’re pretty evenly matched, but sometimes I take a complete whooping and have to be able to handle that. As I mentioned briefly above, I’ve played poker for over 10 years (and have played at almost all levels, right up to 4-figure buyins at the World Series), so I’m familiar with having to “ride the variance train” as we call it in poker. :slight_smile: However, in poker it’s a lot easier to know when you were unlucky and when you made a mistake, so that’s what I need to concentrate on in netrunner I think - identifying my mistakes (while playing loads of games it seems).

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Yeah, I expect my winrate is probably no better than that, although not sure how many games I’ve played total so far. That’s how it feels though, like I’m a slow learner, so I guess I’ll just smash out the volume and hopefully see improvements eventually!