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Upstalk Preview: Mutate

Originally published at: http://stimhack.com/upstalk-preview-mutate/

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I’m in favor of any card that destroys jinteki ice.

Since our community has a reputation for analysis, I’ll offer my analysis of this card from a tournament player’s perspective:

Top to bottom, the card is a jinteki operation, right now the events in jinteki decks that this competes for space with are: hedge fund, celebrity gift, and trick of light. Jinteki is pretty light on operations compared to the other factions.

At 2 Cost it can be played from 0 if you are desperate.

My first instinct is to compare it to oversight ai (1), and bioroid efficiency research (3), each of these cards has a drawback, but the basic function is to cheat ice into play. Unlike OAI and BER, Mutated ice sticks around after being broken; of course - you have to trash something in the first place, and without support you don’t really know what you will get - this is quite a large drawback and it means that if you include it in your deck without support, it will probably be a 1 of.

The other noteworthy point, as Sly mentions in his article is the positional aspect of the mutated card. Back in the day, if you were playing Jinteki with chum -> Data mine on a server, as soon as the data mine fired, your chum became worthless (unless you spent extra credits to stack the server higher).

Now that Chum can be gambled away for something potentially more useful, giving chum a new purpose – The same is true of inazuma, marker and to a lesser extent sensei.

If you are playing Chum -> Icewall and using it as a really cheap defense until your opponnent installs a corroder (or maybe they SMC out the corroder when running) you can take a gamble on mutating your icewall into something that forces the runner to get another breaker.

If you are playing a rush strategy, most of your ice is probably cheap and disposable already, mutating ice that’s lost it’s stopping power into something new could be really useful for Tennin institute Fast advance ice suites (again, as sly demonstrated in his article).

On the other hand, your ice being rezzed means that it only gets run when the runner can break it, thus suffering from the same problem as OAI and BER. The only thing that a free Janus 1.0 does is sit around waiting to get Deus Ex’d.

Right now, Jinteki ICE is extremely vulnerable to parasites, most of the time the parasite gets installed the same turn that your ice gets trashed; however when problem ice is being parasited and a runner is looking to break in somewhere after being locked out of sucker counters, you frequently get several turns while you watch your ice melt – being able to mutate an ICE the turn before parasite eats it could be worthy of a deck slot in a tournament deck.

I really want to write this card off, but like most netrunner cards, it’s so weird it just might work.


As a -big ice deck card- Mutate has two problems which on their own don’t sound like problems, but combined make deckbuilding around it difficult.

  1. It’s in Jinteki - the faction with arguably weakest big ice, and
  2. it costs 3 influence.

This is just a tad too much for other factions which actually have the good big ice and already some “rez big ice for free cards” to support these sorts of decks (HB and Weyland) for which Mutate was meant.

One thing that also doesn’t help is the fact that you need cheap ice to sacrifice - which ironically only further dilutes your deck of good cards you can flip when you play it. Precog will help with this, but that’s a lot of cards on the stack that don’t accomplish too much.

I’d say it’s a 2/5 card, with some potential for future growth.

edit: lovely art though !

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So what happens if you play Accelerated Diagnostics into it?

Legend has it that the last corp player who tried it is still resolving his triggers, and on quiet nights, if you listen… you can still hear him shuffling.


I think Mutate is totally playable, if for no other reason than it breathes a little life back into Neural Katana, one of my favorite Jinteki ICE. NK can be oftentimes underwhelming if it doesn’t catch them unprepared (and I think most people suspect net damage out of Jinteki, call me crazy). And maybe with some of the nastier new ICE, people simply don’t bother running until they have a sentry breaker out, but you should be able to mutate a Neural Katana into almost any ICE and see decent results, since even pup and yagura cost 2 to break, to NK’s 1.

I wouldn’t play mutate without any precog effect - not so much because I’d like a specific ICE, more because I would’t like to reveal too many cards from my deck (free scouting for the runner).

Actually, I’d think he didn’t even get to shuffling =_=


I feel like it’s a great one-of. I wouldn’t play precog effects just to make Mutate work, but if I’m playing one Shiro and a decent spread of ICE? Maybe.

Also, I want to say that this breathes new life into stuff like Marker, but once again you can’t play too many of those without precog.

Maybe it’s a good play after the runner indexes you? They might very well put ICE you can’t afford on top, to make them dead draws… and if nothing else, you get a reshuffle out of it.

Actually, the biggest problem I see with the card is the need to pick which ICE mutates before you see what it turns into. That makes blind mutations work with only a limited number of ICE setups.


I don’t see a lot of millage in the ‘cheating ice in to play’ as the basis for a deck. Where I do see some milage for Mutate is as a counter to parasite/Knight/Femme/Yog and a possible recovery for Chums/Inzamus that have ended up out of position. If you’re running Shiro you can increase your chances of nabing something good but running Precognition seems inefficent for the payoff (especially since you’re probably importing your uber-ICE).

  • Frequently I put Inazuma in front of something, people Femme the inner ICE and then both are worthless. Without Mutate you basically trash them both and put two new ICE in, which sucks hard. With it you get to keep Inazuma in position and any ICE in your deck is better than the Femmed inside one.

  • Sometimes you really need to kill a Knight/Rook on your rezzed ICE. In this situation even if you Mutate into the same card you’re still ahead.

  • In RP Glacier with 10 big ICE such as Tollbooths, Wall of Thorns, Tsurugi, Komainu and say 19 ICE total, the math is favorable for you to blind play it on a Pup or Quandary in the mid game. It’s 50% to gain 4-7 credits of value, and the odds can climb if you haven’t drawn many big ICE yet.


If anything this assessment is generous. As the article says, it gets better with every new ICE, but I think it needs help from cards which probably don’t exist yet - and possibly never will.

Using it blind isn’t really an option, so this needs to be combined with some sort of deck-stacking tool to actually get the ICE you want. If there was a way to put cards from HQ (or even Archives) back on top of R&D then there’s potential here with Levi University to get exactly the ICE you want; but currently, even with precognition, you’re still gambling that there is a suitable ICE near the top of R&D.

Really? I don’t think I ever do this as the runner. The only situation that matters is if the runner indexes and sees more than one ICE, what are the chances that he gives you the big scary one that he can’t deal with before the small manageable one? Maybe there’s a tiny set of fringe cases where the lesser ICE is actually still quite awkward for him and he’s confident the Corp has no chance to get the bigger one into play, but almost all of the time I would give him the small ICE first, even before Mutate was a thing. You can’t risk the Corp making a big economy boost play and suddenly being able to afford it. If you give him the big one first he might save up to be able to afford to rez it; if you give him the smaller one he’s more likely to spend money on that, making the bigger one even less likely later on.

But anyway, this is such a low percentage scenario: the Runner must have Indexing, successfully use it and see multiple ICE before this even becomes a consideration.

OK so the EV of playing mutate in this deck is between $2 - $3.5 - just play Beanstalk Royalties instead.
I’d disagree with this calculation anyway: if you turn a Quandary into a Tollbooth then that’s $7 worth of value in ICE, but it’s cost you $2 to play Mutate, so your margin is only $5.

But anyway, Mutate isn’t about gaining credit value! It needs to be about improving your board position. It needs to turn a dead ICE into something that will either gear-check the runner and/or tax him significantly more than the ICE you’re trashing. This means it needs to be reliable, which means it needs to have help - and this is the problem!

Jinteki is already pretty tight for deck space because it needs all the same kinds of things other corps need, plus all the “tricksy hobbitses” stuff to make its traps and guessing games work. OK, so perhaps a deck with Mutate forgoes all the tricks and traps and plays more like a straightforward Glacier. What does it gain? What makes it better than other, similar builds? You have to question why you aren’t just playing the same ICE out of Weyland or HB with their superior economies; or Tennin Institute with its Archive traps and Fast Advance tricks.

Defence to Parasite probably isn’t much of a thing - more often than not your ICE is dead instantly so you’d never get the chance; but when it’s not you have a very small window to execute the mutation - how often will you end up using it blind in this situation?
Knight / Femme / Yog I can see your point about - your ICE has been rendered irrelevant; but you have to guarantee you’re replacing it with something relevant or else it’s credits down the toilet. So again, Mutate needs help.
Out of position ICE? Again, it’s annoying when it happens but Jinteki already have solutions to that: Midori and Tenma Line - yet neither have seen much play.

If I want to play big ICE I’d honestly rather just play more economy and rez them the usual way. The Root will be an excellent economy source for that purpose and Jinteki already have Dedicated Server and good asset economy that’s very robust for Replicating Perfection.

Mutate screams “combo” to me. There was an article on here about combos about a year ago (I think Alexfrog wrote it) which basically said that combos are to be avoided unless the individual cards are useful in isolation and/or the combo is a game-winner when it comes off. I would say that Mutate falls a fair way short of fulfilling either criteria. The cards it needs are pretty terrible on their own and even when you pull it off your best case scenario is a rezzed Tollbooth or Archer - which aren’t exactly hard to get into play by regular means.

Well, the following situation happened to me at least twice in the last month:

The runner just parasited the one piece of ICE the corp had on RnD. In the five cards he sees with Indexing, there’s

  • an agenda (which he’ll be stealing next action)
  • an econ card (that the corp could use to get back on its feet)
  • a flimsy, but problematic enough piece of ICE (like, a cheap ETR he doesn’t have a breaker for, a Pup, or something else in that vein)
  • a huge, brutal piece the corp can’t possibly rez (Archer, Janus, whatever)
  • Jackson Howard (that the corp could use to nullify both this and the follow-up Indexings)

In that situation, the runners tend to put stuff in the order (agenda, big ice, econ, Jackson, small ice), and it’s usually the correct call, as that maximizes the window of vulnerability the Parasite created by opening up RnD.

I feel like this is a misconception propagated ad nauseam by people who haven’t really played the faction much at all. The three problems Jinteki was suffering from were:

  • No decent econ
  • Not enough good agendas
  • No ways to turn back on nasty ICE made obsolete by Mimic

Those three all got addressed in the last cycle and H&P - when I’m building a Jinteki deck these days, I’m not radically more pressed for space than with the other corps, and my red decks do tend to have a reasonably high ratio of nasty tricks included.

Admittedly that’s exactly the kind of fringe case I’m talking about, but how many games did you play in the last month? How often does this realistically come up that it becomes an actual consideration? I’m not saying the situation doesn’t arise, I’m just saying that it’s not something I’m factoring in as the Corp when deciding whether or not to pack Mutate. What, maybe half of the tournament-winning decks even have indexing? (that’s a guess, not sure whether Shaper or Andi is ahead in the post H&P environment). But we’re probably talking about a number of use cases that has a maximum somewhere in the region of 50%, but in all likelihood much lower once you factor in the runner not drawing it, failed runs and the large number of successful cases where there’s <2 ICE so there’s no decision for the runner to make that actually impacts the use of Mutate.

In short, I think relying on the runner to do your job for you with Indexing in order to get value out of Mutate is a huge risk. You need to be playing active support for it, and that’s what dilutes the deck.

I agree with all of that. But they’re the things that we all concede were needed; but every corp needs a fraction of their deck devoted to those to an extent. We’re now saying that on top of that we want to include half a dozen cards in order to make Mutate possibly work and tailor our ICE suite appropriately as well as include whatever tricks and traps we want to use. That sounds like it’s getting tight for space to me. It’s not so much that Jinteki don’t have the space for the tricks and traps, it’s that they don’t have the space for them as well as a bunch of cards devoted to what is a very ropey form of economy.

I’d rather play two restructures and rez a Tollbooth the hard way than play Mutate and roll the dice.
If we’re going out of our way to spend influence importing beastly ICE then we want a more reliable way to ensure it makes it to the party.

Why oh why couldn’t mutate have just been a Corp version of a hybrid test run/scavenge? Pay 2, sac a rezzed ICE, and search archives/R&D for a piece of ICE, install it in the same place, and rez it paying the cost difference? Now that might be a little OP, but it also might see play, and also might be worth the 3 pip influence to import outside of faction.

I think getting your choice of ICE would be too powerful for a single card.

I’m sure we’ll see some successful mutations in the future, but we’ll also see some duds :stuck_out_tongue:

I mean, they could also make it a double, or only able to target archives, or whatever haha. The only real use I see for it is to break femmes/knights in one click for 2 credits with the added benefit of breaking an R&D lock. I mean, I’ll definitely test it, as I encounter plenty of situations as the Corp where I have a completely useless piece of ICE, and anything would be better (rezzed quandary with a Yog out for example).

Where I do see some milage for Mutate is as a counter to parasite/Knight/Femme/Yog and a possible recovery for Chums/Inzamus that have ended up out of position.

This is a really good point. I totally missed this, and this is no doubt where most of the value of this card will be. This taken into account, it’s probably more of a 3/5.

Even if this were true, 3/5 is only average and average very rarely makes the grade,

I see it maybe more of a one of bailout card. Not sure I would want to build a deck “around” a card with so much variance or relying on other cards(precognition) for value. However, I could see it being very useful either early game if you want to gamble for a piece of ICE to lock them out of a scoring remote or late game to take calculated chances at ICE that will lock/severely tax the runner. Why not try to mutate a Quandary or Bako, cant get much cheaper, especially if you know there are some monsters left in your deck.

That being said, going to be hard to make a card slot for it…