Netrunner: Structure of a Corporation deck

All good decks being from a good core of cards. No matter how good of our ideas are, if we don’t have enough money or too many of our available slots are spent on ICE, our deck is doomed to fail.

In this article I’ll explain how to build Corporation decks that are both solid and functional with the goal of creating working decks that we can work on later.

WHY 49 CARDS

Netrunner allows only 3 copies of each card and no matter what the goal of our deck is, some cards will be better than others so, ideally, we will have the highest amount possible of good cards compared to not-so-good ones. This means its best to play the minimun possible number of cards: 45.

However, the Corporation in Netrunner must also worry about the number of agendas compared to the overall size of the deck and we can reduce that number if we increase the card number from 45 to 49 cards. This is a small sacrifice as far as card quality is concerned, but the game is designed for it and our numbers fit better so practically everyone plays 49 cards.

MAGIC NUMBERS

Like in all card games and perhaps because Richard Garfield was a mathematician, there are several key numbers that can help us build a deck in an easy and painless way.

2 First copy with the arrival of the mid-game. Recommended for cards we don’t want in multiples (SEA Source), cards for the mid and late game (Traps), ICE we don’t want two copies of at the same time (Draco) or that we don’t want cluttering our hand at the start of the game (Janus 1.0, Heimdall 2.0)

3 Common in the early game. Second copy with the mid or late game. Recommended for any card useful in multiples, that is a priority for the Runner to trash (SanSan City Grid) or that are key for the deck’s workings (Closed Accounts, Midseason Replacements).

5 Assured a copy in the early game. Second copy with the mid-game. Recommended for any cards we want to see often, like burst economy (3 Hedge Fund, 2 Green Level Clearence), program destruction (3 Archer, 2 Rototurret) or upgrades (3 Ash 2X, 2 Red Herrings)

7 Assured a copy in the early game. Second copy also found in the early game. Recommended for cards we need in our initial hand (Cheap ICE) or that we often need in multiples (Expensive ICE).

9 Assured two copies in the early game. Third copy also found with the early game. Recommended for economy cards, cheap ICE and expensive ICE in decks designed to play them.

11 Assured three copies early in the game. Fourth copy with the mid-game. Recommended for economy cards.

With these numbers in mind one can adjust the values upwards or downwards depending on the level of risk we deem acceptable or the amount of draw in our deck. For example, I recommend playing 8 cheap pieces of ICE instead of 7 because I prefer to play it safe during the first turns of the game but I would rather lower that number to 6 if I play cards like Chum or Neural Katana.

STRUCTURE OF A CORPORATION DECK

Most Corporation decks will look very similar to this:

9, 10 or 11 Agendas
12+ Economy cards (9+ for identities that generate credits)
18 ICE (Aprox.)
And as many tricks, traps and other useful cards as remaining slots.

Of course, not all decks are built the same, the infamous 6-ICE Weyland got me in the Spanish Nationals and the strange Jinteki: Personal Evolution that plays 14 agendas works much better than it seems at first glance. But they are exceptions and I find easier to learn the rules of deckbuilding before breaking them.

AGENDAS

Our election of agendas will determine the needs and advantages of our deck. Generally speaking, the higher the difficulty of scoring an agenda, the higher the number of traps, upgrades and other deterrents like Scorched Earth we will need to score from safety while decks packing smaller agendas will promote a more aggressive play style with a higher number of fast-advance cards like Biotic Labor or SanSan City Grid.

Ideally we should approach seven points with our agendas, since that’s the winning threshold:

2/2/2/2  (10 two point agendas)
2/2/2/1  (9  two point agendas, 2 one point agendas)
3/2/2     (2 three point agendas, 7 two point agendas)
3/3/1     (6 three point agendas, 2 one point agendas)*

*Barely used

Using three point agendas reduces the number of agendas the Runner must steal from four to three, which is risky for the Corporation but increase the pressure on his side as well since they allow us to reach the point of the game in which every face-down card can lead to victory much faster.

ECONOMY CARDS

When it comes down to it, the war between Corporation and Runners is an economic war in which both sides have a very limited number of actions. Hence, any card that benefits us in that aspect is more than welcome. My recommendation is to use at least 12 credit-generating cards, 9 if your identity gives you extra credits (Credits, not “Credits for traces” or “Credits to advance ICE”)

For example

3 Adonis Campaign
3 Eve Campaign
3 Hedge Fund
+ Haas-Bioroid, Engineering the Future Identity

We cannot risk running out of economy cards or we will find ourselves in very difficult situations so it’s better to add a little more economy than strictly needed with cards that fill different functions like Pop-Up Window (ICE) or Corporate War (Agenda)

Cards that allow us to draw more cards are, strictly speaking, also economy cards but to me it’s better to count them as tricks or extra economy cards than among those 12 economy slots.

ICE

Cheap ICE

All Corporation decks need cheap ICE to stop runs on HQ and R&D on the first turn of the game and to force the Runner to play his icebreakers. Hence we will play eight ICE of cost 3 or lower (4 or lower for HB:EtF), covering all ICE types and that end the run.

For example:

3 Ice Wall     (Barrier)
3 Caduceus  (Sentry)
2 Enigma      (Code Gate)

Another example:

3 Viper                    (Code Gate)
3 Wall of Static    (Barrier
2 Rototurret         (Sentry)

Normally the Runner will refuse to spend credits on traces made during the first turns of the game since he’ll need his initial credits to get his economy running and play icebreakers, but using clicks to attack R&D with a Maker’s Eye or attacking an HQ composed of only three cards is very common and can make you lose two points very easily. This is why I prefer to talk of Viktor 1.0 or Eli 1.0 as support ICE instead of cheap ICE.

Big ICE

The problem with cheap ICE is that we would need lots of them to cost the Runner a decent amount of credits and that carries a huge cost in cards and installation costs which is why it’s recommendable to have expensive pieces of ICE (8 or more credits) that are expensive to break on their own.

Most decks will play 7 to 5 pieces of big ICE but it’s not uncommon to see decks with more or without any.

Support and Combo ICE

Any piece of ICE that requires other cards to work well can be considered support ICE. For example, Bioroids, Chum, Sensei and RSVP are all support ICE.

This kind of ICE tends to have a great variety of subroutines and a very high efficiency, most of them cost the Runner more to break than it costs the Corporation to rez them. This is why the Corporation will heavily benefit from playing as many of these pieces of ICE they can once they don’t need any more ICE of the two previous kinds.

TRICKS, TRAPS AND OTHER USEFUL CARDS

Don’t let this last paragraph fool you, these are the cards that define a deck and that force the Runner to play by the Corporation’s rules. Any card that isn’t a piece of ICE, an Agenda or an economy card forms part of this category.

For example:

Upgrades Incorporated
3 Ash 2X
2 Red Herrings
2 Director Haas

Jinteki PE Flatline
3 Snare!
2 Ronin
2 Cerebral Overwriter

Tag’n Bag
3 Scorched Earth
2 SEA Source

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