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Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

E-mail and Blackmail

Last week's Viral Pipeline column inspired a little bit of discussion. Reader Holger Janssen wrote that an advanceable ambush -- or any multiply installed ambushes -- is an effective defense against Pirate Broadcast runs out of David Liu's deck.

Jim McCoy, who deals one of the nastiest Encoder/code gate decks, believes his favorite corporate deck would also stand up to the Liu deck Bartmoss attack, for it rezzes so many 5-strength Ball and Chains with multiple "end the run" subroutines for free.

I assembled Dennis Duncan's Pipeline/Clown deck, and played it twice. Perhaps the deck takes more practice in its handling, or maybe I suffered two very bad shuffles. I found myself making many painful discards in both games -- in the second game, I recall that two Zetatech Software Installers and two Jack 'n' Joes were on the bottom of the stack, and that I had to play MIT West Tier and draw cards a second time in order to retrieve two Clowns and a Viral Pipeline.

This week I would like to talk about the runner prep Blackmail. Pay 12 bits and make a run on headquarters. If the run is successful, gain one agenda point.

Twelve has become one of my favorite numbers in NetRunner. Twelve advancement counters for World Domination, twelve bits to play Blackmail. The first reaction of most players to those tasks is that it's too much, but -- trust me -- it's not. Twelve advancement counters or 12 bits in order to win the game is cheap. In constrast, consider Arasaka Portable Prototype, which costs 11 bits plus an agenda point -- it doesn't provide a win; it provides 3 MU and icebreaking bits. Now that's expensive!

Naturally, you should only play Blackmail when it wins. You certainly wouldn't want to invest 12 bits plus icebreaking costs just to reach six or fewer agenda points; you're better off investing those bits accessing cards.

When the runner reaches six agenda points, it's a whole new netspace. The runner starts to concentrate solely on headquarters -- how many bits are needed to make a successful run? Where's my detection card to reveal the middle piece of ice on HQ? Oh, no! The damn corporate bastard installed another ice! It seems the most deflating operation the corp can play when the runner is planning a Blackmail run is New Blood.

Corporations know the dread of watching a runner feed a Broker and gain three bits for consecutive turns, and wondering what the runner has in store. The tension -- a hallmark of NetRunner -- builds as the corp strives to score his agenda. Blackmail leads to dramatic finishes.

Blackmail's greatest strength is that, in most cases, it gives the runner a one handicap. A failed Blackmail run, on the other hand, is spectacular and very expensive. Blackmail offers greater empowerment than other preps which award one agenda point. For instance, Desperate Competitor and Hot Tip for WNS depend on certain styles of corporate agenda. Promises, Promises takes detection on the runner's part, unless he's willing to take a wild shot. Blackmail is a sure thing which doesn't need the aid of Technician Lover or Mouse.

Blackmail is also an interesting card because it somewhat requires that the runner be a skillful player to use it. First, it would be a novice mistake to use Blackmail before six agenda points have been stolen. Second, the runner has to have the basic ability to be able to calculate the number of bits needed to complete the run, sometimes based on incomplete knowledge, and that is a runner's high art. Finally, the runner needs to have gained six agenda points -- in the long haul, it takes greater skill to steal six agenda points than to steal five.

One aspect of Blackmail that isn't true of most other runner cards is that it makes excellent discard fodder, at any time before the runner has stolen six agenda.

Why isn't there a bad publicity equivalent to Blackmail? Just wondering. See you next week.


Frisky's Corner