last update 03.09.2006 12:01
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Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

Debunking and De-Blinking

I leave tonight for a sealed deck tournament in Roanoke, Virginia. I feel that after I write this installment of Frisky AI, in which I bash Blink, I am certain to find Blink in my starter Saturday.

First, let me say that it's possible that I'll include Blink in a tuned starter. Blink's advantages in a sealed deck game are obvious -- it's the strongest generic icebreaker, and it breaks subroutines for zero bits.

I know that Blink's charms seduce inexperienced NetRunner players immediately, and I'll wager that most players try to craft their first constructed runner decks based on Blink. Proteus made Blink even more attractive by adding Weefle Initiation ("make a run, and prevent 7 of the net damage Blink will do to you") and Enterprise, Inc., Shields ("pay to avoid net damage instead of paying to break subroutines") to the mix.

Here is the single most compelling reason that Blink is a poor cornerstone for a constructed deck: Blink decks do not improve as the game progresses.

The three phases of a NetRunner game are:

Opening -- The runner has an initiative until the corporation ends runs on the central data forts.

Middlegame -- The corporation can win while the runner establishes income and installs icebreakers.

Ending -- The runner has installed the right breakers and will win if he runs at the right time.

A typical runner deck gets better in the late middlegame. Perhaps he has been spending tons of bits in order to break a Liche with Shaka -- a typical runner deck will allow the runner to draw an AI Boon or Big Frackin' Gun. Standard runner decks include many different icebreakers for different kinds of ice. Blink decks do not adapt to the changing landscape. The fact that Blinkers must play with Clown and/or Personal Touch to cope with ice of greater than five strength is a drawback -- playing with a particular card should not mandate playing with another, unless it's a weak card, like Blink.

Blink decks have a fairly standard complement of cards -- Enterprise, Inc., Shields, Green Knight Surge Buffers, Dropp, Weefle Initiation. Again, the lack of flexibility makes me cringe.

Once the Blink "kit" is in place, the runners decide how they're going to win. I once read of a "Blink Dig" plan, a major RD Mole excursion in combination with Blink. I would laugh -- laugh, I say -- if every Blink roll during the final "big dig" run came up three. Like I wrote in my piece on random cards ("You pays your money and you takes your chances"), you live with random cards, and you die with random cards. (I also wrote that week that Blink deserved its own 500-word treatment, and here it is.) Be a dude -- make some money, and pay to break subroutines.

Some Blinkers recognize the problem, and include a Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker -- if you do that, you're a wuss of a different color.

Standard runner decks should also have an income plan which improves as the game goes on. In a long game, the corporation should look across the table and shudder at the runner's Broker, Short-Term Contract, multiple Streetware Distributors, Smith's Pawnshop buying this and that. In a Blink deck, the corporation doesn't care if the runner plays Playful AI and gains a billion bits, because in most Blink decks, the bits just pay for Enterprise protection.

I don't like Enterprise, Inc., Shields, anyway. The thought of paying for damage protection bugs me -- pay to install cards, pay to break subroutines, pay to make special runs, but bloody well take the damage!

That is the crux of the matter -- Blink players don't like to take damage, but you are not a NetRunner player until you have taken a LOT of it.

I wrote last week that Dropp is a good card to use with Black Widow -- that is, Dropp should ensure that a big sentry is rezzed as bait for Widow. I've been thinking that Forged Activation Orders might serve well in that function, too.

Someone drive me to the airport!!


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