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Neal's Last Words

Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario


I wrote some large number of words to last week, after writing months ago to the newsgroup that there isn't any Netrunner discussion there because the Netrunner-L mailing list gets all the traffic. There are actually four Netrunner-related threads going on in that newsgroup right now, not counting the announcement for the Manafest Netrunner tournament on June 13. I'm quite happy to see the newsgroup debate the game, even if the main thread is about why Netrunner "didn't sell". You'd think Netrunner weren't dead or something.

Neal Byron is conducting a deck design contest, he writes, with a $20 cash prize. Now this is a great thing, the likes of which we haven't seen, I think, since InQuest magazine conducted a card combination contest three years ago. It's kinda sad that the entries to both contests will be the same, but never mind that. Invent something to win that Andrew Jackson.

I actually have two deck construction things to talk about. A month ago I decided to finally play with one of my Evil Twins (maybe you haven't heard this story -- a signed Evil Twin was the prize at a sealed deck event in January, and my starter included an Evil Twin, so I ended the day with two Evil Twins, but that's not as weird as the tournament at which I finished with three Diplomatic Immunities...). I thought any assortment with Evil Twin should also include all the other cards with which I've never dabbled, so there was a Drone for a Day in there, and a Drifter Mobile Environment, and a Danshi's Second ID, maybe some other weird cards which start with "D".

I'm playing this piece of crap against a corporate starter deck, and the damn corporation fishes his Namatoki Plaza from the archives with an Off-Site Backups, and tosses it on top of the Vacant Soulkiller which he'd advanced five times (for the record, I thought it was a Vapor Ops). He starts cackling while I begin asking myself if one of the "cards with which I never play" includes Skullcap. While he's advancing an agenda in the Plaza, I'm Jacking and Joeing and Everetting, and the 44th card in the runner deck was indeed Skullcap, so the story has a happy ending.

I love Lockjaw, always have. As a one-shot deal, you trash the red dog for value equal to six bits in the case of Wild Card, or more likely, four for Wrecking Worm or Shaka. So, that's in tune with the rest of the game -- instead of gaining four bits for Score!, you don't spend four bits on Wizard's Book. Pretty much any runner deck which employs low-strength icebreakers would benefit from a Lockjaw charge during the course of a game.

It's more likely, though, that players will choose to look at Lockjaw as "two Clowns", and aim to reuse the programs. Then there are handling charges, because you have to draw and install lots of programs -- a typical idea is to Bodyweight and ValuPak a Lockjaw/Imp tree, Tech Lover or Mouse something big, then make Promises to the Preying Mantis until you win. The manner in which you recycle the Lockjaws is a matter of preference -- sending them all to the Backup Drive is slow because you can only retrieve them one at a time, but the other main option is Joan of Arc, and long-time readers know how I feel about that (the single-use Lockjawers should prefer Forgotten Backup Chip).

There is another way to reuse Lockjaw, but it's pretty weak. If you choose to save Lockjaw with Umbrella Policy, you have a few things working against you. One, it's much slower to install single Policies than it is to ValuPak an Imp tree. However, this is offset a bit by the fact that you don't rely so much on drawing the right balance of Imps/Lockjaws/Joans/ValuPaks, and so on. Two, you don't truly know how many Umbrella Policies you need, and what's worse is that there's a real danger of running out of them, as opposed to "trash Joan, pay a bit to bring her back to my hand, install Joan, trash Joan, pay a bit...". It seems that you must pack a MIT West Tier.

You know where I'm heading with this, of course. After 18 months of playing with Lockjaws in an Imp tree, I felled the tree in order to start dealing the bad scheme. And, yeah, it's pretty poor, far clunkier than the ValuPak operation. Here's the twist, such as it is: since it takes several turns to build a Lockjaw pyramid, plus more than a turn to recycle a Backup Drive full of Lockjaws, runners looked for ways to maximize their scoring opportunities when they had them. That is, build the tree, detect the agenda, make gobs of Promises, then go. The Promising takes lots of actions, too (which is why Preying Mantis works in such decks). So, I chose to include the prep which contains an untold number of runs in it, Pirate Broadcast. That is, instead of detecting an agenda, and improving on the number of agenda points gained from it, I'm detecting, then increasing the number of runs made because of it.

After exactly two trials, the idea of running a Pirate Broadcast after Technician Loving or Mousing an agenda seems pretty good. In one instance, the Broadcast resulted in five agenda points -- the two-point detected agenda in the subsidiary fort, the one-in-five pull from Headquarters garnered two more, and the point for completing the Broadcast. Also, there's some synergy there in that the rap on Pirate Broadcast has always been that there's rarely an assurance that all the runs will succeed, but that's what multiple Lockjaws are all about, yada yada...

My plan has been to conduct this Manafest tournament next week -- come play! come play! June 13, South San Francisco Conference Center -- and then retire from Netrunner until -- nyuk, nyuk -- an expansion is released. To that end, I've blown the dust off a few chess books. If you've never played chess, it's pretty cool -- playable right out of the box.


Frisky's Corner