last update 03.09.2006 12:01
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Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

Love Story

For Valentine's Day, I'd like to discuss the most loving couple in NetRunner -- Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker and Joan of Arc.

Is there another card combination in the game as well-known as that? Bart and Joan. Joan and Bart. The two cards appear inseparable.

First of all, Bartmoss and Joan of Arc belong to a class of cards which I consider, uh, bat guano -- cards whose power sets them so far apart from the others that they're boring, and impossible to employ imaginatively. Other cards in this group are Corporate War, Top Runners Conference, and Loan from Chiba. Bart and Joan are a fun couple because they're two bat guano cards which belong together.

Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker stands out as the best icebreaker in the game. It's generic, so you've always got the right tool for the job. Bart doesn't come with the other generic breakers' disadvantages. Its costs to increase strength and to break subroutines are half of Krash's costs. Bart's installation cost is half of Morphing Tool's, and doesn't stall in order to "morph." Bart doesn't do Blink's net damage.

Bart has two weaknesses, no doubt intended to give the card balance.

Bartmoss's strength is zero, and both sides use tactics to exploit or compensate for that defect. Corporations install ice whose strength is approximate to its rez cost -- I've heard cards like Mazer and Neural Blade called "anti-Bartmoss" ice. Runners need a strong financial plan -- since Bart takes up two fewer MU than a suite of three specific icebreakers, those MU are often devoted to a Newsgroup Filter, and sometimes even stealth programs.

Bart's second flaw is probably intended to be its Achilles heel -- roll a die after passing a piece of ice where Bart was used to break a subroutine, trash the five-bits-to-install Bart on a one. Behind every man is a good woman, though, and it's Joan to the rescue. Roll a one, and trash Joan or pay a bit to bring her back to hand, and Bart lives on.

Considering Joan of Arc's too-inexpensive ability to preserve Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker, a runner need only devise a good income plan to make Bart work for him. Too good and too boring -- it's the runners who risk icebreaking with Bart but *without* Joan who pass the gut check.

Did the game developers expect runners to install several Umbrella Policies for Bartmoss protection? Sheesh.

The feminist sentiment "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" surely applies to Joan of Arc without Bartmoss -- Joan gets my vote for the worst card in the original set in terms of overpoweredness and undercostedness. For an installation cost of zero bits, and a recycling cost of one, Joan of Arc can double the effectiveness of any program whose ability is triggered by a trash. Lockjaw is the most obvious example -- trash Lockjaw to strengthen an icebreaker, yank Joan to your hand for a bit, and trash Lockjaw again.

I had an unusual ambush idea, derived from the old Namatoki-plus-ambush-node chestnut. I wanted to install *two* ambush nodes with Namatoki -- the idea was that the runner could trash Skullcap to prevent one source of damage, but die from the second, instead of stealing the expected agenda. One flaw in that plan is Death from Above. Another is Joan of Arc -- why bother *trashing* Skullcap? Pay a bit for Joan.

A humorous and powerful Imp tree? Six Imps, five Joans of Arc, one Lockjaw. An unfunny and I'm-glad-it's-as-dead-as-a-doornail Imp tree? The ones we used to sell with misc.for-sale, preserve with Joan of Arc, and sell again. Wizards deflated that ridiculous combination, and *still* I think Joan is too good a card.

When Joan of Arc is employed, she also serves to nullify two ambush threats, Experimental AI (unless it's advanced far enough to nuke everything, which is unlikely) and Chimera. This might suggest to runners who wish to play the increasingly-popular "tag me" scheme to play with Joan-protected daemons to supply MU, since memory chips can be smashed with Power Grid Overload.

Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker and Joan of Arc -- a match made in someone else's heaven.


About last week's column on ESP and headquarters runs, one reader suggests this corporate tactic: if the runner makes consecutive successful runs on HQ, tuck the agenda into the card slot the runner pulled the first time, for runners seem not to pluck the same slot.


Frisky's Corner