last update 03.09.2006 12:01
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Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

The Experiment

Most of my constructed runner decks look the same. Two of each kind of icebreaker and maybe a Reflector, one Broker, assorted cash resources, some card drawing, some tag stuff, plus whatever cards make up the deck's theme. Not many viruses around -- there's a Deep Thought in one, and a Fait Accompli in another.

The characteristic that those decks share is that they're all pretty slow, and they rely on my being able to disrupt the corporation in the middle game.

I've been looking for ways to increase the speed of my current darling Romp deck, without relying on Mystery Box (Mystery Box decks are blazing fast -- I recommend dabbling with Mystery Box), Synthetic Blood and Organ Donor, Loan from Chiba, or Lucidrine Booster Drug.

Any deck will run more efficiently if it only needs the original 4 MU of programs. I threw away its MU hardware, and started tinkering with its icebreakers. I like the common "one big icebreaker and one small icebreaker" approach. Code gate breakers are all kinda the same -- there isn't much difference in the entire range of cards from Skeleton Passkeys up to Tinweasel. Codecracker is too small these days, considering that smart corp players aren't playing with code gates weaker than Quandary, against which Passkeys has to pay full freight. Raffles, for its seven-bit installation cost, is less than convincing when it's paying three bits to break Ball and Chain (I think Raffles is a fine candidate for Personal Touching). Shrugging, I selected Passkeys and Codecracker, just for variety.

Wall breakers don't lend themselves well to the "one big, one small" game. Is Pile Driver a big icebreaker, or a small icebreaker? I kept Hammer and Ramming Piston because they were already in the deck.

Sentry breakers is where the "one big, one small" criteria falls apart. Wild Card and Raptor are too small for long-term use, and in many cases, for short-term use. Most players choose Loony Goon or Shaka as their "small" sentry breaker, but we're all well aware of their flaws -- Loony is zero strength, and Shaka costs two bits to pump, and both of them look bad in the long haul if they have to break a lot of ice. They cost four to install, which isn't chump change, making it more painful to overwrite it later with a bigger breaker. Also, the bigger sentry breakers are not always bargains. Banpei laughs at Black Dahlia just as much as Data Naga does. AI Boon is damn expensive. Snowball? Ha!

Codeslinger has always been one of my favorite overlooked cards. It's three strength, so it handles popular inexpensive three-strength sentries like Shock.R and Fetch for one bit. The trouble, of course, is that it's not pumpable. When you compare Codeslinger to Redecorator, it's obvious why Redecorator has so many fans. Same strength, but pumpable, for just two more installation bits -- Redecorator costs a whopping three bits to pump, so the card is handled like Codeslinger in that it's a great partner for Clowns and Personal Touches.

Even though Redecorator wins that argument, I still chose Codeslinger just to save two bits in installation cost. To handle the many sentries with four strength or higher, I included Flak. You might say that this is dopey -- installing two programs for 11 bits instead of, say, 12 bits and one action for Boon, and there is some sentry ice which can't be broken by this combination of breakers!

I thought about that for a long time, and went ahead to play with Codeslinger and Flak. The idea is that if the runner can get the right one installed first, he can be making runs while money is gained and the other card is found. I felt the chance to make a Romp run or two would balance the time invested in having to find and install two sentry breakers.

It's a good idea, probably, to include a Dropp here, and use Dropp to "drop" the big AP ice before the Flak comes out and the "trash a program" sentries before Codeslinger is available. I've been playing with Force Shield, though -- I wrote in "Romper Room" that one reason Romp through HQ (and Crumble) is such a good card is that it thins out headquarters by force, and makes it more likely that an agenda will be pulled later. The other side of that coin is that it's more likely that a static net damage ambush will be accessed, too!

The question is, which ice is going to cause this scheme to fall apart? Most of the sentries which are four strength or greater but not AP ice are tracing. For that reason, I considered including a huge base link, but just for a second. I mean, if I opted for Codeslinger rather than Redecorator just to save two bits, I should certainly think twice about Access through Alpha. I decided on Runner Sensei -- maybe I'll go back to Access to Arasaka, if fewer Data Ravens and Fangs show up than I expect.

The bigger sentries which aren't tracing or AP doom this plan. There aren't many, though. Colonel Failure, Data Naga and Sentinels Prime cost a lot to rez, and so do Lesser Arcana and Sumo 2008, if anyone plays with 'em. Vacuum Link and Virizz don't end the run. The card which really worries me is Minotaur, and there are a lot of those out there. Keep in mind that the underlying plan is Romp through HQ, though, and it's certainly possible that the dangerous ice won't be installed until the corp can rez it, and it might get trashed.

Perhaps later, if I want to continue experimenting with an icebreaker suite which can't break every sentry, I'll add, say, a Social Engineering and a Core Command to use in combination. That drastic measure hasn't been needed yet, and I'm sure when I run into the impossible ice on HQ, I'll just grin and bear it, turn my attention to other forts, and sell the HQ Interfaces to Smith's Pawnshop.


Frisky's Corner