by Frisco Del Rosario
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
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
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.