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Neal's Last Words


Neal's Last Words

by Byron "Neal" Massey

Black ICE Blues

Congratulations to Ben Ford, who won a Full Body Conversion for naming a suite of 3 icebreakers that sets up faster and more cheaply than Zamboni. To be fair, it is nearly always worse than either Bartmoss or Zamboni, but it beats Bartmoss slightly before it gets worse than Zamboni.

Ben found himself mired in controversy recently when he posted an article on the Tycho Extension agenda to the Netrunner electronic mailing list. Hopefully this award will redeem him.

Thanks also to Scott Dickie for sending in an excellent argument on a suite of 3 Blinks and Enterprise, Inc. , Shields. While no award was earned, it's a fun idea that everyone should try.

My first real Netrunner love was Black ICE. I greedily traded for Skalderviken SA Beta Test Site and hoarded Zombies. I advanced Black Ice Quality Assurance and Ice Transmutation with no regard for their high difficulty. Like so much of Netrunner, that all changed with Proteus.

Proteus brought the end of Skalderviken as we know it: Enterprise. Inc., Shields. They remove all risk of smacking blindly into a Code Corpse. They convert bits directly into damage protection. Only Leland, Corporate Bodyguard, had this power before (sadly, Leland is always the first target of Corps that tag me). They made Virus Test Site and Vacant Soulkiller a minor annoyance.

Proteus also brought us the first miniature Black ICE: Brain Wash. It was love at first site for me. How often, in the v1.0 days, did you look across the table, see less than 5 bits in the Corporate pool, and run without fear? No more. Brain Wash can leave a permanent scar on your cortex where your survival instinct used to be.

A major problem with the old Black ICE decks was that none of the cheap ICE fit. That problem is solved by Brain Wash. Granted, the Enterprise Shields just break it for a bit, but until they hit the table, Brain Wash is a must-break ICE.

With the advent of Enterprise Shields, it is no longer possible to win consistently with a pure Black ICE plan. But the brain and Net damage can be a potent additiion to a a hybrid R&D that can stop Runners dead in their tracks.

Here are some plans that work nicely with Black ICE:

* Multiple Subroutines Use Lisa Blyte, Marcel DeSoleil, Panic Button, and Executive Boot Camp to surprise a Runner with many, many, many brain-damaging subroutines. Bolter Cluster is really effective here, too, but since it's not Black ICE, it won't benefit from most of the other cards in your R&D.

Setting this up is tricky, but don't rely on it as your only plan. Just make the cards available if the opportunity arises.

* Bit-Draining Expense Use Crystal Palace Station Grid, Rasmin Bridger, Ice Transmutation, Chester Mix and Obfuscated Fortress to make the Runner pay a lot of money to go through your forts. Brain Wash is especially good here since it is so cheap to install. The low installation cost makes it easy to sell off at Sid Meyer Superstores when the Enterprise Shields finally hit the table. Chester keeps the installation cost down as you pile on more and more ICE.

* Don't Drink the Water A Rio De Janeiro City Grid can help keep a Runner honest if you can build a big enough fort. Chester Mix and Rasmin Bridger are also nice here. Big forts used to be too expensive before Brain Wash.

* Really, Really Strong ICE Try Mastermind, Dog Pile, Antiquated Interface Routines and New Galveston City Grid. The New Galveston will help preserve your Antiquated Interface Routines if the Runner does make a successful run (or uses Death from Above). Tokyo-Chiba Infighting can also serve as a deterent to exploratory runs, as Frisco Del Rosario pointed out in his "Dog Whistle: Improving the Siren Deck" column.

* Surprise Ecomony Most of the really expensive ICE are large Sentries. You can use Dr. Dreff and Olivia Salazar to surprise a Runner with ICE you were apparently too poor to rez.

* Free ICE Two cards lend themselves to this idea: Emergency Rig and Rent-to-Own Contract. Rent-to-Own is a deck idea unto itself, and doesn't mix well with many of these ideas. Emergency Rig, though, can really help get through those awkward early stages where the rez cost of that Mastiff seems too high. I have had a lot of fun installing huge Black ICE with Security Purge, as well, but it would be hard to combine this plan with most of the other ideas here,

There are three cards that can help most of these plans:

* Siren The Siren keeps the Runner from avoiding your huge and horrible fort until it is too late. Don't install the Siren too early, though. Make the Runner pay to trash it by enountering a lot of expensive and dangerous Black ICE.

* Tutor Yes, Tutor. It forces the Runner to find a Code Gate icebreaker, and also makes all those Brain Washes end runs. It's not a plan that will work forever, but you can always sell this ICE to Sid Meyer if you need the cash.

* Jenny Jett Using Jenny Jett doesn't save any money, but it does add a great element of surprise, especially when she installs a Mastermind or Dog Pile.

Black ICE might be the most entertaining part of Netrunner. I hope you'll send me some interesting deck lists and let me know what you are doing. Here is a Dan Quayle quote that I use (too) frequently at my playgroup. Dan was speaking at a United Negro College Fund meeting:

"What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is."