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Neal's Last Words


Neal's Last Words

by Byron "Neal" Massey

Greyhound Limitation Derby

As the reality of DCI sanctioned tournaments approaches, Netrunner players are looking Psycho Tycho, Precision Bribery/Time to Collect, and Artificial Security Directors/Corporate War squarely in the eye. Long shunned for their mindless and swift dominance, these decks only become more problematic as Netrunner tournaments become more competitive. Clearly, some type of control (notice my cowering avoidance of the term "restriction") is necessary to produce matches that are both competitive and fun.

"Children should not attempt to build or play this without adult supervision."

I played in a constructed tournament this weekend, winning sweet revenge against two players who had beaten me the previous week in sealed play. I normally wouldn't use a Corporation this unimaginative, but I had been warned that another player was going to be playing Bodyweight Synthetic Blood/Organ Donor/MIT West Tier as the Runner, and Corporate War/Artificial Security Directors as the Corporation. I promised in Karl, Johnny and Neal on the Road to "spare no dairy products" in my next constructed tournament.

Shedding any shred of decency, I created:

Greyhound Demolition Derby

20 Commons/5 Vitals/2 Uncommons/18 Rares

Agenda (5) Nodes (18) Operations (22)

5 Tycho Extension
2 Project Consultants

12 Accounts Receivable
10 City Surveillance
8 Schlaghund
8 Manhunt

I played two games where the Runner enjoyed a single turn before death, and one game where the Runner played two turns before death. My fourth game, against Bozomatic, went horribly awry when the Runner installed Emergency Self-Construct on his first turn. I was luckily able to score two Tycho Extensions with Project Consultants and win.

If we're wondering how to make this work (no ICE!), here is the very brief explanation:

1. Install a City Surveillance.

2. Play an Accounts Receivable.

3. We have some options. We can play another Accounts Receivable if we have one. We can also draw another card, or even take a single bit ("working in the mail room"). Installing a second City Surveillance is another great idea. We can even install a Schlaghund in anticipation of the kill, but it might get trashed.

If the Runner makes a run on any fort, we can play Manhunt on the next turn and kill him with a Schlaghund. If the Runner doesn't run, they will almost certainly need to draw cards, and we should rez up the City Surveillance(s) when this happens. Typically, the Runner will run to trash the unprotected City Surveillance after paying a bit for each card drawn.

On our second turn, we should

1. Play a Manhunt with all but two of our bits.

2. Install (if we haven't already) and rez a Schlaghund.

3. Use it.

There are all kinds of variations on how this works, but the effect is the same.

Is this deck unbeatable? No. The Runner will often die on the second turn, however, which leaves little time for a solution. The inpsiration was to kill TagMe Runners with Meat damage. The unfortunate side-effect was killing nearly everyone, nearly instantly.

Precision Bribery/Time to Collect could be difficult to beat, depending on the steel nerves of the Runner, who must decide how much he believes in Time to Collect as a way to protect his many resources (assuming he takes the City Surveillance tags).

A Bodyweight/Organ Donor/TagMe combo (I've never seen one but perhaps it could be done?) could install a couple of Full Body Conversions on the first turn and slow the Greyhounds down tremendously.

A first-turn Credit Subversion or Weather-to-Finance Pipe would also stop the second-turn kill (assuming the Corp hadn't played two Accounts Receivable on its first turn).

It's scary to see how many options this rare-laden monstrosity takes away, though. Children should not attempt to build or play this without adult supervision.

Clearly the concept of unlimited deck construction allows some real problems. A popular attempt at dealing with constructed decks is to impose a limit of "three-of-a-kind" on all cards. As an old Magic player, I'm very leery of this idea. The "four-of-a-kind" Magic restriction took many, many, many fun cards out of consideration as serious tools, including Mesa Pegasi and Plague Rats.

It also provokes players to include the same cards in all their decks. You can expect to see three copies of Jack 'n' Joe, Cruising for Netwatch, Stakeout, Score! and Livewire's Contacts in just about every game.

Another objection is that the "three-of-a-kind" restriction doesn't prevent very short, very boring games. Decent versions of the most powerful decks can still be constructed under these limitations.

My solution to this dilemma is to place limitations on the number of copies of problem cards, letting all other cards be used without limitation. Here's a stab at the cards that should be limited, and the number of copies:

2 Armageddon
0 Scaldan
2 Taxman
0 Viral Pipeline

2 Code Viral Cache
2 Full Body Conversion

0 Identity Donor
2 MIT West Tier

2 Loan from Chiba
2 Precision Bribery
2 Chicago Branch
2 City Surveillance

2 Management Shakeups
2 Off-Site Backups
2 Overtime Incentives
2 Project Consultants
2 Systematic Layoffs

2 Corporate War
2 Tycho Extension

This is a very preliminary list. Send me examples of overpowered decks that can still be built under these restrictions. Or, send me examples of fun, creative decks that are ruined by these limits.

Some of the cards could become unlimited via errata. Perhaps the "Unique" keyword could also be used as a tool of limitation?

I wish that honor and sportsmanship were enough to make this step unnecessary. Unfortunately, they aren't. As Netrunner tournaments become more competitive, and prizes become larger, the temptation to build merciless, thoughtless decks will become too great.

Let's get ready before it happens.