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- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#2: Precision Bribery/Time to Collect

by Jens Kreutzer (with contributions by Daniel "Beats" Schneider and Holger "The AI" Janssen)

Chided as one of the most "broken" Runner stacks, Precision Bribery/Time to Collect (PB/TTC) is a staple to be found at most constructed Netrunner tourneys since the advent of Proteus, conceived of by players like Nat Johnson and others. Because it tries to create a "lock" situation for the Corp, attempting to reach a point at which the Corp player cannot do much apart from taking bits and watching his or her R&D dwindle away, playing against PB/TTC can be very frustrating.

For all the deserved criticism people have thrown at PB/TTC and the way it takes away the Corp player's fun, this much can still be said: It is a strategy against the most powerful Corp ace-up-the-sleeve (namely fast-advancing operations) that really works. It has been suggested that the Proteus design team created the card Precision Bribery specifically to neutralize Psycho Tycho decks. But Runners beware: your opponents in a tourney might become grumpy if they see that they're up for another hackneyed 'Bribery game - many players consider it beneath their dignity to utilize this well-known, unoriginal strategy.

What can be called the "inner core" of each PB/TTC deck is the combination of three cards: Precision Bribery to stop the Corp dead in its tracks, preventing the installation of nodes or agendas in new subforts and therefore taking away the main avenue of a Corp victory; Time to Collect to make the Corp spend the 4 bits to get rid of PB not once, but multiple times; and finally, Junkyard BBS to recycle and reinstall the cards the Corp just trashed.

It takes only simple arithmetic to calculate who will win this bit race: If the Runner has a PB, two TTCs and a Junkyard installed, all the Corp can do in its three actions is pay 12 bits to trash the PB/TTC combo. In the next turn, the runner pays 2 bits to Junkyard the PB and one TTC and reinstalls them. The Corp has made just one card headway for 12 bits. Can it afford another 8 bits to cram in the one card it wants to install next turn? Most of the time, it cannot; in any case, it's a 20-bits-versus-2-bits scenario we're looking at - you can figure out by yourself who will come out victorious about 90% of the time (at a guess).

It is because of this gross difference in the install-trash cost relationship that people have called either PB or TTC "broken". But still, it is not all-powerful, since getting the combo into play in the first place isn't that easy. An experienced Corp player who finds out that he or she is facing PB/TTC will create one or more subforts immediately; a Corp that has already created all the subforts it needs by the time PB hits the table can simply ignore the card.

That is why almost all PB/TTC stacks contain some kind of an ice-destruction kit (and possibly node/upgrade destruction as well) to get rid of early subforts - if the Runner can destroy all but the central data forts, the Corp is on its knees. Part of this "outer core" of PB/TTC decks therefore are cards like Remote Detonator, Security Code WORM Chip, Death from Above, Inside Job, and maybe Core Command: Jettison Ice, though normally the Runner just runs HQ so that the subfort ice is never rezzed anyway.

If all goes well for the Runner, however, the Corp never gets time to adjust to a PB/TTC-using opponent. A normal opening for a typical Corp deck is one ice card each in front of both HQ and R&D and maybe a bit-gainer Operation like Accounts Receivable. With an Inside Job and WORM Chips at his or her disposal, the Runner can immediately begin to trash ice with impunity. Almost no Corp will put two ice cards in front of HQ on the first turn and be able to rez them both. That is why PB/TTC stacks are so dreaded.

Apart from these "inner" and "outer" cores of a PB/TTC stack, there are many variants. Some concentrate on the lock and use lots of PBs and TTCs, simply waiting until the Corp cannot draw any more cards and so loses. Others include another component to deliver the killing blow, often a virus-based strategy such as a Scaldan-Bad Publicity scheme. There are even PB/TTC stacks that use the combo solely as support material to strengthen another strategy altogether; in such stacks, the "core" will constitute less than 50% of the whole stack. Still another question is whether to include icebreakers at all, since an ice-destruction theme usually gets by without them just fine. And of course, the questions of card-draw engine, bit generation, and tag protection must also be addressed. Therefore, there is no single "ultimate" PB/TTC deck.

The following PB/TTC deck was played by Bernard-Pierre Panet in a Paris Netrunner tournament in April 1997 (and has been plagiarized ever since). It is a rather down-to-earth stack without any extra virus kits - it just tries to run the Corp out of cards. His bit-gaining engine is Organ Donor/Bodyweight/MIT, and it includes an icebreaker as well as some tag protection to fall back on.

    4 Precision Bribery
    5 Time to Collect
    3 Junkyard BBS
    4 Inside Job
    4 Security Code WORM Chip
    1 Remote Detonator
    1 Death from Above
    1 Shredder Uplink Protocol
    1 Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker
    1 Joan of Arc
    5 Organ Donor
    7 Bodyweight(tm) Synthetic Blood
    2 MIT West Tier
    2 Militech MRAM Chip
    2 Total Genetic Retrofit
    2 Fall Guy

So, what can you do against a PB/TTC stack? Not too much, really, apart from trying to trash any PBs and TTCs at all costs before a Junkyard BBS can recycle them. If all else fails, you must gather bits until you can afford the unfavorable 20-bits-versus-2-bits equation for several turns in succession. Bit-gainer Operations can help tremendously here. Since trashing takes one action whereas Junkyarding and reinstalling takes two, you can get ahead of the Runner eventually, even though he or she has one more action per turn than the Corp does. Also remember that trashing resources costs only two bits if the Runner is tagged. But then, you might just pack Chance Observation and Urban Renewal to bring the PB/TTC-Runner a deserved fate on turn two. Good luck!

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