"Elementary, My Dear Wilson!"
- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#3: "Classic" Tag 'n' Bag
by Jens Kreutzer (with input by Scott Dickie)
Disregarding high-powered descendants like Byron Massey's "Greyhound Demolition Derby," the "classic"
Tag 'n' Bag deck doesn't find its way into tournaments very often anymore. Still, it belongs in a discussion of famous Netrunner
stacks, since it is a strategy that was there right from the beginning, and one that Runners must always at least take into account while
designing their stacks. It took only a couple of days from the release of Netrunner v1.0 for players to post the first
mention of the strategy to the Netrunner-L newsgroup, and in The Duelist #10 (May 1996),
Tom Wylie hinted that such a deck had already been built during WotC playtesting. He also coined the name of the strategy, back then
known as "Tag 'Em and Bag 'Em," also dubbed "Tag 'n 'S(ch)lag" by some players (after a preferred component they were using in their decks).
Universally known and rather obvious, the "Tag 'n' Bag" strategy uses card combos that tag the Runner and then deal lethal amounts of meat
damage during the Corp's turn, so that the Runner has no chance of removing the tag beforehand. Ideally, this is quick and ruthless, the
classic combination being Chance Observation followed by Urban Renewal on turn two - which works only if the Runner has four or less cards
in hand, of course, and can be baited into running. Another duo with a heavy punch (though costly) is playing Manhunt for six tags, then
installing and using Schlaghund for 10 meat damage. Other cards fitting the theme on the tagging side include Audit of Call Records, Trojan
Horse, TRAP!, City Surveillance, Blood Cat and - since the advent of Proteus - Data Sifters and Underworld Mole, as well as
Scorched Earth, Punitive Counterstrike and I Got a Rock on the bagging side.
Complementing this core of the deck, the Corp player also needs bit-gainer cards (operations or nodes) and some ice, though less than in
most other Corp decks - after all, the Corp wants the Runner to run! Ice that suggests itself is anything that traces and tags the Runner,
like Fetch 4.0.1, Hunting Pack, Hunter, Data Raven or Pocket Virtual Reality.
Agendas require a difficult decision. On the one hand, cards like On-Call Solo Team, Corporate Headhunters, Marked Accounts, Netwatch
Operations Office or even Bioweapons Engineering seem to fit perfectly into a Tag 'n' Bag deck. But you'll need to score them, and with
this deck's thin ice, you also need fast-advancement cards like Management Shake-Up to do it. Thus, while using Tag 'n' Bag agendas in such
a deck is a viable possibility, all of this takes up a lot of space in the deck: it's difficult to cram everything in, and the
fast-advancement operations soak up bits that should power Manhunts instead. Besides, though the agenda abilities are permanent, the
corresponding nodes and operations often do a better job.
Another interesting approach (if a risky one) is to focus on the theme of the deck, which wins by actively working to flatline the Runner,
not by scoring agenda points. To best minimize the percentage of agenda cards (and the chance of the Runner snatching them) in the deck,
include just three Political Overthrows in a 45-card deck; the Runner would have to score two of them to win. This strategy was first
formulated by David Mar (May 1996) and Scott Dickie and has been picked up quickly by others. The danger is that the Corp is usually unable
to win by scoring agendas, since slow-advancing a Political Overthrow takes four turns; they serve only as bait and hopefully won't show
up during the game.
Thus, when you play dedicated Tag 'n' Bag, you'd better keep your fingers crossed that the Runner won't smell the burning fuse and simply
refuse to run; if that happens, the Corp will eventually lose through R&D depletion. Bluffing is of the essence here, feigning
consternation at not drawing any ice in the first turn - all the while fondling Manhunt, Urban Renewal and Punitive Counterstrike in HQ.
All you need to do is get your bit pool up to 11 bits in your first turn.
The following deck is but one example of the Tag 'n' Bag strategy, using David's Political Overthrow philosophy, and is very
straightforward in its aims: if it doesn't win by turn two or three, it probably won't win at all. Including four Project Consultants
also makes an agenda victory possible as a last resort (you'd need to scare the Runner into not running for one turn, and have 25 bits
3 Political Overthrow
10 Accounts Receivable
9 Urban Renewal
8 Punitive Counterstrike
2 Blood Cat
4 Data Sifters
Such a focused deck always has a weak spot, and in the case of Tag 'n' Bag, it is very pronounced. Wise Runners take precautions against
tags and meat damage, using cards like Nasuko Cycle, Fall Guy, Armored Fridge or a base link - or all of the above, maybe with hand-size
increasers to boot. An assertive Corp can sometimes breach defenses like Full-Body Conversion or Dermatech Bodyplating after a drawn-out
battle, but worse news for Tag 'n' Bag decks are Arasaka Owns You, Identity Donor, and Emergency Self-Construct.
Against the first, which is especially devastating to Schlaghund and I Got a Rock, only Urban/Punitive (in that order, when the Runner
holds five cards) or a surgically precise, repeatable source of meat damage like On-Call Solo Team stand a chance: If Arasaka Owns You
is the last card the Runner has, then 1 more meat damage won't flatline him or her, but does take care of Arasaka, clearing the way for
the next (and final) point of damage. Against Emergency Self-Construct, there is no hope whatsoever (apart from including a
strategy for trashing programs).
Plus, as soon as the Runner sees an Urban Renewal in HQ or R&D, he or she will be very reluctant to take risks and will probably always
keep a full hand, making life even harder for the Corporation. Since the Runner cards mentioned above can utterly thwart a pure Tag 'n'
Bag strategy, it isn't employed that often in Constructed tourneys anymore (but can be good for a surprise). This is a pity, because
Tag 'n' Bag leaves room for many deck variants (not all as rare-heavy as the example given above), including the use of Dedicated
Response Team, Closed Accounts, Omniscience Foundation, or even Crybaby (ask Stephen Holodinsky). An alternative is to include just a
few select Tag 'n' Bag cards in a Corp stack that's otherwise following a different strategy. This opens up an additional avenue to
victory and keeps the Runner honest, while being much more flexible than a "classic" Tag 'n' Bag deck.
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