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The Modern Corp

by Neal (a. k. a. Byron Massey)

WotC sources verify that the long-awaited expansion, Netrunner Classic, is edited and ready for the printers. Unfortunately it will not be released until the end of the year. Still, the Netrunner environment is actually going to change! New cards, new combos, new deck types are all coming - just in time for Santa. Until then, what is the state of the art? Specifically, the state of the Corporation?

At the current highest level, Psycho Tycho is the hand that rocks the cradle. Every Runner must plan around it. A plan with several Rush Hours and All-Hands can defeat it soundly, though, so a cautious Corporation cannot play straight Psycho Tycho if it wants to maximize its chances for victory.
Greyhound Demolition Derby is another driving Corp. A Runner who doesn't have an Identity Donor in his or her starting hand, or an Emergency Self-Construct on the table at the end of his first turn, is likely dead. That forces the Runner to do some gymnastics for safety. But if the Runner takes either of these measures, the Demolition Derby falls flat and probably loses 0-10.
Our current philosophy is that the best Corp combines the best features of several top strategies. Being well-rounded and powerful is the key to success against the huge variety of Runner tricks, from All-Hands to Precision Bribery. So what are the key elements in the modern Corp?

Tagging and Hurting. Some powerful and surprising ways of giving tags are very important. We like to put a couple of copies of Fetch 4.0.1 in our ice mix; it is a great alternative to Filter in the early game. Of course there are the standard Blood Cat, Manhunt, and Data Sifters. We mustn't underestimate the power of the Omniscience Foundation. Its surprise effect can lay waste to careful Runner planning. Underworld Mole is always a great card. City Surveillance is a no-brainer, and there should be one in every deck.
What do we do with a tagged Runner? With Identity Donor and Emergency Self-Construct out there, meat damage is actually not a very good option. If we must try it, the best choices are Schlaghund (going for the kill), or Solo Squad (testing the Runner's defenses). On-Call Solo Team and Corporate Headhunters are nice to throw into the agenda mix if we can manage it, replacing Solo Squad.
Beyond meat damage, two cards are surprisingly strong. Closed Accounts is a near-win card if correctly timed. And the lowly Corporate Detective Agency can wipe out Runners with great economy. Either are a good addition. We don't recommend using more than eight cards tagging and hurting. It is an effective tool, but not reliable enough to be the main focus of our deck.

Card Access. This covers everything from drawing power to rearranging ice. Annual Reviews is still the weapon of choice, very difficult for the Runner to stop. The nodes Euromarket Consortium and ESA Contract can be trashed, and require many copies in R&D to assure early installation. Employee Empowerment is a great agenda for this purpose and should be considered for every Corp. It also meshes nicely with Annual Reviews. Off-Site Backups is essential, and perhaps one of the most powerful cards for the Corporation. Of all the cards that rearrange, swap, and move ice and installed nodes, upgrades and agendas, we can only recommend two. Lisa Blight is most useful but sadly often ignored, and of course, Dr. Dreff is a powerful and delightful employee.

Actions. We should play with Remote Facility, a single copy of Nevinyrral, and several Edgerunner, Inc., Temps. They are all powerful. Overtime Incentives is a bad card that should nearly always be replaced by Systematic Layoffs. Management Shake-up is rarely better than Project Consultants without a very specific plan. Among the nodes we should always use the very powerful Chicago Branch, but let us not neglect Vapor Ops. It can suck up actions but we get to keep our bits regardless if things go wrong. Pacifica Regional AI and Corporate Guard Temps require highly specialized plans, and the agendas that provide extra actions are generally horrible.

Bits. We are still firmly convinced that "bits are everything". Criminal Runner Dennis Duncan (of Bozomatic fame) might disagree, but in 99% of games, the player who gets mediocre to poor tools but has a lot of bits is the winner. So what is the best way for the Corporation to generate money?
There is no substitute for Accounts Receivable - we use many of them. Credit Consolidation is usually too hard to maintain, working just about half the time against a skilled Runner. That is not reliable enough. For nodes, we recommend the popular BBS Whispering Campaign and Department of Truth Enhancement (no surprise to experienced Corporations). On the Fast Track from Proteus can really ruin our Corporate day, so we must place a piece of ice on our node when we install it. Braindance Campaign is nice with Government Contract. We recommend a Contract in just about every Corp; it is a strong (although specific) bit engine. Information Laundering is more chancey than Vapor Ops but also pays off better. We play with one. Remember, advancing it twice and cashing it in (if installed on a previous turn as run bait) still generates a decent bit return. ACME Savings & Loan should always be included, even if there is no Tycho/Project Consultants combo: It is a huge and beautiful source of bits.

Tricks and Defenses. In no particular order, we should use: Bizarre Encryption Scheme, Red Herrings, Obfuscated Fortress, Tesseract Fort Construction, Rio de Janeiro City Grid, Panic Button, Siren, Roving Submarine, New Galveston City Grid, Viral Breeding Ground, and TRAP! The main idea is to install a node or upgrade that requires the Runner's immediate attention.

Ice. Play with Haunting Inquisition - lots of them. It is really hard to beat this ice. Cinderella is also extrememly good since base links are being ignored by so many Runners. Beyond that, look for Nerve Labyrinth, ice such as Marionette that delivers a powerful effect cheaply, and ice that affects the Runner in surprising ways, like Asp or Ball and Chain. We have discussed a few sentries with tracing routines here, but they are not recommended overall. We should be very sure we know what we are doing before we include any ice without an "end the run" subroutine. Defense is the key.

Agenda. Variety slows down our victory but gives us more power. The key is to keep the ratio of difficulty and agenda points is as close to 1:1 as possible. That means hardly any 4-difficulty agenda worth 2 points is worthwhile (Viral Breeding Ground, Political Coup). Stick with 4-difficulty agenda worth 3 points (plus the 4-point Tycho Extension) and 3-difficulty agenda worth 2 points (and the 3-point Corporate War). Beyond that, try to get effects and abilities that will power you to victory. Corporate Downsizing is a nice agendato solve problems and gain bits. Please Don't Choke Anyone, on the other hand, is useless.

Conclusion. There is no specific deck recipe here and none is intended. When we are building our best Corporation, we must think carefully about the way our cards interact with each other. We also have to consider all the Runner plans for ruining us. In the end, we arrive at a diverse and powerful set of cards that can handle any intrusion with a minimum of difficulty.

Good Luck!

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