"Elementary, My Dear Wilson!"
- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
by Jens Kreutzer (using material by Dennis Duncan)
When people start playing Netrunner, often the very first Runner strategy they try out is the "Clown stack". The
essential and archetypal thing a Runner must do in a game of Netrunner is run - people have pointed out jokingly
but accurately that the name of the game is Netrunner, not "Net-sit-on-your-butt". But running can become
prohibitively expensive quickly when the Corp starts building up deep ice layers.
An obvious solution to the problem is a suite of icebreakers that pay 0 bits to break an ice subroutine, classics being
Wild Card, Codecracker, and Jackhammer, among others. Richard Garfield has done an excellent job of balancing cards against
one another, however, and therefore each of these 'breakers comes with a drawback: Their strength is 0, or in cases apart
from the three mentioned above, at least not very high. Forward's Legacy from the Proteus expansion is potentially a big
exception but it is priced accordingly, with a 9-bits installation cost, and not very reliable if push comes to shove. And
Wild Card may truly be a killer card against weak sentries like Banpei, but paying 3 bits for each point of strength is
simply unfeasible in the long run (Cinderella costs Wild Card 18 bits to break!).
Enter a card that combines ideally with these icebreakers: Clown. Since multiple Clowns generate a cumulative effect,
having six or more installed makes running for free a breeze: Installed agendas are just an action away, and woe to the
Corp that faces a Clown-powered virus delivery stack. Clown decks, by the way, combine excellently with cards that provide
extra actions for running, such as Bodyweight Data Creche or Wilson, Weeflerunner Apprentice. But for all the
temptation of limitless free runs this strategy offers, it has one considerable drawback: It is slow.
A standard Clown setup requires three icebreakers, up to six Clowns, depending on the initial strength of the 'breakers,
and additional memory to accomodate all of them. Often, daemon programs are used, but memory chips may take their place.
The Runner also needs to get all of these cards into his or her hands and have the bits to pay for them - one Clown, at
four bits, being not exactly cheap to install. Pulling all of this off within an acceptable time frame has been called "the
circus act". Before all of the clowns have entered the ring for the show, however, the Corp can advance and score agendas
at its leisure, once it has established some basic protection for the important forts. Chances are that the Runner won't
have the bits to spend to get past substantial ice on short notice. Thus, although a standard Clown deck that does things
the slow way is a viable strategy, a Corp that realizes what is happening can cruise to victory before the Runner can do
anything about it.
Here, consummate deck designer Dennis Duncan enters the fray. In a consequent style unknown before his time, he maximized
the speed of the "circus act", constructing a stack that throws out cards like a relentless machine. Originally, Dennis
called his stack "Hyper Clown", but other players gave it the now well-known name "Bozomatic", after Bozo the Clown (a
character well known in America), and "automatic". Here's how Dennis managed to cut down on time needed for the complete
- maximize installing speed with Valu-Pak Software Bundle,
- maximize drawing speed with Jack 'n' Joe,
- dispense with bitgaining entirely by relying exclusively on Zetatech Software Installers.
Thus, his 50-card stack is almost all programs:
1 Wizard's Book
1 Wrecking Ball
1 Forward's Legacy
8 Zetatech Software Installers
2 Joan of Arc
1 Emergency Self-Construct
3 Viral Pipeline
12 Jack 'n' Joe
7 Valu-Pak Software Bundle
1 MIT West Tier
Dennis left the other players at the 1997 EUCON Netrunner tourney flabbergasted when he hit them hard with his
newest creation, finishing in first place in the Constructed-Deck event. When asked to make the details available to the
public afterwards, he did so and offered some advice for playing Bozomatic as well: "Ideally, you Jack 'n' Joe or draw in
the first three actions, and use Valu-Pak to install five cards on the fourth action. If things go well, the eight Zetatech
Software Installers provide enough bits to get everything installed without using the five bits you start the game with.
The only bits you need to spend are for the MIT and the things the Corp can make you do." MIT is used for refilling the
hand as a damage buffer when everything is set up to run. Depending on the luck of the draw, the whole "circus act" takes
between four and nine turns. Once everything is in place, the stack delivers three Pipe counters every turn to paralyze the
Corporation, which can only watch its R&D dwindle away - running is free for Bozomatic, after all, and the Viral Pipelines
take care of the rest. You can substitute any Virus you like; Dennis experimented with Armageddon, but Cascade or Scaldan
work as well.
Despite the awesome power of a fully unleashed Bozomatic stack, however, it is seen only occasionally in Constructed-Deck
play nowadays. There are several reasons for this. Although relatively fast in comparison to conventional Clown stacks,
Bozomatic still loses against speed Corp decks such as Psycho Tycho. Bozomatic is passive
in the early game - it's too dangerous to do much running - but the
only way for a Runner to beat Psycho Tycho is to be super-aggressive from the very start. When Bozomatic is ready at last
on turn eight, Psycho Tycho has already won. As well, Bozomatic is very vulnerable against damage, meat damage in particular.
Its only protection is the one Emergency Self-Construct. The vital icebreakers are present in just a single copy, and if
they and the MIT end up in the trash somehow, the Clowns can go packing. Furthermore, there are some "counter" cards for the
Corp that create real problems for a Bozomatic stack: Pattel Antibody and Antiquated Interface Routines effectively negate
Clown's benefit, and Crystal Palace Station Grid, as well as Rasmin Bridger, circumvent free icebreaking. With no bitgainers
whatsoever in the stack, the Runner has to waste actions taking bits from the bank one at a time to finance a run on a fort
in the Crystal Palace. Even a single Homing Missile with strength 8 might save the Corp: Normally, the Runner expects Ice
with a maximum strength of 6. Last not least: Rio de Janeiro City Grid in a huge fort can frustrate a Clown stack, as might
one of the rarely-seen Newsgroup Taunting decks. Playing with Bozomatic can bring overwhelming success, but it's always a
[Daniel's comments][Neal's comments to Daniel's comments]
[Previous Famous Deck]
[Next Famous Deck]