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"Elementary, My Dear Wilson!"
- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#7: ASD/Corp War

by Jens Kreutzer

The three difficulty-reducing agendas Artificial Security Directors (ASD), Executive Extraction and Genetics-Visionary Acquisition have always tickled a Corp player's fancy, since they get around a restriction that is inherent to Netrunner: Normally, an agenda cannot be installed and scored in one turn, since its difficulty is at least 3 - barring "fast-advance" approaches like Systematic Layoffs or Chicago Branch. Unlike Washington City Grid and the three corresponding Proteus(TM) upgrades, which have a similar effect, the speed granted by these agendas cannot be neutralized by trashing. Once scored, they let the Corp player bang through a 3-difficulty agenda in one turn, without having to fear any Runner interference for the rest of the game. Of course, attention must be given to the keywords Research, Gray Ops, and Black Ops, as appropriate.

Deck designs built around this neat effect abound, but the two that are the most famous are the "Golden Loop" deck and ASD/Corp War. The former has the more consequent philosophy, using six copies of each difficulty-reducing agenda, which can lead to astounding results, since the effects are cumulative. Games with agendas of modified difficulty 0 are not unheard-of (you still need to install them to score them, however).

In contrast, ASD/Corp War shies away from the prospect of including 18 agendas in a 45-card deck (40% agenda ratio), concentrating on an optimized, minimized ratio instead. ASD, Executive Extraction and Genetics-Visionary Acquisition work best with 3-difficulty agendas, though, so the choice is rather limited if we want to cram as many agenda points as possible onto one card. Corporate War is the only 3-difficulty agenda worth 3 agenda points and quickly suggests the ideal combination of ASD/Corp War. With the popular selection of five Corporate War and three ASD in a 45-card deck, we can whittle down the agenda ratio to 17,8%, greatly reducing the Runner's odds of getting hold of our sensitive data.

Ideally, we would like to score an ASD early on, so that two single-turn Corp Wars can then win the game. Unfortunately, with only three copies of it in the deck, the chances of drawing and scoring an ASD early on are not too good. More often than not, ASD will turn up as the second or third agenda, or not at all. Because of this risk, it is advisable to include multiple copies of Systematic Layoffs as a backup. Though rather expensive, they greatly help with scoring the one ASD we need, and also with Corp Wars that have to be waged without the help of Artificial Security Directors.

Ice selection and bit-gaining are more or less standard fare, with an endless number of possible approaches. Note, however, the reduced need for subsidiary data forts due to our strategy of "fast-advancing" agendas, and that the huge bit influx generated by a Corporate War that is "won" (scored with at least 12 bits in our pool) can make heavy-caliber ice feasible. With the support of ASD, scoring a Corp War only costs 2 bits, which makes it comparatively easy to "win" it.

The following is my own version of an ASD/Corp War deck, focusing on the main concept without too much fancy stuff. To increase the chance of drawing the first ASD when we need it, additional drawing power (Annual Reviews) and additional R&D control (Planning Consultants, Corporate Shuffle, Strategic Planning Group) could replace some of the ice and bit-gainer cards.

    3 Artificial Security Directors
    5 Corporate War
    5 Annual Reviews
    5 Systematic Layoffs
    10 Accounts Receivable
    1 Edgerunner, Inc., Temps
    1 Underworld Mole
    3 Filter
    2 Mazer
    1 Haunting Inquisition
    4 Data Wall
    1 Rock Is Strong
    1 Banpei
    1 Asp
    1 Cinderella
    1 Colonel Failure

Edgerunner, Inc., Temps and Underworld Mole are last resorts against virus stacks and Preying Mantis/Poisoned Water Supply; they can easily be replaced by Annual Reviews and Systematic Layoffs, for example, since including only one of each is unlikely to make a difference anyway. The ice selection is varied (very weak and very strong ice of all three kinds) to present obstacles for the Runner during the beginning as well as the end of the game. Personal preference may well dictate other combinations.

A more streamlined version of ASD/Corp War is the following by Yves Savonet from Liege, Belgium. He designed it specifically for the new Restricted environment and played a modified version (see below) in the French Open 2000 in Paris:

    3 Artificial Security Directors
    5 Corporate War
    7 Annual Reviews
    6 Systematic Layoffs
    10 Efficiency Experts
    4 Filter
    4 Roadblock
    2 Haunting Inquisition
    4 Data Wall

The main differences are Efficiency Experts as bitgainers (more reliable if a Corp War is "lost") and the lack of stronger ice (just two Hauntings) for any endgame that might ensue. As Yves points out, the main issue is whether ASD/Corp War will be able to be an effective substitute for Psycho Tycho in the Restricted environment. ASD/Corp War's problem is that it must score three agendas to win, and - as fast as it may be in doing this - it usually is not fast enough to baffle tourney-level Runner stacks by speed alone. It takes seven or eight turns more often than not, although a "perfect" game could be won in five turns. That being said, it is almost impossible to outrun a Mantis/Poisoned stack, which finishes in four or five turns. Yves notes that the first two agendas are not difficult to get through; it is the third that poses difficulties.

It would appear that ASD/Corp War is just a tiny bit too slow to win against dedicated no-run, speed Runner decks like Mantis/Poisoned, and that it is quite vulnerable to a number of common Runner strategies: Once set up, multi-access with Rush Hour and the like or R&D control with Microtech AI Interface/R&D Protocol Files will snatch away agendas before we can draw them. Ice destruction can also be quite effective against ASD/Corp War because it gets going right away. Any virus stack with a punch (Scaldan comes to mind) that seriously threatens HQ is also dangerous. Only stacks, like Big Dig or Bozomatic, that take a while to set up will usually be outrun by ASD/Corp War. Finally, Corporate War has a disastrous Achilles heel: Terrorist Reprisal, which is becoming ever more popular with Runners these days.

To counter multi-access, or early runs with Rent-I-Con, Yves exchanged four Annual Reviews with four Simon Francisco in the French Open, with moderate success. Holger Janssen has suggested including more copies of ASD than the standard trio (at least 5) to ensure drawing one early on. Although this waters down the agenda ratio, it is a good idea for stressing the speed of ASD/Corp War, which is its main aspect after all. Alternatively, Holger thought about including 4 to 6 anti-Runner cards (like 3 Manhunt and 3 Schlaghund) as a surprise, since most Runners won't expect this after seeing the first ASD.

Generally, the following hints seem to make the most of ASD/Corp War. First, by all means, be flexible. A lot depends on whether the first agenda you score is ASD (best case), a Corp War that is "won" (good as well, since it allows for decent ice protection), or a Corp War that is "lost" (worst case). If all goes well, minimal ice might be enough to hold off the Runner until victory. If we struggle with bit-gaining and card-drawing a lot, we should prepare for a longer game and set up some defenses. Also consider holding off a Corp War you can score out of hand, gaining bits until it can be "won".

Try to guess our opponent's strategy early on. With Top Runners' Conferences hitting the table, we should not bother with ice but just push through agendas as fast as possible. When facing ice destruction, fortifying HQ and Archives might be advisable, even if it slows us down a lot. With a fair number of ice cards, lots of bits and no need for subforts (which thin out our ice defenses), we might shut the Runner out for good. Against R&D control, put two or at most three pieces of ice in front of R&D and hope for the best, but select the ice wisely for maximum deterrence (Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker just begs for Mazer or Roadblock, for example, whereas Data Wall is not so hot). Creating subforts for advancing agenda the "slow way" is usually not in the plan, but in a pinch, it might also be an option - especially if Precision Bribery rears its ugly head, or no-run stacks make Systematic Layoffs (and its overhead) redundant.

Mind you, ASD/Corp War is anything but a weak deck, and with just 3 essential rare cards, it is above all a good option for new players. However, it apparently is not dominating the Restricted tourney scene as much as some had expected it to - which we should be glad about, since nobody sheds a single tear for the demise of Psycho Tycho.

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