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- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#9: The World Would Swing If I Were King

by Jens Kreutzer
Support by Frisco Del Rosario, Christophe Mambourg and Jennifer Clarke Wilkes

"Hey - if I score this, I win!"

    - Player getting a sneak preview of Proteus cards while running against one of the Netrunner game designers.

With the Proteus expansion, Political Overthrow was dethroned as the most prestigious agenda in the Corp player's arsenal, and with it went the tacit law that said: A Corp has to score at least two agendas to win. Along came the mother of all agendas, pinnacle of Corporate ambition - World Domination, possibly the most sought-after card in the game of Netrunner. With a breath-taking difficulty of 12, World Domination takes five turns to be scored "by hand", but wins the game for the Corp in the selfsame instant with its yield of 7 agenda points. In contrast to this, the Runner would have to steal three World Dominations to win, since he or she only ever gets the 3 agenda points printed on the card.

When Proteus came out in 1996, World Domination was regarded with awe and eagerness, but initially people thought it impossible to build a viable deck with it - although the three agenda points on the card make for an excellent 6-in-45 deckbuilding ratio. More than a few thought that this card was meant to be a joke by the Wizards design team (which might indeed be true). Quite possibly surprising the designers, and most surely surprising the other players, Frisco Del Rosario wrote Netrunner history with his deck creation that came to be known as "The World Would Swing If I Were King" (after the song by Tom Petty). He got first place with it at the SiliCon Netrunner tournament held at Sunnyvale, California, in 1996.

Frisco won further fame when his deck was published in Wizards' now-defunct The Duelist magazine. This article is based to a great extent on what was written in Duelist #18 (August 1997), as well as on what Frisco posted to the Netrunner-l mailing list on December 27, 1997. Somebody - probably Frisco himself - is reported to have said, "All I have to do is get 12 advancement counters on this card - what could be easier?"

So, how do you do it?

Well, not surprisingly, it comes down to fast-advancement cards that can speed this dreadnought-class agenda along a little bit. With one Overtime Incentives, three Project Consultants, and 40 bits, even World Domination (WD) can be scored out of hand. Accumulating that many bits while maintaining a reasonable defense against the Runner, however, is a daunting proposition. Therefore, the Corp starts off by aggressively advancing a WD right into the Runner's face early in the game, in a subfort with just superficial ice. If the agenda survives in the subfort for one turn, the ever-increasing number of advancement counters makes for good bluffing, since ambush nodes tend to accumulate counters in just the same way. If the Runner leaves WD alone long enough for the Corp to score it (either the slow way, or, more likely, with parts of the Overtime Incentives/Project Consultants combination which are affordable at the time), that is an ideal-case scenario.

Frisco's great achievement was that he found a way of turning the all-too-likely event of losing a partially-advanced WD (normally almost as bad in terms of wasted bits/actions as in terms of losing 3 agenda points to the Runner) into an advantage. Few people had ever given Silver Lining Recovery Protocol a second glance before, since it seems unwise to play with a card that has an effect only if the Corp loses an agenda (normally something the Corp would prevent at all costs), but it really excels when combined with World Domination. If a WD with five counters on it (i. e., it just has to "survive" one Runner turn) gets stolen, playing three Silver Linings in the following Corp turn yields an astonishing 45 bits. If there are seven counters, just two Silver Linings grant 42 bits, enough to pay for all four of the winning fast-advancement cards!

The following is a version of The World Would Swing that slightly differs from the one printed in The Duelist; it reflects two revisions Frisco made afterwards.

    6 World Domination
    3 Project Consultants
    1 Overtime Incentives
    3 Silver Lining Recovery Protocol
    2 Efficiency Experts
    6 Accounts Receivable
    1 Edgerunner, Inc., Temps
    1 Euromarket Consortium
    1 BBS Whispering Campaign
    1 Virus Test Site
    2 Red Herrings
    1 Bizarre Encryption Scheme
    1 Chester Mix
    1 New Galveston City Grid
    1 Rio de Janeiro City Grid
    2 Quandary
    3 Scramble
    3 Crystal Wall
    2 Data Wall 2.0
    4 Shock.r
The earlier version had an additional Edgerunner, Inc., Temps and one Credit Consolidation, which got dumped for the sixth Accounts Receivable and the second Efficiency Experts, making bit-gaining somewhat more reliable. Since Silver Lining is intended for the endgame, bit-gainer operations and a BBS Whispering Campaign as a backup are included to pay for ice, advancement counters, and eventually fast-advancement operations. Having only three each of Project Consultants and Silver Lining (and only one Overtime Incentives!) seems a bit tight, but since the other cards are all very important, too, there is not much room for redundancy. Plus, too many Silver Linings tend to end up as dead weight. The Corp had better expect a long game or on-the-spot improvisations of the fast-advancement scheme, though.

Euromarket Consortium helps when HQ gets crammed and vital cards don't turn up fast enough; with its high trash cost, it can be installed in the open. The job of most of the rest of the cards is to defend the one agenda subfort. The ice is very cheap and saves on bits but was chosen to be comparatively hard on Codecracker, Skeleton Passkeys, and Jackhammer, icebreakers that were often encountered in tournaments at that time. Frisco mused about using Too Many Doors instead of Shock.r; the ice selection doesn't really matter that much as long it is cheap but cost-efficient. It seems like one could fare better with fewer walls in the mix, for example. Bizarre Encryption Scheme and Red Herrings, along with New Galveston, make things harder for the Runner and buy time for further advancement counters, whereas Chester Mix and Edgerunner help with installing deeper ice layers on the subfort as the game progresses (or, in the latter case, also quelling virus counters). Incidentally, the central data forts should normally get no more than one or two pieces of ice.

Rio de Janeiro could be nice in the late game (earlier, New Galveston is preferable), but Frisco himself remarked, "[V]ery few games are running long enough for Rio to be effective. For that reason, I'm considering swapping Rio out for another piece of ice or another Herrings." The BBS Whispering Campaign was intended to ease the way back to the 5-bit ceiling of Accounts Receivable -though the 2 bits per action are nice, it can use up a lot of actions better spent in other ways. There is nothing wrong with installing Whispering Campaign in the open, but Frisco said in his email that it best functions as a decoy installed in the iced subfort, although it then might end up blocking the space that should be used by World Dominations being advanced as fast as possible.

A final touch of devilish elegance completes the picture: Virus Test Site. The Corp wants the Runner to access this card from HQ or R&D to make him or her believe that our World Domination is an ambush, hopefully giving our subfort a wide berth afterwards. The one Net damage it does is perhaps trifling, but sometimes might nick a vital card, slowing down the Runner. If push comes to shove, the Corp might change its plans and actually install and advance Virus Test Site - if the Runner has no detection cards handy, this could be our only chance to win in some hopeless situations.

As far as tactics go in playing The World Would Swing, so much can be said: Never digress much from the primary goal of advancing WD. Everything else is secondary. A lot depends on bluffing the Runner: On the one hand, the Corp would like the Runner to hesitate out of fear of a Virus Test Site; on the other hand, it must keep the Runner in the dark about how many more turns are needed to score. To this end, all fast-advancement cards must be held back until they can win the game - there is no point in giving our intentions away early. Frisco advises: "The fun in this deck is learning all the bit/card combinations for Project Consultants and Overtime Incentives. For example, 8 bits plus Overtime puts the Corp in range when the agenda is advanced eight times (while the Runners sometimes don't fret until the ninth advancement counter is placed). Nineteen bits plus Overtime and Project Consultants wins when the agenda is advanced just five times (Overtime, three advancements, Consult)."

It must be admitted, however, that The World Would Swing might encounter some problems in top-level tournaments. First, it is always an all-or-nothing game, since the Corp either scores 7 agenda points or none, which doesn't sit well with the score sheet. Further, the deck doesn't have any strong defenses - most tournament-level Runner stacks have bit engines that let their breakers steamroll over ice like Crystal Wall. Even if the opponent shuns the subfort for fear of a Virus Test Site, a quickly-set-up R&D-attack strategy might outrun the Corp. Plus, considering the weak ice, the Corp is very vulnerable to virus stacks (though Edgerunner might come in handy), ice-destruction and bit-denial. In any case, a smart Runner will harrass HQ and R&D, stealing agenda and trashing upgrades, and run the subfort at the last possible moment.

But Frisco points out the strong points of the strategy as follows: "The deck is exceptionally fast. When fast advancement operations are not used to win the game - that is, when the first World Domination goes down and the Corporation merely advances it twelve times - the deck wins in seven or eight turns. Rob King once called it 'the ultimate speed deck'. One of the deck's points, after all, is that the Corporation only needs to draw, install, and advance one agenda - no need to draw, install, and advance two or three or four." This is a best-case scenario though, and when we assume that the Runner steals the first WD and that the second has to be fast-advanced, the speed level drops somewhat. The downside to the deck's legendary status is that Runners get suspicious much earlier nowadays when they see a card being advanced like crazy.

Therefore, if you manage the impossible and collect six World Dominations (Silver Lining Recovery Protocol is much easier to trade for), maybe you should still not risk getting beaten to a pulp at the next Constructed. But definetely try out this legend of a Netrunner deck at home (where you can use proxies, too)! Once more in the words of Frisco: "This deck is just full of big moments - 22 Net damage here, 81-bit Silver Lining Recoveries there, going from 0 agenda points to 7 in one turn."

That is not the end of the story, however. Recently, other decks have made themselves shown that are also based on six World Dominations. Frank Gerolstein has designed a deck that dispenses with ice altogether and uses TRAP! as a deterrent; it exploits Chicago Branch and Pacifica Regional AI for advancement and also features meat-damage cards. This makes for a diverse, promising cocktail. The other way of getting away with WD is using a Rio de Janeiro City Grid/Siren approach, in which agendas can be advanced in the open while the Runner has to deal with the Siren fort. Richard Cripe posted a deck of this kind to Netrunner-l on January 26, 2001. These strategies might be discussed in future installments of Famous Netrunner Stacks.

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