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Netrunner's Rebirth:
The State of Affairs

by Zvi Mowshowitz

It looked like everything was ready. I would get the contract in the next week, and had been told this flat out. I had an offer to print the cards that I could work with. There was a ton of playtesting and other work to do, but things were in place. What I didn't realize was just how badly organized WotC really is. Don't get me wrong - they are great guys, but less than reliable. If it were another company I would actually be worried, but everyone I talk to who has worked with them tells me that the delays should come as no surprise. People I know well have told me not to lose sleep over it. Once it became clear that it would be impossible to make this year's convention season, and given the WotC plan to release three new games (and of course Magic: The Gathering - Odyssey) later in 2001, it made a lot of sense to wait for next year.

While the legal requirements are in a weird sort of limbo, I am repeatedly told that we have an agreement - they are simply too busy to make it legal, and until then I can't do much for obvious reasons. So I'm spending my time on set and card design. That should be the most important thing. There are big theoretical issues, and I have spent endless hours talking with friends on the Pro Tour and with members of R&D, including Mark Rosewater, Skaff Elias and Randy Buehler. Not suprisingly, they push a strategy very similar to that of Magic, with a wide variety of card quality: a hand-picked subset that is worthwhile in Constructed alongside obviously bad cards for new players to recognize. I still can't find anyone who knows Netrunner who agrees with that approach. To a small extent, though, WotC R&D has a point. I no longer believe that every single card in a set should come out looking strong. Instead, I'm giving players an expensive way to do something they may need to do in strange situations. A current example would be a card that allows the Corp to rez its ice when it otherwise couldn't do so. I want it for thematic reasons, knowing full well that without giving it a side effect it won't get played.

Meanwhile, other questions come up about which strategies to help and which to target. One player thinks Big Dig is dangerously strong, one thinks it's worthless. More fundamental to me is what kind of Constructed decks we want The modest proposal is to try and force players to stop playing Magic and instead play Netrunner.

Powerful Constructed decks create games that look little to nothing like Limited play. There are Runners who don't run, Corps that almost never create a permanent subsidiary data fort. Having a wide variety of decks is obviously good for the game, but the aim is to do for Netrunner what the Invasion block did for Magic: Force players to return to the core of the game, the part that made us play in the first place, and quit trying to play all this solitaire.

In the short run, my goal is to assemble a version of the new set for playtesting, so I am releasing card ideas a few at a time. More often than not there is healthy discussion afterwards, even heated arguments, pointing to "broken" first and second turns or quick setups. This hasn't yet generated enough real decklists and playtesting games, but that can come later. In summary, I have had to push back my timetable to conform with the realities of the situation, but hopefully we can get it right.

You can join Zvi's discussion group and catch the latest developments at the following URL:

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