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"Elementary, My Dear Wilson!"
- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#12: TagMe

by Jens Kreutzer
with support by Mark Applin and Byron "Neal" Massey
using material by Mark Applin and Wyatt Cheng

"Some cards in Netrunner will give you extra power at a cost. This cost is often the Corp giving you tags. By combining these cards, you can reap all the benefits, but the cost stays the same: tags."
- Wyatt Cheng

The label "TagMe" doesn't really stand for a specific Runner stack; it rather stands for a general framework that is characteristic enough for qualifying as a Netrunner deck archetype, but still accomodates quite a lot of strategy variations. The main idea behind and the defining element of TagMe stacks is the following: Though Runners would normally do everything they can to avoid receiving tags, the TagMe approach consciously accumulates lots of tags (mainly as a result of using certain powerful cards) without the intent of getting rid of them - this of course means that watertight precautions must be made in order to avoid a devastating Corporate retaliation. It is as if the Runner was actively taunting the Corp, along the lines of, "Here I am, now what are you going to do about it?".

Wyatt Cheng is probably the progenitor of the TagMe approach, and we will, in the course of this article, listen to some of his insights first posted to the netrunner-l newsgroup on January 29, 1997. This is one of his comments on TagMe in general:

"TagMe decks are the antithesis of the Loan-from-Chiba decks. Whereas the Loan-from-Chiba bit engine used the massive surges of bits to set up massive tag defense and then power fast, powerful runs, the TagMe decks use cards which are otherwise unuseful because they give tags and set up defenses against Corp measures against tags.
Loan from Chiba: Get a tag and you're dead.
TagMe: Give yourself tags and stay alive."

TagMe stacks usually have the following points in common:

  • Most importantly, they use Drone for a Day as their main bit engine. As a tradeoff for yielding one more bit than Score!, multiple Drones eventually let the number of tags rise into double digits. Since this card hails from the Proteus expansion, TagMe stacks have been around rougly as long Proteus.

  • Since resources would get trashed anyway, TagMe stacks never use any.

  • A heavy protection against incoming meat damage is a must in TagMe stacks. Cards that see frequent use in this respect include Armored Fridge, Full-Body Conversion, Dermatech Bodyplating, Emergency Self-Construct, Identity Donor, or most of the time, a combination thereof.

  • Since tags are going to be amassed in ridiculous numbers because of the Drones anyway, other preps like Edited Shipping Manifests, Demolition Run or Remote Detonator can be used without restraint. They frequently make an appearance in TagMe stacks.

  • For the same reason, MS-todon is an icebreaker choice that might be considered.

So, the strong points of TagMe are a solid sentry icebreaker choice, supported by the ample bit supply, next to some heavy artillery like Remote Detonator in the arsenal. Such a prep-heavy bitgaining scheme needs a powerful draw engine, which will most likely feature Bodyweight Synthetic Blood and some MIT West Tiers. A few Zetatech Portastations can be a worthwhile addition. This, plus the various card slots usually needed for a watertight meat damage prevention, take up a lot of deck space, and therefore, the problem area of TagMe stacks is probably their lean "winning kit": Often, there simply isn't much space left for sophisticated schemes. Since resources cannot be used for obvious reasons, that leaves programs (like a virus or two), hardware (perhaps an R&D Interface), and preps (Custodial Position, for example), as well as combinations thereof - the possibilities are manifold, if limited in scope.

Back in 1997, long before the release of Classic, Wyatt Cheng posted what was perhaps the first TagMe incarnation to the netrunner-l. Though a bit unfocused, it has a strong theme for its winning strategy:

    Proto-TagMe (HQ attack, 46 cards)

    8 Drone for a Day
    4 Edited Shipping Manifests
    9 Bodyweight Synthetic Blood
    2 MIT West Tier
    1 Militech MRAM Chip
    1 Skeleton Passkeys
    1 Jackhammer
    1 Big Frackin' Gun
    1 Succubus
    1 Emergency Self-Construct
    1 Taxman
    1 Crumble
    1 Enterprise, Inc., Shields
    2 Self-Modifying Code
    1 Bodyweight Data Creche
    3 Armored Fridge
    1 Full-Body Conversion
    1 Gideon's Pawnshop
    3 Organ Donor
    3 Remote Detonator

It's the Organ Donors that don't really seem to fit the TagMe theme, but then, with nine Bodyweight Synthetic Blood, the Runner will draw quite a lot of cards. Wyatt's attack strategy is an HQ-virus strategy - he pointed out the synergy between HQ viri and Edited Shipping Manifests (which let the Runner drop a virus counter even if no cards from HQ are actually accessed): "One of my favourite tatics is to have an HQ virus in play, and use Edited Shipping Manifests. Use the 10 bits gained to Remote-Detonator, and then run normally." This still holds true today if you plan on including some Manifests in your stack. However, as we will see, focusing exclusively on Drone for a Day is mostly how it is done nowadays.

Let's leave the history books behind and look at a rather generic example of a "modern", "pure" TagMe stack (i. e., no non-TagMe way of bitgaining). The following stack is by myself, but it unfortunately tends to lose a lot - it's listed here mainly for the sake of the argument. We will subsequently look at ways of improving on "modern" TagMe strategy.

    Generic TagMe (mainly HQ attack)

    13 Drone for a Day
    1 Edited Shipping Manifests
    8 Bodyweight Synthetic Blood
    1 MIT West Tier
    1 Militech MRAM Chip
    1 Raffles
    1 Pile Driver
    1 MS-todon
    1 Emergency Self-Construct
    1 Shredder Uplink Protocol
    1 Vienna 22
    1 Enterprise, Inc., Shields
    2 Zetatech Mem Chip
    1 R&D Interface
    1 Zetatech Portastation
    3 Armored Fridge
    2 Full-Body Conversion
    1 Dermatech Bodyplating
    3 Temple Microcode Outlet
    1 Remote Detonator

What possibilities are there for Runners trying to make the best of the TagMe strategy in a post-Classic environment? Basically, TagMe means needing a clumsy apparatus of draw power, bit-generating preps and meat damage protection as a tradeoff for having lots of bits to spend freely. This is illustrated by my stack above. In order to tweak this approach for creating a tournament-worthy stack, players have tried to cut down on the number of cards that crowd the slots needed for a winning strategy, as well as costing lots of actions to implement. There are two main ways of doing this:

  • While MS-todon is cool, it means you also will have to use two other breakers for code gates and walls (e. g., Raffles and Pile Driver). Swallowing up three card slots and 3 MU for a breaker suite is not so cool when Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker and Joan of Arc only need two of each. Bartmoss' drawback of being really expensive against certain kinds of ice is partially balanced by TagMe's bit abundance. Therefore, though sadly lacking in variety, lots of TagMe stacks sport the ubiquitous Joan/Bartmoss combo.

  • Another area that lends itself to "downsizing" is the protection against meat damage. Though it's cool to lay down one Full-Body Conversion and Dermatech Bodyplating after the other (and for zero installation cost), you need a lot of them to really make this work. There is one (perhaps overpowered) card in the game that shuts down all meat damage just by itself: Emergency Self-Construct. To use this program as the sole protection rather than as a last-ditch fallback surely is a possibility. Losing an action per turn is harsh, but many Runners gladly take the risk of encountering a Tag'n'Bag deck for whittling down their anti-meat damage card slots to just one!

Here is a TagMe stack built and utilized in various tournaments by UK Runner Mark Applin. Its winning strategy is, obviously, multi-access preps.


    14 Drone for a Day
    8 Bodyweight Synthetic Blood
    2 MIT West Tier
    1 Militech MRAM Chip
    2 Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker
    2 Joan of Arc
    1 Emergency Self-Construct
    1 Enterprise, Inc., Shields
    5 Self-Modifying Code
    6 Rush Hour
    2 All-Hands
    1 Remote Detonator

This deck simply relies on Emergency Self-Construct for meat-damage protection. In Mark's words: "Even if the Corp does manage to 'kill' you, the deck is still fast enough to win most games. Otherwise, just Rush-Hour R&D until you win." Here, instead of the three slots in my stack, there are eight slots for the "winning kit". Plus, Mark's stack sets up much more quickly, since with just one Bartmoss or Self-Modifying Code, the Runner can start running with relative confidence. At this point, only Joan of Arc and Emergency Self-Construct are missing to complete the whole setup. Note, however, that the Enterprise, Inc., Shields make both stacks illegal for Revised Constructed tournaments. They should best be replaced with Force Shield or Skullcap.

Next to multi-access and virus disruption (Vienna 22, Crumble, etc.), TagMe also lends itself to a Bad Publicity approach. Though not as foolproof as Emergency Self-Construct, Identity Donor can also hold its ground as a sole insurance against meat damage, while contributing tremendously to the Bad Publicity strategy. The following stack is also by Mark Applin.

    TagMe/Bad Publicity

    15 Drone for a Day
    8 Bodyweight Synthetic Blood
    3 MIT West Tier
    1 Militech MRAM Chip
    3 Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker
    3 Joan of Arc
    2 Self-Modifying Code
    2 Scaldan
    1 Shredder Uplink Protocol
    5 Identity Donor
    1 Remote Detonator
    1 Bodyweight Data Creche

Note that Scaldan is Unique under the Revised Constructed Rules. In Mark's own words again: "Just run HQ and dump Scaldan counters. If it gets expensive, you can drop Shredder and detonate the HQ ice."

While TagMe stacks can be reasonably strong in the Constructed tournament environment, there are some cards that severely disrupt them or even shut them down. For once, it is not City Surveillance that is the most dangerous threat for a strategy depending on Bodyweight Synthetic Blood - quite the contrary: the more tags, the merrier. No, the most dangerous card is Closed Accounts, since there is absolutely no defense against it, and the bit engine only works as long as the "bottom line" of the 4 bits in pool needed to play a Drone is not crossed. With Classic adding Street Enforcer and Shock Treatment to the anti-TagMe arsenal, Mark went as far as to retire his two decks (which are both pre-Classic). Sure enough, at least Closed Accounts has shown up in Corp players' decks as a metagame reaction to TagMe stacks.

Still, all is not lost. Some considerations on post-Classic TagMe tech come to mind: First, it is not unknown for TagMe stacks to include one or more copies of Total Genetic Retrofit to get rid of all tags in a pinch. This might be a way of circumventing (and hopefully trashing) Street Enforcers and Shock Treatment.

Second, Classic has not only hurt TagMe, but also helped it along by adding Zetatech Portastation to the mix. While Closed Accounts will always be a painful experience, having four Portastations installed negates the long rebuilding phase needed to get back up to the "bottom line" for Drone for a Day. Plus, since a lot of bits are invested in the 'Stations, there might be less left in the pool to be lost to Closed Accounts. Also, if the Runner bases his or her winning strategy on preps like Rush Hour and Remote Detonator (not to mention Bodyweight Synthetic Blood), the Portastations will probably be worth the investment. Of course, another card to look out for would then be Power Grid Overload ...

Good luck with your TagMe experiments - I'm sure that the last word has not yet been spoken on this solid, manifold and fun Runner strategy, though Wyatt sure gave it a shot:

"So what can the Corp do to you when you have tags?
- Give you more tags: Ha!
- Meat damage: Armoured Fridges, Emergency Self-Construct, Full-Body Conversion, MRAM Chips.
- Powergrid Overload: Cybernetics in the form of MRAM Chips and Full-Body Conversion.
- Trash resources: Don't play with resources.
- Closed Accounts: Cry. And draw 4 bits."

- Wyatt Cheng, January 29, 1997

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