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- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#15: Rio/Siren

by Jens Kreutzer
using material by Felix Borchers, Frederic Garnier, and Erwin Wagner
with input by Daniel Schneider
with support by Gilles Delcourt, Derek Evans and Patrice Gross

"Also, does anyone else find the Rio de Janeiro City Grid upgrade fantastic?"
- Russell Mirabelli, May 17, 1996

"Kein Verlass auf Rio!" ("You can't depend on Rio!")
- Jens Kreutzer, at various occasions

Rio de Janeiro City Grid, I think it is safe to say, has been a favorite with Corp players since Day One - if the above remark by Russell Mirabelli just one month after the release of Netrunner is any indication of the mood back then. Rio's ability is random, of course, and it normally won't actually come into play all that often, but ending a run without giving the Runner any chance of averting this fate is a very powerful effect. Even the vague chance of Rio rolling a one will put the Runner's calculations off and disrupt his or her plans considerably. Cheap to install but almost prohibitively expensive to trash, Rio doesn't need much in the line of protection, fits into almost any Corp deck (save iceless ones) and is almost sure to annoy the Runner quite a bit.

That said, the following statement I like to quote whenever I face Rio in a game of Netrunner is also true: "You cannot depend on Rio to stop the Runner on that one game-deciding run." Due to its random nature, the Corp can never be sure that Rio will really kick the Runner out if push comes to shove, and therefore, in a normal Corp deck, it is best seen as a way of occasionally draining the Runner's bit pool (preferrably by rolling a one after the innermost piece of ice and thereby forcing another run). However, in order to turn Rio into a veritable weapon, players have been building dedicated Rio decks for a long time.

Obviously, the deeper the ice on a datafort is, the greater is the chance of Rio rolling a one. The way to do this is to concentrate on one big datafort and leave the others lightly protected or unprotected. Though the gut feeling that six pieces of ice should guarantee an end-the-run effect by Rio is proven wrong by statistics (the chance is approximately 66.5%), two-thirds of the time is nonetheless where is starts to get interesting. Now, in the days before Proteus was released, players had to take the risk of leaving their other forts unprotected and just build one big Rio fort. This could either be an SDF to score their agendas in, or (more often) R&D, to protect upcoming agendas (and then fast-advancing them directly from HQ). The latter strategy, rather potent in its day, was first formulated by Glenn Elliott (May 29, 1996), who later wrote an article on the Rio/Siren strategy in the Duelist (Feb 1997 issue, p. 75).

There are some tricks in the Basic Set (v1.0) for enhancing such a Rio fort: First of all, mainly cheap ice should be used, because ice installation costs will be steep enough on their own, and the ice must be rezzed in order for Rio to have any effect. Candidates that come to mind are Filter, Data Wall, Shock.r, Ball and Chain, and many others. However, some cards are particularly suited for Rio forts: Vacuum Link can loop the Runner back if unbroken, letting the Corp roll some more for Rio (combo posted on May 3, 1996). Chester Mix is a staple whenever big forts are constructed. Edgerunner, Inc., Temps speeds up installation considerably. Tesseract Fort Construction might be worth a thought as well.

These kinds of Rio decks were around even before Proteus arrived on the scene. But when it did in September 1996, the Rio strategy was supercharged. For one, payback ice made building ridiculously large forts much easier. For example, if you use only Snowbanks, the bits generated by rezzing them will pay for Rio plus a six-piece deep ice defense! But most importantly, Siren saw the light of day, and it became fast friends with Rio. Because of Siren's ability to redirect runs from other dataforts to a big Rio SDF, where the Runner is hopefully kicked out of Netspace by Rio before Siren can be trashed, all other forts are suddenly safe, even without any ice. In fact, a successful Rio/Siren deck won't flinch at advancing heavy-caliber agendas like Political Overthrow or even World Domination out in the open, which is the ultimate taunt for the Runner. (To be on the safe side, using Vapor Ops is also an option, but it takes up a valuable card slot.)

So, how can the Corp guarantee that the Siren fort won't be breached? The answer is that there is no guarantee because of the random nature of Rio, but with a fort that is big enough, the Runner won't be able to get through very often in the course of one game. When this happens, another Siren must be installed (perhaps with Off-site Backups). The Corp might very well lose an agenda in such a situation, which cannot be helped. But if the next Siren is installed right away, chances for winning the game are still high. Of course, in an ideal game, the Runner will never get through to the Siren, but don't depend on that, since Runners are a persistent bunch.

As we have seen from the Snowbank example above, Rio forts tend to get really big in post-Proteus Rio decks, with twelve pieces of ice being a reasonable aim and even more not unheard of. Rather than taking their chances on such a monstrosity, Runners might try another way of getting around Siren. One weakness of Siren is that redirecting runs costs one bit. In the likely case that the Corp's bit pool is strained from installing and rezzing ice, the Runner might just make three or four runs on another fort in a row (or even more with the help of, say, Wilson, Weeflerunner Apprentice), costing the Corp one bit for activating Siren each time. The Runner won't break the outermost piece of ice of the Rio fort if it's harmless or else will just jack out right after it, waiting till the Corp cannot afford activating Siren anymore, and then running with impunity.

To thwart this Runner tactic, the Corp has to find a way of gaining bits for each run on the Rio/Siren fort. Tokyo-Chiba Infighting comes to mind, and it might actually work in combination with Siren, but since it is also a Region, it cannot be installed in the same fort as Rio de Janeiro City Grid. A much better solution is combining payback ice with Olivia Salazar. If a piece of ice like Misleading Access Menus is rezzed with Olivia, it will still rez for zero bits (one half of zero is still zero), but crucially, it will derez at the end of the run. As long as the outermost piece of ice is payback ice, it can be rezzed anew with each run the Runner makes, and will yield its three bits again each time. Richard Cripe posted this combo on October 21, 1996.

Proteus offers some interesting ways of making big forts tougher for a relatively small investment. Cards like Minotaur, Dogpile, Bug Zapper or Mastermind seem ideally suited as the innermost piece of ice on a Rio/Siren fort. Herman Revista (or New Blood) ensures the right ice configuration. For the late game, Obfuscated Fortress is a real killer card, since the Runner must announce enough bits for breaking all ice on the Siren fort if he or she wants to get in, but if Rio rolls a one, all announced bits are lost anyway. Rasmin Bridger gets meaner and meaner as the ice gets deeper, since this upgrade costs the Runner one additional bit to get past each piece of ice - even when the ice isn't rezzed yet, and Rasmin works in multiples, too.

Some attempts have been made at finding a last-ditch defense for those times when Rio is out of luck. Felix Borchers has experimented with Dr. Dreff and Jenny Jett as the last line of defense, which combines with Obfuscated Fortress in a fiendish way. Here is his version of a Rio/Siren deck, originally posted at the Netrunner Weekly site as a Deck of the Week:

    Rio Reiser

    4 Misleading Access Menus
    3 Quandary
    1 Roadblock
    2 Haunting Inquisition
    2 Snowbank
    1 Wall of Ice
    1 Vacuum Link
    1 Coyote
    1 Washed-Up Solo Construct
    1 Fatal Attractor
    2 Colonel Failure
    1 Marine Arcology
    2 Tycho Extension
    2 Corporate War
    2 Viral Breeding Ground
    4 Siren
    4 Dr. Dreff
    3 Rio de Janeiro City Grid
    4 Olivia Salazar
    1 Chester Mix
    1 Jenny Jett
    1 Obfuscated Fortress
    1 Off-site Backups
    3 Day Shift
    2 Edgerunner, Inc. Temps

Rio Reiser is the name of a famous German rockerboy, who died in 1996. Felix's original decklist mistakenly had 51 cards with just 20 AP, which results in an illegal deck, and so I took the liberty to remove one of his three Edgerunners. Felix stresses that Rio/Siren takes a long time to set up, and including 50 cards provides something of a margin for long games: Running out of cards before finding the time to score the agendas isn't fun.

In order to make good use out of Dr. Dreff, Felix has included some heavy ice as well (Wall of Ice, Colonel Failure, Haunting Inquisition). Note that Rio rolls for ice installed by Jenny Jett and passed by the Runner, but not for Dr. Dreff ice, since that isn't really installed, just encountered. As Felix remarks in his deck description, the beginning of the game is the most difficult phase for a Rio/Siren deck. The aim is of course to quickly build a large subfort to eventually house the Siren, but in the meantime, HQ and R&D will be wide open to attacks. Taking into account the Runner's strategy, the Corp must decide whether both HQ and R&D should be iced initially (ideally with Quandaries), and when the focus should shift to the SDF. If the Corp draws an Edgerunner early, it might be a good idea to start building the SDF right away. Felix warns us not to waste too many pieces of ice on other forts, since there are only 19 of them in his 50-cards deck. Alternatively, a lone Dr. Dreff might serve as a deterrent against attacks on HQ or R&D.

The Siren should normally be installed only when the subfort is already pretty big and secure, and when the Corp has the spare bits for a couple of activations. On the other hand, if the Runner aggressively targets a lightly protected HQ, it might be unwise to keep Siren there for long and risk its being trashed. Likewise, if HQ is brimming with agendas early in the game, using the SDF to score an agenda or two before installing Siren is a sensible option. Thereafter, agendas can be advanced in the open. Felix has another trick up his sleeve with the inclusion of Viral Breeding Ground: With two advancement counters, this agenda can spell doom for a program-dependent Runner, while the drawback of trashing the whole SDF on scoring it is negated if Breeding Ground was the only card in it in the first place. Felix gives us one further hint: In a pinch, discarding an agenda from HQ into the Archives is also a possibility (as Off-site Backups can get it back later).

In the German Nationals 1999, Felix played a variant of this deck that experimented with Virus Test Site and Fetal AI as little surprises for times when the Siren gets trashed. The Test Site disguises as an agenda installed in the open and might well flatline an unsuspecting Runner. Fetal AI also deals Net damage, but more importantly, the Runner might not have the bits left to pay for stealing it after an exhausting run to trash Siren.

As Felix's Rio Reiser deck includes Tycho Extension, it cannot be played in Revised Constructed tournaments without some switches in agenda choice. One suggestion for the bold would be to try two Political Overthrow, two World Domination, and a Viral Breeding Ground (20 AP); the Edgerunner could then go back in, as well as another supporting card of choice (like a second Chester Mix).

Also as a Deck of the Week, Erwin Wagner created the following variation of the Rio/Siren theme:

    B-Veil, Inc.

    3 Misleading Access Menus
    3 Quandary
    1 Haunting Inquisition
    3 Data Wall 2.0
    3 Coyote
    3 Dog Pile
    1 Colonel Failure
    4 Ice Transmutation
    2 AI Chief Financial Officer
    1 Viral Breeding Ground
    2 Siren
    2 BBS Whispering Campaign
    2 Corporate Negotiating Center
    4 Rasmin Bridger
    2 Rio de Janeiro City Grid
    1 Olivia Salazar
    2 Chester Mix
    2 Herman Revista
    2 Obfuscated Fortress
    2 Off-site Backups

While Ice Transmutation is amusing in combination with Colonel Failure or Haunting Inquisition, and AI Chief Financial Officer has perhaps the most useful ability of all agendas (addressing the problem of a drawn-out game), the most interesting bit are the Corporate Negotiating Centers. Erwin realized that with an installed Siren, Runners cannot get at agendas stored in HQ, even if they know perfectly well that they are there.

One final trick that wasn't featured in either of the two decks discussed so far involves Roving Submarine. As has been discussed on the Netrunner-L back in the day, with a Siren on the table, Roving Sub plus a juicy content can be installed in the open and likely survive the next turn untrashed. Once a node like Chicago Branch has been positioned like this, fast-advancement can speed the Corp to victory. There is a danger of losing focus, however: Rio/Siren requires a lot of cards as is, and adding some Roving Subs plus worthwhile nodes to put into them might stretch the deck structure too thin, so that the right cards never show up at the right time. Political Overthrow helps a lot in this respect, since it cuts down on the card slots needed for agendas, making room for other gimmicks. But in the end, Rio/Siren (in contrast to just Rio) isn't really about fast-advancing, as being able to advance agendas in the open is the whole point of it, and therefore I don't think that the strategy matches too well with Roving Submarine.

In the meantime, the Classic expansion has become available, and we should not overlook the new twists it can give to Rio/Siren tech. One smart option is including Datafort Remapping as the agenda of choice, being a non-random super-Rio that can help the normal Rio out in a pinch, which definitely has potential. A Glacier on a Rio/Siren fort offers the option of moving it over to unprotected forts as an emergency deterrent when the Runner has just trashed a Siren - when the next Siren is installed, it can return to its former position (ideally with the help of Herman Revista). Frederic Garnier played the following deck in the 2000 Corporate Shuffle tournament in Hoechst, Germany, which includes these new tricks from Classic (24 AP, 58 cards):

    Post-Classic Rio/Siren

    10 Misleading Access Menus
    3 Filter
    2 Glacier
    4 Data Wall
    2 Dog Pile
    5 Data Fort Remapping
    4 AI Chief Financial Officer
    1 Political Overthrow
    5 Siren
    5 Rio de Janeiro City Grid
    3 Olivia Salazar
    5 Chester Mix
    1 Herman Revista
    2 Obfuscated Fortress
    2 Tesseract Fort Construction
    6 Edgerunner, Inc. Temps

Also, a Self-Destruct tucked away in the Rio/Siren fort might make Runners regret it when they finally manage to get through to the Siren... This is a nice insurance for those times when Rio's luck runs out, but it can easily be countered by Skullcap.

You can have lots of fun with Rio/Siren, and since the two key cards are uncommons, they shouldn't be that difficult to get ahold of (multiple copies of Siren perhaps being a minor problem). Also, the deckbuilding possibilities are endless, and the definite Rio/Siren deck has yet to be built. Even for the Runner, it can be fun (as well as frustrating, of course) to take on those giant subforts again and again - therefore, I recommend trying out this strategy (and experimenting with it) to every Netrunner player.

However, be aware of Rio/Siren's weaknesses as well. As has been said above, the deck can be very strong in the endgame, but is very weak in the first couple of turns, and also slow to win. These two points account for the fact that Rio/Siren is not seen that often at tournaments: Tourney-level Runner stacks tend to be aggressive from the very start and may well eat a Rio/Siren deck alive before it has any chance to set up. Also, because of time limits for each match, Corp players tend to be reluctant to play a strategy that takes lots of time to win. But at least for casual play, Rio/Siren forts are one of the things that can make a game of Netrunner memorable.

Specifically, the following Runner strategies might cause a Rio/Siren Corp a headache, so watch out for these. A dedicated ice-destruction strategy (that targets HQ) might nip Rio/Siren in the bud, but once a Siren is installed behind two- or three-piece deep ice, it gets problematic for the Runner. Rarely seen in tourney-level ice destruction stacks, a Startup Immolator that is recycled with Microtech Backup Drive still can seriously cut down on a Rio fort, as the Corp will eventually run out of ice cards (barring AI Chief Financial Officer). Also, Immolator doesn't end the run, which is a definite plus. Clown decks such as Bozomatic eventually run for free and can then just run in each action until they luck out on Rio rolls and can trash the Siren. Rasmin Bridger is a strong countermeasure against Clown decks, since they cannot get around that cost and usually don't have a way of gaining bits fast.

The destructive approach (Death from Above and Remote Detonator, but not Demolition Run, which is too risky versus Rio) can spell doom for the Corp, should the Runner ever get through to the Siren. Restrictive Net Zoning on the SDF can seriously hinder the Corp, but should not be installed too early, as the Corp might then just build another fort. Virus stacks are a problem at first if they target HQ or R&D, but if the Corp can afford to ignore the accumulating virus counters until the Siren fort is ready, it can then forgo actions once and be safe for the rest of the game. Rio/Siren is absolutely devastating versus stacks that plan to make one big winning move late in the game, like The Big Dig or the Short Stack.

Finally, for the statisticians, here is the formula for the probability of Rio ending a run on a given datafort. This formula was originally posted by Glenn Elliott (also thanks to Patrice Gross, who confirmed once more that it is indeed correct):

probability = 1 - (5/6)^n
probability in % = (1 - (5/6)^n) x 100%
where n = number of rezzed pieces of ice on the datafort
^ = "to the power of"

The probability will of course never reach 100%, but can be made to approach it infinitely close (99.999% is reached at 63 pieces of ice). A long time before the probability even reaches 99.0% though, it doesn't make too much sense to keep adding ice to the fort, since the installation cost is just too high for such a small increase in probability, as installation costs rise exponentially: n(n-1)/2, where n = total number of ice after installation.

Number of installed
and rezzed
pieces of ice
on the datafort
Chance of the
run being ended
by Rio de Janeiro
City Grid
Total installation
cost in bits
for that many
pieces of ice
1 16.667% 0
2 30.556% 1
3 42.123% 3
4 51.775% 6
5 59.812% 10
6 66.510% 15
7 72.092% 21
8 76.743% 28
9 80.619% 36
10 83.849% 45
11 86.541% 55
12 88.784% 66
13 90.653% 78
14 92.211% 91
15 93.509% 105
16 94.591% 120
17 95.493% 136
18 96.244% 153
19 96.870% 171
20 97.392% 190
21 97.826% 210
22 98.189% 231
23 98.491% 253
24 98.742% 276
25 98.952% 300
26 99.126% 325
27 99.272% 351
28 99.393% 378
29 99.496% 406
30 99.579% 435

You'll definitely want to include some Chester Mixes if you look at the installation cost column! Besides, the number of ice cards in the deck and various other pragmatical reasons limit datafort size anyway. Still, Corp players can use this table to decide for themselves just how many pieces of ice deep is best for them.

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