last update 03.09.2006 12:01
Introduction Online Articles Download Section Special Links About
Top Runners' Quarterly
Frisky's Corner
Neal's Last Words

[Close file]

"Elementary, My Dear Wilson!"
- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#19: Golden Loop

by Jens Kreutzer

"More of a sidenote than a realistic plan."
- Byron "Neal" Massey on Golden Loop.

In my very first Netrunner starter, I got an Executive Extraction. Ever since, the prospect of reducing agenda difficulty with Executive Extraction and its complements Genetics-Visionary Acquisition and Artificial Security Directors has tickled my imagination, since it makes installing and scoring agendas in one turn a possibility. The effects are cumulative, so that after scoring three Executive Extractions, for example, Gray-Ops agendas with a printed difficulty of 3 can be scored "for free", though you still need to take an action for installing them.

Many other people have been fascinated by this trio of cards, too. Perhaps the most obvious thing to do with it is to pick one of the three, plus another 3-difficulty agenda to go along with it, ideally one with some more agenda points on it to prevent the Corp deck from overflowing with agenda cards. The reason for picking a 3-difficulty agenda is of course the fact that you are able to score it in one turn after only one of the difficulty-reducing agendas has been scored.

Let's take a look at likely candidates:

Genetics-Visionary Acquisition (GVA)
reduces the difficulty of Research agendas. We have the following in the difficulty-3 range: Artificial Security Directors and Superserum, which isn't such a broad selection. Perhaps if the Corp has a big problem with viri, it could pack six Superserum and six GVA. But that doesn't sound like a strong strategy because Superserum doesn't actively help the Corp along the path to victory.

Executive Extraction (EXX)
makes scoring Gray Ops agendas easier. There is GVA to start with, but also Hostile Takeover, Unlisted Research Lab, Corporate Downsizing and Security Purge. Here, there are some pretty solid agendas, and a good Gray-Ops deck with EXX is definitely doable. Hostile Takeover yields a lot of bits, but you would need 18 agenda cards if you combine it with just EXX. Unlisted Research Lab and Corporate Downsizing are very useful in themselves and are great candidates for combination. Security Purge is a whole strategy in itself and also very promising.

Artificial Security Directors (ASD)
helps with scoring Black Ops agendas. Next to EXX, there are Project Babylon and Corporate War. While Babylon might be nice for the surprise value, Corporate War is really the benchmark card with its 3 agenda points. ASD/Corp War is doubtlessly the strongest combo of all in this context, and you can read all about it in another installment of this column. Suffice it to say that you can get away with using as few as 10 or 8 agenda cards in your Corp deck (4 or 5 Corp War plus 6 or 3 ASD) and scoring just three agendas for the win.

While combining two of the trio might be feasible, that which suggests itself right away is the combination of all three agendas (six of each makes 18 agenda cards/points in the deck):

    6 Genetics-Visionary Acquisition
    6 Executive Extraction
    6 Artificial Security Directors

This strategy is called "Golden Loop", "Golden 18" or "Golden Triangle". I wonder why nobody picked up on the devilish "666" reference yet, but perhaps we can take it as a hint at the fact that it is fiendishly difficult to collect six each of these much-coveted rares. In the remainder of this article, I'd like to take a closer look at Golden Loop, starting with its history. Gray-Ops decks with Executive Extraction will probably feature in another installment of this column.

The "Golden Loop" strategy was first mentioned on the Netrunner-L as early as 17 May, 1996, by Steve Kertes, who didn't give any deck list, but commented that it "would work out nicer if you were playing to a score higher than 7". People realized right from the start that the "Golden Loop" approach was big fun, but not that competitive: "[B]efore you get too thrilled and use this combo in every deck - [consider that] if you had scored two Corp Downsizing and a Corp War (all [with] three difficulty), you would have won the game, which is the real goal." Steve Bauer really hit the nail on the head here (25 June, 1996).

Richard Cripe got a little bit more specific when he wrote about his idea of fleshing out the core concept on 2 October, 1996: He suggested an iceless deck, with lots of Tag'n'Bag cards and Systematic Layoffs for fast-advancing the first agenda. His verdict was: "It's a fun deck, but has obvious flaws."

We got a complete decklist at last on 7 March, 1997, when Jennifer Clarke Wilkes published her "Wheels Within Wheels" article on the Netrunner-L. That article was written for (and later published in) the Duelist magazine, but Jennifer tried to get some feedback from list members first, which was happily given by Ed Chen, Wyatt Cheng, Michael Keane, Byron Massey, David Orr, Skipper Pickle, and others.

    Golden Loop Deck from The Duelist

    6 Genetics-Visionary Acquisition
    6 Executive Extraction
    6 Artificial Security Directors
    6 Chicago Branch
    4 Systematic Layoffs
    5 Accounts Receivable
    3 BBS Whispering Campaign
    3 Haunting Inquisition
    3 Rock Is Strong
    3 Colonel Failure

Note that this version does not include any tagging or bagging. In the end, the decklist still needed some improvement, as was pointed out by Ben Matthews: The ice is much too expensive and too far in-between to be a reliable protection, and so the Chicago Branches don't make much sense, as they must survive a turn untrashed in order to be effective. Systematic Layoffs is really the fast-advance card of choice and should be used exclusively. Here is my suggestion for a decklist that remedies these problems:

    Improved Golden Loop Deck

    6 Genetics-Visionary Acquisition
    6 Executive Extraction
    6 Artificial Security Directors
    7 Systematic Layoffs
    8 Accounts Receivable
    3 BBS Whispering Campaign
    3 Haunting Inquisition
    3 Glacier
    3 Banpei

This deck tries to gain some bits with Accounts Receivables and perhaps install a piece of ice on the Central Data Forts, then goes on to fast-advancing the first agenda in turn 2 or 3. If all goes well and the matching cost-reduced agenda shows up, the second agenda can already be scored without the help of Systematic Layoffs.

Glacier is great once the first agenda point is scored, since it can protect either HQ or R&D, taking into account the Runner's approach and the current area of heaviest agenda-clogging. Later, one surplus piece of ice can protect a subfort for BBS Whispering Campaign. It's a pity that scoring that many agendas doesn't gain any bits for the Corp, but on the positive side, scoring them will get cheaper by the minute, from 2 to 1 to 0 bits.

Of course, scoring seven or even more (thanks to Glacier!) agendas takes its time, and nine pieces of ice aren't very many. A dedicated Runner will mercilessly attack HQ and, above all, R&D. Especially dangerous will be Runners who use virus and ice-destruction strategies. It is mostly the inexperienced player who will be surprised by the uncanny synergy of Golden Loop and perhaps be at a loss about what to do. All in all, it is not recommended to try this deck in a competitive tournament situation - hence Byron's evaluation that I quoted at the beginning of this article.

A variant of Golden Loop could follow the ideas of Richard Cripe and Richard James Salts, who mused about inclu-ding either tag'n'bag elements or Net-damage nodes in lieu of ice. Let's discuss the first suggestion. Richard James Salts pointed out that Urban Renewal was probably too expensive to use and recommended Scorched Earth and Punitive Counterstrike instead. The tagging option of choice is Trojan Horse, since we can be pretty sure that the Runner won't take long finding an agenda. Again, Accounts Receivable must be the bit-gainer workhorse, as there is no ice whatsoever to protect any nodes. Such a deck might look like this:

    Golden Loop (Tag'n'Bag variant)

    6 Genetics-Visionary Acquisition
    6 Executive Extraction
    6 Artificial Security Directors
    6 Systematic Layoffs
    9 Accounts Receivable
    4 Trojan Horse
    4 Scorched Earth
    4 Punitive Counterstrike

Flatlining won't be possible before Trojan/Scorched/Punitive (or just Trojan/Scorched if the Runner is foolhardy) are lined up in HQ, which propably won't happen before the midgame. The emphasis lies still on scoring the first agenda as early as possible. If the emphasis were to shift over to winning by flatlining, the number of Systematic Layoffs could be reduced to include more of the tag'n'bag cards. In any case, this strategy tries to either flatline Runners or otherwise scare them so that they don't run that frequently and lose the AP race. The Runner will of course access and see some tag'n'bag cards early on and quickly realize what the Corp is up to. It is more than likely that this tag'n'bag variant will lose terribly against any sensible Runner who plays with hand-size increasers like Militech MRAM Chip and/or with meat-damage prevention like Emergency Self-Construct. Since most tournament Runners pack exactly these kinds of cards, Tag'n'Bag Golden Loop is recommended only for non-competitive play.

Another possible variant is the one with Net-damage nodes. Here, the idea is likewise to either flatline the Runner or to slow him or her down enough for the Corp to race to victory. While Richard James Salts mentioned TRAP! as his favorite node, I think that Setup! is definitely the better choice here. The Corp can't really make use of TRAP!'s tag without losing focus in its card choice, and the little money it has had better be spent for advancing agendas. So here is my suggestion:

    Golden Loop (Net-damage variant)

    6 Genetics-Visionary Acquisition
    6 Executive Extraction
    6 Artificial Security Directors
    7 Systematic Layoffs
    7 Accounts Receivable
    13 Setup!

This might actually be deadly for a Runner who is first spurred on by an early agenda and then hits a bunch of Setup!s with a multi-access attack. Still, the question is whether a little bit of Net damage and the card drawing it forces will slow the Runner down more than some solid ice. The best thing that can be said about this variant is that it seriously discourages multi-access like Rush Hour or R&D Mole. Golden Loop can easily afford (and must expect) giving away a couple of agendas to the Runner, but what it fears most is a Runner digging deep into R&D and snatching away everything that is coming up.

In the end, I come to the conclusion that flatlining isn't really what Golden Loop should be doing, as that can be had with much sleeker approaches which don't have 18 agendas taking up most of the deck space. So the original version with some ice strewn in is perhaps the one that follows the idea behind the deck most closely. The ice selection can be tweaked of course; the most powerful addition from Netrunner Classic was Glacier, which in my eyes is the only chance of making Golden Loop playable. The other ice is a matter of preference; Mazer is cheaper than Haunting Inquisition, and perhaps Quandary does the job of stopping the ubiquitous Skeleton Passkeys just as well for fewer bits.

Puzzle is a nice piece of ice to put in front of the first agenda for scoring it "by hand", as rezzing Puzzle and three advancement counters can be paid for with just 5 bits. This could even do away with the need for Systematic Layoffs:

    Golden Loop Deck (Slow-advance variant)

    6 Genetics-Visionary Acquisition
    6 Executive Extraction
    6 Artificial Security Directors
    10 Accounts Receivable
    8 Puzzle
    3 Glacier
    3 Banpei
    3 Data Naga

While cheaper, this approach is a huge gamble: The Corp is depending on the Runner neither having an Inside Job nor the combination of a fast bit influx with a matching breaker in hand at start. Still, installing Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker and breaching Puzzle costs a stiff 12 bits; with Raffles, it's 11 bits, Rent-I-Con and Cyfermaster, 8, Codecracker, 7, and Skeleton Passkeys, 6. Once more, we see why Passkeys is so popular. The good thing about the gamble is, by the way, that giving away one meagre agenda point isn't much of a loss. Perhaps the Corp should include 3 Systematic Layoffs as a backup plan, replacing the Data Nagas.

There is still some experimenting to be done with Golden Loop, and when you are playing some casual games, I do encourage you to try out this flashy strategy. It is certainly fun to play, and perhaps you can use proxies if you don't have enough copies of the agenda cards. I'm sure that some adjusting can be done to optimize the decks, for example with cards like Corporate Guard Temps, Efficiency Experts, or just about any kind of ice. So, go ahead and loop the Loop!

[Golden Loop Revisited]

[Previous Famous Deck] [Close file] [Next Famous Deck]


TRQ #24
- 2005 -
TRQ #23
- 2004 -
TRQ #22
TRQ #21
- 2003 -
TRQ #20
TRQ #19
- 2002 -
TRQ #18
TRQ #17
TRQ #16
- 2001 -
TRQ #15
TRQ #14
TRQ #13
TRQ #12
- 2000 -
TRQ #11
TRQ #10
TRQ #09
- 1999 -
TRQ #08
TRQ #07
TRQ #06
TRQ #05
- 1998 -
TRQ #04
TRQ #03
TRQ #02
- 1997 -
TRQ #01