The Mediocrity of Snitch: Or, The Power of Running Blind

Let’s talk about Snitch. When Snitch was first announced, my first instinct was “Wow – this is a powerful card! It’s a good thing it costs an MU, that’s the only thing keeping it balanced.” But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Snitch is actually pretty lackluster. I had […]

Profile photo of Collin By Collin On February 28, 2013 Posted In Android Netrunner LCG

A girl's best friend, provided said girl is a creepy voyeur Let’s talk about Snitch.

When Snitch was first announced, my first instinct was “Wow – this is a powerful card! It’s a good thing it costs an MU, that’s the only thing keeping it balanced.” But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Snitch is actually pretty lackluster. I had planned on writing a nice big article about it when the card spoilers were all out. Of course, then Emergency Shutdown (what) and Personal Workshop (WHAT) came out and people stopped talking about Snitch. But I’m still seeing Snitch in more decks than it really should be in – in particular, Chaos Theory decks, even though Personal Workshop makes Snitch pretty irrelevant – and after a game where my opponent literally used Test Run to tutor Snitch I figured this article needed to get written after all.

This article will be using Snitch as a framing device more than anything, though. The real key behind this is that many players don’t run enough, and thus, don’t hold the Corp to their Ice. Overvaluing Snitch is just one symptom of this general disease. So while we’ll be talking about why Snitch is a niche card at best, this really isn’t an article about Snitch. It’s about running, and why you should do it.

Snitch vs. Barriers

Let’s begin with an objectively true statement – Snitch is worthless against cards with only the subroutine “end the run”.  This is because jacking out with Snitch ends the run without the Corp paying to rez the Ice in question, and running on it ends the run but the Corp pays.

So, it’s immediately clear that Snitch is worst against Barriers. Ending the run is their whole shtick, and they don’t do much else. There’s two net damage on Wall of Thorns, but unless your hand is incredibly strong, making the corp pay 8 to do 2 net damage to you is super worth it – not to mention that it’s unlikely they can pay for WoT in the early game, and Fracters are often the first Breaker you want out anyway. It only takes one click to break Heimdall’s brain damage, and you should almost never run on blind Ice on your last click (because then you can take a tag and shake it off instead of having to win a Trace on, say, Hunter.) [And as an quick digression, this is why combining Chum and Hunter is actually a solid play. Hunter is bad because the tag can just be shaken off after, or the Trace can be won – but Chum Hunter means you have to break it, and suddenly it’s a 6 strength, 3 net damage and a tag monster you got for two creds.]

About the only time I’d ever want Snitch against a Barrier is with TMI. That way, I could do the trace only when I was rich or had Link, forcing the Corp to either pay a fortune to get TMI down or be forced to rerez it time and again. If I don’t even intend on getting Link, this is a situational play that may not be that useful, but it could matter.

Snitch vs. Code Gates

Snitch is also pretty trash against Code Gates. It saves you a click by not facechecking Viper or Enigma, but making the corp pay to rez is often worth that click. Tollbooth makes you pay 3, sure, but the Corp pays 8, a number well-known for being bigger than 3. (Though, of course, running with 2 against a Tollbooth is even better.) As with Heimdall, Viktor doesn’t do anything other than end the run if you have a click left to spend. The common theme persists – mildly bad things happen, but not as bad as making the corp pay to rez them.

However, there’s one really big victory for Snitch – Chum. Chum violates our rule that “just ending the run is fine”, since a simple “ETR” sub becomes “ETR and 3 net damage” if you don’t break it. So, if you can’t break any possible Ice at +2 strength, you have to break Chum or jack out. This can let the Corp bluff with Chum even when you CAN break what’s behind it. It’s not devastating, since you can jack out after Chum even without Snitch, but it’s a situation where Snitch is doing something pretty useful.

So, one really good use (Chum) a few niche uses (TMI when you could get Link first, WoT with really strong cards in hand, Tollbooth when you could bankrupt yourself to <3 first). But, of course, Sentries have the most brutal subroutines. How will Snitch fare there?

Snitch vs. Sentries

Well, we’re going to give Snitch a bit of a harder time here. Now, we’re going to compare the value of Snitch against the value of having a Killer.

“Now wait,” you may say, “that’s an unfair moving of the goalposts!” And, if we were comparing Snitch to having an appropriate Icebreaker out for EACH type of Ice, it would be unfair. However, for Barriers and Code Gates, we examined the value of a Snitch vs. nothing. So, we are completely within our rights to compare the value of Snitch to a Killer. Snitch has an install cost and takes an MU. We could replace Snitch with another Killer, or an AI, or a Special Order, or a Test Run, or SOMETHING that gets a Killer out instead.

For Sentries, we’re going to be more thorough than our analysis for the other two types. We’ll take this card by card.

  • Ichi 1.0: The winning card depends on what Killer you have, how many clicks you have left, what your Link is and how much money the Corp has (i.e, if you can afford to win Ichi’s trace – at strength 1, it’s a good one to let fire if you can win it, essentially giving you the Vamp effect but without taking any tags if you win). Snitch gets an “okay” here, since Ichi is cheap and deadly. But it only takes 2 clicks to break if you’re okay with the trace.
  • Janus 1.0: One of the few really big win cards for Snitch, since even having a Killer doesn’t mean much against this big kid unless you’re also rich. It’s worth noting, though, that if you’re running on the first click, you should ignore Snitch and plunge right in to Janus – taking 1 brain damage to make the corp lose 15 creds is the most worth it thing that ever worth-it’d in the history of worth it. Still, without Snitch, running on the first click is the only really good time against blind Ice when the corp has 15+ creds. So sure, Snitch, you’re alright here.
  • Rototurret: Obvious win for the Killer, no matter what it is.
  • Sherlock 1.0: Basically repeat what I said for Ichi, only the trace is a lot better for the corp at two strength 4’s instead of a 1 (even if the effect is worse). It’s really dependent on gamestate what’s better.
  • Neural Katana: Pretty solid win for the Killer, unless it’s an unbuffed Pipeline (don’t use unbuffed Pipeline). Otherwise, the cost is from 1 (Mimic) to 4 (Ninja, Crypsis). That’s an easy amount of money to carry around, and then you GET THROUGH the Katana, as opposed to the Snitch which ends the run and saves the corp 4 creds.
  • Data Raven: Data Raven lets you end the run instead of taking the tag, so Snitch is objectively worthless against it. Killer wins by default.
  • Matrix Analyzer: I guess if you really don’t want something advanced you could jack out and Snitch is okay? Otherwise either breaking OR letting it fire and tagrolling are both easy options, and you get to pick the better one, sick!
  • Archer: The other big win for Snitch since Archer is so god-damn expensive to break even with a Killer and it’s surprise value is super scary. I bet we’ll be seeing less Archer with Shutdown in the game, but still, when Weyland has a Hostile Takeover scored I’d be pretty happy to have a Snitch.
  • Cadaceus: Just pays for itself and ends the run. Yeah Snitch means  you could jack out so it doesn’t pay for itself, but then the Corp has the same money ANYWAY. Like TMI, slight niche use if you think you’re getting Link soon, in which case you can wait on it until you can make it expensive to save the money. In general though, just having a Killer (or Link!) is better.
  • Shadow: See Caduceus essentially. Expect Snitch is even worse against it, since Shadow DOESN’T ETR but you’re making it ETR with Snitch.
  • Woodcutter: Woodcutter is a weird kid. Objectively worthless in terms of the run where you hit it because it does nothing, but maybe you want to not rez it so Corp can’t advance right away? I think most times Woodcutter is being used with Amazon Industrial Zone and so Snitch is still worthless against it, but maybe it could matter otherwise? Still though, making the corp pay 4 for nothing to happen is neat, even if it means they can start advancing the cutter.
  • Chimera: Only ends the run, so Snitch is objectively worthless. Killer wins by default, even if it can’t break – you can still make the Corp pay 2 every turn.
  • Draco: Basically like Caduceus. A bit of niche utility with Snitch if you want to run it when they can’t power it to a certain value, or if you have Link. In general though, this is expensive fucking Ice to power AND trace effectively and the worst it can do to you is tag and ETR (costing 2 and a spare click more than just jacking out with Snitch), so in general it’s worth running in to headlong, unless you want to force the Corp to rez it when they have only 1 so it’s cheaper for Ninja or something like that.
  • Hunter: Pretty bad thing to jack out against unless it’s behind a Chum, and we counted that value as Chum’s value.

So that’s the final score. A couple of BIG wins (you can only hit Janus on the first click, avoid Archer), a couple of semi wins against Ichi and Sherlock, a lot of little niche uses.

In general, though, as long as you run with at least 2 creds and one click remaining, most Ice isn’t horrific to hit with your face. Newer players especially don’t really understand this and let the Corp scare them off with facedown Ice. But remember – Ice the Corp doesn’t pay for only costs them one click to install! Don’t stay out of their yard just because of their “beware of dog” sign – make them pay for the dog, because even if it bites you, dogs are expensive.

And that’s the problem with Snitch – they don’t buy the dog. Knowing the exact breed of dog only matters if you choose to avoid the house, and that means that they kept you out of their house with a “beware of dog” sign that only costs one click to put up. Think of it this way: Snitch is a card whose effect is to end runs and save the Corp money, and you’re the one paying the install cost and MU for it.

[This blog was written in the age of Cyber Exodus.]

  1. It’s been the mantra of some of the more experienced players that you should make the corp pay to rezz their ICE, but it’s also been that same crowd’s mantra to play a long-sighted economy game regardless of what deck/side you are on. I haven’t found either mantra to be entirely true. Economy matters but it isn’t the game.

    I agree concerning barriers; Snitch isn’t helping you, so you’ve paid 3 credits (and used a click to play Snitch) for no gain. If you hit nothing but barriers, Snitch never pays for itself (in credits anyway). What it DOES do here is let you see that it’s a barrier and encounter the ICE with zero risk of it being something nastier. The corp can’t bluff at all and has to pay to stop active risk-free running.

    I don’t agree concerning other types of ICE; there are some really nasty things you can hit, and almost every corp deck is running at least some of them. You don’t want to hit Neural Katana, Rototurret, Tollbooth, etc. That could mess you up.

    I want to use Tollbooth as an example here, because I think it was not looked at in the article the way rezzed ICE needs to be looked at. When the corp pays 8 to rez Tollbooth, they do lose available capital — but they also get something for it, namely a rezzed piece of ICE. It isn’t lost credits, just spent ones. Tollbooth is now active for the rest of the game, barring something surprising. The 3 credits lost to the runner are just that… lost. They didn’t get the runner anything at all. So it’s far more complex than 8 for 3.

    There is no difference in runner-side credits between using Snitch to avoid Tollbooth or just running blind into a Tollbooth. You are down 3 credits either way. The difference is that with Snitch, you know it’s a Tollbooth and not Archer. The other difference is that with Snitch, you can now plan for the loss of those 3 credits and a needed Tollbooth bypass later… or maybe you draw to a Forced Activation Orders, Inside Job, etc to get around it.

    It’s also counter to economy to run blind. Hitting the runner with a Rototurret, Neural Katana, etc means that you’ve already equalized as corp against what you spent to rez that ICE. It is the best case scenario in terms of what happens when you rez that ICE… Snitch denies your best case scenario.

    Is knowing what nearly all ICE is before you encounter it not worth 3 credits and a card? I just can’t see that argument. I’d say Snitch is easily worth it. Is Snitch worth a Test Run grab on first turn? That one I might question… but then again, early is when you want it. What was the result of that game?

  2. I still feel like there is something to be said about knowing the ice before you hit it. Even if you turn up just barriers, you knew they were barriers and not sentries setting you back. I don’t know whether I’d ever use it, but that is because I play a risky Anarch deck with no expose cards. Snitch is a bit of a “training wheels” type card but by properly exploring ice you can know more and plan your runs appropriately. You may have been exposed to it a lot, but I have yet to see it, so it is hard for me to make any other sort of judgement about that card.

    As for Woodcutter, from the way you talk about it, I imagine you’ve never played against it before. Rezzing woodcutter is a bad situation for the runner. I can directly leverage my money towards your ability to get passed the ice. The article I wrote for tomorrow goes into more detail about this, but you don’t need Amazon to make it work either. I don’t know whether I would jack out to avoid rezzing it mind you, but it can justt plain make running that server much harder in the future.

    1. “training wheels” is a good term. I mean, yeah, if you haven’t memorized all of the possible things the Ice could be, Snitch is useful. It’s not that hard to memorize everything and run hygienically based on how much money the Corp has, though. That’s mostly what my Magic Number Analysis was about.

      As for Woodcutter, you’re right in that I’ve only seen it used with AIZ. Still… I’ll wait for your article I guess, but it’s worthless against Anarch’s with Parasite and against anyone else you have to spend a click and a cred to make it a cred more expensive for me, and that’s after the 4 cred surcharge to worthlessly rez it. It does not especially kindle a flame in my heart without a deck working around it. (Which, mind you, is getting more possible with Commercialization.)

  3. Great article, and I agree for the most part (to be honest, I tend to use very few expose effects at all).

    One thing I’d argue, though, would be ‘Fracters are often the first Breaker you want out anyway’ – I would always get my Killer out first, since Sentries are the only things capable of trashing programs. (Rototurret / Ichi / Sherlock I guess), whereas Barriers and Code Gates will do very little if you hit them without the right breaker.

    I think the only time I’d use Snitch would possibly be in a breakerless / Crypsis Anarch deck – being able to jack out and save your Djinn tower would be helpful.

  4. After thinking about this more, another advantage Snitch gives you is the ability to use other Criminal events to greater effect

    Let’s say for example, you run with Snitch into a Wall of Thorns. You have cards you don’t want to lose so you decide to jack out. You now know what ice is there. If later on you run elsewhere creating a situation where the corp has less than 8 credits you can trash that Wall of Thorns.

    If you know the ice on a remote server, but it isn’t rezzed yet, you know exactly how much money the corp needs to do so and a successful run elsewhere or an Account Siphon and/or Cortez Chip can make that run on that remote server go off without a hitch.

    More than just “being safe” it allows you to gain additional knowledge to advance the game in your advantage.

    1. After thinking about this more, I think there is still benefit to Snitch.

      In any case where you’d look and still continue Snitch doesn’t seem that great since you’d have done the same with whether Snitch was there or not. This is the “hindsight is 20/20″. After the fact it seems silly to be so worried, but of course you didn’t know you shouldn’t be afraid.

      For things that you’d rather not hit (for example several Sentries), you say you’d rather have another killer. Well with Snitch you don’t have to spend the money on the killer. If you get Snitch first

      1. Right, but then you don’t get through the thing, and they don’t rez the Sentry. So instead of forcing them to their Ice and then getting through it, you are letting them get Ice that ends the run for free.

        With Snitch you “don’t need to spend money on a Killer”, in the sense that you can blind run safely. You do still need a Killer if you want to access things that are behind a Sentry.

        Let me try to compact this. People think that Snitch promotes “aggressive play”, because they’re scared of blind Ice and removes that fear. However, it turns out you don’t even need a Snitch to do that, because when you actually look at a definitive list of All of the Ice it’s not too scary, with only a couple of rare exceptions (Archer). When you’re playing Snitch, you’re betting that there exists Ice SO DANGEROUS that it’s worth giving the Corp end the run for absolutely free rather than encounter it. My claim is that when you actually look at all of the Ice that is in the game, while that kind of Ice barely exists it’s so rare it’s not worth the fact that Snitch is a dead draw in other scenarios.

        Here’s a thought. You talk about “For things that you’d rather not hit (for example several Sentries)”. But I went piece by piece through every Sentry in the game. So let’s get specific. What would you say is the list of Sentries in this game that you’d rather jack out and not make the Corp pay for than encounter when a.) you have no programs and b.) you have a Killer? If you like you can sort them by Central and Remote. (I would jack out for a Neural Katana on a Central if I had no Killer but run straight through if there’s a Remote with something tasty, etc.)

        EDIT: And to be clear, I’m not saying there’s no benefit to Snitch. I’m saying it’s a niche, marginal card, and that most of it’s professed utility is that it gets people to blind run who could actually be threatening a lot better blind running with a Killer instead of Snitch. I can envision a deck I would build with Snitch – if I had a lot of really key programs, like a key Djinn, a cost ineffective or no Killer, no Sacrificial Constructs…what I’m saying is that it’s not very good prima facie, and people who evaluate it as very strong are likely just overrating how dangerous it is to run blind, judging by my experience.

  5. my problem with snitch and reveal effects in general is…

    A. it reveals information you suspected was true.
    B. it reveals information you knew was true because of the amount of credits the corp was sitting on.
    C. it reveals information that didnt matter ie a wall of static late game.
    D. it reveals information that would make us stop the run but if we didnt know we would suffer the consequences and continue the run anyways possiby scoring an agenda or trashing an important asset.

    Overall i think reveal effects have a tendency to make the runner more passive and play a weaker overall game trading aggression for certainty.. sometimes you are going to take a flying leap off the edge of the world, it will stick with you and you will tempted to pack the deck with more reveal effects. ok..but what comes out when the reveal effects go in ? usually stuff that actually makes it possible to get through ice or pay for getting through the ice.

  6. I think your analysis is a bit flawed there, my friend.

    It looks like your postulate is that Snitch will prevent a good runner to continue his run once the exposed ICE is a ETR barrier or code gate ; which is simply not true.

    If Snitch does give your intel on a Wall of Static for example, you now know for certain that you do take NO risk whatsoever while crashing on this ICE.

    In fact, Snitch data allows you to bleed the corp economy much more effectively than with blind runs : you can now run like crazy, deciding wheither the risk is worth the reward, eluding the worst traps that could cost you the entire game where others runners couldn’t.

    For example, experienced runners with an “ok” hand would still make the Corp pay for its WoT even if Snitch did tell them what was sitting in front of them. What they wouldn’t do though, is running blind in an Archer they couldn’t afford, while a “blind” runner would, casting catastrophic outcomes upon them.

    And all this, for 1 mu, 3 creds, 1 click, which are well worth it I’d say. Even without taking into account the possibilities with Forged Activation Order / Cortez Chip / Emergency Shutdown…

    1. YES. +1. The only downside to Snitch is that you are tempo shy (-1 card -3 credits -1 click) going forward. You will be able to push the corp’s tempo higher than they want it to go, though.

    2. Agreed. It is not “objectively true” that “Snitch is worthless against cards with only the subroutine “end the run” because nothing’s forcing me to jack out rather than just run into it and force the Corp to spend its bits on my terms.

      As Frank said, it can make other Criminal tools more effective. “Oh, *there’s* your Archer? Ok, here’s my FAO.” That’s worth something. In addition to ensuring I didn’t just facecheck that Archer, it ensures I can save that FAO for a worthwhile target. It can empower other effects, too.

      I haven’t given it much thought yet, but Chaos Theory decks might could actually be a really good fit for it. She wants to get her rig out fast and cheap–and can most easily afford the MU. My Chaos Theory deck is light on multiple copies of breakers. To the extent Snitch helps Chaos keep her rig intact and keeps her from having to use up any Test Runs digging them back out of her Heap (saving them for their more potent tutor effect), it could be a boon. I’ll think on that some more/try it out before committing on that idea, though.

      I don’t run it in any of my decks, mind. As of right now, none has the slots, MU, and/or influence to spare. But it’s a gross overstatement to say it’s ever “objectively worthless.” I think a more accurate to say that, at least for now, it’s rarely going to be worth a deckslot over other, more versatile cards.

      1. Snitch takes away the ability of the corp to bluff a strong defense when they don’t actually have one; as much as bluffing is a part of the game (whether anyone believes that’s a little or a lot), Snitch helps almost exactly that much. Knowing you need to grab your barrier breaker instead of your sentry breaker… even that is useful. There’s really no way in which Snitch isn’t synergistic with most runner cards (especially criminal cards).

    3. Certainty you can Snitch something and then still run on it. In that case though, it didn’t actually matter that you had Sntich, neh? Because the same thing happened.

      I’m not postulating that a good runner will jack out when they see a Barrier or Code Gate. I’m postulating that there’s virtually NO Barrier or Code Gate a runner should jack out for (because the ones that hurt the Runner probably hurt the Corp more to rez) and so against them Snitch is pointless, because if you don’t use Snitches ability, then it’s a waste of MU, since it didn’t change your actions at all. And the Sentry count is actually manageably small. It’s more than zero, so it’s worth having if you expect your deck is especially vulnerable to everything Snitch protects you from. But in general, there’s not much.

      A good analogy is “HQ Snitch”: “Before accessing any card from HQ, you may first look at it and choose not to access.” This card is almost always worthless. Not because people will choose to give up Agendas or whatever – because the optimal play is almost ALWAYS to take it, with the only exceptions as Snare! and sometimes Fetal AI / another agenda against Personal Evolution.

      I’m NOT saying people will jack out from runs they should do any more than I’m saying people will start not trashing Melange’s if they had HQ Snitch. I’m saying that when the optimal play is to almost always run on it ANYWAY, even when it’s bad for you, then paying for Snitch is silly (since it’s only doing anything when you jack out), just as it’s silly to pay for HQ Snitch when you’re almost always accessing. See where I’m coming from?

      I do think it’s fair to only judge Snitch by the situations that make you jack out, because “I’m going to look at the Ice, then run on it” isn’t really different than “I’m going to run on it.” Even if the Corp doesn’t rez, it’s not that difficult to ID Ice when the Corp doesn’t run, especially if you get in some HQ/R&D accesses.

      1. I think maybe this is the crux of it — Snitch makes it a good idea to run when it otherwise might not be. Running blindly into ICE isn’t particularly wise, but if you have Snitch you can run. If you compare only what the end results are when you run and say “it’s not ALWAYS a disaster to run blind”, you haven’t really touched on what Snitch does for you. You’ve only touched on the level of danger in running blind.

        If I watch you run blind against me, the next ICE I’m dropping is probably Rototurret just because I know you’ll run at it on the premise that it’s very unlikely to be Rototurret. The only thing stopping me from punishing blind runs is no ICE in hand that can do it.

      2. Theorist, I think you may have missed where I was going with this article.

        I’m not saying “It’s not ALWAYS a disaster to run blind.” I’m saying, “It’s ALMOST NEVER a disaster to run blind.” “Running blindly into ICE isn’t particularly wise” is basicially the opposite of the point I’m making.

        Let’s take Rototurret. Am I in my beginning grace perioid with no programs out? Do that Rototurret my man, you bounce me out but pay four credits. Do I have a Killer? Rez that Rototurret man, I’ll pay 2 and break it. Do I have Snitch? You’ll bounce me out, but FOR FREE unless I want to lose my Snitch making you rez. That’s way worse than the first two alternatives! The only time I would want Snitch vs Rototurret is if I had another program, but no Killer, and you had four or more credits. And this scenario is pointless to put Snitch in my deck for, because if I’m worried about this I’ll just put another Killer in instead.

        See what I’m getting at? Blind running with no programs is strong early, then having a Killer lets you stay aggressive as the game goes on. The only time Snitch is pulling it’s weight is when the corp could rez something that’s impractical to have the money on hand for all the time. But when you look at it on an Ice-by-Ice basis, it’s a pretty small list. Nonzero, but small.

  7. Wait a moment. This is the value of Snitch if you’re playing conservatively. What about the Hail Mary?

    Run with no cards, no credits, last click. Worst case scenario, the installed card is a trap. Cost you nothing but a click to at least try.