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

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.]