Team Covenant announced an exciting competition whose winner will receive the next three Android: Netrunner data packs for free (or FREE!, as some like to call it). As three is the magic number, the competition stipulates that I should review the three best Android: Netrunner cards “we’ve seen so far”: either printed or spoiled by FFG.

(Clarification: the competition actually asks for me to discuss what I think are the three best cards. Of course, my opinion is the only correct answer. There is no way I lose this- deal with it!)

I have been playing Android: Netrunner since its release in GenCon. In addition to playing, I co-organize the New York City meetup with its more than fifty Runners and run the New York City tournaments (our next one is February 16, by the way, and the two finalists will get “A Study in Static” for FREE!). I am also a constant participant in BGG.com’s Android: Netrunner forums, where I contribute no significant new content but generate a lot of noise.

(Please wait while I Ctrl+Tab to BGG and refresh my subscriptions, there might have been a new thread popping up, which means I must reply!)

Where was I? Oh, yes, top three cards, etc.

Crypsis

A high-maintenance artificial intelligence that sucks your leisure time in exchange for opening doors. While Crypsis leaves no time for R&R, it will guarantee that if you have the Credits, you will get in. What it lacks in raw strength it makes up in panache.

Crypsis is a Core Set Icebreaker with the AI description, meaning that it can break through any Ice. It has two disadvantages: one, it’s Credit-intensive due to a combination of high installation cost and zero base Strength, and two, it self-destructs after usage unless you spent a Click in advance to arm it with a Virus Counter. Android: Netrunner has three main resources, the three Cs: cards, Clicks and Credits, and Crypsis drains two of these (Clicks and Credits) faster than a Datasucker visiting Haas-Bioroid’s HQ. In fact, when Android: Netrunner was initially released, many dismissed it as a beginner’s tool, to be replaced by a proper rig in a real deck.

However, this proposition also reveals Crypsis’ real strength. Crypsis is a single Program that fills the role of a full rig. In other words, it can break through any Ice, be it Barrier, Sentry, Code Gate, or all of the above. This makes Crypsis a powerful tool. During the early-game, most Servers will be protected by one Ice, making Crypsis a dangerous threat as the Corp cannot assume a missing Icebreaker will provide security. Furthermore, oftentimes this Ice will be of a cheaper variety (such as Ice Wall or Enigma), making Crypsis’ cost less prohibitive. As the game progresses, Crypsis serves as a “joker”, taking the role of any Icebreaker the Runner seems unable to draw.

Crypsis is a flexible Icebreaker that guarantees that as long as you have the Credits, you will get in. As such, it’s a powerful tool for the Runner and a continuous headache for the Corp. Crypsis is a defining card which must be kept in mind during deck construction and when playing the game.

SanSan City Grid

Every Corp wants to set up their most crucial Servers in the West Coast, and it’s not just due to the weather. Real estate is expensive but the long-term dividends are priceless; as the famous adage says, “Location, Location, Location!”.

“Fast advance” is a Corp strategy that attempts to score Agendas faster than the Runner can steal them. An optimal situation for a fast-advance deck will be to install an Agenda and score it on the same turn. This leaves the Runner in a tough spot: the only opportunities to steal Agendas are from R&D or HQ (and soon enough HQ will be devoid of Agendas). The ability to shorten the time Agendas spend in a Remote raises the pressure dramatically by increasing the tempo and shifting the initiative from the Corp to the Runner.

While this strategy is a mainstay of NBN, for the bargain price of three Influence and six Credits any Corp can become a fast-advance Corp. As an exercise for the reader, examine your favorite Agenda. Now look at the white number at its top right and imagine it one lower. What are the implications? Hostile Takeover can be installed and scored for just two Click. Mandatory Upgrades now takes two turns instead of three. You have a spare Click to install a ridiculously expensive piece of Ice before scoring Priority Requisition. Most importantly, every Corp now has the option to do the trick mentioned above: Install. Advance. Advance. Score.

Runner, you can no longer wait for an Agenda to sit in a Remote, ripe for the picking. SanSan sends a powerful signal: HURRY UP. You cannot set up your economy, rummage through your deck for a perfect rig or play that Infiltration. There is no time. You must run more and take more risks, smashing into the Corp’s unrezzed Ice and hidden Ambushes. Otherwise, the game will end before you notice.

Project Atlas

The Weyland Corporation are notorious for their aggressive negotiation tactics. Furthermore, rumors abound of their violent methods for taking care of “pests”, as internal company memos refer to Runners. Who would have thought that Weyland, of all corporations, will develop such a sophisticated tool?

When the Core Set was initially released the strategy versus Weyland was straight-forward: bide your time, avoid the Tag (or steal Posted Bounty before it is scored) and you will win the game. Weyland’s one-point Agendas and relatively limited identity marked them as a narrow Corporation that is almost incapable of winning via scoring Agendas. Since the only tool at their disposal was flatlining the “pest”, a good Runner dedicated her resources to avoiding this grim fate, which was enough to win the game.

“What Lies Ahead”, the first Data Pack in the “Genesis” cycle, showed that this grace period is now over. Project Atlas single-handedly turns Weyland into a force to be reckoned with. Any surplus Advancement Counter on this Agenda lets the Corp download a card of his choice at any time, without even paying a Click. Atlas oils the wheels of the Scorched Earth engine, letting Weyland summon missing parts of the combo at will, whether they’re copies of the eponymous card or Posted Bountry for the actual Tag. Furthermore, Atlas locks down the Runner with a painful dilemma: sit tight and let the Corp gather Credits and build its infrastructure, or make a run (any run!) and risk SEA Source followed by the sudden collapse of your condo. Finally, Plascrete Carapace does not provide any comfort when the Corp is guaranteed to have three copies of Scorched Earth.

However, as demonstrated by Zeromus in the latest New York City tournament, in addition to improving Scorched Earth, Project Atlas liberates Weyland from the burden of relying on the combo at all. At three-for-two, Atlas is the most powerful Agenda in the game right now, with its ability turning Weyland into a diverse Corporation, capable of smashing the Runner into pulp or scoring Agendas effectively.

 

Android: Netrunner is a flexible game and future Data Packs are bound to change its landscapes. However, I feel that these cards will remain with us long after Genesis is complete and we’re into future cycles. Remember, running is about efficiently utilizing the resources at your disposal; Crypsis, SanSan and Atlas are paragons in achieving this goal.