Concepts and ideas to help YOU build your first pair of decks!

Hello Netrunner fans. While some (or most… who knows really) of you might be on this site reading articles because you are an experienced virtual warrior fighting the good fight against Weyland and you just want more tricks… some of you might not be so versed in this game. In fact, some of you might just own a box of cards and play on occasion!

That’s great! Nothing wrong with that at all!

But… there is a whole other side to this game once you get into the customization element of it all. It can seem really intimidating, but with a little guidance and an attitude that screams ‘I am here for fun!’ we will get you into the deep end of the Netrunner. And that’s where you want to be… I mean… the deep end is the party end of a swimming pool isn’t it? I rest my case.

We will go through a few concerns first, then some advice on getting you into it.

“What do I need to own to start making my own decks?”

Easy! One core set. That’s it. This is a game of options, so more cards is more options… but you can start enjoying fun decks with just the single core set! If you decide you like to customize, you would probably want two core sets and a couple expansions as a solid starting point. We can discuss all of that later on.

“I play with someone who does not like to modify decks really… will this unbalance our games?”

A tiny bit yes, but don’t sweat it! Netrunner is a game of skill first, cards second... so unless you make your deck just to take advantage of the problems the starter decks have, you can still have good games! But think like this… if you enjoy the game, and your partner enjoys the game… dive into deckbuilding together! The experience will be more fun since you are learning together… and two buddies with 1 core set each can trade cards for a cheap answer to having more options! Worse comes to worse, there are simple changes you can make to the starter decks to easily increase their power without making them more complicated. Namely some money and ice cards on the Corp side, and Special Order and some icebreakers on the Runner side at the quickest of glances.

“I think I will make things worse / not be happy with what I make… 🙁 “

This is not a bad thing at all! You investing some time and taking more of an interest in your decks will most likely increase your enjoyment of the game. Failing is usually fun, or at least funny, so don’t sweat if your idea seems bad or wonky… just try it out and find out! You can always take it back apart… or just stay with it since no ideas are 100% perfect on the first proof of concept build.

Alright, I think I covered a few things. Let’s go into the Corp side first. I think there are two main ways to build a deck for a newer deckbuilder. Build around a card, or build around a basic concept. Building around a card is more challenging, but usually more fun in the deckbuilding process. Building around a concept is the easiest way to get started, and gives you a lot more focus on how to assemble the deck… you just might not be playing the faction you thought you would be, since certain concepts are best suited for certain factions.

I highly HIGHLY recommend going ‘build around a concept’ for your first few tries, but if you are just in LOVE with a card, try it out! Also, start with your deck being 49 cards, with 20-21 agenda points. That is the spread of cards to agendas over 90% of the Corp decks will run, and its for a reason. Don’t worry about why, but know most people will advise it so I would do that for now! ^^

Some concepts you can start with that are not too hard to visualize, or too hard to play at a reasonable level.

Fast advance: Decks that mainly score out of hand, using cards like Biotic Labor or SanSan City Grid. With more expansions, more agendas in your deck will be able to be scored in this manner. To a lesser extent, these kind of decks run cheaper ice, and try to play fast… aiming to get near match point before the Runner is fully settled in with a rig of programs. This kind of deck fits NBN and Haas Bioroid… NBN is faster, while Haas Bioroid is safer.

Standard Netrunner: Decks that just run a pile of good cards. Reasonable ice, agendas, economy cards, maybe some traps or upgrades. Does not plan to kill the Runner, and will play the agendas out of an ‘agenda server’ which has some good ice on it, making it costly to go through often. Haas Bioroid and Weyland are best suited for this.

Flatline decks: Agenda points are nice, and I will take a 7 point win if you let me, but I would much rather prefer your corpse on the table. These decks aim to kill the runner as a primary or as a very viable secondary win condition. These decks also can pose the threat of a kill, slowing the Runner down so he is ensured safety… and using this window of caution to score points. Jinteki and Weyland are best suited for this… Jinteki is more of a ‘Runner made a mistake and died for it’ while Weyland is more of a ‘I will end you before this game is over, it is only a matter of time…’ style of deck.

Glacier: The biggest ice, the strongest defense, but the slowest play. Very similar to the ‘standard Netrunner’ but usually runs stronger ice, more economy, and less traps if any at all. The goal is to make every run cost a small fortune, so the Runner never wants to run at all. Haas Bioroid and Weyland do this best.

Shell Game: I want to outplay you. Confuse you. Keep installing things and make you guess what’s a trap, what’s an agenda, and what’s a card that does not matter. Tends to need more bluffing to work, and tends to not have very strong ice. Also tends to be a Jinteki deck that can usually flatline. Hard to play, but a lot of new players hear there is hidden knowledge and go insane with decks like these. This is mostly a Jinteki exclusive in the core set days.

So! You picked a concept you want to try! Let’s break the average Corp deck into a few sections of cards now!

Agendas: Obviously.

Economy: Cards that get you money. I try to avoid counting agendas that give you money towards this, with an exception of Hostile Takeover… since if you don’t have money, you probably can’t protect an agenda long enough to score it. You want a mix of Asset and Operation. Asset economy needs to be on the table and usually protected… but is usually much higher yield on return. Operation economy is one and done, but very hard for the Runner to stop you from getting. A mix gets you the best of both worlds, and I recommend it… especially since the more options you play with now, the faster you will find what kind of cards you prefer to use in your decks!

Ice: Those dumb, errr I mean glorious cards that protect your stuff. You want a mix of ice so you have all 3 types (Sentry, Barrier, and Code Gate). Having all 3 types means the Runner needs breakers for all 3 types. Sentries do bad things to the Runner, but don’t stop him. Barriers stop the Runner, but not much else usually. Code Gates are wild cards, and do a ton of random nonsense… and often have the power to stop a Runner also, but not always. You also want a mix of early ice thats cheap to rez (like Wall of Static) and mid-to-late game ice (like Heimdall 1.0 or Tollbooth)… the balance between these styles of ice will be based on your deck. I would run at least half your ice to be easy to turn on early for a starting point.

Essential ‘Fluff’ Cards: Cards that don’t fit the other categories, but are key to making your strategy work. Traps in a Flatline deck, Agenda Protection cards in Glacier, things that enable scoring out of hand in Fast Advance… things like that. Things that if you never see them in a game, you are playing a much harder game that usual.

Other ‘Fluff’ Cards: Fun cards that are useful, but you don’t really care if you see them or not. Traps in a non-Flatline deck, Card draw usually, Archived Memories, things like this are all usually non essential and are added because you had room in your deck and you thought they would help. If you play a game and never particularly wanted a card to show up, or didn’t even notice it never showed up, or got a card that you never played… it is usually a card for this category. You want as few of these as possible, and should usually be the first thing you swap when making changes to a deck.

For the starting Corp deck, I recommend…

Total Cards: 49

Agendas: 20-21 points (usually 9-10 cards in the core set days)

Ice: 17, with at least half of them having an ‘end the run’ subroutine.

Economy cards: 11-12, with a mix of Asset and Operation

Essential Fluff: Depends on the deck.

Non-Essential Fluff: None to start.

If you notice… this is actually approx. 38 cards, excluding the Essential Fluff Section. That’s because some decks want more of certain types of cards. Glacier, for example, runs more Ice than a Flatline deck might. So, for the last 11 cards we are going to break it down by the deck types I mentioned before.

Fast advance: 4-6 Essential Fluff, like Biotic Labor and SanSan, 1-2 more ice, some card draw effects, and a couple more economy cards.

Standard Netrunner: 3-4 more ice, 1-2 more economy cards, then fill it up with whatever you like. Agenda protection like Red Herrings, traps like Snare, things like Archived Memories, or just weird stuff you think is fun. This kind of deck has the most slots of non-essential fluff, so have fun and try things out!

Flatline decks: Traps. Damage Cards. Sea Source if you are trying to use Scorched Earth for damage. You should be fine on ice and economy with the above skeleton, but if you want to add a little of either, go right ahead.

Glacier: 3-4 more ice, 3-4 more economy cards, then Agenda Protection or something that bolsters your ice is your best bet.

Shell Game: Traps. Money to turn the traps on. This kind of deck runs more Asset Economy than Operation usually. Whatever you feel is right.

“Alright! I got it… wait… my Identity cards say 15 influence. What do I do with this?”

For the beginner deck builder, the answer is simple! Whatever you want!

Okay, better answer. An easy way to do influence is to run through this checklist, in order… Do I have all the Essential Fluff cards my deck needs? Do I like all the Ice I put in my deck? Do I like all the economy cards I put in my deck? Can I throw a curveball in my deck that will give me a good edge in a game? If you go through that list and still have influence left over, then just look at the other factions and see what catches your eye as a fun card. If you can’t decide, don’t sweat it! You do not need to spend all your influence to make a good deck.

Common cards that get outsourced though back in the core set days, in case you need some ideas: Beanstalk Royalties, Adonis Campaign, Red Herrings, Ice Wall, Wall of Thorns, Viktor 1.0, Tollbooth, Chum, Archer, Neural Katana, Data Raven, Rototurret, Ichi 1.0, Anonymous Tip, Closed Accounts, Project Junebug, Precognition, Archived Memories.

That should be a starting point for the Corp side of things. Now, the Runner side is a little different.

For the starting Runner, you have more freedom, so the way I recommend Runner decks is different.

Start by picking your favorite faction. Look at the cards and see what you fancy, and remember the influence system… so pick the one you like the best OVERALL.

Shapers are good for strong economy, good strong rigs of icebreakers, getting extra memory and link on the table to play with more programs, and generally tricks involving R&D. Stability lives here.

Criminals are asshats, …errr… I mean are good at being aggressive early, playing fun tricks from their hand, and having very bursty and swingy economy, and a general focus around HQ. Point of note that the Criminals do not have an in-faction Code Gate breaker in the core set. Outsource one or plan on using buddy Crypsis the true Netrunner god. Excitement lives here.

Anarchs are good for destroying cards, having tricks that annoy the Corp a lot, having program combos, and having an exciting game where the basic action of ‘Click x 3: Purge Virus Counters’ really matters. They are the best faction for making the Corp care about protecting the Archives server. Insanity lives here.

Found your faction? Good. If you haven’t I recommend Shaper if you think you will play safer and slower, and Criminal if you want to get aggressive as a starting point. Runner decks want to be the slimmest they can be, to be more consistent and generally a little faster to set up. So 45 cards it is.

 The anatomy of a Runner deck is a lot easier. Economy, Icebreakers, Card draw and ‘Search your deck’ Effects, and other fluff.

Economy: Money cards, come in Resource and Event form, though some Programs and Hardware can provide some economic benefits too. Since the Corp can’t just kill the Runners things willy-nilly, you can run whatever you feel is right. The more Resources you have, the more you want to avoid getting tagged, so keep that in mind. I recommend a balance of Event and Resource Economy, and to consider outsourcing for Magnum Opus if you need to… since it is permanent, though it requires some memory chips to let you run a regular icebreaker suite and Magnum at the same time.

Icebreakers: These break the ice like a bad joke. (Like that one… guhh…) You want copies of all 3 types, and possibly the AI breaker Crypsis too. If you can’t break ice, your options get very limited. That is not to say you can not run without breakers… but you will be hard pressed to go a whole game without getting some breakers on the table. I would recommend outsourcing breakers that are more efficient since they are the most common target of your money spending in the game. I also recommend the operation Special Order to find the breaker you need faster.

Card Draw and ‘Search Your Deck’: If you can’t find your option, you can’t use it! So find it! Diesel is great, as is Special Order. Wyldside is less good since it is not optional. A key part of any deck that wants to be online and attacking in a reasonable clip of time.

Other Fluff: Literally anything else. Cards to access more cards are good, as are cards to avoid tags or prevent damage. Expose effects are helpful to the new player to learn, but you have a lot of choices. Being a runner is a style… so beyond the ‘Money and Breakers’ core of a deck, every thing else should just bolster and accent your playstyle further!

Recommended starting values? Of course!

Deck Size: 45

Economy: 15 as a minimum. More if your icebreakers are not the most efficient ones in the core set.

Icebreakers: 2 of each type, and 2 Crypsis. Minimum. Redundancy is good for a fast and consistent deck. Just saying.

Card Draw and ‘Search’: Whatever you can fit, but these are both really useful. Special Order is some of the best core set influence you can spend.

Other Fluff: Fill in the deck. Express yourself friend! Anything that accesses multiple cards at once, or avoids tags, I would put higher on the list.

Key cards to look at for influence: Corroder for your Barrier breaker, Ninja for your Sentry breaker, Gordian Blade for your Code Gate breaker, Special Order, Diesel, Magnum Opus, Akamatsu Memory Chip, Medium, Makers Eye, Inside Job, Bank Job, Easy Mark, Stimhack

A Sample set of influence might look like this. 4-5 influence on the two types breakers that are not in faction for your Runner, 6 influence on 3x Special Order, 4 for 2x Deja Vu, 1-2x Stimhack

What packs to look at in the future? BAM! Reddit has your back! ( ) It is a little outdated, but a great starting point. Beyond that guide, I would say look at card lists and see what looks nice to you. If you are lazy for that… there are 2 deluxe expansions (Shaper/HB and Criminal/Jinteki) that you should get if any of those 4 factions* are being played by you. Outside the deluxes? (In no particular order) What Lies Ahead, Cyber Exodus, Humanity Shadow, Future Proof, Opening Moves, Mala Tempora, True Colors, and Upstalk are all reasonable choices for multiple factions.

Any questions? Feel free to ask! I am here to help educate some of you fledgling sheeps …errr players into flying sharks. Without necks. Because necks are for sheep.

TL:DR – Be a shark.