Vince “The Professor” Curkov is a Chicago-area player is one of the many amazing people that I’ve met in the course of my Netrunner adventures. I remember when Creation and Control came out and his eyes lit up with delusions of 25-influence grandeur as he uttered the phrase that every Professor player has said at some point.
“I think once some more programs come out, The Professor will really come into his own!”
We’ve come a long way since then, and as the programs came out, it became more apparent that everyone else would actually just get better with new programs, because there would be no combination of programs in 3 factions that couldn’t be run out of an ID with an actual ability. Then mini-factions came along, and hope for The Professor’s niche was rekindled. Still – the nutty professor deck never emerged from the metagame.
It turned out that what The Professor really needed was for FFG to actually just change the rules of their own game. So Vince, I’m raising my glass to you and all of the other Professors out there who kept the lights on and stayed irresponsibly loyal to one of the worst ID cards in the entire game. Congratulations on your win; taking down a tournament with a “bad” ID is one of those odd pleasures in Netrunner that people seldom get to enjoy.
Unfortunately, I have to hi-jack this edition of NRDBir to talk about the current game environment and where we as competitive players stand in the midst of mumbad, with rotation still on the horizon.
Participating in the competitive Netrunner scene has been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. The friends that I have made, the great players from all over the world – truly a more diverse cross-section of cultures and ideologies I have never known — all of us strangely bonded together over this dumb game that we love.
The hotel room floors, the 4-hour car rides that pass by in an eyeblink as we talk about how to play certain opening hands and matchup strategies. The 12 hour endurance tournaments that push you to the mental breaking point, stress you, and exhilarate you like nothing else.
Magic the Gathering may be a game of dueling wizards, but no game other than Android Netrunner truly feels like a mental fencing match; perhaps no game ever will. The click mechanics made it so that no game ever felt out of your hands, there was always the dance between turns of hiding and uncovering information to make strategic decisions. Even post caprice, when so many games ended on a single Psi-bid – it still felt like you were in control of how the game unfolded for you. There were always lessons to learn, ways to improve, ways to play better, to read the board better.
Losing a game of Netrunner, seldom felt like you just got unlucky – this meant that winning netrunner was rewarding, because you were often winning in spite of those random elements.
Things have changed.
I’ve grown a lot as a person in the 6 months of writing this column. When I started, I had a lot of weird animosity towards the player base, and I wanted to point out some of the craziness by lampooning the decks that community selected to prop up on Netrunner’s premiere deck-building site. I definitely went too hard on the players, and tried my best to pivot that loathing onto the cards and the designers that make them rather than the people who piled them together.
We’ve always been about looking at things through a competitive lens, because there are a lot of ways to have fun with netrunner – many DOTW creators were great sports about it. They get that we’re just approaching things from one direction, even if they are coming from the other. These players make up the majority of the player base. People are playing card games to have fun. Shocking right?
Why am I waxing poetically about casual deck building on my competitive deck building blog right now? Because I love netrunner, and it’s The Professor’s out there that are keeping it alive right now.
The competitive game is stale and has been for a long time, and I just can’t muster the enthusiasm to play competitively anymore. I’m stepping down from try-hard netrunner to just have gentlemanly duels with my friends a few times a week with an unspoken agreement to do something we don’t do very often: to play for fun, rather than to win.
Who Do We Blame?
Basically, the game has become a lot more random. Things have become too draw-dependent for many of us to enjoy, it’s hard to quantify, but it feels to me like your skill as a player matters a lot less than the order that you draw your cards in now.
Maybe this is by design, maybe the goal was to close the gap between skilled players and unskilled players by introducing more random elements into the game. I am not a game designer. I could not authoritatively say that Faust or the MWL or Damon Stone is at fault here. The only thing I am certain of, is that no single thing is broken in Netrunner, rather it’s the conflux of a number of factors that have been part of the game for a long time.
I’ve even heard whispers that players want to blame TheBigBoy for popularizing some decks that have been deemed “unfun” to play against. To these people I will simply say: TheBigBoy didn’t print the cards – TheBigBoy didn’t ignore the notes of the playtesting team — The players who publish unfun lists are NOT the people to blame.
Wyldeside + Adjusted Chronotype is a brokenly strong engine, Bio Ethics + Industrial Genomics is just the best use of a new card we were given. TheBigBoy slapped his name on it, but the decks were going to be made by someone else if he didn’t build and share them first.
The sooner that the strongest strategies are identified, the sooner the metagame can begin to adapt to deal with the perceived biggest threats. Competitive players like Calimsha, Spags and TheBigBoy are providing a service to us by sharing their tech – Whether or not we enjoy playing against it isn’t their fault.
Bio-Ethics and Dumblefork
For those of you who aren’t as plugged into the metagame as the rest of us, the first Mumbad City Hall deck to get a lot of attention was a Bio-Ethics + Defensive agendas IG deck that TheBigBoy shared last week. It leverages the City Hall to build to net-damage inevitability with Bio-Ethics Association. So that all of us can be on the same page right away, here is a tuned version of the deck that TheBigBoy and Calimsha collaborated on to produce:
Industrial Genomics: Growing Solutions
2x Fetal AI
3x Global Food Initiative •••
3x The Future Perfect
3x Bio-Ethics Association
1x Genetics Pavilion
3x Hostile Infrastructure
3x Jackson Howard •••
3x Mumba Temple ••••• •
3x Mumbad City Hall •••
3x Museum of History ••••• •
2x PAD Campaign
1x Caprice Nisei
3x Hedge Fund
1x Heritage Committee
Code Gate (4)
2x Lotus Field
2x Architect ☆☆ ••••
13 influence spent (max 15-2☆=13)
22 agenda points (between 22 and 23)
50 cards (min 45)
Cards up to Democracy and Dogma
I don’t want to discuss the deck here, or how to play it or anything like that, I just want you to be aware of it. Interestingly, Dumblefork with Archives Interface and Employee Strike seems to be able to contend with this deck.
Is it any different than when Andromeda with Data Suckers and NEH Astrobiotics decks were the most played at a bunch of major events? No not at all. There are always going to be dominant decks, and card game players are no strangers to this idea. The issue that I take is simply one of player agency. My decisions in netrunner just don’t seem to matter more than the cards that I draw – and this is the sole reason for my competitive resignation.
“Unfun” decks are par for the course in competitive card games – as a competitive player, the only truly “unfun” thing is losing for reasons that are completely beyond your control.
Yeah yeah, I know I’m whining, I won’t let the door hit me on my way out. We pay such close attention to the FFG team. We question every twitter ruling, malign every business decision – are we just being cry babies? I don’t think so. I think the reason we take such a keen interest in everything FFG does with this IP of theirs, is because we all recognize what a special thing it truly is. We’re like parents – not mad, just disappointed.
Every single lover of netrunner is invested in every decision that affects the fate of our beloved game. It is heartbreakingly disappointing when we hear about how the playtesting team’s suggestions were ignored by the Dev-team – every FAQ that doesn’t contain MWL changes has us pacing and wondering why “something isn’t being done”.
We’re not mad FFG, we’re just disappointed. Netrunner is a great game, and I will continue to play it casually at my local game store; however, I will never forget all of the great times all of us had together as competitors – as worthy opponents with nothing in common but our love for a children’s card game, locked in a duel for cyberpunk supremacy.