I haven’t had much time to play with What Lies Ahead yet and this weekend was busy, so this is going to be more of a ramble then my previous entries. Hopefully you can glean some insight from it.
As I’ve grown more familiar with Android: Netrunner, I’ve made an interesting discovery: Icebreakers are far less necessary then I thought. There are, in fact, times where Icebreakers are completely unnecessary or even a bit of an impediment to your play.
I first noticed this while I was playing Shaper. I was running a sort of switch-hitting Kate deck: she could either go super late with a power rig or take advantage of accelerated economy/power draw to go in early and aggressive, depending on the opposition and how the game was going. What I discovered was that, quite frequently, I was able to score an agenda or two with minimal Icebreaker investment.Once I started playing Criminal, though, things started getting crazy and it became quite possible to start scoring multiple agendas with minimal Icebreaker investments.Now, before I get going, let me make something clear here. I am not saying you are going to be able to regularly win games without any Icebreakers. I certainly would not advise that you build a deck without Icebreakers! The fact of the matter, though, is you can get quite a bit done without them. In fact, it is often advantageous to run as long as you possibly can without Icebreakers in play.
Let’s break this into two main points: how much you can do without Icebreakers in play and why you don’t need to fear unrezzed ICE while you lack Icebreakers.
1. Strictly speaking, the ONLY way for the Corp to actually keep you out of their servers is for them to set up ICE that can end the run. This might seem obvious, but it is worth detailing.In the Core set, there are only 8 pieces of ICE that can, 100% assuredly end runs (Archer, Enigma, Hadrian’s Wall, Ice Wall, Rototurret, Tollbooth, Wall of Static, and Wall of Thorns). In addition, the new ICE from What Lies Ahead only added a single piece of ICE that, once rezzed, can assuredly end a run (TMI). Every other piece of ICE in the game? Cannot actually stop you from accessing the server they protect. They can make it more difficult (significantly more so in most cases), but they can’t keep you out. As long as you have credits, clicks, link, and cards, you can get in.This advantage fades as the game progresses, but, early on? It is entirely possible, depending on their ICE setup, that they won’t see any of the above ICE in the earlygame. This is the perfect time to take advantage of this temporary weakness from the Corp and run your heart out. Even if you run into problem ICE, well… check out the next point.
2. There are very few pieces of ICE that you really need to fear when you don’t have Icebreakers in play. Seriously. As of the writing of this post, there isn’t very much ICE that is scary when you don’t have Icebreakers. And this is because every effect besides program trashing? Is utterly controllable. Tags can be removed, Traces can be beaten, and Net Damage can be soaked. As long as you take the proper precautions against unrezzed ICE (have cards in hand to soak Neural Katana that you won’t miss too much, 2 credits and a click remaining to remove Tags, credits/link to deal with Trace attempts, or clicks to deal with the worst Bioroid routines), it can’t really hurt you that badly.
If you have Icebreakers, though? Archer is suddenly a game winning piece of ICE that will wreck your rig. Ichi suddenly requires you to spend at least two clicks if you want to not lose one of your precious Icebreakers. Rototurret goes from mild annoyance to incredibly hurtful. Also, it may not be ICE, but Aggressive Secretary is a waste without Breakers in play. Basically, the most damaging thing a Corporation can really to do to you is trash your programs. It goes without saying that, if you don’t have programs? They can’t be trashed!
This is especially poignant against Haas-Bioroid at the moment. Ichi is one of the more backbreaking pieces of earlygame ICE, requiring a pretty fair click/credit investment to bypass if you have programs. Without programs, it is a single click (or less, if you have link available or a broke Corp to deal with) to get through. If they defend something important with it expecting early breakers, then you are going to get a pretty sick advantage. Rototurret is similar in a lot of ways Although it can’t be bypassed as easily as Ichi, I’ve played several games where the Corporation will hesitate to rez Rototurret, waiting to try and pop one of your programs, giving you a couple free runs to exploit. And, well, like I mentioned earlier. If you can hit remote servers without programs (or with a Crypsis you don’t care much about), then Aggressive Secretary is worthless.
So yeah. There is a lot to be said for playing as long as possible without putting out a Breaker. Give it a shot. It definitely isn’t for all decks or for all players or for all matchups, but there is something to be said for it.
If you were curious about the deck I was using that really spurred me on to write about this, then here you go:
Deck Created with CardGameDB.com Android: Netrunner Deck Builder
Gabriel Santiago: Consummate Professional (Core)
Total Cards: (45)
Account Siphon (Core #18) x3
Easy Mark (Core #19) x3
Forged Activation Orders (Core #20) x3
Inside Job (Core #21) x3
Special Order (Core #22) x3
Sure Gamble (Core #50) x3
Diesel (Core #34) x3
Stimhack (Core #4) x2
Desperado (Core #24) x3
Lemuria Codecracker (Core #23) x2
Corroder (Core #7) x2
Ninja (Core #27) x2
Gordian Blade (Core #43) x1
Crypsis (Core #51) x2
Armitage Codebusting (Core #53) x3
Bank Job (Core #29) x3
Decoy (Core #32) x2
Crash Space (Core #30) x2