Running the Nets for Fun and Profit – Icebreakers are for Chumps

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

http://www.cardgamedb.com/index.php/netrunner/android-netrunner-deck-builder

Identity:
Gabriel Santiago: Consummate Professional (Core)

Total Cards: (45)
Event (23)
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

Hardware (5)
Desperado (Core #24) x3
Lemuria Codecracker (Core #23) x2

Program (7)
Corroder (Core #7) x2
Ninja (Core #27) x2
Gordian Blade (Core #43) x1
Crypsis (Core #51) x2

Resource (10)
Armitage Codebusting (Core #53) x3
Bank Job (Core #29) x3
Decoy (Core #32) x2
Crash Space (Core #30) x2

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  1. #1 by Escapade on December 24, 2012 - 1:12 am

    Yeah, breakers are for chumps until you get 3 forts with end the run ice. Then the game sadly moves into midgame. It’s a good trick for any faction, but it’s rough with a link-poor Anarch against NBN or other trace heavy decks.

    Of interesting note is that Sacrificial Construct is written to protect hardware and programs, but hardware can only be trashed as part of a cost (i.e. Cortez Chip) and thus unpreventably. That means it only saves programs. Currently, only two things should blow up programs: surprise rototurrets/ichis/archers/etc. and Aggressive Secretaries. That means if you have a construct, you can drop 1 important breaker (let’s say Corroder), and continue to run like you’ve got nothing to lose. Of all program trashing ice, only Archer has two instances, so it’s a pretty dead giveaway when the opponent is playing NBN or Weyland and has a small scored agenda and unrezzed ice. Otherwise, run your heart out.

    As for the deck, With 3 special orders you probably don’t need a pair of crypsises, and 1 Gordian Blade is a bit fragile; assuming you’ve caught up with WLA, throw in a Peacock if you can’t find the influence. It’s also fashionable these days to run a Femme Fatale alongside the Ninja. Criminals can afford her, it cheats Tollboth and Janus 1.0, and if you draw her first, can still serve as your main sentry breaker in a good number of matchups. Refer to any number of ice vs breaker spreadsheets.

    • #2 by A Rogue on December 28, 2012 - 1:50 pm

      Hey man, a good criminal should never let the game enter midgame! =)

      Sacrificial Construct is pretty super tech at the moment and I’m curious if it’ll catch on as the game ages. The fact is that program destruction, especially in the later game, can be pretty devastating. However, at the same time, it is pretty sporadic and dead cards do hurt the runner quite a bit.

      As for the deck, it was definitely written and played pre-WLA. To justify, though:

      1. Crypsis were run as (admittedly inefficient) Code Gate breakers in case I lost the G-Blade. They also do have some general use in that they could also double as (again, admittedly inefficient) copies 4 and 5 of Special Order, as I found I was having trouble always seeing things as quickly as I needed.

      2. Yeah. 1-of G-Blade is scary, but it is such a damn Influence hog. In the updated version, I go -1x Disel, -1x Gordian Blade for +2x ZU.13.

      3. I’ll have to try out the Femme Fatale + Ninja option. I tend to run broke unless I get a really good start, but it might be worth trying out. If nothing else, might help a little bit on those deeper games.

  2. #3 by cetiken on January 3, 2013 - 6:19 pm

    Its interesting to note that a early Magnum Opus (perhaps Modded) resumes the risk of running breaker-free. Its a subtle trick of how shapers are less strong in the early game.

    • #4 by A Rogue on January 3, 2013 - 7:44 pm

      Fun fact: Fairly early in my play I Modded a Magnum Opus in on T1 and lost it to Rototurret T2.

      That game did not end well.

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