For a runner, program destruction is one of the scariest things you can run into. It ruins your carefully constructed rig, slams your momentum into a brickwall, creates a window for the corporation to go from dead in the water to letting their sysops post inappropriate pictures of your mother onto runner BBSes, and sometimes leaves you without any form of recourse.
As a corporation, it is one of the most delightful things you can do. It stops the pesky runners from getting into your servers, with the added benefit of letting you watch the hope drain from their eyes as they realize that they can’t touch you anymore.
So I figure we should talk a bit about it.
In all seriousness, program destruction is one of the most powerful options available to a corporation in Android: Netrunner. As long as the corporation has a piece of ICE in front of a server that says “End the Run” and the Runner lacks a way to break it, there will be precious few ways to get through to that server. Of course, this means that there aren’t a lot of ways to easily destroy programs. As of this entry, there are four ways to trash programs (three pieces of ICE and one asset): Rototurret, Ichi, Archer, and Aggressive Secretary.
The big thing about all four of these tools, while incredibly powerful, is that all of them are theoretically easy to deal with, as long as you play carefully.
So, first thing is first, I figure. We should talk about the tools themselves. Next week we’ll talk about putting it all together or taking it all apart, pending your tastes.
As Corporation: I’ve talked at length about Rototurret in the past, because I love it so very much. So, let me sum it up. Rototurret excels during a very narrow window (when the runner has a program out, but can’t break sentries). Still, I consider it a very strong piece of ICE, as it is fairly cheap, low influence, and can be crippling if you do manage to rez it at the right moment. In addition, Corporate Troubleshooter transforms it from something of a lategame annoyance into a legitimate threat.
As Runner: Be wary of running on unrevealed ICE with programs in play, but without something to bypass sentries. That’s about the best you can do. Rototurret is cheap, easy to slot into most decks, and very threatening. Of course, if you can run into it while you don’t have any programs (or you can snag yourself an early sentry breaking option), it is pretty much a lame Wall of Static.
Oh, and make sure you don’t forget about Corporate Troubleshooter! A well-timed Troubleshooter is bad news. Ninja is an excellent defense (forcing the Corp to spend 5 for every 3 you spend), but most other breakers are vulnerable here.
No more clicks? No more programs.
As Corporation: Ichi is an interesting piece of ICE. At 5 cost, he is pretty damn scary: 2 program trashing subroutines, a brain damage subroutine, and 4 Strength. All for the low, low cost of 2 Influence. Of course, that sort of power doesn’t come without a price. Ichi is a bioroid, which means that, as long as you’ve got clicks he is quite easy to get around. Because of this, making Ichi really work for you is quite difficult.
Generally speaking, your best option is to layer other bioroids in front of him, forcing the runner to expend clicks before they reach Ichi. This forces them to pay the generally more expensive cost of getting through him with breakers (and enables the use of Corporate Troubleshooter to further exacerbate the issue). Double Ichi is a particularly obnoxious server to deal with. I feel it’s worth mentioning that Ichi is a GREAT click eater. Running him in front of a Janus is a great way to force some brain damage on them.
Against more aggressive opponents, it is theoretically possible to bluff Ichi as another piece of ICE in front of your HQ/R&D and rez Ichi late in the turn if they’re willing to keep hitting the server. I don’t really recommend this unless you are sure you’re opponent is the sort to do this, as you’re giving them another free shot or two at the server to drain them of clicks. If you think they’re vulnerable to this sort of trickery, then go for it. Otherwise, I recommend just rezzing Ichi and letting it slow them down.
As Runner: You know what one of my favorite things as a Runner is? Turn 1 Ichi. It pretty much gives me carte blanche to run that server until I finally decide I need a program to go somewhere else. Yep. The biggest weakness of Ichi is that, until you play a program, it is garbage. Rather expensive garbage, at that. Even when you get programs out, it isn’t that big a deal. Make sure you have two clicks whenever you’re running unrezzed ICE and you’re pretty much immune to Ichi.
If I watched Archer, I’d probably try to one-up the flavor text. As is…
As Corporation: Archer is amazing. That is all.
Okay, okay. I suppose I should actually say something relevant. Archer is pretty much the strongest piece of ICE in the game. Low credit cost to rez, 6 strength, 2 program trashing subroutines, makes money, ends the run, and is fairly easy to include in other decks thanks to its 2 influence cost. It doesn’t really matter what the Runner has in their rig, Archer is a pain to deal with. The cheapest normal option to get through it is Ninja, requiring a whopping 8 credits if you want to avoid losing programs to it. And Corporate Troubleshooter (yes, I’m going to hype him in almost every part of this article) exacerbates the issue.
Of course, as I said with Ichi, great power comes at a great price. And Archer’s price? Pretty expensive. Using Archer to its fullest requires you sacrifice an agenda to spring it on the runner. While this isn’t too bad when you’re giving up a Breaking News or a Hostile Takeover, this isn’t too scary. When your only option is an Executive Retreat, though? It gets a little harder to stomach. Sure, you can get around this cost with Accelerated Beta Test or Priority Requisition, but a rezzed Archer (unless backed by Corporate Troubleshooter) just isn’t as good as a surprise Archer.
The decision is up to you. Take a look at the game and decide. Are you sitting up 6 agenda points and the runner on 0? Prolly not worth it. Your opponent already lost one of their breakers to some net damage or a willing discard? Lose the agenda and lock them out of your servers for the rest of the game.
As Runner: Once the Corporation scores an agenda, don’t go anywhere near an unrezzed piece of ICE without a sentry breaker and a load of cash. Not a lot else you can do. And like I’ve said before: watch out for Corporate Troubleshooter.
You WILL leave your programs at the door.
As Corporation: This is the big mack daddy (mommy?) of program destruction. No sissy Icebreakers will stop this from wrecking the Runner’s day. Playing Aggressive Secretary, like all Ambushes, is fairly complicated and relies a lot on bluffing. Frankly this sort of discussion deserves an article all on its own. Just keep in mind that Aggressive Secretary is one of the strongest options as there is little a Runner can do once they run into it, yet one of the weakest, because it is a waste of resources if they identify it.
As Runner: Learn to read other players. Or expose things with advancement tokens. Or drain the Corp’s coffers before you hit them. If the Corporation doesn’t have 2 credits, the Aggressive Secretary won’t be coming to the office.
So, there you have it. The four program trashing threats and a little bit of advice on how to use/abuse them. Next week we’ll try and put this mess together and discuss really mobilizing Program Destruction as a Corporation, and how to deal with that as a Runner. Hang tight!