So, last week we talked a bit about the tools used for program destruction. This week, I figured we should talk about how to really put those tools to work. Or avoid being utterly destroyed by those tools.
So, without much ado, let’s get started.
There are quite a few ways to survive program destruction as a Runner. So let’s get the easy things out of the way first, that being the “hard” counter and the hard counter.
1. Redundant Breakers: If you run enough breakers for every type of ICE, destroying enough of them to lock you out of servers is going to be difficult. Decks that only run 2 of each breaker type (or, God forbid, one of a specific breaker) and no Crypsis/Worm are the ones most vulnerable to program destruction. Without redundant options, two bad runs is sufficient to get you locked out. Even one bad run could be bad news, as, with only one other option in the deck, you’ll be forced to dig for it, which, depending on your deck, could lose you quite a bit of time.
Three of any given breaker is pretty rough for even dedicated program destruction to chew through, but a Crypsis (or Wyrm, I guess) or three is even worse. While it can be hard to rely on the omnibreakers to bear the brunt of the work due to the extra costs involved, even the most brutal program destruction deck is going to have trouble trashing 4-5 breakers of the “same” type.
2. Sacrificial Construct: Yeah. This card is good against program destruction. Really good. Pretty limited against anything else. Redundant breakers are prolly still a better option.
There you go. Deck building wise, those are your two main tools for combating program destruction. Playwise, you’ve got a few more options, though.
First and foremost, go read Icebreakers are for Chumps if you haven’t already. That advice remains pretty applicable. Without programs in play, program destruction isn’t really that powerful.
Who would have guessed?
That said, once you do get a breaker down, you need to be wary about running unrezzed ICE. All three ICE that can trash programs (as well as Sherlock, which can pitch them back to your deck – slightly less devastating, but still kind of irritating), are sentries. So, as long as you’ve got credits and a sentry breaker, you don’t have too much to fear. You can theoretically punch through Ichi with clicks, so, if you’re willing to risk it, make sure you have 2 clicks left when running.
Once ICE are visible, they’re a lot less scary, since, most of the time, the math is sitting there on the table and it will take a pretty critical error on your part to lose a program at that point. Of course, you do still need to watch it if there are unadvanced cards in the server. Corporate Troubleshooter is a dangerous card and, while it isn’t popular at the moment, Experiental Data does exist and can mess up very tight math. Honestly, Corporate Troubleshooter is big part of what makes this kind of deck work. A revealed Rototurret, Ichi, or Archer aren’t going to kill any programs normally. Corporate Troubleshooter changes that. Keep track of them, and try to get cards exposed when you can so you know if you’re safe.
Speaking of exposed cards: Aggressive Secretary. Aggressive Secretary is pretty backbreaking, since you can’t really do anything about it outside of run Sacrificial Construct or not run it. And not running it is dangerous because, well, scored agendas are rough. Unfortunately, most factions now have agendas that they can reasonably float for a turn or two (Project Atlas, Braintrust, and, technically, Mandatory Upgrades), making predictions a lot harder. Your best recourse is to scout advanced cards with some sort of expose effect or, in a pinch, run the corp out of resources with Account Siphon/Vamp. The Secretary still requires 2 credits, allowing you to shut her off in some circumstances and run freely.
Aside from all that? Basics of the game are pretty important in these circumstances. Know how much cards cost. Know their influence so you can eliminate possibilities. Know how much it’ll cost to break them. If you forget it is going to cost you at least 8 to not lose a program to Archer, then the fault is all on you. Due to the hidden information, Netunner is definitely a game where you really need to know possibilities, and if you don’t do your homework, don’t be surprised if your brain fries.
The key to making a deck built around program destruction is mass. Breaking one program is annoying, but it isn’t really that great. It might slow the runner down a bit, it might not. You need to destroy multiple breakers, and you need to completely lock them out of at least one type of ICE. In addition, the windows in which you can easily break a runner’s programs is fairly narrow, so you need to optimize your chances of having it available in those windows. You NEED to punish the runner every single time they take a chance.
You should run every piece of destruction possible (Rototurret, Ichi, Archer, and Aggressive Secretary) as well as Corporate Troubleshooter to optimize your chances and the frequency with which you can be successful.
Damage (net, brain, and meat) is a serious ally to program destruction and should be considered. If you can force a breaker out of their hand with, say, an early Neural Katana, they are in a very bad spot. Furthermore, Neural Katana/Rototurret sets up a fairly nasty earlygame where the runner is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Do they play the breaker in their hand and run, risking the turret, or do they hold it and risk the katana? If neither, well, you’ve got more time. Even midgame, the Runner will be forced to hold breakers, allowing bursts of damage to pick them off.
Corporate Troubleshooter is your friend. Do not waste it. If you can kill a program with it, do it. Get it installed quickly and use it! Furthermore, keep the runner guessing. Provide facedown installations for the runner to fear. You don’t need to destroy programs to win. If you can cow the runner long enough to sneak out agendas, then it is as good as trashing every single program they have.
Speaking of agendas, though. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of possible gaps in the runner’s rig to score agendas. If you’ve got a remote with a Rototurret at the end and you just trashed their Ninja, take the shot. Get an agenda down and advance it out before they draw a new one. Unless them stealing the agenda would cost you the game, don’t wait to eat all of their breakers. You don’t know how far down the next breaker is, so press your suit.
Aggressive Secretary. Aggressive, like all traps, is tough to play and learning to do it right comes with experience. I really should write a whole article on traps. The best I can tell is learn to play them right. A successful Secretary is devastating, especially if you manage it at three advancement. I will say that I’ve had some solid luck with it in HB. The threat of Mandatory Upgrades allows for the fairly nasty play of install, double advance, then single advance next turn, setting up for a triple advance on the last turn and a score.
A final note on the corporate side. Take care with installing your ICE. Removing all of a corporation’s, say, sentry breakers isn’t worth a lick if you can’t stop them on your critical servers. Even if they don’t have breakers, if your ICE doesn’t end the run, they can still get in.