RtNfFaP – Corporation or Runner First?

Today’s installment of RtNfFaP is going to be a bit short, but it is going to address something that I feel is important: The choice of whether to play Corporation or Runner first during a match.

Having played for several months at this point, I’ve found that a  lot of players seem to be a bit passive about what they want to play. “What does it matter,” they say?  “I’m going to play both at some point anyway.” And there is indeed something to be said for that. But the nature of Netrunner’s scoring system means that it does matter. It can, in fact, be the difference between winning a match and losing it.

See, once you’ve got the first game finished? You know the exact point at which you can win the match. And if you’ve won the first game, this can take a lot of pressure off you.

Take this awkward hypothetical. You’ve got an unrezzed Tollbooth in front of HQ, 7 credits, Project Vitruvirus/Project Vitruvirus/Priority Requisition/Biotic Labor in hand. What do you do? If this is your first game, you prolly credit, something, something to protect your hand and hope that they can’t deal with the Tollbooth. If you won the previous game, let’s say, 10/1, though? There is a strong argument for Biotic Laboring out the Vitruvirus. While this leaves your hand dangerously exposed, it matters less at this point, because you’ve won the match at this point. You’ve guaranteed yourself 4 Prestige.

While the Tollbooth is (arguably) a better play, the problem is that it has really done nothing but keep you from losing the game at this point. It is still fully possible at this juncture for the Runner to find some way to beat you without giving you the opportunity to score another Agenda. Maybe they drop a Sneakdoor. Maybe an Inside Job -> Emergency Shutdown. Maybe even a Femme Fatale! Then they hit your hand aggressively, steal the agendas, you never recover financially, and they win the game 10-0, then win the match 11 – 10.

This example is obviously a little skewed to make the point, but I think it gets it across well. Knowing what you need to win allows you to play for the Match win first (assuring a total of 4 Prestige for you) vs playing to win the game (assuring you nothing more than the 2 Prestige you got from the first game). Then, once you’ve won the match, you’re able to play a less conservatively, taking greater risks knowing that you’ve locked away the match.

In case you haven’t put 2 and 2 together yet, over the last month or so, I’ve become a very large proponent of playing as Runner first.

The fact is that Corporation has a lot more control over how, when, and how risky to be when trying to score agendas, which allows them to modulate their play. A decent example is today. Opened a hand of something like… Tollbooth, Beanstalk Royalties, Beanstalk Royalties, Commercialization, Hostile Takeover against Criminal. Which is a bit of a borderline hand to me in the circumstance. However, I also knew that I won G1 10-0. So the decision here is a lot easier. I keep, and immediately score Hostile Takeover, securing the match.

Now, that said, there are arguments for playing Corporation first. When playing a  v  e  r  y,  v  e  r  y  s  l  o  w  corporate deck is a good one. Runner has a much better chance of being able to quickly score agendas if the timer is ticking down. Similarly, the ability to modulate your play (accounting for traps, dangerous ICE, etc) is also altered, I just find your options for modulation as a Corporation tend to be stronger since, well, you know when you have agendas, while the Runner is hitting blind.

So. There you have it. It definitely CAN matter what you play first. The simple fact is that, going into the second game, you’re always going to have more information about what needs to be done to win the match, which gives you certain advantages during the second game (especially if you won the first). So, take some time to think about it.


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  1. #1 by profligate on February 25, 2013 - 5:16 pm

    Really, we should be playing the side we feel we are stronger with first. This gives us the information we need about how to get that solidified win in the second game of the match. Not only does this create a situation where we operate from a position of knowledge, it also gives us the best chance to win in a timeout situation where we leave the second game incomplete.

  2. #2 by A Rogue on February 26, 2013 - 1:42 pm

    Like I said, there are arguments for both directions. I just tend to feel the arguments for Corp second (where you theoretically have a lot more control over the ability to score agendas or not) are stronger.

  3. #3 by cetiken on February 27, 2013 - 8:37 pm

    I like to play corp first. Mostly because I’m much more confident of my corps ability to win and winning game 1 makes game 2 a much less stressful event.

  4. #4 by Pompadour on April 9, 2013 - 2:11 am

    Securing the match doesn’t matter in the slightest if you want to be the champ. I won every match in regionals yet I still got third place because I didn’t 6-0 every opponent. The most important thing I took from that tournament is that you must 6-0 every opponent or you won’t have a shot at first place. You pretty much have to play like it’s single elimination if you want to come home a champ.

  5. #5 by A Rogue on April 9, 2013 - 7:11 pm

    Could you possibly post that to my new blog location? I would love to respond in full, but would prefer to do it at my blog’s new home. arogueswriting.com/blog Thanks!

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