Since I started the Progrunning project, I’ve been playing and enjoying a lot more Netrunner. Probably not masses of Netrunner in dedicated player-terms, but a lot more than previously.
And I’ve been understanding the game much more. I can now pick up a card I’ve not seen before (and there remain very many) and understand how it affects the boardstate, what that might mean about the Corp’s deck. I’m not quite there on knowing what tools I can use to stop the Corp from doing that and I’m certainly not a massively efficient player yet… But there’s still plenty of time to get there and the journey is so far a fruitful one.
How Progrunning has changed for me
I had a vision of what I was going to do as I progran. And for the first few weeks I stood by it.
However, Pipeline changed that for me. I ran that damn breaker for far, far too long and it crushed my soul. Why, I asked myself, am I inflicting the pain of what I now know is sub-optimal, inefficient breakers instead of using those two core boxes full of cards that I so assiduously built up?
Well, the answer is because I want to learn the card pool, the mechanics and get better. You know, the reasons why you went into progrunning in the first place. “A fair point,” I mused, “Well made.” Pausing as I stroked my chin in armchair philosopher style, I then reminded myself that I wanted to get the basics understood rather than be unhappy and I decided to change my approach to progrunning.
I would still continue through the packs in order of release, and I would constrain my own deckbuilding to those packs. But when I came across a new ID, I would also netdeck a reasonably successful deck with that ID and play it alongside my own creations. That way I would be exposed to more of the card pool, more of the current card pool and accelerate my learning.
For each new card that I put into the deck, I would research it on netrunnerdb and learn what it’s purpose in the deck is. So, for instance, I’ve been running a Gabe deck with cards through to Blood Money as well as my first-cycle Kate deck. I’ve been running a HB: Stronger Together deck that also has Jeeves to accelerate it’s play (when I remember to order my turn properly that is!).
This has become a much more enjoyable and frankly rewarding experience for me, and has definitely advanced my understanding of how the current game plays.
What have I learned?
The increased experience – direct and from watching an increased number of videos – has allowed me to evaluate boardstate more accurately to perceive threats and opportunities. It’s also allowed me to start to sensibly define what I need to focus on next.
Being more specific, I have learned through experience rather than theory:
- The general timing structure of the game; when to fire Jackson for instance as a Runner hits archives
- How breakers interact with Ice and some training on remembering the common costs for ice types
- That a big pile of credits, becomes a small pile of credits much more quickly than you would think
- Don’t go flat-broke in most circumstances; recovering from 4 credits is massively easier than recovering from 3 which is massively easier than recovering from 2
- Ice placement is important, and making sure there are a number of different types of ice on critical servers
- A big stack of unrezzed ice is scary; it puts people (me) off running the server like knowing the water is cold puts us off jumping into a swimming pool.
- Where agendas are likely to be at any point in time
- Multi-access is really important in terms of the threat it poses (and the Corp’s reaction to that) and the ability to create the greatest opportunity to maximise a score on a given run
- Criminal has a really bloody hard time finding breakers from their stack and not getting a code gate
- Draw as early as you can in your turn
- Not all runs are about stealing agendas
- You’ve sometimes got to give up agendas to further your game plan, so probably best to have a plan of which agendas you’re prepared to lose
- If you want to get good at a deck, play the deck often
I’ve also learned a few more specifics:
- You should rez Ash before letting the runner choose which card to access in the server (didn’t cost me the win, but let the runner get to match point!)
- That order of clicks really makes a difference when running Jeeves (well it does anyway, but this taught it me)
- Rez the Corp’s drip economy cards in the paid-ability window at the end of the runner’s turn to get that first drip
- A tidy play area helps everyone, and the physical discipline of placing cards and tokens helps my mental discipline of thinking about the game
- Have a plan for when Advanced Beta Test puts a load of agendas into Archives (like a rezed Jackson)
- Very many triggers for abilities
- Very many cards, what they can do (in their printed text and how they interact with other elements)
I’ve also learned that I don’t really understand some things:
- How to play against kill decks, beyond ‘carefully’
- How to play Jinteki decks (either as a Runner or as that Corp)
- The best way to place ice when the options present themselves
- How to see scoring windows as a Corp
- How to keep focused on a run plan and form a Plan B as a Runner (for instance, I struggle when the Corp ices up HQ as Gabe)
How have I learned all of this? Or, what advice would I give to someone wanting to improve?
Firstly, I’d say go back to the core set, find a friend and play with the basic decks. But not just to try to win, specifically as a collaborative exercise to learn the game. Talk about the cards you’re playing and why you’re playing them. Allow take-backs, and so on.
Then, I’d go online and netdeck a deck using the core set ID that is MWL legal, preferably one with a good strategy guide. Do this with your cards in front of you, and read the card in the deck, read the comments for that card on netrunnerdb. Stop and think about your core set games and how that card compares to the cards that you’ve played.
By keeping with IDs that you’ve already encountered it is more likely that the cards will have a comparator in the core set that is close enough to extend your understanding rather than be beyond your understanding.
Then do the same with your friend: play games with the focus on learning rather than winning. Take notes of what cards worked and why you think that was the case. The most important part of that evaluation is a dispassionate assessment of ‘how lucky was I?’
Did you grab a single agenda from a single access of a full HQ – a 20% chance of success?
Well, you’ll only know that if your friend tells you that information, but it is important to know that in 4 out of 5 occasions that would’ve been a non-scoring run. Otherwise your evaluation of whether you should keep doing that will become screwed. Keep notes of it all and spend time away from the table considering them.
The main aspect that I’m trying to demonstrate here is what I call active learning rather than simple playing. That can be summed up in three key behaviours:
- Extend your knowledge and understanding from an existing base; e.g netdeck IDs you’re already familiar with to start
- Use the learning of others to accelerate your own understanding; e.g. read the reviews on the cards you’re playing, listen to the podcasts and pause them to look up a card you can’t recall
- Reflect on your own experiences, and seek to get as much information so your evaluation isn’t screwed; e.g. talk to opponents post-game to understand the game from their point of view and ‘how lucky’ you were.
So, I think I’m starting to build a solid foundation for netrunner playing. I need to start to get out beyond my friendly circle and start playing other opponents to test that increasing knowledge in the real-world.
I expect that win %-age to get crushed as a consequence.
I need to play more frequently – take advantage of Jinteki for instance to play in the evenings that I can’t make a physical store.
But I’m overall pleased with my progress so far. In particular, I think my decision to amend my approach to progrunning is a sensible one and has made the exercise more rewarding and more fun. I hope that this article helps anyone else in a similar situation to me – new to the game, bit intimidated by the sheer scope of the card pool, wondering how best to learn it to become competent.
If you’ve got any questions hit us up in the comments, or at the usual places!