Android: Netrunner — Crimson Dust Review

WELCOME TO THE VERY LAST PACK OF NETRUNNER AS WE KNOW IT! Because of rotation, see.

Come the next cycle, which has yet to be announced despite the very first pack coming out some time in the upcoming month or two AHEM FFG, the first two data pack cycles will officially rotate out of the competitive metagame. That means goodbye Jackson Howard. Sayonara Plascrete Carapace. A sobbing goodbye to my beloved Replication Perfection and Fetal AI, which carried my sorry ass through too many lucky wins. And hello to whatever shenanigans new lead designer Michael Boggs has brewed in the background.

Netrunner will cost close to two hundred bucks less to enter competitively, and its card pool reduced to something closer to manageable. Before then, however, we have a month or so of the biggest supply of cards the game will ever get to use, thanks to the addition of the very last Mars pack (or at least last as of this sequence).

Let’s get to reviewing them — starting with the Corporations.

NBN

AR-Enhanced Security

Type: Agenda: Security 
 Advancement Cost: 3 
 Faction: Corp NBN 
 The first time the Runner trashes a Corp card each turn, give him or her 1 tag. 
 Only NBN’s sec teams were outfitted with systems that could read data flows and see into the Net. 
 Agenda Points: 1

There’s exactly one corporation identity that’s particularly enamored with this card: Controlling the Message, which already forces a Trace(4) every time the runner trashes an installed card each turn. With ARES scored, they risk putting themselves in BOOM! range just by trashing a friggin Pad Campaign.

Horizontal CTM was already an annoying-ass deck to play against back before triple Employee Strikes became mandatory, and this only serves to make it more consistent versus 3ES runners.

Assessment: GOOD — strongly complements a competitive corporate strategy.

Rolling Brownout

Type: Operation: Current 
 Cost: 2 
 Faction: Corp NBN 
 Faction Cost: 1 
 This card is not trashed until another current is played or an agenda is stolen.
 The play cost of each operation and event is increased by 1.
 The first time the Runner plays an event each turn, gain 1[credit].

Far, far more situational. Not every Runner deck is going to load for bear on events, and this means that NBN or affiliated decks can’t go heavy on operations either, making this heavily meta-dependent. In some ways, especially as you raise the cost of a Consultation/Boom combo, you’re cutting off the nose to spite the face, meaning you have to be absolutely sure that the last line, allowing you to profit off an Event tax, pays off in the current meta.

That doesn’t look much like any current deck in operation, to be honest. In particular, if they’re running Temujin and/or Aeneas as permanent funding sources, they’re not hurt much by the singular increase.

Assessment: BAD — highly situational effect for minimal gains.

Threat Level Alpha

Type: Operation: Double 
 Cost: 3 
 Faction: Corp NBN 
 Faction Cost: 2 
 As an additional cost to play this operation, spend [click].
 Trace(1)- If successful, give the Runner 1 tag for each tag he or she has. If the Runner has no tags, give him or her 1 tag.

This also goes into CTM, or any variant of Tagstorm. Combined with Psychographics, and you have a two-card fast-advance combo that also threatens the runner’s resource pool — a particularly good effect with Sync, I believe, given the ID’s ability to make even removing one tag painful.

It’s also a subtly dangerous card to play post-Crimson Dust. Anarchs, in particular, makes it a Tagstorm vs Tagme race for the clock. The more you tag them, the more powerful the Martian Clan cards get. But this also makes Psycho-advancing that much easier. Can you score out before they burn you down?

Assessment: GOOD — If you were already playing a tag-centric strategy, there’s no reason not to run this with Psychographics. May, in fact, be core to its post-rotation combo. NBN has a helluva number of ways to stack tags, even with Aaron Marron floating around — and is the faction that most easily has access to MCA Informant to get rid of the pest anyhow.

Jinteki

Breached Dome
 Type: Asset: Ambush 
 Cost: 0 
 Faction: Corp Jinteki 
 Faction Cost: 2 
 If Breached Dome is accessed from R&D, the Runner must reveal it.
 When the Runner accesses Breached Dome, do 1 meat damage and trash the top card of the stack. 
 Trash: 0

This is basically a post-rotation Shock, meaning that for a month or two there’ll be decks floating around with a full set of both and a bunch of Deflectors, trying to make you lethal yourself against a stacked Archives.

That’s janky enough to be hilarious, if you die to it.

The fundamental problem with all Ambush-type assets is, of course, that they’re more of a noob test than a serious card. Though AgInfusion decks with Inazuma can still capitalize on this post-rotation, its 0-cost trash cost and the Runner’s initiative to control the pace and direction of a server attack makes it too narrow to legitimately be threatening.

Its double-hit almost makes it tempting on Skorpios, except that Skorpios has plenty of other and more direct ways to attack decks and hands.

Assessment: BAD — limited window of use or threat, and leaves too much to runner’s discretion.

Sandstorm

Type: ICE: Trap — Deflector 
 Cost: 2 
 Faction: Corp Jinteki 
 Faction Cost: 3 
 [subroutine] Move Sand Storm so that it is the outermost piece of ice protecting another server (the Runner continues the run from this new position and is now running on this new server). Trash Sand Storm. 
 By the time the data storm passed, the landscape was transformed, and she was hopelessly lost. 
 Strength: 5

I smell jank. Repositional ice is a Jinteki specialty, and the low-cost/high-strength nature of Sandstorm actually does lend to it a few possibilities. But, also, like, positional ice tends to be bad or extremely niche. And Sandstorm is no different.

Where it shines the most is with AgInfusion, which already has a redirection built into its ID mechanic. Sandstorm gives you the option of doing it twice a turn, effectively — once with the ID, once with the activation. That guarantees that you’ve cost them two clicks. But now the server you were trying to protect is down a layer of ICE, making you more vulnerable on clicks three and four. Consequentially, this is never the ICE you want on a central server, where you want recurring taxation to match recurring access.

As remote ICE, though — it’s tricky to pull this off. Seemingly, the intent for Sandstorm is to click-tax them hard enough that they can’t stop your scoring window in time — kill combos don’t work, because they can always jack out after Sandstorm relocates the run. But the cost to install an agenda, Sandstorm, and an AgInfusion-enabling piece of sacrificial ice is already inherently high. And even if you use Shipment from Tennin to crack open the turn-after window wide enough for four-point agenda scores, you’re inherently investing a tremendous amount of capital in what is already a difficult combo to pull off just to score one agenda.

I hesitate to write off Sandstorm entirely, though, because it does seem to work well enough for asset spam strategies. If you have a key asset to serve as the spine of your operation — a Hostile Infrastructure or Sandburg — you probably also have Friends in High Places to keep them up. Sandstorm is good enough as a one-off layer of protection to frustrate attempts at stifling your horizontal expansion. In AgInfusion asset-spam, dropping the runner down to an effective two clicks a turn is possibly good enough.

Assessment: NEUTRAL — strategic potential, but unproven.

Haas-Bioroid

CFC Excavation Contract

Type: Agenda 
 Advancement Cost: 4 
 Faction: Corp Haas-Bioroid 
 When you score CFC Excavation Contract, gain 2[credit] for each rezzed bioroid. 
 “Sure, we also use human labor — they are more easily replaced.” –Emil Merk 
 Agenda Points: 2

I mean, if you’re going to use Bioroid ice anyhow to protect your servers, there’s literally no reason not to profit off of them. However, the real kicker is that CFC Excavation Contract may be the enabler for a rarely used identity. Architects of Tomorrow is almost entirely overlooked — it doesn’t enable autowin combos like Cerebral Imagining, or have the steady economy trip of Engineering the Future, and the ice interactions via The Foundry and even NEXT Design have thus far been stronger.

It does, however, interact with Warroid Tracker, one of the newest Bioroid upgrades available. It also makes for free Jeeves rezzes — which, in turn, can be used to score CFC Excavation Contract out of hand with just a bit of help. And if you double down with a protected Ronald Five/Warroid remote, the cost in clicks and trashed installations quickly gets out of hand for the runner, easily making for scoring windows.

Which you then leverage into piles of cash, thanks to this agenda, to further snowball your advance.

Assessment: GOOD — plugs in a tempo hole for an already competitive fast-advance strategy.

MCA Austerity Policy
 Type: Asset 
 Cost: 1 
 Faction: Corp Haas-Bioroid 
 Faction Cost: 3 
 [click]: Place 1 power counter on MCA Austerity Policy. When the Runner’s next turn begins, he or she loses [click]. Use this ability only once per turn.
 [click], [trash], 3 hosted power counters: gain [click], [click], [click], [click]. 
 Trash: 3

This works even better with the aforementioned Ronald Five/Warroid Tracker horizontal strategy! In general, though, click-taxing is a legitimate Thing for Haas-Bioroid. While this does effectively cut you down to two usable clicks to knock them down to three — seemingly cutting off the nose to spite the face — you were likely already using that click in a click-tax strategy to do something that… well, taxes them a click anyhow.

Just, like, in a more roundabout fashion.

A direct attack like this that then powers up for a point-scorer, though, is a potent strategy. And for more than one deck, maybe. Notably: Weyland Consortium can conceivably use this with Helium-3 Deposit for a janky sort of alternative fast-advance strategy — or at least during its midgame, since you still need to score the 4/2 H3D first. Not exactly recommended, of course, and the three Influence is steep.

Assessment: Good — In the right niche, it’s a powerhouse card, and possibly a core player, and has a straightforward impact in a well-supported faction. Worth the attempt.

Restore
 Type: Operation 
 Cost: 1 
 Faction: Corp Haas-Bioroid 
 Faction Cost: 3 
 Install and rez 1 card from Archives (paying all costs). Remove all other copies of that card in Archives from the game.

Archived Memories is already a decent card, given that recursion in Netrunner is inherently powerful. This is even better — basically gives you the ability to run 4.5 copies of Friends in High Places. The drawback is negligible too — there are actually only a handful of situations where you can expect multiples of the same asset, upgrade, or ice in Archives, and you can set up beforehand with either Preemptive Action or FiHP to dance your way around it.

Assessment: Good — It’s a straightforward and undercosted utility card compared to its Core Set equivalent. Nothing much else to it.

Weyland Consortium

Fractal Threat Matrix
 Type: Upgrade: Security Protocol 
 Cost: 4 
 Faction: Corp The Weyland Consortium 
 Faction Cost: 3 
 Each time all the subroutines are broken on a piece of ice protecting this server, trash the top 2 cards of the stack. 
 “I embedded recursive data loops into the go–no–go subroutines of every piece of ice.” –Anson Rose 
 Trash: 3

Oh boy. Oh boy. So there are three scenarios with this.

One: you use it with a Blue Sun glacial strategy, where you can reliably get like five or six pieces of ice over the scoring remote. And then lose to Anarch running conspiracy breakers (Paperclip, MKULTRA, Black Orchestra — all named after wartime ops) and a Levy to cycle through their decks twice over. Everybody else deck themselves dry in a mere few turns, though!

Two: you use it with a standard Kala Ghoda TV Skorpios deck, so that even if they only break through one or two pieces of ice, it’s another opportunity for you to nab a key card before they have access to it.

Three: you burn the influence points to side this into a Jinteki deck with Synth DNA Modification, upgrade the Synth server with Fractal Threat, and park a Kakugo over both. Then laugh as they crash against your razorblade fences.

Assessment: Good — Synergistic with multiple faction strategies, HELLA ANNOYING.

Priority Construction
 Type: Operation: Double 
 Cost: 1 
 Faction: Corp The Weyland Consortium 
 Faction Cost: 1 
 As an additional cost to play this operation, spend [click].
 Install a piece of ice from HQ protecting a remote server (ignoring all costs). Place 3 advancement tokens on that ice.

Weyland is going to be interesting with the new rotation, with this and other key cards serving as its mechanical foundation. The faction’s main gimmick is a poor one — whereas Jinteki has mindgames, NBN has tags that allow direct attacks on runner resources, and Haas-Bioroid has Brutal Robot Efficiency, Weyland has… uh… barriers and advancing ice.

Here’s the problem with advancing ice. In Netrunner, the concept of efficiency is tied up in a number of different ways — key among them, the concept of “click compression.” Where, basically, the more things you can do in one click, the more powerful that overall effect. Which is pretty simple on its face, right?

Weyland advancing ice is click decompression, where to get them to a usable or at least affordable state (such as with the ice that can be discounted down to zero cost to activate), you need to spend both a click and a credit to push a number up… once. Until recently, they’ve almost all been absolutely terrible as a result. Only Woodcutter had a chance to shine, as sufficient investment made it a kill card. Maybe. If you could gimmick your way around the decompression issue.

Priority Construction flips the script. For one cost, you get an installation and three advancements upon it, equaling a total click compression score of four. A 4:1 ratio is GREAT by any metric, and it also further serves to interact with cards like Anson Rose, Constellation Protocol, and Red Planet Couriers. The fact that it also comes in the same sequences as “good” advanceable ice like Mausolus and Hortum, where they start cost-efficient and get better, only makes this an even more enticing card to work with.

Assessment: GOOD — redeems previously crap cards, and synergizes well with similar effects.

Neutral

Conundrum

Type: ICE: Code Gate 
Cost: 8 
Faction: Corp Neutral 
Faction Cost: 
Conundrum has +3 strength if there is an installed AI.
[subroutine] The Runner trashes an installed program.
[subroutine] The Runner loses [click], if able.
[subroutine] End the run. 
Strength: 4

The latest among a series of anti-AI ICE countermeasures — and, no, this won’t make a dent on Faust’s MWL cost. At eight, and a possible strength of 11, this does the job of hard-ending a run against strategies reliant on AI. At eight. While still more affordable than Chiyashi, it’s endgame ice you slap down when you’re on points five or six, meaning you aren’t using it for most of the game, nor does it actively play towards any synergistic effects.

That’s not to say it’s necessarily terrible — anti-AI ice that doesn’t cost influence points is still fundamentally useful. But…

Assessment: BORING

CORPORATION ASSESSMENT

Though the application of the more powerful cards are narrowed to specific strategies (as, frankly, they should be), this is an overall strong pack for corporation decks. Which is not to say there aren’t a few utility or wide-reaching effects to tempt otherwise settled decklists.

Restore, for example, is a “fair” FiHP, which could bolster decks that are already heavily reliant on recursion effects — ie: the majority of asset spammers anyhow. MCA Austerity Policy’s click-taxing impact and its conditional crowbarring of the scoring window leans laterally to a few other strategies bent on slowing runners down. Fractal Threat Matrix has some serious potential too for resource access disruption.

It’s uncertain who the biggest winner is — CTM for having an agenda that matches it strategy is a strong contender, but Weyland getting a faction-wide upgrade and Haas-Bioroid getting a nasty click-taxer are all contenders. The biggest loser is obvious, though. Jinteki’s two cards are highly situational, and difficult to build around, much less build into. Crimson Dust, it appears, refers to the relative dryness of the Jinteki offerings…