Tower of Defense

When we first learned to play Netrunner, one of the most instantly-appealing corp strategies was Glacier. We didn’t know what to call it at the time, but it seemed like such an obvious game plan: build a remote server with super impenetrable ICE piled on top of one another, and start advancing agendas in it and let the runner sit back and watch while we won the game. It’s so intuitively obvious and seemingly fair, that some people have taken to describing this sort of gameplay as “real” Netrunner, (as opposed to fast advance, which I suppose those people think is something else entirely). However, our first Glacier decks inevitably ran into some major issues, specifically, that if the runner builds a rig and simply sits on a ton of money, they’re going to be able to steal our Priority Requisition as soon as we install-advance-advance it. This article is going to help you learn the ways around this sort of issue so that you can effectively build and play Glacier decks.


Defining Glacier

Simply put, Glacier decks try to build a super-expensive remote server with a stack of medium to large-sized taxing ICE and choke the runner on resources so that they can’t afford to make very many runs on it. Rather than rushing the runner to install a full breaker suite by using cheap ICE of varying types, we concede that the runner will eventually be able to get into any server we build, and just try to make sure that they won’t be able to do so efficiently enough to steal too many of the agendas we try to score. Usually, the Glacier strategy enables the corporation to play larger agendas than other decks, allowing us to win in 3 scores rather than the more typical 4 needed by fast advance, never advance, or rush decks, which frees up deck space for more economy to help us rez our bigger pieces.

The inherent weakness of this strategy is that we don’t necessarily have a way to pressure the runner to break into our centrals. If we don’t have a way to score our agendas directly from our hand, the runner doesn’t have to try to break into HQ or R&D if they don’t want to. Once they realize our game relies on remote-play, they can stockpile their resources so that when we inevitably install an agenda in our remote and advance it, they will be ready for us. How are we supposed to deal with a runner who just sits back and clicks their Opus or piles tons of credits on Kati Jones? As the Glacier player, we have to find a way to gain inevitability.


Winning, Eventually

“Inevitability is the strategic consideration that, all things being equal, one deck will beat another given enough time.”

– Jeff Cunningham, MtG Pro Tour Veteran

Sounds simple enough, right? If we can find a setup that will win the game if left unchecked for enough time, all we have to do is avoid losing to random accesses, and we will win the game! The trouble is, setting up true inevitability is extremely difficult in Netrunner. It’s very difficult to ever hard-lock someone out of the game. As things progress, the runner will get more and more random accesses, and eventually that will be enough to win. It’s not Magic. We can’t simply wipe their entire board, draw a ton of cards, and hold up Counterspells for the entirety of the game. We can rarely hope to make even one server truly impenetrable, let alone lock our opponent out of every single one. Furthermore, runner economy cards like Kati Jones are so efficient, it’s difficult to imagine how we as the Corporation could gain any sort of incremental advantage in the long term. There are few ways to make a server more expensive faster than a runner can use their Magnum Opus.

To win the game eventually in Netrunner, we not only have to have a very strong long-term economy and game plan, but also put stress the powerful runner economy, which we can do almost exclusively by inducing them to run through our servers. The easiest way to get a runner to do this is to install and advance something in our remote, but there really are a number of ways to do it aside from just letting them steal an agenda upon getting in. I have identified four types of things that we can install in our remotes to help us put pressure on the runner to actually run us, hopefully paying a large price to get not a lot of benefit. They are, in no particular order, economy assets, protection upgrades, advancable nonagendas, and agendas themselves.


Economy Assets

One huge benefit of having expensive remotes is that we can put assets in them while we are not scoring in them. This is perfect, because some of the most powerful economy cards in the game are assets. It’s going to be hard to maintain inevitability without a strong long-term economy, and runners know this. Many times, the best runner strategy against a Glacier deck is to choke their economy, and to do this, they will have to trash things like Melange Mining Corp so that we can’t fund our ICE towers. In the early and midgame especially, inducing the runner to break into our remotes to trash Sundews, Eve Campaigns, and Melanges is going to be our primary way of putting pressure on the runner. Ideally, we put this pressure on the runner before they are entirely set up, so that they have to set up faster and less efficiently than they otherwise might have. If we put a Melange behind a Bastion, we could get the runner to search up their Corroder with their Self-Modifying Code rather than their Magnum Opus. If they have to draw more cards and then click for credits to install their economy engine after the fact, we have them right where we want them.

The main trouble with economy assets are that they occupy a remote server in such a way that we can’t also install an agenda in that server. Self-trashing assets like Adonis Campaign are great for our scoring remote, but the most powerful economy assets, namely, Melange Mining Corp, Eve Campaign, and Sundew, don’t use themselves up so quickly, and so we might have to create a secondary remote server or even trash our economy when it comes time to score.


Protection Upgrades

Once you build an expensive remote server, these guys are going to cost the runner far more than an additional piece of ICE might. They are the bread and butter of the Glacier deck, the missing piece that turns an insurmountable economic advantage into scored agendas. I might even go so far as to say that a pure Glacier deck can’t possibly function well without these cards. This is what we missed in our core set HB Big Ice deck, the bit that Glacier needs to become truly competitive.

The idea behind the protection upgrade is that the runner might be able to afford get in once, but not twice or three times. If the runner has $20 and our server costs $15, we can’t safely try to score our agenda, but with the help of an Ash, what was once an easy choice for the runner becomes a lot more difficult. Do they come and get the Ash as soon as we install it, before it gets too expensive? Do they try to race our economy, so that we can’t afford to trace them away when they break in? Do they just give up on our remote altogether and try to win on centrals before we can get to 7 points? When we pose these sort of difficult questions to the runner, we’re doing our job right.

Caprice Nisei is the newest addition to the cast of protection upgrades. While she doesn’t necessarily give you the assurance of safety that an Ash might, she can induce the runner into a multitude of expensive, unsuccessful runs as they cling onto the hope that they might eventually win a psi-game. As well as Caprice and Ash, there are other protection Upgrades available in Corporate Troubleshooter, Red Herrings, and Off the Grid, though for various reasons these cards are not quite as strong, (at least right now).


Advancable Nonagendas

The easiest way to get a runner moving is to advance something. The prospect of the Corp scoring a Priority Requisition is often unacceptable to a runner, so if we can play something in our server that looks like a large agenda without actually being one, we can potentially induce an expensive run without putting out agendas at risk. I hesitate to call these cards traps or ambushes, because they are not always traps. In fact, potentially the best example of an advancable nonagenda is GRNDL Refinery. Not only does GRNDL Refinery look a whole lot like an agenda, but if the runner ignores it because they suspect a trap, don’t think they can get in, or prefer to attack us on other fronts, we can still reap economic benefit.

Traps such as Aggressive Secretary might not be as invariably decent as Refinery, but the upside can be ridiculous. If you can trash two of the runner’s most valuable programs, winning the game becomes pretty trivial from there. However, most advancable nonagendas run into issues. They can be ignored or exposed, and they’re often easy to trash if accessed from centrals, making us more vulnerable to those attacks. Ambushes in particular are quite literally hit or miss, and that can be a problem if we’re looking to avoid variance and win a good majority of the time.



These are not the ideal run-inducers, because they help the runner to win the game, but that doesn’t mean that we should never try to induce an economically draining run with an actual agenda. If we can get the runner to run and steal an NAPD contract, breaking their bank, and we can score a Nisei Mk II in that same server soon afterwards, it’s painfully obvious who is on the winning end of the exchange. Think of the run-inducing agenda as a trade. If the runner can get in once, but not twice, and we have two agendas, we can allow the runner to pay to steal one agenda so that we can score the next one. The upside of using an actual agenda as compared to a GRNDL Refinery or an ambush is that if the runner decides, for whatever reason, not to run it, we actually get to score the agenda.

The most prominent reason to use this tactic is that we are playing agendas in our deck anyway. If we have two agendas in HQ and HQ is a lot softer than our scoring remote, it’s much more appealing to have the runner break into the remote to steal the agenda rather than snipe them out of HQ as they pile up. Futhermore, all other things being equal, if the runner and the corp both score one agenda apiece, those agendas are both removed from the game and are no longer at risk of being stolen. Often, as in the previous NAPD/Nisei example, all other things are not equal, as agendas are often either difficult to steal, or provide a tangible benefit to the corp for scoring them without proving any such advantage to the runner aside from the points that they are worth.


Building Glacier

Now that we know what the game plan is, it’s time to put together a glacier deck. We’re going to need agendas, economy, ICE, and protection. We’re also going to need 3 Jackson Howard.

Jackson Howard is super important to the Glacier player, moreso than to the fast advancer, the flatliner, or the rusher, (who may or may not want him at all). The only decks that value Jackson higher than Glacier are Accelerated Diagnostics combo decks, which literally cannot function at all without him. You might be tempted to cut a Jackson Howard from your Glacier deck to save a point of influence to fit a Caprice or a Tollbooth. You would be wrong to do so. Jackson provides us with the ability to take our good old time setting up without any real downsides. He digs us to our economy cards and relevent ICE quickly, allows us to hide agendas in the archives, and puts our agendas back into our deck before we’re ready to start scoring them. He can even clean up after incompetent beta testers.

When we put together our agenda package for Glacier, we should be looking to score 3 times and win. We’re not building a tower so that we can score a 1-pointer. We’ve got a big server, and we should look for big agendas to put in them. I believe that the best agenda suites are often either 4x 3-pointers and 4x 2-pointers, or 2x 3-pointers, and 7x 2-pointers. These setups make it as easy as possible for us to win the game in 3 scores (2x 2-pointers and 1x 3-pointer). Our agendas should play into our plan: taxing the runner, securing inevitability, and building ICE towers. Priority Requisition and Accelerated Beta Test do a great job of helping to build our ICE towers as we score, so that if the runner tries to amass resources for the late game, we can make things even harder on them at the same time as we durdle a couple of turns away scoring. NAPD Contract, Fetal AI, and The Future Perfect are great at protecting themselves, which is just phenomenal for a Glacier deck, as our central server agenda density tends to go up as we set up in the midgame, and we need all the help we can get. Overadvancable agendas like Project Atlas and Vitruvius are pretty good for us, as we are often in the position to be able to score them with a lot of counters on them. Nisei Mk II’s counter is positively ridiculous when all of your servers are super taxing, as it will both blunt the runner’s remote server or Maker’s Eye glory run and interact completely unfairly with Caprice Nisei.

For our economy, we should take advantage of both our long-game aspirations and our remote-building plan. Assets like Adonis Campaign, Eve Campaign, Melange Mining Corp, and Sundew provide a huge benefit if we can adequately protect them.  PAD campaign, Marked Accounts, and Mental Health Clinic might not always be the best cards for us, as they aren’t totally reliable if unprotected, but if we draw them early they can potentially last forever, and in a long game, that can translate into a whole lot of money. GRNDL refinery might not be terribly reliable either, but it does have huge benefit of being able to induce runs. For our operations, we should go as big as we can. Hedge Fund should almost certainly be a 3-of everywhere, of course, but aside from that, we should look to cards like Celebrity Gift and Restructure rather than things like Beanstalk Royalties. When our operations have to compete for deckspace with huge moneymakers like Eve and Melange, they should get us a whole lot of bang for our buck, (and do a whole lot to help to fund the protection of the assets in the midgame, even if that means rezzing large ICE early on).

I have found the sweet spot for protection upgrades to be in the 3x-5x range. 3x Ash works pretty well for an HB deck. Caprice is relatively easy to trash from centrals, so you might need to play a bit more protection if you’re going to rely on her. Corporate Troubleshooter is a neat trick if you have some nasty destroyers, but I would never play more than 2 in a deck, as he is very situational. When building your deck, don’t forget about the presence of Interns and Archived Memories, which you can use as the 4th or 5th protection slot, working on the assumption that they will be able to retrieve a trashed protection upgrade later on in the game. This isn’t just a nice influence-saving trick; having some amount of recursion is nice because you can let the runner into your centrals without fear of your protection being trashed.

ICE-wise, Glacier decks tend to want a lot. You’re going to need to tailor-make your servers to be a pain in a very specific runner’s ass every single game, and that means you’re going to want options. You might need to protect all 3 centrals and 2 remotes, all with multiple pieces of ICE. You’re going to want to have some ICE that you can rez early in the game, as Tollbooth on HQ, Tollbooth R&D turn 1 isn’t the ideal start. I would say that any Glacier deck wants a bare minimum of 17 ICE, but having more is often better. The vast majority of the 49-card Glacier decks I build end up with 18-21. You want your ICE to be taxing, (Eli, Tsurugi, Heimdalls, Tollbooth, Pup), but you don’t want it to be so expensive on average that you can’t afford to rez early if you have to. You probably want to supplement your cheap, taxing ICE with a few pieces of cheap binary ICE as well, if for nothing else than to protect HQ and R&D early on or to defend your first economy assets. Always consider the relevant breakers in your metagame. Datapike looks like a good piece of ICE for a deck that is trying to tax the runner, but you almost certainly don’t want to play 3 of them, as they’re totally worthless if the runner plays a Yog.0.


The Redcoats


Nordrunner’s “Redcoats” HB EtF Glacier deck put Glacier on the map, competitively. Other people have had success before him with the Glacier strategy, but his post on BoardGameGeek really solidified Glacier’s presence in the metagame as a viable, competitive strategy. He does a pretty good job of describing the deck in his original posting, so I’ll give you the link as well as the decklist.


Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future (Core Set)

Agenda (8)
3x Accelerated Beta Test (Core Set)
3x Priority Requisition (Core Set)
1x Project Vitruvius (Cyber Exodus)
1x Project Wotan (Creation and Control)

Asset (9)
3x Adonis Campaign (Core Set)
3x Eve Campaign (Humanity’s Shadow)
3x Jackson Howard (Opening Moves) •••

Upgrade (3)
3x Ash 2X3ZB9CY (What Lies Ahead)

Operation (8)
3x Hedge Fund (Core Set)
3x Restructure (Second Thoughts)
2x Subliminal Messaging (Fear and Loathing)

Barrier (8)
3x Eli 1.0 (Future Proof)
2x Heimdall 1.0 (Core Set)
2x Heimdall 2.0 (Creation and Control)
1x Wotan (Second Thoughts)

Code Gate (8)
3x NEXT Bronze (Opening Moves)
3x Tollbooth (Core Set) ••••• •
2x Viktor 2.0 (Creation and Control)

Sentry (5)
3x Caduceus (What Lies Ahead) ••••• •
2x Ichi 2.0 (Creation and Control)


This is the quintessential Glacier deck. Core HB’s ability goes a long way towards providing inevitability for the long game, Beta Test and Priority Requisition are both studs with regard to building ICE towers, and, for their cost, Bioroids are some of the best taxing ICE in the game. Since Nordrunner’s post, many people have come up with their own version of this deck, and I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen somebody playing something very much like it by now. If you’re looking to make some changes, it’s easy to switch up some of the ICE splashes, (though Caduceus and Tollbooth are both very strong choices), and since he’s posted the list we’ve gained NAPD Contract and Quandary if you want to switch those in for Vitruvius and NEXT Bronze. This list is extremely flexible, as HB has a lot of cards in faction, including basically all of the tools you need for a Glacier deck, so if you want to start playing HB Glacier it’s advisable to start here and make any changes you think make sense, including the splashes.


Honor and Perfection


RP Glacier is the next big thing in big ICE. Before Honor and Profit, I thought that this identity was decent if you knew how to build and play it. After Honor and Profit, it’s a powerhouse. The additions of Komainu, Pup, Mental Health Clinic, and The Future Perfect all at once are too huge to ignore, so if you’ve been too busy trying to make Nisei Division work, I encourage you to look back to White Tree as a place to play with your new toys. Here’s what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks:


Jinteki: Replicating Perfection (Trace Amount)

Agenda (9)
3x NAPD Contract (Double Time)
3x Nisei MK II (Core Set)
1x Fetal AI (Trace Amount)
2x The Future Perfect (Honor and Profit)

Asset (10)
3x Jackson Howard (Opening Moves)  •••
1x PAD Campaign (Core Set)
3x Mental Health Clinic (Honor and Profit)
3x Sundew (Mala Tempora)

Upgrade (4)
2x Ash 2X3ZB9CY (What Lies Ahead)  ••••
2x Caprice Nisei (Double Time)

Operation (7)
3x Celebrity Gift (Opening Moves)
3x Hedge Fund (Core Set)
1x Interns (Mala Tempora)

Barrier (6)
3x Eli 1.0 (Future Proof)  •••
1x Himitsu-Bako (Opening Moves)
1x Wall of Thorns (Core Set)
1x Wraparound (Fear and Loathing)  •

Code Gate (4)
2x Quandary (Double Time)
2x Tollbooth (Core Set)  ••••

Sentry (9)
3x Komainu (Honor and Profit)
3x Pup (Honor and Profit)
3x Tsurugi (True Colors)


This deck looks to use net damage as a tax rather than as a kill mechanism. Komainu, Wall of Thorns, Pup, Tollbooth, and Tsurugi are all painful for the runner to hit at the front of the central, so it’s relatively easy now to “live the dream” of setting up a piece of punishing ICE on the front of HQ, R&D and Archives so that if the runner wants to attack your remotes, they’ll have to pay, even if they just want to bounce off one of your centrals. The game plan is quite similar to that of the Red Coats deck. First, you protect your centrals with whatever you happen to have. Then, you work on your economy assets, ideally protecting a Sundew for as long as possible, but also setting up Mental Health Clinics or PADS whenever you draw them, (use your judgement for whether or not you should protect those with ICE). When you’re set up, start building your scoring remote and, if at all possible, try to score a Nisei. With Nisei scored, the runner is going to have to beat you at the psi-game twice in a row if they want to get past a Caprice protecting your remote, which makes it relatively easy to get to 7. You can even chain them in the same sense that an NBN player chains Astroscript Pilot Programs.


An Experimental Brew

In the same vein as the previous two decks, I’ve taken the time to try and work out a fresh, new type of Glacier deck, (though admittedly not with quite the same success as Replicating Perfection). The following Harmony Medtech tech is a good try if you want to play around with some of the new Jinteki IDs:


Harmony Medtech: Biomedical Pioneer (Honor and Profit)

Agenda (6)
3x Priority Requisition (Core Set)
3x The Future Perfect (Honor and Profit)

Asset (9)
3x Jackson Howard (Opening Moves) •••
3x Melange Mining Corp. (Core Set)
3x Shi.Kyū (Honor and Profit)

Upgrade (4)
1x Akitaro Watanabe (Core Set)
3x Caprice Nisei (Double Time)

Operation (8)
3x Celebrity Gift (Opening Moves)
3x Hedge Fund (Core Set)
2x Interns (Mala Tempora)

Barrier (6)
1x Bastion (Creation and Control)
3x Eli 1.0 (Future Proof) •••
1x Hive (Double Time) ••
1x Wall of Thorns (Core Set)

Code Gate (4)
1x Inazuma (Honor and Profit)
1x Quandary (Double Time)
2x Tollbooth (Core Set) ••••

Sentry (7)
1x Komainu (Honor and Profit)
3x Pup (Honor and Profit)
3x Tsurugi (True Colors)


This Glacier deck suffers somewhat from the relative lack of influence, but has the benefit of being able to win by scoring only 2 Agendas. Things are not so easy for the runner, though. The Future Perfect is unfairly difficult to score out of a central server, and if the runner hits a single Shi.Kyū when you have money, they’re going to have to score half of the agendas in your deck to get to the necessary 6 points. The reliance on the easily trashable Melange Mining Corp is this deck’s biggest weakness, but there is plenty of room for improvement, and I encourage you to take a try at this sort of thing. as the strategy is definitely sound, and it’s fun to try something new.

If you’re tired of fast advance, look no further than Glacier. This is the premier competitive non-FA strategy now, and you’d do best to learn to play it if for no other reason than to learn how to play against it. Much moreso than Tag & Bag, Glacier decks are going to give you big game against the strongest players, and flipping a Wotan off a Beta Test can awaken the Timmy inside even a hardened min-maxer like myself. If I’m not playing NBN at regionals, you can bet my deck will have Caprice or Ash in it, if not both.

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