Alright, kids. First time poster, long time troller here at Stimhack.com, I decided that I needed a release for my creative juices, and that writing an article may be the best outlet for that . For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been playing card games for 20+ years now, and have always enjoyed the competitive nature of them. I started on Magic: the Gathering, taught to me by legendary game designer Tom Wham, and moved on to a variety of others, including Legend of the Five Rings, original Netrunner, Jhyad/Vampire, Doomtown, and many more. While I took a break in the 2000’s, the re-release of Netrunner in the much-preferred LCG format brought me back. Finding such an elegant designer, sublimely refined for modern card gaming audiences, really hooked me.
After attending a number of tournaments in 2013, including Gencon, Aaron Andries (my sparring partner) and I found we were pretty good at the game, and have only been working at it since. Placing high in Worlds the last two years, we have really enjoyed not only the high level of play and competitiveness at such events, but the competition itself. We have made a number of friends within the scene, and found it to be pretty enjoyable and laid-back, while also full of an aggressive desire to improve and succeed. I would probably go to war with a fair amount of these fools.
Enough about myself. Let us get on to the meat of the matter, which is this game we all know and love. I have played it since its inception, and find it in as rich a place as ever following the latest release, Order & Chaos (O&C). Stealing is flattery, I have heard, so I will re-use the format of my fave basketball writer Zach Lowe, and give you 10 thoughts and feelings about O&C, and the meta and game in general post-release. (not going to breakdown too many archtypes and whatnot; see @gumOnshoe’s excellent write-up here)
1. – The Return of Red
Anarch has been gone for some time. Perhaps you thought Jesus’ time in the wilderness was a long time away, or that Tom Hanks’ island time in ‘Castaway’ was sad. Anarch has them beat. Now, before you come noting that Noise has been relevant for a while, and has always been an annoyance to the Corps, even immediately post-Howard, I would agree. The thing is, Noise is almost a faction unto himself. His ability is unlike any in the game, and his reliance on a type of card makes him unique and always dangerous. Outside of him, and Steven Wooley’s brave run with Anatomy of Anarchy, the Red Runners have by-and-large been ignored and downtrodden upon by the ANR crowd.
The big boxes always provide some new injection of life into the factions within them; hard not to with that many cards focused on a color. However, unlike past big boxes, all three Runners (don’t click here) included in this one had immediate strengths and viability from the get. MaxX has the most powerful and useful ability, but the others are not slouches. Plus, there are tons of new toys for the Anarchs included in O&C, that perhaps will help to resurrect their older IDs.
2. – MaxX
I do love this ID. A lot. Having once been fairly deep in the punk rawk scene, I get it.
Someone pointed out that in the future, they won’t be listening to this ‘punk rock’ from a bygone era. Well, punk’s been around for nigh 40 years, and kids are still styling mohawks and putting studs into leather jackets. Granted, you now buy said accoutrements from your local mall nowadays. On an aside, an FFG employee told me that he once dated a woman who looked just like MaxX, and had a full back tat of the London Calling cover. If that was true: sick.
Enough about that bollocks. To the ID. She already has shown her strengths through two different builds, both of which are successful in their own right. I believe they are strong because SHE is strong. I have always been a fan of Shaper, Kate in particular, having piloted her to T16 at Worlds in back-to-back years. MaxX fits perfectly into that mold, relying upon recursion while going all out. Is it worth burning one’s haus down for an extra click a turn? To quote the lady herself, “F*** YOU, MUTHAF***ER!!”.
Ooooooo-kay. Perhaps we won’t return to her for any more quotes. So, you can play Blue in Red with her, or Green in Red. Both work. Nice. Imagine if she were printed Green, and were in Creation & Control instead of, say, Exile? Immediate broken, right? A shame that something this strong, yet balanced, took this long to hit the game. This is RNG done right, a la Hearthstone. Psi, OTOH, is RNG done wrong.
3. – Cutting Currents
The new mechanic of Currents, added in the Lunar cycle, was pretty well dismissed. The main problem, outside of the fragility of the card type, was that they lacked any sort of teeth. Enhanced Login Protocol was a strong addition to Replicating Perfection decks, and Manhunt can be a major annoyance. O&C added two new ones, one to each side, that directly attacked the opponents cards.
Housekeeping can be downright nasty early, especially first turn v. an Andromeda player. It also punishes decks that cycle through programs frequently, such a number of Anarchs and Shapers. This card should only get better in SanSan cycle, with addition of cards such as Hayley Kaplan. The Runner current, Itinerant Protesters, is much more focused and specific. However, in a Valencia deck that pours on Bad Publicity, it be a strong method to clear out the safe haven of HQ, especially if followed up with the new Anarch Account Siphon, Wanton Destruction.
I feel that when something like Currents are introduced to the game, the aren’t meant to be immediately impacting. They are usually setting the table for things to come, and this is a nice second stage of that. SanSan will hopefully bring some even more interesting ones, especially if Traffic Jam bears out.
4. – Net Neutrality
There are not many neutral cards in the big boxes, so they should really count, right? Not this time. Cyberdex is the only stand-out of the bunch, and probably should have existed prior to this set. It should be noted that if/when Clot drops, the stock price of the Cyberdex company will jump dramatically; Mad Money dude will be losing his shit (he’s still alive, right?). Otherwise, there are some niche neutral tools which aren’t finding their way into one’s decks anytime soon.
5. – State of the Art
I have always been a big of the art on cards. It is difficult to take a piece of work, chop and scale it down to fit into a 1×2 inch space, and have it look good. It is something taken for granted, but quite important to a card game. It doesn’t affect the game, but people will take notice of shitty art. The art for ANR has progressively gotten better, and is anchored by a few all-stars in Matt Zeilinger and Adam S. Doyle. Day Job is probably the best piece of the set, but the IDs for both factions are pretty great, as well. My love of MaxX is known, so it was particularly nice to see her grace so many cards, as well as the box art. It is pretty obvious that she is a fan favorite at FFG, as well.
6. – Theme
As long as I’m meandering from discussing the actual game, let us note the theme. ANR has been the best card at marrying theme and mechanics. Card such as Data Folding show that the FFG design team get it; the world
(both now and then), the characters, and how these can translate into a few words on a card. The whole space theme, which was started in the Lunar Cycle, continues here, and is fantastic. Things are harder to reach in space, and cards such as Glenn Station and Gagarin show that in their mechanics. Oh, smart Runner, you want to expose this evil Corporations doings at … space camp. Oops. Well, that distracts the public, allowing them to advance their true agendas.
The Anarchs are well explored here, too. A true melange of ideas, from social justice, to worker’s rights, to raw anarchy are covered with the IDs. The addition of more drugs and the subsequent brain damage from their usage is always welcome. This is a real world, and rough. Noise murders a clone of himself! Obviously, he’s down with Ed Kim’s movement. Plus, I like the idea that these Runners are working more in the meatspace than most others.
7. – Weyland’s Subsidiaries
I discussed the sad state of Anarch IDs before O&C, and I would argue that Weyland’s predicament was worse. That was, until Blue Sun (BS) dropped. That ID provided a new approach to the faction that should have seen the light of day when GRNDL hit. Instead, Weyland had to wander in Supermodernism land until BS was printed. Its recent birth lessens the impact or ‘wow’ factor of the Weyland IDs. Granted, they are all different, unique little snowflakes that provide alternate paths to glory. That is the point of most new cards in general.
I just am currently not feeling any goosebumps when glancing at them. Some are winning Store Championships, or being featured on the front page of Netrunnerdb, and I have been dabbling with Titan for a bit. However, personally, they have underwhelmed me. BS is just that powerful, and hard to not use. It has become the equivalency of Engineering the Future for Weyland; it’s the new gold standard.
8. – Hunger Games
Eater. Wow. A card that seems like a steaming pile at first blush, until you realize all of the events that still fire after utilizing it. Although I feel that I’ve Had Worse is the best
Anarch card in the box, Eater is powerful enough to create its own primary breaker suite, or become Anarch’s new Crypsis replacement. Designed and released in concert with the Cutlery cards (Spooned/Knifed/Forked), it provided a supercharged option for an ICE destruction build. Also, it took the old Anatomy of Anarchy Siphon structure, and accelerated its potency. People started packing Swordsman again. That level of desperation, which hadn’t been seen since Atman’s release, should be sign of a strong card.
Another thing I enjoy about this, and most of the Anarch cards in O&C, is the influence cost. Anarch has been pillaged by the other factions since Core, due to the lowest of low Influence on their better cards. This box finally has put the foot down on that. Day Job is 1 Influence, and that makes sense. Everyone has to work that terrible job at some point, right? The Cutlery, Eater, Wanton… those are essentially Anarch cards, and were given 3+ Influence as a result. Well played, Lukas. Well played.
9. – Malware
As big as the big boxes can be, they’re not that big. This is a an LCG after all, not Dominion. Not counting the IDs, there are 22 card slots in this set for Anarch cards. One would think that these few cards would be built around the new IDs, or bolstering weaker existing ones, right? Well, yes and no. Five of the cards are viruses or virus-related. When I see Virus on a card, I immediately think Noise. One would think the design team does, as well, and has to plan accordingly to avoid “BROKE-ASS NOISE!” cries coming from the crowd at the Runner Hater’s Ball. That doesn’t mean that a virus can’t be/isn’t used elsewhere, but he innately gains from Viruses moreso than any other Runner.
That being noted, I was slightly shocked at the amount of Noise-esque love in the set. One simple card like Cache helped make our fave mill man more useable again, after being exiled by Jackson in late 2013; a little shot in the arm for him. This box was like firing 3 Stimhacks consecutively. Hivemind, the 5 Influence beast, is the real prize. Progenitor was built to combo with it, as was Virus Breeding Grounds. Put those together, and you may have something like this monstrosity, which is now the 3rd most popular deck in Netrunnerdb’s history. The uses for Hivemind are many, and its existence is great. Like MaxX, I think someone at FFG loves Noise, and will continue to prop him up. That, or he’s a real hacker, somewhere over in Asia who loves the game, and is blackmailing FFG to keep his ‘character’ cool.
10. – Coup d’etat
I will end by giving love to Government Takeover. I believe Anarch ‘won’ this box, but a
9/6 Agenda is far more ‘Maximum Punk Rock’ than anything the Anarchs got. It is nigh unscoreable, but that is not the point. It allows agenda density thinning, for potent 6 Agenda decks that utilize the ‘benefit’ of someone actually stealing it. The art is fantastic, the theme fits, and FFG even had the stones to put an ability on it! A troll card in the truest sense, and one after my own heart.
Yeah, I’ll say it: Order & Chaos was the best big box ANR has seen so far. Both sides really needed it, and got some new toys to play around with. While the Corp side did not benefit as heavily, we have seen the return of such cards as Trick of Light due to the advanceable ICE. The Weyland cards are not overtly powerful, but are setting up a possibly rise in their power of the coming cycle. Anarchs see a ton of new archetypes and playstyles arise, and the world rejoices. I did not make it one of my points, but I will note it here. The game will never be completely balanced to one side of this ongoing war, or the other, and that is intentional. However, I believe ANR is at its best when the Runner has a slight edge. The Corp has the innate power of being on defense, and hidden information, not to mention multiple win conditions that are viable. The end of Lunar, and this box, has seen the pendulum swing back in the Runner’s direction, and that is good for the game. There have been fewer times the game has been in a better spot.