Anarch and the MWL
The new MWL was responding to three things in Netrunner: Anarch runner dominance, NBN corp dominance, and Mumbad City Hall degenerance. In my opinion I think handling all three of these things was desired and warranted, and I’m glad FFG has done something. I think they’ll definitely make IG MCH decks weaker, though I’m worried they haven’t done enough. Based Damon is hitting NBN’s core problem hard with the Astroscript restriction, though Breaking News feels pretty unnecessary. Anarch, the only faction I have any loyalty too, got hit too hard. I’m going to break down what the MWL was responding to, the specifics of this MWL, and what the impact will be on Anarch competitive deck building.
First I want to discuss what I think the goals of the MWL should be. The MWL should be doing three things as far as I see it:
- Pushing degenerate decks out of competitive play
- Pushing clear best decks on a side in line with other options
- Increasing the amount of viable decks on either side.
Degenerate decks are decks that wildly deviate from the basics of Netrunner and which require your opponent to have specific cards with a non-general purpose in order to compete. These decks can be fine in small doses, but any time they are dominant it tends to create a very toxic meta where only small numbers of decks are able to compete. DLR and IG are probably two biggest examples of decks that drastically warp the way you need to play and simply run over large section of the opposing meta that don’t include specific tech.
Nerfing IG mainly accomplishes 1 and 3, because it’s often considered to be a degenerate deck and excessively forces the opponent to play specific strategies to handle it (play Whizzard). With IG out of the picture all sorts of decks that had basically no hope of beating IG can enter the meta. Hitting Anarch in my opinion is mainly 2, as I think for a large portion of the MWL Dumblefork has been the obvious strongest deck. This has changed a bit as decks like Palana, Sync, and Butchershop have appeared and all have strong whizzard matchups and weaker matchups against other decks. Dumblefork seems mildly unfair as a deck that gets rid of a lot of the traditional breaker games in Netrunner, but clearly isn’t as problematic as something like DLR or IG. The goal of MWL should have been to bring Dumblefork down to other decks’ level without hurting fairer Anarch decks that use regular breakers and play more traditional Netrunner.
Looking at Dodgepong’s data, about 90% of Anarch’s regional wins come from either Whizzard or Noise, and these decks’ core engine is the main target of the MWL. The first thing to understand is it isn’t necessarily any one card from either deck that is broken, but the collective combination of several. If you banned any of several cards that Dumblefork uses (Parasite, Faust, Adjusted Chronotype, Medium, Wyldside, Levy) it would be sufficient to drop the deck out of playability. MWL is weaker than banning so what cards go on the MWL is a function of two questions.
- How much of a total influence hit do the decks in question need to either be rendered uncompetitive or in line with other options?
- Which specific cards should you hit to minimize collateral damage to fair decks and maximize damage to other unfair decks?
You want to MWL the cards that are mainly used and enable degenerate strategies, while avoiding hitting cards that are used in fair decks that people enjoy playing with and against.
Noise works by building the Aesops, Wyldside and Chronotype engine to draw lots of virii and play them, putting massive pressure on the corp to close out the game before either their entire deck is milled or Noise has scored enough points through a combination of regular scoring and milling. Faust circumvents Noise’s historical early game weakness against gear checks. It also gets around noise being poor before his Wyldside engine is set up by utilizing cards rather than credits to break ice. Additionally, Faust takes up very few deck slots and MU compared to a traditional 3 breaker suite (especially since Anarch needs to run duplicates to draw them) which allows Noise to free up slots for more virii. In terms of influence, Noise was pretty locked into using 12 of his influence, needing 3 each of Parasite, Aesops, and Cache. With the new MWL I think Noise has no real way to cut down given the need to run 3 Wyldside as well as multiple D4v1Ds / Fausts, especially if he wants to run a levy (which allows him to include enough draw to be consistent). I think noise is getting kicked pretty hard and won’t be a part of the meta in the near future, which is something I’m pretty okay with.
Dumblefork works by using the same Wyldside / Chronotype engine to draw a lot of cards. Instead of using this engine to install lots of virii, it relies on using the Faust Cutlery Combo as well as Parasites (with Clone Chips acting as additional copies) to destroy all the ice and dismantle the Corp’s board state. It relies on Whizzard’s recurring credits to trash things and on breaking ice with cards instead of credits to run less econ than most other decks. Dumblefork had only about 6 influence that was forced (parasites and levy), but was using a good chunk of its influence for other valuable things such as Clone Chips or Employee Strikes. Losing all the Clone Chips severely weakens many of his matchups. You can still at least build a functional Dumblefork deck, but it has been heavily weakened by losing access to multiple Clone Chips and spare influence and it will likely not be a significant part of the meta. While I wanted Dumblefork to get nerfed, I’m a bit sad to see the deck get nerfed this hard. I felt it was an interesting deck that was largely problematic because of how strong it was in comparison to other decks and how heavily it warped the meta.
Historically, Anarch has had one large weakness as a faction: lack of an Icebreaker tutor. This has meant two things: they’ve been really weak against gear checks, and they’ve had to include extra copies of all their breakers, taking up valuable deck slots in order to find them in time. Additionally, their reliance on strong programs such as Datasucker, Medium, and Imp means that they’ve had larger memory issues than the other factions. For the most part a lot of the historically best Anarch decks (Noise, Anatomy of an Anarch, DLR Val) have therefore eschewed the traditional breaker suite and relied on AI breakers and very powerful plans that work around the weaknesses their AI breakers might bring. Often these decks are pretty degenerate as they have strong combo plans as the main win condition (Account Siphon + Keyhole, Account Siphon + Data-Leak Reversal, Noise mill), with the AI breaker mainly being used for occasional runs to keep the corp from winning rather than as a source of points.
Faust fixes the weakness of Anarch too well while also excessively enabling degenerate combo strategies by allowing them to interact with early ice at an extremely low cost to both deckbuilding and in game ice breaking. It’s a good target because so much of what it enables is degenerate, as well as just being far too efficient and strong for an AI breaker.
There are two problems with Wyldside. The first is that combined with Adjusted Chronotype it’s busted strong at drawing cards (and Wyldside helps you find Chronotype). The second is its value is highly variable on when you draw it. When Dumblefork sees Wyldside turn 1, it’s hard to stop. Turn 10 and it’s often too late. This often means Dumblefork games are largely dictated by when Wyldside is drawn, which is stupid. This was and is a good mwl target for this reason, because every deck that uses it has this problem of the massively variable power relative to draw time. It’s important that if you want to hit Wyldside harder, you can MWL Chronotype with little collateral damage to competitive decks as this combo is the primary reason to use Chronotype.
D4vid is a very strong card. It’s also a pretty necessary card for Anarch to have as a faction. Anarch’s traditional breaker suite is fixed strength breakers, Corroder and Datasucker. This suite was historically a dominant force in Netrunner out of the criminal faction, but has only occasionally been present in good Anarch decks. Every faction has a strong cheap solution to large blowout sentries (D4vid, Faerie, Sharpshooter / Deus X). The Anarch suite has been the most vulnerable to things like Archer because it relies on having Datasuckers to beat it and now that Cyberdex Virus Suite exists there are 0 good in faction answers to Archer plus CVS rez. Regular Anarch decks have trouble interacting with large ice in general because they need to get Datasucker counters to be able to break them.
In fact, Faust decks are actually much better at dealing with large ice without D4vid than Regular Anarch decks. Assassin for example requires the Anarch player to have both Mimic and a Datasucker. Then it takes 2 Datasucker counters every run, so you’ll run out of Datasucker counters pretty quickly. Faust can break for 4 cards, or 3 with a Datasucker. Additionally, it’s way easier for Faust decks to slot Forked than a reg ass deck. Take Susanoo, pretty much the only ice that D4vid has pushed out since Anarch ascended. Faust breaks it for 4 cards, which is a pretty good trade for a 9 cost ice. Anarch needs 4 suckers and a mimic, which is fairly difficult to do once, let alone repeatedly. While D4vid is generally a strong card for Dumblefork, it’s really only necessary for 2 ice that have seen play, Turing and oversighted Curtain Wall (pitching 7 cards and knifed is still a great trade vs. regular Curtain Wall). For Regular Anarch, D4vid fixes the weakness against basically every 5+ strength ice, especially given the proliferation of cvs. I don’t think non-AI anarch can ever beat Blue Sun without D4vid, and has huge trouble against a deck that puts Grimms and Archers on all central servers. Or can just get locked out if the opponent installs little engine (or any big fat ice) on all the centrals and purges any parasites.
Most of the ice that D4vid is accused of making unviable, the truth is most of it was bad anyway. Alexfrog has a great summary of the big ice problem when talking about Leviathan. Every competitive runner deck has had a plan to deal with large fat single sub ice other than breaking them. As I alluded to earlier, Susanoo is the only ice that shifted from being a 1-of in RP to a 0-of before RP disappeared completely. Blue Sun got relatively better as the meta shifted to Anarch instead of Kate, but then the proliferation of Employee Strike stopped that. Tollbooth, Archer, Assassin, and Ichi 2.0 are all better against Anarch than they were against Kate with Atman / Sharpshooter / Cyber Cypher. D4vid is a strong card, but it’s a strong card in faction that fixes otherwise crippling weaknesses the faction has.
David is a terrible MWL target because it just hurts Anarch as a faction on the whole, and hurts the fairest decks the most when the problem was largely with specific decks in Anarch. Having 2 D4vids is pretty mandatory for any fair Anarch deck, so D4vid represents a 2 influence tax on fair Anarchs which already struggle under influence restrictions.
The Future of Anarch
Regular Anarch has generally been overshadowed by its cooler, richer friend Criminal who took their breakers and added tutoring, money, and strong early game interference. Anarch simply wasn’t as good at using their own tools as Criminal was. However, after Order and Chaos Anarchs had finally received enough tools to support the first competitive reg-ass Anarch deck. Designed by degenerate in chief Dan D’argenio, it utilized Maxx’s draw power to consistently set up a strong rig very quickly (keeping up with NEH consistently). Clone chips did double duty as effectively tutors to Maxx’s mill ability and recurring parasites or D4vids in the late game as needed. A little bit later L4J Whizz appeared, utilizing Netready eyes and Atman to get around the Lotus Field weakness. Net-Ready Eyes was a big deal, comboing great with the breaker suite while also being too influence intensive for criminal to swipe as well (and non tutorable).
There were a couple reasons to use these decks over Criminal or Shaper. The biggest strength these decks had was a strong midgame powered by the efficient Anarch rig combined with Parasite’s ability to prevent the opponent from ever building taxing late game servers. Medium gave an extremely strong R&D threat that had to be respected. Draw power combined with flexible tools such as parasite or D4vid let you minimize the damage of early windows where Anarch was vulnerable to gear checks. Access to Clone Chips let you either recur Parasites, D4vids, or Imps as needed, while also allowing you to recover from any bad face-checks you might have been forced into. Clone Chip was a key card here, as it acted as extra copies of these cards while also allowing you to get whatever disposable program you needed at instant speed (and also acting as a tutor for Maxx). Anarch had two main advantages over shaper: better ID abilities and access to Medium (combined with access to plenty of parasites as well as yog to make repeat runs cheap). They were weaker when it came to early game pressure, where the Corp was often able to stick key assets in the early turns while Anarch needing to spend clicks setting up econ and finding breakers.
By the time worlds rolled around, Regular Anarch builds had fallen out of favor largely due to the proliferation of CVS. However, there were two Regular anarch builds in the top 16 at world’s: Timmy Wong’s second place Whizzard deck and Dien Tran’s Val deck. Both decks splash for the same sort of stuff (tutoring / Clone Chips / Atman) and include large amounts of draw. There were more Noise and DLR in the top 16, but Regular Anarch was looking viable at the top tier of the game. It may not have been the best deck, but it was at least a deck that could compete at the top level of play.
Then, the MWL happened. Every one of these decks got hit by 7-8 pts of MWL influence from Clone Chips, Yogs, and Parasites. Most of these decks can probably afford to drop 3-4 pts of influence, going down to 2 cc’s and losing some flak. But the truth is they’re pretty tight on influence, and MWL hitting yog and parasite hurt them a lot. Both of these are pretty big reasons to run Regular Anarch, and going down 4-5 influence makes it hard to include the tools to both consistently find them and solve the Lotus Field problem. Faust solves the Lotus Field and early game problems, but then you run into the problem where you put more and more of your deck’s game plan into Faust and you end up with Dumblefork. You can import 2 net-ready eyes and 2 smcs, but then you’re not running any clone chips and you realize you can just play shaper and play 3 clone chips, 1 parasite for 6 influence. Shaper then splashes mimic and has access to a breaker suite that handles everything well, 8 spare influence and gets to play just as many parasites as you (with the additional benefit of them all being instant speed). Playing with regular breakers Anarch is simply outclassed by both Shaper and Criminal (who can splash for 2 breakers and support with strong in faction options).
Abram (of course) has managed to create a regular anarch deck which seems pretty functional and has compelling reasons to play it over other faction’s options. With Whizzard credits combined with Desperado you have a strong anti-asset game. Bhagat and Desperado give you strong HQ pressure if you can get in for cheap. You still have the threat of medium and you have the power house that is Yog. The deck does have issues versus lotus field, needing to find a 1-of untutorable in order to be able to break it. I talked to Abram and he said he thinks it’s a strong deck that isn’t top tier, but is comparable to Leela; a deck you wouldn’t expect to see but wouldn’t be shocked to see it win. Now with D4vid getting hit there are no cuts I can see to this deck to make influence. D4vid mwl makes the hard task of making a regular Anarch deck basically impossible as far as I can see. I hope Timmy Wong proves me wrong, but I’m pretty skeptical that it’s going to happen. On top of that, I’m not sure what new card is going to help Regular Anarch but is not going to help the AI style Anarch decks.
Dan style Worlds DLR has now been hit by the MWL as well as WNP errata, but there are several other styles of degenerate Anarch decks that are still playable. Minh Maxx is 1 influence down from where it was at worlds, and it doesn’t really miss the Utopia shard anyway. Dien style Siphon Maxx is 2 mwl influence down from the original list, but it can pretty easily make do with 1 of Yog or D4vid. Eater Vamp Val can easily cut one of its Political Operatives to make room for D4vid. The Colorado Apocalypse Val decks run a similar spread to Dien, and they too are relatively unaffected. Siphon whizz takes a 1 influence hit, but has the issue where it’s soon not going to be confused for Dumblefork and will struggle without that element of surprise. Most of these decks are way more degenerate than Dumblefork was (which at least had the decency to run aggressively and often).
The Darkside of Anarch remains about as strong as they’ve ever been, and still has pretty coherent strong decks that have compelling reasons to play them over out of faction options. Regular Anarch decks now are inconsistent messes with hosts of weaknesses that blow them out with very little reason to play them over other faction’s alternatives. Our future is a meta where the only time you see Anarch is when your opponent is playing a deck that is going to vamp or siphon you to nothing, and there will be no Anarch decks that play anything resembling a traditional game of Netrunner.
Regular Anarch was one of my favorite styles of deck. It involves lots of aggressive running without ice breaker tutoring, meaning lots subroutines fire (which rarely happens vs. Shaper). You were heavily invested in controlling the Corp’s development rather than building up a board state capable of remote camping, which forced lots of interplay between Runner and Corp. There were tons of secondary battles around things like Datasucker counters that forced multiserver defense and aggression. Anarch is at its best when the game is balanced on a knife edge with both sides pushing and pulling with little pieces of econ or ice denial making or breaking the game (which typically made the Blue Sun matchup a high intensity, high skill affair). Often you could overcome lack of a breaker by pressuring another server, and I don’t think anyone ever complained about my deck when I was playing these decks. It was just good fundamental Netrunner.
I wish that these style of decks were still good, but the MWL is making it extremely difficult for fair Anarch decks to compete. Instead both MWLs have pushed Anarch towards relying on the more degenerate aspects of the faction, and this is a negative direction for the faction as well as the game. Ideally I’d like to see D4vid and Yog dropped off the MWL, but given Damon’s statements I think Yog is going to stay, and either way this won’t happen for another 6 months. The other hope is new cards coming out that support the Regular Anarch playstyle more than Faust or Eater-based ones. Injection Attack at least gives Yog Anarch a 0 influence Lotus Field solution, but seems too weak to justify it just for that purpose. In the new Escalation pack there are a bunch of sweet Anarch cards spoiled. Omar is potentially a sweet Lamprey / Medium user who can slow the opponent down through pressure while building up the rig, but 12 influence is a killer on the old rig. This new console looks insane, but maybe will fit into an aggressive running Anarch deck that also goes tag me (it combos super hard with medium).There’s also the corner of an Anarch breaker, but it only has a single 3 credit use (boost and break?).
I’d guess that Anarch is going to drop to <15% of the top cut, and nearly all of that is going to be Siphon or Vamp based decks. I’ll probably try some DLR MaxX, but I don’t think the deck is as interesting as DLR Val was and my guess is most likely I’ll jump ship for Criminal or Shaper for Jamcon. Hopefully IG and Hot Tubs have gotten knocked enough to be defeated by normal decks, because I can’t see myself bringing Whizz to a tournament just for that matchup. Hopefully Flashpoint is bringing strong tools for Regular Anarch to become competitive again, because I don’t see any existing Anarch deck becoming competitive that doesn’t play Siphon or Vamp with the cardpool as is. Netrunner its best when a diversity of strategies and decks can exist on both sides of the game, and I’d like to see a meta where fair Anarch decks are a viable contender.