Hello, my name is Eric Keilback, but you probably know me online as Whiteblade111. I’m the current US National champion, and I’ve played a lot of asset spam decks in my time with the game. I really love playing asset-based strategies, but it’s an archetype that is maligned and misunderstood. Most teaching of the game presumes a glacier strategy: The Corporation should score out of a remote, ice their central servers, and generally tax the Runner out. Asset spam strategies run a divergent gameplan. Few of the skills we teach new players transfer easily to asset spam matchups, leading to a mismatch of expectations. I believe there is a real teaching gap on how to understand and approach asset spam matchups as the Runner. I’ll cover what an asset spam deck is, how they work, and how to go about beating them.
So, what’s an asset spam deck anyway?
The exact definition of “asset spam” as an archetype is a contentious debate in Netrunner history. For the purposes of this article, I will be defining asset spam as any Corporation that uses a critical mass of assets to score out seven points or to kill the Runner. NBN: Controlling the Message (CtM), Jinteki: Replicating Perfection (RP), and Asa Group: Security Through Vigilance (Asa) are all asset spam decks in the current standard meta. They each use different tools to accelerate their tempo to score out (CtM) kill the Runner with damage (RP) or lock the Runner out of the board state while scoring agendas (Asa Group).
While teaching decks are built along the axis of ice, agendas, operations, asset apam decks are constructed differently. Asset spam decks run minimal ice, instead running many assets, often in the range of 15-20. Generic economy operations like Hedge Fund and IPO are discarded, the money these decks will make is from their installed assets, or operations that combine draw and money, often with a downside or a large requirement. Asa runs both Fully Operational and Violet Level Clearance as examples. The ice that these decks do run is cheap and taxing. Asset spam decks want to threaten ice rezzing at nearly all credit totals. Ice like DNA Tracker or Fairchild 3.0 are too expensive. Cortex Lock, Engram Flush, Gold Farmer, Tour Guide and Gatekeeper are all good examples of low cost, efficient, taxing ice. Finally, asset spam decks usually run some form of punishment, or defensive card. Hard-hitting News (HHN), Mumbad Virtual Tour (MVT) and Psychic Field all fall into this category.
Asset spam decks can win in two ways: Scoring out, or killing the Runner. The exact path to victory will depend on the deck, but there are some common threads. Scoring decks generally use cards like Team Sponsorship, Amani Senai and fast advance tools to score seven points. Economy assets provide the card draw and money to fuel the deck, as it aims to draw the fast advance pieces and the agendas in concert. Team Sponsorship is the linchpin of these styles, as a single score can reinstall trashed assets, or simply give the Corporation bonus installs into their remote. Underestimate Team Sponsorship at your own peril, as it can quickly spiral the game out of control. Kill decks want to (shockingly!) flatline you. They run ice that is either very taxing, or damages the Runner. In the current meta, most kill decks will be utilizing a combination of Bio-Ethics Association and Ronin. If the start-of-turn triggers from Bio-Ethics bring your cards in hand below three, the Corporation can rez a naked Ronin on the board, play Dedication Ceremony, advance it, and click it, dealing you three net and killing you. This is the crux of the deck. RP tries to use net damage to apply hand pressure, and then uses Bio-Ethics and Ronin to kill you. There are also variants of CtM that can run BOOM! and kill you if you’re tagged. Often, scoring decks and kill decks can look nearly identical in the first few turns, and distinguishing between a scoring deck and a kill deck is an important part of the matchup. A key marker for kill decks is either net damage cards and ice (Snare!, Cortex Lock) or operations that fetch kill cards, such as Consulting Visit.
Lastly, deterrence is an element of each asset spam deck. Every asset spam Corporation needs to deter the Runner from trashing their cards. CtM leans on the ID ability and HHN, RP uses their ID ability and traps, Asa uses the tempo from their ID ability to ice and defend their important assets. What makes asset spam decks potent is not their ability to play a lot of assets, but to play a lot of assets while deterring the Runner from trashing them. Accordingly, any strategy needs to take into account the deterrence against trashing assets.
Assets as far as the eye can see
The key to understanding how to beat an asset spam deck, is knowing what Assets that deck is playing, and how they help the Corporation win the game. The former is learned through studying decklists, playing games, and thinking about Netrunner, and I’ll cover the latter here. None of these lists are intended to be exhaustive, but they should give you an idea of what each category looks like.
Win Condition Assets:
- Team Sponsorship
- Bio-Ethics Association
- Lakshmi Smartfabrics
- Calibration Testing
These assets form the core of an asset spam deck’s strategy. All of these directly give a route for the Corporation to win the game. Team Sponsorship overwhelms the Runner by gaining tempo with every scored agenda, Ronin and Bio-Ethics give the Corporation a kill combo from the board, while Smartfabrics effectively “locks’ ‘ the Runner out. The card draw the Asa plays (and the cards they can hold in hand with Cybernetic Court) increase the likelihood of them having a duplicate agenda in hand. Calibration Testing enables fast advance from hand, closing out the last few points.
- Commercial Bankers Group (CBG)
- Pad Campaign
- Marilyn Campaign
- Rashida Jaheem
- CSR Campaign
- Mumba Temple
Every deck needs money and draw, and these cards provide it. Simply put, this is the economic lifeblood of any asset spam deck. The value in trashing these assets changes with how rich the Corporation is. If it’s early in the game, trashing a Sundew or CBG is extremely important. If they’re already at 20+ credits, trashing it can be devalued. An important thing to note about these assets is that they ‘snowball’ the boardstate. The more money the Corporation has, the more assets they can rez, and the more ice they can comfortably rez. The permanent nature of assets creates a feedback loop for the Corporation. Assets provide a repeatable effect, compared to a piece of operation econ like IPO. This means that the more economy assets the Corporation has on the board, the easier it is to draw into more economy assets. This feedback loop is why cards like CBG and Sundew are so powerful.
- Daily Business Show (DBS)
- Jeeves Model Bioroids
- Drudge Work
- Lady Liberty
- Advanced Assembly Lines (AAL)
- Amani Senai
These assets neither directly win the game, nor provide a strictly economic benefit. Instead, they comprise a hodgepodge of useful effects that decks want, either to mitigate agenda flood, or build out their board state. In this category, DBS is the most powerful. It shapes the Corporation’s hand, meaning that they can effectively choose when to draw agendas. It offsets the draw that asset spam decks play, stopping agendas from flooding into hand. A consequence of this is that HQ becomes less important to defend and the Corporation can commit more ice to R&D.
Evaluating the Matchup
There are three main ways to approach an asset spam matchup: trashing the entire board, trashing key pieces, or ignoring the board and winning on centrals. Committing to one of these strategies does not mean you cannot pursue another later in the game. Evaluating your approach to the board midgame is important. You might realize you need to cut your losses and push for the last points on centrals or stop running centrals and trash the key win condition assets sitting out on the board.
Trashing the Board
Trashing the entire board is as simple as it sounds. This strategy revolves around trashing every card the Corporation installs, and then running HQ late game to steal agendas when the Corporation runs out of things to install. This is the hardest strategy to pursue, but ultimately the most successful. It requires an extremely robust economy, often with clickless draw or recurring credits supporting it. An important note about trashing the board: it doesn’t mean you should snap trash every asset you see. If the Corporation is poor, trash money first, if they have money, trash their filtering and draw. If they’re ahead in board presence, trashing key pieces like Team Sponsorship or Lakshmi Smartfabrics can keep the Corporation down. Trashing economy is extremely important in this approach, as it essentially blunts the momentum of the Corporation. If the Corporation has a CBG ticking each turn, they can afford to spend more clicks drawing into assets, or rezzing their ice to keep you out of their centrals. It may even be fine to let cards like DBS or Team Sponsorship stay on the board ahead of other cards like Marilyn Campaign. Win conditions typically only work if the Corporation has enough money to play their cards.
Trashing Key Pieces
Trashing key pieces is more complicated. This strategy involves only trashing key assets on the board, mostly because your deck is limited in its economic ability to trash the entire board. Identifying what a “key” piece looks like is going to depend on the specific board state and the deck you’re playing against. Generally, trashing key win condition assets is going to be a priority. Calibration Testing, Team Sponsorship, Ronin all result in the Corporation winning the game. Is the Corporation having a lot of money and draw bad for you? Absolutely, but if you can stop them from turning that money into an actual win condition, you’ll come out ahead. Utility assets are a good target to trash as well. DBS and Jeeves both provide immense value to the Corporation. Jeeves allows them to either recover on credits, draw through an R&D lock, or score agendas they would not have been able to otherwise. DBS filters their draw, drastically lowering the chances of flood into HQ. Typically, we want to trash assets that make the next strategy we’re going to transition to better. Are you aiming to move from trashing key assets to trashing the board? Attack Jeeves, to weaken their recovery. Are you going to rush centrals to close the game? Trashing DBS to worsen their draw and make HQ hot for agendas is a better plan. What constitutes a “key” piece will change game to game, but generally you want to trash win conditions first, and then trash utility pieces that make your next strategy worse. Creating a list of what to trash is a good way to conceptualize this transition. If the Corporation is broke, you might want to trash their CBG this turn, and plan to trash the DBS next turn, and then the Jeeves after that. You can think of the trashing order in terms of “priority” in situations where you want to trash key pieces, assets such as Team Sponsorship or Lakshmi Smartfabrics is going to have a higher priority than Mumba Temple.
Ignoring the Board
Ignoring the board is also self-explanatory. In general, this strategy tends to not work very well. Asset spam decks are designed to succeed when the Runner ignores the board. No asset spam player wants you to trash their cards! With that being said, sometimes your deck cannot muster the economy to trash even the key pieces, so you need to run centrals instead. Typically, this is going to be a race, as you seek to steal 7 points before the mass of assets either wins them the game, or makes running too hard and costly. Employing this strategy from the word go is usually not a marker for success, but transitioning into it after trashing key assets (or the board!) is pretty great. In the late game, R&D and HQ will become dense with agendas. Most of these decks are assets, and if the assets are either on the board or trashed, the density in centrals just goes up. Pivoting to a big centrals push in the late game is a great way to close out versus asset spam decks. Having strong disruption tools makes ignoring the board attractive as well. Asset spam decks run low quantities of ice, so tools like Stargate make putting the Corporation in a R&D lock position easier. Wanton Destruction can also make a centrals approach easier, as you can trash key operations out of hand.
How do I know which strategy to employ?
Knowing what strategy to employ is going to depend on what your deck is capable of, and how your opponent’s deck works. Good anti-asset spam cards either decrease trash costs (Mining Accident) provide constant or semi constant income (Aesop’s Pawnshop, PAD Tap, Rezeki) or trash the entire board (Apocalypse) This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but you should be thinking about what tools your deck can bring to bear. You should also be thinking about how your deck’s gameplan jives with an anti-asset mindset. If you’re a Shaper list focused on playing long, grindy glacier games and interacting with ice, you should realize that maybe your anti-glacier tools aren’t going to be installed this game. Part of beating asset spam is not only knowing what to draw for and play, but also what to ignore. Ice Carver, Hunting Grounds and Datasucker might be effective in a glacier matchup, but they’ll find little purchase against assets. Broadly, cards that are about generating long term value against ice or trashing ice are going to be devalued in asset spam matchups. That’s not to say cards like Hippo are unplayable, but you’d be better off seeing a Dirty Laundry in the mulligan.
Going in with a plan is a good idea, but sometimes you need to improvise. Consider a solid 419 deck. This deck wants to control and trash the entire board. Mining Accidents and Rezekis provide enough value to trash the board, while PAD Tap and Diversion of Funds keep the Corporation broke. Imagine we’re playing a hypothetical game against CtM. The CtM player opens with two assets and an ice on HQ. You’ve mulliganed to try and draw your anti-asset tech and economy cards, but have instead mulliganed into Boomerangs and breakers. By the time you have enough money to safely trash things, the board has grown out of control. Just because our deck is designed to trash the board, does not mean we should be trashing every asset in sight. Instead, pivoting to a “trash key pieces” gameplan is safer, and slows the Corporation down while we try to make more money. These gameplans are not meant to be set in stone, but instead contextual based on the cards you draw, and the board state of your opponent.
If you’re playing against a good asset spam deck, the Corporation isn’t going to just let you trash their board. Analysing their deterrence and how badly it is going to hurt you is important to identifying what kind of plan you want to implement. For example, if you’re playing against CtM and you have triple their credit total, you can feel a lot more comfortable about trashing the board, because HHN is harder for them to land. Conversely, running when CTM is richer then you AND you can’t clear the tags from HHN is a poor decision. The ice in RP and Asa perform the role of deterrence. When thinking about running on their ice, you need to think about what the worst case ice to hit is, can you recover, and how likely a piece of ice is your worst case. If you can’t handle face-planting into a Drafter, but two Drafters are already rezzed, it’s less likely the facedown HQ ice is a Drafter. If you can’t deal with the deterrence, you might be motivated to move to a trash key pieces plan, or ignore the board entirely.
If things go pear-shaped, you need to adjust your plan. Identifying when to stop trashing assets is tough and contextual, but generally, if you’re going broke every other turn trashing things and the Corporation isn’t slowing down, that’s generally a time to stop and pivot. Once you’ve decided to ignore the board, you have two routes of attack. Centrals pressure by way of Stargate, Turning Wheel, and other multiaccess can help steal agendas to end the game. If you’ve been trashing DBS and other filtering, HQ is likely flooded if they keep installing assets. Once you’re decided to stop trashing the board, you should still periodically check facedown remotes to keep the Corporation honest. Agendas can sometimes be hidden amongst facedown assets. You often will not have the tempo to check every remote, but checking a few unknowns is good to form a picture of what the Corporations capabilities are. With the recent change in NISEI OP rules, you can now take notes mid-game. If you struggle to remember what remotes you accessed (and their contents) I’d suggest making a little diagram or list of the remotes you’re visited. You’ll thank yourself later at the end of a 40-minute game.
Now that I’ve covered how an asset spam deck works, how to beat them, and how to implement those strategies, I’m going to contextualize my advice by examining one of the strongest asset spam decks in the meta.
Controlling the Message
Arguably, the most enduring and most contentious asset spam ID in the game right now is NBN: Controlling the Message. Even calling CtM an “asset spam” ID is a matter of debate. For the purposes of this analysis, I’ll be using rongydoge’s CtM
The core gameplan of the deck is quite simple: Use economy assets to build a large board and score 7 points of agendas from either a Tour Guide remote or from hand with Psychographics. The catch is that both the CTM ability and HHN punish the Runner heavily for trashing your installable, and fast advance provides another avenue to victory. CtM packs the strongest deterrence of any asset spam Corp, and the matchup revolves around trying to trash as much as their board as possible while avoiding being tagged.
Simply put, most mainstream decks can’t generate enough economy to avoid the tags and keep the board down. For most decks, a strategy of trashing key pieces is going to be more viable. Team Sponsorship, Jeeves and DBS are all key utility pieces or win conditions. Amani Senai is also a good target if you rely on key installables, or the CtM player is much richer than you. If you’re running centrals, an Amani trigger can really set you back, bouncing a key console, breaker, or economy card. Once you’ve trashed key pieces, you should transition to a strategy of running centrals to win the game. Where to go depends on the boardstate. If the CtM player has built their Tour Guide scoring remote, you have two options. If your deck has good answers to Tour Guide (Odore, Ika, Shrike) then you can try and “camp” the remote and threaten to contest any scoring attempts. In the long term, this strategy is not sustainable (they can put more fake things in the remote than you can reasonably keep checking), but this will slow them down more, allowing agendas to build up in hand. Otherwise, you want to sweep HQ to check for agendas, and then put the CtM player in a soft R&D lock by checking the top card of R&D each turn. This is the ideal, but it won’t always happen this way. By the end of the game if you’ve been trashing their filtering, odds are that agendas are in hand, and sweeping the hand is then more important than the R&D lock.
In desperate mid-game situations (and late-game pivots to centrals) it is correct to go “tag me.” Tag me is simply accruing tags with no intent to remove them. This is usually done after the Corporation lands a HHN that you can’t afford to clear all the tags from, or you feel as if your odds of winning once tag me are better than your odds after clearing. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on when to go tag me, but broadly, you should be going tag me if you the value you would get from trashing their assets outweighs the punishment of being tagged, you can trash the tag punishment from their hand or deck, you think you can win the game this turn, they have no economy and thus you’ll have several turns to win off of central pressure, or you have no other alternative. Being tagged and taking a gamble on them not having tag punishment is better than sitting around and losing. Once “tag me”, you should trash key assets with impunity, mainly filtering and economy. PAD Campaign and even Marilyn Campaign might be a lower value trash, but CBG or Mumba Temple are worth it. From that point, your aim is to use your multiaccess and disruption tools to steal enough agendas or trash tag punishment before you lose. While not the ideal, many a runner game is won from a tagged position.
My hope for this article is that it informs the player base. I love playing asset based strategies, and I believe a lot of the hate these strategies get online is a lack of understanding about how to beat these decks. I’ve tried to stray from hard and fast rules, and instead provided a broad framework for analysing asset spam as an archetype. It’s important to interpret what your opponent’s deck is trying to do, what your own deck is capable of doing, and which strategy you can implement against your opponent. Thank you for reading, and I hope you feel more informed against asset spam decks!
These are some current example decklists of each type of asset spam I discussed. If you’re curious about what these lists look like, this is a great starting point.
Controlling the Message: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/60580/hungry-internet-ctm-1st-blm-8-1
Replicating Perfection: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/60481/tattie-scones-rp-1st-2nd-dice-donuts-memorial-sc
I wanted to thank analyzechris and thebigunit3000 for their help in editing this article. I want to thank osclate, skry, kysra, groenkaaf as well as analyzechris and thebigunit3000 for interrogating my thoughts about Netrunner as well as creating an environment where I can experiment and test asset spam decks. Lastly, I want to thank my local meta for still playing with me after years of playing Gagarin MoH.