In Parts 1 and 2, I covered Netrunner OCTGN matchup data for five Runner IDs (Kate, Gabe, Andromeda, Noise, and Reina) versus the four core Corp IDs (Making News, Engineering the Future, Building a Better World, and Personal Evolution). In Part 3, I’ll plot and talk about the same data from the perspective of the Corp rather than the Runner.
First, a note: in Part 2, I speculated that the low number of games during the Mala Tempora / December 2013 window were due to the Android: Netrunner OCTGN community taking a collective winter break after Worlds. However, Alexfrog quickly set me straight: db0, keeper of all things Netrunner OCTGN, lost roughly half of the December 2013 OCTGN data, so the remaining data from that time period is a sample with unknown bias. I’ve left it in the plots for consistency, but we can’t draw any conclusions from that period.
Lastly, the usual reminder: the winrate calculations are for games played by players with Glicko ratings more than one standard deviation above average.
Now, let’s talk Corporations!
First among Corporations today is the fearsome NBN. For much of this year, a lot of the discussion about NBN has been about its smaller, leaner subsidiary: The World Is Yours (some restrictions apply); the rise of the Astrobiotics deck to prominence gave us a lot to talk about. But underneath all of that, the Core Set Making News ID kept right on winning:
NBN is sometimes derided for being reliant on the powerful AstroScript Pilot Program agenda, and there are certainly plenty of games where a scored AstroScript is chained into two more and followed by a Breaking News for the win. But NBN wasn’t the strongest faction out of the gate: that honour went to the Weyland Consortium. NBN lacked robust ice and strong economy in-faction, forcing Making News players to make difficult deckbuilding decisions. Gabe players who could apply economic pressure, especially early, could stop Making News from getting started; Noise players could mill away the precious AstroScripts, and Making News players were hard-pressed to keep Noise out of the Archives for the game-winning glory run.
Unsurprisingly, a major turning point for Making News came when Jackson Howard was printed in Opening Moves – but it’s worth noting that the simple addition of cards to NBN’s faction pool over time was also helpful. Pop-Up Window and Marked Accounts came in Cyber Exodus, bolstering Making News’ economy; Pop-Up in particular seemed to be ubiquitous in Making News decks for a long time. The general trend for Making News matchups – with Kate being the exception – looks like a slow rise in winrate during the Genesis Cycle, and then higher winrates in the Spin Cycle. Spin was very kind to NBN overall, with Jackson Howard in Opening Moves, but also staples such as Wraparound and Sweeps Week – and the useful Shipment from SanSan – later in the cycle. The increase in neutral ice over time has also helped Making News, allowing deckbuilders to poach a few choice pieces of out-of-faction ice and round it out with reasonable in-faction and neutral options.
In short, as of Fear and Loathing, Making News is the worst matchup for almost every Runner ID I’ve looked at. The sole exception of Reina, who has a worse Weyland: Building a Better World matchup. Whereas TWIY can be something of a glass cannon, winning or losing on the strength of the first 15 or so cards in the deck, Making News is resilient, has a number of viable build options, and retains the ability to simply win out of nowhere with a chain of AstroScripts. A rezzed SanSan City Grid is still an existential threat for most Runners.
Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future has been somewhat more stable, which admittedly isn’t saying much:
Opening Moves was almost as big a help to EtF as it was to MN, and I doubt it was due to Project Ares or NEXT Bronze – not when EtF’s winrate against Noise rose more than 15% in 551 games. Jackson Howard helped the least against Kate, and Kate had just gotten a big boost from Creation and Control; she has remained a middle of the road matchup for EtF since then, hovering right around 50%.
The Criminal matchup trends are interesting here. After the initial Opening Moves surge, EtF has struggled to reach a 50% winrate against either Gabe or Andromeda. While the Criminals are the two worst matchups for three of the four Core Set Corp IDs as of Fear and Loathing, the new tools NBN has been getting during Genesis have resulted in a slowly rising winrate for MN versus Criminals. EtF hasn’t seen comparable success.
Creation and Control also saw the release of three new Haas-Bioroid IDs, and one of those – Cerebral Imaging: Infinite Frontiers – has been making some noise in the tournament scene lately. So it’s no surprise that the EtF trendlines were slightly thinner in Spin than in Genesis. EtF is still a strong ID, but it isn’t receiving quite as much deckbuilding attention as before. This is an aspect of the game that I’ll be looking at more in the future, but processing the data and generating some clear plots to show how the play rates of various IDs have changed over time as a fraction of overall games and as a fraction of games involving their faction will take a little bit of coding work.
Weyland Consortium: Building a Better World has been terrifying Runners everywhere since the Core Set was released, threatening flatlines with Scorched Earth and trashing rigs with Archer. But all is not well:
And the barplot version:
For most of the Spin Cycle, BaBW’s winrate has trended steadily down against everyone except the Anarchs. My impression is that Spin didn’t give Weyland the same number and calibre of new tools as the other Corporations, and all of them were splashable – Power Shutdown, Punitive Counterstrike, and Hive are the ones that come to mind, although Hive was in Double Time and therefore not in this data. I’m also a fan of GRNDL Refinery… in Jinteki. Power Shutdown / Accelerated Diagnostics combos work as well with Haas-Bioroid IDs as they do in Weyland IDs.
The one new Weyland ID, GRNDL: Power Unleashed, hasn’t been around for long enough to accumulate many games OCTGN, but it has been showing up at tournaments and performing well. I expect it to see a healthy amount of play through the Lunar Cycle until the next ID, Blue Sun, hits in the fourth data pack.
Most BaBW decks that I’ve seen have two paths to victory: rush agendas behind binary ice, or flatline with Scorched Earth and/or Punitive Counterstrike. The tools Runners have gained since Creation and Control have made both strategies harder, with robust icebreaker tutoring to break binary ice and numerous economic options to stay out of SEA Source trace range and avoid being tagged. Like most Corporations, BaBW has the hardest time against Criminals, but as discussed in Parts 1 and 2, Kate has also become a tough matchup. Only the Anarchs are plus matchups for BaBW as of Fear and Loathing.
Jinteki frequently shows up in tournament pools as the least played faction by a significant margin, and even the release of a second ID, Replicating Perfection, didn’t improve the situation. Honor and Profit aims to change that, but we won’t see the results in OCTGN data until the next dataset is released.
I think Personal Evolution’s story in the Spin Cycle is one of gradual recovery from the serious blow dealt to the ID by Creation and Control. PE’s winrates dropped sharply versus both Criminal and Shaper in the wake of C&C, and have slowly climbed back toward respectability since then. Kate is still a tough matchup at about 40% as of Fear and Loathing, but Andromeda is now at 45% and Gabe has levelled off just below 50%. Jinteki gained effective cards late in the cycle – True Colors added Shock and Tsurugi, Double Time introduced Caprice Nisei and the neutral agenda NAPD Contract, and of course Honor and Profit is full of useful tools. This isn’t a bad place to be for a Corporation not named Making News; winrates are reasonable in most matchups and the future looks – well, if not perfect, then at least bright.
That said, the introduction of three new Jinteki IDs in Honor and Profit alongside the existing two will also give PE a lot of competition for Jinteki players’ time. It will be interesting to see which Jinteki IDs players favour in the coming months.
Game balance is a very difficult thing to assess, let alone achieve. Is the ideal situation one where every ID has a 50% matchup against every other ID? I don’t think so; I think the game is more interesting when IDs have slightly better matchups against certain opponents and slightly worse matchups against others. A healthy metagame is one where you have to consider what your opponents might be playing when deciding what deck to run at a tournament, and plan accordingly. For example, I’m currently playing Kate. It isn’t in my interests to add cards to my deck to improve my winrate versus Personal Evolution unless I expect PE to comprise a large portion of the field at the next tournament I attend. Otherwise, I’m better served by focusing on improving my Making News and even Engineering the Future matchups if I expect to see a relatively even spread.
Overall, I think this data suggests that Fantasy Flight has reasonable awareness of game balance, keeping in mind that cards are being designed up to a year before they see print. FFG consistently posts the first spoilers about 6 months before a pack comes out, and by that point the cards already need to have gone through design, development, art, and layout. This means there’s a major lag between when they identify a problem – for example, Anarch winrates in Spin – and when they can print cards to address it. If Anarch winrates were identified as a problem immediately after Opening Moves, we still couldn’t have expected to see much help for Anarchs until late in Spin or into the Lunar Cycle. And sure enough, we saw Keyhole in True Colors and Hemorrhage in Fear and Loathing. I expect more for our Anarch friends in Lunar.
We can also see that while Criminals have been dominant, Gabe’s winrates have generally declined toward 50%, even with Account Siphon still in the game. Andromeda is still powerful, but she isn’t crushing the entire field as she was for much of Genesis. On the flip side, Kate needed a boost during Genesis and got it in Creation and Control. Similarly, Jinteki needed some help early in Spin, and has since received it.
Weyland needs a bit of help now, and I expect to see some in Lunar in addition to the spoiled Blue Sun ID. If Weyland and Anarch improve, Making News doesn’t get strong new cards, and Honor and Profit doesn’t boost Criminal winrates substantially, the game could be in a pretty good place by the end of Lunar.
Thanks to db0’s hard work, there’s a lot more to this data that I haven’t talked about at all. Between now and when he releases the next dataset, I plan to continue exploring the existing data and writing about what I find. I’ve gotten some good ideas from the community, such as whether loyalty to a particular ID exhibits any correlation with Glicko rating – i.e do players who stick to one ID tend to do better than players who try out different IDs? On the programming side, I plan to implement more robust deck checks to filter out illegal decks, as well as further generalizing my code so that I can bundle it into an R package that will be much easier to use.
There’s already more than enough to keep me busy until we have new data, but as always, if you have any suggestions, post them!