The Long Game: The Value of Surprise Cards

Welcome to the second in a series on controlling the mid- to late-game as a runner.  Previously we discussed controlling R&D; today we’ll be talking about the value of surprise cards.  By surprise cards I mean cards that substantially change the board state — cards the corp was making decisions without knowledge of.  Many decks built by beginners focus on rig efficiency, which is admirable and makes sense in traditional games but will not win the game against an experienced corp.  One of the core principals of success is understanding what information is available to your opponent, and what kind of decisions they might make given their range of possible cards.

That being said, a typical late-game state is for the runner to have enough credits to access an expensive remote.  Why would the corp lay an agenda down if you can access it?  Let’s figure out some ways to induce the corp into making a mistake.  One of the ways to allow an agenda to be played is to make it appear as though you cannot access the server, then gain access through some surprise.  Let’s go over the major surprise remote access tools.



Make a run, and gain 9 credits, which you may use only during this run. After the run is completed, suffer 1 brain damage (cannot be prevented) and return to the bank any of the 9 credits not spent.

Anarch – 1 Influence

The bread and butter of surprise access, and the namesake of this website, is Stimhack.  At only 1 influence, Stimhack is an easy include into any deck and provides synergy with Personal Workshop by using Stimhack credits to pay for programs on Personal Workshop mid-run.

Inside Job


Make a run. Bypass the first piece of ice encountered during this run.

Criminal – 3 Influence

Frequently a corp will attempt to end a stalemate by drawing into an expensive piece of ice, placing it in the outermost position of a remote and lay an agenda down.  Inside Job neutralizes this by bypassing this ice allowing you to encounter only the original set of ice in the remote.  I try to run 1-2 copies when I can (except for Criminal, where it’s hard to argue it shouldn’t be a 3-of) because it can shore up decks with slow early games.  Is the corp aggressively trying to push an agenda through protected by one ice?  No problem.  Need to access HQ to Emergency Shutdown an Archer?  Done.

Femme Fatale


Program: Icebreaker – Killer

1 Credit: Break Sentry Subroutine 

2 Credits: +1 Strength

When you install Femme Fatale, choose an installed piece of ice.  When you encounter that ice,  you may spend 1 credit per subroutine on that ice to bypass it.

Many players may look at Femme’s high cost and pass over her, but think again — she’s worth every bit (er, credit).  First off, you get a pretty decent sentry breaker that’s made great with support cards like Ice Carver or Personal Touch.  Even more important, however, is its ability to bypass a high-strength ice for just a few credits.  Janus becomes 4 to bypass, Tollbooth becomes 1 and avoids the on-encounter 3 credit loss, and so on.  This becomes supercharged with Test Run, where she basically becomes a precision Inside Job, allowing you to bypass an ice for one turn.  Given Shaper’s lack of surprise cards, Test Run/Femme should probably be an autoinclude in every Shaper deck.  A common move for corp players with large economy is to lay down an expensive ETR ice on a remote (usually with a few other ice) then install an agenda.  Running into that ice to force a rez, then bringing Femme down to negate it is a great play in this situation.  The stopping power of that ice is a tell for how important the installed card is.

For example, let’s suppose the corp installed one outermost piece of ice, and installed a card in the remote.  For your first click you run the remote to force a rez.  Let’s say it’s a Hadrian’s Wall and you have no barrier breaker.  Whatever is installed in that server is almost 100% to be a high value card, probably an agenda.  You can then Test Run a Femme to bypass Hadrian’s.  Alternatively, let’s say an Enigma is rezzed and you already have a code gate breaker.  You might start asking if this isn’t a trap, or an attempt to drain you of credits.

Vamp and Account Siphon




Event: Run – Sabotage

Make a run on HQ.  If successful, instead of accessing cards you may pay X credits to force the Corp to lose up to X credits, then take 1 tag.

Account Siphon

Event: Run – Sabotage

Make a run on HQ.  If successful, instead of accessing cards you may force the Corp to lose up to 5 credits, then you gain 2 credits for each credit lost and take 2 tags.

These may look out of place if you haven’t quite figured out how to optimally use these potentially back-breaking cards.  Their most obvious use is to bankrupt the corp when you have an economic advantage.  It’s far more difficult to go from zero to five credits than going from five to ten, so if you can take the corp to zero it’s devastating.  The second use, and the reason these made it into this article, is their ability to disrupt the corp’s ability to rez ice.  If you can access HQ, you can taken the corp down enough credits to eliminate the range of ice you’re concerned about encountering.  Will a Tollbooth ruin your day?  Take the corp below 8.  This obviously also pairs well with Forged Activation Orders.  This gives you a way to ensure only encountering ice you are in a position to deal with, allowing you access to a remote you formerly could not access.  More importantly, the corp will be left poor and your play will almost definitely be a surprise.


Last but not least, Tinkering and Emergency Shutdown should receive honorable mention.  Tinkering is fantastic in the early game, but doesn’t apply much to the mid- to late-game.  Emergency Shutdown should probably be paired with a Vamp/Account Siphon, but having both in your grip at the same time is rare.  One last observation I want to make is to point out the lack of Shaper cards in this set.  Recall from the first article the dearth of Shaper for R&D control, and now their absence for surprise access.  Think very carefully about how you splash out of faction cards in a Shaper deck, and make sure you’ve got a couple surprises up your sleeve.  Remember, you have to give the corp a reason to open himself up to making a mistake.  Since your grip is the only hidden information you possess, make use of it!


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