Normally the only thing I have to look forward to in August is getting older. At least I’m past the age where I have to dread returning to school as well. Instead, due to what common consensus has agreed is some trouble at customs, we’re getting not one but two data packs. Even if it was painfully delayed, Upstalk has proven to be a pretty solid set, certainly one of the more popular, and is seeing play from hell to breakfast. The second pack, the Spaces Between, appears to be just as strong, bringing another powerful new ID, a whole pile of funky assets, and an entirely new mechanic: currents.
Long story short, they’re operations /events that sit in play and continue to provide an effect until an agenda is scored or another current is played, so they probably aren’t going to be around for long one way or the other. That being said, some of them provide effects that, at least until they up and vanish like a fart in the wind, can give you a substantial advantage. That variability is a big question in my mind. The more common they are, the less effective they will be, since everyone will be able to just flop out another one to overwrite yours, and vice versa. On the flip side, if you’re the only kid on the block packing these puppies, then you could easily find yourself with an extreme advantage over the competition.
Other than the distilled collective two cents of our play group, we’ll be treating you to a traditional letter style grade (not on a curve, by the way) for each card and a brief explanation for that reasoning. So let’s get started.
It appears that I did indeed misunderstand the scoring trigger on the currents. I read it is evaporating when any points were scored, rather then just by your opponent. On the one hand, I somewhat underestimated their resilience because of it. Not dissipating when you score does indeed create some new opportunities and offer increased versatility. On the other hand, it really doesn’t, especially on the Corp side. Sure, it’s not impossible to pitch a no-hitter and lock the runner out from scoring, but again, all that needs to happen to make it go away is for another one to be played (Same Old Thing FTW). While I underestimated their resilience, I also concurrently underestimated their popularity because of it, and the more common they are, the less effective they will be. From a grade point perspective, I don’t feel like it alters much, since the misunderstandings cancel each other out.
#21 : The Foundry
The second new corporate identity continues the trend started by Upstalk’s Near Earth Hub and delivers a solid division, this time for purple players. The obvious choice is to pack your deck full of NEXT and Grail ICE (which trigger each time they are encountered, remember) and ride the pain train to pound town. There are some quirks that don’t make this as broadly useful out of the box, however. Firstly, it triggers only on the first piece of ICE you rez each turn, so how often this actually triggers (and off of what) is largely, by default, up to the runner. You can use tools like Amazon Industrial Zone, Tenma Line, Isabel McGuire, and Levy University (forgot about that one, didn’t you) to retain a greater element of control and dig out some extra value, but then you cede the element of surprise and give the runner a heads up on what they have to get through. Then again, when has HB minded you knowing what ridiculously taxing ice you have to get through?
Overall, I’m on the fence about this one. While this has the potential to create some ridiculous board states, I’m concerned about the amount of economy and time it will take to fuel the thing and get it rolling, not to mention the additional tools you’ll need to pull in/turn on to maximize the advantage of the ID’s ability and offset the fact that, out of the box, it’s activation is largely runner-dependent. This will either turn into another CI, just waiting for more tools before its viable, or it will end up the next NEXT: fun to mess with, but perhaps not top tier.
Grade = C+ : Effectiveness relies largely on external forces and other assets to really make use of, and we’re unsure if that effort is really worth it right now. Will grow in strength as more synergy ice (Grail, NEXT) shows up.
22: Enhanced Login Protocol
I know I’m not exactly unique to this sentiment, but I am stoked as hell to finally play with the currents. In keeping with The Spiderman Rule, everybody gets one. Bonus, they all are pretty awesome, though perhaps not quite as ball-bustingly so as ELP. Before we continue, however, we’ll make the obligatory “current’s aren’t all that hard to get rid of” statement, because they’re not. They go away just by earnestly advancing the game (often by creating scoring windows that lead to their own demise) or, you know, playing another one. That being said, the advantages this confers while in play can be massive. Pair Enhanced Login Protocol with tricks like Ruhr Valley, Strongbox, or Off The Grid, maybe in a Replicating Perfection build (well priced at 2 influence), and it’s not too hard to imagine a scenario that leaves the runner all but in stasis for a bit. Perhaps this might be of use to Midseason Psycobeale or Action Jackson decks as a way to slow things down until they’re ready to fire, as well.
Grade = B : While a little gimmicky, there are a plethora of rock and a hard place scenarios you can create with this. One of the more useful currents out of the box, and worth experimenting with if you have the deck space to spare.
23: Heinlein Grid
Now before you go and dust off your ZEDs, take an honest look at this. It doesn’t trigger off of the aforementioned Ruhr Valley or Enhanced Logon Protocol or anything that costs you a click to start a run, it only applies to clicks lost or spent during the run. So, with that in mind, what options are there? For starters, 2/3rds of HB Ice has the potential to trigger this (all the Bioroids, Hourglass, and Viper) as well as Enigma, Strongbox, and False Lead’s ability. Not much else does, though, and of the options the only one you can control triggering is False Lead. This all assumes, as well, that the runner is hitting where you actually have the Grid installed, or that the credits are something they’ll miss.
Grade = D+ : If you can get it to trigger, the effect could make a difference in stopping the runner, but even in decks where bioroid ice are a thing, I feel like lack of control of the trigger directly equates to lack of value. Sure, you can fire it with False Lead, but at that point you might as well just try and shoehorn in Closed Accounts somehow and save yourself the agenda point and the trouble.
24: Encrypted Portals
First in the series of ICE type oriented agendas; this one is a welcome addition to Team Bonsai. It brings some refreshing new flexibility to the agenda curve and another great shell game option, and with so many great code gates both in and out of faction seeing play you will likely see some value, especially if you manage to power out more than one (Lotus Field just got that much more annoying). There’s a good chance that scoring this will recover you a few of the credits you spent doing so to boot.
Grade = B+ : Not an auto include, but if you’re using Gila Hands or False Lead or something similar just to fill a slot, this is worthwhile to consider as an alternative.
25: Cerebral Static
Jinteki’s first current provides a unique (and beautifully, eerily illustrated) effect that can range from useless (Andi, Professor) to potentially deck-bricking, for example in the case of a certain runner who likes to code gate stuff. As neat as I want this to be, it’s just too unreliable. The long and short is that while playing this will probably gain you some immediate benefit, there are probably more predictably useful things to do with the deck space.
Grade = D : Beyond being pricey, there is a very good chance this card will be dead in your deck before you’ve even drawn your opening hand. The only time you’ll see this outside of a casual environment is if they stick the art on a play mat. And they should.
26: Targeted Marketing
Depending on how early you can get this into play, it could provide a substantial economic boost, and it doesn’t get much more splash-able at a single influence. While one would obviously rather a Hedge Fund or something, ICE-ICE-TM naming Sure Gamble, Dirty Laundry, or whatever other runner specific opening play you know you’re likely about to see isn’t a bad thing either. Makes a great follow-up to Test Run, as well. The threat of such an obscene economic boost might even be enough to make the runner reconsider and chose a distinctly weaker line of play just to avoid handing you a small fortune.
Grade = C+ : At the end of the day, this is cute, but so cute it just might work. The only thing you have to lose giving it a whirl is the card slot and influence point.
27: Information Overload
I have a dream, and that dream is one day we shall see a tracer ICE that doesn’t suck. Today, apparently, is still not that day. Okay, so perhaps that statement is a little hyperbolic, but think about it. When was the last time you actually used a Tracer outside of Caduceus, Ichi, or maybe Data Raven? It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just too imprecise, and a runner credit advantage neutralizes them entirely, even if it usually neutralizes the runner’s credit advantage in the process. Sometimes that’s ground you just can’t afford to give.
That being said, the ability to force the runner to trash stuff, even if they’re choosing, can be a substantial benefit. The unavoidable trace is a thing, and could be used in concert with something like ChiLo City Grid to create incentive to dump money into a trace they would otherwise have let slide, especially if you can back it up with recurring credits and minimize the dent to your own cash. This will send an unprepared tag-me runner screeching back to square one, but then again a tag-me runner will probably just DP (Datasucker/Parasite) this into oblivion the second they see it.
Grade = D : Box fodder. There are better ways to fire traces, better things to do with 6 credits, and far better ice at your disposal.
28: Paywall Implementation
As a die hard, dyed in the wool Weyland man, I will be the first to admit that, as a faction, Weyland has a number of things that it doesn’t do quite so well. Generating Kilimanjaro-sized piles of cash without breaking a sweat is not, nor has it ever been, among them. This, however, isn’t for Weyland. This fakie Desperado is a gift to shell game and horizontal economy decks for whom the runner getting in is a fact of life (or even the point). While you can’t build around it as a cornerstone, this could provide a nice economic influx before it inevitably disappears. Or it could do exactly nothing. Its biggest weakness is that it’s a current. Your Mileage (and meta) May Vary.
Grade = C : This would be solidly in the B territory if it wasn’t a current OR wasn’t contingent on a successful run, but rather triggered off of any run. As it is, Weyland doesn’t really need this, and 2 influence seems like too much elsewhere for a card that encourages its own demise.
29: Sealed Vault
Do you have a runner problem? Are they in ur bankz, siphoning ur fundz? Goddamn runners, think they can go wherever the hell they want. Well, you know what will fix their little red wagon? Shoving all that hard earned cash into the trusty Sealed Vault. For the mere cost of 1 of your credits, you can safeguard the rest of your bankroll in the blink of an eye, and pull it out again just as fast for free. And a runner can feel free to spend 8 to trash that, I’ll pack a few more. While this is somewhat situational (go go Corporate War!) and obviously more useful the earlier you can pull it, it’s a unique effect that beats scrambling to bankrupt yourself in the middle of a because-you’re-going-to-lose-the-credits-anyway account siphon run. So if you have a problem with runners thinking they own the place, this just might be your ticket.
Grade = B+ : While this isn’t an auto-include, it’s darn close, and it’s high on the list of the best cards in the pack. For decks that are still struggling to find a reliable answer to Siphon, this could very well be your pony.
30: Eden Fragment
Now this is how you do Source cards. Being able shut down the Action Jackson 5 combo and win you the game instead on the fly is nice. Being able to stack a server so deep it’s punching your opponent in the gut without spending a dime beyond rez cost is simply nuts. Almost everyone has space for a 5/3, and may already be running one anyway. This is a great addition to available choices for that slot.
Grade = B+ : While there is no overall reason to automatically include this over another 5/3, if you don’t have a specific need for the 5/3s you ARE running, then there’s no reason not to experiment playing with the Eden Fragment.
31: Lag Time
The neutral current is pretty straight forward. It provides an extra buffer against fixed breakers and saves your 0 STR ice from dying to a Clone Chipped or SMC’d Parasite. It mitigates the effect of Bishop. It taxes the runner a few more credits (presumably) every time they want to start breaking stuff. On paper, it seems more useful than some of the other, more gimmicky currents. Practically, like the other more straightforward currents, how useful this ends up being depends heavily on what kind of play currents themselves end up seeing.
Grade = B- : It shows up, it boosts some stuff, it goes away. Not a bad “hmmm, one more slot” choice.
Hey look! The reason why Window might see play. While not quite as effective as trashing the thing completely, sometimes it can be more of a challenge to dig a program out of the stack then the heap, especially if you burned whatever fetch you had getting it out to begin with. At the very least sending a breaker you know they’re using back into the stack will cost them time and money fetching it out again, or, at best, cripple their rig and win you the game. Seems like it might be a clever one of, but it doesn’t seem very flexible, since if you don’t fire it the first time the runner comes in they will likely trash it themselves.
Grade = C+ : 4 credits feels a little pricey for this, even if the effect is solid, and you’re still going to have to be mindful of your timing, less you miss your window to rez and activate it. Still, if you’re the kind of player who likes ambushes and playing around in root, this could be a fun little addition to the arsenal.
A handy and relevant breaker, this slayer of giants will save your bacon from Heimdall, Ichi, Inazuma, Wall of Thorns, Tollbooth, a pumped up Wraparound, and even all the nasty parts of an Archer (while still getting you through). While exceedingly pricey, influence-wise, it’s low credit cost demands consideration out of faction as part of an affordable-to-fetch Swiss Army breaker suite that hits a wide array of otherwise troublesome, exceedingly taxing ICE.
Grade = B : This would be in the A range were it not for the fact that it costs a whopping 4 influence out of faction. I expect this to see a fair bit of play even despite that.
At both two cost and influence, the first Anarch current sits a little higher on the curve, cost wise. Effect-wise, it can provide a nice little help over the fixed breaker hump in lieu of some Datasucker tokens or a few credits. The flip side is that it only hits the first ice you see each turn, and, as currents go, it’s more encouraging of self-destructive (to the current) play then the others. After all, they go poof when you score and this could go a fair way toward helping you do exactly that.
Grade = C+ : Though comparatively pricier and not game breaking by any stretch of the imagination, another tool to help you destroy or otherwise mitigate ice is never a bad thing. It’s just not always a very playable thing.
35: Three Steps Ahead
With every new set that comes out, we see more and more reasons from both sides of the table to branch out from the old standby Account Siphon. While the power of the card cannot be denied, it’s not quite the “run this or GTFO” powerhouse it once was. This set alone offers an answer (Sealed Vault) and an alternative (this). Even if it doesn’t quite net you the pile of cash that AS does, you don’t have to mess with the tags, and this rewards you for doing something you will probably be doing anyway. If you can play this and hit Archives 3 times, it’s actually a somewhat effective way to dig out of an economic hole and back into Sure Gamble or Lucky Find range. Nasir might find use for this as means to augment his monetary flexibility.
Grade = B- : A modestly priced but gimmicky little economic boost that shouldn’t be too hard to make work for you if you decide it’s worth a try.
36: Unscheduled Maintenance
The Criminal current brings an effect that, let’s face it, is going to be pretty meh unless you A) land it in the first few turns or B) are really going balls to the wall with ice destruction, and in case A there are probably better things to do with your time then waste a click and a credit dropping this. Hell, once you’re a few turns in, it’s not at all uncommon for a Corp not to play ICE at all on any given turn, let alone more than one.
Grade = C- : An neat effect that will almost never be relevant when you see it.
On its most basic level, this turns 1 credit into 3. The way in which it does it, however, has most Anarchs I know eyeing this as a curious new economic tool that isn’t Liberated Accounts. The fact that it’s a virus is just icing on the cake. While you probably couldn’t build a deck around them, I have to admit I can see Noise packing these backed up with Grimore, Déjà vu, Clone Chip and Surge causing all kinds of trouble and maybe even coming out a few credits ahead for the trouble. Nasir players are looking at this one as well, I’m sure.
Grade = B+ : Money for nothing and trips for free.
38: Net Celebrity
The last of the currents we see in this pack is my favorite among the runner side and tied for my favorite overall (with NBN). This is everything a card should be: simple, straight forward and useful without having to rely on someone else. It will pay for itself as soon as you use it, and at a single influence is as splashable as it gets. This is a great choice for Nasir, obviously, but an extra recurring run credit is something everyone can enjoy. It’s biggest drawback is how fragile it is, being a current.
Grade = B+ : It may not stick around very long but hey, fame is fleeting, and it’s well worth it while you have it.
39: LLDS Energy Regulator
With the advent of Taurus, the “rediscovery” of Flare, and upcoming nastiness like Shattered Remains, your hardware destruction is rapidly becoming something to be concerned about. Well timed hardware destruction can take out a console (and whatever programs or econ engine you had tied to it) and set you back substantially. Alternatively, it can wipe out a Plascrete and leave you open to a killing blow right then and there. It used to be if you were worried about it (and you generally weren’t), you brought in a Sacrificial Construct. LLDS blows SC out of the water. First, it’s a program, and is much easier to find in a pinch, installing for 2 off of SMC or for free with a Clone Chip. The ability to fuel it with cash OR trash adds a ton of flexibility and resilience to it as well. Lastly, it’s cheap as hell.
Grade = C+ : If you’re worried about someone wrecking your toys, then this is ticket for you. Keep this fresh in the back of your mind, as well, because while it may not see much play now, I anticipate it being very relevant in the very near future.
40: Ghost Runner
Look ma, more kind of free money! But wait, there’s more! Is that a Stealth subtype I see on there? Well how about that. A 1 cost, 0 influence neutral stealth resource that gives some credits to be used on a run. Now if only there were a decently solid archetype using Cloak, Dagger, Silencer, and other stealth shenanigans to get where it needs to go, Ghost Runner would be right at home.
Grade = B : An interesting additional bit of economy that also serves to fill a few different holes in a few different maybe no longer niche decks.
You may notice the lack of A cards in this pack. That’s intentional. Near Earth Hub and Lotus Field were, to me, grade A cards, and I think you’ll have a hard time arguing anything in this pack is on that level. The currents are incredibly exciting but at the same time very impermanent, and that dichotomy makes it hard to tell how much of an impact they’re going to be.
If I had to boil down our overall impressions of the pack to one simple statement, it’d be YMMV: Your Mileage/Meta May Vary. There are a lot of really cool abilities in this pack, and a lot of effective answers to certain troubling game states, but feel mediocre otherwise. To me, Sealed Vault or Targeted Marketing really epitomize this set: When you can actually take advantage of the abilities they provide, they’re incredible, but are you going to encounter those scenarios with enough frequency to warrant devoting deck space to them? The trick is there is no answer. Every meta is going to be different, and the demands of yours will dictate what, if any, of the tools in this data pack you need to consider including. Either way, the Spaces Between is an above average quality set that delivers fresh and engaging new content, even if some of it is content you’ll need to go out of your way to experience.