Why “Win More” is not a problem in Netrunner

Those who have played and studied Magic have probably heard of the idea of something being a “Win More” card.  That is, that the only utility the card has, is that when you play it in a position where you’re already winning, it makes you win even more.  It doesn’t do anything to take you from even to winning, and it doesn’t do anything when you’re losing.

An article example about the topic, for the uninitiated: http://www.starcitygames.com/article/22972_Win-More-And-Lose-Less.html

 

And here is a card that’s pretty win more:

You couldn’t just get one expensive big guy.  You couldn’t just get three expensive big guys.  You’re actually going to try to play this a second time from out of your discard for three MORE?

 

Winning big, winning really impressively, is just worth 1 game of a 3 game match in Magic.  It’s valued just as much as barely squeaking out a win.

 

This type of card, therefore, typically ends up being a bad inclusion in your deck. A card that ‘bad’ players use in order to win very impressively, to feel great, but that doesn’t actually contribute to your win percentage. “X is just a win more card” is a relatively common analysis of a Magic card.

I’ve heard this phrase applied to Netrunner as well.  But in most cases, I tend to disagree.  There are almost no cards in Netrunner that I would qualify as being bad for being “Win More”. There are inefficient cards.  There are bad cards.  There are narrow cards. But Win More?  Actually, I kinda WANT to win more.

I think that in Netrunner, a card that takes you from a position where you are ahead, and takes you to being really, really ahead (or wins the game), is actually good.

There are two big reasons why this is the case:

 

Reason #1:  In Netrunner tournaments, wins aren’t equal!

In Magic, if I beat you really hard, and still have all my life points remaining, that doesn’t matter.  It’s still just 1 win.  But in Netrunner, if I 7-0 you, that’s a REALLY BIG DEAL.  That is actually WAY better than squeaking out a 7-6 win.  I didn’t just win a game, I actually just won a match (probably).  That was like winning TWO games at once, in one game.

Now, you may think this tournament structure is kind of flawed.  I agree, it is.  But it IS the current tournament structure.  And coming up with a better one, that isn’t a huge pain to run, is reasonably difficult.

So if you are analyzing a card that didn’t help much in bad situations, but turned what might be close wins into outright stomps, would that be a good card?  In Magic it wouldn’t.  In Netrunner, it would!

 

Reason #2: There is a second reason as well, that’s not just related to the tournament scoring structure.  It related to how hard it actually is, to win a Netrunner game.

 

In most LCG/CCG games, you see, the board state is highly snowballing.  On turn 1 I put out a 2/1 creature, and you do nothing.  On turn 2 you take 2 damage, and I put out a 3/2 creature.  You do nothing.  On turn 3 you take FIVE damage, etc.  Simply by playing a couple small cards, and you not answering in some way, I am now getting a full QUARTER of the way to victory, EVERY TURN.

That’s as if I just put out a pair of low cost cards in Netrunner that let me continually score a 2 point agenda.  EVERY TURN.  And it doesn’t even cost me my turn!  Just my attack step!  I get to draw and play out more cards as well!  That’s kind of like if Underworld Contacts said “At the beginning of your turn, if you have 2 link, score 2 agenda points”.  Instead of just giving you $1.

In Magic, and in almost every CCG or LCG game, board position snowballs REALLY, REALLY HARD.

The game is all about board position.  About the struggle for control of the board.

 

In Netrunner, you have a board position advantage, and it means that some card is giving you $1 a turn.  Or it means that I have a Corroder, and you have a Wall of Static guarding R&D, so I am allowed to spend time and $2 to look at one card and MAYBE score points.  Maybe I’m even more developed in the board position battle, and I have an R&D interface.  Now I can look at TWO cards and have two chances to maybe score points.

 

That’s right, in Netrunner, you do a lot of things that spend plenty of resources to give you a CHANCE of making progress toward victory.  Often like a 20% chance.

 

So in Netrunner, board position snowballs very weakly.  Its more like this version of Snowball:

Haha, yeah that card was really bad.

What do most ‘Win More’ cards do?  In Magic, when you’re already snowballing, you don’t really need to snowball a bunch more.  It was already enough.

 

But in Netrunner, that’s AWESOME!  They take a board state where you’re already ahead, and put you a lot more ahead.  They help you actually Snowball!

 

You see, in Netrunner, if I am ahead on development, generally that means that I can spend my time and resources trying to score points.  TRYING.  Sometimes it works.  But sometimes the variance is against you, and you get nothing, and your position degrades and you’re no longer ahead anymore, because while you spent time trying to make progress towards winning, the opponent spent time equalizing the board state.

 

Now imagine that I had a card that, if I was in a really strong state, let me really pound the opponent and greatly increase my chances of successfully scoring.  But if I am in a weak state where I cannot break through and get chances, it does nothing.  Let’s call that card a “Medium”.

An awesome “Win More” Netrunner card.  Only works if you’re able to hit R&D a bunch.  Still awesome.

In Netrunner, that’s actually one of the best cards in the game.  Medium!  Heck yeah.  Three Mediums?  Even better.  Now, during this short window of time where I can actually get through cheaply to your R&D, I can really, really punish you for it.  Because after all, my advantage and window of opportunity in Netrunner will likely fade as you get more defense.  But in Magic, if I strongly control the board, it’s hard for you to negate that (unless I’m just a pure aggro deck and you’re a control deck).

 

What’s the equivalent of Medium in Magic?  Possibly something that would say something like “whenever your creatures you deal combat damage to an opponent, they deal twice as much damage”.  That card would probably be seen as pretty bad!  In fact, I’m pretty sure that cards like that have existed, and unless they were really cheap, probably saw no play.  Someone probably called them a  “Win More” card.  You should probably play some other creature instead of that card.  Maybe something that was hard to defend, or was resilient to death.  Or maybe you should play a direct damage spell instead, so that after your creatures got them low, you could finish them off.

You wouldn’t want to double down on having it be great if you successfully got in, but risk having your opponent put up a defense that stops you.

In Netrunner, you DO want to double down on your benefit for getting through! R&D interface is a similarly useful card, its only helpful when your board state is good enough that you are successfully getting through.  But its awesome.

 

 

Netrunner’s back and forth game state:

You see, in Magic, a game will tend to transition from a player’s favor to the other only once during the game.  An aggro deck will start out in control, pressuring, and a control deck will take over later, or die first.  If two aggro decks battle, one will get the upper hand somehow, and that lead will usually snowball to a win.  If two control decks fight, they might stay even for a while, fighting over small leads, but once one of them gets significantly ahead it’s pretty much over.

 

Netrunner is so different.  The game arc is different.

The runner starts out with an advantage in the very beginning.  The corp doesn’t have defense, or maybe can’t pay for it all.  They can attack all over and in some places they can probably get through.

 

But then the corp manages to get defenses set up and money to pay for them.  Now things shift the other way.  The runner has to find icebreakers.  The corp can try scoring agendas behind their Wall of Static and Enigma, and until the runner finds the right breakers or the right tricks, the corp has the advantage.

 

But then it shifts AGAIN.  The runner develops their rig, they become an unstoppable machine.  The corp can make it expensive, but they can’t make it impossible.

 

Different sides have different windows in time where they have the edge, and they need to make those times COUNT.  They can’t afford to fail during their window, or they probably lose.  If you have an advantage in Netrunner, it’s NOT going to last forever.  The board state will change.

 

So the runner trying for early pressure, needs to play cards that make their pressure really, really effective.  The corp trying to rush agendas during their safety window needs to get as much work done as possible, and the runner trying to play for a lategame advantage needs to make sure every access is as big and crushing as possible, because they won’t be able to afford too many.

 

To summarize: In Magic, a significantly ahead board state will probably snowball to victory on its own, without the help of another card.  In Netrunner, it probably won’t be enough, because you’re talking about CHANCES to score points, and any card that significantly increases those chances is very useful. In Netrunner, an advantage in board state tends to degrade and become more even over time.  If you’re the runner, then the corp will probably get more defenses and decrease your efficiency.  If you’re the corp, the runner will probably continue making their rig more efficient over time.  While you are sitting there trying to use your current advantage to win, the opponent is catching up and degrading your advantage, so you need to win FAST.

 

Examples:

We have talked already about cards like Medium that take advantage of a good board state (ability to break into R&D multiple times), and multiply the pressure and effect.

This card might be “Win More” in Magic, but in Netrunner, it’s just “Win”.  Even if you would’ve won without it, and it’s just “Win Faster”, and it helps you win 7-0 or 7-2, that’s far better than winning 7-6.

 

How about a card like Demolition run?  I’ve seen this called Win More before.

I am beating you with a pair of Mediums.  3 cards, 5, 7, 9!  I got unlucky, and only saw 1 agenda.  And now you cleared my virus counters.  And you set up more ice on R&D.  I might be pretty sad that I didn’t win, and maybe my opportunity is slipping away.

If I demo run away the 7 cards, and see 9 new ones, that’s probably incredible.

 

But in practice, this turns out to be marginal.  The demo run isn’t actually super useful in practice, or maybe I do want it but only 1 copy, definitely not 3.

So was it weak because it was a Win More card?

 

You might think so, but I say no.  The problem in this case isn’t that removing those 7 cards from R&D and looking at 9 new ones was useless overkill.  The problem is that there other cards that do a BETTER job of winning and closing this game out, in that same situation.

A Vamp or Account Siphon is a good way to shut the opponent out here.  If we break them, then they won’t be able to afford to get more defenses on R&D to stop us, and clear our virus counters.  So we’ll just hit for 11, 13, 15, 17 next turn, and that will be like the Demo run, but even better.

An Imp would have a similar effect to the Demo run, but with far more general versatility.  The Imp will mill one of those cards away when we play it, and trash another, getting us 2 cards deeper by itself.  We’ll recover $3 when we Pawn it.  It is great at trashing money assets or SanSans or dangerous hand cards like Scorched Earth and Trick of Light, giving it great utility.

 

The problem with Demolition Run isn’t that it’s “Win More”.  The problem is that it’s outclassed by other cards that are more efficient or versatile.

 

In Netrunner there are inefficient cards.  There are narrow cards.  There are weak cards.   Demolition Run is marginal because it’s just not efficient enough, not because we don’t want its effect.  I’d feel way better about it for a cost of $0, and all the utility that would open up.

 

How about Deep Thought?  It’s kind of like Medium, right?  If I can get through to R&D a lot, it then shows me if there is an agenda available there.  Is it “Win More”?

The problem with Deep Thought is that its not Win More enough!  When I do the cool thing and hit R&D three times, it simply doesn’t get me ENOUGH extra benefit to justify itself!  Not in a world where there are better options, like R&D interface and Medium.

The problem is that in Netrunner, you need to press your advantages really hard, while they last!  You actually need the “Win More” effect.  And you need it to be strong and efficient.  Deep Thought just isn’t very strong.  It doesn’t Win More hard enough!

 

 

How about Morning Star?  Is it a bad “Win More” card because it’s like a really, really big, overkill-y Corroder, and we don’t need it?

No, it’s not.  We actually would want its effect, “Crush all Barriers for super cheap”.  That’s actually pretty great.  It is weak because it’s kind of inefficient and has counters.  It gets countered by Hadrian’s Wall.  If you combo it with Datasuckers, they advance the Hadrian’s Wall.  It’s countered by Corporate Troubleshooter.  Even by a well advanced Ice Wall.

Secondly, it has a 2MU cost.  It’s unwieldy.  Some decks just can’t include it as a result.

For a really big, expensive card, that’s supposed to crush barriers really hard, it’s disappointing that some Barriers can actually counter it.  That’s the true reason it’s marginal.

 

 

How about Corporate War?  Is it a “Win More” agenda because it’s only good when we are already rich, and don’t need it?

Not really.  You see, it’s rare in Netrunner that you actually don’t need more money.  You almost always could use it well.  I’ve had over $35 and ran out later.  I’ve broken an opponent with that much money, with repeated Shutdown and Crescentus on a Heimdall or Hadrian’s.

The thing that makes Corporate War not an automatic choice, is the tradeoffs and opportunity cost.  Corp War has a potential drawback.  It is directly competing with another card, Private Security Force, that has no possible drawback and always gives an ability.  Now, sometimes the ability isn’t that useful, but it actually often is.  Even in a no-tag HB deck, it can force a Criminal to clear their self-tags from Account Siphon, or pay for a Plascrete they otherwise wouldn’t pay for.

 

Corp War’s problem isn’t being “Win More”.  Its problem is that it’s just often weaker than a similar card.  A card exists that often provides about the same upside, but with no downside potential.

 

 

Conclusion:

I feel that people should not apply the Magic concept of “Win More” to Netrunner deck construction.  It will get you to avoid cards that you actually really need.

I’ve heard comments like: “I don’t need three R&D interface, two is fine.  Three is just Win More”.  I say no.   R&D interface is just WIN.  It’s WIN NOW, while the score is 7-2, before you get more points.

You desperately, DESPERATELY needs cards in Netrunner, that take a position of advantage, and snowball it as much as possible into victory.  That remove as much of the variance and chance as possible form the process of trying to score points.

Because Netrunner board states are weakly snowballing, you actually NEED snowbally cards.  (But not Snowball!  Lol!)  You need cards that really force the issue.  Cards that WIN.  Without them, you can be great at setting up an economic advantage, and it might make you win over half the time.  But it won’t ALWAYS convert to a win.  Sometimes you’ll miss on your agenda attempts, fizzle out, and see your advantage erode.

 

Win More helps beat the variance in Netrunner.  (At least on the runner side, of trying to score).  In Magic, the variance happens a lot in what you draw.  In whether you got enough lands.  In Netrunner, most of the variance is in whether your attacks hit agendas and win the game, or they don’t.  (And also some for whether the corp draws ice).  Win More helps win games harder, as 7-0s that win the match by themselves.  That doesn’t matter in other card games, but it does in the Netrunner tournament structure.

 

Play some “Win More” cards.  You need them.  Obviously you need them in combination with other things.  Things that give you economy.  Things that let you break through, or defend.  But don’t ignore this critical part of your deck.  Don’t think “Win More” means ‘bad’ in this game, because in the right proportion with other effects, it’s actually needed and useful.

Crush your opponent 7-2 when you can.  The match is way easier if you do.  Value the stomp highly, like the scoring system values it.  It’s not “just a win”.  A stomp is almost TWO wins.  Play cards that help you to win that game 7-0 or 7-2, rather than having simply a slightly higher chance of winning the game 7-6.

Try to blow out your opponent!  Just do it in moderation with a collection of other cards that fulfill the rest of the needed roles in your deck as well.  You don’t want a deck full of Mediums.  You need breakers and economy too.

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