Netrunner: Drunken MWL predictions!

It’s the holiday season, and Damon Claus will soon be bringing us new presents (and taking a few away) with a new MWL! Based on what better players than I have said, both in online forums and in interviews (check out Dan d’Argenio here, for instance), and my own (much less well-informed) assessment of the meta, here are my predictions for what changes the New Year will bring to Netrunner!

  1. The big loser will be Criminal:

While the most successful Runner faction at Worlds was Anarch, all the most successful decks from that faction spent the majority of their influence on Criminal cards (including Hate Bear, Temujin Whizz, and DLR Maxx). With Anarchs having been hit hard by the MWL twice now, they don’t really have any obvious problem cards left! (With one notable exception, which will be discussed below.) While it’s possible that Mimic or Datasucker might also join the MWL, the easiest way to curb the power of that faction would be to inhibit their ability to include 3x Temujin Contracts. While the best solution to this might be to errata Temujin to make it 3 or 4 influence, the designers have previously said that they’ll try to control problem cards through the MWL before resorting to errata to fix them (as they did with Astroscript). This of course puts Criminal in a bind, as, unless you are Geist or ‘Sayonara Sucker’ Andy you will probably want 3 copies of Temujin and 3 copies of Desperado in your deck, effectively putting every Criminal ID at -6 influence. It’s possible that Desperado might leave the MWL to compensate for this, but I find that extremely unlikely, as the reason it was included there in the first place wasn’t to curb Criminal’s power, but to encourage the use of other Criminal consoles (which it failed to do). Rough times ahead for Criminals then!

  1. Glacier will get a mild boost:

The utter dominance of NBN at Worlds might make you think that glacier decks are hosed, but in reality the only thing keeping them out of the meta is Princess Space Kitten. So reliant is glacier on defensive upgrades, which Rumor Mill blanks, that the mere threat of the card’s existence was enough to drive glacier decks out of the meta! It is now evident that the long-term plan for glacier will be to instead make it reliant on extremely taxing ICE which is punishing to facecheck, which the Corp would seek to force the runner to break over and over again through bluffing never-advance cards. A lot of the ICE in the Flashpoint cycle fits that bill, and it looks like Red Sands (spoilers!) will continue that trend, but to accelerate the game to the point where glacier can be viable again without relying on upgrades blanked by Rumor Mill, I believe Damon will take Eli or Architect (possibly both) off the MWL. I’m not sure what glacier decks will spend the influence they’ll save from that on, since Caprice and Ash are no longer great inclusions. Possibly more economy to rez all that taxing ICE with.

  1. Princess Space Kitten will get off scott-free!

As I argued above, it looks like glacier’s scoring plan will rely on bluffs and taxing ICE, rather than powerful defensive upgrades like Caprice. If more punishing ICE in the vein of DNA Tracker and Fairchild 3.0 come out, then it’s possible that glacier will be viable in spite of the threat of Rumor Mill. Combined with the fact that Rumor Mill has only been out 4 months, and Damon has indicated that he doesn’t want to touch cards that have been out for less than 6 months, to give the playerbase a chance to come up with their own counters, I’m predicting that Rumor Mill will not be wanted by the NAPD this month.

Let’s face it though: this state of affairs has an expiration date! With all four non-core 3/2 agendas cycling out after Red Sands, and the developers having said that they consider them too powerful and won’t be printing anymore, Corps that want to ruse the runner into running through Fairchilder and DNA Trackers will have to resort to the abysmal waste of cardboard that is Merger – a plan that gets a big “nope” from me. After rotation, NBN will only be able to include a single in-faction 3/2 agenda in their decks, HB will have 3 copies of ABT, and Weyland and Jinteki [thanks to KalaVouna for reminding me that Philotic Entanglement won’t be cycling out] will have nothing but Merger! So the bluffing plan will suddenly become either far riskier, if you use Merger, or impossible, as you’ll rely more on advanced 4/2s and 5/3s. At that point, it may well be that defensive upgrades will become necessary again, as it’ll be harder to bluff the runner into wasting their credits on unnecessary runs. (Bluffing with advanceable traps has never been competitively successful, as, unlike unrezzed economy assets masquerading as 3/2s, you do not derive any advantage if the runner doesn’t run, and when you trash them to install a real agenda you give up the bluffing game entirely.) By then, Ash and Caprice will also have rotated out, leaving Batty and a few other less popular cards as the only defensive upgrades Space Kitty eats.

At that point, two possibilities exist:

  1. either new, non-unique defensive upgrades will have been printed, giving glacier a scoring plan in spite of Rumor Mill, or
  2. most defensive upgrades in rotation will still be unique, meaning something will need to be done about Rumor Mill.

If we assume that B is the case, would putting Rumor Mill on the MWL make a difference? Most decks that run it nowadays only run 1, and it’s still been enough to drive glacier decks out of the meta. Runners can recur currents easily enough that it’s not a problem if it gets trashed, so multiple copies of this card are not really necessary. Putting Rumor Mill on the MWL would therefore only result in a 1 influence hit for most decks that include it, and as such would not be a significant curb on the power of this card.

My prediction, therefore, will be that Rumor Mill will never be on the MWL. If it is still a problem card after rotation, it will either be banned, or altered through errata (possibly to “name a rezzed, unique asset or upgrade: that card’s text box is now blank”).

I look forward to the next MWL hitting and all of my predictions being proven wrong! Indulge in your own wild speculations below, and whoever is furthest from the mark will win a virtual space-cat treat!

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