Reign and Rotation: A Netrunner Reverie

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I keep all my Netrunner cards in long cardboard boxes. By the end of the Red Sands cycle, when the card pool was at its largest, my collection weighed a staggering 13kg. Since then we’ve had a Revised Core Set, rotation, and the first few packs of a new cycle. A couple weeks ago I took all the cards that are no longer tournament legal and put them in storage, since I wanted to travel and take my collection with me.

The new total? A hair’s breadth over 6kg! I managed to squeeze everything into one less cardboard box as well! Suddenly, this was a game that I could carry onto a plane with me, one that was less of an awkward behemoth, and which looked far less intimidating for a new player to get into! I thought, hey, this rotation business is a good idea! As long as they don’t release any more evergreen cards, rotation should keep the card pool down to a manageable and convenient size!

I guess you know what happened next: they announced more evergreen cards. Click through to read my thoughts about it! 

First of all, Reign and Reverie looks awesome. Some of the spoiled cards are pregnant with crazy deckbuilding potential, and the “cards for all ten factions” format makes it a great opportunity to plug any gaps left in each faction’s toolbox by Core 2.0.

One more deluxe won’t be the straw that broke the camel’s back, of course. 1555 cards for a collection isn’t much more than 1500. But if they keep releasing more of them, it’ll be a problem in the long term, because those cards never rotate out. According to the initial announcement for LCG rotation, only datapacks rotate, with the oldest two rotating out whenever the active card pool exceeds seven cycles. The Core Set, deluxe expansions, and, as of last year, campaign expansions, are evergreen. So the more big boxes are printed, the more the card pool expands permanently, leading to all the problems that rotation was made to solve: a huge initial cost to own all tournament-legal cards making the game unattractive to new players, a critical mass of cards of decent power level enabling edge-case decks and skewing the metagame, a rise in the power and efficiency of combo decks that ignore entire facets of standard Netrunner, and, for people like me to whom it matters, a collection of spine-snapping weight and suitcase-devouring bulk!

I’m sure FFG are aware of these potential problems. So are we to assume that Reign and Reverie will be their last ever deluxe expansion, because FFG saw the excitement with which its announcement was received by the community and decided we just don’t deserve any more of that? Or that there will never be another campaign expansion, to fulfil the tantalising promise of Terminal Directive for narrative-led play and correct its shortfalls? Maybe the big boxes sell too well, and FFG hate money?

Well, I don’t know, but, since they’re a business, I assume that money is delicious to them. So I don’t think Reign and Reverie will be the last big box we’ll ever see for Netrunner, and I don’t think they will simply ignore the problem of an ever-expanding cardpool either. I believe they have a plan to deal with it, and I predict it is as follows:

No, sadly I’m not shilling for TV shopping channels, so I’m not making any money from this. I’m just using it as a pun to suggest that FFG plan to rotate out the old deluxe expansions.

“But you just said deluxe expansions never rotate, you dumb #$#!!” I hear you cry (in frustration). Well, no, I didn’t say that, FFG did. And you know what else they said would never rotate? Core sets. Remember how that went? Having crossed that Rubicon (and quite successfully at that, with the game at a much healthier place under this brave new world order), I don’t see the playerbase revolting over the deluxe boxes being replaced too.

As a disclaimer, I should say I have no evidence for this. I haven’t heard any super secret rumours by developers, playtesters, or triluminati. I’m not in touch with any spoilerkens, Scooplords, Corporate Defectors, or whistleblowers. More to the point, I’ve been TOTALLY AND EMBARASSINGLY WRONG in my predictions for this game not so long ago! So bear in mind that the guy writing this also wrote:

corefession

However unsubstantiated, the idea of rotating big boxes has a lot to recommend it! Card design in the first few deluxe expansions used to be fairly conservative (see underpowered, barely-played identities like Exile, Stirling, LANAAAAAAAAA, and The Professor), because developers knew that anything they printed would be there forever! Things improved with later big boxes but, even then, it wasn’t infrequently that we would see a card get released in a big box, and then see a similar but vastly superior card come out in the very next cycle of datapacks! It makes a guy wonder! Subjecting deluxe expansions to rotation would free designers to make cards at the same power level as those in normal cycles (especially now that the game has a banned and restricted list).

Conversely, some IDs, which were designed back when there wasn’t yet a critical mass of other cards with which they had strong synergy, are now overstaying their welcome in the cardpool, and should be rotated. This goes on the runner side as well: when former lead designer Damon Stone was asked if he had any advise for his successor in the event that there would ever be a “Creation and Control 2.0” in the vein of the Revised Core Set, he replied “redesign SMC and Clone Chip!”

Looking at recent releases makes it seem even more likely that Creation and Control is headed for the dustbin of rotation, with cards that seem designed to be replacement for C&C staples cropping up left right and centre! Kabonesa Wu’s ID ability seems to be “Self-Modifying Code on a stick”, with some restrictions. The upcoming Reclaim seems designed to replace Clone Chip. My first thought on seeing Shadow Net was “same old Same Old“, and Bloo Moose seems just the kind of seedy location Smoke would broadcast her Twitch streams from. (Sure, it’s banned, but we’ve seen other cards get time off for good behaviour, and I don’t think it would be ban-worthily powerful in a world where Daily Casts didn’t exist.) The only deck-defining runner card that I’ve yet to see a replacement for is Levy, but there’s still time, and there are many who wouldn’t mind seeing Levy decks gone from the game.

So I think I’ve shown that, despite the huge number of staple cards it contains, rotating out Creation and Control wouldn’t affect runner decks too adversely. Of course, there’s also the Corp side of the box, and there are many, many Haas-Bioroid cards in it that are greatly beloved by all Netrunner players:

tfspwnklacyghjvrtbo1

I haven’t seen any recent cards that I think might be replacements for any of these, so I guess we just need to accept that some must be sacrificed if all are to be saved. And DJ Fenris hungers for sacrifices! (I’ll write a future Flavour Notes article to explain that reference…)

Well, I guess there have been a few direct replacements for C&C corp cards, but I’ll be damned if I let Tommy Haas ruin my opportunity to make a profitable visual pun.

With so many recent cards that appear to be analogues to C&C cards being printed, it’s hard not to suspect that those cards are on their way out, in particular when rotating C&C will solve so many problems, and enable FFG to continue printing big boxes. Their statements to the contrary should not be taken as gospel, given the rotation of the original Core Set itself. Netrunner is the first game to go through rotation, and is very much a test case for it. While collectible card games have been dealing with the problems of expanding card pools for decades, the Living Card Game format is still very new (something that’s very easy to forget!) and FFG are still experimenting on it.

So this is the gist of my unfounded speculation: FFG will announce that big boxes are now subject to rotation, with Creation and Control set to rotate out with the release of Reign and Reverie. I personally think it’s an excellent idea, and I look forward both to getting the delicious new cards in R&R and in saying goodbye to some of the more overused C&C staples!

Let’s just hope I’m not proved wrong again, in a reversal of the Core 2.0 situation…

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One response to “Reign and Rotation: A Netrunner Reverie

  1. Pingback: The #$#!! History of Competitive Netrunner 2015-2018 | Cry of Frustration [rant]

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