Continuing on with his ‘So You Want to Start Playing Netrunner’ series recent tournament champion Martin looks at what your next steps should be once you’ve been playing for a while, and what to do when you keep losing. You can trust Martin’s opinion and advice because the first time we met he announced his nickname as “Trustworthy Martin”. He then proceeded to act rather suspiciously in our game of The Resistance and ultimately the brave underdogs were brought down by his trickery and deceit. However, when he’s not busy selling out to corporations he can be found on his Netrunner podcast Ice Analyser over at Oh No! Video Games!
Martin | Bit of a time-hop here from my previous article. I’m assuming, if you followed the advice there, that you’ve been tooling around in your two-person meta for a bit and then progressed onto either a live meet-up or a few games on Octgn. Part of me wanted to write this article about how to use Octgn because it can be pretty arcane for new players, but I don’t want to write a whole thing about installers and .o8c files so I figured I’d skip ahead (to summarise: open up two copies of the client and play a game or two against yourself, then go online and explain that you’re new when you join the game).
So you’ve been playing some Netrunner and you’ve suddenly discovered you’re losing all the time. Losing is fun sometimes, and it’s definitely important when learning Netrunner – you’ve got to get scorched a few times before you learn how to stop it – but if all you do is get stomped 24/7 then it can be a real bummer. I’ve definitely heard stories about beginners who go to tournaments, lose every game and quit for good, and that’s the last thing I want. More people means more decks means more creativity in the game! And that’s rad!
With that in mind, here are some guideline ideas about how to get from Losing Every Game to Hey I’m Winning Some Of These Games, Cool, Good. I’m not going to give specific tips here so much as I am going to give some general tips about refreshing your approach to the game. Please enjoy!
I know it’s hard to admit, but part of the problem is likely that you kinda suck at deckbuilding. It’s okay! We all do! I’ve been playing this game for a year and change and I still regularly put together total stinkers that don’t work at all! My first major deck was Weyland with 18 barriers and no Scorched Earth because I was convinced Paintbrush Kit was going to utterly dominate the meta!
One of the big problems when you start playing, though, is you might not completely realise that. For your two-man meta or your local friendlies, muddling through with your goofy homebrew is great, but the first time you play with a really well put together deck you’ll feel the difference. I recommend netdecking something well-respected in the current meta for the same reason chefs are expected to hone their palate by eating lots of good quality food; you’ve got to learn the difference between a deck which is well put-together and one which is full of dead draws and weird edge-case cards.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but this will actually help you when it comes to building your goofy decks. Your Hard At Work Stim Dealer Starlight Crusade Funding deck will probably never take a tournament win, but if you can intuit from playing it whether it’s too fast or too slow, whether it needs more breakers, what type of match-up it does well and all the rest, it’ll make your game much stronger.
I’m including this almost as a counter-point to my first tip, because the last thing I want is for people to think that building your own decks is a bad idea. Please don’t stop building decks! I’ve entirely filled up my 151 slots on NetrunnerDB with janky ideas to the point where I’ve had to have several huge clear-outs – Alsciende, if you’re reading this, I could use a top-up – and it’s super important to plough through bad ideas as quick as you have them. Octgn is perfect for throwing up something busted and just giving it a shot without having to re-sleeve all your cards a dozen times.
What you’re building might not work, but consistently learning how to make something which doesn’t work on a positive curve is worth doing. Learning how to make something which doesn’t work into something which works occasionally, every four or five games, is a big deal. If you have a silly idea, build three versions of it and run them on Octgn for a bit to see how it shakes it. What’s the worst that can happen?
Here’s a thing: you might not even like tournaments or competition. Maybe you’ve played a couple of tournaments and gone to the local meet ups but the vibe was all hyper-competitive & wrong for you. Maybe your regular sparring partner has got caught up in the tournament meta and won’t stop kicking your ass. Maybe you don’t mind the losing, but it’s losing the same way over and over which is bumming you out.
Despite the fact that much of the Netrunner community is dominated by high-level tournament meta discussion – by virtue of discussion being led by those who spend the most time in it – there’s enough space in this wide world for goofballs of all stripes to abscond away with like-minded visionaries and create their own meta where, say, any time Biotic Labour gets played to score an agenda the offending player has to buy everyone a drink. Snatch up players like you and set up your own little meta with your own little limits. Ban cards that everyone is hacked off with, create achievements which reward goofy combos, homebrew your own cards, do whatever.
Look, I realise ‘maybe start your own scene’ sounds half an inch from ‘maybe get the heck out of mine’, but I really don’t mean it like that. I’d love for there to be a regular limited format meet-up where, for example, everyone has to play The Professor / Nisei Division for a week, and then next week you’re allowed to build decks with no influence limit, and the week after that you remove the 3-of limit on cards. Why not? What am I, a cop? If you’re not enjoying the rules as written in the rulebook, you can make your own! Organise a little league on Octgn and post it around. I would be all over that nonsense.
Maybe none of these ideas really lands with you. If you’ve been playing a huge variety of decks and ideas and it just feels like the losses are many and the wins are unsatisfying, it’s possible that you’ve just been playing too much Netrunner. With a game this intense, burning out is a real thing, and depending on the level you’re interested in playing at, stepping off for a minute and waiting til the next big round of cards takes your fancy could be the right move.
I know I started this article by saying I’d give you tips on improving your game, but there are likely plenty of people reading this who don’t need the standard tips but who are still feeling a little jaded. It might be worth stepping back for a bit and playing something else, then diving back in all at once, a couple of datapacks at a time, when you can really sink your teeth into some fresh decks. Netrunner is cool, pals, and I dig it a lot, but if you find yourself leaving games grumpy and dismissive then it’s better to take a little break and come back fresh and excited than grind your face into the dirt hoping to get the magic back.
Anyway: those are some general tips. I’ll write more! About this game! And probably podcast about it, also! Please enjoy the card game Netrunner!