We like to call the ideal start for corp, which is ICE over HQ, ICE over R&D, Hedge Fund, the Ice Ice Baby. Coincidentally, Vanilla Ice, author of Ice, Ice, Baby, has been accused of copying the melody at the beginning of his song from Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure. Pressure just happens to be today’s topic!
What is Pressure?
What does pressure mean in Netrunner? In short, it means to create a pressing need to attack or defend specific servers. The way that runners go about creating pressure is totally different than how corps create pressure. In this article, we will explore decks and strategies that are good at creating pressure across many servers.
Pressure as the Runner
Pressuring the corp as the runner is fairly straightforward. You run, the corp tries to keep you out. The important thing is where to run and when. I’m not going to try and go too deep into this idea, because I talked about this a lot last week in my article Dealing with Tunnel Vision. The long and short of it is this: attack all servers to rez ICE and spread the corp resources thin.
One thing that I didn’t cover, however, in Dealing with Tunnel Vision is building your deck to have the capability of getting past the corp ICE often enough for the pressure to be worth applying. This is a problem that I was having with Reina. A turn one Rook was absolutely incredible. It was awesome a letting me in to shallow servers, and when they finally rezzed ICE, they were too poor to keep me out of other servers. The problem was finding breakers to get in after most of the early ICE was rezzed. I attempted to alleviate this problem by adding in Self-Modifying Code, but eventually abandoned the project for other ideas.
In conjunction with being able to break through early comes the idea of keeping constant pressure. The corp will always try to take advantage of any loss of tempo you display by scoring agendas behind unrezzed ICE. I’ll into the idea of tempo further at a later date.
In the past, an acceptable play on turn one as a Shaper was to play Magnum Opus and use it 3 times. I believe that this play is no longer acceptable. The first turn of the game is when the corporation is at it’s weakest. Taking advantage of this period of weakness can greatly accelerate your plan of keeping the corporation poor. It’s very possible that, after the corp first turn, they have gone ‘ICE on R&D, ICE on HQ, take 1 buck’. In this situation, there is a good chance that they won’t be able to rez both pieces of ICE. You could just get lucky enough to snag an early agenda.
‘But what if I hit a Neural Katana?’ you may ask. Against Jinteki, that’s definitely something you need to think about. If you expect the possibility of taking damage during a run, you need to look at your hand and think, ‘Am I okay losing any of these cards?’, and if the answer is yes, then you can run. There’s really nothing besides Neural Katana and maybe Fenris that can be truly devastating on a turn one run. If you’re THAT afraid of Fenris and Neural Katana, just run Mimic!
Finally, having the ability throughout the course of the game to break into any server at will is a very powerful capability. If the corp doesn’t ever feel safe scoring agendas from remotes, then hitting R&D and HQ will guarantee points scored. Making it so the corp doesn’t feel safe throughout the course of the game lets you dictate the pace and control the flow of the game.
Pressure as the Corp
Being able to pressure the runner as the corp is a lot more subtle of an art form. First and foremost, and definitely the most obvious, is that the corp needs to have money to apply pressure. One of the main goals of the runner in the early game is to keep the corp poor, so conversely staying rich as the corp allows you to play the bully and throw your weight around. Whether you’re playing fast advance, ICEberg, or Tag’n’Bag, having an ample supply of money means you’re greatly ahead.
So this begs the question: how much money is enough? Throughout much playing and testing, we at CorpDraw have found 8-10 economy cards as the corp is just about right. The type of econ cards is entirely deck dependent, however. Fast advance likes burst-style econ like Beanstalk Royalties, Sweeps Week, Hedge Fund, while ICEberg likes slower, more long-term money like Adonis Campaign, Melange Mining Corp, and Restructure.
Now that you have the money, you need to be able to apply pressure with it. Each deck archetype applies pressure in different ways.
Until you get enough money to start scoring agendas out of hand using Biotic Labor and SanSan City Grid, you’ll just be holding onto any agendas you run into, barring any Jackson Howard tricks. HQ protection is very important early game. Once surviving the early game, setting up a server that you can install your SanSan City Grid in is priority number 1. Having a server that’s 2+ ICE deep is important to avoid any tricky Inside Jobs. Finally, after scoring an agenda or two through the SanSan City Grid, it’s important to keep R&D ICEd up sufficiently to prevent R&D lock.
Requiring response to all three of those servers (HQ, remote, R&D respectively) can keep you ahead and allow you to bluff the runner into fruitless runs. Giving the runner access to less important servers at the correct moments in the game can force them to spend money without giving them a high chance of scoring. Keeping up the pressure as a fast advance player can be a delicate endeavor, so it will take experience to know when to allow accesses, and how to bluff properly.
ICEberg (scoring agendas the hard way)
The ICEberg is just as vulnerable early game as other corp decks, so protecting HQ and R&D is paramount in the early turns. Setting up a remote server to use Melange or Adonis Campaign in is the next priority. Generating a money advantage is by far the most important goal when you’re trying to score agendas the hard way. Having tons of money lets you rez your fat ICE, making runs extremely damaging or taxing, so runners can’t afford to run often. The ideal late game ICEberg set up looks like a fat remote and a fat R&D, because every single agenda drawn will be placed in the remote protected by fat ICE and Ash.
The key to scoring agendas the hard way (‘hard way’ meaning no Biotic Labor, SanSan City Grid, or Trick of Light) is knowing when the runner is weak or poor, and taking advantage of any breathing room they give you. It will take a lot of experience and some intuition to know that the runner can’t possibly access an agenda if you install it in your remote. Creating servers that cost 15+ bucks to break through with common breakers is your end game goal, and can let you easily force the runner into making bad decisions.
Applying pressure is a totally different story playing Tag’n’Bag (aka flatlining the runner using Scorched Earth supported by tagging cards or other meat damage cards). Simply by playing Weyland, the runner will be cautious, always keeping a lot of money on hand and a full grip, which takes time and effort to do. Weyland can take advantage of this early game lack of pressure by building economy and scoring some 1-point agendas to enable Archers. While the runner is taking time to find their Plascrete Carapaces, you should be scoring over-advanced Project Atlas and Government Contracts in a moderately protected remote server.
Once the runner finds Plascrete and feels confident enough to start running aggressively, this is the ideal time to rez Archer and Hadrian’s Wall to give you the final bit of time you need to either build enough economy or find the pieces to SEA Source + Scorched Earth x2, or finish scoring the last few points of agendas. The power of Tag’n’Bag is that you are pretty good at winning two completely different ways. Always pressuring to win both ways can keep the runner wary and on their toes.
Well, that’s it for now. How do you apply pressure as the runner? How do you force the runner into bad decisions as the corp? Let us know!