Netrunner Drafting Guide & Deckbuilding Basics

We’re doing a Netrunner draft at Braintree soon after the New Year. I wanted to send the new drafters a cheatsheet on their first draft. Since I couldn’t find any online, I wrote my own.

What follows is one person’s opinion on Netrunner drafting after having gone through a few drafts. I have yet to win a draft tournament so take with a grain of salt.

How does the Netrunner draft work?

When the draft starts, all players will pick up the first set of 10 cards in front of them. They will each pick one card and pass the rest of the cards to their right. This means that each player will now receive the 9 cards the person on their left didn’t pick. Each player will pick one card from that 9, and pass the remaining cards to the right again. This continues until you are passed one card. When you receive one card from the player on your left, you will keep that card automatically and this round of the draft is over.

We will do this 4 times for Corporation cards and 4 times for Runner cards. This means you will draft 40 cards for each side. When you add these to your starter pack, you’ll have about 50 cards total for each side. Of these you will put roughly 30 (for Runner) or 34 (for Corp) into your deck. You can make changes to your deck from this pool of 50 between games.

Corp-side Drafting Tips

There are three pillars to the Corp Draft - Agendas, ICE, and Econ. There are other powerful cards that you should consider grabbing but you’ll be in trouble if you don’t cover these bases.

Agendas

The corp is required to have a certain number of “agenda points” based on how many total cards you have in your deck including agendas. If you have 30-34 cards total in your deck, you must have agendas worth a total of 14-15 points. If you have 35-39 cards, you must have 16-17 points of agendas. Conventional wisdom is that you want as few agenda points as possible in your deck while having the most cards total (to minimize the odds of a runner stealing agendas), so shoot for a 34-card deck with 14-15 points of agendas.

Your starter pack will contain about 17 points of agendas, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid choosing agendas in the draft! A diverse set of agendas gives you many options in how and when you score, not to mention the effects of each agenda. 3/2 agendas (that is, agendas that require three advancements to score and are worth 2 points) and 2/1 agendas are particularly powerful weapons for the corp to sneak out quick advancements!

ICE

ICE should generally make up about 30-45% of the cards in your deck. Usually you’ll want at least half of that ICE to have an “End the Run” subroutine and you’ll want at least half to be less than 5 credits to rez (not necessarily the same half though). Doing this ensures you have ICE you can rez in the early game and that makes a good defense.

Assuming you have a 34 card deck, this means that you want 11-16 pieces of ICE in it with at least 6 “End the Run” ICE. This isn’t a hard rule, but it’s a good starting point.

Diversity is often the key to a great ICE lineup. You’ll want a good mixture of Sentry, Barrier, and Code Gate ICE to prevent one kind of icebreaker from ruining your game. The same goes for ICE strengths. A variety of strengths creates a variety of challenges to the runner - higher strength isn’t always better.

“End the Run” ICE can be surprisingly rare in the draft. It’s not wrong to take “boring” ICE like Wall of Static or Ice Wall as an early-round draft pick. Aside from that, draft what seems interesting to you while keeping your ICE diversity and card synergy in mind. it’s no good to have a ton of tag-the-runner ICE if you lack the other cards to capitalize on it.

Econ Cards

Great cards are only great when you can afford them. You’ll want a number of cards that generate credits in your deck. These cards can take a variety of forms - agendas like Geothermal Fracking or Hostile Takeover that provide credits when scored, assets like PAD Campaign or Adonis Campaign that provide a steady stream of credits each turn, or operations like Hedge Fund or Medical Fundraiser that provide an instant influx of cash.

Usually having 15-33% of your deck generate income is good, but this isn’t as hard a rule as with agendas and ICE. Your starter pack will contain some solid econ cards, but you’ll likely want more. If you have a 34-card deck, you’ll want about 6-11 econ cards.

One thing to keep in mind with these: the more your economic strategy relies on assets or scoring agendas, the more end-the-run ICE you’ll need to keep the runner out or else you run the risk of easily being credit-starved.

Everything Else

At this point you may have a deck that looks something like this:

  • 7 Agendas
  • 12 ICE
  • 5 Assets
  • 3 Operations
    That leaves 9 cards to do with as you please, and this is where the flavor and strategy of your corp deck comes from. This depends entirely on what you see in the draft. Look for cards that seem powerful when combined with the assets/agendas/ICE you have already picked for the deck or that have a number of potential uses.

Runner Drafting

In general you want your Runner deck to be as small as possible so that you are more likely to get the cards you need. 30 is the minimum in the draft - you should probably plan on having about that many cards.

We draft the Runner second so you should already have some idea of the Corp cards you’ll be up against. In particular, when you see a bunch of ICE that has some specific strength of vulnerability then you can use that to your advantage as the Runner when drafting. Don’t go overboard though - as your draft group is larger, the likelihood that there are great Corp cards in the pool that you didn’t see increases.

Econ

At least 25-33% of your deck should be econ cards. In a 30 card deck, this means about 7-11 cards for econ. Like the corp, diversity is good. Resource cards are often powerful credit generators but can be destroyed by any tag-heavy Corp deck.

Icebreakers

The number of Icebreakers in a Runner deck varies wildly but you should consider having at least 6-7 in your deck and no more than 15-16. The runner starter kit will include some number of AI Icebreakers (icebreakers that apply to any kind of ICE) but you shouldn’t rely on these alone without a backup plan. Some ICE are particularly strong against AI icebreakers or even immune to them.

On the flipside, you may not need an icebreaker for every kind of ICE either. A strong set of universal/AI icebreakers combined with some powerful “niche” icebreakers like Ninja or Corroder is often sufficient for a draft runner deck. These niche icebreakers are usually the most credit-efficient way past ICE of their type.

Everything Else

There’s much more freedom in building a Runner deck than a Corp deck which means there’s less advice to provide. If you want to go program-heavy (say, a bunch of viruses or exotic utility programs like Sneakdoor Beta), make sure you have the memory unit cards to install them. Don’t underestimate events either - just one play of Maker’s Eye or Inside Job can swing a game in your favor.

Runners have an easier time of connecting combos in the draft than the corp does since they have more flexibility in card draw. Since you’re unlikely to get more than two copies of any great card, favor combo cards that can create many solid-to-good synergies rather than a single, powerful combination.

Card draw is generally more important for the Runner than the Corp. Cards like Test Run that let you search your stack for an icebreaker or program can be very powerful for the Runner - these cards mean you can find the right tool just as you need it. Other cards that provide a boost to card drawing like Diesel (event: draw three cards) provide similar benefits for the runner.

Go Forth and Draft!

One last tip: as soon as the drafting begins, a smart drafter is observing their opponents for any clues about the decks others are building. For instance, invariably people at the table will complain about seeing many copies of a few “underpowered” cards. This means that if you can think of a way to make that card work, it will be easy to draft 3+ copies of it. In our first such draft, everyone bemoaned the excess numbers of Underworld Contacts they were passed only for someone to steal a horde of them and make a monster econ, untraceable Runner deck with them.

If you have any feedback or tips from your own draft experiences, please get in touch and share them! Happy hacking!

SP

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