How do you choose the best agenda suite for your Corp. strategy?

One of the things I like best about Netrunner is how even basic game concepts can have incredible strategic depth, and even small choices can make huge impacts on the way you play the game.

This has become super clear to me since the release of Sovereign Site. Let’s start with a deck list:

  
 


Builder of Nations Reconstruction Fast Advance:
3x Project Atlas
3x Oaktown Renovation
2x Global Food Initiative

3x Reconstruction Contract
2x Reversed Accounts
1x Contract Killer
2x Illegal Arms Factory

3x Dedication Ceremony
2x Trick of Light
3x Hedge Fund
3x Mass Commercialization
2x Priority Construction
1x Red Planet Couriers

3x Hortum
3x Maslous
3x Ice Wall
1x Wormhole
1x Shadow
1x Colossus
1x Rototurent

This is a tricky new deck made possible by the printing of Reconstruction Contract in Sovereign Sight. The goal is to use Contract with Dedication Ceremony to score agendas out of hand. With just those two cards you can score any 3-advancement agenda from hand.

If the Contract (or the agenda) was in play for a turn, you can actually score any 4-advancement agendas from hand. Even crazier, if you get a single advancement counter on the Contract, then you can score a 5-advancement agenda and the Runner won’t be able to challenge it.

For my first draft listed above, the agenda suite was chosen to maximize the ability to leverage this combo. Six of the eight agendas in the deck can be scored without having to land a single bit of meat damage.

And the deck just kept losing.

I ran into the classic Weyland trap – I could score six points, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the winning agenda. By the time I had scored six, the Runner was able to camp my remotes, pound my centrals, and had an econ engine that blocked any potential scoring window I tried to open.

I liked my ICE suite enough. I had some high-impact assets that were forcing Runner through my servers. My economy was more than functional. And my agenda density was so low that I would constantly dodge powered-up Deep Data Minings.

The problem was I had made a key error in my agenda choices that was costing me wins. Although I had chosen agendas that fit into my core strategy, the tactics these cards forced me into ended up losing me the game. Let’s explore why:

 

  

2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = LOSE!

The Corp’s goal in Netrunner is to score seven agenda points. But how much consideration do you give to which agendas you score, and when you score them?

Look at my deck above, what is the best path for scoring seven points in that configuration? It is probably trying to chain Project Atlases with counters, and then trying to get an Oaktown through. Do you see the problem with that?

The first issue is that it isn’t an efficient scoring plan. 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8.

Even worse, this plan means you need to score all of your agendas as 4/2s.

And finally, to win, I had to score a full four agendas – that 50% of the agendas in the deck.

There’s another potential scoring plan where I score two 2-pointers, then close out with a Global Food. This is a lot better as we need three agendas, compared to four, and we’re scoring an efficient seven points rather than eight. But it turned out that this plan was nearly impossible. With only two Global Foods in the deck, I never got one on the table with enough tempo to score it – even with a Red Planet Couriers.

Scoring Pattern Dictate Agenda Selection

So what could we have done to make make the agenda selection work better for us? The first step is to understand the potential scoring patterns available to us. Generally, there are three optimal scoring patterns for a Corp:

  • 2 + 2 + 3
  • 3 + 3 + 1
  • 2 + 2 + 2 + 1

While you can mix and match the order of these points, these are going to be your most efficient use of resources. Compare this to some less than optimal scoring patterns:

  • 3 + 3 + 3
  • 2 + 2 + 2 + 2
  • 3 + 3 + 2

In each of these cases, not only are you scoring more points that you need to win, you’re also wasting clicks and credits, and giving the Runner the opportunity to take control of their natural dominance the Phase III.

When you understand your scoring pattern, you can make better tactical decisions about what order to score in, how many resources to devote to any given score, and importantly, when you can sacrifice an agenda to tax the runner and open a better scoring window for yourself.

 

  
With these implications in mind, let’s take a look at the revised agenda selection for my Builder of Nations deck:

3x Global Food Initiative
3x Project Atlas
1x Oaktown Renovation
1x Hostile Takeover

This mix was immediately more successful. First off, it transformed my primary scoring plan. Instead of trying to force through four (effectively) 4/2s, I could score a 3/2, a 4/2, and a 5/3 with pretty decent regularity. The one-off Hostile Takeover also gave me the option for two other potential efficient patterns (3 + 3 + 1 and 2 + 2 + 2 + 1) that could be closed out from hand. Mostly, I could win by scoring three agendas, instead of four. And I could take risks by bluffing and baiting with agendas that I didn’t need anymore. For example, if I had already scored two Project Atlases (with tokens or not), then I was very willing to install-advance-advance and Oaktown just to get the runner to waste credits trying to steal it.

On top of of it all, this configuration still kept a lot of the benefits of the initial set up when it came to dictating the Runner’s scoring patterns. The Runner still had to steal 50% of the agendas in the deck to win AND the density was so low that more than 80% of the random accesses should miss.

While this setup was much more successful, I think it was only because the core of this deck was Fast Advance combo. A more mid-range or Glacier deck could run into some issues with this mix – because the density is so low.

Agenda Density and Tempo

Most players have a basic understanding of agenda density. The basic idea boils down to this: the more agendas in the deck, the higher the likelihood that the Runner will hit one when they get an access on HQ or R&D. If you remember our earlier article on Runner archetypes, you’ll know that decks are constructed assuming an average value per run, and runner have to make tactical and strategic decisions to maximize the value of their runs.

But the Corp can influence the average run value with their agenda selection.

For example, if we assume the average Corp deck is made up of 20% agendas, what happens to the average run when the Corp deck only has an 18% agenda composition? In this case individual runs become less valuable!

The other lever Corps have is the point value of their agendas. If every agenda is worth three points, you might have fewer in your deck, but the Runner needs to score fewer of them to win. These two mechanisms tend to balance each other out, but they also help define the tempo of the game.

If your deck has a low agenda density, it means that the Runner will see fewer agendas per turn than typical – but that is also true for the Corp too. This strings out games.. That’s one of the reasons the Builder of Nations deck above had so much difficulty closing out. It wasn’t seeing enough agendas to rush, so it was letting the Runner set up into the late game.

 

  

Controlling Tempo Through Agenda Selection

Sometimes, however, this is exactly what you want. If, as the Corp player, you want to build for Stage III dominance, low agenda density is exactly what you want. You want to make it possible to score out a small number of high-value agendas, but you also have to set up your semi-soft locks to keep the Runner out.

Let’s look at a Jinetki example. Another deck I’ve been playing a lot recently is a Personal Evolution deck that leans on the power of Obokata Protocol. By creating a server with Data Loops, Kakugos, Ben Musashi, Hosukai Grid, and your ID ability, you can make it extremely difficult to steal Obokatas. Most decks I’ve seen break down their agendas like this:

3x Obokata Protocol
3x Nisei Mk II
1x Philotic Entanglement
1x The Future Perfect

This is a pretty powerful suite of agendas. Each card in here has the ability to dictate the course of the game. Scoring a single Nisei makes it almost trivial to score your next agenda. Philotic often just wins games – and it’s still an efficient 3/2 when it doesn’t. And Obokata is restricted because it is strong enough to dictate strategies around itself.

You could do worse than to take this configuration into a match. But you could also do better.

This agenda suite doesn’t actually lean into the combo the rest of your deck is built around. You can tell that by the potential scoring patterns. Your best case is 2 + 2 + 3, that means you only need to score a single Obokata – the core of your strategy! All the other configurations end up being inefficient (3 + 3 + 2). Additionally, outside of the Obokatas, the other agendas don’t do a lot to synergize with the rest of the deck. But what about this configuration:

3x Obokata Protocol
2x The Future Perfect
3x House of Knives
2x The Future is Now

We do have a higher agenda density with this set up, but we also gain a significantly better scoring plan. Based on our deck, we are going to score two Obokatas and a single 3/1. We’d prefer that 3/1 to be House of Knives because it augments our lock, but if it is a The Future is Now, we can use that to rebuild our economy, or grab a necessary combo piece.

We are also dictating the Runner’s scoring pattern is a major way. In the original suite, a Runner could score a couple Niseis or the Philotic, and then ignore our ID ability when they went to score the winning Obokata. The new configuration doesn’t allow for that. You’d have to score almost all of the 3/1s before you found yourself in the same position.

Push Your Agendas

Now it’s your turn. How do you construct your agenda suites? What underplayed agendas have you found to be secret tech?