Operation: Gray Ops • Cost: 0 • Influence: 0

Gain 1. Gain if you have not played another Subliminal Messaging this turn.

If the Runner did not make a run during his or her last turn, you may add Subliminal Messaging to HQ from Archives when your turn begins.

Neutral • Mike Nesbitt • Fear and Loathing #100
Links: Decklists | ANCUR
Subliminal Messaging
Reviews

Subliminal Messaging works best as an incentive for the Runner to run. Yes, that's right. An incentive.

Corp decks are at their most vulnerable when the Runner can "explode," and deal with several threats at once. A common "explosive" play is Account Siphon / Inside Job the scoring remote, while the ice is unrezzed. This play effectively counters most early scoring strategies on the corp's side. But notice that the runner has to get into HQ. Other, similar explosions also require successful runs--deep RnD digs; Account Siphon/ Vamp/ Data Leak Reversal; and so on. These all take resources, mostly in the form of credits, to pull off.

Subliminal Messaging offers the runner a choice: either start running every turn, or let the corp amass credits like a miser. If they want these clicks to be productive, then they have to start using credits and cards to get into servers, limiting their explosive ability.

Wasting a click from the runner each turn to deny the corp one free credit every turn is good for the corp, but letting the runner bounce off an Ice Wall is the worst use of this card. Runners with constant-pressure cards like Datasucker and Security Testing like making one run a turn, and can make corps regret their decision heavily.

So, there are two ways to take advantage of Subliminal. The first is to have cards that trigger off of runs, like Dedicated Response Team, Paywall Implementation, and, to a lesser extent, operations like SEA Source. These cards have the effect of making low-risk runs much more dangerous for the runner. Now the runner can either deal with those threats, or let the corp get one free credit a turn--which quickly builds up. Either way, the corp keeps pressure off while setting up scoring servers/windows.

The other way to make Subliminal messaging work is via lots of ICE that make it painful to face-check. Neural Katana, Enigma, and Pop-up Window all come to mind. These end up more effective than ETR ice in discouraging runs, since the runner can no longer bounce off painlessly. Unless the runner can break the ice, it's not getting run on. If they do break the ice, then you've probably made them spend more than a credit--taking away their economic advantage.

Subliminal, in terms of credit output, is much like PAD Campaign or Mental Health Clinic. It works best in decks with a longer gameplan, and in decks that might need to rapidly recover from going down to 0 credits. Rush decks aren't particularly invested in it, then, and decks that spam ETR ice might not want to bother. In certain, slow-playing decks with painful ice, this card shines, not because of the raw credit production, but because of how the runner has to respond.

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According to a strict reading of the rules, this card appears to be nonfunctional right now. I mean, the top part works. But the bottom part seems to be busted.

The related rules, from the rulebook: "Inactive: An inactive card’s abilities do not affect the game and cannot be triggered." "Archives- This is the Corporation’s trash pile. Archives is kept adjacent to R&D. This is where Corporation cards are placed when they are trashed or discarded. Cards in Archives are inactive."

The only exception made in the FAQ to cards being inactive is as follows: "A card with an ability that triggers when the card is accessed does not have to be active in order for the ability to trigger."

The FAQ implies Subliminal Messaging might work, but doesn't specifically say it does: "Subliminal Messaging • When adding a facedown Subliminal Messaging in Archives to HQ, the Corp must reveal it to the Runner."

The only direct implication of that FAQ entry is that if you Archived Memories that Subliminal Messaging, you have to reveal it, unlike any other card you get back with Archived Memories!

1167
the rulebook also states: "The golden rule, if the text of a card directly conflicts with the rules of this book, the card text takes precedence." —
That doesn't apply here - nothing on Subliminal Messaging directly contradicts the rules. That's for cards like Eden Fragment, which change a rule. —
Your hypothesis is that Subliminal Messaging's lower half does nothing because the rules say it's inactive. If so, why was that even included in the card? It's implicit that the ability is supposed to function. "Inactive" is to make sure that cards like Encryption Protocol aren't functioning in Archives (or HQ/R&D). —
FFG are pretty bad at writing rules, at the end of the day this is a case of "We all know what this card is meant to do" even if the rules don't make sense. —
The golden rule does apply. The second half of the text may contradict the rulebook only by implication, but the implication is clear and the only valid interpretation. —