I've been playing with Spear Phishing quite a bit recently, and this card deserves a review, so it may as well be me who writes it.

Sometimes, a new Netrunner card is released that is totally unprecedented, and everyone scratches their head trying to figure out whether it's any good or not. Spear Phishing is not one of those cards; it's a bypass event, that's something that we've all seen and played with even as far back as the original Core Set. So the main question for a review to cover is: how does this compare with other bypass events, and should I play it in my deck?

The obvious comparison here is to Inside Job, the classic Criminal bypass card. Spear Phishing is very similar: 2 to play, three influence, you run as part of the same click and bypass one piece of ICE. So that's the comparison I'll be making; if you want to know how Spear Phishing compares to some other source of bypass or pseudo-bypass, you might as well use Inside Job as a common point of reference.

In order to make a fair comparison, we need to think about why we'd use bypass events in our deck. There are three common scenarios:

  1. It's early game, and there's a piece of ICE that we simply can't break due to not having appropriate icebreakers yet. Perhaps the opponent is rushing out an agenda behind an ETR barrier, or perhaps we want to get into HQ to trigger a "successful run on HQ" trigger. The server in question is likely to be lightly iced because it's early game, so a bypass event will probably let us straight in.
  2. Similar to scenario 1, but it's later in the game. The Corp is starting to build up a scoring server, and we can get through some of the ICE but not all of it. If we can bypass the appropriate piece of ICE with an event, we can use icebreakers, secondary bypass or pseudo-bypass to get through the rest of it.
  3. It's late in the game; we have a full set of icebreakers, and we want to get into some sort of monstrous server with heavy ICE. We don't need bypasses to make a run possible, but bypassing a large piece of ICE will make the run considerably cheaper, so we can use the bypass event as though it were an economy event.

Looking at the first scenario, we discover that Inside Job and Spear Phishing are effectively identical. This is in my experience the most common scenario (bypass events are more effective in the early game, so if you're playing a lot of them you're probably planning to win or lose before the late game happens). There's one ICE on the server; if the Corp rezzes it, it will be both the first encountered and the innermost (thus triggering either of the two bypass events), and if the Corp doesn't rez it, the situation is likewise symmetrical.

Spear Phishing does have a very slight edge in this situation, but it rarely comes up. If the opponent is using The Twins, then Spear Phishing will negate its effect (thus they'll probably choose not to use it, and you can get forewarned about what's about to happen for future runs), whereas Inside Job will run right into it. However, ever since The Foundry: Refining the Process rotated, you're very unlikely to see The Twins in a serious or even casual game. More relevantly, Spear Phishing will negate the effect of Ganked! on a 1-deep server, whereas Inside Job will run right into it; Ganked! is played sometimes, normally in combination with very spiky ice, and so this is enough of an edge to be worth mentioning (albeit not enough of an edge to really inform your deck choices).

The other two scenarios are where it starts to fall apart, meaning that Spear Phishing is definitely the inferior card. When the server contains multiple ICE, then Spear Phishing and Inside Job have different methods of choosing which ICE to bypass. Inside Job's is usually better, for three reasons:

  • Inside Job bypasses the outermost piece of rezzed ICE (because you don't "encounter" unrezzed ICE). So if you run at a 2-deep unrezzed server, the Corp will have to rez both pieces of ICE to avoid giving you a free run. Using Spear Phishing in the same situation, the Corp will have to rez the outer ICE to avoid giving you a free run, but will have the option to leave the inner ICE unrezzed, giving them more flexibility in how to spend their credits.
  • If you're playing bypass events, you're probably also playing fixed-location bypass or pseudo-bypass such as Boomerang or possibly Femme Fatale (Boomerang in particular is a very good card that's almost universally played in Criminal, and becomes better still in combination with bypass events). These are more likely to be targeting inside pieces of ICE than outside pieces of ICE (because they can only target ICE that was present at the time they were played, and ICE is installed inside to outside), so Inside Job is more likely to produce a powerful bypass of two pieces of ICE, whereas Spear Phishing is more likely to provide a redundant double-bypass of a single piece of ICE.
  • Corps normally install gearcheck ICE first, then supplement it with larger or spikier ICE later, so the inside ICE is more likely to be cheap to break than the outside ICE is.

The first of those reasons is a pure win for Inside Job. The other two are just statistical, though; for any given run, usually Inside Job will work out better, but sometimes Spear Phishing will work out better because the Corp installed their ICE early enough that you could choose where to place your Boomerang, or installed gearcheck ICE on the outside of a server rather than on the inside (perhaps specifically to play around Inside Job!).

Thus, Inside Job is better on average, but that doesn't mean that Spear Phishing is unplayable in formats with Inside Job legal; because it is sometimes better, this gives an incentive to play a mix of bypass events. If you have three Inside Jobs in your grip, it's preferable to having three Spear Phishings, but better still would be to have a mix of the two, so that you could choose which to use as appropriate; the two cards are similar enough that you'll usually make at least one bypass per game for which they would be equivalent, so being able to use Spear Phishing when it's right is more valuable than having to use Inside Job even when it's wrong.

The only remaining question, therefore, is what sort of mix you should run. If running one bypass event, obviously you'd prefer Inside Job. If running two, two Inside Jobs seems best; nothing says you're going to draw both of them, and you want to make sure that if you draw a bypass event, it's the better one. When running three bypass events, I think running 3×Inside Job is still the better option, but 2×Inside Job and 1×Spear Phishing is definitely a reasonable option.

Spear Phishing therefore comes into its own when you run a deck that wants four or more bypass events (for a highly aggressive Criminal deck, four is entirely reasonable; I've run up to seven on occasion, although two of them were more specialised than the general-purpose events compared in this review). You can't (legally) run four Inside Jobs, so you would be looking for alternatives anyway this point, and Spear Phishing is probably the best of the alternatives (at least, if you consider only alternatives within the same faction; you could make a decent argument that Compile would be the best or second-best bypass event if it didn't cost Criminals three influence). However, it's sufficiently good that I think a three-Inside Job, one-Spear Phishing mix would be preferable to four Inside Jobs even if the latter build were legal; the benefits of "maybe it is the inside ICE I want to bypass this time" outweigh the disadvantages of "maybe I don't draw an Inside Job in a situation where Spear Phishing is insufficient".

<p>Great analysis. Particularly the fact that you highlighted Spear Phishing's advantages - I feel like this card gets a lot of flak just for not being Inside Jobs #4-6.</p> —
<p>One suggestion I have would be to provide a summary at the very end, especially when you have a wall of text.</p> —
Jua

Jua

Jua is a cheap and unassuming sentry with the possibility to really bite against the right deck. Even when broken by some of the most efficient Killers that match up well against it (Mimic, Na'Not'k with two or more ice, and Bukhgalter on the first break) it'll tax 1, which is perfectly respectable for ice that cost only 2 to rez. For less conventional breaking, 3 strength is passable for resisting Chisel and Aumakua, but of course the single subroutine leaves the possibiltiy of being broken by Boomerang.

As for letting that subroutine fire, that depends wholly on the runner's board. Obviously against a blank rig Jua's subroutine is effectively blank too, so it's not a great way to defend a server on the very first turn, but given its a cheap porous NBN sentry that was always going to be true. The subroutine can in some scenarios backfire, forcing you to offer the runner to topdeck a spent virus such as Imp or Pelangi, but thankfully the tempo loss of redrawing and replaying something like an almost empty Earthrise Hotel or Daily Casts is substantial enough to not make that a real worry. Also there's only so many times most runners can run with only one card they don't want you to bounce installed, so I kind of doubt this downside will come up often in play. Typically, firing Jua's subroutine is going to be a steep tax of tempo and could even remove cards the runner needed for the remainder of the run, forcing a jack out.

On top of that though we have the wacky encounter effect which could be useless or severely punishing depending on the matchup. Anarchs and Shapers tend to be the factions with the most effects encouraging them to install cards during a run, which can make an unrezzed Jua a nasty surprise when they were expecting to have access to the Flashpoint conspiracy breakers or to use Self-modifying Code or Simulchip to protect themself from dangerous ice. Hilariously, even if your opponent does get MKUltra onto the board its 3 to break Jua, making this card a brutal pick against self-milling Anarch decks. The effect lasts for the remainder of the turn too, so it's not like they can jack out after Jua, install a sentry from grip, and then run again. Against Criminal there's not much you'll shut down in this manner, although I did get to experience Jua being effective at closing off a server being farmed for Crowdfunding runs while that silly card was still legal.

Honestly with Self-modifying Code continuing to define the flow of runs in this beautiful game, I'm surprised we aren't seeing more of Jua. Anarchs may have lost their precious Inject making the conspiracy breakers a bit weaker, but many players are making up for that by importing SMC anyway, so go figure. I suppose it is somewhat getting muscled out by the other cheap NBN ice that we've all gotten used to treating as staples.

<p>My understanding, and I'm happy to be proven wrong here because I used Jua for a time against Crowdfunding decks aswell is that the Corp rezzes on approach, the runner has the paid ability window before the encounter so they can pop SMC to install a program and then move to the encounter phase where the encounter text triggers.</p> —
<p>ValkyriezGaming is correct. It doesn't work against SMC. It also isn't great against heap breakers and as you stated, other breakers deal with it easily. Sure, it is 2 to rez, but NBN are the masters of cheap taxing ice. This doesn't compare favorably at all to Turnpike or Newshound with a current. Data Raven costs more but is also nearly always gonna be way more taxing. I think this ice is solid but not good enough in a post-Crowdfunding meta.</p> —
<p>Thanks for the correction regarding SMC! Definitely a lot less powerful than I thought in light of that.</p> —

Man, this ID is gorgeous. Both sides of Earth Station are absolutely incredible with their art. I almost wish we had a space elevator in real life.

So, first off and most glaring, is the limit of one remote server. That may seem extremely crippling until you realize instead of stacking your ice horizontally, you have the perfect excuse to replicate the Ice Age with a glacier. The tradeoff for the remote limit is worth it when you consider three things. First, this taxes the Runner for running on HQ, with a bank-breaking 6 tax on the remote when you decide to launch the elevator. Second, we have a Weyland flip ID; I'd say that alone is worth it (although the flip side will incentivize runs on HQ, so keep that in mind and a few nasty traps in reserve). Third, Wall to Wall is a thing and in Uprising. See my review for why that is a must-have in this ID.

This is the first Corp ID I've commented on, and I don't really play "green" (I'll take your words for it, I'm colorblind). So, instead of one of logo IDs Weyland has, or any of the remaining Weyland IDs not rotated or MWL'd, why Earth Station? Let's start with BABW. 1 more for every transaction? Nice, but again, see Wall to Wall. BWBI? Bested by Cayambe Grid and Wall to Wall. BON? Unless you're running a kill the runner deck, you'll get plenty of punishment by forcing them to run through every single ice on a server. Looking at the rest (because I don't want to compare this ID to every single Weyland ID in the game), each Weyland ID caters to a specific playstyle. Earth Station plays the long game, daring the Runner to be foolish enough to charge headlong into your glacier and smack into a Surveyor in front of a Rime-boosted Seidr Adaptive Barrier. Honestly, half the fun of this ID is just building around the remote limit.

<p>Worlds Plaza + Commercial Bankers / Bio-Ethics and Prisec + other defensive things. It's fun.</p> —
<p>Small note, BWB is also rotated.</p> —

I've said this before, but I'm not the best at Netrunner. Now that that's out of the way...

Transport Monopoly honestly feels like a weaker version of Crisium Grid for two major reasons. First, it's an Agenda. Whereas Crisium would set the runner back 5 to dispose of it, the second they see it, they take it out of your hand and place it in their score area (unless they're running Film Critic as their restricted card). Furthermore, you can't spend influence to splash it elsewhere. Second, it has counters attached to it. Sure, Mark Yale lets you reap benefits from it, but unless you're placing it in Titan, it's a blank agenda after its second use.

That isn't to say this is a bad agenda; I just wanted to point out the glaring weaknesses before explaining why this agenda is good. Sure, it's not a hard end the run like Nisei MK II or Border Control. However, it does block some annoying card effects for the Corp. Khusyuk? Guess what, you're looking at the top card only. Dirty Laundry? Nope, you just wasted two credits for a run. The Maker's Eye becomes much weaker with one of these scored, and you can forget about fetching your killer lady with a Retrieval Run. Furthermore, this can be used in conjunction with Crisium Grid. You put a Crisium in the wrong server and the Runner's about to get those needed 9 credits from Hot Pursuit? Nope! Shut down with the Monopoly! And this Monopoly won't end friendships! Probably.

Final thoughts: Although a bit weaker than Crisium Grid, Transport Monopoly can be quite useful in a Weyland deck. It shuts down Runner cards that rely on successful runs, and can be fired on any server. Furthermore, although it's a once-per-turn ability, you can act like a classic thousand-cuts Jinteki and fire three off in a turn provided I'm not misreading that. If you need an extra two or four points in a Titan deck, this should benefit you greatly.

<p>Great points. The only Weyland I'd be sure to run this in is Earth Station. Otherwise it's got tough competition from other green agendas.</p> —
<p>I mostly agree with your assessment. I think what sets this apart from Crisium is that 1: it can't be turned off, except by Turntable. If the runner is rich, they can go into the server, trash your Crisium, and then go ham. This will always work against that. 2: this is essentially two Crisiums in one. But as you stated,as an agenda, this needs to be scored first, making it quite a but weaker. And it is a 4/2 on top of that,in a faction that struggles with 4/2's. So yeah, good but not great</p> —
<p>Another special mention is how good this is at hosing Apocalypse. You can use it during their third run, meaning that they will always have to pay through all your ice. Crisum has to go on a specific server, so the runner can just run there first and trash it, and Apocalypse on the next turn, which costs them less.</p> —
<p>You know, I keep forgetting Apocalypse is a thing...</p> —

Can we take a moment to consider how weird the flavor of this card is.

Why would the runner be restructuring labor resources?

Why would the runner be automating assembly lines?

Since they made Build Script, perhaps this was intended to be the Corp's counterpart before some freak mishap.

I want to know why FFG created a runner card with the flavor of a corp card.

<p>Never thought about that. That makes so much more sense.</p> —