Minelayer is one of those cards I really want to like, but just can't. Why? Well, for starters, its is pretty damn amazing. When it fires, it saves you both the and the s that would otherwise be spent doing exactly what you want to do—ice up the server that the runner is running, to slow or stop repeated runs. But there lies the problem, as it's only when it fires.
The best card to compare this to is Architect. Still, there are a plethora of differences between the two, even if the don't fire:
- Minelayer costs half the influence of Architect out of faction.
- Architect costs significantly more to rez, a whole 3 more. This can potentially have a big impact if the runner is playing Forged Activation Orders, as it is trashed by that if not rezzed.
- Architect is a Sentry, while Minelayer is a Code Gate.
- Architect is broken by Mimic for 2 without any need for sucker tokens, while Minelayer is broken by a boosted Yog.0 for free or a Yogsucker for 1 token, or Gordian Blade for 3, unless they already boosted the Blade for other Code Gates.
- While both can be lowered by Parasite, only Minelayer can be trashed by it. Also, Minelayer is vulnerable to Spooned, while Architect is invulnerable to Forked. This plays quite a big role against ice-destruction decks, or in rare cases, a mill Noise that actually runs at some point during the game.
Either way, no runner wants to let the on either of these fire more than once, so usually they end up being more tax than anything. But what happens if the do fire? Again, a comparison with Architect:
- If we compare Architect's first to Minelayer, we can see that while it does negate install costs, it doesn't have to install ice nor is it restricted to this server, and instead of looking for things in HQ, you get to dig through the top of your R&D. This is almost always preferred for a few reasons, namely that you can see what's coming up (you cannot reorder it though), and you always get to look at 5 cards, instead of what may be less than that (and rarely more) in HQ. It also doesn't reduce your hand size when used to install, which can make that agenda in HQ that much easier to find.
- If we compare Architect's second to Minelayer, we notice that Architect trades the negated install cost for the opportunity to install from Archives, as well as losing the "ice only/this server" restriction that Minelayer has. This is huge against ice-destruction and especially mill decks, where one would gladly trade install costs for the ability to pull anything from Archives. You can also dump agendas on the table from HQ (usually assuming this fires in front of it), making those HQ Interfaces that much less important. Or grab that Marcus Batty out of Archives and let it become equal to Caprice Nisei in utility.
- Lastly, and perhaps most important, is the fact that Architect has two s, and Minelayer has only a single one. If I'm a runner and can't break either Architect or Minelayer, I'd rather run into Minelayer over Architect on a face check any day of the week.
So, while I want to like Minelayer, and it may have some very niche applications, I can't recommend it over Architect. Yes, eventually Architect will no longer be tourney legal when enough additional cycles come out, while Minelayer will be around forever, but who can say that it won't be replaced by something just as good if not better?