Subliminal Messaging

Subliminal Messaging 0[credit]

Operation: Gray Ops
Influence: 0

Gain 1[credit].

The first time each turn you play a copy of Subliminal Messaging, gain [click].

When your turn begins, if this card is in Archives and the Runner did not initiate any runs during their last turn, you may reveal this card and add it to HQ.

Illustrated by Mike Nesbitt
Decklists with this card

Fear and Loathing (fal)

#100 • English
Startup Card Pool
Standard Card Pool
Standard Ban List (show history)

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.

(All That Remains era)

Subliminal Messaging is an interesting card that does a lot of different things, and its main focus – and use in a deck – has shifted around over time.

As an economy card

The most obvious use of Subliminal Messaging is as an economy card that gives you 1 every turn the Runner doesn't run (but that doesn't work as well in multiples). This can be a pretty good rate of return, if you can set your deck up in such a way that you can penalise the Runner for running a lot. Against many decks, most Runners will run most turns anyway, so Subliminal works best in cases where they don't. The key thing to notice is that a single copy of Subliminal doesn't cost you a server, or an install click, or a rez cost – all you need to do is draw it and it'll be ready to make money right away. The fact that it gives you a 1 bonus on the turn you drew it, even if the Runner ran last turn, helps to blunt the cost of the card (one card is worth more than 1 but not by that much). It does cost a deck slot, though, which means that it normally isn't worth playing Subliminal unless it's a particularly good fit for your deck.

As such, generally speaking, Subliminal Messaging as a pure economy event works best in pure glacier decks; standard strategy against those doesn't include running every turn, so you're likely to get the free credit quite frequently. Non-glacier decks face the issue that many runners (Hoshiko, Sunny, Smoke, Freedom, and most Criminals) get enough value from the fact of having made a run that they will naturally want to run pretty much every turn, if there's anywhere they can get in (and sometimes even if there isn't) – only glacier decks are likely to be able to ICE up everything to the extent that "value runs" become worthless.

As a combo card

Despite its obvious use being as a source of economy, Subliminal Messaging also started finding its way into combo decks. This is based on the fact that it's an operation that refunds when played – these decks mostly don't care about the 1 economy, but purely about the fact that the operation refunds itself. In particular, a copy of Subliminal was standard in Accelerated Diagnostics decks, back when they were legal – if you can hit Subliminal Messaging off Accelerated Diagnostics, you just refunded the click (and credit!) cost of the Diagnostics. Accelerated Diagnostics' best friend Power Shutdown also combos somewhat with Subliminal Messaging, in that the run that turns Subliminal off turns Shutdown on.

The Power Shutdown/Accelerated Diagnostics combo is behind us, and that's probably for the best – it's banned in everything (even Eternal, a format which only has four banned cards). The "Subliminal click" lives on, though, in the form of MirrorMorph: Endless Iteration. MirrorMorph's ability gives you a bonus click as long as your first four actions are all different, but it doesn't care about actions beyond the fourth. This means that in a MirrorMorph deck, Subliminal Messaging can be used for "click laundering", counting as a "play operation" action without actually spending a click, and serving as one of the simplest ways to get a five-click turn (thus allowing you to play two duplicate actions, as nothing stops the fifth action being the same as an earlier action). An extreme example of this is when you have a Bass CH1R180G4 pre-installed; you can 1) install an agenda, 2) play Subliminal, 3) pop Bass, 4) advance the agenda, and now that you've satisfied the MirrorMorph trigger the 5th, 6th and 7th clicks of your turn can all be advances, making it possible to score a 4/2 from hand. A preinstalled Bass can normally only score 3/2s, but the Subliminal Messaging managed to smuggle an extra click past MirrorMorph's trigger.

As an amplifier for Jinteki economy cards

Subliminal Messaging, when played, gives 1. However, you don't necessarily have to play it immediately after it comes back to your hand, and this turns out to give synergy with some of the Jinteki economy cards. There are two really big synergies which mean that Subliminal Messaging can easily earn a spot in JInteki decks that run operation economies:

  • Subliminal Messaging can be discarded to Hansei Review, and yet you didn't really lose a card in the process (just 1 because you discarded the Subliminal rather than playing it). This removes Hansei Review's disadvantage over Hedge Fund. Admittedly, it also removes the advantage, but hey, it isn't like Hedge Fund is a bad card – most decks that play an operation economy would be happy to play six.
  • Subliminal Messaging can be revealed to Celebrity Gift, and you still get to play the Subliminal Messaging afterwards. This helps to blunt Celebrity Gift's downside; if your hand is full of Subliminal Messagings that the Runner knows is there, you can just show them to avoid having to show something more important. Especially if running multiple Subliminals, it's quite common to be able to hide a card or two from the Runner and yet still get the full value of your Gift.

Hansei Review and Celebrity Gift are probably the top two Jinteki economy cards at the moment (if building a Jinteki deck that can't use an asset economy, and most of them can't, those are the main Jinteki cards I would consider for its economy – most of the best economy cards are neutral). So Subliminal Messaging being able to combo with both of them is something that really pushes up its value, and helps to make Jinteki as a whole a more viable faction.

There are other Jinteki cards that like Subliminal Messaging, too (e.g. Genotyping and particularly Hyoubu Institute: Absolute Clarity), but they aren't as good or as commonly played. The Review and Gift synergies are easily good enough to give Subliminal a slot in the typical Jinteki deck, though.

As protection for HQ

Sabotage is one of the new abilities in Midnight Sun; it's one of the more popular deck styles in Startup, and people are experimenting with it in Standard too. If you're up against Esâ Afontov: Eco-Insurrectionist, then having a card that you can cheaply discard from HQ and bring back later is very valuable; as such, Subliminal makes for a particularly good discard to sabotages. Once you find the Subliminal, it effectively forces Esâ to run every turn, or else have half of xir deck switched off. Esâ decks are generally set up to be able to do that if necessary, but you're still cutting down the Runner's options, and slowing down their setup; Subliminal Messaging helps to fight those decks by forcing them to spend clicks running rather than giving them the option to take turns fixing their economy. (The same idea can also be used against Alice Merchant: Clan Agitator, who doesn't technically sabotage, but whose ability is very similar.)

Subliminal Messaging is an untrashable operation, too, so it provides some protection even against more normal Runner playstyles; HQ accesses hit random cards, and Subliminal can be one of these cards. Admittedly, you could use almost any ICE or operation for that, but Subliminal goes into an economy slot (so it's helping to move your economy card mix more towards operations, which is a good thing in terms of HQ protection), and it partially works around the main downside of running lots of operations: operations tend to clog your hand if you can't play them immediately, but there isn't any cost to "discarding" one Subliminal per turn (by playing it) and it tends to come back on its own later on, when you might have more room in your hand.


Subliminal Messaging might at first seem to be an economy card, but it's also a combo card – and in Jinteki decks running an operation economy, a better economy card – and tech against sabotage – and a little bit of HQ/R&D reinforcement. That's a lot of jobs that one card can be doing, but they're all kind-of minor, and all of them get affected if you're allowing the Runner to run every turn and get most of the benefit of their click. If you can make (or if your deck naturally makes) running costly for the Runner, though, it isn't rare for a copy to pull its weight economically over the course of the game; it'd be a decent economy operation even if it returns to hand only twice over the course of the game (that would be a clickless 3, which is up there with the premium Corp economy cards). It is, however, at its best if your deck can also do something else with it; if you're running Celebrity Gift and Hansei Review, or if you have a combo that benefits from the click, or if your deck is weak to sabotage, then it really starts showing its value (often even to the point that playing multiple copies becomes worthwhile). But if you're playing the sort of deck where the Runner will want to run every turn anyway, then your Subliminal is worse than useless; it's rarely worth spending a card to gain 1, not even when you can make the trade clicklessly, and yet if you never get to bring it back, your Subliminal will never get to do anything else.

(Midnight Sun era)

It's also good food for Anoetic Void.

Terrific single-add card that I have the guilty habit of adding to almost every Corp deck I play. You'll never be sad to draw this card, and it's not game breaking to either get it or not in a match, so really only a single copy is needed. Absolutely worst, worst case you get 1 credit for free the entire game (maybe against a super hard running Criminal?). Best case you get a Hedge Fund or more of value throughout the game against a slow, careful Shaper. If you're really crushed for slots maybe the card isn't worth a spot, but I rarely find that to be the case.

Plus there's a mental factor. I find Runner's tend to not like the Corp benefiting from them running or not running. It's psychologically their special thing and the Corp shouldn't mettle. What I'm saying is I've seen this annoying a wide spectrum of players, so it's a good demoralizing tool as well as a fun card.

(Salvaged Memories era)

The System Upgrade Reprint contains the keyword "reveal", so you basically gain two credits for free in Hyoubu Institute if the Runner don't run.

With Subliminal Messaging, the corp gain the ability to have a drip economy that is difficult to shutdown. It is especially good in a glacier or trap deck, where the runner will not want to run often.

While it does incentize the runner to run, actually, it is often not worth it for the runner to run for the sole purpose of denying 1 cred to the corp.

The other use of Subliminal Messaging is to fill up the hand of the corp. Without drawing anything, you can dilute your hand if the runner did not run on the previous turn, by getting Subliminal Messaging from Archive clicklessly.

Generally, 2x Subliminal Messaging is enough to get the drip going early enough while not taking too many slots in the deck. By experience, once you have a Subliminal Messaging in hand, you will be using it on average one turn out of two. Considering that most game are about 20 turns or less, Subliminal Messaging is inferior to IPO, because each Subliminal Messaging does not bring extra value, but get the drip going. As such, it is has more worth as a 1x than anything else.

For deck that favor small econ, it might be worth as 3x, for the dilution of the hand, which will help protect whatever else would be in there.

It is nice to see such an old card (2013!), but it show its age. The art is average and does not evocate well the title, and there is no flavor text.

(Salvaged Memories era)

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!

(Order and Chaos era)
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. —
Rez jeeves.....First click, subliminal messaging, gain a click, use that click to install a 3/2, second and third click shipment from sansan and place the counters on the 3/2. Trigger jeeves advance and score said 3/2. I'm just saying —