Urtica Cipher

Urtica Cipher 0[credit]

Asset: Ambush
Trash: 2
Influence: ●●○○○

You can advance this asset.

When the Runner accesses this asset while it is installed, do 2 net damage plus 1 net damage for each hosted advancement counter.

A novel spin-off of Chronos tech was admixing sensitive data with ethically-sourced brain images of injured staff. Few intruders can handle a thousand years of skin burns in one moment.
Illustrated by David Lei
Decklists with this card

System Gateway (sg)

#45 • English
Startup Card Pool
Standard Card Pool
Standard Ban List (show history)
  • Updated 2021-10-11

    Can the Corp advance Urtica Cipher if it’s unrezzed?

    Yes. Abilities that allow the Corp to advance a card are active even if the card is unrezzed.

  • Updated 2021-10-11

    Does Urtica Cipher do damage even if it has no advancement counters on it?

    Yes, as long as it is installed. The 2 damage indicated in the card text is not contingent on adding more damage for advancement counters.

  • Updated 2021-10-11

    Does Urtica Cipher do its damage all at once, or in increments?

    Urtica Cipher’s ability causes a single occurrence of damage, whether or not Urtica Cipher is advanced.


Hey, it's the new Project Junebug!

It got buffed by quite a bit. Let's go down the list:

  • It now does damage even if you haven't advanced it yet
  • It doesn't cost credits to set off, so you can explode people even when you're broke
  • It costs 2 to trash instead of 0, so it's no longer insta-dead if they find it in R&D

It does grow more slowly than Junebug, but thanks to the free +2 damage, it still keeps pace for a while. At 0 and 1 advancement, it's the better than junebug. At 2 they're even. 3 advancement and onwards, Junebug is in the lead, but in practice, it was very rare to ever land a junebug for more than 4 net damage. (Not impossible of course, but unlikely.) And of course, if you have 4 or more advancement on it, it's probably a moot point, since 6 net damage will kill almost as many runners as 8...

So this is very close to a strict upgrade from the venerable Junebug.

The only real big downside that I can see is the influence - Junebug was one influence, so it was extremely easy to splash. (Which was important, since in Jinteki everyone thinks about the possibility of Junebugs, but they're a lot less cautious around, say, Weyland!) Two influence for Urtica Cipher makes it harder to casually throw a copy or two into your non-jinteki decks.

Overall though, a welcome improvement to one of the most iconic traps in Jinteki's arsenal!

One other thing - this card is in the same set as Clearinghouse, which allows for some really nasty corp mind games. Just something to think about...

(System Update 2021 era)

The increased trash cost is definitely a huge deal. Trap decks always folded quite hard to multi access. Sure, hitting Snare hurt, but for 0 credits you get to trash it

Same with Junebug, which does nothing in centrals. This is a nice buff.

Urtica Cipher is a card that defines a playstyle. Basically, in Netrunner, you have several ways to score agendas. You can do the obvious, and stick them being Ice. You can Fast Advance them (with Biotic Labor), you can drop them with no protection, and hope they go unchecked because they look like your next PAD Campaign... or you can play them unprotected, and pretend they are Urtica Cipher.

This strategy is known as the "shell game" Jinteki (usually played with Jinteki: Personal Evolution, even though it can provide interesting results with Issuaq Adaptics: Sustaining Diversity. All your cards are played them same way : Install-Advance-Advance (or Mitosis), and left for the runner to check them out. You basically ask the runner, over and over again, "Is this an Urtica Cipher" ?

But is that all Urtica Cipher can do ? I don't think so. First, it has found a very useful spot in most Pravdivost Consulting: Political Solutions decks. This ID allows you to drop Urtica Cipher for free, and place a counter on it seconds before the runner accesses it. With this combo, every single card you install could be a cost-less, 3 damage trap. You can, also, add Vladisibirsk City Grid in the equation. Install both in the same remote. If the runner leaves it alone, you have the Grid for Fast Advance. If the runner checks it, you transfer the counters from Vladisibirsk to Urtica Cipher, add the free ID counter, and you have a 5 damage trap. Nasty stuff.

Then you have the infamous Clearinghouse combo. Install a card, and start stacking the counters. The runner has to make a call. If it is Clearing House, then have to run it before it reaches 6 counters, otherwise you can flatline. If it is Urtica Cipher, running it will result in the discarding of their entire hand, if it doesn't flatline them. It's one of the simplest, yet most aggravating, combos in the game.

There are, however, some ways to mitigate such strategies. The best option, for me, comes from Light the Fire!, which disables Urtica Cipher and trashes it for free.

This card is in the System Gateway, and for good reasons. It teaches, by itself, that accessing cards can be dangerous, or even lethal. It puts a welcome emphasis on the bluffing part of Netrunner, and strongly enables a completely unique playstyle that, without it, would struggle to see play.

(Parhelion era)

Bwob's review did a great job covering this card in Standard. In Eternal, Urtica usually produces more damage at less cost than Junebug. Junebug needs 3 counters to overtake Urtica, and it has a $1 trigger cost which is a serious liability with all of the Account Siphons and Diversions of Funds flying around the eternal format. Both work well with Mushin, but Junebug is more dependent on Mushin to be effective.

Urtica also opens up some plays where you install it without counters. If you're in a low-econ situation where you're installing a bunch of cards naked, Urtica ($0 for 2 net damage) is probably more cost-effective than Snare ($4 for 3 net damage and a usually-trivial tag) or Breached Dome ($0 for 1 meat damage and a card trashed from stack). This line of play is generally more tempo-positive in Eternal, the card support is better (Turtlebacks for extra money, Breached Dome to help keep it cheap, Chronos Project as a huge threat you'd love to have lurking on the board, Jackson Howard for faster card draw). Many runners in eternal have cards which incentivize multirun turns, like Desperado and Crowdfunding, so if you install 3 naked cards they may actually have a strong incentive to check all 3, and Urtica (and Breached Dome) is always less of a drain on your budget than Snare or Junebug.

(System Update 2021 era)

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