Mitosis

Mitosis 3[credit]

Operation: Double
Influence: ●●●●

As an additional cost to play this operation, spend click.

Install up to 2 cards from HQ, creating a new remote server each time. Place 2 advancement counters on each of those cards. You cannot score or rez either of those cards this turn.

One becomes many.
Illustrated by Emilio Rodriguez
Decklists with this card

Midnight Sun (ms)

#46 • English
Startup Card Pool
Standard Card Pool
Standard Ban List (show history)
Printings
Midnight Sun
Rulings
  • Can the Corp play Mitosis but install 0 cards?

    Yes. The Corp must have at least 1 card in HQ that could be installed in order to play Mitosis, but once they are resolving the operation, they can choose not to install any cards.

  • Can the Corp rez cards installed with Mitosis on the Runner’s immediately following turn? Yes.

  • What does “creating a new remote server each time” mean?

    Each card installed with Mitosis must create a new server. The two cards cannot be installed to the same server as each other or to any other server that already exists.

Reviews

This review will concentrate on the comparing this card to its replacement: Mushin No Shin. We'll consider the player's perspective (is it good?), but also the game design angle (is it good for the game?). Inevitably, we'll get into some thoughts on the philosophy of the Jinteki faction as a result. We'll also use a lot more parentheses than are strictly necessary (I have a lot of asides to make, so I'm leaning into it).

Economics

First lets crunch numbers. Assuming that each card takes to draw and to play, that an advancement token is worth , 1 and an install is worth , Mushin offers a profit of , 3, while Mitosis flips the script by paying out , 1. These numbers are more similar than they might have looked on the face of it. Mitosis is slightly more awkard to play, needing some cash up front and two good targets, but it rewards you for your trouble by offering its profits in clicks rather than of creds - a pretty solid upgrade in most circumstances. Added to this, Mitosis is much better with NGO Front, which can upgrade its economic value from 'good' to 'stonking'. The same combination of spread counter distribution and weaker restriction on rezzing also makes Bio Vault a potential target. I've not seen anyone take advantage of this (etr isn't a natural fit for the Shell Game), but it's worth noting.

The shell game

All that said, these cards are not pure economy, so to really understand the differences between them we need to look at the playstyle and strategies they support, which is to say the most divisive deck archetype in Netrunner: the Shell Game, AKA Cambridge Jinteki (AKA "why don't we just save ourselves some time and roll a dice?") Let's get into it.

First, the basic premise: Shell Game decks are those that use very little ICE (some people use none, but those decks can almost always be improved by finding room for a couple of sentries and gearchecks) and instead install lots of unprotected servers containing a variety of agendas, assets and traps. Unless they bring a very strong game into centrals the runner is pretty much obliged to access a few of these installed cards, with the result that they inevitably eat a few traps. The original Cambridge Jinteki used Cerebral Overwriter, and its handsize reducing, damage prevention circumventing threat has been a staple ever since. On the flipside of the coin, cards like Ronin and now Clearinghouse mean that any advanced cards the runner leaves lying around are a potential threat. Mitosis isn't the only boost this archetype has seen recently: Moon Pool can turn the wrong access into a kill, and Urtica Cipher, while not a strict upgrade to Project Junebug has the advantage that the runner isn't safe from it when the corp is broke.

From even before the time Jinteki first became a playable faction (some time around Creation and Control), the Shell Game has been one of its main themes. On the other hand, it's rarely been top-level competitive. Winning Jinteki builds that I'm aware of have tended to range between being economic prisons of the sort exemplified by the old Replicating Perfection decks and 'spiky glaciers' using unfair end the run effects. Cards on the table (to use an apt metaphor): I'm pretty happy about that state of affairs. When I sit down to play Netrunner and instead I'm forced to play a guessing game I always feel slightly cheated and, subjectively, that's my experience of the Shell Game. As such, I'm glad that it doesn't tend to define the competitive meta (yes there are counterexamples, don't @ me).

My snark so far notwithstanding, I think it's important to keep a level head when analysing this type of strategy. Netrunner is a card game, not Chess, and as such it contains elements of randomness and bluff. In fact, it usually contains crucial run/don't run decisions presented to the runner by the corp. Being baited to run a well-protected server that turns out to be NGO can be as devastating as eating a Cerebral. So why does the shell game feel like such a departure from 'proper' Netrunner? I'd say there are two major reasons:

Reason 1: Variance - perceived or otherwise

On the face of it Jinteki feels 'more random' because it presents swingy run/don't run decisions straight out of the gate. You can drop a House of Knives or Snare! on turn one and the runner's decision about whether to check it will have a huge impact on the game's tempo. This feels more arbitrary than ICE, because the runner has fewer cards to address it. If the corp tries to score a turn one Oaktown behind an ICE, then the runner might have cards like SmodCode or Inside Job to challenge it, or they might not. It's a risky play for the corp, but they're not forcing similar perceived risk on the runner. Of course, the runner might also choose to facecheck the ICE without a tool to beat it, but that feels more like a voluntary, calculated move rather than the simple, high-stakes guessing game a naked install from Jinteki represents. Over the course of the game, this initial contrast in challenges to the runner is reinforced. The shell-game deck seems to give away less information, simply presenting more of the same type of bluff plays where a more ICE-based deck would gradually build its board state, affording the runner comparatively more information as a cost for forcing them to build their own board state and economy.

Reason 2: Sicilian Logic

Inconceivable

A lot of Jinteki's design puts the emphasis on 'psychology'. The shell game is a big part of this, but it's the psi game that really illustrates the principle at work:

"My best play is to choose 1, because my opponent is likely to choose 0, but they know that, so they'll choose 1, so maybe I'll go for 0 or 2, but they know that I know so they're probably counting on it, therefore I should clearly choose 1... How fun you find this type of thinking has a lot to do with whether you think Jinteki is one of Netrunner's most fun factions or an unfortunate blemish on the game. Some Jinteki players convinced themselves that they're masters of five-dimensional mental chess, capable of predicting their opponents every thought. Grumps like me tend to think it's mostly just random. The fact is probably somewhere in between. Reading and predicting your opponent is a real skill, but even if you're an absolute savant it's probably not that significant.

Applying this analysis to the shell game is extremely instructive as to how it can create a negative experience for the runner. The fully misanthropic take is this: the corp is reducing the game to a bunch of random decisions, and the person playing the corp is acting like that's somehow a skilfull way to play the game. That's not entirely fair though...

There's more going on here

This analysis of the experience of playing against the shell game leaves some less obvious stuff out. It's not as random as it sometimes seems. Less ICE means more access to centrals, and that comes with a bunch of information and opportunities. Have you trashed a bunch of assets? Probably there's an agenda or two on the table. Have you run and eaten a couple of traps? It's likely the corp is holding agendas in HQ you can snipe without too much trouble. There are also situations analagous to having an Inside Job that can challenge early scoring attemps, but they're less obvious because they're about having no key cards in hand. If you've got your deck's only two sentry breakers in hand, you probably want to get them on the table. Conversely, if you're holding a bunch of economy, it may be that what you're actually looking at is hit points. Shell Game decks aren't the best at taxing the runner, so you can afford to risk your Sure Gambles. Basing your run/no run decision on your cards in hand has the side advantage that you're escaping the trap of Sicilian logic. The corp only has a limited idea of what you're holding, so they can't second guess you based on it. When they drop an unprotected remote server, you can look at your grip and ask it, "should I run?"

Any damaging deck is, by nature, going to discrd some runner cards and render their text irrelevant (Yes, apart from Conspiracy breakers, Steelskin Scarring etc - you're very clever). This is another part of the negative experience they can create - people put cards in their decks because they want to play them; having your deckbuilding decisions invalidated off the bat is frustrating and often extremely tedious. However, it's also an observation that can lead to skilfull play decisions. The skill in question is deciding which cards are important and which can be lost. Breakers are useful, but only if the corp has ICE that makes them necessary (and as the Shell Game is generally low ICE, you've often seen exactly the threats the corp has to offer). You need some economy, but not as much as you do for some other matchups, so lower yield econ cards are definitely expendable (meanwhile, you should try to find time to play out slow, high-yield cards like Daily Casts).

Lastly, the Shell Game has always been one of the most silver bullet-vulnerable archetypes. The classic example is Feedback Filter, but Caldera is even better, and there are plenty of 'soft' counters (Steve Cambridge, Buffer Drive and even Harmony AR Therapy are good ways of avoiding running out of cards, while Brain Chip and now Marrow can compensate for Cerebral Overwriter). All this means is that if you dislike the Shell Game, there's plenty of options to "git good, scrub". Maybe it is on the more random end of the curve of possible corp strategies, but it's actually more comparable to proper Netrunner than you might think. There is information, play and counterplay, and runner cards that can fight back against the strategy;.

Wait, what were we talking about?

This is a review of Mitosis! Let's get back on track. How does the change from Mushin No Shin to this affect things? The main change is actually to reduce the swinginess of the Shell Game strategy overall. By splitting its effect over two installed cards, Mitosis reduces the amount riding on any single run. The difference between a double and triple-advanced ambush is a big deal. One Cerebral isn't game ending, and neither is an Urtica. With Mushin it was common to top up the target by another counter, fully loading Ronin or making ambushes into one-shot game winners. With Mitosis this sort of play gives you a two and a three-advanced install, which while still intimidating is much less of a domineering play. Speaking of Ronin, that card is the biggest casualty of the change. The trip up to four advancements is frankly prohibitive without Mushin, and for it to be a useful part of a kill combo, sitting on the table with two advancements just won't cut it.

Overall, though, Mitosis is a good change and good game design. Not only is it a boost to an archetype that's not all that competitive, it also tweaks the playstyle of that archtype towards something slightly less random-feeling and more fun to play against.

(Midnight Sun era)

Let's get this out of the way: Half of Jinteki's game could/can be/is psychology, which makes it half more interesting to some of us. Piloting this card is notoriously hard because one needs to be able to read the enemy's playstyle and face. That aside:

The Jinteki dream defense is not ice, but the servers themselves. The more, the merrier, thus giving a labyrinthine feel. "Is this server a trap or an agenda?", "Will I die if I try to run a second time?" Boom! Psychology!

However due to the recent(foreverago?) inability to create servers faster than the runner can sweep them, that has been merely a dream, until now.

This card creates 2 servers, EACH with 2 advancements. By comparison, its counterpart Mushin No Shin only created one server, which never contributed to the dream, rather exasperated it.

Mitosis however, brings other smaller issues: If the runner doesn't access or trash some of these traps, that's wasted advancement tokens (and 3 credits that won't come back!). So in order to cope with this loss, we turn it into an efficiency by using Trick of Light. And we could potentially power-up this new efficiency with Vasilisa (given its unavoidable advancing ability, not the tag), but I am getting ahead of myself.

The power in this card is that it creates so many servers that the runner will inevitably be pressured to run, resulting in either (a) getting hurt by Urtica Cipher/Snare!/Cerebral Overwriter/etc, or (b) finding an elusive agenda. It is the dreamed Jinteki defense.

At first sight, it might seem like this card fits the needs of Jinteki: Personal Evolution, but because of these advancement tokens and the pontential to waste them, this card doesn't seem to me like its full feature was to kill, but rather to heavily slow down or cripple the runner, while the corp happily exercises their FAST ADVANCING antics, so I see it as a more viable option for Jinteki: Restoring Humanity.

Even after running, the runner might not have enough clicks to run all of them, causing them to either (a) think the unvisited servers are other traps (b) forget about them. IT'S THE JINTEKI DREAM. If the ability of this card is exploited with Moon Pool/Kakurenbo, it only gets worse over time... for the runner.

Ronin/Reversed Accounts or any low trash cost card that needs activating next turn are not good with this card because it encourages the runner to sweep your remotes instead of inducing fear of running them. Sometimes agendas provide all the positive conditioning we need.

Card Side-effect: the runner will fear running remote servers so much, that they will seek to blast your central servers. So you gotta watch out for that.

Conclusion: This is a tricky card. But at the end, that's what makes Jinteki. So no point complaining about Jinteki finally being able to be Jinteki, because that is what Jinteki is and what makes it so much fun!

(Midnight Sun era)
36

This is going to be a must-have for the classic shell-game Jinteki: Personal Evolution decks I predict.

Previously, the highest tempo move that can be made by such a deck is, installing 3 cards.

  • If the 3 cards are, say, Urtica Cipher, Snare!, and an agenda, and the runner runs all three, they will take 6 net damage.
  • If the runner didn't start with 5 cards in hand then they don't have enough clicks to draw up to 6 before running.
  • If the runner gets lucky and hits the agenda first, they may stop running, but they won't know if the others are agendas (or Ronin's) which could kill them later.
  • The existence of Sting! also compounds the difficulty. Also throw in False Lead -- if False Lead has already been scored, then this turn the runner could hit the Snare first and then lose the rest of their turn, and then die to the Sting that they didn't run. etc. etc.

Now, the highest tempo move will be play Mitosis, then install a third card.

  • If Urtica Cipher is under the Mitosis, then it's now 4 net damage if you hit it, significantly amping up the threat of running even one of the cards. If you run both cards then you may sustain 8 net damage. You might survive if you started with 5 cards and Earthrise Hotel on the board and you drew once before running, or if you have tricks like Steelskin Scarring, but lacking such a trick most runners won't survive. So the corp will know if that Urtica cipher is one of the cards under Mitosis, the runner most likely cannot afford to run the second card.
  • Sometimes the runner may be able to reason that both cards cannot be Urtica cipher, because two are in the bin. Or, they see one in the bin, and think it's unlikely that the corp already drew all three. However, it is also possible that the corp played Mitosis on Urtica cipher and Snare. Normally Snare cannot be advanced but the text of Mitosis allows you to play cards that cannot be advanced with it and put advancement counters anyways. So sometimes, a runner may see 2 Urticas in the bin, decide that the other card cannot be Urtica cipher and reason that it probably can't do more than 2 damage to them, and run it, and then die to Snare. (It may feel bad to put advancement counters on Snare, but you can also use them with Trick of Light later)
  • If the corp uses Mitosis and one of the cards is Cerebral Overwriter, and you run it, this will cripple your ability to contest Mitosis plays in the future. Using Cerebral Overwriter with Mitosis is obviously much higher tempo than just IAA'ing it normally, and that weaker move was already considered viable.
  • If the corp uses Mitosis on Ronin and Clearinghouse, and you don't run either, then the corp can do 2 meat and 3 net damage on their next turn.
  • If the corp uses Mitosis and one of the cards is a 3 pointer, then the corp can make a lot of progress towards scoring out, and force you into bad decision making.

If False Lead has been scored, then you may not be able to safely contest the Mitosis play at all (!).

  • If one of the Mitosis cards is Urtica cipher, you have a 50% chance to hit it and take 4 net damage. If you started your turn by drawing up to 6 on first click, then you now have 2 cards in hand after you hit it.
  • If the corp uses False lead after you initiated the run, then they could kill you on their turn if, for example, the other Mitosis card was Clearinghouse, and the 3rd card they installed was any 3/1 agenda. Or, if the other Mitosis card was Ronin.

All this analysis speaks only to the pressure the card creates on the runner (because the card allows the corp to essentially get 4 clickless advancement actions). But even from a credit point of view it's favorable to the corp -- you only pay 3 credits and get 4 advancement tokens. This would probably be a great card even if it cost 5 or 6 credits to play.

(Midnight Sun Booster Pack era)
281

Pros:

  • This looks like a playable accelerant for Jinteki. For 2 actions and $3 you get 10 basic clicks worth of value (2 installs, 4 advancements).
  • Most runners can check a card with 2-3 tokens in the current cardpool without getting immediately vaporized, so the decision-making and consequences might be more interesting than with Mushin No Shin.

Cons:

  • Jinteki's cardpool is still worse than Adam's.
  • Advanceable traps benefit most from this card, but adding advanceable traps to your deck tends to reduce tempo and increase vulnerability on central servers.
  • Doesn't work very efficiently with non-advanceable traps like Snare.
(Midnight Sun Booster Pack era)

"Doesn't work very efficiently with non-advanceable traps like Snare."

"Doesn't work very efficiently with non-advanceable traps like Snare."

If a Snare! triggers from R+D, it didn't cost you any clicks or draws. If it triggers from HQ, it didn't cost you any clicks but you did have to get it into your hand. If it triggers installed, you've now invested both a draw and a click into it. With Mitosis you're investing multiple draws and a click and some extra money.

In order to cope with non-advanceable assets and missed traps, and wasted advancements in general, I present you my dear friend Trick of Light