Lobisomem 8[credit]

Program: Icebreaker - Decoder - Fracter
Memory: 2 • Strength: 2
Influence: 2

When you install this program and whenever it fully breaks a code gate, place 1 power counter on this program.

Interface → 1[credit]: Break 1 code gate subroutine.

Interface → X[credit], hosted power counter: Break X barrier subroutines.

1[credit]: +2 strength.

Illustrated by Adam S. Doyle
Decklists with this card

Rebellion Without Rehearsal (rwr)

#90 • English
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Sometimes we write flavour text for a card before we know if there will be space for it or not. This is one such card, so here I present the flavour text for posterity:

No matter what you see, I am always myself.

(Rebellion Without Rehearsal era)

Lobisomem, being a program, is a Runner card. However, I think it's much more insightful to give a review of this card from the Corp's point of view (especially as, although I've played both sides of the matchup, I've spent rather more time playing against this card than playing with it).

Probably the most common way that Runners use Lobisomem is as part of a Lobisomem / Orca / Spark of Inspiration build, which is effectively a combination of cards that define the deck they appear in. Lobisomem has pretty good numbers once it comes down onto the table, which means that your barriers and code gates are being broken for fewer credits than usual. However, there's lots of counterplay available to the deck:

  • Setting up Lobisomem + Orca is kind-of slow. If a deck is relying on Spark of Inspiration to get its breakers out, they effectively have to get ⅔ of the way through their deck to find their second Spark of Inspiration, which even with Shaper levels of draw power is hard to achieve in the early game, and it is often possible to race out a lot of agenda points before they get there. As such, one approach is to try to rush, forcing the opponent to take risky runs without a full set of breakers in order to slow you down. Your deck is likely to have plenty of ways to stop a Runner who has only Orca, but it can be helpful to include a way to punish a run with only Lobisomem; three of the four main factions have good ways to do this in-faction ( Saisentan (or Cloud Eater), Ballista or Stavka, Lycian Multi-Munition (or Rototurret)). NBN struggles a bit more, with Jua not helping as much as you'd like – if you are struggling with Lobisomem + Orca builds, you could either splash for a spiky out-of-faction sentry or use Owl, which is fine for this purpose.

  • If playing against a Spark of Inspiration build, that really limits the Runner's opportunities to use utility and backup programs (because it increases the chance that Spark will hit the wrong program). One notable place this happens is with Ika, which means that the Runner doesn't have an alternative way to mitigate a spiky sentry early on, and helps make the rushing strategy in the previous paragraph more viable. Even more notably, it prevents them filling their deck full of Muse and Coalescence, meaning that Aesop’s Pawnshop is much harder to power; this means that their late-game economy is likely to be somewhat weaker than that of a typical Shaper – and that in turn increases their "effective break costs". For example, Lobisomem breaks Attini for 5, whereas Euler costs 7; but the Runner using Euler probably has a stronger economy and so the 7 that they're spending hurts them less than the 5 spent by the Lobisomem user. Alternatively, a Shaper who isn't using Lobisomem gets to use support programs to reduce break costs; Buzzsaw breaks Attini for 8, but spends only 2 if it's out alongside a K2CP Turbine. So in the late game, Lobisomem isn't going to be breaking more efficiently than the alternative possibilities.

  • Lobisomem's break costs actually aren't very good for breaking code gates late-game compared to a more normal breaker build. One great comparison is with Unity: in a standard fracter + decoder + killer build, Unity breaks almost all code gates as or more cheaply than Lobisomem does (the only currently legal exceptions are NEXT Sapphire, Enigma and Virtual Service Agent). Its break costs are somewhat better at breaking barriers – decoders tend to be more efficient than fracters are, especially for Shapers – and Orca's break costs are also very good. But even then, ICE like Brân 1.0 are still able to tax a Lobisomem (with Brân costing 5), and it seems to be fairly viable for a glacier deck to tax Lobisomem out of making frequent runs in the late-game.

  • If the Runner doesn't have some alternative way to charge Lobisomem, it is possible to entirely lock it out of barrier-breaking by depleting the counters. This is especially notable when the Runner is trying to stop a rush – if you try to rush out an agenda behind an " End the run." barrier, and the Runner manages to install Lobisomem early and use it to stop the rush, they get the agenda, but now they have no counters and cannot charge it until they break a code gate – and nothing is forcing you to rez a code gate, you can just leave yours unrezzed (other than any Afshar you may have on HQ) until they install another Lobisomem (or reinstall the same Lobisomem) to get the counter back. Against most IDs, you can also just use a strategy of ensuring that the Runner can't make a profit on counters by not installing or not rezzing code gates and (to play around Orca) ensuring that every rezzed sentry has a barrier before it. These ICE layouts are weird and often inefficient, but when the Runner has no backup breakers (and they often don't), they can lock the Runner out entirely and lead to an automatic win.

    There are two Runner IDs that can help to avoid this problem. Padma gets a free charge on every turn she runs R&D, which makes a full lockout much harder. One possibility would be to put a spiky barrier on the outside of R&D (and Boto may have been printed this set precisely to help with that – Ivik is also a possibility but is not ideal for use in a strategy that involves intentionally not rezzing code gates!) However, glacier decks may prefer to simply try to tax Padma's credits rather than her counters (she normally isn't a particularly rich Runner). Kit is impossible to lock out from gaining the counters, and is probably the most viable ID for Lobisomem. However, given that her ID ability is in turn entirely countered by the commonly run Tributary, you effectively have a situation in which the Runner's ID ability is entirely being used on powering Lobisomem, which should give you a significant economic advantage (especially as Kit normally preferred to use a decoder that breaks more efficiently than Lobisomem does, back before Tributary was printed, and struggled even then).

All this reasoning makes me think that the build involving Spark of Inspiration and Orca is probably the wrong way to play Lobisomem. But in that case, it struggles to find a reason to exist – it doesn't fit well into a traditional breaker suite because, whilst being good (if expensive to install) as a fracter, it is not particularly good as a decoder (and yet you have to use it as your decoder in order to get the barrier breaks to work), so it only really helps break-cost-wise against Corps which are primarily running barriers rather than code gates, at which point it is at risk of running out of counters (and even then, builds like Cleaver + K2CP Turbine are cheaper).

In short, Lobisomem is a bit of a mystery – no matter how the Runner tries to build it, the Corp seems to have substantial counterplay, especially if they build their deck with the possibility of maybe having to counter a Lobisomem in mind (but even if they don't). Playing against it does require paying attention to what the Runner is doing, though, and arranging your ICE to compensate. It also leads to a weird reversal of the normal flow of Netrunner play; in most matchups the Runner has the advantage in the early and late game, and the Corp in the midgame, but Lobisomem reverses that (being strongest in the midgame and giving the Corp the advantage at the start and end of the game).

All this is probably good for the game – one complaint I've had about Netrunner for a while is that although the Runner has to pay attention to what the Corp is doing and tailor their strategy accordingly, the reverse is less true for many Corp decks, with only the now-rotated Apocalypse creating significantly different play patterns – but cards like Lobisomem and Jeitinho are helping to change that, which is a good thing. However, if you do play around the Lobisomem – and it can often be obvious when the Runner is attempting that build – it doesn't seem like it's particularly strong or difficult to play against, and may in fact just be an outright bad card.

(Rebellion Without Rehearsal era)