[Startup] Widowmaker (with full guide)

SirLoathing 1709


Thanks to some positive feedback from players that found my last deck guide, I feel motivated to do more thorough write ups of my Startup decks that hold high jNet winrates. We will do a detailed card choice breakdown geared towards new and/or returning players with the goal of not just teaching you the deck but learning why I made the choices I made in deck construction to empower you to edit the deck for your playstyle in the evolving jNet meta or what you might expect at your local tournament. Keep in mind that some percent of win comes from opponents not knowing what you’re doing, so after learning a stock list there is value in informed customization.

If you have any questions about the list feel free to @ me in the GLC discord, a great place for workshopping decks and finding other netrunners who jam online.


-One shot, one kill.

None of this finding multiple score windows. In 48 games I believe I’ve scored out twice and yet we’re still above that juicy 80% winrate. Why count up agenda points when you can knock down the whole table with one slow cooked install. It feels Goldfinger corpo to push a NEXT Activation, pre-rez a fully loaded Clearinghouse, and then get up for a cup of water (staying hydrated during gaming sessions is an important part of any corp’s agenda) while the runner attempts to plan their turn. When they let us greed, we single ice RD, ignore other centrals, bleed agendas, and focus on our remote. But what if it works even when the runners know your plan? How bond villain. I’m going to plant a bomb, Mr. Cambridge, in the slums of New Angeles. You have one day before it goes off.

To stress again, do not try to score out unless under bizarre circumstances. Let the runner poke centrals and focus on your remote.


-Card choices

Mirrormorph will provide you with the necessary economy. It may seem daunting at first but this list isn’t doing anything particularly complicated with MM, for the most part just look to squeeze a credit a turn from it. Again, trigger your ID every turn. Click to install, click for credit, click for operation. If you are missing an operation, click to draw and just discard. It can be a bit mechanical at times but well worth it. For the first few turns of the game, this can often mean not taking optimal install decisions to get that ‘click for 2.’ For your opening hand you would like to be able to Operation, Install, Credit, trigger Mirrormorph. This is your ideal pattern unless breaking it will lead you to winning the game the following turn. Red Level and Subliminal are your ways to pull off an early game double install, during the first few turns of the game space them out as much as possible. HB offers two other ID options. There is a reasonable argument for switching to AoT for rez reduction (we are on all Bioroid ice) but the Influence hit is just too big. We don’t score agendas, so we’d just be playing PD for a larger hand size and smaller deck size; which is reasonable but Mirrormorph should be gaining you a credit every turn.

Our agenda suite is relatively irrelevant to our gameplan, we are playing the least possible agendas for our ID to reduce density. Low agenda density means the runner is less likely to score off the lightly defended HQ and RD accesses we let them take. We generally try to have an expensive ice unrezzed on a central so that when the runner (and I say when not if) finds a Send a Message we get the free rez. Our strategy does not often permit us to willingly pay 6 credits on Bran to protect a central. Vacheron is excellent at buying us time, not much to say here. Luminal is so fast and ‘free’ to score it is often correct for us to push it through our remote (if it isn’t holding a Clearinghouse) simply to reduce agenda density.

Clearinghouse is our win condition. Our plan is to slow cook. Install it when it's convenient on a MM trigger. Advance it slowly off MM triggers and La Costa while building our economy and remote. Don’t rush, line up the shot. If you have a fast kill (which usually involves NEXT), you certainly can double or triple advance, but if it’s not a sure thing don’t miss a MM trigger to double advance Clearinghouse.

Nanoteching Matrix provides economy and subsidises our ID trigger. In this build we usually just instal, rez, click it naked. It’s fairly rare for us to care about protecting it or want to fill our remote with it. If the runner wants to run and trash it (which they probably should) it’s a good economic trade for you. If they ignore Nanoteching Matrix, it will fund an extra Bran on our remote or even give us enough disposable economy to actually invest in a central defense. To note; I never got around to exploring a Fully Opperational build for this Clearinghouse/Next playstyle but it could be viable off the strength of Matrix.

Ansel 1.0 and Bran 1.0 are the heavy lifters. Try to stack at least two on the remote. The more Brans, the better. Ansel 1.0 can be quite good as an ambush ice on a central but the expensive rez cost often prohibits this. Even if it means letting them hit an agenda, don’t overpay protecting centrals when it lets the runner get a cheap remote check. It is often correct to keep an extra ice in hand for Bran’s first subroutine to punish runners trying to click run our server and skimp on the third click. When discarding from overdrawing, there is good value in discarding an Eli, Magnet or Rototurret to give Bran and Ansel’s third sub something to do.

Rototurret tends to be a central defense ice alongside Eli. They are both cheap to rez and mildly taxing but not that difficult to get past. Most of our hands provide enough pressure to force the runner to face check a Roto, in previous versions of the deck I ran more and could see going back up to 2. Unfortunately, it is too cheap to break and quite bad with NEXT Activation Command to provide reasonable remote defense. Stacking an Ansel 1.0 in front of Roto mid or late game tends to be particularly effective tax because most runners are on Bukhgalter and the more sentries you make that thief break in a single turn, the less its return fee reduces the central poke.

Ravana 1.0 packs a punch. Yes, it requires a friend, but 3 rez on a 5 strength codegate whose subs can break a runner sure sounds like Engram Flush to me and I’ll play as many Engrams as I can before it gets banned in another format. Ravana is flexible, cheap, and strong. Play it to whatever server needs it but don’t rely on it to stop a Maker’s Eye during the first few turns of the game.

Magnet is not as good or necessary in this deck as it is in others for hating on Botulus when we have NEXT for that. With that said, we don’t have the most robust economy and it shines at protecting Ansel 1.0 and Bran from Tranquilizer multi sleeping them. Cutting it for other options could be a reasonable decision. Because we need end the run ice (not Drafter) and it has 3 base strength (not Roto) to not be awful with NEXT while not being the 7th and 8th Barrier (not Hagen), it does its job acceptably.

Eli 1.0 is a well priced central defense and also strong as the third ice on a remote. Cheap to rez. We are generally fine with runners spending an entire turn clicking through Eli to get off a Maker’s or Stargate run. We largely play them over Hagen to make sure Ravana has enough friends to be relevant. If you cut Ravana, you could cut Eli for Hagen.

Archived Memory mostly picks up our trashables. It's fairly often the runner will get one of your Clearinghouses, La Costas or NEXTs out of HQ or from a midgame remote run. Memory acts as an additional copy and keeps the pressure up. The turn immediately after they pull it, Memory, install, advance it back. When not needed for that, Memory picks up NEXT. When your trashables are protected but your economy is hurting, there is some value in playing Memory on Hedge Fund or Red Level clearance, but when doing so make sure to plan a turn ahead to space out our operations and pick up ID triggers on both turns.

NEXT Activation Command is the most underrated corp card in startup. This thing slaps. Yes, it stops Boomerang. It stops Botulus. It does not stop Inside Job. When you have twin Bran on the remote, not much is getting past two 8 strength three sub Barriers. But, it only lasts a turn. Fortunately, we only need to push one card through the remote. If the runner wants to contest Clearinghouse on low counters, you’ve invested little and can find another or just Archived Memory. If they let it grow, you can often run back to back NEXTs off Archived Memory to seal the deal. We don’t run more NEXTs because we usually see enough of our deck to ensure one by the time we need it.

Red Level Clearance is the closest you’re going to get to a Rashida in startup. A real workhorse that helps you smoothe out Mirrormorph triggers. Most of the time RLC will start as drawing two click 1 of your turn, then you’ll plan out the rest of your turn. If you’re going to be installing an ice and something (upgrade, clearinghouse etc) in the remote, make sure to do the Ice install off RLC so they don’t know if the remote install is an agenda or non-agenda.

Seamless Launch is a bit of an afterthought. This spot is certainly flexible. With only two La Costas and it being so important, the Launch primarily helps accelerate the hands where you don’t find La Costa. When you are forced to score out, Seamless alongside La Costa enables an unadvanced 5/3 to pass through the remote. Bluff that it’s a Skunk or Void or Nico or whatever they might think you play unadvanced. This can be a great way to remove a Send a Message from HQ while gaining some creds off a Bran 1.0 or Ansel 1.0 rez.

Subliminal Messaging has a simple trick with Mirrormorph. It lets you repeat a click action while still getting your ID trigger. Just make sure to save the action you want to duplicate until after you’ve gained the credit off Mirrormorph. For example, say I want to install two cards. Click 1 Subliminal, click 2 credit, click 3 install, trigger ID for a credit, and now I can click 4 install.

Sprint should only ever be played in this deck to tuck agendas. Our influence is so tight we don’t have Spin Doctor. Okay, if the runner refuses to pressure HQ, then you can Sprint looking for action. But, you want to hold it. If the runner has no score, it can even be correct to wait until you’ve drawn two agendas before Sprinting them back. It also depends on what agenda we are holding in HQ (when we are holding only one and trying to decide if we should sprint). Luminal we try to score if the remote is relatively safe to lower deck agenda density. Bleeding an early Send a Message often helps you more than it hurts you. But Vacheron we should prioritize tucking.

Manegram Skunkworks is basically a Bioriod ice with a fixed break cost that has no install cost. We are playing a full set because it’s very important to get it on the remote, the runner will trash them, and extras we will happily install on RD. Keep in mind it is unique and you’ll have to trash any rez’d ones when you rez a new one. You can, however, have multiple installed on different servers just only one rez’d at a time.

La Costa Grid comes at a heavy influence price, but it's well worth it. On a Costa server you only need to start your turn with a number of counters on CH equal to the number of cards in the grip, La Costa to tick the bomb above their hand size and then the Clearinghouse for meat damage (jNet will offer you these triggers but you can do them all manually). I tried versions of this deck that cut La Costa for more Seamless’ to fit various numbers of Spin Doctors, Punitives, Engrams, and Voids but found that the strategy really is pushed by La Costa. When your win condition advances itself, it frees you up to spend your turns defending it and getting the Mirrormorph trigger. More econ means more ice, more ice means more taxing runs.

- General matchup advice for the undefined Startup format.

Against Tao try to avoid icing HQ or Archives at all so that when they trigger Tao ID, the swap doesn’t impact the two important servers. If I can Sprint away the first agenda drawn I try to go all game with R&D as the only iced central. With that said, some rules are made to be broken depending on hands and if Tao is packing Leech.

We can generally group some Hoshikos and most Zahyas as Leech and Security Testing rigs that try to make money off running centrals. It is usually correct to ice all centrals to the point where they are paying at least 1 credit to get a leech counter or DreamNet trigger and aren’t making more than 1 credit off running archives or HQ, but don’t go overboard. Zhaya and Hoshiko really like to face check ice (this is true of any runner with Bravado as well), Rototurret and Ansel ambushes are often worth it against them. If you struggle here, then finding room for more Rotos, Hagens or Drafters to punish their face checks over Magnet is worth the slot.

Fermenter Anarchs I mentally group differently apart from derez Anarachs or bigrig anarchs even though they share similar cards. NEXT will fully blank them on specific turns. They will get access to the centrals they want access to off Botulus, don’t worry so much. If you can get them to invest programs and chips into low cost central ice, it means your remote is safe. If they do not invest in getting past central ice, then they will give you the time to econ up and protect your remote from multiple bypasses.

Steve is another story. Giving them easy access to Emergency Shutdown recursion will cost you the game. You still need a taxing remote so this often means focusing on HQ and letting them poke RD for cheap through a single low rez ice. Try to watch his MU for signs of Sneakdoor. If he’s running Rezeki or Leech without DZMZ, there is probably not a Sneakdoor. Don’t lose sight of your goal -- it is okay for them to have HQ access, as long as it’s taxing.

Sleepy Reina or Tranquilizer crims are my vote for this decks worst matchup. Your economy is just not robust enough to rez Bran multiple times through a Tranq. From turn one try to plan your ice installs and rezs such that you don’t get caught broke after a Bran or Ansel rez. Try to do your early protection with Eli and sometimes even central Skunks before remote Skunk. On the other hand, Reina’s economy is click intensive. If you can get her to expend herself clearing the remote of cards you don’t care much about (such as a Send a Message or a Clearinghouse you have an Archived to pick back up) it can often give you a large enough window to set up a Clearinghouse into your Command.

“Never run” Khusyuk decks can be detected by their overabundance of cards that have the same install cost. Generally, that’s a full set of Rezeki, DZMZs and PPVP with Corroder. Generally, it’s piloted by an ethical freelancer but sometimes it’s a magician or a prodigy. These decks tend to be built to run once a turn if even, so be ready to have to Activation Command them two or even three turns in a row (Archived memory) to keep them off your Clearinghouse.

-Wrap up

My recommendation is to play the deck as is a few times and then get into editing it for your playstyle as well as to compensate for the matchups you struggle the most with. As mentioned before, the GLC discord is where we chat about the game. There is a dedicated startup channel to workshop your Startup brews. There is a long going Startup league to play in as well as announcements for tournaments when they arise. If you enjoy my guides and have any feedback on things you’d like to hear more about or any particular decks you’d like a guide for in the future, let me know in the comments or via discord. Happy flatlining.

24 Jun 2021 Davidmc7

Startup Mirrormorph Jank is what will keep this game alive. Well done!

24 Jun 2021 avakir

Thanks for the guide. They are super helpful for new players like me to get a grip on the game and on the deck.

24 Jun 2021 avakir

I never managed to get this deck to work as smoothly as when I played against it.

25 Jun 2021 FreqKing

Mad respect for the attention to detail on deck strategy. Your efforts are noticed and appreciated.

26 Jun 2021 RickRageLa

Secret is out. And here I thought I was the only one who played a mirrormorph kill deck. Highly underrated startup corp.

Consider swapping one ice for Tyr to get full value from send a message.

26 Jun 2021 Ätsch

Super intriguing and great write-up! Gonna fidget around with this, considering Cerebral Overwriter and maybe even Tyr like Rick

26 Jun 2021 SirLoathing

@RickRageLa The current build is a touch low on econ to support Rezing Tyr early on its own; however, I love the idea of running it for SaM. Which might mean cutting the Launch for it or maybe an Ansel. Or finding more econ...

@SatanClausThanks. Have fun with it. Especially if people start to suspect and plan for CH there is a lot of value in Overwriter. The format has no Expose so a pressured runner will be in trouble. It is unfortunate we don't have Back Channels or something similar if they decide to not run.

26 Jun 2021 mr_pelle

I dreamed about building a similar deck, but you made the dream come true! <3

26 Jun 2021 Osmosis

Brilliant write-up. Your time is much appreciated!

28 Jun 2021 CooK_eD

Amazing write up!

28 Jun 2021 SirLoathing

Really appreciate all the positive feedback on the guide. I'll do another write up soon, a runner deck.

30 Jun 2021 Havvy

just wanted to say - great detailed write up, it's great to someone putting in the time and effort to do this :) also good to see a Mirrormorph deck in full flow :)

1 Jul 2021 ShinMuteki

One of my fav IDs with an amazing write up! Good job, the deck seems amazing!

16 Jul 2021 OG-San

Made a couple of adjustments to fit a more shell game gameplan. -2 La Costa Grid -1 Seamless Launch -1 Manegarm Skunkworks -1 Rototurret, +2 Cerebral Overwriter, +3 Urtica Cipher. You could even make a good argument to dropping 1 more Clearinghouse to free up influence for something else, since now your Clearinghouse kills mostly come on the back of a good Cerebral. Very mean deck with an 80+% winrate on jnet

7 Dec 2021 Loredude

great deck, great writeup, great times also, i noticed your easter egg in this writeup

28 Dec 2021 Ozvaldo

really strange deck, i tried this , and couldnt get the ID going, no operations coming out so how on earth do u trigger it ...

24 May 2022 Shivorath

Modified the deck slightly to add in Harkal 1.0 and placed 1st in an 8 person local tournament! Lots of fun to play and decently competitive.

9 Dec 2022 pork

this deck gets owned so quickly by pinhole threading i'm not sure how to deal. options seem to be:

  • bait pinhole threading with upgrades (might not work b/c it breaks the pattern of install-advance-xxx for MM tick)
  • bait pinhole threading with agendas (feels bad b/c either i score the agenda out which i don't want to do with this deck or i send it to archives which is also not great)
  • play so many clearinghouse that they just run out of pinhole threading (hurts my econ)
9 Dec 2022 SirLoathing

@pork Exciting to see people are still playing it; this was built and played long before Pinhole was a printed card. Furthermore; Startup rotates in the next few days and the majority of the list goes away. Best of luck with it!