One of only a few gear check Sentries, and specialized to require the Runner to find two breakers early game to get into a server. Owl's bread-and-butter use case is to install in front of a cheap Code Gate or Barrier, then threaten to get rid of the Runner's Decoder or Fracter if they can't break it. Then they bounce off Vanilla and are sad. Thus they need the Decoder/Fracter AND a Killer in order to get in, and with a total cost of 3 credits to set up and rez everything it's pretty easy to go Owl/Vanilla/Remote face down install and credibly threaten to use Subliminal Messaging to score a 3/2 immediately unless they can find the two breakers they need right away. Or an AI. Either way, this is likely to tax the Runner's economy if they want to close that scoring window before you can use it.

Most competition is situational (News Hound requires a current, Tour Guide requires face-up assets, Dracō requires money...), with the main exception being the 4 credit Rototurret which is much better at demanding a Killer but much worse at gearchecking two breaker types at once. It's also quite a bit more expensive.

The other main use case Owl has is just as a cheap time-waster. If it triggers on facecheck then reinstalling the program will cost the Runner two clicks and probably some money, which is pretty good, and at 2 credits to rez it can trip up Runners who thought they were safe doing exploratory runs without a Killer because you're too poor to rez anything nasty.

All in all I think Owl is pretty good as a gear check Sentry. It doesn't require extra infrastructure to work, only requires the Runner to have a program installed in order to be annoying, it's cheap, and in a deck already relying mostly on gearchecks it can combine with another cheap piece of ICE to create a surprisingly robust lockout in the first couple turns of the game. So if cheap ICE is your bag and you've had trouble rounding out your ICE suite with Sentries in the past, Owl is probably at least worth a look.

At 1 Influence, this seems like it could rapidly get out of hand in the right sort of setup. Imagine hitting Komainu or Brainstorm with this rezzed and active...you can take the damage or pay to give the corp money. Not a great pair of choices, that.

Unfortunately, the effort to set this up is considerable. You need Henry, AND the nasty multisub ICE, AND something like Bandwidth, Data Raven, or Thoth to slap a tag on them before they hit it. You can try and get the Runner tagged before they start the run, but if you can do that you should probably just be focusing on blowing them up instead.

For an even MORE janky fun time, place this upgrade in Chief Slee's server. Now you can get some work done with ETRs instead of them just bouncing off: Do you give Slee 5 counters off the Hive? Do you give the corp 10 credits by paying to break it? Do you do something in between? It's all bad, honestly.

Of course, this is assuming that Henry needs to trigger in order to be effective. In reality, if you put him behind something like a Spiderweb and a Data Raven then either they'll run it and give you the credits you want or they'll not run it and you can score out or whatever it is corps do with servers that aren't being run. He's cheap to rez, so if you're already running both tagging and multisub ICE (sup Muckraker) then you can get a fair bit of mileage if your servers are structured right. I'm not sure how many decks actually want that particular combination of ICE, though. Some kind of weird NBN Glacier variant?

Fun toy for Kit, I would think. As though positional ICE needed any more nails in its coffin...

Anyway, if you're using this with Kit then it's guaranteed to work on the first ICE you encounter each turn. This can lead to fun situations like:

  • Bypassing ICE deeper in the server by swapping it with the outermost piece. This requires you to encounter the outermost piece twice...unless you're using Spooned, in which case you can choose the trigger order (as in the Prey ruling above) so that you swap the ICE you just passed deeper into the server you're running, THEN trash it. Net result: The ICE you swapped it with is now behind you and you never even had to touch it.

  • Find a server with a Barrier on the outside, use Surfer to go all the way in, then use Inversificator to put it back on the outside of the server ready for next time! Requires Kit/Paintbrush/Tinkering/Egret, and with the latter two you can do it multiple times in the same turn. As a bonus, you can use this to PUT that weak barrier ICE in position to start with. This is especially fun with Egret because you can just slap that on any weak ICE, put it in front of the server you want into, and go to town.

  • Ruin positional ICE (duh)

  • Stuff things you don't like on servers you don't care about so you don't have to think about them any more.

  • Hit R&D with an Indexing and weaken the ICE on it at the same time, making the follow-up run much easier (see also: Möbius, Medium, and the more general idea of making follow-up runs against the same server cheaper)

  • Swap unrezzed ICE onto the server you're hitting, then Blackmail your way past it either now or later.

Most of this works without Kit, of course, but it's so much more universally applicable with her and hard to justify the cost without being able to eke out some serious savings in the next few turns after installing. Probably consigned to the jank bin anyway. Still a good fun way to get into servers in style, though.

One of the three Jemison Tagline cards (Sacrifice, Audacity, and the upcoming Success) This is a pretty powerful FA tool for Weyland players fine with dumping HQ. The ability to potentially FA 2 cards with Shipment from Kaguya is very interesting and is worth experimenting on. Otherwise I'd use the other 2 adv tokens on an advance ICE like Mausolus or Colossus. The trashing HQ downside is somewhat unfortunate, but you can play it to your advantage. Maybe you are running Argus Security: Protection Guaranteed and you want to get the runner to poke archives full of 1 pointers. Maybe you feel that a Legwork is coming, so you can trash your agendas and have Jackson Howard come to the rescue. All in all I think this is a "specialty" Fast Advance Tool useful for a deck that wants to Advance ICE and agendas. Red Planet Couriers, I'm looking at you!

Probably best with Endless Hunger as it has base 11 strength and can handle etrs. Apex with this and E3 has a way to walk through servers, albeit without the threat of Apocalypse.

Outside of that, I can only see Shapers using this right now. It does let you have a decent AI in stealth with either Houdini or Switchblade as great targets depending on the match up. Torch, Cybercypher, and Study Guide are also worth mentioning, but be careful not to spend too much on your setup. After all, this does only let you click through things...