I've been trying out Top Hat in my Criminal decks recently, and have been surprised at how impressive it's been.

A common scenario for Criminal decks in the Netrunner late game, especially when playing against combo decks (which Criminals are often weak to), is that they have a lot of money, but no servers to use it on – HQ is too well-guarded to get into repeatedly and you can't trash operations there anyway, and the remotes are either empty or full of defensive upgrades. In this situation, if things don't change, the Corp is eventually going to draw into the other half of their combo, either via clicks or perhaps with cards like Rashida Jaheem. The vulnerable server in this setup is normally R&D – against Criminal, it's common for Corps to dedicate most of their defences to HQ, and hope that R&D accesses get blocked by ICE or a Hedge Fund or the like. As long as the Corp is "bulk-drawing", you can't R&D lock them with only basic runs, so they often don't mind too much that most of their ICE went into defending HQ (and the remote, if the deck needs one).

Top Hat papers over that gap really well – if you're in a situation where R&D runs are cheap, but you have nothing much to do with your clicks, it lets you establish a very strong R&D lock (or alternatively, just get a lot of random accesses to hope to snipe the last few points – if you're playing a Criminal deck that runs a lot, you're normally on 3-5 agenda points by this stage in the game). You run R&D, and access the top card. Then you run R&D, and access the second card, and so on. The idea is to remember how far into R&D you've gotten, count the cards that the Corp draws (so you know how deep into R&D you've looked already), and continue your R&D runs where you left off. As long as you can run often enough, you can ensure that the Corp never draws an agenda, so every point that turns up will go into your score area rather than the Corp's (which is very important if they're loading up on Audacity or Biotic Labor).

Although this strategy might seem expensive – and for a Shaper, it would be! – the release of Cezve has meant that repeated centrals running is now well within the reach of many Criminals (except when playing against glacier). As such, the main effect that playing Top Hat has is to force the Corp to put a lot of ICE on R&D, and then pay to rez it, two things that generally aren't high priority for Corps playing against Criminal. Stretching the Corp's resources too thinly and forcing them to cover too many servers is how Criminals win games, so it's possible to get a surprising amount of benefit from one card slot that costs 0 and 1 influence.

Top Hat also has a fringe use as a tech card, in that it makes it possible to run R&D, and access cards in it without "breaching" R&D or accessing cards in its root. This dodges some defensive upgrades, notably Prisec and Mwanza City Grid. It'd take a very weird metagame for this use as a tech card to become a reason on its own to play Top Hat (even though the main users of Prisec and Mwanza City Grid, Ob Superheavy Logistics and Jinteki: Personal Evolution, are quite popular at the moment, the metagame hasn't reached that level of distortion yet). However, it's a bonus, that does help contribute to the strength of the card.


What about combos? The combo with Insight is obvious, but not really where a Criminal wants to be spending influence – being able to look at four cards in R&D and then run in to steal one (for two cards, three influence, and ) is only a slightly better effect than simply just running in with The Maker's Eye (which is one card, two influence, and , 2). And The Maker's Eye typically isn't making the cut in Criminal lists (or even Shaper lists) nowadays – even Ken can often find better uses for the card slots.

However, there's another combo, with Möbius, which I have been trying out – it's probably unplayable outside Ken decks, but seems marginally playable there. Ken decks need a huge critical mass of run events to work (and Möbius qualifies), and are often facing an undefended R&D turn 1 (a situation in which Möbius is probably the best economy card in the game, gaining 5 for a click and seeing the top card of R&D twice – this is a better rate of return than even Carpe Diem). As such, Möbius has obvious early-game advantages for Ken, but suffers from falling off somewhat in the late game because it's hard to get benefit from both runs (and yet you need to succeed at both in order to get the 4 from Möbius). Top Hat helps to make Möbius playable by giving it a late-game purpose as well – if you're trying to R&D lock with repeated R&D runs and accessing a different card each time, making two R&D runs in the same turn is reasonable, and making the pair of runs , 4 cheaper is definitely worth a card (and another , 1 cheaper if it triggers Ken's ID ability and Swift's refund). It's also always fun to see your opponent reading the cards you're playing.

There's probably also a viable combo with Find the Truth (build your own R&D Interface with two 0-cost cards!), but I haven't tested this one myself so I don't know how well it would work.


So is Top Hat worth it in Criminal? I think it's a serious competitor for a deck slot in some Criminal decks, but I'm not convinced that it'll actually win that competition. It definitely has an effect that many Criminal decks want, and that they find hard to get by other means; and it helps to shore up some common match-ups (especially fast-advance and combo decks) that Criminals often find difficult to win. The main question is simply as to whether you can find another 45 cards that give a larger benefit to your deck than the rather situational benefit that you get from a Top Hat, and that's going to depend a lot on how the deck is designed, what its economy looks like, and the like. (Top Hat seems to be better in decks with a mix of an event economy and Cezve – this economy mix can get up to high credit totals in the mid-to-late game and is good at repeatedly running R&D, but will eventually run out of credits if the game goes very long, and thus needs some way to close games out.) You also need to check whether the deck can use the similar (but more expensive) Stargate instead – Stargate has a better effect if you can get it installed, but many decks can't afford the influence, or the install hit, or (in particular) the memory cost. Top Hat can thus be seen as a "baby Stargate" – a similar but worse effect, but one that's much easier to include in a deck and that may be sufficient to patch a Stargate-shaped hole that you can't afford an actual Stargate to fill.

As such, for many Criminal decks, I suspect that this is a card to try out, and eventually reject – but it's hard to know whether it's worth rejecting without trying it, and it seems to slot into some decks really neatly.

<p>Decklist when? :)</p> —

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.

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Harmonic ices let you get more value from derez effect. Currently, only Haas-Bioroid has derez effect, through cards like Élivágar Bifurcation, Hakarl 1.0, Divert Power.

With those cards and Wave, you could reasonably expect Echo to have about 4 to 6 subs, after rezzing it twice. 4 subs for 4, that would make this ice about the same price as Endless EULA. The added benefit would be that you absolutely need a breaker for this ice, since it would be resilient to Boomerang. This is fairly taxing to pass, but has no other effect.

At 0 strenght, it is vulnerable to Chisel and Aumakua could pay for it with no support.

At the very least, it is a 2 barrier with end the run. It could be worse.

Is this ice worth the inclusion? Yes, especially in horizontal decks, where you want inexpensive ices to protect your assets. Since this ice get more taxing as the game progress, it will complement well an asset spam strategy. And at 2 influences, it would be possible to see it splashed outside of HB.

All in all, it is a good addition to the HB toolbox. Having ways to make derez effect "add-up" is nice.

The art is well made, representing a kind of mirror image, echoing the name of the card (pun intended). The quote encapsulate the effect of the ice to perfection. Well done!

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With Midnight Sun, Haas-Bioroid has now so many campaign going! Refuge Campaign, Marilyn Campaign, Nico Campaign, wow! This Refuge Campaign is the least attractive of the three, because it is more like a PAD Campaign than anything.

Like PAD Campaign, it will take two turns to make a profit. It also cost the same 4. Unlike PAD Campaign, if it is trashed the turn after you rezzed it, it create a 2 differential, instead of 3. Then, why use it? Because it fit in an horizontal deck.

If you create an horizontal deck with lots of assets, this can generate significant revenues. Getting 2, instead of 1, once it is "paid back", is significative. Trashing it cost quite a bit. This means the runner must deal with this as soon as possible to avoid giving the corp an unending supply of credits. This is why you must protect it.

That being said, with Pinhole Threading being commonly used, it will not be possible to protect this asset well.

One strategy for this asset would be to try to exploit the credit differential between the corp and the runner (by using Hard-Hitting News or Punitive Counterstrike for example), then Refuge Campaign can really help, because of its high cost.

The thing that I do not understand for this card is the influence cost. Why 3 influences for the least powerful HB campaign, while Marilyn Campaign is 1 influence. Because of this, Refuge Campaign will most probably never be used outside Haas-Bioroid.

Refuge Campaign will probably be used in more niche deck, mostly "asset spam" (horizontal) decks. But Netrunner is diverse and someone could find a clever use of this.

The art and the advertisement quote is like the effect : it makes you feel that it is expensive for the value of the effect. Nice!

2554
<p>I imagine they were a little cautious because it's the replacement for Eve Campaign, which was a powerhouse in its day.</p> —