I think in any other game, Rebirth would be a fun, cute card that would let you think your way out of particular match-ups, or transition between phases of the game.
For example, Rebirthing from Kabonesa Wu into Jesminder or Kit after getting set up is a neat way to spend your influence and deck slots. And the ability to choose a different identity based on the situation offers a lot of fun decision points.
However, I think this design is a total mistake in Netrunner, for a couple reasons:
- Identities that are blank after the start of the game: Identities like Andy, Val, or even The Professor have text that is only active when the game begins (or before) and are essentially blank afterwards. Because these Identities exist, it is a no-brainer for them to run Rebirth (except maybe the Professor) because it is always useful to them, even on turn 1. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain from including it in their deck. Compare this to Kabonesa Wu, who would need to hold onto Rebirth in hand for at least a few turns before using.
- Identities are balanced around link and influence: Some Identities have stronger abilities than others, and as such have been balanced in other ways, namely now much link and influence that identity has. Omar Keung has a very strong identity ability, and as such has only 12 influence. This is meant to curb decks that use that Identity, because if he had 15 influence, he would likely be considered stronger than several other Identities. Kit has only 10 influence, because her ability to turn ice into code gates is very strong. Rebirth lets you play as these notably stronger identities, who are balanced with a downside, without the downside.
Because of these two factors, Rebirth allows Val, who has a strong abiilty that is notably blank after the start of the game, to use Omar's powerful identity ability. The player receives the upside of Val's ability and influence, with the upside of Omar's central-targeting power.
This, combined with Rebirth's "Limit 1 per deck" clause results in swingy matches where sometimes you're playing against Val (who is just fine in her own right) and sometimes playing against Omar with 15 influence, and you have a bad pub. Sometimes you're playing against Andy, and sometimes you're playing against Leela who got to start the game with a 4 extra cards in hand. For these reasons, I think Rebirth is a good example of bad design. Unfortunately, being poorly designed and slightly frustrating is not enough to warrant Removal from the game for now.