With System Gateway now being out for some time, and the metagame having adapted to its presence, the Standard Balance Team believe that now is the time for a more far reaching update that we believe will improve the game in the short and long term. As outlined in our last release announcement, more substantial updates like this one are scheduled in between product releases, while product releases will from now on be accompanied by minimal updates, more guided by the teams working on those products.
Without further ado here come the changes:
Summary of Standard Ban List 21.06 Changes
- Slot Machine is banned.
- Engram Flush is banned.
- Fairchild 3.0 is banned.
- Game Changer is banned.
- Mass Commercialization is banned.
- Government Takeover is banned.
Effective date: 19 June, 2021
It will be obvious that we felt that the balance between Runner and Corp needed some adjustment in an attempt to give Runners some options. There are some further observations, and wider theory, at the bottom of the article, but the card-by-card breakdowns are as follows:
Slot Machine, Engram Flush Banned
This update sees the outset of a long-term project for the Standard Balance Team to bring down the power of ice and icebreakers in the game. A gradual power creep of ice since 2017 has made it harder for Runners to interact early and often, and in many cases reduced the game to a race of who gets to set up and make money fastest. This has been highlighted as a problem by members of the Design and Development teams both publicly and internally, and ice in future sets will be tuned to a lower power level. Working in close collaboration with those other teams, we are embarking on a project to gradually bring the rest of the cardpool more in line with this new standard at a faster pace than by simply letting all the offending cards rotate out naturally. This will ensure that cards in future NISEI sets will be playable, rather than have to compete for slots with far more aggressively tuned older ice.
Engram Flush and Slot Machine are the first two targets of this effort. These two pieces of ice stand apart from most other ice in the game in what we called the “snap rez” analysis. In other words, their low cost, high strength, and impactful subroutines made them an easy decision to rez in all circumstances. Their presence had a dampening effect on Runner aggression throughout the meta: their low cost and punishing facecheck made trying to pressure the Corp’s defences to force rezzes less rewarding, as rezzing did not set the Corp back enough to be worth the risk for the Runner.
Fairchild 3.0 banned
Fairchild 3.0 nearly escaped this initial wave of bans due to its significantly higher cost, though it is certainly a punishing piece of ice to facecheck (especially with the current speed of the game making clicking through it a huge loss of tempo) and a long term tax. What ultimately earned it a spot on the list is the fact that it features solely in HB decks which are currently at the top of the meta and, whilst this update is not expected to change that, a minor hit to those decks should improve the diversity of the game.
Game Changer banned
Game Changer has sat in the meta for a long time, with reports of its death being often expected but never quite arriving. The card continues to hamper Runner diversity. The strong “Spombo”-type decks, which Game Changer, enables create situations where, without some counter-tech, the games are unenjoyable, fruitless, and crushing for the Runner. We initially hoped System Gateway would introduce enough wide tech cards to keep these decks in check, but, as they are not as widely played as we hoped, it is time for the card to be banned.
Mass Commercialization and Government Takeover banned
Both of these bans were targeting a specific corp archetype we felt was bad for the meta; being unduly slow & frustrating to play against. We felt the decks that had used the “Red Planet Couriers into Government Takeover” plan had exposed two cards that needed to be eliminated.
First we eliminated Government Takeover in pursuit of two goals: making the win condition harder to achieve and the agenda suite less stacked against the Runner. We’re sad to see such an iconic card go, but, given the choice between this and Red Planet Couriers, we decided that the latter can be a legitimate, though fringe, win condition in the absence of Takeover, while all Takeover does when included in a deck is increase variance—and with the number of tools introduced in System Gateway enabling Corps to control that variance, the card has simply enabled slow, grindy decks.
We also felt that the deck had exposed Mass Commercialization as, with Built to Last, too powerful and uninteractive an economic package. The ability of Corps to go broke rezzing ice in the comfortable knowledge that the MassComm sitting in their hand will let them burst back up again makes the calculation of rezzing a less meaningful decision, and therefore makes any advanceable ice fail the “snap rez” test described regarding Engram Flush and Slot Machine above. We felt that it was only a matter of time before the card was used in another deck that would plague the meta with unacceptably slow games.
What we haven’t banned
Whilst Fairchild 3.0 has been banned, we have not found an acceptable way to directly impact the Asa Group and Precision Design decks which might now be the leaders of the pack in Corp decks. We did consider bans to Fully Operational, Rashida Jaheem, Vanilla, and Cyberdex Sandbox. With each potential ban we felt that we had either taken too great a chunk out of the meta, created new problems that then required further intervention, or had little impact beyond hitting diversity. Sandbox, in particular, despite being a card we strongly feel needs to be addressed soon, created a cascade of problems when banned, and we tested several combinations of bans in an effort to bring the meta to an acceptable state without it. Although all of the combinations we tried so far created as many problems as they solved, we intend to keep iterating on this and come up with a solution in our next update. We hope that eliminating the Government Takeover and Game Changer decks will allow Runners to more narrowly tech against the dominant HB decks and allow other Corp factions to catch up.
We also considered a ban on Aumakua. We have some fears that a weakening of ice options may lead to some Runners becoming overwhelming, thus limiting Corp diversity, and we believe that keeping Cyberdex Sandbox as an option for Corps will limit this potential.
This will be the final ban list for the current roster of our committee. Guy Patching is leaving the Standard Balance Team and NISEI as a whole after this ban list. The recruitment process for new team members is currently underway.
Guy would like to thank testers and his fellow team members for the time he spent working with them, and wishes all the best for the future.
Please see below for the full Standard Ban List.
Standard Ban List 21.06
Effective Date: 19 June, 2021
Cards on this list may not be used in Standard format games.
Changes from Standard Ban List 21.05 appear in bold.
- All cards with the “current” subtype
- Aaron Marrón
- Bloo Moose
- Clan Vengeance
- GPI Net Tap
- Liza Talking Thunder: Prominent Legislator
- Mad Dash
- Mars for Martians
- PAD Tap
- Salvaged Vanadis Armory
- Temüjin Contract
- Watch the World Burn
- All cards with the “current” subtype
- 24/7 News Cycle
- Azmari EdTech: Shaping the Future
- Breached Dome
- Bryan Stinson
- Cayambe Grid
- Clone Suffrage Movement
- Engram Flush
- Fairchild 3.0
- Friends in High Places
- Gagarin Deep Space: Expanding the Horizon
- Game Changer
- Gold Farmer
- Government Takeover
- Hired Help
- Jinteki: Potential Unleashed
- Mass Commercialization
- Mumbad City Hall
- Museum of History
- Mti Mwekundu: Life Improved
- Sensie Actors Union
- Shipment from Tennin
- Slot Machine
- SSL Endorsement
- Titan Transnational: Investing In Your Future
- Violet Level Clearance
- Whampoa Reclamation
- Zealous Judge
Finally, a reminder that we’re always looking for more playtesters to help us shape the future of the game! Click here to apply for Ban List testing, or click here to apply for product testing (which is currently testing the next NISEI cycle, codenamed Bashes). All levels of experience with the game welcome!