So far in our spoilers for System Gateway, we’ve shown you the Corps and Runners you’ll find in the set. It’s time now to get into a little more detail about the tools you’ll be using to protect and penetrate servers.
Every Runner faction in the set will be getting two icebreakers and each Corp two ice that reflect their factions’ historic strengths in a fresh manner. We’ll kick this off with one of my favourite breakers in the set. It’s time to meat Cleaver.
If Anarchs have had an icebreaking strength throughout Netrunner, it has been breaking barriers. They can’t see a wall without wanting to smash, melt, punch, or do whatever the heck Nfr does through it.
But more than any other card recently, Anarchs and even other factions have trusted in the unchallenged efficiency and general utility of Paperclip. Cleaver is NISEI’s attempt to give Runners a choice.
A 3 install cost is only 1 less than Paperclip, but the upside this buys you is the ability to break two subroutines for a single credit. Breaking multiple subs per credit has always come at a premium in Netrunner, and the cost in this case is a worse deal on pumping strength. This might be intimidating, but, with a hefty base strength of 3 and the most played barriers in the range of 1 to 4 strength, it isn’t as debilitating as it seems.
Cleaver will match the ‘Clip’s efficiency against IP Block and beat it for Border Control. The Corp can also forget about Endless EULA or Masvingo. What’s more, at only 2 influence, this could also make a splash out of faction in the right ice meta. Who doesn’t love a little cleaving?
Where Cleaver really shines, however, is with strength reduction. Dedicate even a small portion of your rig to supporting it and you have a breaker that will go through taxing midrange barriers like, well, a cleaver.
So what could possibly go wrong?
Yes, you read that correctly. Pharos, the latest “Wonder” ice from Weyland, gets a whopping +5 strength when advanced three times. It really is Built to Last.
In fact, Pharos might be Weyland’s biggest barrier yet—at least, if you don’t want to advance an Ice Wall nine times. While 7 for 5 strength and three relevant subroutines is nothing to scoff at, 10 strength (after you reach Pharos’ advancement threshold) is absurd. At its height, Pharos costs a Runner using Paperclip 9 to break and 11 for Corroder—that’s as good as any thrice-advanced barrier in the game. I’ll save you the maths, it costs 16 for Cleaver. 16 is a lot.
Such an aggressive tax on the Runner isn’t as out-of-reach as you’d think, either. Compare the costs of getting a rezzed Pharos fully operational to installing a middle-of-the-road ice outside it on the same server. Fire Wall would also add 5 of tax to a server but costs 5 to rez and a further and 1 (or more) to install. With even a single “free” advancement from Wall to Wall or the new Weyland ID, advancing Pharos becomes a much cheaper way of adding tax to the kind of backbreaking servers that Weyland used to be known for.
Crucially though, it isn’t all tax. Unlike other large Weyland barriers, Pharos does more than end the run: facecheck it unprepared, and Pharos will dish out a tag. It’s the only barrier in the game with a hard “Give the Runner 1 tag” subroutine—rather fitting for a lighthouse. Boomerang through if you want to, but take too many tags and this lighthouse might just see you get lit up.
How do you break it in System Gateway though?
Well, you might try a running start.
Unlike Anarchs, Criminals have never focused primarily on barrier-breaking. If they can’t get past with tricks, they’ve tended to either import fracters or get by on the cheap with one-shot solutions. With a 0 install cost, Marjanah is definitely barrier-breaking on the cheap.
Don’t let that fool you into disregarding it, however. Sometimes you need to get somewhere now and can’t afford to lose tempo installing a larger, “more efficient” breaker. If you’re already on the front foot, Marjanah might be the tool you need to keep your engine running. Criminals even get Mutual Favor in this set to make this easier.
The other advantage this card has is being in-faction for Criminals (although only 1 influence to splash should anyone else want to experiment with it). Spending 3 influence for a Paperclip, or even 2 for Cleaver, can be a lot when you also want to bring in powerful win-condition cards.
Ultimately, the key to making Marjanah a viable option is going to be in making a “value run” the same turn, before you use it. While Criminals already have tools for this, System Gateway introduces some new pieces to the toolbox, like Zahya’s console, Pennyshaver.
In the meantime, while you may still not want to hard break a Pharos with Marjanah, some ice “tax” in a rather different manner. Hey! What’s that beeping?
You see, while Weyland is most interested in keeping you out whatever the cost, your friends at NBN take a rather different view. In fact, they might even be more interested in you than you are in the server you just ran. I hope you had a click left over.
Breaking an ice for 1 with a 0-to-install breaker like Marjanah is all very well, but credits aren’t the only currency in Netrunner. If you’ve ever hit a Snare! or stolen an agenda from Argus Security without enough clicks remaining, you might have had to make some difficult decisions. By giving you a tag when rezzed during a run, Ping brings that “gotcha” flavour into NBN.
Of course, once rezzed, Ping melts to most barrier breakers like… some sort of melty thing. Ice, I suppose. However, with a carefully timed rez, you can really put the freeze on the Runner’s plans. And unlike some NBN barriers, it does all this while also ending the run and forcing the Runner to go and find their fracter. Best of all, you can rez it in Reality Plus, the new NBN identity, for the low (net) cost of free!
Sometimes, all an ice needs to do is slow the Runner down for a turn or two. No barrier will do this more consistently or cheaply than Ping. Good thing too, as it has some pretty fearsome competition in faction.
But what if you do have a breaker pre-installed? Well you’d better hope the Corp isn’t catfishing you or setting you up for some Retribution—the kind that CTZ spoiled during Community Week, in fact! NBN has never been above punishing tags, and this is the kind of unique effect that could garner interest from other factions that value the Runner’s data.
That brings us to the end of our reveals for today, and hopefully gives you a picture of how System Gateway looks to use simple, beginner-friendly cards to explore new space and shake up the meta for existing players. Check back for more in the coming days as we reveal other breaker and ice types, as well as a few new tricks.
System Gateway and System Update 2021 will be released on or shortly after March 28, 2021, as physical cards via NISEI’s print-on-demand partners and pay-what-you want files for downloading and printing at home!