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The Monster

Runner deck submitted by Bierfuizl


"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"


From the early days of Netrunner I always liked the idea of tinkering around with cards that give you additional actions. On the Corp side this led to the creation of loop and semi-loop decks based on Pacifica Regional AI (PRAI) and Chicago branch. (CB) An infinite number of actions is possible on the Corp side. Using PRAI/CB one action costs 3 bits. An income source that creates significantly more then 3 bits per action will allow you to sustain the action engine.

On the Runner side there are a few tools to gain actions as well. Quest for Cattekin, Lucidrine Drip Feed, Bargain with Viacox and Preying Mantis. From that bunch Preying Mantis (PM) is probably the most versatile one. By using the actions generated by PM to install more PMs the runner can lay down a whole lot of them in one turn if you are prepared to handle the brain damage. But the idea never made it into a real deck.

Somewhere in 1997 Neal and I discussed this idea. He had a deck rating service back then and I was involved into reviewing his Dangerous Allies expansion so we chatted every once in a while. He came up with the idea to use the massive amount of actions to play seven Poisoned Water Supplies (PWS) in one turn. To do this you need 7 actions, 14 installed connections and 28 bits. Guess what, Preying Mantis is a Connection, so nice synergy here. We toyed around with several combinations of bit/card engines (Jack'n'Joe with misc.for-sale, Bodyweight Synthetic Blood (BSB) with Loans from Chiba (LfC) and even N.E.T.O.). Neal posted his idea to the Netrunner list on 12 Nov 1998 where he presented the basic principle but no deck details.

There are quite a few referenecs to PWS decks on the Netrunner list even before that. Foolkiller said at the end of 1996 "On its own, PWS is too time consuming to use" (on it's own, yes, but otherwise he was quite wrong there in the early days of Netrunner). Douglas Caspian-Kaufman asked "Poisoned Water in Ten Turns?" to which Byron Massey answered "8 turns to win with a perfect draw. Add about 3 more turns to get everything in order, and you should be able to get it in 11 turns or so. That doesn't include the Preying Mantis actions, which might cut off a turn or two". After Neal published the basic idea, PM/PWS decks became quite popular. The finals of the 1999 world domination tournament fielded 5 different types of PM/PWS decks. Besides the nowadays fixed combo of Precision Bribery/Time to Collect it was the most popular deck type. The Top Runners' Quarterly fielded an article about Preying Mantis/Poisoned Water Supply decks in its Fall Issue 2002. Read that if you don't understand what PM/PWS is all about.

I never saw Neal's final version but judging from several comments he and others made, it was based on N.E.T.O., Loan from Chiba and Sneak Preview for the basic layout. According to him it was able to finish in three turns quite frequently.

In the wake of the PM/PWS rage quite a few people asked for a ban to remove this sort of deck from Netrunner as it basically offers no interaction between Runner and Corp at all. And given the right deck and some practice there isn't even any real skill involved. The UK tournament rules limit the use of Poisoned Water Supply and Fake Hit to one per game, rendering the PM/PWS combo useless. Still sticking to the UK rules I designed "The Monster" to use the basic Preying Mantis action engine in combination with Frame-Up. The goal was to still be able to finsish in three turns frequently (around 50%) using Frame-Up. Instead of 7 actions, 14 connections and 28 bits this will require 10 actions including a run on HQ and R&D each


Basic PM/PWS decks use N.E.T.O. or Crash Everett to cover the gap when you begin with zero cards in turn 2 and 3. You also need to recycle trashed cards in turn 3 to play the winning combination. Installing the resources and messing around with MIT West Tier costs actions and cards. This is OK for PM/PWS as the finishing move is very efficient (only 7 actions, no additional cards required) the use of Frame-Up requires a serious amount of additional resources, i.e. 3 more actions on turn 3.

The clue here is that during turns 1 and 2 you really only want to draw cards, install lots of PMs, get some cash and save yourself with Emergency Self Construct (ESC) on turn 2. So in the perfect world you only draw lots of BSBs, PMs, a few LfCs and 1 ESC during the first two turns. You don't really wanna see any cards of the 'winning kit' before turn 3.

There are two steps to achieve this: First I significantly increased the number of the cards for turn 1 and 2. This is quite a unique approach as most runner stacks try to shave off as many cards as possible to reach the 45 card limit. Here I went in the other direction. 400 cards seems to be the sweet spot. With less I tend to draw the wrong cards too frequently (drawing your kit too early means certain doom). With more cards the distribution gets worse and you'll see bigger 'gaps' where your key cards don't show up. The percentage of the non-kit cards in relation to the total deck size stayed pretty much the same, it actually increased slightly as the kit's cards take up much less space now. The second step involves the key card for "The Monster", Boostergang Connections. This card allows you to retrieve the winning kit from your stack for only 1 action and 7 bits. As PM decks invole drawing plenty of cards it is the perfect match.

So how does it play? Thanks to the balance of the cards it's quite simple:

On turn 1 use 2 BSBs and install 1 LfC. That will leave you with 12 cards. Install 5 of those (usually 4 - 5 PMs and 0 - 1 LfC or ESC). This will result in 4 brain damage. As the ratio of BSB is quite high (around 37%) there's a high probability that one of the three remaining cards will be a BSB. At the end of the turn discard down to the hand size of 1, keeping the one BSB.

On turn 2 start out with the BSB. Again this should give you more BSBs to draw even more cards. The PMs installed on turn 1 will leave you with 8 or 9 available actions for drawing cards, getting bits and installing ESC. With the one action before the last you start installing the PMs in your hand. In the best case you can install 11 new PMs for a total of 16. Make sure you have enough cards in the hand to soak up the brain damage at the end of the turn (cards in hand >= used PMs - 1). The PMs will install themselves. The last action of the turn is used for BSB, LfC or ESC again. At the end of turn 2 you will receive 16 brain damage. With 15 cards in hand and one ESC installed you will survive. Hand soaks up the first 15 points of brain damage. The 16th damage point will flatline you. ESC kicks in, removes all brain damage and you end the turn alive, with 3 actions per turn and no more brain damage.

So in any case you start turn 3 with no cards in hand. Again the high percentage of BSBs in the stack saves you. Just keep drawing cards until a BSB shows up, usually happens between action 1 and 3. Then start drawing cards again, using BSBs and PM actions. Do that until there are 11 PM actions left. Install the remaining PMs in your hand, until 11 cards remain in your hand. Play Boostergang Connections and bring to your hand Krash, All-Nighter, misc.for-sale and 7 Frame-Ups. Activate the 11 PMs, play misc.for-sale to trash all (used up) PMs, install Krash, use All-Nighter to run HQ plus R&D and play the 7 Frame-Ups to win. With around 70 - 80 bits available even Krash should have enough bits to break into both main forts. Remember, the Corp only had 3 turns and 9 actions at this point.

In three turns you will have drawn around 80 cards, used more than 50 actions and gained over 100 bits (including the ones from the LfCs).


The version presented here doesn't contain any protection against tag & bag. It is not the final one I played in the tournament. Bloodcat or Underworld Mole will seriously ruin your day. I leave it to you to come up with reasonable protection. I have a few solutions for that myself.

If you play revised unlimited, replace the Frame-Up kit with 7 Poisoned Water Supply. The basic engine behind "The Monster" (BSB + PM, Boostergang to draw the final 'kit') will easily provide enough actions on turn 3. Without having done any detailed analysis I'd guess about 85 - 90% of the time you'll finish on turn 3. But I really recommend not to play PM/PWS. It is boring to play with (and against) and goes against the basic spirit of Netrunner which is highly interactive. The version presented here at least uses Frame-Up and requires a run on HQ and R&D each. Not much but still something.

This is just one application of large runner stacks with Boostergang Connections. You can build very versatile runner stacks with this approach. Due to the large number of cards you can easily place several 'kits' into your stack and retrieve the cards you want against specific Corps with BC. I'll coin them "fat stacks". I saw a few other fat stacks recently as well, so it seems I wasn't the only one investigating this idea (what a surprise after ten years of Netrunner ;-).


Who is the culprit here? The UK rules already limited PWS and Faked Hit. You could extend this limit to Frame-Up as well. But that would still leave us with a very powerful 'engine' that can lay devastation on the Corp with normal runs, big digs, Gypsy runs and other nasty cards. So lets look at the other two cards involved here: Preying Mantis and Emergency Self Construct. One thrives on the other. But I think if you want to get rid of PM/ESC decks I'd vote to ban ESC. Why? ESC is one of the cards that has a heavy influence on the meta game. It gives you total protection against meat damage, limiting all tag & slag corporations. It is also the only card that prevents flatlining. The cost for using ESC (reduced hand size and reduced number of actions) can both be countered. Without ESC on the other hand, Preying Mantis isn't all that powerful. You can gain actions but you'll have to pay for them in cards and hand size (which equals more cards and bits), ranging on a similar level as Lucidrine Booster Drug.

  Card Name Cost Type
22 × Emergency Self-Construct 0 -1 MU
2 × Krash 0 --1 MU
2 × All-Nighter 0
149 × Bodyweight™ Synthetic Blood 2
20 × Boostergang Connections 7
12 × Frame-Up 2 -
2 × misc.for-sale 0 -
40 × Loan from Chiba 0
151 × Preying Mantis 0 -
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