Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Woes of Weyland: Introduction


[NoteThe majority of this article was penned before the announcement of the NAPD Most Wanted List, whose impact on the meta has yet to be determined. As such, all references to the 'current meta' within the article, unless otherwise indicated, pertain to the period post-Data and Destiny, but pre-Mumbad Cycle and before the Most Wanted List takes effect. I address the MWL where I deem appropriate, but it is not the primary topic of discussion.]

[Note #2: This series contains absolutely absurd amounts of alliteration. Probably about half of the cases were intentional. Believe it or not, a substantial number of instances were excised during the editorial process. All the same, please do not let my juvenile literary proclivities dissuade you from continuing on - the discussion and analysis contained herein still stand on their own merits. Hopefully. 

Already adore affected alliteration (and assonance, apparently)? Amazing! Amusement abounds ahead. Allons-y!]

Hi, occasional readers of intermittently updated blog - Divadus here. So, on the heels of what could be the final deluxe expansion and a bold move by the game's new lead designer, impassioned discussions in Netrunner circles regarding the future of the game are frequent. I am but one of many. But my particular cause for concern is one greater than myself and one that is shared by a not inconsiderable segment of the Netrunner community. This time the focus of my interest, ire and imminent impudence is none other than our beloved Weyland. Oh boy...


Hypothesis, History and Hope



Before I really begin to wander down the dreaded rabbit-hole, I wish to preface this particular piece by professing to my partiality. Now, as a human being, it should go without saying that that I have my own biases and opinions, and as someone who actually bothered to write thousands of words on a subject, I voice my views very vehemently (I'll stop this soon, it's just really quite entertaining). But again, for anyone inclined to be angered by my often-emphatic statements, please just remember - it's just my opinion. Furthermore, as I say basically every time, I love this game to bits. I only want to see it continue to flourish - but sometimes, in order to do just that, you need to confront some harsh realities.

Without further ado: Weyland, at higher levels of competition, is not up to par with the other Corps. While the pendulum of balance swings back and forth constantly, with Corp and Runner archetypes waxing and waning in potency, Weyland's weakness is not a recent phenomenon. Following Jinteki swiftly overtaking the big W after Honor and Profit, Weyland has not left the bottom spot since. Blue Sun's arrival in Up and Over was unquestionably a major boon to the faction - by vastly outclassing all previous Weyland IDs, from a pure power level standpoint, but also by breathing new life into undeveloped cards and strategies [Off The Grid, Oversight AI, recurring Adonis Campaigns, etc.]. One ID, however, was not enough to single-handedly solve the pre-existent problems within the Weyland card pool. The Corp IDs presented in Weyland's shared deluxe expansion, Order and Chaos, (particularly Argus and Titan, though Gagarin is beginning to show promise with new support cards) and a few notable cards from the SanSan Cycle are also an encouraging upward trend for Weyland, but much still remains to be improved. Of note, I began work on this article well before 2015 Worlds - seeing Weyland not make Top 16 (the highest placing was Ran Cao's Blue Sun at 30th - fullest of props) was not the catalyst for this article's creation.

Now, there are a number of contributing factors behind Weyland's ongoing struggles and I shall be commenting on the more major ones in due course. In compiling this list, I spoke with a number of avid players both online and in person - feedback was highly valued and I tried to incorporate some of the most insightful thoughts and ideas into this article. Certain sections are more fleshed out than others, both because I deemed them to be more significant issues and because I write what I bloody well want to.

Because aimless venting is rarely productive or beneficial, within this article I propose several potential card solutions to Weyland's major deficits. The hypothetical cards represent considerable deliberation, consideration of the current card pool and forays into future design space. Obviously, none of these cards have actually been playtested and thus balance is likely far from perfect. Thus, where I had doubts about the exact play/install costs of a 'solution' card, I generally opt to cost aggressively. Ultimately, the ideas are of far greater import than precise balance here; designing cards is damn hard (I'm sure Damon and Lukas know this well) as being off by a single credit can make or break a card. Anyhow, let us dive into things...


A Faction Divided: Ice Issues



So how does a faction come to be plagued with so many problems in the first place? It's not as if the designers just woke up one morning and thought "Man, this particular shade of green really rubs me the wrong way" and decided to screw over the correspondingly coloured faction (I certainly hope not, anyway).  No, I believe the reality is more complicated than that, and can be reasonably well demonstrated by looking to Weyland's ice pool.

Hadrian's Wall earns a few points for being a giant avian specimen.

Weyland's ice tends to cop a lot of flak - this is not without reason. As the 'barrier-oriented' Corporation, Weyland has their fair share of chunky barriers that provide no face-checking threat and simply serve as hulking, 'end-the-run' walls (appropriately many of them have 'wall' in the title). Boring, banal barriers. Spending 10 credits to secure a server with a big-ass bird is not an appealing proposition when the Runner simply shrugs and jacks out - unsuccessful, albeit entirely unharmed - and proceeds to Maker's Eye R&D while the Corp eyes their paltry remaining credit pool, unable to rez ice, regret-filled tears threatening to surface. Blue Sun is really the only Weyland ID able to play the likes of Hadrian's Wall and Curtain Wall, as it mitigates the issues of its faction's overcosted barriers by being able to bring them to HQ to recoup their cost where necessary.

Huh. Well, these seem just fine. What's all the complaining about?

That being said, Weyland's ice are not entirely without merit - some of its smaller barriers are especially noteworthy. Weyland's cheapest barrier, Ice Wall, serves as an effective gear-check ice, and the two barrier offerings the SanSan Cycle gave Weyland - Meru Mati and Spiderweb - are both highly palatable. While one might think that the substantial disparity between these expensive and inexpensive ice is indicative of the faction's diversity, it could be (and will be) argued that this actually emphasizes one of Weyland's most major weaknesses - faction confusion

Put simply, Weyland is constantly being pulled in multiple, often-conflicting directions regarding what its primary strategy/design is supposed to be, with most of its intended archetypes ranging from somewhat lacking, all the way to severely underdeveloped. For instance, the sheer number of expensive ice at Weyland's disposal suggests that glacial taxation is meant to be one of their main archetypes... but all the bad publicity Weyland accrues is at odds with this strategy. Also, Weyland's bad publicity completely clashes with the Gagarin Deep Space, giving the Runner free money to check Gagarin's purportedly taxing remotes. On the topic of Gagarin and its remotes, only recently has Weyland's asset gameplan actually gotten any support at all (most arriving in the sixth pack of the SanSan cycle). Much of Weyland's design space is still quite under-explored and merits being revisited.

Given how integral ice are to most Corp game plans, I decided to first tackle Weyland's problems at this most fundamental level, before moving on to the likes of agendas and flatline tactics. As explicated, Weyland's ice are largely split into two groups - overcosted taxers and cheap gear-checks; these groups roughly correspond with the archetypes of glacier and rush, respectively. That seems like a reasonable enough way to delineate sections.

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I shall confront Weyland's weaker side first - glacier. So I ask you - on top of being overcosted and generally not good, what is one of the major characteristics of much of Weyland's glacier-oriented ice? What is a recurring feature of Weyland's most egregious ice offenders?... Find out in the first part of the series tomorrow!

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Or just check out the schedule below!

Part I: Abhorrent Advanceables
- Wherein Weyland's advanceable ice mechanic and its many flaws are discussed.

Part II: Rush Revisited

- A look at the ice that contribute to Weyland's rush archetype, and their greatest enemies.

Part III: Subpar Scoring
- Thorough examination of Weyland's agendas and (lacking) methods of scoring. 

Part IV: Flatline Frustration

- Overview of the impediments to Weyland's tag-and-bag strategies.

Part V: Capital Competition
- Appraisal of Weyland's economic situation, as compared to other Corp factions.


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