For at least two months (maybe longer), Netrunner’s rumormongers have been circulating rumors of a new NAPD Most Wanted List. Now, some of those same anonymous sources are saying we might be looking at not receiving a new MWL until after Regionals season - potentially 3-4 months from now, also meaning both Europe’s first continental championship and the US National championship would also be in this timeframe.
Let me preface the following with this: I entirely understand that the Netrunner competitive community is allegedly a small percentage of total players, many of whom pick up a core set and whatever packs strike their fancy and play around a kitchen table with a meta of one: their family or friends. However: in my opinion, the competitive player pool are understandably going to be the most enthusiastic about your game, the most long-lasting fans, and are a key component of drawing in even more casual players due to being best-equipped to teach them. (And make no mistake: you want to learn the game from someone who knows how to play it. There are so many nuances that the garbage fire of a core set rulebook doesn’t even begin to cover.)
That said, not releasing a new MWL at this time is almost definitely a mistake. The time is perfect for a MWL update, and Organized Play is missing a great opportunity by not releasing one before Regionals season starts. Here are just a few reasons.
We’re in a competitive season lull
At the present time, there are no tournaments scheduled pretty much anywhere outside of casual game night kits and alternative formats like 18.104.22.168 and Blast from the Past. Scuttlebutt has it that Regionals begin in May, which makes sense. The only major thing scheduled for (presumably) April is the release event for Terminal Directive, and it’s pretty clear from the format for the event that it’s designed to try and encourage a surge of new players.
These lulls in competition are the perfect time to produce something meta-shaking like a new Most Wanted List. When players aren’t pressured by a tournament the next weekend that they don’t have time to prepare for, giving them something like a new MWL means there is more experimentation, more deck-building, and less of the same old stale matchups everyone is tired of playing (or planning for). The MWL has much more of an impact on these than new card releases do, and will shake things up even more than things like the impending release of TD and Station One.
The chilling effect of the Flashpoint Cycle
The Flashpoint Cycle undeniably raised the game’s power curve. Cards like CTM and Hard-Hitting News cemented NBN’s place as the faction of tag hell. Temüjin Contract is so powerful, but so low influence, that it’s in practically every runner deck and has made corp economy a laughingstock. Aaron Marrón is becoming almost as ubiquitous - especially to fight off NBN. Then there’s the elephant in the room: Şifr, a card that invalidates so much ICE that the standard corp response has been to play decks where ICE doesn’t matter. These cards are not unbeatable, but they’re demoralizing, and they’ve warped the meta to produce counterplay that is almost as un-fun to play against.
Make no mistake, some of the blame for this lies with the previous cycle as well - especially political assets like Sensie Actors Union and Commercial Bankers Group, whose power level is so off the charts in combination with things like CTM and HHN that the only options seem to be:
- Play Whizzard, or
This stifling of the competitive meta could easily be addressed with a Most Wanted List update, and players would be ever-so-thankful for it.
Players are leaving the game
Finally, the most problematic effect of all: rather than waiting for things to change, many people are just questioning whether a game in stasis is worth their time, and leaving entirely; others, whose interest had been piqued by the possibility of a shake-up in a metagame that has for months been defined by silver bullets and silver counterbullets, are rapidly losing interest again because it seems like Organized Play is not addressing the overarching concerns of a competitive community that just wants to keep the game they love healthy.
Let me put it another way: by not releasing a new MWL, FFG OP is directly complicit in bleeding the life from the competitive Netrunner community. This community of people is wonderful, and not addressing their concerns at all is a disservice to some of Netrunner’s most earnest and enthusiastic fans, many of whom see this cold shoulder from FFG as a reason to no longer give their time to this hobby.
An anecdote in closing
When our local game store closed three weeks ago, for a couple days, I had to consider whether it was even worth the time to continue playing Netrunner. Part of it was the time sink - having to find a new place for weekly meetups, making sure our new location actually carried product, and so on - but part of it was because the idea of not playing Netrunner made me realize that this Living Card Game was not really living up to the first word of its name anymore. Hearing that the MWL had been delayed had the same effect.
I’m happy to say that we did find a great place to meet up, but I’m still ho-hum about the idea of going into Regionals season and playing nothing but Şifr/Aaron/Temüjin Whizzard and CI combo, PU death-by-a-thousand-cuts, or prison RP. Terminal Directive isn’t going to change those lists. Station One isn’t going to address the game’s current issues. Earth’s Scion isn’t going to bring back people who quit.
The time is ripe for a new NAPD Most Wanted List, and the competitive community is crying out for it. Won’t FFG Organized Play take this one simple step to revitalize this game of ours?