The rise of Cerebral Imaging
This article focuses on the recent rise and success of Cerebral Imaging: Infinite Frontiers. I will look the statistics provided by Know the Meta and try to explain this phenomenon. Fair warning: I am not an experienced CI player and I will not cover how to play these decks.

The recent success, statistics

Netrunner Cerebral Imaging: Infinite Frontiers
all: 8% - top: 14.7%

As you can see on the chart, CI skyrocketed recently. Also, if you look under Quorum's spotlight section, you will see that it holds the most impressive title among corporation IDs. This is awarded for having the biggest presence in the top-30% tournament ranks compared to overall presence in the meta. (I use the "top-30%" metric because not all tournaments have a top-cut.)

So you can measure "success" this way, right? Well, it is a pretty good indicator. There are two reasons why an ID can end up high in this metric:

  • The ID is strong with the current cardpool. You are more likely to win if you are playing with this ID. This could be general strength or strength in a particular meta.
  • It is mostly played by good, experienced players. Maybe it got popular among skilled contestants who are naturally winning more matches than rookies. Maybe new players are shying away from it because its complexity.

What's the deal with CI? Both reasons hold true for Cerebral Imaging. The decks involved are the very definition of complex, solitaire play. It is usually adept players who are fielding CI on tournaments.


Quorum meta

Nowadays the classic way of scoring agendas in a well-defended remote is hard. The runners have more credits and more efficient breakers than they used to. Rumor Mill can nullify defensive upgrades used in glacier corporations. Kill-decks, fast-advancing and "degenerate" decks are getting popular as ever. (check out beyoken's video on "litmus test for degeneracy")

Also there has been a great surge in asset-spam corporations. NBN: Controlling the Message, Near-Earth Hub: Broadcast Center, Industrial Genomics: Growing Solutions and Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future all feature a large number of expensive-to-trash assets. The existence of Friends in High Places just makes things worse.

Netrunner Whizzard: Master Gamer
all: 20.3% - top: 31.7%

This environment makes the anti-asset ID Whizzard: Master Gamer (just look at those stats) and cards like Salsette Slums flourish. The strong burst-economy of Criminals also helps.

Since everybody is teching against assets, surprising the playing field with something totally different pays off. How about no remotes, no assets at all? Well, that certainly invalidates some cards in the runner's deck. (Having unprotected remotes helps Temüjin Contract and Dirty Laundry.)

Netrunner Violet Level Clearance

Let us not forget that Violet Level Clearance just came out with Quorum. This card is a huge enabler for CI. It is all that the ID needs: credits and draws.

Quorum also delivers a decent blow to the previously dominating tagging-NBN decks with Aaron Marrón. Glacier corporations struggle with Şifr. As its competition weakened and everybody prepared for assets, the time became right for Cerebral Imaging.


Three flavors of CI

Have a good look at the deck similarity matrix on Deck Drilldown page of CI (Quorum). It is easy to identify the three clusters of decks which are the current archetypes for Cerebral Imaging. (There are also two decks with BOOM!, but I will skip those in this article.)


Deck composition

CI7 example
podoboyz99: CI7 - Dont Try This At Home
Hasty CI example
mcbeast: Purple Dark CI
Fashion CI example
MrHuds0n: Fashion CI (Calvin Klein approved)
agendas
3x Efficiency Committee
3x Project Vitruvius
1x Accelerated Beta Test
2x Global Food Initiative ••
3x Efficiency Committee
3x Project Vitruvius
1x Accelerated Beta Test
2x Global Food Initiative ••
3x Vanity Project •••
3x Global Food Initiative •••
assets
3x Jackson Howard ••• 3x Jackson Howard •••
3x Advanced Assembly Lines
1x Clone Suffrage Movement
2x Jeeves Model Bioroids
3x Lakshmi Smartfabrics
1x Project Junebug
upgrades
1x Cyberdex Virus Suite 1x Crisium Grid
operations
3x Violet Level Clearance
2x Blue Level Clearance
3x Hedge Fund
1x Reuse
3x Violet Level Clearance
3x Blue Level Clearance
2x Green Level Clearance
3x Lateral Growth
1x Reuse
3x Violet Level Clearance
3x Blue Level Clearance
3x Hedge Fund
3x Accelerated Diagnostics
2x Power Shutdown ••
2x Biotic Labor
1x Subliminal Messaging
2x Shipment from SanSan ••
2x Shipment from MirrorMorph
3x Shipment from Kaguya •••
3x Accelerated Diagnostics
3x Hasty Relocation ••••• •
3x Shipment from SanSan •••
2x Biotic Labor
1x Localized Product Line •••
2x Mushin No Shin ••••
2x Shipment from MirrorMorph
1x Fast Track
3x Biotic Labor
1x Interns
1x Archived Memories
1x Reclamation Order
1x Archived Memories
2x Reclamation Order
2x Preemptive Action
2x Archived Memories
1x Friends in High Places
2x Scarcity of Resources 1x Enhanced Login Protocol
1x Ark Lockdown
1x Enhanced Login Protocol
ICE
barrier
2x Paper Wall

code gate
1x Quandary

mythic
1x Excalibur
3x Mother Goddess
barrier
2x Vanilla

code gate
1x Fairchild 2.0
3x Fairchild 3.0

sentry
1x Ichi 1.0
2x Rototurret
barrier
3x Vanilla

code gate
3x Fairchild 3.0

sentry
1x Rototurret

mythic
1x Mother Goddess
Agendas
Netrunner Efficiency Committee
Netrunner Project Vitruvius
Netrunner Global Food Initiative
Netrunner Accelerated Beta Test

Most CI7 and Hasty CI use a pretty standard agenda suite with Efficiency Committee being the main enabler of the combo. Project Vitruvius can help a lot when over-advanced (2x Shipment from SanSan). Global Food Initiative is the standard 3-pointer, making it hard for the runner to score 7 points.

Fashion CI goes "all in" with agenda-density, using only huge agendas: Vanity Project and Global Food Initiative. These decks have a two-turn score plan. You have to be lucky to find an agenda in HQ or R&D.

Assets and upgrades
Netrunner Jackson Howard
Netrunner Cyberdex Virus Suite

CI7 relys on Jackson Howard for the combo and uses a single Cyberdex Virus Suite to deal with Clot.

Usually Hasty CI does not contain any assets and upgrades.

As Fashion CI relies on Lakshmi Smartfabrics and rezzing assets like Advanced Assembly Lines and Jeeves Model Bioroids. Jackson Howard also helps a lot.

Operations
Netrunner Violet Level Clearance
Netrunner Biotic Labor
Netrunner Shipment from SanSan
Netrunner Reclamation Order

Cerebral Imaging requires a good economy, so decks feature Transaction operations: Violet Level Clearance, Blue Level Clearance, Green Level Clearance and Hedge Fund. Sometimes Reuse is included for making emergency funds and to defend against Account Siphon. Lateral Growth works well for Hasty CI.

All decks have Biotic Labor for extra clicks. CI7 also utilizes Subliminal Messaging for the same reason. (firing from Accelerated Diagnostics)

Scoring:

Recursion is essential, Archived Memories, Reclamation Order and Preemptive Action are the main cards here. CI7 uses a single Interns for chaining multiple Jackson Howards in the 7-point combo. Friends in High Places might also come in handy, especially for Fashion CI, since it needs assets to operate.

Having currents deals with Employee Strike. Ark Lockdown is a nice way to throw a wrench in the runners' plan.

ICE
Netrunner Vanilla
Netrunner Fairchild 3.0
Netrunner Mother Goddess
Netrunner Macrophage

Cheap, end-the-run ICE is important for early protection, Vanilla and Quandary are often used.

Fairchild 3.0 is the ultimate taxing ice in HB, non-CI7 decks usually have three of them. Since Medium is really popular, corps tend to have Macrophage against it. Rototurret punishes face-cheking. Sometimes Turing is there to mess with Anarchs' Faust.

Mother Goddess is a nice way to block a single server, especially HQ from Criminals (they started including Vamadeva to handle this). CI7 even uses Paper Wall instead of Vanilla to keep Mother Goddess a problem until they have the 7-point combo ready.


Cards against CI

Every action spawns a reaction. The popularity of CI caused the runners to tech against the ID. The most obvious counter is Employee Strike. It is just mind-blowing that how popular that card got despite its influence cost. It can be painful to a wide variety of corporation IDs, so you will see it often on tournaments. Thus you should always have some currents in your CI deck.

Netrunner Account Siphon
Netrunner Clot
Netrunner Rumor Mill
Netrunner Hades Shard

Defending against Account Siphon and Vamp is also critical. A reduced credits could mean an agenda-flood in your hand which the runners will exploit happily. Crisium Grid and Targeted Marketing might help. Reuse can recover you from nasty financial situations.

Clot is a problem for both CI7 and Hasty CI. It is not as popular as it used to be, but still a standard tool against fast-advancing in Shaper decks. Your redeeming options are Cyberdex Virus Suite and Cyberdex Trial, they are also good for resetting Medium digs.

Rumor Mill and Hades Shard are making CI7's life hard. Keep and eye on them, because they are also good against the popular NEH Railgun decks (good read: The Canadian Destroyer – A Railgun Primer). Check out How to combo through hate section in previously mentioned The Cookbook to CI7.

Fashion CI is totally different. Its most effective hate card is Film Critic. Start sweating if you see it on the board. You can try to mushin a trap.


Which CI am I playing against?

courtesy of percomis

So you are playing against Cerebral Imaging. How to know which archetype you are facing before they start scoring?


Conclusion

You have seen three different scoring strategies and their three archetype built around a single identity. Cerebral Imaging deck are as non-conventional and "degenerate" as you can get. Their solitaire play style and having the match unexpectedly over makes some players grind their teeth. I recommend playing a couple of games with these decks and also against them. You will understand where to put pressure on these decks and how to manage incoming runner threats with them. That knowledge will be valuable because Cerebral Imaging is likely to stay with us for a while.

Thank you miek for your insights on CI.



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2017.02.20. - Quorum