When I play as a runner, I tend to be apprehensive about unrezzed ICE unless I have a breaker of each type and a pile of credits. Naturally, neither of those things are in place early in the game, and some decks might not even be able to get all 3 breaker types out during the play (if they even exist in the deck).

So far, I've played the core Shaper deck a few times, as well as the core Criminal deck once (fun fact, the only way to break code gates in it is with Crypsis or bypass with Femme Fatale, both of which seem very expensive). I'm trying to keep the pool of cards small so it's less overwhelming to keep track of which cards do what. So, I'm sticking to the core set for the moment, although the corp decks I run against could have cards from any set. I am starting to look at decks that others have built, particularly some Shaper Dagger/Paintbrush decks (which is raising it's own set of questions, which I'll probably ask later).

So, early in the game when your rig is incomplete or non-existent and unrezzed ICE is out on the board, what are some common tactics in dealing with them? Is it usually "safe" to simply facecheck ICE early on?

  • Some more details would be useful - what factions are you playing? Running is very different for Shapers then for Criminals, for example. Also, are you playing against the latest cardpool? May 13, 2014 at 14:20
  • @Twitch_City: I'm more than happy to edit in some more info, but I'm not sure how the faction or cardset I'm playing makes much of a difference when you don't have much out besides your identity.
    – Ellesedil
    May 13, 2014 at 14:27
  • Because of how the factions set-up their rig. If you are playing Criminal, you generally only are running Special Order to find your breakers. If you are playing Shaper, you generally have Self-Modifying Code, or Test Run, or massive card draw (Diesel/Quality Time). Some of the latest cards (Komainu specifically), will kill your ENTIRE HAND if you face check them first turn, and is affordable for the corp turn two. So, if you are playing against Jinteki, it is different than playing H-B, where most ICE will just end the run. May 13, 2014 at 14:38
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    Exactly, if you are Shaper - Test Run actually works to draw from your stack (deck) AND your heap (discard). So, it matters a bit less if an important breaker gets pinged by net damage from your hand. So, we can mitigate the damage somewhat. However, Special Order only works from the stack, so if your only Corroder (for example) gets hit from your hand, you might not have any ability to get it back - which would be terrible. May 13, 2014 at 14:54
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    The old adage was "run early, run often" - most ICE won't hurt you too much, and you are taxing the corp by making them spend money rezzing their defenses. However, you need to be aware of the worst case scenarios (in core, hitting a Neural Katana will take 3 cards from your hand if you hit it without a sentry breaker). Komainu, in the latest big expansion, will deal as much net damage as you have cards in hand, which could be devastating. However, if you are just learning and playing your first games, you probably are only playing core, so that's not as big of a worry :) May 13, 2014 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


Obviously it depends on the game-state, but here are some tips:

  • Be aware of how much money the Corp has. The less they have, the less dangerous the ICE they can afford to rez. (Also, don't forget that the more aggressively you run, the more they rez and the less money they have for other plans.)

  • Run on click one, especially against HB. Judge the threat of bioroids, which are cheap for how dangerous they are, but can be safely face-checked if you have clicks to spare.

  • Run with redundant cards, especially against Jinteki. You should already be aware of traps in Jinteki servers, but ICE can also hurt you. Related to this, if you have something you absolutely have to keep, get it on the table if you suspect damage from ICE. If you lose one card from a hand of five, of course you'll lose the one you could least afford to!

  • Run with a click (and two credits) to spare, especially against NBN (and some Weyland). Tags are a genuine threat, and Corps won't ever try to tag you without having something nasty round the corner. Scorched Earth is a game-defining card. Your last click should be reserved for clearing a tag until you know you won't need to.

  • Don't install any programs. Counter-intuitive, and kind of contradictory to installing cards you need, this makes you particularly resilient against program-trashing strategies. It's surprisingly viable to run very aggressively with no rig. Once you're being consistently kept out, slow down, build a rig and come back ready.

  • Forewarned is forearmed. Run HQ and R&D aggressively from the start. Missing an agenda is not a waste of a click at the start of the game. Learn from what you do see. You'll almost certainly see ICE at some point, so log it. Especially watch for out-of-faction ICE, or ICE that would be particularly punishing. (Obviously, this applies to more than just ICE.)

  • This is all good advice. The only part I would take issue with is not installing programs. Every ice so far that can trash programs is a sentry (apart from Wotan.) If you've got a sentry breaker out, you're relatively safe from program-trashing effects. So for that reason, getting your Killer out is usually a top priority and will make your early runs a lot, lot safer. May 21, 2014 at 11:37
  • @JohnMcCollum You're also safe from program-trashing effects if you don't have any installed ;)
    – Johno
    May 21, 2014 at 11:48
  • Ha! You're not wrong. Although having a Sentry breaker out also protects you against other pieces of ice that you don't want to run into in the early game, such as Komainu, Neural Katana, and Fenris. May 21, 2014 at 12:19
  • @JohnMcCollum I do agree that of all the ICE types, Sentry tends to be most dangerous, so getting a sentry breaker out first is a good general strategy. Other ICE is more likely to just cost you credits, clicks or successful runs than programs and limbs.
    – Johno
    May 21, 2014 at 14:04

I'd like to add to the given answer that it matters what parts of your rig you have built. Killers tend to be more important to have than Fracters and Decoders, since most of the punishing ice are Sentries, Code gates tend to give a benefit to the Corp if you don't break them, Barriers tend to end the run if not broken but it's sentries that actively punish the runner. If you only have your killer, running is less risky than it would be if you only have your Fracter.

There are exceptions of course, Fairchild for instance is a Code Gate, Tithonium is a Barrier, both function more like a Sentry would be expected to, but the general rule of thumb based on type still applies.

  • @Veskah Killer is the icebreaker type that breaks sentry ice. Fracters break barriers, decoders break code gates. Sentries are the riskiest ice to hit unprepared, so having your killer makes runs at protected servers less risky
    – Andrew
    Feb 28, 2019 at 0:37

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