Root and Branch: Ashes Rotation, Startup, and You

The release of Parhelion marks the completion of the Borealis Cycle. This is exciting for many reasons, not least of which is Startup rotation. In accordance with the policy on Startup rotation announced in the summer, the Ashes Cycle is rotating out of the Startup format at the time that Parhelion enters it.

What is Rotation?

‘Rotation’ is when old cards cease to be legal for play in formats like Startup and Standard when new cards are released. In Startup, this keeps the barrier of entry as low as possible for newer players looking to participate in a competitive format.

The Startup cardpool consists of System Gateway, System Update, all sets from the most recent complete narrative cycle, and any sets from any currently incomplete narrative cycles. With the completion of Borealis, it supersedes Ashes as the most recent complete narrative cycle, so Downfall and Uprising cease to be legal for play in Startup.

New Format Hype

If you started playing since the release of Midnight Sun, or you’re not a Standard player, you may not have experienced rotation before. If so, get ready: it’s one of the most exciting things that can happen to a format! Not only are we getting a bunch of exciting new cards, but they have to be evaluated in an entirely new context, as the departure of old staple cards changes everything we knew about the format. Proportionally, this is a larger change than most Standard rotations—nearly 40% of the cards previously legal in Startup are leaving. It’s basically a brand new format.

Bye Bye Ban Bois

So let’s look at the specifics. What are the most noteworthy cards leaving the cardpool with the rotation of Ashes?

As you may be aware, there are a handful of cards which were banned in Standard but still remained legal in Startup. Almost all of those are now rotating. Archived Memories remains, but Engram Flush, Gold Farmer, Cayambe Grid, Project Vacheron, Cyberdex Sandbox and Rezeki are leaving the format.

Engram Flush and Gold Farmer are universally powerful, snap-rez ice that slotted into almost every deck. Cyberdex Sandbox homogenised agenda suites across factions, and Project Vacheron warped games against Haas-Bioroid, sometimes making a Runner win impossible. Cayambe Grid was one of the most economically oppressive Corp cards in the format, and its departure, along with GameNET and Bellona, means that fewer games will come down to a slow grind for credits.

But it is the departure of the lone Runner card in this category that may be the most impactful. Providing a potentially infinite amount of credits for one influence, Rezeki has been single-orbedly keeping Runner decks afloat since the creation of the format. Since the glowing green orb was banned in Standard, that format has become much more dynamic, as Runners have had to look to more ephemeral or conditional income sources. The same is expected to happen in Startup, with Corp strategies previously made unviable by the weight of Runners’ massive credit pools coming back into play.

Agenda and Icebreaker Suites

Corp decks must play agendas, and most Runner decks play icebreakers, so these are two key areas to look at whenever a format’s cardpool changes.

While there are a range of decoder options still available across factions, and Cleaver is likely to remain a strong default fracter for most Runners, the rotation of powerful killers Bukhgalter and Afterimage leaves us in a more interesting position when it comes to choosing killers for our icebreaker suites. Will Carmen, previously seen as distinctly average, be good enough as an adaptable universal killer? Or will Runners instead turn to less straightforward options, like the strength-capped Mimic, or the ammo-limited Revolver? Shapers in particular have a puzzle to solve here, as they are suddenly without recourse to  Simulchip with which to reload the six-bullet sidearm.

For Corps, with Bellona, SDS Drone Deployment, Project Vacheron and Vulnerability Audit all rotating, Send A Message is the only 3-point agenda available in the format. This rules out running six 3-pointers as your agenda suite in the 40-card System Gateway identities, meaning that builds of NBN: Reality Plus, for example, will deviate significantly from their Standard counterparts. This may lead to games of Startup being shorter than currently—agendas will be drawn and accessed more often, leading to more dynamic gameplay.

A Whole New World

I could make more debatably-credible predictions about the implications of rotation—perhaps rigshooter Corp strategies will improve with Simulchip rotating?—but the largest open question is what effect the new cards in Parhelion will have. How often will Runners find themselves at the End of the Line? Will Corps be able to use underhanded tactics like pursuing Regulatory Capture and creating Ontological Dependence to ensure a swift victory? And will Shapers reach a new level of flexibility and creativity by utilising the fruits of the World Tree? 

World Tree

World Tree

Shaper Program: Deep Net

Install cost: 6 – mu cost: 2 – Influence cost: 4

The first time each turn you make a successful run, you may trash 1 of your other installed cards to search your stack for 1 card of the same type. (Shuffle your stack after searching it.) Install the card you found, paying 3credit less.

Few constructs reach the Deep Net, but these old trees have stretched their roots further than once thought possible.

Illustrated by Liiga Smilshkalne

This is in some ways a dream card to preview—gorgeous art, an exciting new subtype, a big splashy effect—but it’s also kind of a nightmare. How do I even begin to talk about the mechanical implications of this extraordinary program? It lets you turn any installed card into almost anything! It’s Netrunner alchemy!

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of some things you can do with this card in Startup:

Truly, the possibilities for pulling skateboard tricks on the roots of the World Tree are endless. And there’s even more potential than that to be explored in the new Startup format! Ashes to ashes indeed – the bright light of the Parhelion beckons!

Parhelion will be released digitally on December 9, 2022, on and as pay-what-you-want print-and-play files, and, on December 12, 2022, as physical cards via Null Signal Games’s store, our print-on-demand partners, and our authorized resellers.


  • Rowan "CobraBubbles" Gavin

    Rowan (he/him) is Lead Editor for Null Signal Games, and has been a Netrunner enthusiast since the Lunar Cycle. He rose to infamy at Worlds 2023 as part of the duo that 'broke' Eternal, and he definitely hasn't let that go to his head.