You Got Econ in My Shaper!

For too long, Shapers have relied on build-around economy cards! The original Core Set defined Shaper’s economy with the singular Magnum Opus. Shaper found their program, clicked it early and often, and built a deck around optimizing its use. Later popular Shaper decks, such as those built around Prepaid VoicePAD or Hayley Pawnshop decks, continued this incredibly linear approach to economy. The gameplan was similar: find the one card your deck was based around and optimize your ability to use it every turn.

The problem with defining Shaper as a faction exclusively of engine economy is that when the engines aren’t suited for a given meta, the faction as a whole cannot adapt. Shapers have historically been strict, slow, and inhibited by the volume of cards in a deck needed for the engine to work predictably.

Creative Commission illustration
Creative Commission illustration by Benjamin Giletti

One of our objectives with System Gateway was to give a much-needed facelift to Shaper’s economy suite so players had creative freedom when building Shaper decks. That meant reevaluating what Shaper economy was allowed to look like in the first place. Our goals with creating these new cards were:

  1. Make cards that were playable and comparable to other factions’ successful economic tools. We wanted cards like Liberated Account that weren’t so powerful that they’d be a universal import, but still fit into most playstyles should players need quick and unconditional economy.
  2. Make cards that felt distinct from how the other factions expressed quick economy. Criminal gets very low-cost econ cards that often care about runs, like Bravado and Easy Mark, and Anarch gets cards that are big and bombastic in exchange for forfeiting time or resources, such as Day Job and Moshing. Shaper should read differently and mechanically encourage the player to think about different things.
  3. Make cards that felt Shaper. Shaper has a rich history of cards that define how they feel to play, and new economy should organically tie into that sensation. Shapers are thoughtful, intelligent puzzle-solvers.

Two of the System Gateway cards that best evoke the thoughtful deliberation of Shaper are VRcation and Creative Commission, both previewed last week by The Shadow Net. They strike a balance between the flexibility of Criminal economy and the power of Anarch economy; they aren’t too fast or slow, but they require a bit of critical analysis to determine what effect you need out of your cards at any given time. I’m proud of how they meet our design goals for the faction.

Telework Contract

Okay, enough waxing on my favorite cards in System Gateway. Let’s move on to why you actually clicked the link: spoilers. Our first offering today continues the theme of Shaper’s management of clicks for economy. Meet Telework Contract:

Telework Contract

Telework Contract

Shaper Resource: Job

Cost: 1 – Influence: 2

When you install this resource, load 9credit onto it. When it is empty, trash it.

click: Take 3credit from this resource. Use this ability only once per turn.

“For all I know, I could spend a shift digging next to old Weyland himself.” —Lane

Illustrated by Benjamin Giletti

In terms of click-to-payoff ratio, Telework is not far from the Anarch classic, Liberated Account. Telework Contract’s advantage is its low play cost and synergies with other Shaper cards that care about your installed cards. But compared to Liberated Account, because of its once-per-turn restriction, Telework Contract is weaker the later in the game you draw it. You cannot use this card to make a last-stand run on a remote server. That isn’t where Shaper’s strengths lie.

I’m grateful for the leniency Telework Contract offers when it comes to economy deck slots and influence usage. Personally I’ve used it several times in aggressive Tāo and Lat decks where I wanted to reliably empty my grip for VRcation, and I was happy with the results. It’s no Algo Trading, so don’t sleep on it.

Smartware Distributor

Continuing our trend of click-intensive economy, let’s move away from green cards for a minute and take a look at Smartware Distributor, our replacement design for Armitage Codebusting.

Smartware Distributor

Smartware Distributor

Neutral Resource: Connection

Cost: 0 – Influence: 0

click: Place 3credit on this resource.

When your turn begins, take 1credit from this resource.

The beauty of 22nd-century tech: if it still functions after all these decades, you know the build quality is solid.

Illustrated by Benjamin Giletti

While we designed this card on our own, it has the same ability as a card from Richard Garfield’s original Netrunner CCG! It began as a Shaper card that was moved to neutral by Development. Playtesting showed us that we really liked having a decent spread of neutral economy cards in System Gateway so that players could focus spending their influence the way they wanted instead of having to spend it all on cards like Red Team and Creative Commission, so Smartware Distributor became a card that helps you really flex those deckbuilding muscles.

In a way, this card is our spin on Armitage Codebusting or Kati Jones; while its payout may not be the most impressive, it is a great tool to have available when you need to fill out deck size. It also teaches important lessons about managing your clicks efficiently with a small amount of text, which is awesome in a teaching product like System Gateway. Seeing how many times you used Smartware Distributor and how many credits ended up loaded but unused can show you a lot about how well you are managing your clicks and optimizing use of your cards.

I expect to use this card a lot in System Gateway/Startup constructed, and to try it out in Standard minifaction decks, but I don’t expect it to be in a Worlds-winning list. Our next card, on the other hand…

DZMZ Optimizer

DZMZ Optimizer

Shaper Hardware

Cost: 2 – Influence: 2


The first program you install each turn costs 1credit less to install.

Tāo exhaled, the med-exoskeleton faithfully stabilizing him. In that absent breath, he reached through layers of waldos and optimizers and plucked the errant molecule from the chip.

Illustrated by David Lei

This card was already previewed by SanSan Francisco during Community Week, so it’s not a scoop, but I wanted to say just a little more about it.

DZMZ Optimizer is a love letter to big-rig, and a notable deviation from the other Shaper econ offerings found in System Gateway. It is also incredibly competitive. Optimizer continues a trend of Shaper cards caring about the order in which they are installed, and in this case you really want to find your Optimizer before your breakers. One program is all it takes for this hardware to make a perfect impression of an Akamatsu Memchip, and the rebate after two programs makes it essentially 1mu for 0credit!

DZMZ Optimizer is a generally strong card that you can truly build around.It is excellent in several existing strategies such as Az Tech Trader decks, Chameleon Talut decks, and Poemu Pawnshop decks. Its influence cost of 2 allows other factions to get in on the fun as well; I, for one, look forward to the brave souls readying their Khan bird Optimizer contraptions as we speak.

New Gateways Await

I’m excited by how, with System Gateway, our team has captured each faction’s identity while giving players the tools to enjoy classic playstyles. Every deck that I can think of gets new toys in this set, and in some cases we see some factions (like Shaper) have their entire identity reimagined in order to really explore the possibilities that Netrunner gameplay has to offer.

My favorite thing about Netrunner is the freedom you have in all aspects of the game. I cannot wait for you to get your hands on System Gateway so you can experiment and see what new doors have opened up. To everyone who is part of this community, thank you so much for your continued patience, and I look forward to playing with you all on March 28th.

System Gateway and System Update 2021 will be released on or shortly after March 28, 2021, as physical cards via NISEI’s print-on-demand partners and pay-what-you want files for downloading and printing at home!


  • Grey "CritHitd20" Tongue

    Grey is a former member of Null Signal's Netrunner Design team, having served as Lead Designer for the Ashes Cycle and System Gateway. Their hobbies include installing programs mid-run, convoluted HB combos, and trying to convince people that Shaper isn't actually that bad.