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Tech Talk - Spinal Modem

Android: Netrunner Tech Talk Scud

Tech Talk comes to you each week with a discussion of a single card - how to use it, why to use it, and what to do when it's used against you. This week, we take a look at Anarch's newest console, Spinal Modem (What Lies Ahead).

DOCUMENTATION: What Lies Ahead brought us a new Anarch ID, Whizzard, a stout (which is gamer lingo for tubby) fellow who doesn't care about Viruses like good old Noise but instead seems rather fond of trashing the Corp's Assets and Upgrades. Many players are focusing on the specifics of his ability and trying to build around it. Tech Talk likes to think of Whizzard's ability in more abstract terms - it is an economic advantage, similar to Gabriel's or Kate's. So, instead of focusing on trashing cards, maybe Whizzard decks should focus on more traditional "build a rig and run" style.

That's where Spinal Modem comes in. Like Kate's Toolbox, it gives you two recurring credits to use for powering icebreakers. It only gives you +1MU, but if you aren't going to focus on Viruses, then 5MU should do the trick. Also, let us not pretend that Trace Amount, with its sexy Dyson Mem Chip, isn't out yet. Not only does the Dyson Mem Chip let Whizzard pack more programs, it helps him combat Spinal Modem's drawback, that pesky brain-damage-from-successful-traces-during-a-run thing.

Spinal Modem is the console of choice for the stronger-economy Anarch that is slowly being revealed in the Genesis cycle. Liberated Accounts, Vamp, Morning Star - all these cards are aimed at a well-funded, chaos-minded Runner.

INSTALLATION: The brain damage clause may make you want to wait until the mid- or late-game to drop Spinal Modem, especially if you take everything Tech Talk says as gospel (as you probably should), since we're always telling you that a little brain damage once you're done setting up your rig is really no big deal. However, Spinal Modem is, you know, the exception that proves the rule. You want it out as soon as you need it. That means, if you install a couple of your icebreakers early, you want this out a.s.a.p. If, however, you spend a good chunk of the early game with only one (or none) of your icebreakers installed, you might want to sit on this a while.

Don't wait until you hit your MU cap, either - the recurring credits are only good if you get to use them repeatedly. If you find that you are having trouble getting your economy going (bad draws, Closed Accounts, etc.), get Spinal Modem into play to help you make runs.

If you have a choice, you'll want your Killer (that's a Sentry-breaker for all of you not hip to the icebreaker subtypes) in play first since currently only Sentries have Trace-running subroutines. Once your Killer is out, you only need to worry about TMI and Ash 2X3ZB9CY. So, you know, no sweat-ish.

IMPLEMENTATION: While there seems to be no reason for Criminals to splash a Spinal Modem (Desperado just plays to Gabriel's strengths far too well), Shapers might want to take a look at it as a much more affordable alternative to The Toolbox, especially with Akamatsu Mem Chip in-faction. With Kate's ability and a copy of Modded, Spinal Modem is cheap-as-free.

COUNTERMEASURES: Trace, trace, trace-ity, trace, trace, trace. Chances are, if you have the two available Data Packs, you're running SOMETHING that lets you run a Trace. If not, may Tech Talk humbly suggest packing an Ash 2X3ZB9CY? Two pips of Influence not only gets you a source of brain-damage-inducing Trace, but also gives you a way to protect your valuable servers. Yes, he is Unique, but that just means you can only have one REZZED at a time. You can install an Ash 2X3ZB9CY on multiple servers and just trash the currently active one when you need to switch servers.

We also suggest you take a look at Ichi 1.0. If his Trace goes off, the Runner's frontal lobe gets double dinged.

Don't forget that the oft-splashed Data Raven isn't particularly good for triggering the brain damage clause on Spinal Modem since the Runner can jack out before the trace subroutine goes off.


Jan 15 2013 07:44 AM
Spinal Modem only does its brain damage during runs, so you'd only have to worry about Ash/Bernice Mai/etc.
I really like your Tech Talk, but obviously there should be more research on the one and only card you are talking about. Three of the cards you mention have no effect at all (since they don't happen DURING the run). Ash still does the brain damage imo, even if it triggers on a successful run, the run is still ongoing.
What he said. So Sea Source, Power Grid Overload, Restructured Datapool, Breaking News, Posted Bounty, etc will all not trigger Spinal Modem.
I have debated a spinal Kate deck, with rabbit holes to keep link high. Add some cyberfeeders, and paying to break icebreakers should be a breeze!

ignisphaseone, on 15 January 2013 - 07:44 AM, said:

Spinal Modem only does its brain damage during runs, so you'd only have to worry about Ash/Bernice Mai/etc.
... and about all suite of ICE performing traces (Caduceus, Data Raven, Draco, Hunter, Ichi, Matrix Analyzer, Sherlock, TMI)
Sorry. It's not a lack of research, it's a little bit of over excitement. Please forgive the slight error. The article has been edited to reflect reality. Luckily, listing three cards that DON'T effect you doesn't alter the analysis or advice presented in the article.

NuFenix, on 15 January 2013 - 09:09 AM, said:

I have debated a spinal Kate deck, with rabbit holes to keep link high. Add some cyberfeeders, and paying to break icebreakers should be a breeze!

Yes, I think this is a viable option. Heck, throw in a Helpful AI or two to get a little extra link until you need another source of free icebreaker pumping, while you're at it.
Thanx for the quick response Scud. I didn't mean to be rude, so apologies if you took it that way. Looked like a lack of research from were I was standing, but I it made little sense with the quality of your work in the other (and this one) TechTalks :)

@Caribou, from were do you get to thinking that the only brain damage comes from ICE's and not from say ASH 2X3ZB9CY ?

Scud, on 15 January 2013 - 10:26 AM, said:

Yes, I think this is a viable option. Heck, throw in a Helpful AI or two to get a little extra link until you need another source of free icebreaker pumping, while you're at it.

Might also be one of the few times I would actually use Helpful AI in a deck ;-) Thankfully my new packs arrive today, so I can build it and try. Noise may sit on the side for a while as I test it.

sigzog, on 15 January 2013 - 11:27 AM, said:

@Caribou, from were do you get to thinking that the only brain damage comes from ICE's and not from say ASH 2X3ZB9CY ?
Well, it was not my intention to say that no brain damage comes from Ash. I just wanted to say that it is ICE that the Spinal Modem user should be mainly afraid of, not just Ash. Imagine the situation of a Runner equipped with Spinal Modem who approaches Sherlock (strong but relatively harmless–I mean: not killing–ICE) with its two Trace(4) subroutines.
Yes, it is pointed out in the article that you are going to want your Killer out a.s.a.p. since all Tracing ICE are Sentries (like Sherlock).
One final edit because I completely forgot about the Trace to keep TMI rezzed, which is hilarious since Tech Talk was about TMI just last week...

Scud, on 15 January 2013 - 01:57 PM, said:

Yes, it is pointed out in the article that you are going to want your Killer out a.s.a.p. since all Tracing ICE are Sentries (like Sherlock).
Scud, you are right. I was reading it too quickly to notice and I think I was expecting much bigger warning against tracing ICE, since for me it's the biggest drawback of Spinal Modem.
Anyway, thank you for your article. I'm really looking forward to next one.
@scud no worries, new cards are sometimes hard to interpret. I remember playing inside job wrong for the longest of time :)

Spinal Kate was one of the best speculative builds, the natural link is great, rabbit hole is great, and the brain damage seldom mattered since it would be mostly the accidental 1. Bernice Mai could change all that, looking forward to her a lot :)

Looking forward to more :)
Just to reiterate a point I often make in this column - once you have your rig built, Brain Damage ain't that big a deal. As a "for example," take a game I played in our League this past Sunday. My opponent, running a Medium-focused, big-money, big-rig Whizzard deck (running Spinal Modem, by the way), played two Stimhacks and then two Deja Vu to recall those Stimhacks and played them again. The last Stimhack allowed him to see 7 cards from R&D and even though he didn't hit a single Agenda, he still won the game several turns later despite four Brain Damage.

Here endeth the lesson...
I have been running a good Whizzard deck lately, using 3 x each of Spinal Modem and Cyber Feeders. I really really love playing this deck. I have never gotten a Brain Damage from any subroutine trace on a piece of ice, you just make sure you get your Sentry breaker out first. The best thing is how different the deck is from a Noise/Virus deck.

I should note that the only cards that did give me Brain Damage were TMI and Ash. Those hurt, but I still haven't been flatlined in a game (about 20 matches so far).

Spinal Modem has shown me once again that you can read a card and think about it all you want - but you you shouldn't judge it until you play it. If you told me I would end up making a "Spinal Modem/Whizzard deck" that works well I probably would have thought you were nuts.
Ha! I am glad you commented. This is a game all about experience. I too am running a Whizzard/Spinal Modem deck. It's great. I totally love it. Freaking Ash though! He gets me every time.

As for other brain damage, I haven't really hit anything. One game, I lost Mimic to a Troubleshot Archer and I was screwed. I couldn't run on any other server because evil Weyland put tracers on them all. Needless to stay, by the time it took to regain my position the bastard won.

Whizzard/Spinal Modem is extremely efficient and a hell of a lot safer than people think.

Good articles. Keep them coming. Cheers.
The problem is not "does this card help" the probem is "why not get toolbox or grimuar instead" 1 more MU is realy handy if you want to use some viruses, and for 5 cash more with toolbox instead of living in fear of traces, you actually love traces as they become really cheap...

(The point about getting killer is nice though, but it should be more detailed IMO - trace sentries often have hi strength to compensate for lack of reliability, the best option is mimic + ice carver + datasuckers, with this setup you break all trace routines for little money and its ok; but without mimic + strength reduction hunter is a monster)

You will probably not get much BD off it, but it does force you to break or pay for every trace, some of witch would normally be ignored when price gets too much, like hunter. And if you get this BD it does limit your hand of surprises and make you vulnerable to any kind of dmg. You can still win with 5 BD (poor Janus 1.0) but if you get 3BD you need to draw a card each turn or one random Snare will kill you...

Note about raven is kinda stupid, if you jack out thats whet corp wants - the card needs to help you, not fail to aid you in suicide - but mimic+1 strength pases raven paying 1 so its not that bad. (you still get this tag, but raven is ment to be that irritating)

Im thinking about kate with rabbit hole and this console - you dont need more than +1 MU if you run snowball/corroder; recurring credits are nice, the cost for cate is 3, and +4 link with rabbit hole, and loads of cash with Magnum Opus, should make this DB drawback not important... paying 6 for rabbit hole instead of 5 for toolbox and wasting all this influence is kinda wierd trade though... im not convinced it makes sense anymore..