Verbal Plasticity

♦ Verbal Plasticity 3[credit]

Resource: Genetics
Influence: 0

The first time each turn you take the basic action to draw 1 card, instead draw 2 cards.

“Some kids got g-mods for beauty, sports, or staying up all night. My parents thought Broca-mods were cool. Hah. Fluent in ten languages so far, and still searching for the words to thank them.”
–Patrick Blue, Solar Artist
Illustrated by David Lei
Decklists with this card

System Gateway (sg)

#34 • English
Startup Card Pool
Standard Card Pool
Standard Ban List (show history)
  • Updated 2021-10-11

    How does Verbal Plasticity interact with The Class Act?

    Verbal Plasticity’s ability resolves immediately after the Runner pays the cost to take the basic action to draw 1 card, before the actual draw becomes imminent. The Class Act’s second ability resolves later, during the interrupt window that occurs while the draw effect is imminent. If both abilities are applicable, the Runner will draw 3 cards and put 1 of those cards on the bottom of their stack.


I'm a big fan of Verbal Plasticity, as it represents another influence-free draw option for Runners to think about. But how does it stack up against the competition?

First of all, Plasticity has already been the subject of numerous comparisons, some more useful than others. It's optional Wyldside. It's once-per-turn Laguna Velasco District. It's Symmetrical Visage but draws cards. It's DreamNet but triggers on draw. However, I think the most appropriate comparison is to Earthrise Hotel, the popular neutral draw-engine resource. So, to compare the two:

Earthrise costs a click to draw, a click to install, and four credits. In return, it draws you 6 cards over 3 turns, and then is trashed. This is essentially just turning your credits into cards. If you had clicked for all of these credits, you'd be spending 6 for 6 cards. However, the advantage comes in because it is easier to gain multiple credits for a single click. It's worth noting that every copy of Earthrise in your deck can be played for card draw, but you can only have one in play at a time.

Verbal Plasticity costs a click to draw, a click to install, and three credits, one less than Earthrise. The big differences here are that 1) You only ever need 1 Verbal Plasticity, but the earlier you get it the better 2) You need to invest more clicks post-install, while Earthrise is clickless 3) One Earthrise gives you 6 cards, always. Verbal gives you cards for every turn the game goes on, provided you want to draw.

To compare them directly:

Turn 0--VP: 3 Clicks, 3 Credits, for 2 card (0.66card/) EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, for 0 cards (0card/)

Turn 1--VP: 4 Clicks, 3 Credits, 4 cards (1card/). EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 2 Cards (1card/)

Turn 2--VP: 5 Clicks, 3 Credits, 6 cards (1.2card/) EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 4 Cards (2card/)

Turn 3--VP: 6 Clicks, 3 Credits, 8 cards (1.33card/) EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 6 Cards (3card/)

Turn 4--VP: 7 Clicks, 3 Credits, 10 cards (1.42card/). EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 6 Cards (3card/)

Turn 5--VP: 8 Clicks, 3 Credits, 12 Cards (1.5card/). EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 6 Cards (3card/)

Turn 6--VP: 9 Clicks, 3 Credits, 14 Cards (1.55card/). EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 6 Cards (3card/)

Turn 7--VP: 10 Clicks, 3 Credits, 16 Cards (1.6card/). EH: 2 Clicks, 4 Credits, 6 Cards (3card/)

The takeaways here are: Earthrise gives you 3 cards/, but only ever gives you 6 cards. Verbal Plasiticity approaches 2 cards/ the longer it is used, but can theoretically be used for many more cards than Earthrise can ever be. At turn 4 (5 with Verbal) you have met the "+ = cards" point, which Earthrise hit on Turn 3. But at this point, the click investment is much more than what Earthrise has, and clicks are more useful than credits. In my opinion, you want 6 or more out of Verbal Plasticity (turn 5). At 6 uses you essentially have drawn 7 times, then spent a and 3 to draw 5 cards, which is a Quality Time.

I think Verbal has some major disadvantages here. 1) It is only efficient over long timescales. If you aren't playing this in the first turn or two, don't bother. 2) Every turn you choose not to click to draw, you are missing out on efficiency.

The upshot of this is--how often are you drawing? Earthrise is helpful because it can clicklessly draw you through a burst of cards quickly. Most of the time, you don't need to draw through your entire deck, just enough to get your breakers out and economy set up. Earthrise helps with this. Notably, Verbal Plasticity does cost you much fewer credits than Earthrise. If you wanted to draw 12 cards with two Hotels, that costs you 8. But it still only costs you 3 with Verbal Plasticity, just lots of clicks over the course of the game.

For these reasons, I think that Earthrise Hotel is likely the better option for the majority of runners. Maybe event-based Runners who are incredibly draw thirsty for the entirety of the game would make use of Plasticity. Or maybe if Faust was still around, those Runners would want it. But other than that, it is typically too costly to spend a click every turn drawing to get your investment back. In conclusion, my advice would be to run Earthrise, and if you are still lacking draw after all other options are exhausted, then you switch to Verbal Plasticity.

Note: 3 Earthrise is 6 and 12 for 18 cards. To draw 18 cards with Verbal Plasticity, it is 11 and 3. If you expect to consistently need all three Earthrises or more, just run Verbal. But at that point, what kind of deck are you playing?

(System Update 2021 era)

Really in depth - thank you for this.

if you need the cards, then you'll click for credits, and Earthrise Hotel drops to 7 cards for 3 clicks (2.33 cards/click) on turn 5.

Current Startup (Liberation Cycle + SU21 + System Gateway) gives an interesting example of how all card analysis is contextual. It's generally accepted that Earthrise Hotel is the better neutral draw option when compared to Verbal - dnddmdb's review offers a more in-depth look than mine, but it's not dead in multiples, it's faster, and it's clickless. This means, especially if your deck has other draw or card selection pieces, it compares very well to Verbal - using Earthrise to draw into more draw means even in the long run you're likely to keep up with what Verbal would have offered. There are other tradeoffs (deck slots being the main one), but having more draw also means you're likely to see card draw early, compared to if you're just on Verbal (owing to the fact it somewhat doesn't synergise - if you have a lot of burst draw then you're unlikely to be clicking to draw a lot) and don't draw it until too late.

However, in the current Startup card pool, criminals have effectively no in-faction draw options - the only in faction card which says "draw" on it is Chrysopoeian Skimming, and you're definitely not playing it because it says draw a card! They have a handful of tutors in Meeting of Minds and Mutual Favor, but if you're playing a Crim deck that wants consistent draw (Ken and Mercury both offer incentives for event-heavy decks, for example), options are scarce. Either you go out of faction and spend a lot of influence, or you turn to neutral cards. There's also the admittedly anecdotal evidence that so far this meta feels slower, though that's hard to judge given we're not far in and this was based off the experience of a couple of us at a single local tournament.

Given these things, Verbal suddenly looks more enticing - the density of draw effects being so low means that you are going to be clicking to draw a lot unless you fork over most of your influence for burst draw. Event decks especially have a pretty constant demand for draw - when most of your money and tricks are one-time things, you'll always need more. Ashen Epilogue is also burst draw and recycling, which is both desirable in event decks (reshuffle to get a more event-dense deck since your installables are on board, and a chance to replay high-impact events) and something that further advantages a long-term draw option - it's both not getting shuffled back in to dilute your deck and helps you get through your stack faster. It's not a massive gain, since most of the time your one shot draw options will also be reshuffled, but the gap between Verbal and Earthrise is small enough that I'm counting it as a meaningful point in favour. While it's not a slam dunk "every Startup Crim should be on Verbal", it is a situation where the usual wisdom that Earthrise is always better doesn't hold, because the reasoning behind it comes from a different context where draw is more abundant. I still wouldn't run just Verbal, because you want other draw to help find it early, and sometimes you'll still need a lot of burst draw, but I think it beats out Earthrise for Event-heavy Criminals in Startup.

To go on a little tangent, this is one of my favourite things about Netrunner, and one of the main things I use to guide my brewing, deckbuilding, and spoiler season card analysis - when looking at a card instead of (or as well as) going "This other card is better", I ask "What sort of deck or meta would make this card sing?" - the answers can lead you to surprising places, and trying out things you might not have otherwise considered. Even if the answer turns out to be "This isn't the deck/meta that this card might work in" or even "I don't think such a deck or meta exists/could exist", the act of thinking about and playing with a range of decks and cards to try and make things work deepens your understanding and appreciation of the game. Plus, sometimes you'll find a diamond in the rough - there are cards I've definitely overlooked on release only to come back to to a few sets later and find all the pieces are there now!

(Rebellion Without Rehearsal era)