Shadowrun Trilogy: Best Decker Builds

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  • Primary Stats
  • Cyberware

In a world as full of technological marvels as Shadowrun’s is, having someone tech-savvy around is only going to be a bonus – unless you end up jacking into a trap, of course, but let’s let that idea slide for the moment.

Deckers specialize in tech. They heave large keyboards called Decks around and can hack into a virtual reality called the Matrix, using combat-ready avatars to steal data, operate machines remotely, and gather secrets. Indeed, it’s always great to have a Decker around, so why not make that Decker your player character? The build isn't as restrictive as you might think.

Primary Stats

First thing’s first, Body is always a vital stat in Shadowrun. It’s pretty much the only way to boost your HP pool substantially, so you’ll want it to be high enough to survive the onslaught of bullets and magic you’ll be taking. You may need more or less depending on your choice of offense.

With that out of the way, we’ll be looking mainly at Intelligence when considering a Decker build. Intelligence is linked to three general skills: Biotech, Decking, and Drone Control. The former is a negligible ability that may be worth slinging some spare Karma into if you want to augment your Medkits and the latter is the realm of the Riggers, but Decking is where we’ll be paying the most attention.

The main Decking skill will let you equip higher rank Decks and improve your Mark Target ability. You’ll want to make sure you have enough Decking to equip the latest gear at all times – at level seven, you'll gain access to the best Deck in the game, the Fairlight Excalibur – increasing the skill any further will just improve the accuracy of Mark Target, which isn't really worth the Karma investment.

Along with Decking, you'll likely want to put some Karma into ESP Control. Expert System Programs can be bought and taken with you into the Matrix, where they can be activated in much the same way as a Shaman's Spirit Summons. How useful they are will vary between campaigns and between encounters, but it's not a bad idea to invest at least one Karma into this skill – without it, you won't be able to use them at all, even as cannon fodder.

ESPs are significantly less useful in the Hong Kong campaign as its Matrix sections are more focused on stealth than combat. Conversely, ESPs are very useful in Dragonfall, where the Matrix combat takes a sharp increase in difficulty when compared to Dead Man's Switch, and having some extra targets around can save your digital behind.

Between Body, Intelligence, and Decking, you don't really have many ways to contribute to a battle in meatworld, only Mark Target. You'll need to find a source of damage if you want to worth a damn.

You have four basic options when it comes to picking a main weapon, Close Combat, Ranged Weapons, Drones, and Spellcasting. Their pros and cons are listed in the table below.

Weapon TypeProsCons
Close Combat
  • Requires Strength, which you can use to boost your grenade accuracy too.
  • Quite cheap in comparison, especially if you opt for unarmed damage.
  • Can take advantage of Chi spells if you find yourself with an abundance of Karma.
  • Quite dangerous – you have to get up close to enemies.
  • High AP costs from running around.
  • Expensive Karma-wise. Requires investment in at least three skills: Strength, Close Combat, and either Melee Weapons or Unarmed.
Ranged Weapons
  • Ranged damage is safer than melee.
  • Can double up on gun types for variety.
  • Dodge is also a fantastic stat to boost, and you'll already have high Quickness with this build.
  • Expensive Karma-wise. Requires investment in at least three skills: Quickness, Ranged Weapons, and a gun of your choice.
  • Having two types of gun is even more expensive.
Drones
  • Requires Intelligence, which you will already be investing in greatly.
  • Drones are incredibly powerful and put more bodies on the field.
  • Support Drones can save the day.
  • Safest weapon to use for the Rigger themself.
  • Very expensive to maintain, and Decking is already quite pricey.
  • Drains your AP per turn.
  • If you want to use two Drones at a time, you will be left with no weapon slots for a backup gun.
Spellcasting
  • Ranged damage is safer than melee.
  • Grants access to a range of support options as well as damage.
  • Very expensive to maintain, and Decking is already quite pricey.
  • Precents too much investment in cyberware thanks to spellcasting limitations.
  • Requires investment in either Willpower or Charisma.

In many ways, it's not really possible to survive and thrive in Shadowrun using Decking as your sole skill – you'll need to augment it with other skills that are usually central to other archetypes. This makes pretty much any viable Decker build a hybrid build, so we won't go over hybrid options in this guide. Thanks to the relatively low Karma requirements to make a character a viable Decker, any hybrid can do well enough, given the right support.

However, it's worth highlighting that Decker/Rigger builds are particularly efficient to create thanks to their shared interest in the Intelligence stat.

Cyberware

The most useful cyberware augments for your Decker will differ depending on the skills you use to be more useful in actual combat.

As always, cyberware that improves your survivability – such as by increasing your HP or your armor – will be very useful. Add to this any cyberware that increases the stats you use to deal damage – Strength for melee weapons, for example.

Remember, if you use spellcasting, you'll want to limit the amount of cyberware you install as it'll hamper your spellcasting ability.

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