These aren't so much “pro tips” as they are simply the proper way to hack, but to most players these tips are 200 IQ plays, so we'll go with that.
- 1. Secret Function of the Access Program
If you have stealth developed, you can use the Access program to get more time to analyze a network before starting the brute force phase. This is particularly useful for hacking maelstroms. This will grant you nearly an extra 3 minutes to really take a good look at their network and know exactly what you need to do without wasting so many programs.
2. Overpowered Blaster Stun-Lock Strat
You can stun lock a node to keep it from regenerating and attacking by timing the installation of the second Blaster just right. Wait two seconds to install it and each shot should alternate perfectly, keeping the node unable to do anything as it gets stunned for two seconds every two seconds, hence the term stun-lock.
3. Stealth Math
If you're a stealther, you mustn't forget to always do the math before you attack a new target. There could be times when Portaling onto a node may be more beneficial than Wraithing it. This logic goes both ways. I've seen plenty of scrubs try to Portal onto a node with not enough stealth visibility left, whereas if they'd used the Wraith instead, they woulda been fine. Always assume that a new target has the highest leveled Scanner of that node skin. It's better not to be too optimistic and think you'll be able to make a play you won't have enough visibility for.
4. Protector Proficiency
When your Protector is about to die, instead of putting down an ICE Wall or a Shocker to let it regenerate, place down another Protector and let it die. The oldest Protector takes the damage, not the new one. They're not ICE Walls, so this method should save you the ICE Walls and Shocker spamming to keep the Protector alive. As long as you get your timing right and place the new Protector down in time, you should be fine. The right time depends on the level of your Protector and the amount of damage it's taking.
Calculate the right time like this:
Protector buffer size times 0.07 (regeneration per second) then subtract the regeneration per second from the total DPS damage to receive the effective damage per second. Now subtract the total first amount of damage from the buffer size and divide it by the effective damage per second and add 1 to the answer to get roughly how long the Protector will last before it breaks.
Due to the time limit of 3 minutes, the Protector can last the entire time without breaking if it isn't taking enough DPS. Realistically, most choke points shouldn't take you a minute to get through, so in many cases, unless you mess something up, if your Protector can last for a minute, it'll likely not break because you'd have gotten past that choke point. Don't forget to account for the nodes you take over in your calculations. This will change the DPS which will result in two or more different effective DPS at different times. Calculate how long it'll take you to take over the nodes to figure out how long each effective DPS lasts.
For example, a Protector 15 against 3 synced pellets of AV 21, which deal 131 DPS each, the calculation would look like this:
4,600*0.07=322 (Regeneration per second)
(131*3)-322=71 (effective DPS)
The Protector will break on the 61st round of AV.
Because the calculation begins once the first round of AV hits, you have to account for this by adding 1 to the answer to get the proper answer. If the final answer has a decimal, it means the last round of damage is dealing overkill DPS to the remaining buffer size. It's like rounding up the number, but that's not an actual step in the calculations, it's because, in other words, the last round of DPS is bringing down the buffer size to the negatives, and that's when it breaks, because it cannot regenerate once it reaches 0. (duh, but maths)
Since generally you should have enough time to get through a choke point after 1 minute, it really wouldn't be a concern. Now if we were to add a level 21 Hawk into the mix, the effective DPS would be an overwhelming 553 DPS which would mean the Protector would only last roughly 9 rounds of DPS. Now, since having to put down a new Protector every 4 seconds really isn't a viable strategy, using the Shocker to isolate the Hawk's DPS and reduce the effective DPS to a much more comfortable 160 DPS, then the Protector would last 28.5 rounds of DPS (57 individual hits), as long as you keep the nodes Shocked at all times. At such a choke point, after the second Protector is installed, you'd only have to worry about Shocking the nodes until you take them over since you have an extra 28 seconds to get through it, and realistically that's all the time you should need. If you need more time than that, then your programs are severely underleved and you probably shouldn't be attacking such networks yet. Just remember to keep track of time starting at 1 once you first start taking damage and place another Protector roughly 5s before it breaks and you should be able to hold on to that node.
This branches off into many different equations and it's pretty advanced and thus, complicated to explain due to the variety of choke points you can make and strategies you can use to counter, so honestly I could probably make an entire video on this tip alone.
5. Limit 1 Worm Per Customer
Worms duplicate when you hack a node, so placing them on the node that hacked it will allow them to start duplicating as soon as they're installed, instead of attacking first if you place them down on a hacked node that's surrounded by hostile nodes. One worm should be enough for any network, unless you've Portal'd in, then you can place one down at the netC, and another at your Portal'd node once you take down the neighbouring nodes.
6. Secret Advantage of Shurikens
With n00b Cannons there's times when the nodes go down and get reclaimed too quickly to take them over and you end up wasting programs. Shurikens have a delay, but that delay can be a good thing. Use the shuriken projectile as a perfect timer indicator to know exactly when to take over the node at the perfect time. You don't have to let it get claimed back over and over again so you can try getting the timing right when you hack it back like n00b Cannon scrubs do. This is particularly useful when hacking minmaxed maelstroms!
7. Level 11 ICE Walls > Level 21 ICE Walls
Similar to the Shuriken strat to take over a node at the right time, use the AV pellets as an indicator to know exactly when to place down another ICE Wall without having to use a second program slot to install it! Only works for choke points where 3 level 21 AV pellets attack you at once, but it just so happens that's a common form of choke points.
8. Battering Rams Efficiency
Beam/Worm/Shurikens/Blaster down weak Code Gates and save the Battering Ram for the tough one. It depends on what level your programs and the Code Gates are, so you're gonna have to do the math to find out what Gates you should be taking down with Blaster, but always keep the time limit in mind. A network with low level Code Gates can take longer than you expected, and visa versa, so doing a little bit of math to figure out which ones you can take your time taking down and which ones require immediate attention is key to saving programs on a successful hack. Generally speaking if it takes you more than twice as long to get through a Code Gate without the Battering Ram, then you should be using the Battering Ram there.
9. Maelstrom Master
Dealing with maelstroms can be a pain because it can get hectic real quick with lots of clustered up nodes being taken back quickly and having to constantly get a better angle on a certain node only makes things more difficult. This is the main strength of the maelstrom, but to have an easier time hacking these networks, utilize tip #1 to get a good look at the most open areas of the maelstrom and look for the nearest, toughest nodes or the ones connected to crucial nodes like the Core or Sentry and focus solely on taking a direct path to them. Once there, you can hold it down with a Protector and branch out from there as if you'd Portal'd in. You don't need to focus on every node you capture, you only need to focus on getting a stronghold and taking down the crucial nodes which are usually the maelstrom's weak points to advance to the Core and Resources. This will help you avoid having to Shocker spam to get a chance to know what's going on, and when in doubt return to your stronghold and try to branch out from there again taking over a node at a time to not overwhelm yourself.
10. Remember The Tutorial?
Don't forget you can pan all the way down, drag and zoom in to view and select the nodes more easily!