my guide on how to win as hacker. covers all aspects of hacker play
hi, im kira. if youve played mindnight recently, youve probably seen me in quick play or in tournaments. ive noticed that there are a lot of guides and opinions in the mindnight community on how to play agent. but nobody ever talks about how to play hacker. so here i am. here’s a screenshot of my profile:
this was as of 450 hours played. as you can see, i have an exactly 50% agent winrate, which is decent, but nothing to write home about. my hacker win rate, on the other hand, is about 75%, which I’m quite proud of. my overall winrate is about 59%. ive also received 2 reports, which i think were both from salty agents. so id say I’m qualified to talk about the hacker role.
in this guide ill cover a lot of ground. im gonna start by clearly laying out how hackers win a game of mindnight, then discuss everything about hacker, but most importantly how to make a game plan and when to hack vs secure. this guide focuses exclusively on 5 man games. most of these strategies probably broadly carry over to 6 man, but 7 or 8 man is just a ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. i hope you find this helpful.
The hacker objective
a lot of people look at hacker as the same as agent, but with a red role and a teammate that you should probably not think about. while playing hacker exactly as you would agent is an okay way to play, and youll probably win a fair number of games doing it, it ignores some of the nuanced strategy that can go into hacker play. in order to establish the hacker objective, lets look at some axioms of hacker play:
1. a hacker does not necessarily have to get into any nodes to win.
2. if at least one agent is not in the node when two nodes are already hacked, hackers win.
3. if hammer is refused, hackers win.
these statements may seem obvious, and thats because they are. however, they should be at the forefront of your thinking when you play hacker. lets go into each one a bit more specifically to explain why theyre so important.
firstly, you dont need to get into any nodes to win. if all of the agents know youre a hacker, but they are convinced that it is not both you and your teammate, then you win. eliminating the correct hacker team as a pair is a win condition for hackers. this strategy is most prominent after you hack node one, but ill get into more about hacking node one and playing around your partner in later sections. for now, just remember that if you can make you and your teammate seem like at least one of you has to be agent, then you win.
secondly, if at least one agent is not in when hackers need one more node, then hackers win. this is simply to say that in node five, or whatever the last node of the game happens to be, you dont care about what the prop is at all. all that you care about is that at least ONE (1) (one) agent does not make it into the node. if there is a dead agent, then you want to keep them dead ideally. additionally, the concept of a “weak agent” is a win condition for hackers. if in the last node of the game, theres an agent who is convinced of an incorrect prop, and hackers can give them hammer, then hackers will win the game. so, to summarize, if one agent is not on board in the final node, then hackers win.
thirdly, if hammer is refused, hackers win. this one is mostly just to salvage lost games. if you have a read that an agent will refuse hammer, and you think your partner will refuse hammer too, then you might want to consider going for it and refusing for the instant win. also, if the winning node has been propped in node four or node five, then you should always refuse, just in case an agent throws by refusing. i do not advocate for refusing hammer every node as hacker. it should only be done as a last ditch effort.
so theres three win conditions for hacker. if you successfully get to any of those three conditions of agent play, then hackers are running away with the game. broadly, the hacker objective is to create a game plan; to figure out a node which will lead agents to a series of nodes which loses the game. ill give some examples of this later on to make it clearer, but the key concept is that hacker is all about having a plan. if you dont have a plan for node five when youre propping node two, then youre probably going to lose.
lastly, before i get into any specifics, i figure i have to mention protocol somewhere in this guide for any new players that stumble across it. if you and your teammate are both in a node, then who hacks is determined according to the following three rules, which you attempt to follow in order:
1. the hacker who proposed the node hacks the node.
2. repeat your last action.
3. the hacker who is closer in the counter clockwise rotation to the agent proposing the node hacks.
some players play rule 2 as just whoever hacked before hacks again, but this version of it makes it also apply to secured nodes, which makes it more all encompassing. veteran players will always use this version of rule 2, and i recommend you follow it as well.
Node one and early game planning
so youve booted up into a match, youre hacker, and its node one. where do you even begin? quick play games have a very high variance in terms of who is in your lobby, and tournament games are a different beast entirely. each type of lobby requires a different playstyle, skillset, and gameplan in order to win. so lets cover them separately.
beginning with quick play, youll want to immediately take a look at whos in the lobby. in the modern age of mindnight, youll probably unfortunately know exactly who each one of them is, and if you dont know, then itll probably be a ntf agent skin new player. importantly, youll want to pay special attention to who your partner is. i dont recommend reading too much into specific identities, since good enough players will always try to change up how they play, and since reading people based on previous games is ultimately a form of metagaming, which defeats the purpose of the game. but having a sense of generally how experienced they are and possibly how likely they are to aggressively hack will be useful.
regardless of your exact lobby, a few premises almost always hold in quick play. firstly, i recommend propping meta on your turn, and accepting any node that has you in it. dont accept out of node. but thats all just my playstyle, and my opinion on whats best for quick play. i think youll have the most consistent results just going with meta. however, its here that we may want to return to one of our axioms of hacker play: a hacker can enter 0 nodes and still win the game. if you feel that you have a partner who can pull it off, or possibly some weaker agents, then you can consider pushing to get a hacker in the node. this may include propping your partner and ignoring meta, or passing hammer off of an agent, or even accepting your partner out of node. remember that as hacker, everything we do can be a mindgame, and remember that if you eliminate yourself and your teammate as a theoretical pair to the agents, then you win the game (sometimes even if two out of three agents see it!).
generally speaking though, quick play is best played defensively in my opinion. a lot of players will be quieter, and a lot of players will simply prop meta. therefore, following this pattern yourself will make you harder to spot, and if you have good hammer positioning anyway, then you have no real reason to worry.
in tournament, however, everything changes. in my experience, players in tournament have widely varying opinions on how node one ought to be played. its undoubtable, though, that more players in tournament go off of meta and actually try to prop a correct node one than players in quick play would. because of this, you may find it more acceptable to pass early, or accept out of node, or even prop out of node. its often good in node one of a tournament game to make a small read on chat, and push it as hard as you can. claim that something someone said sounded agent to you, and go for it. ask for the third agent to accept out of node. a lot of agents will allow this to happen, enabling easy bluff into n1+1 strategies.
remember that you can also push false povs if you feel confident enough in your ability to fake it. maybe your partner said something in chat, and it doesnt scream agent to you, but you can still prop them and push them as agent for it. sometimes, in node one, a fake reason is just as good as a real reason, and seeming to have strong convictions so early can make you seem more agent. as was said earlier, though, players have radically varying views on how node one ought to be played. so youll have to read the room a bit before going wild.
regardless of if youre in quick play or tournament, its important to be already planning your nodes as node one is being propped. as hacker, your favorite thought should be “if i get my node one, then what will node two be?” immediately followed by “if thats node two, then what will node three be?” and so forth. these calculations often have to be quick, as you dont want to be slow on your votes. as you play more and more, youll get better and better at getting a rough idea of what nodes will look like given certain previous nodes, and understanding how agent povs change with new information.
when making this plan, theres another pivotal question: how does my plan change if i hack my node? and how should I decide whether to hack or not in the first place?
When to hack two player nodes
lets say youve made it into node one (or node three). do you hack? this is a hyper-situational question that requires a lot of thought to answer, and it would be impossible to fit a complete answer into one guide, or maybe even into any amount of words. but there are a few key principles to follow. firstly, and probably most obviously, if the node is double, and protocol states that your partner should hack, then you should never hack. even if you believe that your partner doesnt know protocol, and probably wont hack, you are risking a gamethrow to hack that node, and a secured double is pretty good anyway. let your partner make the choice and work from there. if this is not the case, though, then we have a complex situation.
if the other player in the node is agent, then you have to acknowledge that you are going to be telling them your role. that makes that agent extremely powerful, and they have a one in three chance to prop correctly after a node one hack just on pure luck. for that reason, if the person youre in node with already seems well trusted, you may want to consider securing…
…or should you? this is where mindnight enters a form of circular logic. consider the following question: if player one is considered agent by a majority of the lobby, and the lobby is uncertain of player two, then why would player two hack node one with player one? at first glance, it seems like a terrible idea. player one is already well trusted, and player two is telling a well trusted agent their role. by this logic, one might assume that player two would not hack the node, and that it must have been player one instead, framing the less trusted player two. however, by this logic, its also not sensical for player one to hack, since an agent may see that player two has no reason to hack. this is circular logic, and my head is spinning.
because this logic is circular, it ultimately comes down to a mindgame, and for that reason, you would be guessing on what agents would read into your actions. i would not recommend using the lobby’s relative trust of the agent in node one as a reason to hack or bluff a node. in fact, only considering how the node will affect your standing in agents’ povs is a bit reductive, because, again, we dont have to get into nodes to win. we need us or our partner to get into nodes to win. as a result, we come back to our decision making process from our node one prop: making a plan for the rest of the nodes.
as i mentioned in that section, its important to ask yourself what agents will see if your node is hacked. in order to establish this, youll have to look at past nodes (if its node three), their past props, and their past chats. the decision to hack a node or not ultimately comes down to whether you think you can force winning props for the remaining nodes. i cant really write out how to make that read. it mostly comes down to experience and understanding agent povs. think about what you would think if you were in agent x’s shoes. would you be propping a hacker? if you would be propping all agents, then consider if theres still a path to victory for the real you as hacker. remember, even if two agents are propping correctly, if the third isnt on board, then we still have a win condition, especially if that player is sandwiched between the hackers positionally. that way, we can ensure that hammer lands either on a hacker, or on that agent.
if you dont think agents are going to reach the winning prop, then you should hack the node. if you can pull off an aggressive hack, its always better than bluffing a node, because youre giving the agents fewer chances. that being said, when in doubt, you should always bluff a node. if you think there’s a chance that agents will come to the winning prop and be able to force it for hammer, then its better to play it safe. many people dont consider that this concept also applies to three person nodes. so, given that poorly shoed-in segue, lets get onto node two.
How do i play node two?
my last sections were on how to play in node one, and when you should hack two person nodes. and its here that i guess i owe you an apology, because I’ve lied to you. those sections weren’t really just on node one and two player nodes, but instead covered all nodes up until there are two secured nodes. you construct your prop based on a plan of what the following nodes would be, and choose to hack it or secure it based on that. and that’s really all there is to it, amazingly. in node two, you continue pretending to be agent and making reads, when in reality, you’re pushing a pov that leads to a hacker victory. there’s a lot of ways to go about that, and it depends a lot on your style of play, but that’s the broad idea of how to win as hacker in all nodes until the last ones.
there is one thing that some more acute readers may have picked up on given my description just now. in discussing when to hack and when to secure nodes, I mentioned that if you’re in doubt, you should always bluff. but now I’m saying that my guide for node one also applies to all nodes except the last ones. so yes, good inference. I’m about to advocate for situationally single securing node two.
single securing node two is a high risk, extremely high reward strategy for hackers. I rarely see anyone except me do it, and when it is done, the hacker is usually just done playing and throwing the game. and honestly, when you do it, there’s about a 50% chance that your partner will be done playing and start throwing the game. but i genuinely believe that sometimes the only path to a hacker victory is to single secure node two. if your partner is dead in the water, and agents were considering the right prop in node two until the very end, then your plan for hacking node two is going to be clearly bad. node three will include the agent outside of node two, and node four will be node three plus one. so, if you don’t make it into node three, then you’re in big trouble. if you single secure, on the other hand, all the power shifts to your hands.
suddenly, a node turns green instead of red. with any luck, the agent outside of the node wont immediately flip their ♥♥♥♥, and the agents in the node will believe that they’ve won. now all you have to do is make absolutely sure that you are picked for node three. that’s the hardest part of single securing, because if the first prop of node three is node two minus you, then you’re in trouble. you’ll have to refuse it. and then, even if you get into node three, you will be looking bad. so, before you single secure, take a look at who will have the first prop of node three, and if you can be sure that you’ll be in it.
if you make it into node three, though, then you’ve all but won. the agent on the outside is likely to call node two double, since single securing is so rare and risky that a proto fail is much more likely. because of that, your partner is likely to be revived from the dead and considered agent. then, even if you become the node three hacker, your partner can make it into nodes four and five, winning the game. and if a single secure is suspected, then you’ve still got a good chance of making it in, since two players from node two will be propped.
when going into node two, you should always at least consider bluffing it. this being said, you should pretty much never bluff a double. if you’ve thought out your plan, though, then you would probably already see that bluffing double is usually a losing strategy. the only time you might want to bluff double is if you’re the one proposing the node, since rule three failure is likely to be assumed by the agents outside the node, which means you’re likely to make it at least into node four. but even then, node five is a mystery. long story short, don’t bluff double in node two. its really bad.
so we’ve made it through node three. if we haven’t already won or lost yet, then we’ve still got to win the late game. if our plans have been correct thus far, we’re probably coasting. but what if they haven’t been?
Winning late game
its node four. one of the teams is now one node away from winning, and now we have to start making our final props. if weve played the early game well, and weve gotten a hammer or two in, then honestly, the late game plays itself. if weve eliminated our team as a pair, or created a situation where one of the agents is seen as a confirmed hacker, then weve already won. if we have a gameplan that is coming to fruition, and agents are propping the nodes we expected, then weve already won. if weve failed to do either of those things, though, then its time to enter panic mode.
if agents are considering the correct prop at this point, we need to find an out. what i mean by an out is a possibly cheesy way to win. at this point in the game, if someone is propping correctly, then youre probably considered an outted hacker by at least one of the agents, so good job, dingus. but not all hope is lost. we can always fall back on our alternative win conditions. if we cant play as an agent, then its time to embrace full scum measures.
what i mean is, past node four, agents’ judgment tends to be clouded in close games. we can pull things off that would otherwise have outted us as hacker in the early game. for example, if we see a weak agent who is not even close to the correct prop, then its time to latch onto them. start asking them for their opinions on who the agents are. ask them who the third agent is if you and them are agents. treat them as your divine god who is going to carry your game, because if they have ruled out one of the agents, then even if you act scum, you can make it into node four and your partner can make it into node five. two agents being ready to win is completely irrelevant if the third isnt on board.
another fun method is to heavily lean into our pair-elimination win condition. start treating your hacker partner as your divine agent god. or start arguing with them for no reason at all. fill the entire chat with you and your hacker partner having some conversation thats possibly only tangentially relevant to the node at hand. make it look like theres no world in which you and your partner could be hackers, because youd be throwing if so. remember what i said earlier: everything we do as hacker is a mindgame. a sharp agent may see this if you dont execute it tightly, but remember, we might only need to convince one agent that we cant be a pair. plus, if the right prop is being propped, and the two people outside of it start having an intense discussion about whats going on, its likely to make the people in the prop question it. why would the two people outside turn to each other if they needed to convince the agents to prop them? this strategy can also be particularly effective after a node one hack, since players will be looking at pairings a lot in that situation.
these methods arent the nicest, and they definitely arent always a good look. but if we find ourselves in this position, then weve already made mistakes, and its time to double down. a winning hacker late game is a landslide, an automatic win. but if youre losing as hacker, then you should want the node to go down in flames. plus, the more passionate you are late game, the more likely you are to get an agent to refuse hammer. seriously. ive won more games than im proud of by convincing an agent that the correct prop was wrong on hammer, and telling them the game was over because im agent, and to refuse to save time. its disgusting.
the point is, if things look bad, remember those three rules i established for hackers at the start of the guide, and fall back on them. they may create the saving play.
ultimately, its important to remember that you cant win them all. sometimes youre just going to be seen by agents, or your partner isnt going to see the plan that you see, or theyre going to hack a node that they really just shouldnt. i believe that almost any hacker game is winnable, but dont take defeat too harshly. sometimes agents are just built different, or your partner is dead and you dont make it into node two. these things happen. but if you stay true to this method of hacker play, and always make a plan in your games, i believe youll see a winrate increase.
take from this guide what you will. maybe youll only use bits and pieces of it, and maybe youll use none of it. maybe you disagree entirely. id love to talk to you about it. join the discord on my profile and hit me up. i just thought it was a good idea to put out my thoughts on hacker, since im quite proud of my hacker play and not many others talk about the role. i hope you found this long guide enjoyable.
see you in my node one hacks 😉
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