At the start of each wave of this game, it can be difficult to focus on something to play. Sure, there’s plenty of players with decades of experience who will look at the new cards that come out each wave and declare ‘This is what is going to be good’. For the rest of us mere card-playing mortals, it’s not so easy.
I found myself a bit listless (pun not intended) about what to play in Wave 2, bouncing between several already established high-tier decks – Aerialbots, Orange Sentinels, even Cars and Metroplex – but not really creating much from scratch. At the end I had a lot of fun building a bizarre Bombshell deck, and for Wave 3 I wanted to move more in that direction, instead of focusing on doing well in tournaments. At least, I’d like to develop a deck myself; instead of feeling like I’m cribbing on other people’s ideas.
To begin with in Wave 3, I’ve decided to focus on one particular character, and see what I can do with that character. That character will be Elita-1.
Who is Elita-1?
Transformers didn’t have much in the way of female characters in its original run; prior to Arcee, the only women in the show were the Decepticon robot Nightbird, who only showed up for one episode, and Spike’s friend and love interest Carly.
But then came the episode ‘The Search for Alpha Trion‘ where it turned out there were female Autobots still on Cybertron. Elita-1, alongside other characters like Chromia, Greenlight, Lancer, Firestar (later Novastar) and Moonracer, make their debuts and then… well, that’s pretty much it. No toys, no reappearances, nothing; Elita-1 would get mentioned again in the episode ‘Wardawn’, where it is strongly implied she used to be a civilian named Ariel, but that was that.
Who cares about some kid’s cartoon in the ’80s though? Let’s talk about a more interesting Elita-1.
In the 2005 IDW comics continuity, Elita-1 is not a member of the Autobots, and doesn’t show up until the very end of the mini-series Combiner Wars. She is very far removed from her original incarnation; this version of Elita-1 is the leader of Cybertronian colonists living on the titan Carcer. She is an aggressive, militant leader who becomes a secondary antagonist to Windblade in the series ‘Til All Are One, guarding a dark secret about the titan Carcer itself. She’d eventually stand against both Windblade and Starscream in an election to become president of Cybertron; and with Carcer acting as the Cybertron fleet’s flagship, fought against the immense Unicron at the end of the continuity’s run.
In the current run, she’s made a couple of brief appearances, and even appeared on the cover of the latest issue. So far she appears to be a member of the Ascenticon Guard, a group meant to guard Ascenticon guards from violence. So far she seems much more calm and sympathetic, in contrast to her 2005 version and closer to her original depiction.
Elita-1 has a few interesting aspects that should make her a unique character to play, whilst having a few elements that should also let her fit into current deck archetypes.
First of all, Elita-1 is 12*. Being a 12* character means you can fit into two common archetypes – being a supporting character to a 13* character like Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader, or leading a three-wide team consisting commonly of either a 8*/5* or 7*/6* split. You could theoretically have a four-wide team, but you’d need at least two 4* cards and that doesn’t seem especially worth while. You can also drop star costs in favour of adding star cards (e.g. pairing Elita-1 with Bumblebee Trusted Lieutentant and three Leap of Faith cards.)
Next, Elita-1 is a car; in fact she is the third 12* car in the game, after Blurr and Novastar. Being a car means that she can benefit from Turbo Boosters and Start Your Engines to untap and hide away from incoming attacks and make further attacks yourself. She can also benefit from other car buffs – Wave 1 Prowl‘s Bold 2 buff, Wave 1 Wheeljack‘s card digging, even Cliffjumper‘s card draw.
The ability to untap as a 12* character is significant; the card Ready for Action can untap non-car cards, but is restricted to 10* or less characters only, and Swap Missions would require tapping another character.
Elita-1 has an incredibly impressive health pool of 17, matching that of Ultra-Magnus for highest health pool at the 12* level, though still lower than that of 11* Cosmos. She has no defense at all, so will need to rely on armour to curb incoming damage. Her attack of 5 in alt mode and 6 in bot mode is okay; not quite at the dizzying heights of Trucks like Nemesis Prime or Inferno, but still rather high.
Surprisingly, Elita-1 is a Specialist. This means she can use the somewhat odd specialist upgrades Multi-Tool, Multi-Mission Gear and Field Communicator to cheat additional cards. Multi-Mission Gear is especially interesting as it means she can play two actions from my hand, and Field Communicator means she can play a card directly from the deck.
The most interesting thing about Elita-1 is of course her character-specific abilities. Her bot mode ability, which is always in effect, let’s her play two cards from the deck when she is KOed; essentially a free Leap of Faith. Her alt mode ability, which kicks in when she flips to her alt-mode, let’s her move damage from other friendly characters to her, so long as it doesn’t cause her to KO (like Sludge can).
Elita-1’s unique abilities really inform us as to how she can work in a team. Her high health pool and low defense mean that her role and playstyle is likely to be to absorb damage from the rest of her team (likely just one initial hitter), then present herself as a target afterwards, especially if her teammates can be untapped in the process (cards like Swap Missions and Start Your Engines would help a lot here).
Because she’s going to flip cards on her death, we should also make sure her deck has a high percentage of cards that work well when played at that point; attack boosting actions might not be useful on these flips, for example, but almost all upgrades would, as would direct damage cards.
As her bot mode ability triggers whenever she KOs, a card like I Still Function would not only bring her back into play but also mean that more cards could be triggered as a result of playing that card. As we’re already thinking about what cards would work well with her bot mode ability, cards with similar functions like Field Communicator (which will work with Elita-1’s Specialist trait), are also worth thinking about.
With all that in mind, here are three initial ideas for line-ups that can serve as a starting point for future decks:
Orange Cars Deck (Prowl Tactical Specialist / Prowl Strategic Mastermind / Elita-1)
Blue Cars Deck (Sergeant Chromia / Bumblebee Brave Warrior / Elita-1)
‘Autobot Lovers’ Deck (Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader / Elita-1)
In my next post, I’ll talk about my ideas for these three decks, test them against some several example opponent decks, and work out how they can be improved.
Until next time!