It’s time to put Elita-1 away for a little bit and try out a different character from Wave 3. This time I’m going to look at the Cybertronian Sage himself, Alpha Trion.
There’s not too much to say about Alpha Trion in the fiction. He’s a sagely figure, often a father figure for the Autobots, and in the original cartoon, the man who turns humble Orion Pax into the power house Optimus Prime. Some say he taught Optimus Prime everything he knows, and in the card game, that apparently translates well!
I think everyone had the same reaction to Alpha Trion – he is basically Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, but with poorer stats and more restrictions, for a lower star cost. A poor man’s Optimus Prime, if you will. Let’s detail it all out:
- He’s a Spaceship, not a Truck (Spaceships have less tribal support)
- He can only pull Orange actions from the scrap.
- He can only play Blue actions from the attack play.
- His defense is one less on both sides
- His attack is 1 less in alt mode and 2 less in bot mode.
- Melee on bot, Ranged on alt; instead of Ranged on bot, Melee on alt. If he’s the only Ranged, he can’t play Marksmanship from the attack flip.
There’s no denying that Alpha Trion is a much more toned down version of Optimus Prime, perhaps dramatically so. Does costing 2 less stars really make that much of a difference?
Well, from a line-up construction perspective we do get more options. Optimus Prime traditionally has the following line ups:
Optimus Prime + 12 star character (e.g. Nemesis Prime, Novastar, Ultra Magnus, etc.)
Optimus Prime + 7 star + 5 star character (e.g. Hot Rod + Flamewar, Aimless + Flamewar, etc.)
(I’d list Prime with 2 6 star characters… but have you ever seen that? I haven’t)
Sometimes the number of stars per character will go down, and star cards will be added in, like in the Optimus Prime / Bumblebee or Shockwave decks. But that’s more or less your options for Optimus Prime.
For Alpha Trion, we have a lot more options:
Alpha Trion + 14 star character (e.g. Major Shockwave, Ultra Magnus)
Alpha Trion + 10 + 4 star characters (e.g. Grimlock and Top Shot)
Alpha Trion + 9 + 5 star characters (e.g. Wheeljack and Arcee)
Alpha Trion + 8 + 6 star characters (e.g. Cindersaur and Demolisher)
Alpha Trion + 7 + 7 star characters (e.g. two Sentinels, a Sentinel and a Battlemaster)
Alpha Trion + 5 + 5 + 4 star character (e.g. Arcee, Fireflight and a Micromaster)
That’s an awful lot more versatility. Where Optimus Prime is more or less locked into a lineup that becomes a delivery mechanism for Optimus Prime, or stuck being two-wide, we could potentially add some interesting elements to a team with Alpha Trion. Even some of the above hastily cobbled together line-ups sound kind of interesting – Wheeljack, Alpha Trion and Arcee anyone?
The Mixed Pip Situation
So the fact that Alpha Trion pulls Orange from the scrap on his flip, but plays Blue on the attack is something that miffed a lot of people. But it doesn’t necessary mean you have to play in a mixed deck at all; we can build Alpha Trion in Blue or Orange, just means the deck itself has to play by a few simple rules:
- In Blue, we would expect to have a few key Orange actions in the deck. When they are in the scrap, we can pull them into hand when we most need them. A good example of a key card like this might be Peace Through Tyranny; when the time is right, Alpha Trion pulls the card, KOs Aimless, and we get two turns of attacks, possibly both whilst wielding Aimless and triggering Leap into Battle on the attack flip.
- In Orange, we have a few key Blue actions in the deck, and we increase our chances of seeing them on the attack by ramping up the Bold on Alpha Trion‘s attacks. A perfect example of what we could do is the ol’ Swap Missions trick; Alpha Trion is given a Supercharge and a Power Punch, he swings for 8-10 cards, giving a good chance of hitting one of our three Swap Missions. We can also use Incoming Transmission and Data Pad to increase our chances of seeing a Swap Missions.
Those are some easy examples, but you get the picture: so long as we know the rules ahead of time, it should be easy to set up some tricks in a deck that make Alpha Trion worth playing, and whilst he’ll lack Optimus Prime‘s power and versatility in what cards to play, he should hopefully make up some of that with the versatility of partners he swings with.
I think we can work out what we want do with Alpha Trion by simply looking at the actions available. By looking over the entire library of actions as a whole, and whittling them down to a manageable amount, we can start to see options for Alpha Trion.
Let’s start with Orange. Here’s every action in Orange, for Waves 1, 2 and 3, plus the Devastator box (but not the Metroplex or Soundwave/Blaster boxes, for reasons)
Battle Ready, Computer Sabotage, Disruption, Emergence Maintenance, Incoming Transmission, New Designs, Peace Through Tyranny, Ramming Speed, Repair Bay, Roll Out!, Supercharge, Swarm!, Treasure Hunt, Zap
Ancient Wisdom, Confidence, Field Repair, Focus Fire, Press the Advantage, Reckless Charge, Scrounge, Swindled, Tackle, Testify, Vandalize
Bolster, Defensive Formation, Fuel Cache, Full Loadout, Heroic Team-Up, Rock Toss, Scavenge the Battlefield, Squish them like Bugs, Two-Pronged Attack
That’s a lot of actions to chew through. Let’s cut out all the actions that apply to alt modes, or ONLY affect Decepticons, which are these:
… and star cards, and cards related to star cards (just for sanity at this point!):
Let’s remove the following too, with comments:
Computer Sabotage (this is a very weak effect)
Scrounge (I struggle to find a legitimate reason to use this unless I can stack my deck)
Rock Toss (It’s a restricted version of Zap)
That leaves us with 24 orange actions we can consider, which we can now break up in to various categories:
For the most part I don’t like the idea of healing cards, especially as most healing cards are Orange (where you are going to take more damage than you can possibly heal). However, one or two key heal cards in a Blue deck, where damage is much smaller, could be something worth experimenting with. In particular, it would have a double use if Alpha Trion was coupled with 8 star Ratchet (something that we can’t do well with Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend).
Scavenge the Battlefield
All these actions do stuff with upgrades or retrieve more upgrades – Bolster and New Designs cheat in upgrades, and Battle Ready rewards the player for having lots of upgrades on the table, Treasure Hunt finds more upgrades. Bolster has lots of tricky uses in Orange decks by allowing the player cheat in Forcefield and Scrapper Gauntlets, so that’s worth considering generally, but in a Blue deck it could also cheat in Tough-orientated armours, like Extra Padding.
Battle Ready is mostly an uninteresting card but combined with an upgrade focused build, a one-off card that Alpha Trion pulls to maximize damage could be interesting. Wave 3 Hound playing 3 Attack Drones, and then using Battle Ready is hitting for at least 16 Attack; this could be achieved relatively easily with Alpha Trion, as the Attack Drones are green pips and we can get Battle Ready into hand with his ability.
Scavenge the Battlefield also exists in this group but I think it’s play style is more for pulling battle masters away from dying characters; that could be interesting if we’re playing with Aimless or Lionizer.
Disruption is a card that nobody really plays, but given some upgrades in use at this point, I’m not ready to discount any card that kills upgrades from hand. It’s probably not appearing in any Alpha Trion list, but it shouldn’t be automatically discounted.
Squish them like Bugs
Sometimes someone just has one health left, and Zap is a good tool for that. Squish them like Bugs could be handy if you want to combine it with other means to inflict wide direct damage (Armed Hovercraft, Ultra Magnus, General Megatron, etc.)
Press the Advantage
These are general offensive cards that boost attack or add Bold. I don’t think anything else needs to be said about them. If you’re running Orange you’d want most of these, if you’re running Blue you might want Press the Advantage but that doesn’t require Alpha Trion to retrieve, it has a Green pip.
Focus Fire is an outside choice, could be handy for Alpha Trion to hit for huge Bold on occasion if Supercharge isn’t doing enough work somehow. Honestly it probably isn’t a good direction, as it is a lot of cards, but it exists.
All of these fall into the realm of drawing new cards. I don’t think Confidence is a good card for Alpha Trion – unless we’re looking for an upgrade, we can already look for our key actions in other way. Testify has corner case use in some builds, like if we were to mix Alpha Trion with Wave 1 Shockwave (who both share the same alt mode type).
Incoming Transmission, though, might as well be an auto-include in any Orange deck for Alpha Trion, as it would let us cheat in a Blue Action into our attack. It’s essentially a better version of Confidence to Alpha Trion.
Peace Through Tyranny
There’s been lots of talk about builds that use Peace Through Tyranny to kill Lionizer and then get two attacks if you’ve timed the play for the end of the turn. We can still do that here; we can also do this in a Blue build, using Aimless instead and having a single Peace Through Tyranny in our scrap pile to achieve this.
A fairly reliable card that would be good to retrieve and use to kill utilities and weapons, and sometimes also armour if Bashing Shield isn’t available.
Alpha Trion is Melee on his bot mode side, so flipping to retrieve and use this is probably not as easy as it should be. Worth remembering that it exists, at least.
+1 Defense is something I guess?
That’s a lot to consider, and we now have a sorted list so we can go over it for future ideas too. Right now though, just from examining these cards, I can think of some interesting setups:
Alpha Trion / Hound / Flamewar – A Tough and Upgrade-focused Blue list, key action: Battle Ready.
Alpha Trion / Ratchet / Arcee – A Healing focused Blue list, key action: Repair Bay and other healing cards.
Alpha Trion / Aimless / Hot Rod – A Blue list focused on Aimless, key action: Peace Through Tyranny
Alpha Trion / Armoured Ultra Magnus – A Blue Direct Damage list, key action: Squish them like Bugs
Most of these might not be any good, but they are ideas for now; we can play with them, and see what works, and what doesn’t.
Okay, now let’s do the same thing with the Blue Actions. Here they all are:
Bombing Run, Brainstorm, Collateral Damage, Dino-Chomp!, Disarm, Disruptive Entrance, Hunker Down, Inspiring Leadership, Leap into Battle, Roll Out!, Security Checkpoint, Start Your Engines, Swap Missions, Team-Up Tactics, The Bigger They Are
Heavy-Handed, Heavy Landing, Inferno Breath, Marksmanship, Master Plan, Pep Talk, Reclaim, Underhanded Tactics, Universal Network Access, Unleash Potential, Vaporize
Battlefield Report, EMP Wave, Fuel Cache, Heroic Team-Up, Infiltrate, Steady Shot, Take Cover, Unconventional Flying Object
Again, let’s take out those that apply to different alt modes and Decepticons. Should be more to cut out this time:
Bombing Run, Dino-Chomp!, Hunker Down, Start Your Engines, Team-Up Tactics, Underhanded Tactics
… and star cards, and cards related to star cards:
Universal Network Access, Unleash Potential, EMP Wave, Fuel Cache, Heroic Team-Up
These are probably no good for us too:
Master Plan (Requires lot of hand draw)
Reclaim (I guess putting an Orange double-pip on the top of the deck is an option but not a great one)
This leaves us with 21 action cards to go through. Again, let’s split these into groups as quite a few of them are going to have similar effects.
Leap into Battle, The Bigger They Are, Heavy-Handed, Steady Shot
Bread and butter +2/3 Attack cards, the mainstay of any Blue Optimus Prime deck; that does not change for Alpha Trion, whether he is running in Orange or Blue. If in Orange, probably only want the Leap into Battle as Pierce is irrelevant, for Blue we might want to mix and match. Steady Shot probably wants to be skipped, unless we really want to sneak some Black in.
Inspiring Leadership, Pep Talk, Battlefield Report
Battlefield Report has become a staple of a lot of Blue decks; it’s still useful here, even if it’s reveal in an attack flip will mean the other player knows exactly what we’re playing. Pep Talk and Inspiring Leadership are fine but I don’t think they are exciting for a Alpha Trion deck. Not really what we want.
Collateral Damage, Disruptive Entrance, Security Checkpoint
Security Checkpoint is a mainstay in all Blue decks thanks to it’s double-pip, Disruptive Entrance is pretty useful as well. Collateral Damage is a bit of a weird one that I don’t think does as much work as the other two. Both Security Checkpoint and Disruptive Entrance would work great with either Shockwave, or in any match where hand removal is critical.
Disarm, Infiltrate, Vaporize
Vaporize is a great card to play on an attack flip if you’re going into someone with armour (remember, Security Console plays before the attack flip, so your opponent still gets to use it). Disarm would work wonders against Battlemasters. Infiltrate is less useful, as your opponent would know you’re blocking Orange cards if you played it on the attack.
Heavy Landing, Inferno Breath, Marksmanship
I actually forgot about Heavy Landing, it’s a Blue Zap and that’s neat, and probably wants to be in my Elita-1 deck. Inferno Breath would be useful in a 3 or 4 wide team, especially if it has Fireflight. Marksmanship is only useful if one of our line-up is also ranged – Alpha Trion is not ranged on his bot-mode, so he can’t trigger this on the attack flip.
Roll Out!, Unconventional Flying Object
Roll Out! is really line-up specific, if we have a plan for it that’s great but otherwise it’s a bit of a weird one. Unconventional Flying Object would be good if we paired Alpha Trion with either Shockwave, but can not be played on an Alpha Trion attack flip, since Alpha Trion must be in alt mode to use it.
This card isn’t terrible if you can create a workable plan around it, probably involving lots of card draw or retrieving particular Orange cards from your scrap. Might require too much of a convoluted plan to really get mileage out of.
A nasty trick in the old Optimus Prime decks was to attack with Prime, then play Swap Missions from the attack, hiding him from attack. The advantage Alpha Trion has over Optimus Prime is that Optimus Prime could only swap with two other characters; Alpha Trion can potentially do this with three. A hard hitting Orange build using this sounds like it could be a lot of fun, and it’d be crazy not to at least try a ‘Mission Trion’ list that takes the concept four-wide.
It’s a card I guess? Probably something for the sideboard, better than a kick in the teeth, but useless in some matchups certainly.
I think I’m less inspired by the Blue cards than the Orange cards, if only because I think quite a lot of these cards have been considered for Blue decks regularly in the past and we all know their place in Blue decks. That being said, I can think of some Alpha Trion line-ups worth looking into:
Alpha Trion / Arcee / Fireflight / Topshot – an Orange ‘Mission Trion’ list, heavy on bold, with Arcee as our finisher and Fireflight as our point.
Alpha Trion / Flame War / Fireflight / Detour – a Blue ‘Mission Trion’ list, much like the above but without the bold.
Alpha Trion / Major Shockwave – a Blue Disruption list, probably not the optimal Shockwave list but something to think about.
That’s an entire 7 line-ups to try out, and there’s certainly more that we could come up with. I haven’t even suggested Lionizer in any of these line-ups, and Alpha Trion would definitely fit into the archetype that would utilize him well.
I think the next step would be to pick three of the most interesting concepts, and try them out and see what actually works. I’ll be doing that over the weekend, and seeing what clicks come Monday.
Until then, I hope this post has inspired you to think about Alpha Trion yourself and come up with some line-ups of your own.