Over the last week I’ve thought about which line-up with Alpha Trion I wanted to play the most. Ultimately time meant I only ended up building two decks – one was the Hound / Alpha Trion deck I posted earlier this week as part of Weekend Casual. The second, a four-wide Alpha Trion aggro deck utilising Swap Missions, ended up being pretty good and something I want to develop further.

In this post I’ll show you the first version of that deck and give a quick overview of how it works. But first I wanted to talk about the line-ups I ended up ruling out.

What I’m saying Optimus, is bugger off, I got this.

Alpha Trion / Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader
This wasn’t a line-up I mentioned in my post last week but one that was brought up and rightly so – it’s a popular pairing and the one that I think most people talked about since Alpha Trion came out.

I have a lot to say on this pairing, but I’ll narrow it down to three points:

  1. Building a deck around Alpha Trion limits the options for Optimus Prime. Alpha Trion has a strict limitation on what actions he can play from his attack flip – they need to have a blue pip. Optimus Prime does not have this restriction, they can be any action he chooses. This means you have to make one of two choices – either restrict your actions to mostly Blue, thus limiting Optimus Prime‘s card pool (no One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall, Plasma Burst, etc.), or dilute the number of Blue actions in the card pool and risk Alpha Trion not triggering. Neither of these strike me as fun options.
  2. Alpha Trion is very fragile; in two-wide Optimus Prime decks, Prime’s partner normally is the one with the higher defense or larger health – allowing them to soak a large attack so Prime doesn’t have to. Alpha Trion can’t do that; he has an okay amount of health for an 11 star character but a weak defense, in a two wide deck he’ll be clobbered. Bugs would have him for lunch; after they’ve killed Optimus Prime of course.
  3. If you’re going to be playing Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader, pick the best companion for Optimus Prime, not the best companion for Alpha Trion. Optimus Prime is, almost indisputably, the best card in the game. Any line-up that features him will be dwarfed by him, and honestly you should be trying to find the best competitive partner for him; you aren’t going for ‘casual janky fun’ when you’re considering Optimus Prime. I don’t think there is any scenario where Nemesis Prime or Ultra Magnus aren’t better companions for a two-wide Optimus Prime deck than Alpha Trion. (This is also why I ditched the idea of looking into Elita-1 / Optimus Prime, despite the thematic synergy of the two characters).

Plus… I just don’t want to talk about Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader, he’s been talked about already by many, many other writers and producers with more competitive credentials than I. Let’s move on.

Alpha Trion / Hound / Flamewar
I already linked the decklist for this one earlier this week; I found it to be a fun deck, but nothing I wanted to continue on with. I’d like to try and do something more with Hound in the future, but probably not with Alpha Trion. Fireflight or Skydive are better partners than Flamewar

Alpha Trion / Ratchet / Arcee
I love Ratchet, I think he has so much janky potential. I definitely intend to try and build around him one day, but I don’t think Alpha Trion is the right place. I actually think maybe Wave 2 Skywarp is a better pairing – Skywarp can retrieve not only Medic!, but Salvage for Parts from the scrap pile. The later has the potential to boost Ratchet‘s attack by a massive amount with the correct board state. I think that’s a better synergy for Ratchet than Alpha Trion and simply pulling and playing Repair Bay.

Alpha Trion / Aimless / Hot Rod
I actually think this idea has some potential, using Peace Through Tyranny to put Aimless in Alpha Trion‘s hand and then going all out. There’s some things that this list can do that an equivalent Optimus Prime / Aimless / Flamewar build couldn’t – it could keep Hot Rod untapped using Car cards, so that Alpha Trion gets a turn with all enemy cards tapped; then uses Peace Through Tyranny, pulls Aimless on himself, then gets two blasts with Aimless.

I don’t know if it would actually be any good; but if I had the time to build a third Alpha Trion list, this would have been the one. I might have a look at it after the weekend. An alternative might be the same but in Orange and with Prowl and Lionizer, but I think we’re all sick of Lionizer at this point. We’re probably all sick of Aimless come to think of it.

Alpha Trion / Armoured Ultra Magnus
A list that would try and do lots of direct damage and use stuff like Squish them like Bugs, Armored Hovercraft, etc. I think this would be a fun idea, but I’m not all that keen on building two-wide if I’m honest. That possibly became clear when I was discussing Optimus Prime earlier.

Alpha Trion / Major Shockwave
I think this was the worst of the ideas I had – a list that would use card disruption, basically. I even said in the post it wasn’t the most optimal Shockwave list and that’s very true; why play this when you can play three-wide Shockwave, or even double Shockwave? Pass.

Alpha Trion / Flamewar / Fireflight / Detour
This concept was mostly my Orange four-wide concept, but in Blue. If there’s anything I’ve learned with testing Elita-1, is that just because you can go Blue doesn’t mean you should. Getting Pierce out on small bots is difficult and means you aren’t putting out armour; meaning you’re probably only adding 2-3 defense every defensive flip. Flamewar has a great amount of health but other characters in that star cost range don’t; so even in Blue characters are likely to fall to two hits. It also means Alpha Trion has to pull his weight a lot more, and use actions to be doing more damage since there’s no Orange. Card disruption will make getting Pierce out really difficult; a lesson I learned playing against Major Shockwave with Elita-1.

It’s an idea… just not really an appealing one.

Mission Trion, Version 1.0
So what did I build? Well, here’s the initial draft of the deck.

Mission Trion, Draft 1

Characters:
Alpha Trion
Arcee
Fireflight

Topshot

Actions:
Confidence x 1
I Still Function x 3
Incoming Transmission x 3
Leap into Battle x 3
Peace Through Tyranny x 3
Press the Advantage x 2
Ramming Speed x 1
Supercharge x 3
Swap Missions x 3
Zap x 1

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Flamethrower x 3
Grenade Launcher x 3
Power Punch x 3

Armour:
Forcefield x 2
Improvised Shield x 3

Utilities:
Data Pad x 3

Orange Pips = 32
Blue Pips = 6
White Pips = 5
Green Pips = 2
Black Pips = 0
Blanks = 3

So we have four key roles here:

Fireflight : Initial attack soaker, keeps attention away from Arcee in the first turn, then away from Alpha Trion in later turns.

Topshot : An extra body mostly; normally goes first (he is very expendable).

Alpha Trion : Core hitter, wants to attack whilst when Bold cards have been played, also wants to stack the deck with Swap Missions to potentially attack a second turn.

Arcee : Finisher. Will be fully loaded, especially against Blue.

The deck is built around a few basic gameplay elements:

  • Alpha Trion is the hardest hitter, and I want to use Swap Missions to get as many attacks with him as possible.
  • I want to be playing as many cards on attack as possible to try and get a Swap Missions, letting Alpha Trion attack, then hide and throw either Topshot or Fireflight into the opposing player’s next attack. So using Bold cards on Alpha TrionPower Punch, Supercharge, Flamethrower – all improve this chance.
  • The cards Data Pad and Incoming Transmission will be used to try and stack the deck with a Swap Missions, guaranteeing multiple Alpha Trion swings.
  • Should Alpha Trion die, I can still use I Still Function to get him back, and get yet another swing with him. If I know a Swap Missions is coming up, and my opponent is tapped out, I can even use I Still Function to bring back Fireflight or Topshot, attack with Alpha Trion, play the Swap Missions on the attack flip to untap/tap before they are KOed again, and then attack with Alpha Trion a second time instead of one of my disposable characters.

This isn’t an especially secure strategy; a lot of this is gambling on the possibility that I flip a Swap Missions on Alpha Trion‘s attack. I’m trying to increase the odds of this working by applying Bold, and by using deck-stacking cards, but inevitably this is going to fail and Alpha Trion is going to be exposed. That’s just a risk though, and I will have to rely on Fireflight and I Still Function to keep Alpha Trion alive, or return him to life if necessary.

What’s Missing?
The good thing about writing about decks in progress on this blog is I can use it to point out to myself the missing elements in a deck. Here’s are a few cards I feel I missed out:

Bashing Shield
Gah, really? No Bashing Shield? What am I thinking? Just one Ramming Speed for upgrade removal sounds like a big mistake. At least one Bashing Shield should be in the mix, and maybe another Ramming Speed

Treasure Hunt
Especially for Arcee, weapons are a good way of improving damage and bringing more of them in hand, especially in earlier turns, would be important. This definitely replaces Confidence, which I don’t think has much of a place here.

Espionage
Even it’s just two, these are really needed to deal with combiners. I could alternatively have Disruptive Entrances, which can be played from Alpha Trion‘s attacks as they are Blue.

Zap
In a test against Bugs, I definitely felt like 1 Zap was not enough Direct Damage for certain situations (like Skrapnel). A second Zap should be considered.

Bolster
There’s actually not much in the way of armour here, but Bolster would work quite well to sneak a weapon on the attack and a armour on the defense.

Scrapper Gaunlets / Enforcement Batons
Becoming quite the thing aren’t they? Scrapper Gauntlets are definitely gelling well with Bolster, but the Enforcement Batons might be the better pick as I don’t have many Green cards in m ydeck.

Some of these might replace cards in the current deck sooner rather than later, others might form a sideboard.

What about characters though? I definitely think Topshot isn’t the right pick if I’m ditching Confidence (which I definitely am). One of the Constructicons would be a better fit – I forget which one it is (does anyone remember which Constructicon is which?), but there’s one which has Bold 1 on the bot mode and 2 Attack, and yet still has the same combined health and armour as Topshot, so I think he’s going in. I’ll also sneak in Razorclaw in my sideboard, as a replacement for Arcee when playing against Orange decks like Insecticons (Hi Nick! Stole your idea!).

Where Next?
Mostly, right now, it is too hot to be thinking about cards too much. Even my cat is dying for shade.

We see you buddy.

Weather aside, next is to try this out at this weekend’s tournament in Brighton (link). I haven’t really had much of a chance to do some testing this week, and I do personally believe that this deck’s strategies and piloting need a bit more practice and development; as such, I don’t think I’ll actually do well with it. I’ll simply play it, give an honest report back next week, and go from there.

I’ve really enjoyed playing this deck, though – there were points with Elita-1 where I couldn’t really say that, but this one I think is fun and interesting with occasional spikes of greatness. So even if I do really badly on Saturday, I’ll probably give this deck another look and see if I can’t tweak it, and improve my own piloting with it.

So next week: Tournament report and an updated deck!

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