Building Ironhide: Liquid Nitrogen, Pt 1

Some days you just gotta let the man with the nice voice explain the character background.

One of the most recognizable Autobot characters, Ironhide has had some lacklustre representation in the Transformers TCG so far. He was an undesirable 6 star vanilla character in Wave 1, a semi-ok addition to the Sentinels in Wave 2, and in Wave 3 he is a rather odd Rare character that has somewhat baffled a lot of players.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking a look at the that last card, try and explore what his card can do and see what kind of decks we can come up with that include him. As usual, some of these ideas won’t work and we might find that in the end, Ironhide isn’t such a great character card no matter what we do. Creating something good isn’t the point, though – exploring, examining and hopefully discovering is our goal, as it always is.

So then, let’s get out the liquid nitrogen and bust up some decepticreeps. Or something.

Captain Ironhide! He’s a hero! Gonna take decepticreeps down to zero!

Captain Ironhide is a Rare character card with a build cost of 9 stars. He is Ranged on both sides, so he can make the best of cards like Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship, among other Ranged cards. He has raw stats of 4 / 12 /2 in alt mode, and 5 / 12 / 2 in robot mode. His alt mode is a truck, so he can use cards like Team-up Tactics, Battering Ram and Cargo Trailer (if you’re into that kind of thing).

His alt mode ability is a rare constant effect rather than a flip-to ability; “This can’t take non-attack damage from your opponent’s cards”. Be careful with the wording here – he doesn’t take non-attack damage from your opponent’s cards; cards that you play yourself will still affect him (He’ll still take damage from a Photon Bomb or Ultra Magnus, for example). Damage caused by characters like Decepticon Shockwave or Swarm!, which require the other player to play damage counters on characters of their choice, can be assigned to Captain Ironhide and if they are, Captain Ironhide takes no damage (as per Rules Roundup 17th May 2019).

I don’t think Ironhide’s alt mode ability is something we necessarily build around, rather it is just a great ability to passively have, and would have more influence as to who we play Ironhide against. It’s a handy ability to have when playing against particular cards.

What we’re more curious about is his bot mode ability; the ability to, whilst Ironhide is upgraded with a weapon, to swap that weapon with a weapon in the player’s hand. What can we do with that? That’s what we’re going to discuss in part one of this investigation.

That one decent Ironhide figure…

Bot Mode and Weapons
Ironhide’s bot mode ability has been something that has confounded just about every player. What exactly was the intention here? Is there a particular Blue weapon that we’re meant to be swapping onto Ironhide? Is limiting the ability to Blue a clue?

I think we should break down that ability a little bit, because there’s two variable possible reasons for it:

  1. Ironhide currently has a weapon that we no longer want on him; either because it’s no longer useful or we want it somewhere else next turn.
  2. We have a weapon with a Blue pip in hand, and for some reason we want to replace Ironhide’s current weapon with this weapon.

It’s the first part that I think might be quite important when looking at options for Ironhide and weapons. That is the part that is unrestricted, and possibly overlooked.

The second part is probably not so much a clue, but more a restriction to prevent certain weapons being sneaked on Ironhide. For example, it would restrict us from putting a Superior Cannon on Ironhide, which would have been legal otherwise.

So for going through Ironhide’s weapons, we should actually consider *every* weapon that can be put on Ironhide, regardless of what pip colour they are or whether they require Ironhide to be in Truck mode or not.

So, without further ado…. Here’s every weapon that Ironhide can use:

Wave 1: Armed Hovercraft, Cybertonium Bow, Drill Arms, Energon Axe, Flamethrower, Handheld Blaster, Piercing Blaster, Primary Laser, Static Laser of Ironhide (obviously), Thermal Weaponry

Wave 2: Attack Drone, Backup Beam, Enforcement Batons, Erratic Lightning, Mining Pick, Mounted Missiles, Noble’s Blaster, Power Punch, Superior Cannon

Wave 3: Anticipation Engine, Battering Ram, Combat Dagger, Dismantling Claw, EM24 IR Laser Launcher, RR Disruptor Blade, Smokethrower

(I’ve ignored anything that just gives Ironhide +1, such as Multi-Tool, Null Ray of Starscream, etc.)

That’s a big list. In fact, it’s three big lists. Let’s narrow this down to one list, and exclude all weapons whose sole purpose would be to give Ironhide Pierce, Bold or a static attack bonus:

Anticipation Engine, Armed Hovercraft, Battering Ram, Dismantling Claw, Drill Arms, Enforcement Batons, Mining Pick

That’s a much shorter list and makes analysizing the options easier. Let’s go through them and see what interactions we can come up with. Again, we want to create hypothetical ideas here for now, rather than worry if they are good or practical.

So when do we get a card for the real Ironhide?

Drill Arms / Enforcement Batons / Dismantling Claw
These are fairly straight-forward – for this interaction, we want to scrap an enemy weapon (Enforcement Batons) or an enemy Armour (Drill Arms). Then, rather than stay with a bland +1 attack bonus, we simply swap out to a Backup Beam, Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe to suit.

Not only are we getting more punch whilst still removing the enemy weapon/armour, but we’re also keeping hold of the scrapping weapon in case we need to use it in the next turn. We’ve essentially used Ironhide‘s ability to give us a free upgrade removal action, so long as we had the correct card in hand.

I’ve put Dismantling Claw here because it belongs to the same group of upgrades, but the way it works is not really suited for our interaction, so I think we can happily rule it’s use out. Dismantling Claw needs to be scrapped to be effective; swapping it back into hand won’t trigger it, thus it ends up being awkward and somewhat unusable for Ironhide. Ironic since it has Ironhide on it.

Armed Hovercraft
Another straight forward upgrade, and probably the most obvious choice for Ironhide. Simply apply and do damage; then, when Ironhide attacks, replace with a better weapon OR swap with yet another Armed Hovercraft, and have a third play of Armed Hovercraft in hand for next turn. 3 damage to every Aerialbot, anyone?

There’s not much else to say here. It’s a simple interaction.

Mining Pick
Mining Pick’s gives Plan 2 , which triggers when you attack (so triggers at the same time as Ironhide’s ability); and for every card you put on your deck, you get +1 to your attack.

You should be able to Plan 2, get the +2 to your attack, AND THEN switch out your Mining Pick for your weapon of choice. Not only would you get the Mining Pick back in hand, but you should essentially be attacking with Ironhide with a Mining Pick+. With Mining Pick->Energon Axe, Ironhide is hitting for Attack 10 plus whatever cards he has planned in.

You could, if you really wanted to, do Mining Pick->Cybetronian Bow, and Plan 2 Matrix of Leadership or Roll-Outs for 12 damage. It’s a thing you can do; maybe not a good one, but it’s a thing.

Anticipation Engine
This upgrade’s a weird one – reveal the top of your deck, if it’s an action, you can play it. Both Ironhide’s ability and Anticipation Engine trigger when Ironhide attacks, so Ironhide can choose to trigger Anticipation Engine first, and then replace it with a weapon that actually does damage.

I don’t know if Anticipation Engine is necessarily good; it might be more useful if we have some way of stacking the deck (having access to Plan somewhere), or have some way of seeing the top card of our deck (Major Shockwave, Wave 1 Skywarp). Alternatively you can build the deck to be action heavy, and play the percentage game when Ironhide attacks.

Side note: an interaction we can’t do is using Mining Pick->Anticipation Engine. This would have been a great interaction, as we could guarantee an action AND have +1/+2 to our attack still.

Battering Ram
I guess we have to talk about the odd sod in this list, Battering Ram. We can’t swap into Battering Ram (because Ironhide is in the wrong mode), but we could potentially get out of Battering Ram if we don’t want to execute it. Using the Aerialbots match up as an example, we could equip Battering Ram to ram an Aerialbot in bot mode to alt mode, and then swap it out when we’re suddenly forced to attack an Aerialbot like Fireflight in alt mode. Tricky, but one way to slow down Aerialbots or other combiners.

General Upgrades
Finally, I think it’s worth bringing up that we don’t need to have a particular mechanical interaction, we may just want to have the option of ‘switching styles’ with Ironhide. For one turn it might be imperative to have a static attack buff or Pierce (Energon Axe), but then another turn we might want to be using Bold (Back-up Beam). Ironhide’s ability would let us switch, without having to send an upgrade to the scrap pile in the process.

We can also simply upgrade our upgrade – for one turn we might be using a Noble’s Blaster, and then later we might upgrade Ironhide to an Energon Axe and use the Noble’s Blaster on another character, or to trade for another Green pip card.

Ironhide now has all the weapons he needs
(art: Sara Pitre-Durocher, origin: Til All Are One #4)

So, in short we have the following interactions:

  • Upgrading Ironhide with an upgrade-scrapping upgrade, then swapping to a more damaging upgrade
  • Upgrading Ironhide with Armed Hovercraft; and then more Armed Hovercraft. More direct damage!
  • Upgrading Ironhide to Mining Pick to utilitize Plan 2 and subsequent damage buff, then swapping to a more damaging upgrade.
  • Upgrading Ironhide with an Anticipation Engine, triggering an action from the reveal, and then swapping to a damaging upgrade.
  • Swapping out a Battering Ram that we no longer want to use.
  • Switching the style of attack for Ironhide (from a static attack buff or Pierce, to Bold, or vice versa).
  • Upgrading an upgrade whilst keeping the original weapon.

This is a lot more interactions than I originally thought I’d find. Some of them are very niche or generic, and aren’t worth building towards; but the first four or possibly five all have some merits.

As such, in part 2, I’ll be looking at each of the first four and trying to execute the interaction in a test environment. I’ll setup a few test decks to enable each interaction, and play them into another deck that the interaction would be able to work against. Then I’ll report back the results, and see how it does.

For Science?

Ironhide is ready for testing
(art: Marcelo Matere and Priscilla Tramontano, origin: Robots in Disguise #1)

Final Thought
As I was looking into this card, I couldn’t help but picture Ironhide from the original Generation 1 cartoon. In the cartoon, Ironhide seemed to have a liquid for everything. One moment he could cover the place with fire, the next with ice, the next with air, etc. The way Ironhide flips between different liquids as if from Batman’s utility belt is quite silly, but a fun gimmick for the character.

I think his bot ability captures that surprisingly well. So regardless of anything else we might find, I think the card is an excellent representation of him. Good work designers, I like it.

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2 thoughts on “Building Ironhide: Liquid Nitrogen, Pt 1

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