At the end of the first post on Ironhide, I tried to list out a bunch of interactions I felt could be made with Ironhide‘s bot mode ability. To summarise, I felt there were two parts to Ironhide‘s ability – getting back a card that had fulfilled it’s usefulness, and swapping in a new card as a bonus.

There were four interactions I was particularly interested in:

  • Upgrading Ironhide with an upgrade-scrapping upgrade (Drill Arms or Enforcement Batons), then swapping to a more damaging upgrade
  • Upgrading Ironhide with Armed Hovercraft; and then more Armed Hovercraft. More direct damage!
  • Upgrading Ironhide with an Anticipation Engine, triggering an action from the reveal, and then swapping to a damaging upgrade.
  • Upgrading Ironhide to Mining Pick to utilitize Plan 2 and subsequent damage buff, then swapping to a more damaging upgrade.

I wanted to try and test out all four of these interactions; setup a quick deck that would be centered on trying to get the interactions to happen as quickly and easily as possible, and play them into a deck that would require those interactions.

For my ‘opponent deck’, I chose my Runabout/Runamuck/Flamewar deck. This is a deck I’ve been using to test decks into ‘average’ Blue decks, as opposed to the grueling, despiriting horror that is my Superion deck. I’m not looking to try and create something ‘good’ just yet; I just want to try and see the interactions in play.

What a mess. Let’s get started?

The Team
My requirement for the test deck was that it had to run in Blue (because Orange would die quite quickly), and it would need to have some way of helping me get weapons into my hand. This meant that Triggerhappy was a sure thing – there are other characters that can pull weapons from the scrap, but Triggerhappy is the cheapest option for this, and his Attack 2 / Pierce 4 on bot mode side was likely to be a useful asset. There were a few options for a third teammate, but I settled on Dreadwind – aside from the fact I never get to play Dreadwind, he has strong defensive stats, Pierce 2 in alt mode and never needs to flip.

My sequencing would be as follows:
Turn 1: Flip Triggerhappy, attack with Dreadwind.
Turn 2: Flip Ironhide, attack with Triggerhappy.
Turn 3: Flip Triggerhappy, recall weapon from scrap, attack with Ironhide.

Obviously this would have to change on the fly if the weapon being tested wasn’t in my scrap pile, or I didn’t have the second weapon either already in play or in hand, but this was the general sequencing.

Each test would involve me switching out the deck a little, and then mock-playing Ironhide into the Decepticon car team.

So without further ado, here’s how everything went…

Test 1.

Test #1 – Upgrade Removal Weapons
My first test was to try and utilize Drill Arms and Enforcement Batons, then replace them with either Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe for better damage / Pierce 2. Decepticon Cars were good for this test because they had lots of armours and Pierce weapons that would need to be removed else they’d take very little damage from Ironhide and deal lots of Pierce in return.

The interaction seemed to work quite well – Ironhide could use a Drill Arms first, then replace it with a Noble’s Blaster. I’d still have a Drill Arms in hand afterwards – Ironhide essentially got to use a Drill Arms for free.

I found other neat combos with Ironhide and Triggerhappy too. In one turn I used Drill Arms then Noble’s Blaster; then, next turn, Ironhide would use the Drill Arms again (sending the Noble’s Blaster to scrap), Triggerhappy would flip to alt mode and retrieve the Noble’s Blaster, and basically throw it back to the Captain.

It didn’t seem to affect the cars too much, as they never seemed to not have an armour in hand (I think I had about 7-8 in the deck); but they did have to continually play armours, and not weapons. If I felt threatened by their weapons, I could just play Enforcement Batons instead.

A major thing of note was that I never had the cars use Security Checkpoint, despite it being an optimal card to use several times. Whilst I did this so I could still see if the interaction worked, I think in a real game Ironhide would see his hand crashed a lot against Blue decks, since upgrades are part of his playstyle and thus an easy target for Security Checkpoint.

Ironhide‘s alt mode felt very effective. In this matchup, I was not taking any direct damage from the boys, but there was a point where Ironhide was one damage from death. I flipped him to alt mode and had him be the last to attack that round of turns. He felt safe and secure, and invulnerable to imaginary Zaps and Plasma Bursts. It felt good.

One thing I did feel though during all these tests is that the Drill Arms weren’t especially useful in this deck and in this matchup, since I was running so much Pierce. If Point-Defense System became more of a thing, the Drill Arms interaction would still be very useful to a Pierce-heavy deck.

I also – unintentionally – managed to create a team of all Ranged. So setting up for Test 2 was pretty straight forward.

Verdict: The interaction felt like free upgrade removal, and was quite easy to set up. With Triggerhappy, I felt I almost always could play two weapons with Ironhide, one to kill an upgrade, one for actual damage.

Test 2

Test #2 – Armed Hovercraft
The second test didn’t change the deck too much – I ditched the Scoundrel’s Blasters, one Drill Arms and the Calculated Strikes, and replaced them with Marksmanships and Armed Hovercrafts. I then played into the same Decepticon cars deck.

Mostly the goal was to get a chain of Armed Hovercrafts working, as many as possible. It didn’t really deliver as much as I thought it could – I might have gotten two Armed Hovercraft plays throughout the entire test, which was disappointing. It didn’t seem like Armed Hovercraft was in my hand enough; perhaps because in the last test I was playing with both Drill Arms and Enforcement Batons instead of just one of the two, the interaction just didn’t happen nearly as much.

I tried playing this setup into Aerialbots as well; Superion had about 24 damage on him before I decided that there was no way Ironhide could get Superion to 30, let alone 39, and the cards weren’t in my hand to play with the interaction anymore, so I called the test done and moved on.

Verdict: Might feel better if there were more direct damage weapons in the game, as it stood it seemed too dependent on getting more than one Armed Hovercraft in hand, and getting a chain of Armed Hovercrafts working didn’t happen.

Test 3

Test #3 – Anticipation Engine
To get this interaction I’d need to shift the upgrade/action balance a little bit. I slotted in the three Anticipation Engines, and then had to remove various upgrades to get to 16 upgrades total. Then I re-added the Calculated Strikes I removed from the last test. Finally, I added one solitary Press the Advantage.

I’m happy to say I was able to get the interaction – I played The Bigger They Are on Ironhide, then an Anticipation Engine, with an Armed Hovercraft in my hand for the swap thanks to Triggerhappy. Then I revealed the card on the top of the deck – it was my one copy of Press the Advantage. It was something of an overkill shot, as Ironhide‘s target could only take about 4 damage, but it was fun to see nonetheless. It would have hit for 10 damage, plus the Armed Hovercraft Direct Damage, plus the -2 to Runabout‘s defense. Pretty sweet.

That, however, was about the sum of the interaction in the test. I got to see Anticipation Engine at work on Dreadwind a few times, but honestly it felt more like a bit of fun than something that could exist in a reliable, working deck.

Finally – I found building around this frustrating. In order to stack the odds in favour of Anticipation Engine working, I had to drop a lot of upgrades including weapons, which are the very things I’m trying to use with Ironhide! Also, whilst in the previous tests Ironhide was able to defeat the cars, this time round it was a close defeat for Ironhide. I think Anticipation Engine, whilst having an interesting interaction with Ironhide, is at odds with his ability as well.

Verdict: It was kind of cute, and a fun thing to do, but that was it. I wouldn’t try building around it.

Test 4

Test #4 – Mining Pick
Finally I wanted to try out Mining Pick. I removed the actions and Anticipation Engines from the last test, and returned the removed upgrades. I also removed an Escape Route, Security Console and Marksmanship, and added the three Mining Picks. My balance was now 22 upgrades / 18 actions. I wanted a little bit of lean towards upgrades so I could use Treasure Hunt for some card draw; though I hardly ever saw Treasure Hunt in any of my tests.

In the test, I managed to get Mining Pick and Noble’s Blaster into my hand, and I finally saw a Treasure Hunt which retrieved a bunch of upgrades to boost my hand.

I managed to get the following play with Mining Pick: Leap into Battle on Ironhide, Mining Pick on Ironhide, attack with Ironhide and Plan 2 (an Escape Route and Enforcement Batons, so one White and one Orange pip), then swapped the Mining Pick with the Noble’s Blaster. The total damage was 13; enough to nearly kill an undamaged Flamewar in one hit (which was easily cleaned up with an Armed Hovercraft the next turn).

The interaction felt a bit like trying a lot for just a couple of extra damage, but at the same time when playing Blue, two damage can mean an awful lot, and sometimes I was able to Plan a White or Orange card for that extra bit of controlled flip damage. I also couldn’t help but think to myself that I always had a Mining Pick in my hand due to Ironhide‘s ability; a Mining Pick and Plan 1 on Triggerhappy is Pierce 4 guaranteed after all.

Obviously Mining Pick might be better suited for a build that is using double-Orange cards or just more Orange cards in general; or a deck that has stronger card draw than just Treasure Hunt. It did, however, seem to work quite well here.

Verdict: Surprisingly good.

Ironhide pre-judging the final build.
Thanks Ironhide.
(art: Sara Pitre-Durocher, origin: Til All Are One #2)

Final Test Build
Characters:
Captain Ironhide
Dreadwind
Raider Triggerhappy

Actions:
Escape Route x 2
Leap into Battle x 3
Marksmanship x 2
Security Checkpoint x 3
The Bigger They Are x 3
Treasure Hunt x 3
Vaporize x 2

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Armed Hovercraft x 3
Drill Arms x 2
Energon Axe x 3
Enforcement Batons x 1
Handheld Blaster x 3
Mining Pick x 3
Noble’s Blaster x 2
Scoundrel’s Blaster x 1

Armour:
Sparring Gear x 2

Utilities:
Security Console x 2

Conclusions
I managed to see each of the four interactions in play, with varying results. Anticipation Engine is a no-go. There’s simply too much variance, and too much clash between Anticipation Engine‘s wanting an action-heavy deck and Ironhide‘s requirement for an upgrade-heavy deck. So unless you have some way of using Plan or can see the top card of your deck, it’s just not worth using for Ironhide.

I also wasn’t really sold on the Armed Hovercraft play; it seemed okay but nothing especially groundbreaking.

However the other two worked quite well. The Drill Arms / Enforcement Batons play worked great, I felt like I was able to dice up enemy upgrades with impunity. The Mining Pick play also let me hit for a real high amount, even in a Blue deck with only a few Orange cards.

The main positive feeling I had from using Ironhide‘s bot mode ability though was always seeing weapons return to my hand. Being able to repeat all of these cards is really useful and separates Ironhide from other characters. I think that’s the main take away from all these tests; the actual interactions themselves are fine, but it’s the fact you are able to play two weapons for the price of one that makes Ironhide shine a little brighter than I thought he would. It’s hardly in the same league, but it isn’t that far from characters who can cheat a second action somehow (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Cindersaur, Alpha Trion, etc.) Like those characters, new weapons might see what we can do with this ability improve.

What’s Next?
Next, I’d like to take this deck and refine it, and take a better look at what we can partner Ironhide with. I also want to compare Ironhide with other 9 star characters to gauge his actual worth; in particular, how does he compare to an omnipresent 9 star character like Wheeljack.

Oh, but before then, I get to play Ironhide in the wilds of Brighton. We’ll see how that goes, eh?

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