Y’alright there, shall we talk about cards?

I don’t have especially much to talk about in this week’s Weekend Casual. Normally with these I’ll have a deck I made on the fly and tried out; just something to include at the end so it’s not entirely just me waffling on about my weekend. However, over the course of about two weekends and an evening session last Thursday, I played about three decks – all of which have been featured previously in the blog. So there goes that plan.

I still need to talk about how Ratchet has been playing out though, and I’ve had a few games in with Ratchet and it’s proven to be an interesting gaming experience. We’re also into Energon Trial season; as I’m writing this, the tournament in Bournemouth is about to start and I know a few of you reading this took part, and next weekend is Brighton which I’ll be participating in. So in this week’s Weekend Casual, rather than focusing on a low level casual deck, I want to first talk about my experiences with Ratchet, and then move on to my general thoughts on the competitive scene and how I’m personally feeling about it.

That Deck, if we had forgotten it.

Ratchet
So if you recall from last week’s blog, I made a somewhat silly list that had Ratchet, Chromia and Captain Wheeljack, and the whole purpose of the deck was to get the deck in hand, huge amounts of upgrades in play, use Salvage for Parts to repair for massive amounts of damage and then let Ratchet hit for a huge amount of damage in response. The deck was totally untested when I published it, but it was published with the promise that I’d go out and play it over the week and I’d report back on how it went.

If you need a refresher on the deck and how it works, you should read the post here.

Read it? We good? Good.

It mostly works. Mostly. No cards were ever changed, and I used no cards from the sideboard.

There were a few games where the important cards in the deck showed up at the worst times. I had a game where Equipment Enthusiast didn’t get flipped until the last few cards in the deck, and Chromia wasn’t even in the right mode to flip and grab them. After that, there was a deck shuffle and Salvage for Parts was the first card in the scrap. That’s basically a dead game for the deck right there.

The nearest to a competitive deck it played against was a Metroplex deck that was being piloted by Brighton regular Joe, who had only just assembled it. Ratchet couldn’t do anything into Metroplex at all. The deck did mildly trigger, and I got to see Ratchet with a +6 Attack buff, but that’s about as close to a victory as I got in either of the games we played. So that’s a no to the deck being the new meta, sorry guys.

Ahhhh, Barroom TFTCG!

I also got some games in with Ratchet at TFNation, playing against Jon Primus who was running a very different specialist deck with Captain Wheeljack, Sergeant Skywarp and Pteraxadon. Memory is somewhat hazy on the games – we both were hitting the lagers a fair bit – but I do seem to recall the deck working rather well and getting some attack buffs in the +6 to +8 range.

But perhaps the most vivid recollection of a match using Ratchet was the one I played on Saturday against Brighton regular Alex. Alex is a very casual player, but he had cooked up an aggro deck with General Prime, Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant and Topshot. There wasn’t too much punch in the deck – I’d say about 50% of the deck were orange cards, rest were White, Black or pipless. The characters were all powerful in their own rights, but this was a casual-level deck for a bit of fun on a Saturday afternoon.

We played one game. My deck was starting to get into the fully-powered stage a few turns in; but unfortunately I lost Ratchet quite early on, so I was basically sitting there with the deck in my hand, and no Ratchet to buff.

But it turns out that boosting Ratchet is only half the benefit. Below is a board state where I got to trigger for the first time in the game:

Living the dream. Sorta.

That’s Wheeljack with 7 damage and a complete set of Extra Padding and Attack Drones, and opponents with four upgrades between them, both damaged. That’s a total repair of 10; if Ratchet were still alive, he’d be hitting for a whopping 13+ and could have taken out General Prime easily, leaving a fatally wounded Bumblebee. But as it stood, Wheeljack still went from somewhat likely to die next turn, to nearly fully recovered, and Bumblebee fell shortly after. That’s kind of huge.

This wasn’t the only time this happened – pretty much every turn I’d start by combo-playing upgrades on the table, cheating in Equipment Enthusiast or Brainstorm somehow, and then eventually build towards the Salvage for Parts play. I was regularly able to repair for 4-5 damage every other turn. As it turned out I could keep Chromia and Wheeljack alive long enough to whittle down his team, eventually somehow winning a duel between Chromia and General Prime.

My conclusion with the deck is that I rather enjoyed it, but it definitely needs to be played against the right opponent. Alex wasn’t really the right opponent, and was visibly frustrated at turns that played 10+ cards instead of just two – that’s my bad. A casual player, or a newbie player, won’t appreciate how strange the deck is and will be either confused or bored or both. A competitive player will just jump all over it. For those players that like to see what can be done with the game engine though, it is very fun. If anything, what I’ve been able to see with this deck is how powerful repair could be if it had been allowed to be more than 1 or 2 damage here and there. A deck that could repair easily for more than that would cause casual games to fall into stalemate.

So Ratchet – it was cool to finally try out this concept, and see it not only doing what I intended it to do, but see the mechanics benefit me in ways I had overlooked. That’s probably about as much as I’ll ever play him though, until my next stupid idea comes along.

Alex tells me how he feels.

UK Energon Open Season
I don’t think I really articulated my thoughts on the UK Energon Open and its associated trials on the blog, so given that the summary of Ratchet was a bit short, I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk about it today, as well as talk about how I’m feeling about the game as a whole and my own place within it.

There’s many reasons to be into a ‘competitive game’ as a hobby. There are obviously people who want to play this game to win, to practice a good game, to become skilled in it, and then win tournaments and hopefully one day win major tournaments with significant prizes. This is a perfectly reasonable and expected reason to be into a game like TransformersTCG, and if this is your reason, that’s excellent.

It’s not my reason though; I definitely didn’t buy into the game originally to play competitively (it was always intended as a bit of fun on the weekend for me). During the end of Wave 1 and maybe some of Wave 2 I was arguably in a competitive mindset, but as the game has progressed and especially after Organised Play got announced, I found this kind of approach detrimental to my own enjoyment of the game.

I don’t find myself having fun if I stress myself out about trying to win; I don’t enjoy ‘chasing’ the ultimate Tier 1 list, I don’t enjoy making myself feel under pressure in a game that I’m playing for fun. Truth be told, on the way home from both of the local tournaments I won, I found myself questioning plays I did or undermining my own victories by pointing out errors my opponents made that somehow gave me the victory. This is something I don’t do when I just place (for example: I didn’t feel like I earned first place with Alpha Trion, but felt great about placing second with Ironhide). Winning isn’t quite the great reward I’d always hoped it would be – though the free pizza is both great and tasty.

With this in mind, when it comes to the subject of the UK Energon Open , I can’t say I’m really thinking of it in terms of a competitive event. My mind isn’t on what deck will win, or what is the best possible deck that I could take. My mind is on whether or not I have a fun experience; and I’ll feel like I’ll have a fun experience if I ignore ‘the meta’, take a deck that I’ve enjoyed playing, and just show up and have some fun playing cards. I’m a reasonably good player, I stand to win a few games regardless of what I play, but it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t make Top 8 or Top 32 or even just lose every single one of my games because everyone showed up with some magical ‘I win’ deck.

For me, the UK Energon Open is an opportunity to see the UK TransformersTCG scene as a whole. It’ll be to say I was there, to see and speak to people I’ve only known online up until now, to hang out with my friends from Brighton who I see every week, to see new friends who I’ve met playing in Southampton or TFNation, to just soak in the love we all have for this game.

Finally, it’ll be a massively poor showing if I showed up at the Energon Open with the latest cool aggro deck, instead of playing one of the decks I’ve publicly worked on for Flip Flip Bang Bang. What’s the greater win, making the Top 8 with a Lionizer or General Prime list, or for me to just show up with a list that nobody else plays and winning some games regardless?

Transformers TCG is also popular on Velocitron

I think TransformersTCG is a broad game and has room for a lot of different types of players, and all those players still have a place in an event like the Energon Open. You have your competitive players who are primarily interested in playing to win; casual players who primarily want to just sit and have fun and aren’t likely to get in deep with the game; and then people like myself who are more interested in finding new things in the game and seeing what can be done with the game. Loving a game doesn’t necessarily mean being the best at it, we all come at it from different angles.

Anyhow, those are my excuses, you’ll still be reading this blog when I come dead last at the UK Energon Open, right? Right??

More details about the UK Energon Open in London UK, September 14th at Dark Sphere Megastore here.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

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