First of all, for those catching up, here’s Parts 1 + 2, which go over the basics of Captain Starscream and the aims of the project:
We finished the last part of this project having built a deck that seemed to test well in to a bugs deck; but simply throwing in a General Megatron and a trio of Photon Bombs didn’t automatically make the deck work against Aerialbots. Funny that, who knew you had to put work into fighting Superion?
In the conclusion to this project, I want to take a look at what we can do to change the sideboard variant of this deck. However, I don’t want to restrict ourselves to the original choice of General Megatron (who I don’t own anyhow) – let’s see who else can help ol’ grumpypants take on those wannabe Autobot seekers.
In part 2, I was quite meticulous in keeping track of how much direct damage was being pumped out by my deck, specifically tracking damage created by Starscream‘s card. In this part, I’ll be taking a more casual approach, since I’m trying out lots of different battle cards and even different characters each time. So my assessment of each character is not from aggressive, multi-hour testing sessions… it’s a few tests, getting the general idea, and reporting back.
Afterwards, I’d like to give a summary of where I’m at with Captain Starscream, and a near finished deck that you could try out for yourself… y’know, if you really want to play a Starscream deck.
Shall we look at some buds for Starscream, then?
Candidate #1: Optimus Prime, Battlefield Legend
I mean, we should just start with someone who we know is going to work, right? Let’s start with the best card in the game, and make sure we can actually take on Superion in a setup that we know works. Consider this a calibration test – if this doesn’t work, the problem is the deck tester, not the deck.
I’ve not changed the deck from the last test from the last entry. The deck is below – let’s try it and see if it works.
It’s been a while since I’ve actually played Aerialbots, and I’ve never properly played Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend despite playing against him a ton. I knew the basic idea of the Double Primes set up for Aerialbots – you play Photon Bomb to effectively do 4 damage to your own team for 10 damage to your opponent’s team, and you try and do that as many times as you can, using Optimus Prime‘s alt mode ability to retrieve the Photon Bomb back into your hand. In the meantime you’re taking Pierce damage… but it doesn’t matter, because you’ll do more direct damage to the Aerialbots. It’s a race you should be able to win.
… and yeah, it absolutely wasted the Aerialbots; I think in my first test I got to play 3 Photon Bombs and an Armed Hovercraft. Aerialbots never got to the state where they could even consider combining. It NEVER lost. I’ve seen plenty of builds like this that use Cornered but I don’t think it was necessary, this list absolutely annihilated the Aerialbots within four turns every time without problem.
So… Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, in the sideboard, job done, nice quick article, see you for the next one.
Until next time.
… okay, wait, come back, no. That’s not how we do things here at Flip Flip Bang Bang.
Yes, obviously this would work as a sideboard, but:
- If you’re going to have Optimus Prime in the sideboard, why front and have Starscream in your maindeck? Why not just play 3-wide Optimus Prime, and have Ultra Magnus in your sideboard? It would be better, don’t feel bad about playing a competitive build.
- Optimus Prime and Starscream is basically just Optimus Prime and Nemesis Prime, but with easier access to Armed Hovercraft… and that’s an idea that has already been thoroughly explored. Let’s not just repeat other people’s well established work, at least not deliberately.
Rather than simply stick with Optimus Prime – which is still a workable solution – let’s look at who else we can play. Why win against Superion with arguably the best character card in the game, when you can win against Superion with characters that’s aren’t?
Let’s see if we can take this general idea… and see if we can’t apply it to some other characters. How about another seeker, for example?
Candidate #2: Skywarp, Teleporting Seeker
Possibly not the most obvious choice but certainly a very thematic one would be Skywarp from Wave 2. Stat-wise he is a step down from Optimus Prime, and he lacks his ability to play actions from his attack flip, but he can still pull blank cards from the scrap – so the Photon Bomb strategy is still perfectly viable with Skywarp.
The changes I’ve made to the deck are to swap out the Security Consoles for Field Communicators, and Underhanded Tactics for Leaps of Faith. I also experimented with Cornered in place of Sparring Gears (Tough is pretty pointless when it’s a Direct Damage vs Pierce race).
I’m hoping the Field Communicator and Leap of Faith cards will allow me to play additional Strafing Run / Photon Bomb / Armed Hovercraft / Squish them like Bugs cards throughout the game. Meanwhile, I’m hoping Cornered gives me some leeway if I don’t manage to see those sweeping direct damage cards early enough.
The setup isn’t a complete wash by any means, it still wins some of the time. It mostly comes down to whether the Pierce cards are getting played on the Aerialbots enough for them to take down a seeker.
Honestly I don’t think the Cornered cards are necessary – either you take out the Aerialbots quickly enough to win, or they’ve Pierced you down before you can gain a decent advantage. That’s a drawback with Skywarp over Optimus Prime – Skywarp is vulnerable to Noble’s Blasters, which are much easier to get on the field than Laser Cutlasses or Energon Axes.
Whilst Skywarp can bring Photon Bombs from the scrap to the hand, the simple fact that Optimus Prime can play the sweeping direct damage actions cards on his attacks means it’s managing to achieve more. Leap of Faith and Field Communicator just aren’t making up the difference, it’s not even close.
This being said, I did like seeing the two seeker jets on the table together; and they can still win against Aerialbots, the tools are there. They just aren’t especially reliable.
Candidate #3: General Megatron (again)
So back to this guy, eh? Hey, someone nearly took him to the Top 8 at the UK Energon Open, he has to be the new forthcoming meta, right?
So despite my misgivings, I’m keeping the Cornered cards for now, and replacing the Leap of Faith cards with Attack Drones (I can’t keep the Leap of Faith cards anyhow, since that would result in a 28 star deck). Field Communicator is now useless, so we’ll bring back the Security Consoles.
We can’t just get Photon Bomb into hand with General Megatron, so this time we’re looking to add further sweeping direct damage by trying to get the Attack Drones on Megatron. Generally speaking, the General wants all upgrades as early as possible so we can move him into bot mode and start delivering his own sweeping direct damage. That’s where Cornered comes in – we’ll be using Cornered to give us extra turns for Megatron to do his thing before Superion shows up. He can even flip to tank mode once the Aerialbots are down to one man and make one last big direct damage strike.
Still not working.
So there’s a few problems with my deck – I didn’t have any armour, so unless I got at least two Attack Drones on Megatron, I couldn’t trigger his ability. Armour is essentially useless on Megatron in this matchup (unless it’s Point Defense System, which isn’t a bad idea at all), but if we want to trigger his ability we might need it. The main problem though is a little Aerialbot named Air Raid – with a Noble’s Blaster on him, he can just snipe off upgrades from Megatron before he can use his ability. I managed to get this to happen every time. I can try and kill Air Raid, but more often than not Fireflight gets in the way. The plan is a dud.
So with that in mind… why bother with Megatron? He can still do some direct damage by flipping to his alt mode, and that’s a pretty good effect (and unlike Starscream, he can do this even when a target has an upgrade). I can’t help but feel he’s a poor choice, though – even without bringing Optimus Prime into consideration, I feel like someone like Ultra Magnus can achieve everything far better than Megatron, whilst being immune to the Pierce from Noble’s Blaster AND pulling away those attacks from Starscream with his natural Brave.
… I mean, I didn’t originally intend to, but shall we just try out Ultra Magnus?
Candidate #3.5: Ultra Magnus
Nearly the same build as Megatron, but removed the Attack Drones; we might as well replace them with Point-Defense Systems and a Leap of Faith.
Nope, still not there. A lot of near misses, maybe about 4 points of health left before Ultra Magnus and Starscream finally crumbled.
Like before, playing Cornered is fine but eventually the Aerialbots can just Pierce you down, even if you’re immune to the Pierce from Noble’s Blaster; and smart playing of Aerialbots let’s you avoid the Brave from Ultra Magnus so you can keep chipping at Starscream. The low defense of Ultra Magnus starts becoming noticeable as well; there’s a lot of health here, and the Blue does mitigate a lot of the Aerialbot’s attacks, but an Air Raid swinging at six is still enough to deal some damage and remove an upgrade.
Okay. One more. I want to try something.
Candidate #4: Windblade
This is what it’s all leading up to. The dynamic duo. The two red jets, one Autobot and one Decepticon, flying into a bunch of other jets.
I’ve taken out Point-Defense System and put back in Field Communicator, so this deck is quite similar to the Skywarp deck from earlier on.
I think it’s about 50/50. Of all these candidates, she’s the one that seemed to works the best (not including Optimus Prime). She does better than Skywarp, and much better than Megatron and Ultra Magnus.
She’s a specialist like Skywarp, but she has universally better stats and she has protection from Noble’s Blaster. She’s got less health than Ultra Magnus but she’s also not a magnet for damage, and that one point of defense really does matter to these big 12-star characters.
Also… I don’t need to worry so much about Cornered. So long as I’ve got Windblade mostly damage free and I’ve put out enough damage, I can just let Superion form and Windblade can finally – FINALLY – make use of that bot mode ability (and in testing, it *nearly* came up – the alt mode ability never came up, naturally). Cornered is still useful, but it’s no longer a death sentence if Superion does form, so long as Windblade isn’t too banged up by that point.
It’s still a tough matchup, though. There’s no doubt that if you wanted a guaranteed win, Windblade is absolutely not your option. There’s probably some tweaks you could make to this deck to improve it’s odds if you really wanted to see a Windscream deck – maybe some big Pierce cards, for example. Also, let’s face it, Superion deck tech is constantly evolving and decks now will no doubt find ways to defend themselves from older plans – a more evolved deck is likely to find solutions and outs for recurring strategies, such as Photon Bomb.
This, however, is as far as I’m going to go with this deck development though. Partly because I don’t know anyone in my local area who still plays Superion, possibly because everyone has a Superion sideboard these days. But also… test after test into Superion is tiring as hell.
I think we can consider this the end.
Flamewar Veteran Decepticon
Bombshell Insecticon Mind-Controller
Leap into Battle x 3
Marksmanship x 3
Security Checkpoint x 2
Smelt x 3
Squish them like Bugs x 3
Strafing Run x 3
Underhanded Tactics x 3
Armed Hovercraft x 3
Drill Arms x 3
Handheld Blaster x3
Scoundrel’s Blaster x 3
Sparring Gear x 2
Field Communicator x 3
Security Console x 3
Blue = 31
Orange = 5
White = 6
Green = 8
Blank = 3
Windblade Combiner Hunter
Photon Bomb x 3, Leap of Faith x 1, Cornered x 3, Bashing Shield x 2, Enforcement Batons x 1
Given more time, I’d probably want to look at the sideboard options in a little more detail, and try this out into much more Orange aggro decks. So whilst this is the ‘finished’ deck, in truth I think A LOT more work could be done. I don’t think I’ll be progressing this one any further myself, though – however, if you happen to take this deck as a base to make something else, I’d love to hear about it.
In the end, what did I get out of this project, and how do I feel about Starscream?
Let’s get the easy part out of the way and talk about Starscream himself. I started this thinking about other 12 star characters we could compare Starscream to that might fit similar roles – Ultra Magnus, Nemesis Prime, Ion Storm, etc. Honestly I think if your lineup isn’t too flip intensive, Starscream is actually a really good choice. His stats are great, Ranged is always an excellent trait to have and in most cases better than Melee, and his abilities are actually really fun to work with. If you look at some of the test data from the last post about Starscream, my regular flipping of Starscream combined with upgrade removal was regularly doing between 3-5 damage per game. I think that makes up for having one less attack than Nemesis or Ion Storm; and yes, those characters bring other things to the table too; it ultimately depends what you need from the role and who you’re bringing with him.
Starscream by no means is going to be an unstoppable juggernaut, but he definitely can be good in the right team and matchup.
That brings me to what I got out of this project. I wanted to build into a very specific matchup I figured would work out (this is not how I’ve built decks before, at least not deliberately)… and, well, it did. I tried the Starscream deck out against a bugs deck being played by someone else, which was very different from my own bugs deck, and Starscream worked perfectly well. I did have some advantage – I knew how bugs worked, but he didn’t really know how to deal with Starscream. Perhaps one could push a bugs deck into working out how to do that particular match up, too?
However… the deck didn’t perform anywhere near as well into other decks. I played into a 4-wide cars deck and whilst it didn’t get crushed, I definitely lost. I also played it into a 3-wide Blue Megatron Living Weapon deck and … well … let’s just say there were scenes from the latest season of Cyberverse that were re-created on the tabletop. Starscream suffered, is what I’m saying.
I don’t feel confident in saying there’s a configuration of this Starscream build that could outclass a well made and reliable three-wide Blue build, I just don’t think it has the Pierce nor the raw damage output – the likes of Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, Major Shockwave, Nemesis Prime and, yes, even Megatron Living Weapon would outshine him. I think even regular Shockwave from Wave 1 would have an easy time of him.
Against Superion, honestly it was never about Starscream. Starscream played a role in all those tests but it very much relied on who I was pairing him with. If I had been changing who Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend was paired with in that deck, I don’t think it’d make more of a difference.
The project has been interesting and enlightening, and I did feel like I understood the archetypes of the game a little better having worked on these particular matches… but I am absolutely ready to move on from Starscream, and don’t plan to devote much more words to him in future.
So with that, it’s goodbye to Captain Starscream, and on to the next one.
Next week, the boss of the Decepticons himself.
Until next time.
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