Megatron. Living. Weapon.

deep breath

I’m not sure there is any card in the game to date that has had so much potential, yet regularly falls flat. It was one of only two cards in the original set that costed 13 stars and the other was Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, a character that came to pretty much define the second half of the meta in the game’s opening wave and has been a benchmark for the game ever since. Megatron Living Weapon never matched up to that suggested promise – if the development team were to be accused of preferring Autobots over Decepticons, Megatron Living Weapon would be the first case raised.

That being said, was Megatron Living Weapon expected to do much better in Wave 1? There’s always been the suspicion that Megatron Living Weapon was expected to do a lot better than he actually did. I mean, there had to be some reason why they costed him like that, right? Was there an expectation that not only would Megatron be good, but he’d be outstanding?

As decided by a public poll on the main Transformers Trading Card Game facebook group, I’m going to spend a few weeks looking at Megatron Living Weapon in detail and see if I can’t find something new in the old warhorse. Certainly better players than I have tried and failed; and hell, I’ve tried and failed myself many a time, but hopefully in going back to this character, studying him and trying to make him work we’ll learn a bit more about the game.

“Decepticons, we shall invade this world and plunder its resources! Also, we shall enjoy the lovely purple flowers!”

Goal
Last project I set myself a specific goal – I identified a matchup that I thought was practical to build into (a three-wide Blue Captain Starcream into a four-wide Orange Bugs), and used that as an end point for the project. I want to do the same this time, but I want something more challenging. So for this project, my aim is to build a list that will be able to take on an Origins 3-wide Prime list. This isn’t a particularly modern deck, but a tried and tested one and one that I think is thematically similar to a Megatron Living Weapon deck. I want to state very clearly that I do not expect to come up with anything that can reliably win in this match up – but the fun is in the trying, the failing, and trying again.

If I somehow manage to make a list that I feel can confidently deal with 3-wide Prime, then I should look at other opponents for the list as a part 3. Otherwise, we’ll probably move on.

For the first part of this project, I’m going to look at ideas for things we can do with Megatron; kind of like a brainstorming session. Normally I view these projects as opportunities to talk about specific subjects or go over particular types of cards, but for this one it will mostly be me throwing ideas on the table. I want to articulate how I want to go about Megatron Living Weapon and see if there’s something that feels a bit different that hasn’t been tried before. If you feel like I’ve missed anything out, you should absolutely let me know!

Oh man, that blue background gives me such nostalgia.

Basics
Megatron is a 13 star character with alt mode stats of 5 / 14 / 2 and bot mode stats of 7 / 14 / 2. Both of these stat arrays are short of comparable wave-mate Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend. When flipping to his alt mode, Megatron can pull a weapon from his scrap, and whilst in bot mode, Megatron can put a weapon into any of his upgrade slots – which is different from having multiple weapon slots like Predaking.

Megatron is a tank (no matter how much G1 purists want to tell us he is a gun) and so could potentially have access to Crushing Treads, which I think would be unnecessary, and Hunker Down, which would be very useful if we could encourage it into our hand. Two-Pronged Attack could be a thing, too.

As a Decepticon, he is vulnerable to Press the Advantage, and can’t use it himself. Sucks to be him.

Aggro vs Control
Typically, Megatron Living Weapon is played as a Blue deck – with an Attack 7 and the ability to stack weapons, it’s not difficult for Megatron to have a high damage output that can take on just about anything. It’s also really easy for him to stack Pierce too; Fusion Cannon of Megatron gives him Pierce 3 for each gun and it’s perfectly easy to get all three cannons on him.

Whilst I’ve seen him being played in Orange (in fact, I saw someone playing a Megatron / Lionizer build at the UK Energon Open), I struggle to feel like it’s the best use of the character. In Orange, Megatron Living Weapon is very vulnerable to being one-shotted by a good hit from someone like Wave 1 Wheeljack, or nearly anyone with a Press the Advantage.

As such, we’ll be aiming for a Blue build here…. again. I’ll build an Orange or Black deck one of these days, I swear.

Potential Formations
As a 13 star character, the range of team formations we can use is pretty low. They’d be:

13-12
13-8-4
13-7-5
13-6-6
13-4-4-4

That’s all our options – not exactly a lot, is it?

For the moment, I think a 3-wide list is the way to go with Megatron Living Weapon. I’m extremely tempted to try him out with Ultra Magnus (the ‘we have to suffer Rodimus‘ list), but I think for the moment we’ll stick to 3-wide.

“More Weapons! I must feel the play pattern flowing through me!”

Weapons and Megatron
So a good thing about doing Megatron at this point is that I’ve already done Captain Ironhide, another character that has a large focus on weapons. I recommend going back and reading the first part of that project since it covers a lot of ground we need for this project:

Ironhide Part 1

Captain Ironhide and Megatron Living Weapon have a key similarity in that they both can make use of two (or more) weapon upgrade cards at the same time, just in different ways.

For Ironhide, you are essentially playing a weapon upgrade’s effect ‘for free’, since you’re swapping a weapon out of your hand and another back into your hand, meaning you still have the same number of weapons in hand and on your character as when you started, and hopefully you’ve managed to trigger an effect from doing so. With Megatron you’re not doing this for free, but you don’t need to re-play an existing weapon either – so you can put an Energon Axe on Megatron first, and then later put on an Armed Hovercraft without losing the +3 Attack and Pierce 2 from the Energon Axe; in fact, you’re adding an extra +1 Attack, the weapons are stacking.

Another advantage Megatron has over Ironhide is that Ironhide had some built in restrictions to his swap ability – most notably he couldn’t swap in an Anticipation Engine. This meant a player could not attack with a Mining Pick, use the Plan to stack an action, and then swap in the Anticipation Engine. Megatron can potentially use both of these weapons at the same time; or potentially use other weapons that have Plan (such as Lionizer). Whether I actually want to use this interaction though is another question, but it’s an option nonetheless.

The four big weapons for Megatron though are probably the following: Grenade Launcher, Energon Axe, Scoundrel’s Blaster and Fusion Cannon of Megatron. These all represent various levels of good Attack and Pierce bonuses, and are obvious choices for this deck regardless of what direction we want to go in.

We shouldn’t just think about stacking weapons though – I think this is the pitfall most of us have fallen into; just because Megatron can stack weapons, doesn’t mean we should do this at the expense of armour or utilities. We have to think of those slots as optionally allowing weapons, and still use them for armour and utilities.

Although he can’t wield them, a deck like this should consider Laser Cutlasses for the supporting characters.

“Now, which of you to pick? You all look so alike…”

Battlemasters
When Wave 3 released, the idea of combining Megatron Living Weapon with Battlemasters was quite in vogue, especially a two-battlemaster wielding Megatron. In practice the double-wielding ideas kind of sputtered out very early on – it was a nice novelty, but perhaps not much more than that.

However, we should still try out some battlemasters, as they fit well with Megatron and cards like Callous Leadership will let us move damage away from Megatron on to the Battlemaster, making it easier for us to get the battlemaster in hand.

There’s three battlemasters that might have potential:

Aimless
(decent numbers, good at absorbing damage, some chance of direct damage)

Firedrive
(card draw, can potentially boost Megatron’s damage to a very high amount if we have other draw abilities)

Nightstick
(some much needed additional defense, slim chance of hand disruption if we run Black)

I could also consider Pteraxadon if I just want a flat +3 Attack for 6 stars, or Blowpipe / Smashdown if I feel there’s enough variety in colour in my list and I only have 5 stars for a battlemaster. Lionizer is simply the wrong style for the type of deck I want to make.

Of these, I think Firedrive is probably the best pick. Some early card advantage is rather helpful and he is the biggest hitter of the bunch.

Aimless has always felt a bit disappointing to me. However, as my friend Computron has pointed out (yes I’m friends with a giant gestalt robot), when combined with a very low amount of Bold, Aimless has a very good chance of triggering. With the Bold 1 from a lowly Handheld Blaster, Aimless has a 75% chance of triggering. Computron did the math. Cheers Computron.

If I had a 6 star companion for Megatron that I desperately wanted over one of the obvious 5 star picks, then I guess Nightstick would be on the table too if only for the +1 DEF, but for now I’m thinking of this deck as being a Megatron / Firedrive deck.

(Fun fact: the original sketch of the cover illustration had Megatron wielding Firebolt, the original version of Firedrive, but was then replaced with Nightstick on my recommendation. The irony that I’m now using Firedrive is not lost on me.)

“Laserbeak, go and explore! Just avoid this creature called The Cat. I hear he is like Ravage… but far more aggressive!”

Secret Actions
When I took a brief look at Megatron at the start of Wave 3, I had thought that I could focus my upgrades on offense, and my actions on defense, which would require the use of secret actions. I haven’t really been successful at using secret actions since then – and so I’ve more or less stayed clear of them.

However, after seeing a lot of secret action use at the UK Energon Open, I think it’s time to revisit them. In particular Hiding Spot and Infiltrate seem like great choices for Megatron – especially as deterrents to Press the Advantage, perhaps complimented by other actions like Battlefield Report and possibly even Take Cover or Dampening Field.

I feel like mastering secret actions is essential to being a good player at this point, especially when running Blue-heavy Decepticon teams. I need to give all of these a proper try, and practice using them. So even if this might not be the best place for them, I feel this is a good opportunity as a player.

Other Cards
UK Energon Open left me quite inspired as I saw a great deal of cards being played and quite a lot of them fit the general deck I’m trying to make. In particular I want to single out a few cards that I think would greatly benefit Megatron:

Callous Leadership
This just seems like the most obvious card to take with Megatron Living Weapon. I want to have my actions be defensive and my upgrades be offensive, to get most use of bot mode ability. Moving damage to Megatron‘s minions does this perfectly.

Hunker Down / Escape Route
Again, we want to use actions for defense – Hunker Down essentially does this so long as we have an appropriate armour in Megatron‘s scrap. We could potentially put dirty armour like Superior Plating in the deck specifically for the purpose of retrieving with Hunker Down. Both Hunker Down and Escape Route would let Megatron dive into the scrap and then return to bot mode straight after; I think the extra flips would be worthwhile.

Energy Pack
This is a utility and an Orange pip so arguably it’s not fitting with our gameplan, but making Megatron Living Weapon 18 health seems like a good idea to me, and I know this card has kept many a Decepticon alive in tournaments. I think it’s worth trying out. Also, as stated earlier, we should still have some armour and utility in our build and view the bot mode ability as an option, not a rule.

“Prime! I should have known you would be here protecting GardenWorld!”

Initial Deck Layout
So I’m imagining a deck looking something like the following:

Upgrades:
9 – 12 ‘core’ weapons
(Grenade Launcher, Energon Axe, Fusion Cannon, Scoundrel’s Blaster)

3 – 6 ‘specialist’ weapons
(Armed Hovercraft, Mining Pick, Drill Arms, Anticipation Engine)

3 – 6 armours
(either Sparring Gear, or Superior Plating if we’re going that route)

3 Energy Pack

I’d have to play with what works here; just looking at this list I can see a lot of these are going to be chucked out the deck before I run the first test.

Actions:
3 Callous Leaderships
3 Hunker Downs
2-3 Escape Routes
Around 9 Secret Actions (Infiltrate, Hiding Spot, Battlefield Report)

I will also need to add some standards in there, like Vaporize or possibly Espionage. Utility removal is vital, as is some card disruption. I also need the obligatory Security Checkpoints and Handheld Blasters.

If you’ve been counting, you’ll have noticed that all of this is way more than 40 cards. I need to work out what can be trimmed.

Next
The first thing I’m going to do is create a prototype of this deck and try it out – by the time you’ve read this I’ll have already done this. I’ll then basically set out a plan to test out the various cards I’ve picked and see if I can find a configuration that actually does well into Optimus Prime. Bit of a challenge I think, but I think it should be fun trying to make it work.

Until next time!

Cover art by Emily Stewart, social medias: Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, as well as her Etsy store.

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