You’ve bought in to Transformers TCG. You’ve played some games – tried out your friend’s decks, maybe taken some decks from the internet, and just generally gotten to know the game. Now you want to learn a bit more about how these decks are made and how they work.
This week’s Drill Hall will focus on Orange-heavy decks, often referred to as aggro decks. In this two-part article, I’ll be going over the basics of how these decks work and how to go about creating them. In the first part I shall explain the basics of an aggro deck, what kinds of cards are used in these decks, and give you a line-up that you can build a deck for. In the second part, I’ll show you what I created for this line-up, and compare it to some decks that have done well in major competitive events.
This article is intended for new players, or players new to deck building. My assumption is that you do not have a huge amount of cards to work with, so our goal isn’t to jump in and make a deck that will always win and will require a large selection of rare cards. Instead, I am hoping to give you an easy understanding of a particular deck archetype, and encourage you to build your own decks and develop your own ideas. I will not be going over too many basic rules; my assumption is that you’ve read through the rules, are familiar with a couple of cards now, and hopefully had a game or two.
So without further ado, let’s talk about building decks!
WOTC Blaster Deck
Some of you might have bought the Blaster vs Soundwave deck, and immediately decided to play both decks out of the box against each other. No doubt you had a play at some point that looked like this:
This is from a real game; in this picture, Steeljaw has Bold 4, meaning he can flip 4 more cards when he attacks an opponent. He has flipped a White pip card, which lets him flip 2 more cards. In total, Steeljaw is flipping 8 cards… but the result is only hitting an opponent for Attack 5. Despite having at least 2 upgrades on him, Steeljaw hasn’t hit for much at all.
Is Steeljaw just bad? No, definitely not. The problem here isn’t Steeljaw, or the upgrades on him that have granted him a total of Bold 4. It’s also not the ability Bold itself. The problem is the way this deck is constructed – in this deck, there are a large number of cards that grant Bold. However, in order for Bold to work, we need to be confident that most – if not all – of the cards we flip have Orange pips, else the Bold is not very useful. If the deck had been mostly Orange, Steeljaw might have attacked for something like Attack 11, instead of half that.
Clearly the deck that comes with Blaster – where less than half the cards have Orange pips – isn’t the right deck if we want to utilize Bold. If we’re going to make this work, we’re going to need an aggro deck.
In its purest form, an aggro deck is a deck that is only concerned with creating the most damage possible. They rarely care about any sort of defense; philosophically, the aggro deck believes the best defense is a good offense.
Typically, a ‘pure aggro’ decklist will contain around 30 cards that have Orange pips, and would look to include as many double-Orange pip cards as possible. They will have perhaps 5-8 cards with White pips, intended to make sure the player flips more cards with Orange pips; and then they might have a few other cards that are key to making the deck work but otherwise aren’t Orange or White.
The idea of having a deck that is mostly Orange cards is so that whenever the player flips cards whilst attacking, they know they have a high chance of flipping cards with Orange pips each time. They can then feel confident about using abilities that let you flip multiple cards on attack – so abilities like Bold suddenly become very desirable (Scott Landis of Vector Sigma wrote a very in-depth article on Bold early on in the game that’s worth reading if you want a deeper and more involved understanding of Bold).
Obviously, simply flipping as many Orange cards as possible isn’t a complete strategy; successful aggro decks will often have ways of ensuring they can keep characters alive. They might use abilities like Brave or Stealth that dictate who gets attacked. They could have abilities or upgrades that limit the amount of damage they can take like the upgrade Forcefield, the Wave 1 character Skrapnel, or the new Wave 4 ability Safeguard. They can find ways of untapping characters, meaning that not only can they attack again, but they are once again hidden away from the opponent, a popular tactic of Cars decks. They can bring back dead characters to fight again using the card I Still Function, a tactic popular with Insecticons. Or they can simply have huge health pools, which is one of the reasons Blaster does so well.
Today, we’ll be going with a much simpler tactic though – just having overwhelming numbers.
Let’s see if we can come up with a simple aggro deck, using some underused characters from Wave 3 and some new characters in Wave 4. Here’s the team I’d like us to work with:
Captain Impactor – 7 stars
Private Powertrain – 5 stars
Private Mudslinger – 5 stars
Private Tote – 4 stars
Private Highjump – 4 stars
This is the Off Road Patrol, but I’ve added to the group the new Impactor. In this list, Highjump, Mudslinger and Tote are not doing anything particularly special; they are intended to stay in truck mode, and do little else. We can’t use their tap abilities in bot mode, as we’re not intending on putting any Black cards in the deck.
It’s what Impactor and Powertrain do for them that we’re interested in. Powertrain has a static Bold 1 buff that applies to every member of the Off Road Patrol, including himself. Impactor, when he flips to his alt mode, gives everyone on his team Bold 1 as well. The idea is that we will try and get everyone in the team multiple Bold buffs. At the very least, we’ll have a static Bold 1 for everyone, and we’re going to try and set up at least Bold 2 when our opponent is tapped out, and we have at least 2 untapped bots. If our opponent has lots of characters, we can have Impactor flip each turn so we’re alternating between Bold 1 and Bold 2.
In play, each turn we’d look to play a weapon and hopefully either an action to draw us more cards (more weapons), or an action that would boost our attack value. We wouldn’t use either our action or upgrade for defensive purposes; we might consider using a Forcefield to try and keep a character in the fight for a little longer and perhaps get a second hit out of them (especially on Impactor himself), but mostly the intent is to hit for as much as possible, and expect our team to be killed outright one by one.
Our strategy is overwhelming numbers.
This isn’t a particularly grand strategy for a deck. Beyond adding Bold 1/2 to the team, there’s no innovative strategy here, but it is a good group to make a standard vanilla aggro deck around. Not every deck needs to be a tournament winner; this one is just an excuse to practice deck creation. That being said, we’re going to try and make the best possible heavy-Orange deck for this particular line-up.
Now we have a deck concept, and a line-up for the deck, we can consider what cards we would actually want in our aggro deck. Rather than just listing out cards for you, I recommend trying to build the deck yourself based on my suggestions. You can either base this on cards you already have, trying to build this on the TransformersTCG phone app, or even just listing out cards yourself using an online card list (I recommend Pojo or Computron’s Lab for this, as the former has a complete card list and the latter lists cards by what they do). You can stick to currently available cards, or include Wave 4 battlecards if that’s what you want.
For an aggro deck, we should start with the following guidelines:
- No more than 40 cards.
- 30+ cards with Orange pips
- 5-8 cards with White pips
- 20 actions
- 20 upgrades
Remember you can only have 3 of each card, and as we have 25 stars in characters, we can’t have any star cards.
That will mean we should on average have as many upgrades as actions in hand during the game, we can nearly guarantee cards flipped will have Orange pips, and that we should hit a White fairly regularly so we can get more Orange pips. Green pips are certainly nice to have, as well. We don’t need to worry about Blue or Black pips, at least not at this stage. It is usually okay to have about 3-6 cards that do not have either Orange or White pips, and still be a ‘heavy Orange’ aggro deck.
Any cards that have more than 1 Orange pip and don’t have a star cost (denoted by a star in the bottom left of the card), can be automatically included.
We know what pips we want on the cards, but what kind of cards do we need otherwise? Let’s look for the following types of cards to include in our deck:
List of Cards
First and most obvious is any card that gives Bold 2 or more, either upgrade or action. Playing one of these cards will let us flip more cards on attack.
You can never have enough of these cards in an aggro deck. We should always have Bold 1 from Powertrain, and potentially another Bold 1 from Impactor; adding a card that does Bold 2 would make that Bold 4, so even a character with a tiny attack value can hit for large amounts.
A card that does Bold 1 isn’t worth taking, as we should have better cards to play.
Attack Buff Cards
List of Cards
Also obvious is any card that gives a high flat bonus to attack. We don’t necessarily mind if this comes with restrictions or costs, so long as it can be put on our characters. We only want to consider cards that do at least +3 Attack; lower than that is not generally worth playing in an aggro deck.
Like Bold cards, you can never have enough of these cards in a deck list this. If you have plenty of cards that boost attack by +3, these are generally more preferable to ones that only give Bold 2, should you find yourself in a position where you have to cut these cards.
Some cards that give high Bold or high attack buffs have negative penalties – they can only be used once, they cause damage to the wielder, etc. These are still very much worth taking. Your own characters taking damage to deal more damage to an enemy is normally an acceptable risk for an aggro deck.
List of Cards
Any card that let’s you draw at least 2 cards, or has the potential to draw that many cards, is worth considering. These cards will help you draw the best possible cards to boost your attack damage. You don’t want to have too many of these cards, but maybe 3-6 is a good amount. Some aggro decks go as far as 8 and seem to do very well.
Normally an action card that let’s you draw upgrades is a good play, especially early in a game to give you more access to weapons that deal lots of damage. Some cards will also let you place a card from your hand on to the deck, useful for putting double-Orange cards into your flips.
Upgrade Scrap Cards
List of Cards
Any card that removes upgrades from your opponent’s characters should be considered. Preference goes to cards that remove any type of upgrade, but the most important type to remove is armour. You’ll need these cards to get rid of enemy upgrades that will reduce your damage. You can also consider cards that remove a card from the battlefield and put them back in your opponent’s hand. About 2-6 of these cards is about right.
Direct Damage Cards
List of Cards
It’s always useful to have a card in hand that can do a small amount of direct damage; you can sometimes get two KOs a turn if you finish off a nearly-KOed opponent with a Zap, and then attack and KO a second character. About 3-6 of these cards should do. Cards that do more than 1 damage are very much worth taking; if they can do 3 or more damage, they are extremely useful and should definitely be considered, even if they are not an Orange or White pip.
A few cards are often staples of aggro decks for various reasons. Cards that untap characters, like Ready for Action, or bring characters back from the KO zone for a limited time like I Still Function, are popular for aggro decks, since they put us in a position where we can attack with multiple characters once our opponent is completely tapped out. The armour upgrade Forcefield is also a recurring card for these decks, as it prevents a character from taking more than 4 damage whilst they have the upgrade.
Cards NOT to Consider
It can be quite tempting to put in cards that might not generally fit into an aggro deck. Be very careful with such cards and ask yourself – will this card really advance my gameplan? We’re not interested in cards that have a Repair effect like Repair Bay or Field Repair, as we’d expect our characters to die in one hit or nearly die in one hit. We’re also not interested in cards that do Pierce; generally speaking an aggro deck should be doing more than enough damage to an opponent that it is higher than most Pierce values.
Naturally, we shouldn’t be using any cards that can’t be used by our team; for example, there’s no point putting Jaws of Steel in our team, since we don’t have any Dinobots!
Just because we have Trucks and a Tank in our line-up, doesn’t mean that cards that affect those alt-modes are useful. Don’t be tempted to take them!
That pretty much covers the cards we should and shouldn’t be using for an aggro deck – it’s time to get cracking on putting together a deck list!
Hopefully finding cards that do all these things should give you far more than 40 cards for you to consider for your deck. Try and build something using the above suggestions. If you have lots of choices for cards in a particular type, try and work out for yourself which card feels more appropriate for the team – would Incoming Transmission be a better choice for card draw, or would Treasure Hunt? Often these things become very subjective, and only experience playing them yourself will tell you which is better suited for you.
Don’t worry if you are not exactly hitting a 20 / 20 split between actions and upgrades. It doesn’t matter too much if you are a couple of cards either way, especially if you have a limited card pool. Likewise, don’t worry if you’re not exactly meeting the amounts of cards I’ve suggested above; if you are low on cards of a particular type, have slightly more of another type of card.
As said before, treat this as an exercise for now; the end deck doesn’t need to great, this is just practice!
End of Part One
… so this was intended to be one article, but it was running rather long, and even I balk at the idea of releasing a 5,000 word essay and calling it suitable for new players. This will be it for Part 1 then, and next week I’ll show you what I came up with, and talk about other aggro decks and the similarities – and differences – between them.
In the meantime, why not try and create an aggro deck for Impactor and company? If you’re already experienced with the game, why not try and build that deck using the Wave 4 cards? That way you can get used to the cards in the new set. If you’re feeling very daring, why not try and build a Black aggro deck using Black pips instead of Orange pips?
Anyways, as will be tradition for Drill Hall, we’re ending on a collection of links made by other creators. This week I’ve chosen some actual play videos of people playing aggro decks. One of them features myself! Enjoy!
Until next time!
Special thanks to Computron, who helped with a particular webpage at the last minute. Also thanks to Mat Armstrong and Cityspeakers for reading over my Drill Hall drafts and giving me input.