Winning in Transformers TCG can be summed up pretty easily: have a plan for removing your opponent’s characters from the board, and a plan for keeping your characters alive long enough to achieve that.
… okay, that’s it, article done, let’s go home people!
Welcome back to Drill Hall, the series at Flip Flip Bang Bang intended for new players… how well I’ve managed to stick to those intentions is another thing!
In the last article, I talked about Orange ‘aggro’ decks. In this article, I’ll be talking about Blue decks… which aren’t really one type of deck. Unlike Orange decks, which tend to look and play very similarly, Blue decks can end up being very varied and different and will tend to have different focuses. We’ll go through a few examples of successful Blue builds and how they win, as well as highlight some tricks Blue builds use to stay alive. I won’t go into massive strategic detail, but rather highlight the basic methods, and let you explore further for yourself (I’ll provide helpful links to decks and articles).
Let’s do this thing.
To go Orange, you will need to have a clear strategy that normally involves doing as much damage as possible (hence these decks having so many Bold and attack bonuses). You would likely need to have some strategy to stay alive to deal this much damage too. Examples of this:
- Using Forcefields, Safeguard, Skrapnel, etc. to neuter incoming attacks
- Untapping characters so you can keep on attacking multiple times.
- Using characters that can attack multiple times like Blurr.
- Having more characters than the enemy.
- Granting yourself multiple turns (e.g. using Peace Through Tyranny)
- Bringing back characters from the dead.
The battle cards that make up Orange decks tend to be very similar – this is why when some people ask questions like ‘How do I build an Insecticons deck?’, some snarky people might reply with ‘Just pick all the Orange cards and win’. Orange decks tend to prefer wide line-ups, i.e. they like to have many low-cost characters instead of a few high-cost characters (3 or more characters, with the most successful Orange decks being 4 characters).
To go Orange, then, you need to be sure your line-up can deal enough damage to wipe out an opponent before all your characters have been killed, taking into account the tricks listed above.
When To Go Blue
Blue decks on the other hand have a clear strategy as to how they will stay alive – flipping lots of Blue pips on defense and high defense values. They then need to have a strategy as to how they are going to deal enough damage before their defense fails. Main ways of doing this are:
- Naturally dealing high damage without the need of Orange pips.
- Dealing Pierce damage.
- Dealing non-attack damage (often referred to as direct damage).
- Having some weird ability that let’s you KO opponents without dealing damage.
- Having some weird method to win without KOing your opponent.
To go Blue, you need to be able to stay alive long enough that one of the above methods can help you win the game. A single Blue deck is unlikely to just pick one of these methods; most of the time they’ll contain a mix of the first three in varying amounts, and occasionally one of the last two.
Let’s talk about these methods.
The simplest and arguably the best way of winning with a Blue deck is to simply have a line-up where a central character hits extremely hard. The perfect example of a character that can do this is Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend. Not only does he have an impressive Attack 8 in bot mode, but he can also play action cards from his attack flips – he can effectively use 2 actions in one turn. With a +3 weapon and 2 Leap into Battle cards, Optimus Prime can hit for 17 damage without flipping a single Orange pip.
Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend is the central player in a lot of lists, and also regularly shows up in sideboards. Here are some example deck lists and reports of people playing Optimus Prime:
Another successful example is Major Shockwave. Shockwave is an intimidating figure to be across the table from – he has 17 health and a lot of defense on both sides, so it takes a while to get through him. Meanwhile, in bot mode Shockwave is boasting Attack 7, whilst also having easy access to his own personal stacking weapons, the LV Gamma Disruptor Launcher. Two of these, plus a Leap into Battle, takes Shockwave to Attack 14… less than Optimus Prime, but then Shockwave is much harder to kill.
Major Shockwave appeared in three of the Top 8 at the UK Energon Open, two of those decks are here:
UK Energon Open Top 8
Hitting hard isn’t the only thing these two characters do, of course. I recommend reading further about both of these characters, but they are exceptional examples of characters that can hit hard.
For more common-level characters for casual or sealed play, think about some of the following characters:
Wave 1: Ramjet, Inferno
Wave 2: Novastar
Wave 3: Ion Storm
Wave 4: Astrotrain
The type of characters that hit hard tend to cost a lot of stars; these characters often form three-wide lists (with one central character and two flanking characters dealing Pierce damage or enabling direct damage), or a two-tall list (two big hitters).
The keyword Pierce guarantees damage – if you are attacking someone for, say, Attack 3 and you have Pierce 3, regardless of how much defense your opponent has, you are dealing 3 damage.
During Wave 1, Pierce was poorly regarded – it was an occasionally useful thing to have, but there never seemed to be a way of getting enough Pierce to deal with a rival heavy Blue opponent.
… then Wave 2 came along, and with it came Superion.
The Aerialbots are a five-wide team of Autobot planes (and one helicopter). Once all Aerialbots are in bot mode, they can play the card Aerialbot Enigma, which lets the Aerialbots form the combined mode character Superion; a hunk of 39 health, Tough 2 and Pierce 3. Once combined, an opponent needs to get through all that health and Tough before Superion can – casually – KO his opponents with is inherent Pierce. Naturally, Superion will also add to this total with cards like Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe (adding Pierce 2) and Heavy Handed (usually adding Pierce 4). He is likely to be hitting for Pierce 5 – 9 regularly once combined.
Despite many players trying to make their decks able to handle Superion, he still managed to break into the Top 8 at the UK Energon Open. Twice in fact.
Pierce-orientated decks tend to favour smaller characters, but can be successful in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Pierce is often used for support pieces with a larger character, but entire line-ups can be made of Pierce-orientated characters – an example of this is this Triggerhappy-focused deck used by Wreck n’ Rule:
4-Wide Pierce Profile
Non-attack damage (or direct damage) is when you do damage to an opponent outside of an actual attack. Many characters have access to abilities that do this type of damage, as well as several battle cards (a convenient list).
Very few decks rely on direct damage as their main method of winning (although I personally gave it a really good go). Most will use direct damage as a way of supplementing their existing strategies. For example, most Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend builds will have Plasma Burst (a card without pips that does 2 direct damage) in their deck so they can KO nearly defeated characters. It’s not their main method, just something to give the deck an extra edge.
Many decks with Ranged characters – like General Prime and Superion – will have ‘the Ranged suite’, 3 copies of the cards Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship. These Blue pip cards are only usable by characters with the Ranged trait; Armed Hovercraft deals a point of damage to every opponent, whilst Marksmanship does 2 damage to an opponent in bot mode. In Wave 4, the card Sturdy Javelin is likely to see similar use.
Speaking of Optimus Prime and Superion, let’s talk about one of the most scary examples of direct damage: Photon Bomb. Photon Bomb is a card that does 2 damage to EVERYONE. Originally this card didn’t see a lot of play, but at the 2019 Origins Tournament, many Optimus Prime builds were able to tackle Aerialbots by sideboarding into a 2-tall line-up consisting of only Optimus Prime and Nemesis Prime. They would then play Photon Bomb multiple times; dealing only 4 damage to themselves each time, but a staggering 10 damage to an enemy. Dan Arnold of Vector Sigma, who came second in that tournament, wrote up his experience using this card here (skip to Sunday!):
Top 32 at Origins 2019
There’s more… there’s strange ways of creating a KO with characters like Bombshell Psy Ops and Cosmos, or through the Wave 4 card Daring Escape. These aren’t really for new players though… so whilst they exist, and we’re acknowledging their existence, it’s probably not helpful to go into much detail about them today.
Besides, got to leave something for the future!
You might do alright just trying to deal damage with a Blue deck, but these decks quite often are a bit more than simply playing damage cards. When building decks, keep in mind the following:
They call Blue decks ‘Control decks’ for a reason. Denying your opponent access to a hand during their turn will cripple their ability to deal decent damage, hopefully to the point where it is completely mitigated by your defense.
Seems obvious, but skimping on armour is a bad thing for quite a few Blue decks. Don’t just look at armour that gives bonuses to base defense or Tough; you might need to look at armour like Point Defense System, which lowers Pierce damage that can break through your defense.
Keep an eye out for useful utilities; if you’re not too reliant on Tough, consider the upgrade W-5 Gyro Blaster to deny your opponent’s Bold. Fancy some card draw? Consider Security Console, which let’s you draw a card and optionally stack a card from hand on to the deck when defending.
Still a bit of a new area, secret actions are likely to become more commonly played in Wave 4. In Wave 3 we saw Take Cover (denies direct damage), Infiltrate (denies orange actions), Hiding Spot (gives Stealth to a character), etc. Used well these can make for surprising games. If you’re taking these, take several different types and learn to time these actions when your opponent isn’t sure which one you’re playing.
This series only really covers some basic archetypes – the typical Orange aggro deck, and a variety of Blue strategies. There’s plenty of other ways to make a successful deck that aren’t Orange or Blue. Metroplex, for example, is regularly played with a wide range of pip colours. Many General Prime lists will play mostly aggro, but will focus quite heavily on Blue direct damage cards. There’s other concepts too – mill decks, draw decks, White decks, Black decks, rainbow decks, and there’s potentially other types of decks yet to be discovered. Things can change as new things are learned – that’s the fun part of a game like Transformers TCG.
This will be all for Drill Hall for the time being though. I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series, there will no doubt be future articles to add to this series later on! If you enjoy deck building and reading about deck building, please check out the rest of the blog.
Until next time!