Both of the Seeker characters included in Wave 4 are strongly associated with Black pips; both their alt mode and bot mode abilities require cards with Black pips in order to work correctly. That kind of suggests we build a deck with mostly or entirely Black pips, but how do we do that? What does a Black deck look like? What Black cards are actually worth taking, and what are just weaker versions of other cards we see in mainstream Transformers TCG?
In this article, I want to take a look at the Black pip cards in full; the goal is to determine what cards would be suitable for a Black Seeker deck focusing on Sergeant Thundercracker and Raider Nova Storm. However, for those not interested in Thundercracker and Nova Storm, this will be a general opportunity to just go over the black cards in full and see where we currently stand. It will no doubt be useful for those building for Soundblaster or Detritus, for example.
This is the second article on the subject of Planes and Black pips. You can read Part 1 here, if you want to catch up.
Sorting Black Cards
There are 27 cards in Wave 4 with Black pips (nearly half of them!), and 17 in Wave 3. That’s 44 cards in total – if we’re to evaluate them all, we’re going to need to sort them into groups:
- Cards with 1 Black + 1 Orange pip.
- Cards with 1 Black + 1 Blue pip.
- Cards with 1 Black pip, possibly White or Green pips.
- Cards with multiple Black pips.
Generally speaking our expectation is that cards with just 1 Black pip will be better than those with other helpful pips, as that’s how Orange and Blue work. At the same time though, we might find powerful cards amongst those with more than a single Black pip; these are likely to be key cards for Black, the same way Peace Through Tyranny is for Orange and Security Checkpoint is for Blue.
Black / Orange
A card that has both Black + Orange, when flipped on attack, is a guaranteed 1 point of damage no matter what. Naturally such cards can’t be particularly valuable to play or otherwise they would require a star cost, or have some other critical limitation (e.g. being alt-mode or faction specific).
The current Black / Orange cards are:
Combat Dagger (Weaker version of Flamethrower)
Rock Toss (Limited version of Zap)
Composite Armour (new Tank armour)
Fight for Position (Weaker version of Supercharge)
Immersed in Shadow (Limited version of Stealthiness)
Opportune Repairs (Merc / Autobot card)
Terrifying Resilience (Tough 2)
Wedge Formation (Draw a card; extra effects for Melee + Specialist)
(I’ve limited these descriptions from the perspective of a Planes deck; Wedge Formation, Opportune Repairs and Composite Armour have further uses, but not for this particular project. Let’s keep them in mind for the future!)
With the notable exception of Terrifying Resilience (itself restricted to Decepticons), it would seem these cards are either not accessible to a Decepticon planes deck (Composite Armour, Opportune Repairs), weak for a Ranged only deck (Wedge Formation), or are indeed 2/3 weaker versions of regular Orange cards (Combat Dagger, Rock Toss, Fight for Position, Immersed in Shadow).
If we’re running plenty of Blue in our deck, at least 30 pips+, I’d actually consider Terrifying Resilience – it’s exchanging a Blue pip from Reinforced Plating for both an Orange and a Black pip, which seems a fair trade. In order to consider the Bold cards I’d have to feel like we’d need to see more Black pips in our attacks; that would have to wait for testing results. Wedge Formation would be interesting if we slotted a Specialist in to the line-up. Otherwise there’s not much of interest here, beyond the powerful pip combination.
Black / Blue
The Black and Blue combination is particularly desirable because Blue decks often will utilize Pierce anyhow. A deck that flips both Blue and Black flips well, both when it attacks and defends.
The current Black / Blue cards are:
Smoke Cloak (Weaker version of Reinforced Playing)
Steady Shot (Weaker version of Leap into Battle)
Opportune Offensive (requires Mercs, otherwise +3 Attack +3 Pierce)
Point Position (limited Bravery)
Unflinching Courage (Autobots only)
Clearly the value of Black/Blue has been identified by the developers, and thus the cards available to us are very limited.
Opportune Offensive is an excellent card; +3 attack and +3 Pierce to a Decepticon is an amazing effect; it’s nearly Press the Advantage levels of strong. Alas, it requires a Mercenary on our team to play. There’s a few characters that could actually take the slot – Deadlock, Mudflap and Nightbird are all in the 7-9 star range. Let’s put a pin in this card for now and come back to the idea of using a Mercenery as our third character later.
The other three cards that are available to us are all 2/3 power cards; we’d only consider taking them for the pips. It’d be like taking Handheld Blaster or Improvised Shield in a Blue or Orange deck.
Single Black Cards
There’s an awful lot of cards here, so I’ve filterd out clear 2/3 power cards, or cards that a Decepticon Plane can’t use:
Compact Shield, Dismantle, HV Electron Breacher, Repurpose (all Wave 3)
That leaves us with about 20 cards to consider. Let’s assess these by type:
Battlefield Scan, Calculated Strike, Device Virus, Decipher, Involuntary Promotion, New Orders, Special Delivery.
Of these I think we can safely rule out New Orders unless we go with tiny planes. Device Virus is really hard to trigger and very niche as well, so that can be ruled out too. Battlefield Scan is a sideboard card at best; whilst Brave and Stealth are indeed annoying, I don’t think we’re at the point where this card needs to be in our deck.
I feel obligated to take Special Delivery, AKA Fling Mk II, since we’re focusing on moving damage. We’ll see how long into deck development it takes before I get rid of it.
That leaves us with some interesting cards to consider:
Calculated Strike: A good all-rounder, not used often but +2 ATK / +2 Pierce is a solid effect.
Decipher: This is essentially a Strafing Run against teams using secret actions, that has both a Green and Black pip. Might be more a sideboard card, but I must admit I like it a lot and would definitely take at least one, though it’s obviously useless in match-ups where secret actions aren’t used. Given that Stable Cover is a hard counter to a Black deck, Decipher let’s us punish an opponent for playing it against us.
Involuntary Promotion: I think this one needs to wait until it’s clear who is doing the most work in our team. I find it unlikely that Nova Storm is going to be our key player, but if she was then she might indeed get promoted back into play after a KO, just like the art in this card suggests.
I think Calculated Strike is a guaranteed addition, with maybe one or two copies of Decipher, whilst Involuntary Promotion is a maybe. I will also be taking Special Delivery, for my sins.
Hiding Spot, Coup, Hijack, Stable Cover, Swerve
Secret actions got a boost in Wave 4 alongside Black cards, and there’s a good selection of them with some good meaningful effects.
Swerve is basically an auto-include here – Thundercracker and Nova Storm being able to fling damage whilst being attacked has a lot of potential, plus it’s a White pip card too. Even just going to alt mode to benefit from +1 defense is worth while.
Both Hijack and Stable Cover depend more on match up and will fall into sideboard consideration. Unless we’re convinced to take Mercs I don’t see Coup being included, and even then I’m not sure. Hiding Spot is always handy for diverting damage so you don’t lose a character (giving you a turn to move damage or add health)
We can partner Swerve with other secret actions, so it’s not always clear which one we’re using.
RR Disruptor Blade, Smokethrower
Both of these have value for different reasons; though I don’t think you’d want to run both. Smokethrower would be good for a bot with a high attack value but little Pierce – the Bold 2 would help the bot hit the higher Pierce value. RR Disruptor Blade is good for a bot with some existing Pierce, but requires a boost in damage. I think we’re more in the latter category; I don’t think we need Smokethrower, but RR Disruptor Blade looks perfect. If we’re at a loss for Black on flips, we can reconsider Smokethrower; though we might prefer the Orange/Black cards Combat Dagger or Fight for Position instead.
Hazardous Shield, Point-Defense Sytem, Increased Durability
There is some logic to Hazardous Shield; it’s in the maybe pile. Point-Defense Sytem is likely in the sideboard – truthfully I don’t think our defense is good enough to warrant it.
Increased Durability though is an auto-include; Energy Pack was already a card that I’ve enjoyed using, so I’m quite happy to use a Black pip card with the same effect, but in a different upgrade slot. Being an armour does mean that it is vulnerable to Bashing Shield, but that’s still an action our opponent has to play instead of something more punishing. Thundercracker on 18 health sounds quite intimidating… especially for a 9 star character.
Cards that give +Health seem to be Black-aligned, as Increased Durability is one of two cards that give that effect. That makes some sense; Black decks need some sort of defense in lieu of Blue, so it seems the developers have given Black the +Health cards. At least, that’s been the case in Wave 4.
Erratic Energy Grenade, Metal Detector, Valuable Contract
There’s some weirdness in this lot. Erratic Energy Grenade is really fun but I think it’s best suited for groups of tiny bots; if we go with the Air Strike Patrol as our third (and fourth) then that upgrade sounds like a good choice. Metal Detector is just a bit on the unpredictable side, unless we combine it with Reclaim or some sort of Plan effect. Valuable Contract is another weird one; I think bringing star cards into hand is potentially powerful… but honestly I think this is an effect that I’d rather look at another time than in this particular project, so I’ll put that to one side.
Wave 4 didn’t just bring us a couple of Multi-Black cards, it brought us many, including our first ever triple-mono colour card.
Wave 4 brought us:
Contract Contingency, Crowbar, Designated Target, Dual Wield, Indestructible Sword (star card), Minor Medic Kit, Plunder (star card, triple-Black)
Indestructible Sword can be ignored; if we’re taking a star card it’ll be the triple-black Plunder. Dual Wield is mostly for if we want to take mercenaries; but the ability to pull weapons from the scrap and then place them on our mercs, potentially as a second weapon, makes mercenaries very attractive as our third character.
That leaves us with Crowbar (a half power Grenade Launcher, but the double-pip makes up for this), Designated Target (+2 Pierce could be overkill, but would pair well with +2/+3 attack weapons), Minor Medic Kit (another +2 health is okay), Contract Contingency (a weaker Leap into Battle, but also triggers a mercenary bounty where appropriate) and finally Plunder which fits our general concept by being a hand removal card. We should take all of these, even if only for the double pips.
Now that we’ve run through all the Black cards, and highlighted cards that look like they would be good for a deck like ours, it’s time to make a base deck. This will be what we base further decks on – we don’t expect it to be initially optimal, but we can start testing this deck and work out where to go afterwards:
Special Delivery x 3
Contract Contingency x 3 (double Black)
Calculated Strike x 3
Decipher x 3
Designated Target x 3 (double Black)
Swerve x 3
Stable Cover x 2
Hiding Spot x 2
RR Disruptor Blade x 3
Crowbar x 3 (double Black)
Sturdy Javelin x 3
Increased Durability x 3
Point-Defense System x 3
Minor Medic Kit x 3 (double Black)
Blue = 0
Orange = 0
White = 6
Green = 3
Black = 49
Blank = 0
If we want to add star cards, that card should be Plunder (and can replace Deciphers). If we want to include a mercenary as our third, then we definitely should add Opportune Offensive and Dual Wield, trading out Special Delivery, and copies of Stable Cover and Hiding Spot. This base deck has no upgrade removal at present; we’d probably want to consider putting something in if we think upgrades will be a problem.
Speaking of which…
I said near the start that we’d take a look at mercenaries at the end of this article. Having now gone through all the Black cards, it’s very clear that any Black deck would benefit massively from having a mercenary in the team. A mercenary would mean getting full access to Dual Wield – a very powerful card that let’s us play cards from the scrap onto a mercenary in addition to giving us a second weapon slot for a turn – good for Sturdy Javelins or even Crowbars. It would mean that Contract Contingency can potentially trigger a Bounty even if we don’t cause a KO on top of the +2 attack. But most importantly, it also means we will have access to Opportune Offense, arguably one of the most powerful Black pip cards we’ve looked at in this article.
We still want to try decks with just planes, but it would be worth looking at Deadlock, Mudflap and Nightbird as third members as well.
Of these, Nightbird is by far the most interesting. She’s the lowest in star cost, so we can take two Plunder cards, and her alt mode effect does not require her to flip in order to work. Plus her Bounty ability is novel and has no equivalent in the rest of the game.
If I have time I’d also try out Mudflap – his Bounty ability is pretty cool, and if we put Roll Outs in our deck, we could have Mudflap Plan a double or triple-pip card for Thundercracker to use to move damage away from himself or Nova Storm, and then Nova Storm can move a further damage. It’s an idea at least.
Black has definitely come a long way from the measely offerings in Wave 3, to the bumper pack of goodies that we have in Wave 4. The question now becomes, does this result in a constructed deck that actually works?
In the next part of this project, I’m going to try out various configurations of this deck against various Blue decks, to see if such a deck performs well against it’s intended positive match up. Should it work out, the next step will be to see how such a deck performs in a bad match up – pitting a Black deck against an Orange aggro deck!
Until next time!