Building Skytread: Halves of a Whole

A couple of weeks ago I put up a poll asking for players to pick between Skytread and Barricade for the next project of Wave 4. It was extremely close, but in the end, Skytread won. Of course he won! After all, this is a Scavengers-themed Transformers TCG site and Skytread was one of the original Scavengers from the IDW comic series More Than Meets the Eye. Fair enough, he isn’t a particularly well known Scavenger, but he’s a Scavenger nonetheless.

If you’re new here, here’s what the deal is – I pick a character in the Transformers TCG, and go through the process of trying out various different deck ideas, battle cards and line-ups, all while trying to make something interesting around that character. These are rarely competitive-level decks, but often are at least capable of winning some games or taking on particular match-ups. These projects run from between 2 to 4 weekly posts. The goal is to see what we can do; hopefully, I can inspire you to try out some ideas of your own or at the very least give you something different to try out.

(and yes old school Transformers purists, I’m aware I’m using Battletrap‘s motto for this post’s title, and not Skytread‘s. Battletrap‘s is better. Sue me.)

I’m sure hanging out in these ruins is fine and the DJD won’t find me…

Why Skytread?
There’s a number of reasons why I wanted to write about Skytread. Some are personal – Skytread (or Flywheels as he was originally known) was one of a handful of transformers I owned as a child, so I have some personal attachment to him. I’ve also not written that much about combiners on this site – I’ve written about pairing characters with combiners (like I did with Ironhide and Dreadwing), and I’ve written entries about testing against combiners (like I did with Starscream), but never made a combiner the focus of an entire series. Skytread is a weird combiner… but he is a combiner.

Mostly though, I think Skytread is an interesting, but simple, character that should make for a nice quick project to write about over the Christmas period.

Oh and he has great feet. He has fly treads… d’you get it? Fly… treads? Flywheels, Sk– okay I’ll stop now.

The Card(s)
Skytread is a two character combiner. Unlike other combiners in Transformers TCG, Skytread is not a triple-sided folding card; instead Skytread is comprised of two character cards, each with an alt mode, and both have a combined mode. Skytread does not have a bot mode (suck it, Marksmanship!)

The two character cards are:

Skytread (Plane) : Attack 4 / Health 10 / Defense 0 (6 stars)

and

Skytread (Tank) : Attack 3 / Health 8 / Defense 0 (6 stars)

Neither of these characters are especially exciting on their own; the Tank is okay, it has pretty good stats for a Tank, and the high defense would work well against decks that are low on Pierce or Direct Damage, depending on how the deck is built. The Plane is basic and has an unremarkable stat-line. Neither have great attack values, which is understandable as they are 6 star characters.

Each Skytread character has a Revenge trigger. Revenge is a new, Decepticon-centric trait that only happens when a character is KO’d. When the Revenge trigger happens, you flip both Skytread characters, and bring them together to form the combined Skytread character – taking all the damage from both Skytread characters, and 1 upgrade per slot from the surviving Skytread character. You then take your entire hand, and place it face down underneath Skytread, leaving Skytread untapped.

Skytread – the combined form – is a 12 star character with Attack 6, Health 18 and Defense 3. When he attacks, you take one of the cards underneath him in to your hand, and if you do, you move one damage from Skytread to the defender.

All of these characters are Ranged – so Marksmanship, Sturdy Javelin and Armed Hovercraft are all usable cards for Skytread.

Skytread offers an interesting challenge to the player as you ideally want the Tank to be KO’d with the Plane at full health, having achieved an attack with both of these characters. That’s the goal; the question is, what’s the best way of doing this without your opponent getting wind of your plan, and stopping you?

Oh crap, he’s found me, Tarn has found me, argh!

The Project
I’m going to take a much simpler approach to this project than normal. Instead of aiming for a finished deck or a broader view of an archetype, this project will mostly be exploring options to answer two questions Skytread poses:

  1. How can we control when Skytread combines?
  2. How can we recover our hand shortly after?

Arguably neither of these are necessary in order to make a working deck with Skytread; I’ve been trialling a Black-pip focused deck without methods of doing either of these things and it’s worked reasonably well without much in the way of optimisation. But looking into these two questions will be a fun little investigation.

At time of writing, my local meta already has at least five other players using Skytread; when I was thinking about Skytread as an option for the blog, I didn’t think anyone was interested in him. But low and behold, turns out there’s quite a few people playing him and in very different line-ups. I’m going to try and steer clear of completely duplicating any of their line-ups, but inevitably I’ll be repeating some of their ideas.

This is very much the opposite of controlling combination!

Controlling Combination
A key challenge with Skytread is getting him combined at the correct time to maximize the most out of him. Ideally you want the following to happen:

  1. Tank attacks.
  2. Plane attacks.
  3. Tank dies, Plane has no damage, a few cards go under, you have an untapped Skytread with 8 damage.

There’s a fair few factors there. For starters, we want our opponent to kill our Tank, which has a defense of 3 and only 8 health; we need to somehow steer our opponent into attacking the Tank, and ignore the Plane somehow. Alternatively, we use a card from our hand to control how and when Tank dies, preferably whilst giving us a further advantage.

Here are some cards we can consider in order to do this:

Peace Through Tyranny
The obvious choice; Peace Through Tyranny has been the cornerstone of many Battlemaster decks and has been abused effectively to generate ridiculous, over powered attacks.

Advantages: Clean KO of Tank, grants an extra turn in the process.
Disadvantages: No easy way of getting in hand unless we run Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend or Alpha Trion.

One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
Another favourite, this card would not be a clean KO of Tank but would at least speed up the process. See also Photon Bomb and Erratic Energy Grenade, two other cards that will deal damage to our own characters.

Advantages: High damage to an enemy.
Disadvantages: Doesn’t guarantee the KO, no pips.

Involuntary Promotion
A new card, this one will let us bring back a character from the KO pile back into play, move all damage counters and upgrades from Tank to that character, and then KO Tank (thus causing the combination). This only works if our returning character is 6 stars or less.

Advantages: Results in not only combination, but returning a character back to the field, and with all of Tank’s upgrades in play.
Disadvantages: Requires a character to be dead already; hard to pull off.

Bravery, Stealthiness, Heroism, Point Position, Hiding Spot
All of these cards amount to redirecting damage away from Plane and into Tank. We’d essentially want to attack with Tank, then play one of these to either put Brave on Tank, Stealth on Plane, or Heroism on Tank. All of these achieve this task. Immersed in Shadow shouldn’t be considered – it only grants Stealth whilst Plane is untapped, and there is a very limited window when that is effective.

Advantages: Many ways to dig for with Treasure Hunt and Swindled
Disadvantages: No additional benefits

All of these methods ignore more simplistic tactics, such as just making Plane a less attractive target by moving his damage (Energy Transfer), restricting incoming damage (Medic’s Protective Field or Force Field), or simply adding Tough, Armour and Health.

We’ve got a lot to play with here though, so let’s ignore these, and view the above as our options.

AARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

Recovering Our Hand
An immediate issue with Skytread combining is that we will temporarily lose our hand upon combination. It’s worth considering options to recover our hand. We want these options to be built into the characters, rather than from battle cards – when combination happens, we won’t have any battle cards at all, let alone the one battle card to draw more cards.

Here are some characters with card draw effects that would work for us. I’ve excluded any characters that are more than 13 stars or are especially hard to get hold of (such as Cliffjumper). Characters that need cards in hand in order to work are also excluded. I’m also narrowing this list to characters that draw cards without attacking, and I’m also including characters that can pull a card from the scrap.

Wave 1
Chromia, Shockwave, Demolisher (if we have enough tanks), Snarl, Megatron Living Weapon, Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, Sunstorm

Wave 2
Dead End, Skywarp, Starscream, Sunstreaker (but only if he’s dead)

Wave 3
Alpha Trion, Wheeljack (…. sort of), Needlenose, Runamuck, Triggerhappy, Skywarp,

Wave 4
Mirage

We can probably take out any character that only retrieves actions (sorry Optimus Prime, Alpha Trion and one of the Skywarps), as we’re probably using an action the turn we combine anyhow (Peace Through Tyranny, One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall or Involuntary Promotion). Besides, decks with Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend quickly just become Optimus Prime decks, and I’ve already talked a lot about Alpha Trion a while back. I might come back to Sergeant Skywarp though.

We might as well take out Demolisher too, and anyone that would leave our total health count below 35; the current state of the game does seem to reward gearing teams towards having lots of health. Oh, and let’s just ignore Sunstreaker shall we? Having to build around a character who only works when he is dead seems very frustrating.

So that leaves some interesting options: Chromia, Snarl, Dead End, Wheeljack, Needlenose, Triggerhappy, Sergeant Mirage.

If we go ahead and take out the 9 stars so we can go 4-wide (or the effective 9 star for Needlenose), that leaves us with only five characters – Wave 1 Chromia, Wave 1 Snarl, Dead End, Triggerhappy and Wave 4 Mirage. We’ll play with these and see what we can come up with; we’ll have setups like so:

Skytread Tank + Plane + Chromia + 5 stars
Skytread Tank + Plane + Triggerhappy + 5 stars
Skytread Tank + Plane + Snarl + 6 stars
Skytread Tank + Plane + Mirage + 6 stars
Skytread Tank + Plane + Deadend + 8 stars

Because Tank and Plane never flip, we have a LOT of freedom for our flips; characters like Chromia and Triggerhappy would thrive in this kind of environment.

Chromia: “Looks like one of yours, Baz.”
Barricade: “Yeah, I know him… Skytread… and you found him like this, Snarl?”
Snarl: “Me Snarl like Chocolate Milk!”
Barricade: “… great.”

Decks
There’s two distinct different directions our possible line-ups can go:

Triggerhappy and Mirage are both steering the deck in a Blue, defensive direction.

Snarl would be more aggressive and would want an Orange or Black direction.

(Chromia and Deadend are happy to go either way.)

We don’t want to go with a Black deck; if only because we’ve already focused on Black this Wave, and it’ll be good to try out different things.

I am going to be Bold (literally) and assume a mostly Orange deck for now; that’ll remove Mirage from consideration. I’m mostly going with Orange due to Peace Through Tyranny; but also because I rarely work with Orange decks. We’re also steering towards four wide (effectively five wide), and I’m not keen on wide Blue decks that don’t have a lot of Pierce in the mix…

… that being said, Triggerhappy does have a lot of native Pierce too. Maybe in the end, what we need, is two separate decks to test with? Which is more fun with Skytread, Blue or Orange?

I’ve got plenty of time to work that one out, because the next part of this series will be after the Christmas break. I’ll tell you how testing went with these decks, how our options for controlling combination and hand recovery went, and give some thoughts on testing Skytread.

See you in a few weeks!

Until next time.

Featured art by Natephoenix, check him out on Twitter, Facebook, DeviantArt, Instagram and Patreon.

Special thanks to Michael and Nick for the use of their DJD toys!

Follow Flip Flip Bang Bang on Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram for more talk about the Transformers TCG.

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