Building Skytread: Double the Trouble

In the first part of this series, I talked about what I wanted to do with Skytread – to test out some ideas to control the combination of Skytread, and how to refill my hand straight after that combination. In the second part of this series, I’m going to try out some of the ideas I presented in that article.

A reminder; with this series, I’m not looking to build a fully tested, tournament-ready deck. This is more about building a better picture of Skytread as a character card. The goal is to get you thinking about some possibilities for your own deck.

“Me Swoop think this Decepticon is Some Assembly Required.”

Team Orange
I was originally going to try and write this article with a test phase covering two different decks – a Blue deck with Triggerhappy or Mirage, and an Orange deck with Snarl. After completing a test phase with the Orange / Snarl deck… I decided that going through the same thing with a Blue deck wasn’t going to be particularly interesting, as they still used the same ‘key cards’. For this article, I’m only going to be talking about testing with the Snarl deck.

For the deck, I’m going with the following for the line-up:

Skytread (Plane)
Skytread (Tank)
Snarl (Wave 1)
Swoop (wave 1)

Initially I went with Swoop because I figured I could put some Dinobot cards in; however very early on I realised there wasn’t much room for such cards. Swoop still feels like a good choice though; he hits hard, has a lot of health, and can move damage when he flips to alt mode.

The key cards we need are:

Involuntary Promotion
Peace Through Tyranny
One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
Bravery OR Heroism OR Stealthiness OR Hiding Spot

I definitely don’t think we have room for more than 3 Brave/Stealth cards, so just going with Stealthiness seems like the best choice. We can also include Treasure Hunt to search for Stealthiness if necessary.

Everything else is your typical aggro cards. We’ll make sure Reckless Charge is in there too, since that achieves much the same thing as One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall:

See the full deck on FortressMaximus.io

Test Opponent
In every testing phase I pick one ‘test opponent’ to start off with, just to see what the deck is capable of. With only one deck being tested against, I’m not getting the full picture of how well the deck performs, but as said before we’re not aiming for a fully-tested, tournament ready deck.

So who do we want to test this deck against?

At the last local tournament, someone brought Bugs down and they won; I have a Bugs deck just sitting around, so why not use that as the test opponent?

I think this makes for a good and fair test; this will be two four-wide aggro decks smashing into each other. I’ll be testing with Skytread going first; realistically, if the deck is working, I want to see Skytread coming out on top most times.

Our goal is mostly to see what works from our key cards; I don’t have much in the way of expectations for this Skytread deck, but my hypothesis is that we can match or even out-activate the Bugs deck with Skytread using the controlled combination techniques I outlined in Part 1.

See the full deck at FortressMaximus.io

Early Testing
Initial testing wasn’t very positive at all. Here’s the general pattern of attacks in the initial testing:

Snarl flips, Tank attacks KickbackKickback takes about 4-5 damage
(Tank is flipping 2-3 Orange pips and has a base of 3).

Skrapnel flips, possibly arms with a weapon, attacks Tank. If Skrapnel had a weapon, that’d be a kill and Skytread forms.

Skytread now has to either kill Skrapnel in one shot (with One Shall Stand, moving one damage and attacking), or face being tapped out next turn when Skrapnel simply flips and KO’s himself.

As you can see, I’ve been locked into a position where I’ve had to exhaust 12* of Skytread in order to deal with Skrapnel; that gives Bugs a massive tactical advantage and a guaranteed win every time. A different tact would be necessary.

After some further testing I got to see some games with the key cards in play, and started noticing some optimal behaviours. I decided that if I really wanted to see what the deck could do, then I’d need to cheat, and start with a key card in hand each time. This way I could see how effective each one actually was.

Involuntary Promotion
Of all the cards I looked at in the first part, I think I was most dismissive of Involuntary Promotion. In fact, I actually got some of my assessment of the card wrong, as many pointed out. I said the following regarding the card: “Requires a character to be dead already”

… no, it doesn’t; you can absolutely use Involuntary Promotion to just choose a character, not bring anyone back from the KO pile, skipping the steps of moving damage counters and upgrades, and just KO the originally selected character. That’s not exactly the best use of the card but does do exactly what we initially wanted; control when and how Skytread combines.

Here’s the thing though; I felt like using Involuntary Promotion to return someone to play and kill Tank was going to be difficult to pull off. This couldn’t be further from the truth; it just needs a change in how we go about our attack cycle:

Swoop flips, attacks Skrapnel (usually doing 7+ damage, so a worthwhile attack).

Bugs is now on the back foot, flips someone (usually Skrapnel) and attacks Swoop; with a weapon it’s a clean kill.

Tank then attacks (Snarl flips to bot mode).

If Tank survives the incoming return attack (via something like a well timed Forcefield), then an Involuntary Promotion will result in Swoop returning AND Skytread combining with only 8 damage; and Snarl then flips to alt mode to give us two free cards.

This is definitely an ideal scenario – and some good use of Stealthiness or Forcefield at various times helps make the scenario easier to setup. I found in tests where I was able to pull this off, bugs struggled to keep up with Skytread, even if they had I Still Function in hand. Pulling this off was not always easy, though.

Peace Through Tyranny
I honestly expected Peace Through Tyranny to be a really powerful card in this deck; and it is, in the right circumstances (more on that later). However, compared to the power of Involuntary Promotion, it actually came across as lacking in this matchup.

Part of that is that there is still the dilema of when to play it. The best time to play it is if I can get Swoop to survive the first attack, then use Peace Through Tyranny to kill him and then attack with Tank. That’s not really doing what I initially wanted for the card though!

I could go first with Tank, but I still find the ‘Skrapnel lock’ happens and I end up having to waste Skytread on attacking Skrapnel.

Bringing back a dead character with Involuntary Promotion instead of the extra turn with Peace Through Tyranny felt like it gave me more options.

(Note: playing this deck live and against taller, lower damage opponents, Peace Through Tyranny definitely worked out the way I intended; but in this match up it struggled to work).

One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
The more I’ve played with the deck, the more I feel like One Shall Stand, One Shall Fit is an excellent fit for the deck itself… but not necessarily for KO’ing Tank. Perhaps in a Blue shell where I can more generally expect both parts of Skytread to survive after being tapped it might be better suited, but in these tests it felt like a very desirable card in hand, just not for its initial task.

Stealthiness
Unlike the other cards, I never felt the need to cheat this into my opening hand during the testing; Stealthiness seemed to always end up in my hand by the time I wanted to use it.

I felt like Stealth worked really well in this list, regardless of what type of game plan I was trying to work, or what stage of the game I was at. So long as I still had two characters on the board, Stealthiness was a valid card to play. With Skytread I feel like I want to control where incoming attacks are going a lot; I want to keep Skytread alive as long as possible so he can deliver the big hits, move damage away from him, and pull cards back.

I’d recommend using some sort of Brave or Stealth mechanic with any Skytread build, as I think it’s the best way of getting maximum value out of him post-combination.

I don’t necessarily feel like Stealth was too important to control the combination itself; but could help if the other actions weren’t available.

The guys cheer about this one time when they were perfect… just one time.

The Perfect Play
I want to finish off by talking about a test that was run that I can only describe as being too perfect. Involuntary Promotion was cheated into my opening hand for the test, but otherwise everything else happened naturally. Pictures are a recreation.

Turn 1
I didn’t look at my hand, and just went into auto-pilot. I flipped Swoop, and attacked Skrapnel with Swoop. As stated earlier, my thinking was that Swoop would be able to do at least 4 damage to Skrapnel, making him an easy kill next turn.

Swoop flipped the following…

*gasp!*

… that’s five Orange pips on the attack; a clean 10 damage, and a Turn 1 kill for Swoop.

Turn 2
I genuinely wasn’t sure how to progress with Bugs at this point. Bugs didn’t have appropriate weapon or attack boost cards, so I wasn’t convinced I could clean kill Swoop unless I got lucky with Kickback and hit some double-pip cards. In the end I used a Force Field on Kickback, and gave it a go; Kickback came up short.

Turn 3
I finally look at my cards…

(Note: Not necessarily the exact cards)

… huh, a Peace Through Tyranny AND the Involuntary Promotion I cheated in. That leaves me in a really good spot.

I flip Swoop (damage is moved), PTT Swoop (now KO’d, I get an extra turn), attack with Plane. Kickback loses the Forcefield and now has 5 damage.

Turn 4
… and now I play the Involuntary Promotion, returning Swoop, KO’ing Tank, combining Skytread.

A board state you could be happy about at Turn 4.

Skytread is combined, Swoop is back on board with full-health, EVERYONE IS UNTAPPED.

At this point it mostly ended up being a matter of cleaning up the board. Naturally Kickback didn’t survive the next turn, and a mixture of well played Stealthiness and One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall meant that by the end of the test, the Skytread side still had every character on the table by the time it won.

This test was obviously an ideal situation, one that was partially engineered since I cheated a card into the opening hand for test purposes. It does show how the cards we looked at in the first part of this project can work together to create a scenario that makes the most of Skytread’s abilities, though.

Errr…. guys, I don’t think that’s how you combine Skytread…

Post Test Thoughts
With this test I was able to see all the cards I pointed out in the first article, and I got to see how they all interacted with Skytread. Whilst some weren’t entirely what I wanted – they didn’t really help the combination as much as I thought they would – they all ended up being helpful towards getting the most out of Skytread.

For any Skytread build, I think the following needs to be kept in mind:

  • How do you control Skytread‘s combination?
  • How do you recover hand after; or can you put yourself in a position where it doesn’t matter?
  • How do you keep Skytread alive long enough to make the most of the damage movement afterwards?

That last one is something I didn’t cover in the first article, but I found myself seeing a lot with Stealthiness and Forcefield in the tests. For a Blue build, you have much more options.

As for the build I was using for this test, whilst I certainly think it had some game and had that one golden moment where everything came together, it definitely fell short against Bugs. Swoop normally couldn’t survive a counter-attack from Skrapnel, so I usually couldn’t KO him with Peace Through Tyranny to set up the golden Peace Through TyrannyInvoluntary Promotion play. I think what I’d want to see is a character that could survive an alpha AND still feel confident I could do 6+ damage, all for 6 star or less.

My biggest take away from trying this build out though isn’t about Skytread; it’s about Involuntary Promotion. Seeing exactly what this card could do with this build is something I find rather inspiring, and begs lots of questions – what else could we do with this card?

That’s a subject for another time though. I have more to say about Skytread, but this article is getting a little long – so I’ll be following up this series with a very brief tournament report and general ‘behind the scenes’ blog entry about Skytread and this project in general, before moving on to the next thing.

Until then.

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