Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had the Wave 4 starter course – the breads in the shape of Thundercracker, the soup in Nova Storm and the side salad in Skytread. It’s time for the main course, the main project followers of this site no doubt expected ever since the character got announced last spoiler season.
Flip Flip Bang Bang is a Scavengers-themed website, and Wave 4 finally brought us one of the five core Scavengers.
Let’s talk about Spinister.
… oh and let’s talk about Crosshairs too, while we’re at it.
Spinister and Crosshairs are both fairly neglected targetmaster characters from the Headmasters era of Generation1. Spinister was a Decepticon ‘small targetmaster’, a cheaper variant of the regular targetmaster with two guns – he fell into obscurity but gained a cult status thanks to his cool colours and recurring appearances in the More than Meets the Eye comic. Meanwhile Crosshairs was an Autobot targetmaster that had a few lines in the limited series The Rebirth; and had a very weird incarnation of him appear in the Michael Bay live action movies. Both are back, based on their original forms, as both toys and cards in the War for Cybertron: Siege universe.
The two characters in the card game are unique in that they are the only characters with abilities that are keyed to battlemasters; without them, they are absolutely under-statted and not worth playing. These two characters are true targetmasters; they MUST be played with a battlemaster companion, if you’re going to make the most of them.
In this project, we’re going to be looking at both of these characters. Not for one deck mind – we definitely can’t play these characters together, but over this project we’re going to be looking at how to go about building these two characters, thinking about what battlemasters will work with them, who would make a good third (or possibly fourth at a stretch) character, and comparing them with other characters to see if they can ever really be worth playing.
After all, wouldn’t you really like to see Spinister or Crosshairs be good? Even just remotely? It’s very unlikely we’ll make something competition-worthy in this project, but it’ll be fun exploring these characters in depth and trying the best we can.
Let’s start with Spinister. The baseline stats of a character can be very important when deciding whether they are worth playing or not – hence the popularity of a character like Octane, who is essentially just a very beefy stat block with a bit of direct damage on the side.
Spinister’s raw stats are Attack 3, Health 13 and Defense 1 in alt mode, with a change to Attack 4 in bot mode. For a 11 star character, these stats are some of the worst in the game, falling short of underpowered characters like Starscream Air Commander and Blitzwing, and only just beating Brunt (who isn’t comparable anyhow). In fact, these stats are below the stat line of most 9 star characters.
For Spinister to be able to work, he needs to compensate with his additional abilities. Thankfully, he has two elements to take into account:
- He has two weapon slots, not just one. You can potentially stack two weapons to generate more attack on every turn. Able to get lots of card draw? Stack two Mining Picks for some devastating Plan combo bonuses. Able to prepare ahead? How about two Grenade Launchers. Want to do lots of direct damage? How about getting on two Sturdy Javelins, or how about building a Multi-Missile Pod set whilst still having an Energon Axe whilst you wait. There’s lots of options, even without thinking about battle masters.
- Spinister adds +3 Attack whenever he has a battlemaster and he is in alt mode. Additionally, when he flips to bot mode, he gives +3 Attack to a battlemaster on his team. His attack is essentially 6 in alt, 7 in bot, but he lends half of that to his battlemaster at the start of the game.
These two abilities strongly inform us how we have to go about building Spinister – we want to be upgrade-focused, and able to deploy upgrades easily since we have 4 upgrade slots on our character.
Spinister is an 11 star character, and usually these can either be the centre of a team or a support for a larger character; but because his abilities are linked with battlemasters, being a support for a larger character doesn’t really work for us. He has to be played with smaller team members.
Spinister‘s abilities are not too flip-intensive; he wants to be flipped to bot mode when your battle master attacks, but otherwise he is sitting pretty in his alt-mode.
Finally, Spinister is a Helicopter, so alt-mode support is extremely limited. He is also Ranged, so the usual ranged cards are all available to us.
The Autobot targetmaster has very similar shortcomings to Spinister, but these are almost flipped around.
Crosshairs base state line is Attack 5, Health 12, Defense 1 in alt mode, which switches to Attack 6 and Defense 0 in bot mode.
For a 10 star character, Crosshairs‘ Attack values are pretty good, but his defensive stats are very poor. Even for a Tank, Crosshairs has a lot of issues.
- Crosshairs has two armour slots. You could theoretically stack two Composite Armor on Crosshairs and he’d be riding around with Defense 7 whilst in Tank mode.
- Crosshairs gets +2 Defense when he is in his bot mode and has a battlemaster; when he flips to his alt mode, he can move 2 damage away from himself and on to a battlemaster.
As a 10 star character, Crosshairs does have a bit more versatility when it comes to who you can pair him with. You’re still looking at a 3-wide list at a minimum, but pairing him with three 5-star characters isn’t out of the question; if you really want 4-wide with a 7-star character, that’s still possible too. You can also match him with another 10 star and still have room for someone like Smashdown.
Crosshairs is a little more flip-intensive than Spinister, since his alt-mode ability requires two flips to reach and we need to do this before the battlemaster is dead to get ‘value’ from the ability. Cards that give us extra flips would be a boon here (Hunker Down, Showing Off, Escape Route, etc.)
As a Tank, Crosshairs has access to a bunch of Tank support cards like Hunker Down and Composite Armor, and he is Ranged on both sides so the usual Ranged cards are in place just as with Spinister.
What We Want to Build
At this stage in the wave’s development, I think a lot of people have tried to develop decks with both of these characters (although mostly Spinister, because he’s a cult favourite). I’ve avoided reading people’s decklists for these two characters because I knew I’d be working on this eventually.
I am going to start by building towards both characters in separate line-ups; naturally there are cards that will work better for Spinister, and cards that will work better for Crosshairs. The two characters likely prefer totally different approaches – Spinister might prefer aggro, Crosshairs might prefer control (I am not saying either of these approaches are correct btw). Eventually two divergent decks will appear, or I’ll simply favour development of one targetmaster over the other if one clicks with me more.
The main core of our analysis will be which battlemasters will work best with each of them. Next, both Spinister and Crosshairs are upgrade-demanding characters, so in our initial deck I want to explore cards that let us cheat upgrade-plays… cards like Swindled and New Designs that swap our Action for a second Upgrade play, new cards like Shoulder Holster and Defensive Configuration that give us extra slots and let us play cards from the top of the deck, cards like Hunker Down that will pull Armour from the scrap and put it on Crosshairs, that kind of thing.
We also want to look at cards that give us access to more upgrades, and possibly even cards that will protect our upgrades – there’s plenty of Armour removal, and the existence of the secret action Sabotage Armaments makes playing Weapons somewhat frustrating if there’s a secret action in play on the other side of the table.
Cheating Upgrade Plays
What battle cards could we add to our deck that would let us play more upgrades than the standard one upgrade? Ignoring upgrades that just let you play another upgrade of the same type, or upgrades that require the character to be a Specialist, we have the following options:
A secret action, let’s us play an Armour on our opponent’s turn.
Defensive Configuration (Orange)
Added another Armour slot, will reveal the top card of the deck and if its an upgrade, plays it.
Full Loadout (Double-Orange, Star card)
Play one upgrade of each type.
Hunker Down (Blue)
Flips all our characters to tank-mode, plays an Armour from the scrap. Only works on Crosshairs, and only when he has no Armour at all.
Leap of Faith (White, Star card)
Two random cards from the top of the deck are played, not necessarily upgrades.
Metal Detector (Black, Green)
Plays the top card of the deck if its an upgrade when the upgraded character attacks.
New Designs (Orange)
Simply play another upgrade card.
Scrounge (Orange, Green)
Really random, but scraps the top card of the deck and plays it if its an upgrade.
Shoulder Holster (Blue)
Like Defensive Configuration, but for weapons instead.
Like New Designs but with a bit more digging; will only be available to Spinister.
Realistically our preference should be for cards that aren’t using up an upgrade that turn – so whilst I really like the idea of playing Shoulder Holster and Defensive Configuration, I sadly think they aren’t right here. I’m also putting Metal Detector to one side, because I think we’re unlikely to get many attacks from any character in our list; if we end up with a tough looking list, Metal Detector might be worthwhile. All three of the above mentioned cards would become more attractive if we had more upgrades than actions in our deck, though.
That’s still a wide selection here: Swindled is very suited for Spinister, Bolster and Hunker Down are perfect for Crosshairs, and New Designs (or Scrounge if we weight the deck towards upgrades) might be suited to both. Leap of Faith and Full Loadout will be worthwhile as star cards.
Oh, and Quartermaster is obviously necessary in this deck; we’re very reliant on battlemasters after all.
What about character companions? Who could help apply more upgrades to our target masters? We’ll need to ignore characters that are more than 10 stars; we can’t do anything with them.
Buzzsaw (5 star)
Plays a Blue Weapon when he attacks.
Sergeant Barricade (7 star)
Can burrow and later play a blank card; but I might feature this character in a later project so let’s ignore him for now.
Sergeant Cog (10 star)
When he dies you can draw some cards and play an upgrade on each of your characters.
Private Flak (4 star)
Let’s you do a New Designs if you discard an Orange card.
Megatron Arrogant Ruler (10 star)
Very flip intensive that will mesh poorly with Crosshairs, but does give us an extra upgrade when he flips to tank mode, and let’s us filter our hand when he attacks in bot mode. There could be some synergy here if we also have lots of flip cards like Roll-Out or Hunker Down.
Ramhorn (5 star)
Plays a White Armour when he defends.
This is a lot of options – these characters I think we’ll keep in mind for when we start looking at what battlemasters we want to play with. We can also think about our usual suspects who pull cards from the scrap like Chromia and Trigger Happy, and battle cards that do similar things such as Reclaim. If we use just one star card, we should remember old Needlenose (also a targetmaster!)
So we’ve got a lot of cards that we’ve singled out, our next step is to actually take a look at the various battlemasters we can pair with Crosshairs and Spinister. At present there are 13 different battlemasters, all with very different abilities, star costs and upgrade types. Some will be very suitable for our targetmasters, some won’t be.
We’ll need to go through these battlemasters, and analyse how they could fit with the characters we already mentioned, and decide which of them we want to try out with either of our guys.
That’ll be next week’s article; we’ve made a good start in our approach to these two characters. It should be fun exploring battlemasters to such a large degree in this project, especially as they have been one of the primary ‘gimmicks’ of the last two waves.
Until next time!
PS. As you can tell, I’m currently in the process of moving house. Apologies for the low res photos, the house is a disaster zone right now. Regular posts shouldn’t be affected but maybe only one a week for a bit!