2020: What could be next? (Part 2)

Welcome back, we’re counting down the list of likely characters that might show up in Transformers TCG next year. Part 1 covered #20-#11, now we’re covering the rest… and a few honourable mentions that snuck past.

Quick reminder of some guidelines for the list:

  • Original Generation 1 Toyline only.
  • No IDW original characters.
  • No cartoon-only characters.
  • No characters from other series.
  • No characters that only appeared in particular countries.

Got that? Great!

Note: Several days after I finished writing and editing this article, two videos (Really Dicey and Vector Sigma, probably even more by time of publication) have come out stating that Wave 5 is a ‘throwback’ set, similar to how Rise of the Combiners was.

First up, those honourable mentions…

HONOURABLE MENTION
JUMP STARTERS

(Topspin and Twintwist)

Imagine my surprise whilst editing this article and sorting photography when I realised… I had managed to not include the bloody Jump Starters. How did they manage to miss the cut?

Topspin and Twintwist were two of the worst toys in the ’80s. They had little movement, and an extremely simple one-step transformation. They always seem to be that toy that everyone had but nobody liked; they were often discounted and on sale even back in the day.

That could have been because neither character appeared in the cartoon; but like Roadbuster and Whirl they did get to be in the Wreckers in the Marvel comics, and had a memorable appearance in Nick Roche’s Last Stand of the Wreckers mini-series. Both have seen toys in the Titans Return toyline, which were far better received than their originals. Seriously, if you get a chance, pick up Topspin, he’s amazing.

The obvious existing counterparts in the card game right now are Runabout and Runamuck; but with their interesting alt-modes (a drill tank and a … spaceship?), these two could probably prove more interesting.

HONOURABLE MENTION
RODIMUS PRIME

I mean, I guess he is different from Hot Rod. I guess.

Maybe.

*shrugs*

Okay, now back to the list…

#10
WRECK-GAR and GNAW

Wreck-Gar is one of the most well remembered characters from The Transformers: The Movie. He was voiced by the amazing Eric Idle, had funny snappy dialogue, and most of his scenes were accompanied by Weird Al’ Yankovic (who later voiced him in Transformers: Animated).

Meanwhile, Gnaw isn’t really a character, so much as he is a given name for a generic Sharkticon; a group that in themselves are quite memorable for their antics in the movie.

Both of these characters have had toys in the last few years, and Gnaw was even part of a public vote for a toy in the upcoming Earthrise toyline. Gnaw is particularly noteworthy in that he is often seen as an army-builder character – the kind of toy you buy multiples of to form a giant mass of bodies for your other toys to fight against. The thing is, neither are really Autobot or Decepticon, being members of the Junkion and Quintisson factions respectively.

… but Wave 4 introduced mercenaries, so the chances of outsider characters sneaking into the game has gone up considerably. In fact, Wreck-Gar wouldn’t even be the first Junkion in the game – because Detritus got there first. As for Gnaw, the development team have hinted at possible ‘army building’ characters in interviews, and Gnaw (or the Sharkticons in general) would be a great candidate for such a character card.

Image
Picture courtesy of Tankhunter48

#9
SKYLYNX

When you’re a kid, you’d have lots of various different toys from different toylines and rather than just play with one toyline at a time, you’d grab toys from all sorts of different places and smash them all together, creating these insane narratives where Star Wars characters fight off Battle Beasts and He-Man before being stomped on by Go-Bots.

… which I guess would be some of the appeal of a character like Sky Lynx, a transformer comprised of a shuttle and… cargo crawler? that turns into a… lynx? and some sort of bird thing? Clearly this kind of character didn’t fit in with the rest of the Transformers line, but because Transformers was lots of different toylines taken from Japan and fused together to form one thing, you’d end up with weirdness like Sky Lynx. He is obviously a fan favourite, rumoured to get a new toy next year in Earthrise (his Combiner Wars toy isn’t popular), and would make an excellent addition to the card game.

He could work in many different ways too; personally I’d like to see him implemented as some sort of combiner-type character, but he could work like a duo-con just as well.

#8
REMAINING TARGETMASTERS

(Misfire, Slugslinger, Point Blank, Sureshot, Quake, Landfill, Quickmix, Scoop, and so on…)

Both Wave 3 and 4 of the Transformers TCG gave us Battlemasters, Transformers that had no alt mode but instead transformed into an upgrade on death. These waves also gave us a few of the original companion bots – in particular it gave us Spinister and Crosshairs (both of whom have toys in the Siege line), as well as the surprising inclusions of Needlenose and Triggerhappy.

There’s plenty of original targetmasters still to appear in the game – the most famous might be Misfire, the targetmaster originally bonded with Aimless. Misfire appeared frequently in the comic series More than Meets the Eye, up to various misadventures including playing the shooting game Shoot Shoot Bang Bang (which is where this site takes its name). A toy for Misfire was released a few years ago in the Titans Return toyline along with Triggerhappy, and other Decepticon targetmasters Quake and Slugslinger (original companion for Caliburst).

The Autobot targetmasters haven’t been as fortunate with toys; only Scoop has seen a toy release recently, and even that was about five years ago. Whether we’ll see the likes of Point Blank or Sureshot soon, in either toy or card form, is a good question.

#7
PERCEPTOR

Card games attract a certain type of person, quite often kids who grew up being ‘the smart one’, maybe coping with being the weird nerdy one in their group of friends. The Autobots had a character just like that, who had a regular role in the second season of the original cartoon and got a fairly hefty supporting role in the movie when few other second season characters did. It’s not surprising that he is often a favourite for many adult Transformers fans.

Perceptor is a scientist – because he is a scientist, he turns into a scientific instrument; a microscope. In fact, he turns into a working microscope. Later versions of the character, like the one released as part of Titans Return, also turn into working microscopes.

Like cameras and boomboxes, a microscope is a bit of an awkward alt mode so maybe it can have some sort of interesting feature to it. Perceptor has had other alt modes – like a jeep at one point – and in the IDW comics the character of Perceptor has gone from every day scientist to bad-ass sniper (see the art from Last Stand of the Wreckers used in the card Inverted). Whatever they inevitably do with Perceptor, he’s likely to be a popular character with fans.

#6
MINI BOTS

(Brawn, Gears, Huffer, Windcharger, Beachcomber, Powerglide, Seaspray, Hubcap, Outback, Pipes, Swerve, Tailgate, Wheelie)

The original toyline was built around two Japanese toylines – Diaclone and Microman, both of which included robots that turned into cars and other vehicles. The thing was, Diaclone were meant to turn into actual cars, whilst Microman were robots that turned into… toy cars, at 1:1 scale. These toys weren’t meant to sit next to each other; but Hasbro decided that they’d be in the same toyline, where the truck Huffer was somehow far tinier than the jeep Hound. These characters are often referred to as mini bots, and include some of the most well known characters in the series, such as Bumblebee and Cliffjumper.

Despite being fairly noteworthy characters, very few of the mini bots have made it to the card game. Bumblebee obviously has a staggering six different cards (with two further reprints released as store promo and collector’s edition cards), but beyond that we’ve only seen Cliffjumper, Warpath and Cosmos. We’ve yet to see fan favourites like Powerglide, Brawn, Tailgate, Swerve, Pipes or Seaspray. Although people probably would prefer to wait longer for Wheelie.

Look to see more of these characters slip into future waves, filling the gaps in those Autobot ranks.

#5
SIXSHOT

From completely reasonable expectations… to just one that we all want to see realised just to learn how the hell they’d make it work.

I remember being amazed the first time I saw Sixshot advertised on TV. He didn’t just have an alt mode, he didn’t just have three forms like a triple-changer… he could turn into six different things! Amazing!

Of course, what I didn’t realise is that all of those alt modes were a bit naff, but still Sixshot was kind of cool and badass, and whilst the Titans Return version of the toy continues to have terrible alt-modes, the general look of the bot mode is still really cool. There’s been a few other six-changers over the years (Quickswitch and Greatshot), but Sixshot is the only one we really care about.

Still have no idea how he’d work. Other than being a cube. Try packing that in your card case.

#4
SCORPONOK / FORTRESS MAXIMUS

With Wave 4 we saw the introduction of pack-in large character cards with booster boxes; letting us know that whilst the first Titan-class character (Metroplex) had his own starter set, large characters could end up being featured in all kinds of ways. Suddenly the doors were open for new large characters!

Enter Scorponok and Fortress Maximus, two Titan-class characters. Whilst depicted in the comics as regular size, in the cartoon they were monstrous former Hive cities. These two followed in the footsteps of Metroplex and Trypticon as giant transformers that turned into bases for the rest of their allies. However, both had third modes – Scorponok, naturally, turned into a giant scorpion where’s Fortress Maximus – amusingly called Spaceship Bruce in the dub of Japanese series Transformers Headmasters – turned into a giant spaceship.

In addition both of these characters would have support characters, including the bots that would form their heads, since they were both headmasters.

Speaking of headmasters…

#3
HEADMASTERS

(Brainstorm, Chromedome, Hardhead, Highbrow, Mindwipe, Weirdwolf, Skullcruncher, Snapdragon, and many more)

In 1987, the Transformers toyline introduced the headmasters, a group of transformers who had removable heads; the heads then turned into little people who could pilot the transformer in alt mode and…

… look. Headmasters are my JAM. I LOVE headmasters. I watched The Rebirth – the final three episodes of the original Transformers cartoon – a lot as a kid, and quickly fell in love with the characters, especially sketchy inventor Brainstorm (who is still probably my favourite character today). Both him and Chromedome – who is the leader of the group in the Japanese Transformers Headmasters cartoon (not recommended viewing) – have major roles in the amazing More Than Meets the Eye comic. Hardhead, the Autobot military tank guy, also shows up in the comics a lot supporting Optimus Prime, whilst the evil Decepticon bat Mindwipe is often seen supporting Galvatron when he takes over the Decepticons in Robots in Disguise. Oh, and in the comics, the headmaster Skullcruncher (who turns into a crocodile) becomes a successful touring comedian. The comics get super weird.

Headmasters by their very nature would have to add a new mechanic to the game; so if they were to appear, they would no doubt take centre stage. A ‘Titans Return’ wave could see them alongside many of the other characters mentioned in this list that have had Titans Return counterparts (Perceptor, Topspin, Twintwist, Broadside, a whole host of triple-changers, targetmasters, and even weird stuff like Sixshot). The classic Decepticon headmasters are all animals, so their introduction could see lots of Beast-support, buffing the under-powered Apeface from Wave 4; oh, and maybe we could also see Apeface‘s headmaster partner Spasma (yeah, I know) as well?

Headmasters would arguably be the largest and most meaningful inclusion in a future wave, without going outside of Generation 1.

But there’s a few characters that might be in more demand…

#2
BRUTICUS and DEFENSOR

(Combaticons: Onslaught, Swindle, Brawl, Vortex, Blast-Off and Protectobots: Hot Spot, Blades, First Aid, Streetwise, Groove and/or Rook)

Wave 2 was all about combiners, introducing several major combiner teams… but it excluded quite a few notable ones. We already mentioned the lack of Terrorcons and Technobots, but two of the most well known teams were also excluded: the Protectobots, forming Defensor, and the Combaticons, forming the mighty Bruticus.

Defensor is probably the least well remembered of the Scramble City era combiner teams, not really getting much screen time in the original cartoon; although it did produce break out star First Aid (who went on to have a significant role in the More Than Meets the Eye comic). Bruticus, though, is extremely well remembered. A combiner team formed by Starscream, they were part of a plot to overthrow Megatron – naturally it didn’t go well, because, well, its Starscream. It didn’t stop the Combaticons trying again, this time without Starscream, and only being stopped by a combined team-effort between the Autobots and the Decepticons.

One character in particular, Swindle, would make a name for himself with several solo appearances in the Transformers Animated cartoon, and was something of a recurring trouble-maker in the IDW comic series Robots in Disguise. The whole team would get a lot more focus in another IDW title, Til All Are One.

Both are beloved teams for many reasons; one would hope that when we finally see them in the game, they’ll be front and centre in any resulting meta, just like Superion before them.

And finally, arguably the most expected characters of all …

#1
GALVATRON, CYCLONUS and SCOURGE

I’ve been running a Transformers TCG guessing game each wave for a year now and I can confirm that with the exception of last wave, Galvatron has been overwhelmingly the character everyone thinks will appear the most every single wave. Cyclonus is not far off (and Scourge not behind him). Somehow it never happens.

I don’t think any of these need too much introduction – they are the bad guys in The Transformers: The Movie, and they continued to be the main villains in the cartoon’s subsequent seasons. Galvatron continues to reappear in main villain roles when Megatron is either dead or off elsewhere; whilst Cyclonus has become something of a cult favourite thanks to his key role in the More Than Meets the Eye comic series.

Scourge has less focus, but thanks to his Sweeps – a group of clones he can order around – he could bring a very interesting dynamic to the game.

We’re long overdue these three. Rumour has it that the development team have been holding them back for a set that is focused around them, but who knows when that’ll be? Surely we’ll see them before we see more action master partners, right?

So many characters still to come!

Whatever happens with the game in 2020, it’s clear there’s still plenty of characters to show up in the game just within Generation 1 alone. With plenty of cameos likely from other toylines, cartoons and comics, it would seem like there’s plenty of characters to feature before we see yet another Bumblebee or Optimus Prime.

… but we’ll probably get those as well.

We’ll have to see what happens when they announce Wave 5.

Until next time.

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

2020: What could be next? (Part 1)

We’re coming to the end of 2019; in terms of Transformers TCG, we’ve seen a lot we probably didn’t expect to see so early in the game’s lifecycle. We’ve seen triple-changers, we’ve seen combiners, we’ve seen micromasters and battlemasters. We’ve now seen 6 Bumblebees, 6 Optimus Primes, 6 Megatrons and 5 Starscreams. We’ve somehow seen Flame War twice, and the action master partners have cards; I repeat, Vanguard and Turbo-Board somehow have cards.

So what could be next? What could we see next year?

Stands to reason we might expect future waves to focus on incoming toyline War for Cybertron: Earthrise, just as we saw this year for War for Cybertron: Siege, but that’s probably at least a good wave or two away. Assuming the game stays within the confines of Generation 1, what toys haven’t they done yet that might appear in the next wave(s)?

In this two-part article, I’m going to run down some of the characters and groups of characters from the original Generation 1 toyline that have yet to appear in the game. Just Generation 1, no IDW original characters (sorry fans of Tarn, Drift, Nautica, etc.), no characters from later series (sorry fans of Beast Wars, Prime, Animated, etc.), and only characters that were available everywhere (so no Overlord, Star Saber, etc.)

This is loosely ordered in likelihood and anticipation. Loosely. Lists aren’t an exact science. You can’t get a degree in listology. I think. I’ll look that up.

Shall we start?

#20
MONSTERBOTS

(Doublecross, Repugnus, Grotusque)

Monsterbots were released in 1987 and were three creepy looking autobots that turned into monstrous creatures. Their original toys would do things like light up and spew sparks, similar to the Sparkbots and Firecons (the latter of which we saw in Wave 3 of the TCG).

Unlike either of those groups, all three Monsterbots have been remade recently – Doublecross appeared near the end of the Titans Return line as Twinferno, with two retools appearing in limited forms for Repugnus and Grotusque.

The Monsterbots wouldn’t require any particular new mechanic in order to appear in the card game, so could quite easily sneak in without much fanfare the same way the Firecons did in Wave 3. Their unique look would let them stick out from the pack, and they could operate as their own tribe.

#19
PRETENDERS

(many)

Coming out around the same time as the original Micromasters, Pretenders were a baffling idea where you’d have an average looking transformer that would sit inside a plastic shell when in a certain mode. The plastic shell wouldn’t do anything, and in most cases weren’t especially appealing to look at. I didn’t get it when I was a child, and I continue to not get it as an adult.

That being said, the line did produce some cult favourite characters like the weird Octopunch, and the iconic Bludgeon. Bludgeon‘s cult status has meant that he has become a regular antagonist in many of the comic series, and has even started appearing in the second season of Cyberverse. The pretenders also appear as weapon type characters in the Power of the Primes toyline.

Whether these characters just appear as regular characters in the card game or come with some sort of pretender gimmick remains to be seen; these characters could potentially have a small character that starts underneath a large character (representing the shell). Alternatively they could work as triple-sided cards, with three separate modes: alt-mode, bot-mode, pretender-mode.

#18
WHIRL and ROADBUSTER

Whirl and Roadbuster are two characters you won’t see in the original Generation 1 cartoon. Like Jetfire and the Deluxe insecticons Barrage, Chop Shop, Ransack and Venom (now Venin), they were not created by Hasbro partners Takara, but … okay hold up, do you care? Bunch of weird business stuff from the ’80s? Hit up tfwiki for the details, I’d just be repeating what they said anyhow.

Both of these characters would appear in the Marvel comics, in the elite combat unit The Wreckers. Later, they’d appear in the IDW comics too – Roadbuster in the Wreckers Saga and All Hail Megatron series, whilst Whirl would be a central character in the More Than Meets the Eye series. They also saw new toys in the Generations toy line, both of whom had gimmicks where they pack a whole ton of guns that you can cover all over their bodies and vehicle modes; just like Siege would do line-wide much later on.

Neither would necessarily need special mechanics; the slow inclusion of the Helicopter tribe makes Whirl increasingly likely, and it’s only a matter of time before Roadbuster shows up.

#17
MISSING DELUXE AUTOBOTS

(Skids, Tracks, Hoist)

We’ve seen most of the original ‘regular size’ main-line Autobots from the original pre-Movie lines in some form now. Jazz, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Red Alert, Smokescreen, Grapple, Inferno, Trailbreaker, Wheeljack… you name them, they’ve appeared in some form (even if it’s just as combiner pieces, as is the case for Sunstreaker).

There’s three characters that haven’t made the cut though: Skids, Tracks and Hoist.

Hoist is about to get a new toy next year in the new War for Cybertron: Earthrise toyline, so it’s possible we won’t see him until the inevitable Earthrise set. Skids enjoyed some focus in the More than Meets the Eye comic series, but that was a few years back, and he hasn’t done much outside that series.

Of the three, Tracks might be the most likely – a robot that turns into a car and a, err, flying car? It can go either way if he shows up as a triple-changer or just a regular car with some sort of flying bonus.

#16
BATTLETRAP

Wave 4 saw the appearance of Skytread, formerly known as Flywheels, as the first proper duocon in the game. He has no bot mode – just two alt modes, that when a trigger is met they form one combiner mode. This behaviour was also used for a second Omega Supreme.

Skytread wasn’t the only duocon though – in his original 1987 release, Skytread was paired with Battletrap, a duocon formed from a truck and helicopter.

Whilst the original toys had the same mechanics, the recent toys behave differently and exist in two separate toylines. Skytread is simply a tank and a plane that combine together and form one bot; but Battletrap is two separate characters, Roadtrap and Battleslash, that can form their own little bots if you don’t want them to form Battletrap. Whether or not Battletrap will work like this in the game, or if he’ll behave more like Skytread, is anyone’s guess.

#15
PUNCH / COUNTER-PUNCH

Continuing on with the 1987 crowd is the character Punch. Punch is an Autobot robot that turns into a car; but there’s more – Punch is a triple-changer too, with his third form being a Decepticon robot called Counter-Punch.

The character has a whole complicated story in the Marvel comic books (which I have not read so I won’t talk about them), but for more general audiences he might be best remembered for his single scene in the Transformers mini-series The Rebirth. If you’ve seen his scene you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t you should absolutely check it out – it’s a master class in spycraft; truly Punch is the universe’s greatest spy.

Punch got a toy in the Power of the Primes toyline only a year ago, and whilst players might not be clamouring for him for his sparkling characterisation, he could be mechanically interesting and yet simple all the same. Punch is one of the few characters where shifting faction is central to his design; it’d be really interesting to see a character with a Bot1 and Bot2 mode, instead of the usual Alt1 and Alt2 modes we see in regular triple-changers.

#14
BROADSIDE

By 1986 there were six official triple-changers, starting with ’85’s Astrotrain and Blitzwing for the Decepticons, and continuing with the inclusion of a third Decepticon (Octane), and three Autobots, including Springer and Sandstorm. All five of these characters have now appeared in the TCG, with Blitzwing and Springer appearing in Wave 2, and the others (and Springer again) appearing in Wave 4.

… but there’s a third Autobot triple-changer that has yet to see a card, and that’s Broadside. Broadside‘s original toy was somewhat maligned and a bit weird – he turned into a jet (fine), but also an aircraft carrier, something that should carry multiple jets… scale is always out the window when it comes to Transformers, but Broadside might be the biggest offender.

For Broadside to appear one would assume the game would bring him in with other triple-changers, just as they did in Wave 4. Whilst Broadside would be the last of the classic triple-changers, there’s plenty of other candidates such as Apeface‘s buddy Snapdragon, and triple-changer versions of characters like Sentinel Prime, Galvatron, Alpha Trion and even the leaders Megatron and Optimus Prime, which appeared in the Titans Return toyline.

#13
PIRANACON

(the Seacons: Snaptrap, Nautilator, Overbite, Seawing, Skalor, Tentakil)

One of the last regular size combiners in the original toyline, the Seacons are six bots that turn into sea monsters, as well as combining to form Piranacon. As combiners, they are notable for not only having a limb mode, but having a weapon mode as well.

The Seacons are being released as part of the Siege Selects line early next year. Whilst effectively retools of existing combiners from the Power of the Primes toyline (Mostly based on Terrorcons from what I can tell), they apparently will still be able to turn into weapons for the completed Piranacon.

Presumably any implementation of Piranacon would not utilize the Seacon’s weapon mode, and would just be a six-piece combiner like Optimus Maximus or Devastator. It’d be interesting if there was some way of having one behave as a battlemaster for the others, though.

#12
ABOMINUS and COMPUTRON

(Terrorcons: Blot, Cutthroat, Hun-Gurrr, Rippersnapper, Sinnertwin and Technobots: Afterburner, Lightspeed, Nosecone, Scattershot, Strafe)

Rise of the Combiners, the second wave of Tranformers TCG, introduced combiners – but it certainly didn’t introduce them all. There were a few notable exceptions (and we’ll come to a few more of them later on), but a pair that were definitely missing were the Terrorcons and the Technobots, two teams from the 1987 toyline.

The two groups are meant to be aesthetic rivals – the Terrorcons are ancient mythical beast creatures, representing fantasy; whilst the Technobots were futuristic sci-fi vehicles. In practice these bots weren’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing (Terrorcon Blot is infamously awful), but they are well loved all the same.

The Terrorcons were updated as part of last year’s Power of the Primes toyline, set up as a Decepticon rival to Volcanicus, the new combined form of the dinobots. Meanwhile Computron was released as a box-set a few years ago in the Combiner Wars toyline. Both might be longshots, but they are still cult favourites amongst fans; and the updated Terrorcons in particular might inspire some awesome updated robo-monster art.

#11
REFRAKTOR

(Viewfinder, Spyglass, Spectro)

Finally for Part 1, let’s talk about one of the last remaining Decepticons from the original series to not yet appear in the game: Reflector.

In the original cartoon, Reflector (now Refraktor) is a group of three fairly generic looking Decepticons. Individually they have no alt mode, but three of them can combine and form a camera, which other Decepticons can use to spy on their Autobot enemies.

Refraktor has never quite inspired people the same way Soundwave did – despite Soundwave‘s cassette recorder alt-mode now being obsolete, and cameras still being a thing. He’s still a loved character for some, appearing as a battlemaster of sorts for Skrapnel (of all people) in 2014, and getting two releases in the Siege line – a set in original toy colours, and an individual release in cartoon colours intended to be bought three times.

Refraktor is probably a bit weird for a mainstream TCG character card; it’s entirely possible that he might better fit a future promo release with a weird, underpowered mechanic. We’ll see.

Say cheeeeeeeese!

There’s still more to come – stay tuned for Part 2.

Until next time.

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

Artist Interview: Krin Syn

“I guess that means it was just TOO POWERFUL for mortals’ tournaments.” – Krin on the possibility of Daring Escape being banned.

Krin Syn is a colour artist mostly known for her fan works in the Transformers community, as well as being the title card artist for youtuber Todd in the Shadows. However with Wave 4 of Transformers TCG, Krin started doing official colour art for Transformers, providing colours for battle cards such as Reprocess, Lucky Vest, Dual Wield, Kinetic Convertor, Daring Escape and many more.

Krin was kind enough to answer some questions about the Transformers franchise, the fandom, the TCG and more.

Ready to hear about sea cucumbers and Mirage? Great. Let’s go.

(all photo comments by Krin.)

What are your earliest memories of Transformers, and what ultimately sucked you into the franchise?
My earliest memory of Transformers is from when I was very young, mid-late 80’s. I was at my grandmother’s house. She had cable, which my family did not have, and I was enjoying the cartoons. I saw a scene I’m still searching G1 for: a white robot turned into a car and drove down a road, which curved to the left. Fascinating! I wanted to see more! Then my grandmother walked into the room, said, “this is for boys,” and turned the channel. I didn’t see G1 again until a few years ago. The internet makes things so much more accessible nowadays. Growing up, I caught scraps of Beast Wars, which I liked a lot, but had limited access to. I didn’t see a Transformers show from start to finish until Beast Machines aired. I’d go to my best friend’s house to watch.

I wasn’t sucked into the franchise until years and years later. MTMTE (More than Meets the Eye, IDW comic – ed) is ultimately what grabbed me. I have always loved the idea of sentient robots and had seen parts of the franchise before reading the comics: some BW, BM, the 1986 movie (I bought its 20th anniversary DVD in 2006, so excited to see what it was all about, and found it confusing to the point of incomprehensibility because I hadn’t seen G1), TFA (Transformers Animated – ed), some Bayverse (also incomprehensible). I had enjoyed most of what I’d seen, but was never moved to buy toys or seek out others who were fans. MTMTE is what pulled me in, inspired me to participate in fandom, and to check out the shows I’d missed.

20th Anniversary DVD, aka, WHAT IS HAPPENING

Do you see yourself as a fan of the cartoons, the comics, the toys or something else?
I think I’m a fan of characters. I do like toys but I tend to only grab those of characters I like rather than collecting entire waves (I have… at least 11 Cyclonii). I absolutely love cartoons as a medium- it’s my favorite way to convey the franchise, but the IDW1 comics did the stories I like best. If MTMTE were made into a cartoon, that would be perfection for me.

Part of the Cyclonus Shrine

What hooked you into the actual fandom? What keeps you engaged with the fandom?
MTMTE hooked me, specifically TF biology and how it influenced their culture. Fandom-found friends, doing art, and exploring concepts that are interesting to me keep me engaged. One of my first steps into fandom was a Cybertronian equivalent to the textbook Gray’s Anatomy, which I called the “Anatomica Cybertronia.” I still really enjoy thinking about medical/biological implications for TFs!

A disease caused by the empurata procedure.

Mirage is quite clearly your favourite character, what do you like about Mirage?
[WARNING: LOST LIGHT SPOILERS!]
I love his design! It’s unique and beautiful. His helm has a pharaoh-y feel to it, very regal. His special ability is also unique to him and has incredible storytelling potential. To be honest, Cyclonus was my #1 until (SPOILERS!) Mirage was slaughtered by Star Saber in LL. That was when I switched my fan-content focus to Mirage. Cyclonus was fine. He had tons of fans. But Mirage needed more love!

… and more importantly, why Mirage and Skywarp? What makes them the couple for you?
Haha! Oh no. Okay. You know shipping, right? I have always been completely perplexed by it. Did not understand OTPs (One True Pairing – ed) at all. But a good percentage of the side of fandom I hang with revolves around that kind of thing. I felt left out! I wanted to join! So I slapped together a bunch of crack pairs in a grotesque facsimile of the practice. Mirage and Skywarp was one of them. I initially paired them up because their colors are nice together and they can both disappear, in their own ways. But they stuck in my mind. And then I thought about them too much. They became my favorite and now I love them. My desk is an ode to the OTP.

OTP!
OTP!!!! Oh no

What are some of your other favourite characters from across the franchise and why?
Cyclonus: purple, pointy, competent. In MTMTE he was scary, insular, and everyone left him alone. That changed eventually, but I don’t hold it against him.

TFP Soundwave: TFP (Transformers Prime – ed) has amazing designs and Soundwave‘s is my favorite. He’s just so cool. A powerful, memorable character who doesn’t need to say a word.

Flatline is fascinating to me. In IDW1 he left the Decepticons! That’s amazing! Why did he do that? Also, he’s a red and black medic, instead of the usual red and white.

Many of my favs are favs simply because of color schemes and designs. Octane has that distinctive crown-shaped helm and he’s purple. Aquafend has those 3 lights on his head and his colors are cwazy. Crosscut‘s chest looks like a happy puppy face. There’s so much to love in Transformers!

Flatline + obsidian for Crystalline fanzine. Lines by Albie Lim/@dailydurian, colors by Krin.

How long have you been drawing and colouring? What initially inspired you to start – and other than drawing robots, what else inspires you to draw?
I drew a little bit when I was young, but I didn’t do art with any kind of regularity until around 2010. Drawing title cards for Todd In The Shadows is what really pushed me into the art world. In that way, Todd has been an incredibly important person for me. I have no formal training in art. When he took me on as his title card artist, I was forced to practice, learn, and invest in better art supplies. The first few title cards I did took me 12 hours each: I had Photoshop 7 and a mouse and no idea what I was doing. I literally didn’t know how to make a canvas the correct size in PS so I measured it out on paper and scanned it. I wonder if he would’ve taken me on if he knew that??

Hand drawn title card. Not pictured: 2010 Krin panicking cuz she doesn’t know how to draw or use Photoshop.
Final card. I whip my hair back and forth! I whip my hair back and forth! I whip my hair b-

I wish I could say I was one of those artists born with a pencil in my hand. I’m not. I find coloring other peoples’ lines much more fun and enjoyable than drawing my own. In terms of coloring itself, I’ve been practicing on and off for about four years.

2015 Whirl colors, lines by Albie Lim/@dailydurian. One of my first fan arts!
2019 Whirl colors, lines by Winston Chan/@CWingsyun

The funny thing about inspiration, for me, is that it comes from different places but invariably ends with robots. I take a lot inspiration from my job and apply it to TFs. If canon says, “sub-cutaneous circuitry,” what does that mean? We’ve seen protoforms. What kind of embryological development do robots go through? Working with anatomy and parasites and applying those things to robots is very inspiring for me. In terms of coloring, my biggest inspiration is Josh Perez/@dyemooch. I love his style!

“Anatomica Cybertronia” hand gripping a brain module.

Do you consider art to be a career, or more of a hobby?
That’s an interesting question for me. My full time job is completely unrelated to art – I am a Biologist. I work in a lab with specimens in jars most people would rather not think about. Art has always been a hobby… until this year! Doing the TFTCG work thrust me into this place where, based purely on definition, I might be considered a professional artist now. I do commissions here and there, and I have two clients I do steady work for, but I definitely need my lab job to survive. Art is in this gray zone where I desperately wish I could give it more time, both for studies to improve and to produce content, but my time and energy are restricted by the day job. Right now art is like a mini career.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to make more out of being an artist?
Practice! As much as you can. Look up tutorials. Dissect the art you like – what do you like about it? What can it teach you? Find friends to learn and grow with. A bunch of friends I made through fandom also did work for TFTCG this year and a few have joined IDW. Your peers are who you will grow with. Be kind, be supportive, be encouraging!

People might also recognize your art in the title cards for youtuber Todd in the Shadows; how did you end up working with him?
Long story short: at the time that he was beginning to pick up traction on the now-defunct TGWTG site (That Guy With The Glasses – ed), I was getting into pop music. His review style and his humor totally jived with me. I made a comic in his review style, which he really liked. I continued making fan art until he asked me to be his artist. 2020 will officially mark 10 years doing art for him! 😀

You got mentioned in a fairly recent video as having bugged him to cover Pepper by the Butthole Surfers for his show One Hit Wonderland; how long did it take you to convince him to do that one?
I didn’t! That’s one of Todd’s many embellishments! And it’s been a secret until now, haha. I’ve mentioned favorite one hit wonders, including “Pepper,” in our chats over the years. One day he decided to review it. If he had asked me to pick, I would’ve requested “Sunny Came Home.” In the video, though, we played it up like I had been bothering him for years and years about “Pepper” and he finally blessed me with a review. The title card was super fun to do! His pose is a Simpsons reference.

“Pepper” title card.

Back to Transformers, what work have you done in an official capacity for Transformers?
My official work for Transformers has been providing colors for TFTCG, through Volta, for Hasbro/WoTC.

What challenges did you have to overcome doing colours for the card game?
The first challenge was navigating the absolute scream energy of being assigned Alex Milne lines for my first five cards. I was stunned and excited and nervous all at once. But I had to get a grip and get to work, because my other challenge was that I could only work on art around my day job, and we were in a bit of a crunch.

The very first card I colored, “Lucky Vest,” with lines by Alex Milne.

Is there a particular card that you’re particularly proud of?
Yes!! Reprocess, lines by Casey Coller. The coloring really clicked for that one and I was so, so happy with it. Casey’s lines are fantastic to color!

“Reprocess,” lines by Casey Coller, colors by Krin.

A card you coloured, Daring Escape, has been the centre of some controversy lately. As an innocent artist who worked on this card, how did you feel that some were wanting to see it banned?
I was surprised! I can’t help but feel a bit protective of the cards I colored. If one of them was banned I think I’d be a little sad. But… then again… I guess that means it was just TOO POWERFUL for mortals’ tournaments.

“Daring Escape,” lines by Sara Pitre-Durocher, colors by Krin.

Have you had a chance to play the card game, and how did you find it? Do you play card games / board games / rpgs / etc in general?
I haven’t played the game. I generally don’t play any type of game. I’m a very unexciting person, in that way >.> I’d be happy to learn the basics someday, though!

What about unofficial and fan works? Has there been anything fan-made that you’ve worked on and are particularly proud of?
Definitely! I absolutely love coloring friends’ lines. For inktober 2018 I did wraith-infested TFs. I’m proud of those, as well as the “Anatomica” concepts, and various fanzine contributions I’ve done with my friend Albie/@dailydurian!

Soundwave lines by Jar of Loose Screws/@JarOLooseScrews, colors by Krin.
Inktober 2018 wraith-infested Nautica wants to be your amica.
Inktober 2018 wraith-infested Sunder. Possibly also wants to be your amica.
Hearts of Steel Skywarp, teleporting, for Crystalline fanzine. Lines by Albie Lim/@dailydurian, colors by Krin.

When did you start drawing Sea Cucumbers, and what’s the original inspiration for drawing them as Transformers and other characters?
Sea cucumbers started in October 2019. I saw the article headline: “Antarctica scientists find bizarre creature 3,500m under ice: ‘Like nothing seen before.’”

There are all kinds of TF AUs (Alternate Universes – ed) out there: humans and mermaids and dragons. I thought “bizarre deep sea creature AU” was hilarious. And the actual creature is very cute! So, I drew my favs as deep sea cucumbers because it’s 2019 and we all need to escape reality somehow. They’re cute and fun to draw, and they make people happy. They are the perfect AU. Some people have even commissioned cucumbers of their own!

First sea cucumber AU sketch (OTP!)
A fancy Mirage sea cucumber.
Sparkeater, TFP Starscream, Bluestreak & Hound, Cosmos, and Windblade sea cucumbers, wiggly and happy~

Are you happy to do card signings, and if so when and where can people find you? (conventions, etc.)
Sure, if people want them! I might attend TFN in 2020, but I’m pretty shy about attending conventions. If anyone out there REALLY REALLY wants me to sign something for them, I have a PO Box. We can figure something out!

Finally, is there anything else you want to add or say to the Transformers TCG community?
Have fun! Enjoy the game and be kind to people still learning it. If there’s a particular card that has art you love, let the artist(s) know! That would make their day!

Krin Syn Cardography (3/12/19)
Wave 4:
Battle Cards (Colours): Backfire, Contract Contingency, Conversion Engine, Crude Club, Daring Escape, Designated Target, Dual Wield, Guarded Posture, Kinetic Converter, Lucky Vest, Multi-Missile Pod, Pincer Movement, Reprocess, Shoulder Holster, War of Attrition

Thanks Krin for the interview. Please check out more of Krin’s art on Twitter, Tumblr and DeviantArt. Colouring commissions are open, check out this tweet for info.

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Building Seekers: A Summary

This is the fourth and final part of our look at Black pips and Seekers (specifically Thundercracker and Nova Storm) in Wave 4 of the Transformers TCG. I’ve been playing around with this deck since launch, tried it out on multiple opponents and in various configurations. I’ve tested it locally at home with a variety of decks now – both Blue and Orange – and feel ready to call time on this project and move on to the next.

Before we do that though, I’d like to give a summary of the two focal characters, and give some general observations about playing a pure Black deck these last few weeks.

Want to read the whole thing from the beginning? Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Done? Cool.

“Nova Storm, I’m tired of this damn project. Let’s go off and enjoy the outside world!”

Summary – Characters
Whilst both seekers are Black-centric Decepticon planes, I feel like they play differently and will have different roles in the game going forward.

Let’s briefly talk about how these two fit in.

“Gah, who knew even on a sunny day the UK was freezing in December!”

Thundercracker
Ultimately this project has been centred around Thundercracker; it was the article that revealed him that informed the direction of this project and the resulting deck, after all. I’d like to bring us back to this quote from Ken Nagle:

“Sergeant Thundercracker is a new archetype all by himself.”

… and he ain’t kidding, for one painfully clear reason: Thundercracker punishes you for every non-Black card you play.

During the course of this project I’ve seen a lot of my friends play around with Black pips in other decks. In many of these decks, when they talk about Black decks they are actually talking about Blue/Black decks, rather than near total Black. That’s mostly because they are playing decks that benefit from having particular Black cards – usually mercenary-enabled cards in decks that feature Octane, Lockdown, Nightbird, etc. Characters like Soundblaster are also finding themselves running Black cards, because there are Black pips required for Soundblaster‘s abilities. These decks tend to treat Black the same way most other Blue decks treat Orange or blank cards – they are just off-colour cards that feel necessary for their decks.

However, Thundercracker is different from these setups. He doesn’t require just one or two Black pips in order to work; his bot mode ability is only worthwhile if he is flipping a substantial amount of Black pips, and if you flip to his alt mode and the revealed card is not Black, it might be considered a wasted flip. You can certainly bypass that restriction by using Plan or Plan-like effects like that of Incoming Transmission; but then you’re having to spend an action to do that, and you could be using that action to do something else. The reveal is still nice – revealing a Sturdy Javelin kind of sucks, but at least you know you’re getting three further cards and can plan for it still. Never forget the worth of just knowing what you’re about to flip.

Thundercracker‘s stats are very good – probably the best around for his star cost. If you’re not running a Black deck though, taking him is basically on par with taking Wave 1 Slug but with the Ranged trait; not entirely a poor pick, but I think most decks could find a better choice in the 9-star category. Take Triggerhappy, a Wheeljack or Ironhide instead.

Thundercracker wants Black more than aggro bugs want Orange; he punishes you even for having plain White cards in your deck. I fear Thundercracker will only be seen in this very restricted, pure Black setup; but within that setup he is the star player. An appropriate spot for a Rare character card.

Basking in the Sun’s rays.

Nova Storm
At the start of this project I was relatively dismissive of Nova Storm; sitting next to Thundercracker she felt a bit wanting and whilst she could arm herself with a Black upgrade for some tasty Pierce 3 and damage moving when she flips to alt mode, she looks like the weaker one in the party. Who needs Pierce 3 when you could potentially hit 5 Black pips on the attack anyhow?

Except… Nova Storm is pretty good. I ran her in a release day sealed alongside Sights and Sandstorm and that worked out rather well; and I’ve seen her partnered with a lot of other bots in other lists since. She’s appeared in lists that have done well in actual competitive tournaments, which is rather exciting.

She’s got just the right stat line for her star cost. Whilst Pierce 3 is a little redundant if you’re flipping 5 Black, she can still arm herself with a weapon so that ceiling is a bit higher. A Nova Storm with a Crowbar only needs 4 Black to hit 7 Pierce 7 after all, and that gets higher when you start playing Calculated Strike or Opportune Offensive on her.

Plus, unlike Thundercracker, you don’t need to be running an entirely Black deck; you just need a few Black upgrades, and there’s plenty of those to pick from depending on what type of deck you’re running. Pierce 3 is much nicer when you’re running mostly Blue; I hope and expect to see more of her as the wave continues.

So many cards!

Black
An entirely Black deck is something that felt completely barmy in Wave 3 – the cards were so utterly lacking and there was such a sparse selection that the very idea of running just Black was a bit of a non-starter. I don’t think I knew anyone who gave it a go, except perhaps at the end with Devastator (and even then, it didn’t go so well).

Wave 4 changed things significantly, with Black being the most common pip colour amongst the new cards. The cards introduced in this set have started to inform us how Black might be intended to be played, and some of the cards that were included sync with a pure-Black strategy in interesting ways. I’d like to highlight some cards that I have found particularly interesting whilst playing this deck:

Increased Durability and Minor Medic Kit
I think a lot of strategies can be boiled down to an offensive plan and a defensive plan, even if the defensive plan is ‘kill them faster than they kill us’. For Black, part of the defensive plan appears to be just keep adding health.

This tracks with a character like Thundercracker having such a high health stat, but Wave 4 also introduces two new upgrades: Minor Medic Kit and Increased Durability.

The cards fit different upgrade slots so can be happily played on the same character. Thundercracker with both makes for a terrifying 20 health. Even a lowly micromaster becomes less than trivial with one or two of these upgrades.

It makes sense for Black to have its own defensive plan; Black lacks the ability to lower incoming damage like Blue, and lacks the outgoing damage output of an Orange deck, so having something like +Health offsets Black’s shortcomings.

Increased Durability and Minor Medic Kit have been very important in most of my games and have often been deciding cards in winning games.

Crowbar
I find this card fascinating because on paper… it’s absolutely rubbish. A Primary Laser that scraps after use? Why would anyone want that?

Except… I kind of see how it works in a Black deck. Obviously you get the advantage of the double-Black pips, but in a deck that is wanting to maximize its Pierce value, only adding +2 to your attack is kind of what you want. Earlier I gave an example with Nova Storm where you could add this to her and then expect to get 4 Black pips on the flip, but there’s other uses for it too, for example…

… coupling Crowbar with Fight for Position on Thundercracker can result in flipping dramatically high amounts of Black pips (especially if we hit multiple double-Black cards), on top of a slightly improved attack value. Every character starts feeling like Arcee.

You’re likely to take Crowbar just for the pips, but unlike Improvised Shield and Handheld Blaster that rarely feel good in your hand, Crowbar can actually work out. Plus the fact that it scraps immediately afterwards means it will find it’s way back in to your flips, increasing the number of Black pips you flip next time.

Swerve
All hail Swerve. All hail this beautiful, beautiful card.

Not you!

I definitely hit a lot of Sturdy Javelins when Thundercracker flips to alt mode, so having a card that has both White and Black is very appealing on its own. Swerve also synergises well with Thundercracker and Nova Storm, letting them both fling damage at an attacker. Attacking either with only one health whilst a secret action is in play becomes a dangerous proposition. Even just adding the extra point of defense feels worthwhile. I’d definitely be on the look out for other teams I could use this card with; using it to ping damage to an opponent is fun, imagine what else it could do.

RR Disruptor Blade
Finally, a deck that makes good use of this card. +3 damage, and in this deck, no drawbacks or limitations. Nuff said.

“I thought beaches were meant to be sandy? What are these pebbles?”

General Observations
How could a Black deck possibly fit into an existing meta? I definitely don’t feel comfortable in thinking that such a deck would have a guaranteed place in a competitive environment – for starters, I can’t imagine how a Black deck could take on an Orange deck and survive. Black simply doesn’t have the tools to deal with a pure Aggro deck yet; it can’t reduce the incoming attack by enough not to be squashed. Whilst it does have the advantage of higher health pools, those aren’t guaranteed and the upgrades can be knocked off just as easily as Tough upgrades can for a Blue player.

I’m not even sure if it has a place in a meta dominated by successful Blue decks; I’ve certainly seen some success against well built Blue decks with Thundercracker, but it’s still resulted in some very close games when my opponents are using anti-Pierce tech like Stable Cover and Point-Defense System, or have high health values themselves, abilities like Safeguard or simply being able to bring a lot of raw damage to the table.

However, there are two really big reasons why I think you should have a deck like this built:

  1. A Black deck makes for an excellent stress test for any Blue deck you are intending on building. For a Blue deck to be successful, it will need to be able to defeat an opponent in a timely manner even without Tough or flipping Blue cards; otherwise you’ll be vulnerable to a rival Blue deck that simply hits harder than you (or indeed any Blue deck with easy access to Pierce or non-attack damage).
  2. This deck is incredibly cheap, and uses very few Rare cards. The original build I made in Part 2 of this project had exactly 3 Rare cards – all of them copies of RR Disruptor Blade. Every other card was either Common or Uncommon.

    I did bring in Rare cards during testing in Part 3; Opportune Offensive of course is a Rare card and one that worked very well. The other two – Bombing Run and Roll-Out – actually worked against the deck.

    The monetary value of this deck is FAR lower than almost any equivalent Blue or Orange deck. Those decks would need to bring in expensive cards like Peace Through Tyranny, Security Checkpoint, Energon Axe, Marksmanship, Roll-Out, Matrix of Leadership, I Still Function, etc. in order to make them work. This deck neither needs nor wants those cards.

There’s other considerations with the deck that I didn’t get into; the conversation in the community right now is very focused on decks that want to win using Daring Escape, and I never explored how this deck would deal with that card (I’d imagine in the same ways every other deck would). There are negative consequences of this deck too – a player who enjoys creating interesting decks with Blue might find it demoralising playing against a deck that effectively ignores every pip they flip and makes Tough more or less worthless.

Finally, my personal view is that Black isn’t competitive right now… but I’m not a competitive player, I’m a player who just enjoys playing with the mechanics of the game. What the hell would I know anyways? It might just not be Black’s time yet; just like Wave 4 gave Black more options than during it’s introduction in Wave 3, future waves may do the same to push Black as a competitive archetype.

… aaaaaaaand….. relax.

Final Thoughts
In the end, I definitely feel like I understood what the original official article was getting at with Thundercracker, Planes and Black pips. What at the time felt like a weird mix of various undesirable traits and abilities bundled together, actually ended up making a deck I had a lot of fun playing.

I certainly haven’t finishing playing with the deck; I’ll definitely keep it around – because, again, really cheap – and tweak it from time to time. The deck I have right now is optimised ‘for fun’, not mathematically optimised to get the very best numbers possible, nor have I even considered trying to optimise it to take on an Orange deck (if that is even possible). I have lots of questions about running all Black too, like what are the probabilities of hitting just Pierce 2 or hitting Pierce 7 when you flip? Those types of probability calculations are way out of my skill set and better handled by another creator.

It’s time to move on though, so whilst this might not be the end of Black pips on this blog, it is the last of Thundercracker and Nova Storm. They can now enjoy their time by the sea in peace.

Until next time.

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Weekend Tournament: Liverpool!

This week we have a special guest article written by Joe Campbell, giving us a look at what’s going on in Liverpool, UK. Thanks Joe for the guest article!

A few weeks ago, a couple of pieces were posted on this very webpage about the origins and growth of a number of local communities around the UK. “All well and good” you may think, but no! There was something lacking; NORTHERNERS. I, one Joe Campbell, from lovely Merseyside am here to put that right for you today…

It all began shortly after the game came out in Autumn of last year when a local games store, JustPlayGames in Liverpool, put on an open house event for people to come and try the game. I had already picked up the starter set and a good few boosters and had taught myself to play with the cards I had bought so, not wanting another load of trading cards to sit in a drawer somewhere and gather dust, I forced myself to go. Honestly, I should force myself to do things more often because I don’t think I’ve had as much fun playing other games as I have this one… Anyway, this open house day brought together a “core” group of roughly five of us who have all stuck around since the game’s launch (woop!). Seeing how much we enjoyed playing the game, JustPlay soon agreed to run tournaments which, come the new year, were running every other Sunday. More tournaments brought with it more people and we’re now at a solid number of 10-15 people, all of whom massively enjoy the game and have different decks and strategies they like to use which is great!

To be honest, I was hoping to waffle a bit more about how we all get along and we’ve all fallen in love with the game etc., but you don’t want to hear about that, right? You want action, and action is what you shall have! For a couple of reasons, JustPlay weren’t able to run an event the weekend of Wave 4’s release, resulting in our first tournament of the new set being squidged in on Saturday the 16th. This was a blessing in disguise in a sense as it meant we would have less time with the cards and, in theory, should come up with funkier decks, making for a fun tournament. Before I get into what occurred, a brief rundown of the deck and why I played it…

Characters:
Raider Ion Storm
Raider Triggerhappy
Flamewar

Actions:
Bombing Run x 1
Escape Route x 3
Marksmanship x 3
Pep Talk x 2
Security Checkpoint x 3

Steady Shot x 3
Swindled x 1
The Bigger They Are x 3
War of Attrition x 3

Upgrades:
Weapons

Armed Hovercraft x 2
Crowbar x 2
Energon Axe x 2
Handheld Blaster x 3
Scoundrel’s Blaster x 1

Armour
Improvised Shield
x 3
Reflex Circuits x 1

Smoke Cloak x 3

Utilities
Field Communicator x 1

Pips:
Blue = 36
Orange = 7
White = 4
Green = 8

Black = 12
Blank = 0

As you may be able to tell, this list was heavily influenced by the one that Ben Cottee used to achieve a Top 8 finish at the Energon Open in London. I’d used Triggerhappy before and really liked how he functioned, but I wanted to try something that I knew had seen success at a high level. This, coupled with the fact that I was fairly confident we’d be seeing at least one Aerialbots deck made it a pretty simple decision. Now for the exciting bit! Here’s how the tournament went down…

Round 1
Alex Rimmer – Bugs

When I sat down at the table opposite Alex and realised what she was running, my first thought was “Let’s just get this over and done with” as this was a matchup that I *should* have had a lot of trouble with. Even though she’s relatively inexperienced, she still knows how to play and her other half, Dan (also playing) will have passed on his wisdom of how to run the deck. Once we started playing however, my confidence grew. After winning the dice roll, Alex sensibly chose to go first but rather than making the usual play of sending out Skrapnel first to soak up a hit, she sent Kickback, arguably the hardest hitter of the team. Against some decks, this move might’ve worked but versus the beefy boi that is Ion Storm, it didn’t do her any favours. After a few turns of patience, I managed to use all three War of Attritions which left Ion Storm sitting pretty to clear up, with Triggerhappy and Flamewar chipping away for the win.

The second game went almost the same as the first, although one play in particular stood out. The first attack went into Triggerhappy and done a decent chunk, but I wasn’t too fussed as it kept Ion Storm healthy who I felt was the character who’d give me the best chance of taking the set. After I sent out my Ion Storm and it was Alex’s turn to attack again, she made the error of using Barrage to attack into an undamaged character meaning that, following an attack from Triggerhappy and after we untapped everyone, I was able to finish it off with another big hit from the main man. During the set, Alex was saying things like “I can’t maths” and “I suck” which I didn’t like to hear as it wasn’t true at all. If you’re reading this, Alex, let me tell you this; you didn’t lose because you suck, you lost because of inexperience and the fact you faced a relatively unusual team. Keep at it, and you’ll be beating Dan and the rest of us in no time. 🙂

End of Round 1: 1-0

Round 2
Lee Bailey – Octone/W2 Prowl/W1 Arcee

It had been a little while since I’d played Lee at one of our locals, so I didn’t know what to expect really. From what I could tell, it seemed like he’d been chopping and changing decks instead of refining one set idea after his beloved Dinobots became less and less of a threat. Whatever he went with, it was going to be tough as Lee has won more tournaments than anyone else up to this point.

Frankly, there’s not an awful lot I can say about this set as I got well and truly destroyed by the ridiculously aggressive orange build that Lee had opted for. Although I managed to get rid of the Prowl and the Arcee reasonably easy, it meant that Octone was virtually unharmed and could take the full force of Ion Storm without a sweat. Coupled with the fact my other two characters were already quite damaged, it was a formality.

Having lost the first, I felt I needed to go first in an attempt to get Arcee gone ASAP, which I did by bouncing back a Forcefield with Ion Storm. Even though I got that KO, I was still at a disadvantage but, with a little energon and a lot of luck I just about scraped it. In the decider however, I would have no such luck. The initial few turns went the same way as in the previous games with us exchanging blows, something which I could barely cope with in the first place. What happened next though was what really won it for Lee. Octone swung for his first attack of the game and after playing Grenade Launcher > Dual Wield > Grenade Launcher to leave a previously undamaged Ion Storm on 1HP, there was nowt I could do. Simple as.

End of Round 2: 1-1

Round 3
Martin Slater – Barrage/W1 Kickback/W4 Raider Kickback/W4 Raider Chop Shop (Blue Bugs)

Blue Bugs was quite possibly the most anticipated deck coming into Wave 4, so I was looking forward to this one a lot. After having a bit of a rough time, I was somewhat thankful to be paired with Martin as I believed the matchup to be heavily in my favour due to the evilness I had sitting in the sideboard (more on that later!), regardless of the healing shenanigans he could pull off.

This one started off relatively slowly with Martin flipping Raider Kickback and attacking with its Wave 1 counterpart. Since it was the first turn, no damage could be healed but, because of the Blue pips that were flipped, I took damage from Raider Kickback’s bot ability. This was something I wouldn’t take seriously until a good few turns later. It was obvious to me that the extra Tough from Flamewar wasn’t going to help during the first few turns in the same way it would against a more aggro deck, leading me to attack first with Triggerhappy in bot mode for a minimum of 2 damage. The only damage Martin was really doing for the first few turns was through Raider Kickback’s ability with the odd Black pip thrown in, leaving me in quite a comfortable spot. Come the first reset of the game, Barrage had just swung for 5 Pierce 4 thanks to its Bold 2 and a bunch of Blacks being flipped – ouch. Not wanting to take any more nonsense like that, I whacked a Crowbar on Ion Storm to take out Barrage and that was pretty much that for the first game. Another triple War of Attrition stopped any potential comeback from there. Now here’s where it gets interesting…

Knowing that Martin wasn’t running much in terms of upgrade hate, there was no hesitation in me siding in my secret weapon; MULTI MISSILE PODS.

When we were still in the early stages of game 1, this was something I knew I had to at least try for. No amount of healing was going to help should I get all three, right? We start as we did the first with Martin flipping Raider Kickback and attacking with Kickback, dealing little bits of chip damage. My first defence flip? Missile Pod. “Oh no!” I thought, but after looking at my hand, I sighed with relief, for there was an Escape Route looking up at me *whew*. I immediately flip Triggerhappy back and forth to retrieve the crucial first Missile Pod, sending Ion Storm for yet another large attack. To maximise my chances of getting all three Missile Pods to fire and KO multiple characters, I had to use Flamewar and Ion Storm as meat shields for Triggerhappy whilst still eating away at Martin’s bugs. This ended up working out preeettttyyy nicely if I do say so myself. Fast forward to a turn after resetting, and the board looked like this…

I’d just played another Escape Route which allowed for the fabled third Missile Pod to be attached! I send Triggerhappy in, wiping out half of his team in one go. There was no coming back from that, especially since I still had Ion Storm swinging big. Sorry Martin…

End of Third Round: 2-1

With an attendance of 7, it meant we were only able to play 3 rounds as opposed to the usual 4 which really isn’t that bad considering we only had confirmation of the event on the Thursday! It didn’t make the final standings any less interesting though…

1st – Lee Bailey (Octone/W2 Prowl/W1 Arcee)
2nd – Dan Jones (W4 Gen. Prime/Raider Sights/Raider Nightflight)
3rd – Myself (Raider Ion Storm/Raider Triggerhappy/W1 Flamewar)
4th – Tom Russell (W1 Aggro Bugs)
5th – Paul Smith (Aerialbots)
6th – Martin Slater (Blue Bugs)
7th – Alex Rimmer (W1 Aggro Bugs)

As it turns out, the latest set has some pretty solid characters! Personally, I wasn’t too hyped about the majority of characters this wave but after playing against them, I’m super excited to get back to the drawing board to see what I can come up with for the next tournament on the 1st of December (my birthday!).

I hope you enjoyed a little taster of we up norf get up to every other week when we all come together to play this awesome game we all absolutely adore. I’ve no idea if or when you’ll hear from us again; it all depends on whether or not the big boss man, Mr Donovan, can tolerate my ramblings. Ta-ta and farewell… for now.

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Building Seekers: Back in Black

In this series so far we’ve talked about theory and gone through cards. We now have a base mono-Black deck in which to play with – the question is, what cards will work in practice, what kind of pip colour ratios do we want, who do we want in our team, and do we want to have mercenaries*?

In this article, we’ll be trying out variations of our base deck with a variety of different teams, and switching out cards in our base deck. We want to learn what works well in a Black Decepticon Planes deck, and what doesn’t.

(Didn’t read the previous parts? Here is Part 1, here is Part 2)

*this wasn’t a question, this was four.

Disclaimer
So I figured I’d mention this before we start – I have been playing with variations of this deck already, as I was very eager to jump in and just start playing. For the first week of Wave 4, I was playing a version of this deck with Nightbird, utilizing the mercenary cards Dual Wield and Opportune Offensive. Chances are if you caught the second part of this article on social media, you’ll have already seen the deck I used. For those who are coming in late, it looked like this:

I bring this up because I already know a little bit about what will work and what won’t, because I already did some limited testing two weeks ago. It’s informed my choice of test opponent, and given me an idea of how I should expect decks to perform against it.

You again? Really? Can we get Rodimus Prime soon? Or Optimus Primal?

Test Opponent
Given that a Black deck is a new archetype, I want to initially test this against a deck it should theoretically do well against. Thus I don’t want to test it against an aggro deck like Bugs (I don’t see that going very well at all), but rather a moderately strong Blue deck. I have four already made and ready from Wave 3 – Ironhide, Megatron Living Weapon, General Megatron, and a Wave 2 Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend deck.

I’ve decided to use the Optimus Prime deck – it’s rather old, but relatively simple to pilot, with a proven track record in its time (The one I had built was based on Vector Sigma’s, as piloted by Daniel Arnold to second place at Origins 2019 – Deck List, Article). It’s also a ‘mainstream’ deck, unlike the decks I’ve made or Mondo Spanner’s General Megatron deck. Plus, it gives a Wave 1+2 vs Wave 3+4 type vibe!

A Black deck should be able to predictably and dependably take down this deck in a test environment, so long as it’s me piloting the Optimus Prime deck (I’m sure more skilled Optimus Prime players would do better). In all these tests, Decepticon Planes have gone second – results could quite possibly be different if they were to go first. Finally, Flame War never flips in these tests, since the Tough 1 is redundant and it allows Optimus Prime to get more direct damage cards.

“Now, Blackwing, don’t worry, we think you’ll do great. Even if you look a bit weird with that head and everything.”

Basic Seekers
To start off with I figured I’d try the basic deck with a typical, singular Decepticon in the third slot. I went with Blackwing – he hits well, doesn’t need flipping, and has reasonable defensive stats. He doesn’t get in the way of what we’re trying to do.

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Blackwing
Deck changes: -1 Decipher, +1 Plunder*

*based off the base deck I presented in Part 2.

Result:
After several test matches, this version of the Black deck can not break through Optimus Prime. It often feels like it doesn’t have enough Black, and I was able to pilot the Optimus Prime deck to victory every time I tested this team out.

We can definitely do better than this.

Verdict: Failure.

“No pressure, but you thirty year old G1 toys gotta win everything for us, okay?”

4-Wide Black Seekers
Next on the list to try out is the Air Strike Patrol. The two I picked were Nightflight and Tailwind. Both of these guys should stay in plane mode, there’s no real need to flip them into bot mode. The intention is for each of them to soak up all but the initial attack, letting Thundercracker and Nova Storm blast into Optimus Prime once he is exposed. The deck is the same; I’ve just changed this from 3-wide to 4-wide.

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Night Flight, Tailwind
Deck changes: None

Result:
Despite having less Black pips… this setup performed much better than the three wide set up. Optimus Prime is forced to either go first, or he’ll be hitting into one of the smaller Air Strike patrol planes. Neither Hot Rod nor Flamewar have enough attack to take out a plane too, so by the time his team are tapped out, the larger planes are in a position to push a lot of damage into Optimus Prime, and still have three planes left when they become untapped. It’s entirely possible to take out Optimus Prime before the wheel turn too, if enough damage has been moved on to him.

It doesn’t seem worthwhile bringing in New Orders, btw. I don’t think untapping the Air Strike patrol is necessary.

Verdict: Success!

“So, Bombing Run, we just chuck these micromasters at the Autobots and that’s it, job done go home?”

Bombing Run
Before we move on to Mercenaries, I wanted to make a slight change to the list. Whilst we’re running a lot of Black, my original intention of running damage moving cards has slipped a bit. Let’s try the 4-wide list, but this time with three copies of Bombing Run in the mix.

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Night Flight, Tailwind
Deck changes: -3 Decipher, +3 Bombing Run

Result:
So in only a few tests, I’ve gotten to see the best and worst possible situations with Bombing Run:

  • On the plus side, I’ve seen Bombing Run show up in hand twice and been able to shift 5 damage total from my team back on to Optimus Prime during a single game. It also showed up on defense.
  • On the negative, it’s also showing up on attacks, and it once showed up when Thundercracker flipped to alt mode, thus denying the moving of damage.

Results otherwise were pretty much the same – easy win for four-wide Black planes.

Verdict: Success, but new card has mixed results.

“Sorry Nightbird, no time to relax, you’re needed in the next test.”

Nightbird
Let’s move on to the Mercenaries; we’ll start with Nightbird. As I’ve already said, I’ve been running this build for a while so this one can be quite brief: it works pretty well, possibly not quite as good as the four-wide Planes, though. I do find that Nightbird‘s lack of defense makes her a prime target, and her alt-mode ability is very easily forgotten. It’s usually inconvenient to switch her to bot mode to get her bounty, if she’s alive enough to make it to a second attack.

The mercenary battle cards are nice, though.

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Nightbird
Deck changes: -3 Decipher, -3 Special Delivery, -1 Hiding Spot, -1 Stable Cover, +3 Dual Wield, +3 Opportune Offensive, +2 Plunder

Result:
Previously tested, positive.

Verdict: Success

“Sorry TC, we couldn’t find this ‘Mudflap’. I think someone is playing a joke on you. Who names a bot Mudflap anyhow?”

Mudflap
For Mudflap, I wanted to try something in particular – I wanted to test the build with Roll Out, and see if I can’t get all three characters to flip into alt mode, thus triggering a mass shift of damage from Thundercracker‘s team to Optimus Prime. Mudflap has slightly better defensive stats than Nightbird.

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Mudflap
Deck changes: -3 Decipher, -3 Special Delivery, -2 Point-Defense System, -1 Hiding Spot, -1 Stable Cover, +3 Dual Wield, +3 Opportune Offensive, +1 Plunder +3 Roll Out (Note: This has now shifted from our original build by a significant amount.)

Result:
Well, the Roll Out trick didn’t really work out; it requires having the Roll Out in hand within the first few turns, because chances were one of Thundercracker or Mudflap would be dead by the time everyone was in bot mode. Being in bot mode meant being vulnerable to Marksmanship, and Optimus Prime sure loves his Marksmanship. I could not get it to happen at all; it’s a fun idea, but not practical at all.

Otherwise, Mudflap seemed pretty good. He lacks Nightbird‘s soft action-denial, but he makes up for it with better stats. I think I prefer him.

Verdict: Success, but Roll-Out is a failure.

“Okay, I got all the blue blast effects, we’ll put them on you before the camera man gets here and — oh crap he’s here!”

Blue
So far we’ve tried cards without Black pips, and quite often they don’t feel great; they go against our game plan. Even if Bombing Run and Roll Out are useful cards in their own right, they stop us from just Piercing our opponents into the KO pile or triggering Thundercracker‘s ability.

However, what if we try inserting more Blue/Black cards? We already went through these cards last article – let’s put in all but the one we can’t play into our deck. Some of these won’t be very playable, of course. We’re also having to drop a few decent cards to make this happen – dropping Calculated Strike is a particularly bad move on my part.

Oh well, For science!

(We’ll continue with Mudflap.)

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Mudflap
Deck changes: -3 Decipher, -3 Special Delivery, -3 Point-Defense System, -2 Hiding Spot, -2 Stable Cover, -3 Calculated Strike, +3 Dual Wield, +3 Opportune Offensive, +1 Plunder, +3 Steady Shot, +3 Smoke Cloak, +3 Point Position

Result:
scratches head a bit

Well, it continues to be successful, and the occasional Blue flip has kept several characters alive when they probably wouldn’t have before. It definitely feels less potent though, I had to work a bit more to get a Planes victory.

I’d probably not bother with the Point Position (which never felt useful), and keep the Calculated Strike.

Because the Blue flips kept Mudflap alive a little longer, I finally got to use his bounty… it let me Dual Wield a weapon on to him (which wasn’t useful, since he died the next turn).

Verdict: Success, but not convincing enough to go in this direction.

“Here you go Nova Storm. We stole this from some big fellow. We’re sure he won’t come looking for it…”

Orange
Finally, let’s see what happens when we steer things in the other direction – let’s bring into play all the Orange/Black cards. We’ll ditch Mudflap for this one and bring back the Air Strike patrol.

Team: Sergeant Thundercracker, Nova Storm, Night Flight, Tailwind
Deck changes: -3 Decipher, -3 Special Delivery, -3 Point-Defense System, -2 Hiding Spot, -2 Stable Cover, -2 Calculated Strike, +3 Combat Dagger, +3 Rock Toss, +3 Fight for Position, +3 Immersed in Shadow, +3 Wedge Formation

Result:
I’m not going to lie: this version of the deck is super flakey, but super fun.

Ditching fairly dependable cards like Calculated Strike and Hiding Spot in favour of Orange/Black pips and Bold seemed a bit odd. It certainly isn’t dependable – in the tests I ran, this setup actually lost a game (none of the others with this line-up did so).

However… it’s super fun, and low levels of Bold will inevitably hit maybe one or two Orange. In a traditional aggro deck that’s not much at all, but when each one comes with a Black and you’re very likely to hit double-Blacks as well, you end up hitting suped-up Arcee levels of Pierce damage.

Here’s a photo of a play from testing…

… this is Nova Storm with a Crowbar and Bold 2 from Fight for Position, and Thundercracker with a Combat Dagger for Bold 1. Nova Storm is managing to hit for Attack 9 Pierce 9, where as Thundercracker is managing Attack 6 Pierce 6, killing an undamaged Optimus Prime outright in one turn (everyone was tapped out at this point).

This is certainly not the most dependable version of the deck… but when it works it REALLY works.

Verdict: Mixed, but definitely the most fun version of the deck.

(sidenote: buying these G1 micromasters has made me really consider buying a Skyhopper)

Conclusions
I tested 7 different setups with a wide mix of cards, deviating from the original deck by as many as 16 different cards. Whilst I could do more tests to try and really hammer down what the best cards are for this deck, that could be very tiring, and there’s only so many hours in the day.

A summary of my own thoughts though:

  • Tailwind/Nightflight worked out quite well, better than the three wide versions.
  • Mudflap is probably the most suitable companion for three wide.
  • … but my Roll Out idea for him wasn’t practical at all.
  • Blue/Black was fine but not particular fun and felt a little flat.
  • Orange/Black was great fun but far less dependable.
  • Bombing Run is probably not worth taking, even in a four wide Planes deck.

So what next?

Well, I had originally planned to attend a tournament yesterday… but after a very stressful week of work, realised my mind isn’t really in the right place and a quiet weekend at home was what I needed. Things happen, games are for fun – kind of a nuisance, but we’ll manage. Next week I’d like to write up some conclusions I’ve made about Thundercracker, Nova Storm, and the whole concept of Black Decepticon planes, and then after that we’ll move on to the next thing.

We’re nearly done.

Until next time.

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Building Seekers: Blackbox Recording

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.

Shall we?

“This is a lot of cards we just flew into, TC.”

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.

Thundercracker fires wide and just doesn’t care!

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:

Wave 3
Combat Dagger (Weaker version of Flamethrower)
Rock Toss (Limited version of Zap)

Wave 4
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.

Nova Storm, focused and sensible. Also blazing hot yellow.

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:

Wave 3
Smoke Cloak (Weaker version of Reinforced Playing)
Steady Shot (Weaker version of Leap into Battle)

Wave 4
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.

This card is totally going to fall out of my hands any minute now btw…

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:

Regular Actions
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.

Meanwhile, Nova Storm snuck off somewhere to do secret things… because she is so stealthy.

Secret Actions
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.

“It is *definitely* a genuine RR Disruptor Blade. Just ignore the fact that it is bright purple plastic! It’s legit, trust me!”

Weapons
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.

Armour
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.

Utility
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.

ALL THE BLACK BLAST EFFECTS!

Multi-Black Cards
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.

Problem with these Black pips is that they are very hard to see in pictures like these.

Base Deck
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:

Actions:
Special Delivery x 3
Contract Contingency
x 3 (double Black)
Calculated Strike
x 3
Decipher
x 3
Designated Target
x 3 (double Black)

Secret Actions:
Swerve
x 3
Stable Cover
x 2
Hiding Spot
x 2

Weapons:
RR Disruptor Blade x 3
Crowbar x 3
(double Black)
Sturdy Javelin
x 3

Armour:
Increased Durability x 3
Point-Defense System x 3

Utilities:
Minor Medic Kit x 3
(double Black)

Pips:
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…

It’s difficult being a ninja amongst a bright red background.

Mercenaries
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.

Ready to Pierce some Autobots.

Summary
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!

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Building Seekers: Got Black?

Top of my list of wants for Wave 4 was to see more plane support battle cards. There’s a handful of cards that reference the Planes trait in Transformers TCG so far, but very few of them have proven to be particularly useful, even in a casual gaming setting.

Wave 4 didn’t see any much in the way of further support for the Planes trait. The ‘plight of Planes’, though, did get a mention in an article from Ken Nagle that revealed a new Thundercracker character card: Nagle’s Notes: Sergeant Thundercracker

Suddenly planes – especially Decepticon planes – were being quietly aligned with the also maligned and unwanted Black pip cards.

Can I get a shrug of confusion?

They don’t get it either.

This kind of weird and previously unheard of pairing is too curious not to focus on. Thus, the opening project of Flip Flip Bang Bang in Wave 4 will be focused on Seekers and Black pips. Not just one character this time – since this wave introduces two seekers and both require Black pips for their abilities, we’ll be focusing on both.

For those new to the blog, the goal here is to try and see how these things work and behave, not necessarily to construct something guaranteed to be competitive. It’s about discovery and exploration; we always hope to find something that could be good in more-than-casual play, but we’re not going to limit what we look at to what will win games.

In this opening segment, I want to look over aspects of Planes and Black pips, both what we know so far, and what has been discussed in the reveal for Thundercracker.

Well, one of us looks like the Siege toy…

The Seekers Themselves
Before we talk about the ‘Plane tech’ that we’re expecting to include in this deck, we should talk about the two characters we want to focus on in this project: Sergeant Thundercracker and Raider Nova Storm.

No photo description available.

Sergeant Thundercracker
The new Sergeant Thundercracker is a 9 star Decepticon Plane character card. His stats are surprisingly good – 4 / 14 / 2 in alt, 5 / 14 / 1 in bot. His attack values are pretty strong and on par with characters like Captain Ironhide and Wheeljack, but his health stat is the highest of any 9 star character. He is Ranged on both sides so Marksmanship, Armed Hovercraft and the new Sturdy Javelin are all great fits for Thundercracker.

Thundercracker‘s bot mode ability let’s you scrap a card from your opponent’s hand when you attack… but there’s a cavaet: the amount of cards you can choose from are determined by the number of Black pips in your flip. That seems kind of lame but consider this: very few character abilities let you choose which card to scrap, most let the opponent choose instead. The ability still requires you to have Black pips in your flips though; to use this ability, you must run Black to some degree.

His alt mode ability is even more Black-centric; reveal the top card from your deck, for each Black pip, move a damage counter from a Plane to an enemy. Note that it is reveal, not scrap, so even if this doesn’t do anything you will still know what that card is (curiously, the ability to reveal was first seen in Wave 1 Skywarp, another Seeker). The dream is to reveal a double or even triple Black pip card.

Moving damage is kind of interesting in that we haven’t really seen it much in competitive play, and I don’t think I’ve ever discussed it in Flip Flip Bang Bang, beyond Elita-1. We’ll go into the subject of moving damage later in the article.

No photo description available.

Raider Nova Storm
The third and final Rainmaker, Nova Storm is a 7 star Decepticon Plane character card. She is among several 7 star characters revealed in Wave 4 that are associated with a pip colour; naturally Nova Storm‘s colour is Black. Her stats are 3 / 12 / 1 in alt mode and 5 / 12 / 0 in bot mode; she’s about on par with Barrage, trading one point of health for one point of armour (arguably not a good trade depending on how the deck is built). Like Thundercracker, she is Ranged.

Nova Storm‘s bot mode ability gives her Pierce 3, and her alt mode ability lets her move 1 damage from herself to an enemy… but both of these abilities only apply if she has an Black pip upgrade (Metal Detector, RR Disruptor Blade, Increased Durability, etc.).

Nova Storm is less interesting than Thundercracker, which I guess makes sense – she isn’t a classic G1 character, and she’s a Common not a Rare.

Erm, we’re here for the Seekers article? Our siblings seem to be cheating on us?

Partners
We’ll need to partner up these two with 9 star of other characters. For this project I’d like to stick exclusively with Decepticon planes, at least for now. That means we’d either need to use Thrust (doubtful), an 8 star Decepticon (Someone like Blackwing, who has no native Pierce but a high attack), or two of the Air Strike Patrol (which could provide 15 points of health between them). If she was more readily available, I’d have considered Slipstream.

Anyone we pick would want to be in alt mode most of the game.

Hey Spinister, remember that time we flew on Starscream and Thundercracker and we bombed those insecticons? Good times.

Ways of the Plane
Whilst there haven’t been any new ‘plane’ cards in Wave 4 (EDIT: Except Multi-Missile Pod for both Planes and Helicopters) , the development team have strongly suggested they feel certain abilities are ‘plane’ abilities. These include:

  • Direct Damage (most Planes are Ranged)
  • Moving Damage (Slipstream and Bombing Run have previously focused on moving damage)

and now, at least with Thundercracker and Nova Storm:

  • association with Black pips and Pierce.
  • … and thus association with hand removal.

We absolutely do not need to talk about Direct Damage; it was a big part of a project featuring another Seeker. If you need a primer, you should check out that article.

There’s some interesting albeit situational actions that do Direct Damage in Wave 4, but mostly the only new addition I’m interested in including here is Sturdy Javelin (especially as Thundercracker is on it).

Hi Acid Storm, I am moving this damage counter to you… it’s a, err, gift.

Moving Damage
“We’ve also decided to give black the “move damage” ability when possible since it’s a kind of piercing damage but in an evil way because usually your opponent must help you by damaging your characters first.” – Ken Nagle

The ability to move damage from one character to another is very interesting: because whilst it appears to be repairing damage from one bot and placing damage on a second, it is its own separate mechanic. Therefore, it bypasses any anti-repair tech (Torox, Needler, etc.), as well as bypassing any anti-direct damage cards (Captain Ironhide, Motormaster, Defensive Driving, Take Cover, etc.).

That second point is fairly important – in a game that is increasingly favouring ‘The Ranged Package’ of Marksmanship, Armed Hovercraft and possibly Sturdy Javelin, having a means of blocking direct damage isn’t a bad idea. Thus, having a means of bypassing that defense is worth considering as well. There’s ways to block moving damage like Bumpers… but who plays that??

Moving damage does have a downside though – you actually need to have damage on you in order to do the move. That means the abilities are useless in the early game, and remain useless if your plane dies before you can move the damage.

Moving damage has always been linked to planes, most notably in the action Bombing Run. Still, abilities that move damage see very little play in both competitive and casual environments; as part of this project, I’ll be trying to include as much damage moving cards as possible (within reason; nobody needs Fling in their deck).

I attack! Please scrap your hand… into my hand so I can have pizza, please and thank you

Hand Disruption
“Having a hand disruption effect can be swingy but we’ve decided that hand disruption should be a black mechanic.” – Ken Nagle

This isn’t really a plane mechanic, rather it’s a general mechanic that has been newly associated with Black, and thus by association planes. It’s also integral to Thundercracker‘s abilities, so worth highlighting.

Hand disruption has already proven to be a powerful mechanic; it was critical to the success of Sentinels in Wave 2, and likewise Major Shockwave in Wave 3. It’s also been a key part of any success Soundwave might have had.

There are arguably two breeds of hand disruption – hand disruption that just kills the opponent’s hand (Shockwave), versus hand disruption that allows you to see what is in your opponent’s hand at the same time (Sentinels, Soundwave). Thundercracker is sort of half way between these two, but does lean more to the latter – you get to see some of your opponent’s hand and kill a card based on that. This matches one of the new Black pip cards in Wave 4:

I’m uncertain about leaning into this mechanic too much; I suspect maybe having the usual Security Checkpoint and Espionage cards is enough for an initial deck.

On top of the usual cards we want to remove such as combiner enigmas and other key cards, we’d also want to look at removing any card that blocks Pierce (Point Defense System and Stable Cover), since our deck is Black-focused and thus Pierce-focused.

Warning: Black-based weapons leave stains on your shiny yellow paintjob.

Black
“Sergeant Thundercracker is a new archetype all by himself. He does a great job of highlighting the places in the game we want to push like Decepticons, Planes, and black icons that haven’t been in the spotlight enough.” – Ken Nagle

Wave 3 introduced Black pips, but other than a few odd cards here and there, Black cards were a novelty rather than an archetype in and of themselves. Even Blue/Black decks were’t that popular. There’s a few reasons for this; the first is that during Wave 3 there was a very limited pool of cards to choose from, and secondly players were still resistent to the idea of mixed-pip decks, considering a black pip card to be an effective blank card. In addition, the cards themselves were nearly always a limited version of an alternate Blue or Orange card. For example, Dismantle

… is a much more limited version of Ramming Speed or Vaporise; it does a similar thing, but two-thirds as well since it can’t remove utility upgrades.

Wave 4 introduces a heap of new Black cards, in various configurations too: double-Black cards, more Orange/Black, more Blue/Black, a single White/Black, and even a triple-Black star card. With Wave 4, we have a much larger pool of Black cards to pick from so whilst some of these cards will still be two-thirds power cards, we at least now have options.

We can also think about ratio percentages when building a deck, since we have multiple Orange/Black and Blue/Black cards at this point. Our options include:

  • Pure black
    (essentially the deck needs to think like an Orange deck – have ways of staying alive beyond Blue, but ultimately must be able to achieve it’s goal very quickly. Minimal native Pierce.)
  • Orange/Black
    (as above, but might require more native Pierce if we want to get value from all the Orange and Black we flip)
  • Blue/Black
    (uses Blue to stay alive, Black and other Pierce to get damage through.)

Blue/Black definitely sounds like the most appealing of these combinations, since Pierce is generally speaking a keyword preferred by Blue decks and Black just adds extra Pierce. I’d like to explore all three of these options in our project though; does pure Black or Orange/Black work?

We’d also want to experiment with the actual percentages of these colours; do we go in full on Blue/Black, then split the rest down the middle? A bit more to Black? A bit more to Blue?

Yo, we’re serious seekers. We behave seriously.

Other Plane Cards
Finally, I should mention that there is one card in Wave 1 that doesn’t really fit the current Planes mold, but is special in its own way:

Aerial Recon is a psuedo-Focus card that introduced the mechanic a good two waves early. It doesn’t really see much play, and I don’t know if it really fits our ideas. It’s worth considering though, especially if we have a very mixed deck and don’t mind an Orange pip.

I should also mention one of my own pet cards that happens to be for planes:

I don’t think I’ll be running Crash Landing either; I run this with a Ramjet deck and I have never managed to get it to work. Whilst tempting and very Planes with the direct damage, I think it is better suited for a different project.

Both of these cards are also competing with new utilities in Wave 4, and I’d much rather play with those instead.

Next
We’ve laid a general idea of what we want to think about in this deck; the next thing to do is to discuss Black-pip cards in general, especially since the amount of such cards has dramatically increased in Wave 4. We then want to make an initial deck, and try it out and see how it does – from there we can work out which direction we want to go in.

There is potentially a lot of ground to cover on this one; Black pips are still a bit of a mystery, and there’s other new things linked to Black pips that I think we’re going to bump into sooner rather than later. We’ll see how it goes and where this project leads us.

Until next time!

Cover art by Emily Stewart, social medias: Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, as well as her Etsy store.

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One Year of Transformers TCG in the UK, Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, here’s some more thoughts on one year of Transformers TCG in the UK, from various tournament organisers across the country.

LONDON
(Wayne Wong, Magic Madhouse / Rule Zero)

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
So I was always a Transformers fan and it has always been a part of my life in some form of another, whether it was reading the (dreaded) Dreamwave comics, watching the reboots for different universes such as Prime or Animated, I was always happy to make it a part of my life and only stopped during the Car Robots period when I was in my teens. That combined with my previous love for MTG and my competitive nature made playing a card game built on my brand of choice a no-brainer.

I started in Wave 1, the moment I realised there was stock in the UK. Most of the players started then as well with one of the players, Sean being the more vocal member of the team getting everyone together.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
It was very bare, the local store we were initially playing at did not support the game very well and the only store that held tournaments was across London where we only went once every 3-4 weeks when they had tournaments.

In the beginning of W2, Sean has since had some very happy family news and needed to spend a little more time with them and I have since stepped into the role of organiser since.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
Since then we have actively moved to Magic Madhouse – Rule Zero, the store that is actively supporting the game and have decided play in the original store a lot less as there was very little in the way of supporting the game. We have grown from a community of very casual players who loved jank (still do) to having a few more competitive minded players who are willing to travel (closeby) and pit their skills

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
Funnily enough, even though it was in the same city, some of us took about the same amount of time to travel to the venue as some of the people who traveled in. As a whole, it was fun, i think the entire community bar 1 or 2 were in the top half of the list, although some of the more competitive players (myself included) would have very much liked to have gotten further. Some of us were very tightly wound on the day and there were some organisational hiccups, but all in all, it was a great experience.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
Galaxy Prime, Lord Megatron & complete micromaster patrols are some of the fun ideas the guys are throwing around and would very much just like to play. However, on a more personal level, I think most of us are very happy that the game is as popular as it is and we are able to support LGSs that support the game and hope WOTC UK recognise the smaller stores around the country that actually do run the game.

If you are ever in town, please do stop by, when Magic Madhouse – Rule Zero is back up, we normally play there on Friday evenings.

Links:
Release Event
Local Facebook
Shop Facebook

NEWPORT
(Rodney, Newport Gaming Club @ The Pen and Wig)

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
We were long term fans of the franchise and when we discovered that Wizards of the Coast were releasing a card game we instantly fell in love and wanted to get the community involved and love it as much as we do. We began in wave 1 when it was released.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
The community was fairly spartan and it all kind of grew up around us into the thriving and vibrant community of transformers fans.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
We run semi-regularly, mostly turbo events to continue the growth of the community. We recently had a few of our community place in top 32 at the London Energon Open with one of us coming second overall.

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
Six of us went to the Energon Open with half of us placing in top 32 and a further 2 placing in top 8. It was a great competitive environment with friendly players and organisers creating a great experience.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
With Wave 4 incoming we are most excited for the inclusion of mercenaries and the support for triple changers!

Links:
Local Facebook

PLYMOUTH
(Dave Cook, Dark Star Gaming)

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
I was playing X-Wing at Dark Star in July this year and two of my mates were playing a game of Transformers. I went over to have a look and was instantly attracted to the look of the game. Two weeks later and some packs of Wave 3 I was hooked. As our tiny community started to communicate on our FB page it was clear we needed a night and a venue. As I already ran X-Wing events at Dark Star it was a logical step to start Transformers there.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
It’s still very much in it’s infancy but through our FB page we reached out to each other. We have a group of about 6 regular players but I’m hoping that as word gets out there we’ll continue to grow.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
What started as just a few mates playing at my place has developed into a fledgling community. We now do a tournament once a fortnight and are hoping to get these sanctioned in the very near future. I’d like to give a big shout out to Charlie Taylor who got the ball rolling and also to Stuart Scaife & Matt Coles for getting me addicted!

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
As we have only really just got into the game we didn’t go. I’m hoping next year we’ll be able to go. I travel for X-Wing and I’d be up for doing the same with Transformers.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
More Battlemasters, more Secret Actions and Prime and Megatron! I’m also super excited for Astrotrain. Plus the new mercenaries spoiled this week!

Links:
Local Facebook

SOUTHAMPTON
(Kevin Richardson, Board in the City)

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
I have been playing TCG’s since I was a kid. I started with Pokemon and went on to Yu-Gi-Oh! before drifting over to UFS and World Of Warcraft which is where I really started to play competitively going to international and world level events. After the Death of WoW I went over to A Game Of Thrones LCG 1st edition which I stayed with until the end and played through the 2nd edition up until recently. I also played the Legend of the Five Rings LCG but it never gripped me as much as AGoT. However my interest in both games had lessened just as Transformers was announced and I picked up the game right away when it landed in the UK. It helped that I’ve been a Transformers fan since I was a kid, Beast Wars was my intro and whilst I can never appriciate what G1 did for 80’s kids I was happy with the characters and story that Beast Wars gave me. I remember watching Code of Hero as a kid and bawling my eyes out at Dinobot‘s sacrifice. Given I saw Transformers the movie much later the death of Optimus Prime can never hold a candle to it. So I was ALL IN! Now I can’t play card games casually, I NEED tournaments or I lose interest. Tournaments give you a goal to always strive for and a reason for getting as many games as possible in and you are always fighting to get those sweet sweet top cuts. Knowing that unless someone started running events they wouldn’t happen, I stepped up and started demoing the game at Board in the City early in Wave 1. This led to a few people sitting down with me to flop some cards and flip some bots.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
Small. However with lots of demos during Wave 1 and networking with other local areas I was able to promote the game, others bought in and I started a local Facebook group to start organising tournaments and casual meet ups. Slowly we built up from 2 to 4, then 6 players.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
Wave 2’s release saw a jump in local players, it was a great way to get new blood invested and the combiner theme drew plenty a fan. People who hadn’t played card games before got invested because it’s Transformers! This led to Southampton running fortnightly events many of which we were able to coordinate with Brighton to make weekend events so players could travel to both. It’s lovely to see people make the trip.

During this time Mat Armstrong and I started a Podcast, I had never done content for a game before but I was so invested in the game that I wanted too. I asked Mat to help and he jumped at the chance. So I got some recording software and away we went. After winging it for two episodes Mat suggested we get Marc (El Scarscream) on board. His experience making his own content was a boon and since then we have put out 8 episodes of the TCG Cityspeakers. It’s lovely to be able to support the community and I hope we continue for many moons to come. With the growth of the game came Wave 3 and organised play, This led to the UK Energon Open and several Qualifiers for players to really get some serious play on. Southampton players went to a few with Simon Munday getting the best result by winning the Bournemouth Qualifier. Simon has become a great player and is arguably our best player right now. It’s been awesome to see his growth over the year.

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
We had four players make the journey. Simon Munday, Dan Loughrey, Dan Gailis and myself. We all came in the top 3rd of the 56 player field with Simon getting into the top 8. Personally I live for big events and I loved the atmosphere, but better than that it was great to meet other members of the community that I hadn’t met before then. As Colt Cabana would say it was “Good times, Great Memories”. Here’s to getting another one soon!

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
Speaking with my players we are all excited to play with the Mercenaries, a whole new faction what’s not to like? Lord Megatron seems to be the obvious great card and a few of my players are excited to play with him, New Battlemasters, New Combiners, New Triple Changers! Everything looks like great fun. Battle card wise I am interested in anything that helps blue strategies, Tough 3 on a secret action! Sabotaged Armaments, Opportune Offensive, Dual Wield and Hijack are all looking great. Can’t wait to test them.

Links:
Wave 4 Release Event
Southampton Facebook Group
Board in the City
TCG Cityspeakers Youtube

See you in Wave 4!

Until next time!

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in this article – Dave, Kevin, Lee, Mat, Matt, Rodney, Shane and Wayne. If your community was missed, get your community guy to give me a shout so we can fix that for the next one!

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One Year of Transformers TCG in the UK, Part 1

On September 28th 2018, Transformers TCG saw it’s full release in the UK. Whilst the game itself is great, the game would be nothing without the fledgling communities that have grown around it, often starting with only a couple of people. With Wave 4 now fast approaching, I thought I’d get in touch with various folks around the UK and ask them what their communities were like when the game first started, and how they’ve grown since then. I had quite a few responses so this will be a two-part article, with Part 2 out tomorrow.

Take it away, guys!

BRIGHTON
(Mat Armstrong, Dice Saloon)

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
I recall it was late 2017, there was an announcement that Wizards were putting out a Transformers card game, the images at the time were that of the Slipstream art we see now on the SDCC pack. My interest was instantly piqued. Transformers has always been a franchise I enjoyed ever since I was a child, watching the original series and collecting toys. This continued with the introduction of Beast Wars and Energon and then as I grew older a lot of this got set aside. The recent live action movies reintroduced me and I started collecting toys again but once again, life got in the way and these toys got put by the side (these toys however, I do still own).

Then 2018 – at this point I was managing Dice Saloon and always on the lookout for creating and harbouring our communities’ interests. This time it was with something that’s been a part of me since I was young and could have a lot of passion for, so I have taken it under my wing to grow from the ground up. Fortunately enough I had a few close friends that were interested too and could help me launch the game in our store. We each bought several boxes and played constantly back to back for many weeks. At this point there was no OP programme from Wizards but there was a budding group of players and so I started running events. From there it hasn’t stopped. I’m now reading the comics and acquainting myself with the art used in Wave 1/2.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
During Wave 1 it was sporadic but for constructed tournaments we’ve consistently had between 6 (lowest) and 13 (highest) players since. Casual meetups on Saturdays were poorly attended though, with normally only 2-3 players, but we persevered because we loved the game.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
Some players have come and gone. Some join in when they can and we’re still picking up new players. During Wave 2, we picked up many players who have since become regulars – Nick, Matt, Michael, Marc, Joe to name a few. We started having a second Wednesday afternoon meetup. In the last few weeks, we moved our casual meetup time (to Thursday evenings) and had a large upswing in player growth so hopefully this continues. We’re now holding constructed events every 2/3 weeks and hold Sealed events upon a new set’s release.

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
Our crowd made a valiant effort to attend the EEO, 9 from the Brighton crowd made the trip along with another 6/7 from our neighbouring towns and friends within the community. We all went with different goals in mind and most fared well enough to make top 32. Joe Rodway of Brighton made it to Top 4 in the knockouts which was an amazing achievement.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
Can I say all of it? Since opening my first set of boosters that excited feeling is always welcome. Anything I’m particularly looking forward to using? As with any set, looking to further improve or add to the things I’m currently having fun with. Character-wise, it’s nice to see Triple Changers at the common level. This should mean we see a lot more of them on the tables especially as they all look like great fun. Try as I might to find a purple team or centrepiece bot I can settle on, Autobots always pull something out the bag to bring me back. This time it’s Sergeant Springer, his ability to keep drawing cards in almost every situation seems amazing then to top it off, once you’ve drawn all those cards, play a bunch when you flip into Bot mode. The addition of the Mercenary faction and Black pips as a whole are exciting concepts to fully test out too.

Links:
Wave 4 Release Event
Brighton Facebook Group
Dice Saloon
TCG Cityspeakers Youtube

CHICHESTER
(Matt Hardy, Comics, Games and Coffee)

Image preview

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
I’m a huge TF fan. I bought TF UK issue 1 on the day it came out in 1984, I’ve written for the Transformers Mosaic project and I own far too many of the Toys (from first time around – although SIEGE has pulled me back for a fan favourite or two). So when the TF TCG was announced, the owner of CGC – Owen Lambert, ordered extra so we could push the game in shop. Thankfully we have many healthy card game groups in shop, YGO, MTG, Pokemon, etc and those players are always looking to try new things. We started with Wave 1 on release day and haven’t looked back. At one point the game was the biggest selling card game in store.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
We got off to a better start than expected considering it was a completely new game (that had no official Play Support). The recognisable IP means we picked up casual interest as well as a small group of serious card gamers who saw the potential in the early mechanics. We got 12 for our first sealed event – which was a solid start.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
We settled into a core group of 6 – 8 of us – mostly local – although we share a player from the Brighton group who travels to us. We run casual tournaments every second Monday from 6pm and the release day events as well. We find we get a lot of casual play in the store that doesn’t transfer over to tournaments though. Wave 3 didn’t seem to excite or entice a lot of new players in the same way that the Combiners did in Wave 2 – but the buzz for Wave 4 seems very strong – based on the previews.

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
Four of our players went and it was a universal thumbs up. Great venue, great sportsmanship/help from other players. Our players who are used to playing in large events for other game lines were very impressed with the level of prize support and the positive atmosphere for the whole event. There were varying levels of success – but Rhys Bradley topped the swiss and placed third over all – so very proud of him.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
I threw this question out to the group of players and got back a variety of responses. 

Mercenaries, Sandstorm and New Megs, Caliburst, Mercenaries, Lack of ‘Press’, Thundercracker, Big increase in Black Pips, new Prime, Mercenaries, Omega big boy, Micromaster decks, Spinister, more Triple Changers, and… Mercenaries.

So I’d say that’s a healthy cross-section of things from Wave 4 that people are excited for.

Links:
Local Facebook
Shop Facebook

CRAWLEY
(Shane Underwood, The Comic Shop)

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
I came across my first TransformersTCG card (Flamewar wave 1) in an issue of TableTop Gaming and I thought ‘this looks like cool a book mark’ and thought nothing more about it until I popped into my local GAME store and found some starter sets and boosters for sale.

It was at that point I decided to look into the game and discovered that it was what I wanted from a TCG, simple to play and as expensive as you make.

It took a while to get a group together to play and even longer to set up events, the first event I ran was for the release of Siege1. It was touch and go based on stock availability but I managed it with the help of The Comic Shop and we are hoping for an even better release for Siege2.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
Its really hard to say what it was like but it did help make some spin off communities to local areas so players had an easier time to find each other. But as a whole it’s now a great place to see all the latest releases and to see any upcoming events.

How has the community grown and changed since then?
There has been a massive increase in player activity seeing old and new players giving tips to each other as well as trading cards with each other to increase the fun factor of collecting.

But also how we as players help each other out when our cards are either lost or stolen and that makes me as a player and game organiser very happy.

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
Sadly none from my community that I am aware of travelled to the event due to work restrictions. But from the pictures posted it looked fun.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
I’m excited about finally getting Astro Train and Trypticon for the game as I was kind of hoping to see them both a little earlier but its better late than never as well as some new battle cards.

However I’m kind of upset that we haven’t seen any new combiners being released yet as I would love to have the Combaticons in my line up.

Links:
Local Facebook
The Comic Book
Shane’s Youtube

DERBY
(Lee McAlpin, Boards and Swords)

Boards and Swords Hobbies

What made you decide to take up Transformers TCG?
I have a background in miniatures and boards games and when I was told about a Transformers card game I was very interested. Since a young age I have loved Transformers and having this made into a card game was very exciting. I picked up the Wave 1 starter box and a few boosters but I didn’t like the game at first. When I saw the characters in Wave 1 and that it was mainly Autobots it felt very lack lustre and I didn’t play the game but kept collecting the game and a few friends did the same. When Wave 2 was showcased and that we were going to get combiners, more Decepticons and had more than just Autobots in the game, me and my friends began to play it more.

I started to release “Battle reports” on my Youtube channel and then I decided to start a community for playing this game in the midlands. I asked various stores that stocked the game about running tournaments or hosting meet ups to play the TCG but they had no interest with my proposals for the game and events I had in mind. I then asked “Boards and Swords” in Derby about running events and tournaments as I brought several boxes of Wave 2 from them previously and did an unboxing video of this wave at their store. Rob and Iann from the store agreed and we began to do tournaments and release events at their store. Since then we have grown in numbers getting people who already play the game to come to our events and getting new people playing games. Wave 2 helped grow the game a TON and people from around the Midlands come to our events every 2 weeks to play games, learn more about the game and generally nerd out about the game and Transformers in general.

What was the community like when you first started TFTCG?
When I first looked into playing the game and creating a community in the Midlands I looked around on Facebook. I realised there was pockets of communities around the UK but nothing really happening to the other community’s scale in the Midlands. I was unaware of some stores near me running casual events or meet ups on certain nights playing the game. With this information I set out to make a community to bring people together to play the game and also grow the player base in the Midlands. Since creating a group in the Midlands that play every 2 weeks at Boards and Swords in Derby, we have players coming from Stoke, Loughborough, Leicester, Hinckley, Earl Shilton, Cheltenham and further a field. We have a community of great people that come together to play games but also help new players and current players with deck ideas, tips on playing the game and keeping people interested in the game as sometimes card games can get stale. I really love the community I have helped create and we all enjoy the game a TON!

How has the community grown and changed since then?
Our community every 2 weeks when we meet up seems to be growing in strength every event. We have a great community that rallies around its players helping them develop their skills in the game. We have people trying out new ideas and wanting to make certain characters work for them. We have a FUN divide in our group when it comes to playing this TCG. We have a few players that net deck and want to learn the game by playing these decks and then trying out other things to make it work for them. The other half want to play certain characters or odd characters and stick with them and try to make them work in a format they like playing in. For example with the release of Siege 1 (Wave 3) we all looked at combiners and some of us have been constantly wanting to make combiners work as we only see a few combiners in the competitive scene doing well. A few of us play Predaking and Menasor a lot and we constantly keep changing the decks to make them work against usual decks that are brought to our events.

Did your community travel to the UK Energon Open?
Our community made a significant attempt to go to the Energon Open in London. About 5 to 6 of our local players (this number has increased now that went to the event) went down to London and did very well in the Energon open. The 2 stand outs in our group was myself (Lee) and Mondo. Not to blow my own trumpet too much but I (Lee) placed 13th with Metroplex and Mondo placed 9th with his General Megatron deck. Overall our team / community placed in the Top 32 of the tournament and we were all pleased with not just ourselves but how well our community did at the first major event in the UK. We all enjoyed the event and this can be listened to on our podcast (One shall stand, One shall fall episode 3) as we talked about the tournament and also the deck tech video / article I did with Mondo about his Megatron deck. We all are looking forward to the next Energon event next year and a fair few of our players who couldn’t make it this year want to come next year and do as well or even better than what we did this year.

What are you all excited for in Wave 4?
Our community is pumped for Wave 4 aka Siege 2. We have a few new players joining our community because of certain characters turning up in the wave and it is the perfect jumping on point for them. A few of us are excited for the Trypticon included in the Wave 4 boxes and others are excited for other characters such as Hot Rod, Springer and Astrotrain to name a few. The list can go on with characters we are excited for but the real excitement is the battle cards. There are a few of us in the community keeping some builds close to our chests as we want to take these ideas and build upon them as the year goes on to take to the Energon Open. Siege 2 is an exciting jumping on point for a lot of new players in our community and all of us have rallied to help these people get into the swing of things and also giving them complete sets of previous waves so they can hit the ground running.

Links:
Release Event
Bleeped Up Productions Youtube
Bleeped Up Podcast

Continued in Part 2.

Until next time!

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