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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Drill Hall: Blue Decks

Winning in Transformers TCG can be summed up pretty easily: have a plan for removing your opponent’s characters from the board, and a plan for keeping your characters alive long enough to achieve that.

… okay, that’s it, article done, let’s go home people!

Ahem.

Welcome back to Drill Hall, the series at Flip Flip Bang Bang intended for new players… how well I’ve managed to stick to those intentions is another thing!

In the last article, I talked about Orange ‘aggro’ decks. In this article, I’ll be talking about Blue decks… which aren’t really one type of deck. Unlike Orange decks, which tend to look and play very similarly, Blue decks can end up being very varied and different and will tend to have different focuses. We’ll go through a few examples of successful Blue builds and how they win, as well as highlight some tricks Blue builds use to stay alive. I won’t go into massive strategic detail, but rather highlight the basic methods, and let you explore further for yourself (I’ll provide helpful links to decks and articles).

Let’s do this thing.

“Let’s sneak up on Shockwave and eat him… eat him…”

When To Go Orange
One thing I didn’t address clearly in the Orange Decks articles (Part 1 Part 2) is that good ol’ question: when do you go Orange, and when do you go Blue?

To go Orange, you will need to have a clear strategy that normally involves doing as much damage as possible (hence these decks having so many Bold and attack bonuses). You would likely need to have some strategy to stay alive to deal this much damage too. Examples of this:

  • Using Forcefields, Safeguard, Skrapnel, etc. to neuter incoming attacks
  • Untapping characters so you can keep on attacking multiple times.
  • Using characters that can attack multiple times like Blurr.
  • Having more characters than the enemy.
  • Granting yourself multiple turns (e.g. using Peace Through Tyranny)
  • Bringing back characters from the dead.

The battle cards that make up Orange decks tend to be very similar – this is why when some people ask questions like ‘How do I build an Insecticons deck?’, some snarky people might reply with ‘Just pick all the Orange cards and win’. Orange decks tend to prefer wide line-ups, i.e. they like to have many low-cost characters instead of a few high-cost characters (3 or more characters, with the most successful Orange decks being 4 characters).

To go Orange, then, you need to be sure your line-up can deal enough damage to wipe out an opponent before all your characters have been killed, taking into account the tricks listed above.

Such insolence…

When To Go Blue
Blue decks on the other hand have a clear strategy as to how they will stay alive – flipping lots of Blue pips on defense and high defense values. They then need to have a strategy as to how they are going to deal enough damage before their defense fails. Main ways of doing this are:

  • Naturally dealing high damage without the need of Orange pips.
  • Dealing Pierce damage.
  • Dealing non-attack damage (often referred to as direct damage).
  • Having some weird ability that let’s you KO opponents without dealing damage.
  • Having some weird method to win without KOing your opponent.

To go Blue, you need to be able to stay alive long enough that one of the above methods can help you win the game. A single Blue deck is unlikely to just pick one of these methods; most of the time they’ll contain a mix of the first three in varying amounts, and occasionally one of the last two.

Let’s talk about these methods.

I think these guys might be up to some Shadowplay

Hit Hard
The simplest and arguably the best way of winning with a Blue deck is to simply have a line-up where a central character hits extremely hard. The perfect example of a character that can do this is Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend. Not only does he have an impressive Attack 8 in bot mode, but he can also play action cards from his attack flips – he can effectively use 2 actions in one turn. With a +3 weapon and 2 Leap into Battle cards, Optimus Prime can hit for 17 damage without flipping a single Orange pip.

Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend is the central player in a lot of lists, and also regularly shows up in sideboards. Here are some example deck lists and reports of people playing Optimus Prime:

Scott Landis wins with Double Primes at Pax Unplugged
Top 8 @ Origins 2019

Another successful example is Major Shockwave. Shockwave is an intimidating figure to be across the table from – he has 17 health and a lot of defense on both sides, so it takes a while to get through him. Meanwhile, in bot mode Shockwave is boasting Attack 7, whilst also having easy access to his own personal stacking weapons, the LV Gamma Disruptor Launcher. Two of these, plus a Leap into Battle, takes Shockwave to Attack 14… less than Optimus Prime, but then Shockwave is much harder to kill.

Major Shockwave appeared in three of the Top 8 at the UK Energon Open, two of those decks are here:
UK Energon Open Top 8

Both SDotAkuma and Vector Sigma have discussed him too:
SDotAkuma
Vector Sigma

Hitting hard isn’t the only thing these two characters do, of course. I recommend reading further about both of these characters, but they are exceptional examples of characters that can hit hard.

For more common-level characters for casual or sealed play, think about some of the following characters:
Wave 1: Ramjet, Inferno
Wave 2: Novastar
Wave 3: Ion Storm
Wave 4: Astrotrain

The type of characters that hit hard tend to cost a lot of stars; these characters often form three-wide lists (with one central character and two flanking characters dealing Pierce damage or enabling direct damage), or a two-tall list (two big hitters).

This guy’s gaze is very Piercing.

Pierce
The keyword Pierce guarantees damage – if you are attacking someone for, say, Attack 3 and you have Pierce 3, regardless of how much defense your opponent has, you are dealing 3 damage.

During Wave 1, Pierce was poorly regarded – it was an occasionally useful thing to have, but there never seemed to be a way of getting enough Pierce to deal with a rival heavy Blue opponent.

… then Wave 2 came along, and with it came Superion.

The Aerialbots are a five-wide team of Autobot planes (and one helicopter). Once all Aerialbots are in bot mode, they can play the card Aerialbot Enigma, which lets the Aerialbots form the combined mode character Superion; a hunk of 39 health, Tough 2 and Pierce 3. Once combined, an opponent needs to get through all that health and Tough before Superion can – casually – KO his opponents with is inherent Pierce. Naturally, Superion will also add to this total with cards like Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe (adding Pierce 2) and Heavy Handed (usually adding Pierce 4). He is likely to be hitting for Pierce 5 – 9 regularly once combined.

Despite many players trying to make their decks able to handle Superion, he still managed to break into the Top 8 at the UK Energon Open. Twice in fact.

Pierce-orientated decks tend to favour smaller characters, but can be successful in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Pierce is often used for support pieces with a larger character, but entire line-ups can be made of Pierce-orientated characters – an example of this is this Triggerhappy-focused deck used by Wreck n’ Rule:
4-Wide Pierce Profile

When size doesn’t matter.

Direct Damage
Non-attack damage (or direct damage) is when you do damage to an opponent outside of an actual attack. Many characters have access to abilities that do this type of damage, as well as several battle cards (a convenient list).

Very few decks rely on direct damage as their main method of winning (although I personally gave it a really good go). Most will use direct damage as a way of supplementing their existing strategies. For example, most Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend builds will have Plasma Burst (a card without pips that does 2 direct damage) in their deck so they can KO nearly defeated characters. It’s not their main method, just something to give the deck an extra edge.

Many decks with Ranged characters – like General Prime and Superion – will have ‘the Ranged suite’, 3 copies of the cards Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship. These Blue pip cards are only usable by characters with the Ranged trait; Armed Hovercraft deals a point of damage to every opponent, whilst Marksmanship does 2 damage to an opponent in bot mode. In Wave 4, the card Sturdy Javelin is likely to see similar use.

Image

Speaking of Optimus Prime and Superion, let’s talk about one of the most scary examples of direct damage: Photon Bomb. Photon Bomb is a card that does 2 damage to EVERYONE. Originally this card didn’t see a lot of play, but at the 2019 Origins Tournament, many Optimus Prime builds were able to tackle Aerialbots by sideboarding into a 2-tall line-up consisting of only Optimus Prime and Nemesis Prime. They would then play Photon Bomb multiple times; dealing only 4 damage to themselves each time, but a staggering 10 damage to an enemy. Dan Arnold of Vector Sigma, who came second in that tournament, wrote up his experience using this card here (skip to Sunday!):
Top 32 at Origins 2019

This creepy fella…

Weird Stuff
There’s more… there’s strange ways of creating a KO with characters like Bombshell Psy Ops and Cosmos, or through the Wave 4 card Daring Escape. These aren’t really for new players though… so whilst they exist, and we’re acknowledging their existence, it’s probably not helpful to go into much detail about them today.

Besides, got to leave something for the future!

… nobody will notice Prime’s shoulder …

Tricks
You might do alright just trying to deal damage with a Blue deck, but these decks quite often are a bit more than simply playing damage cards. When building decks, keep in mind the following:

Hand Removal
They call Blue decks ‘Control decks’ for a reason. Denying your opponent access to a hand during their turn will cripple their ability to deal decent damage, hopefully to the point where it is completely mitigated by your defense.

Armour
Seems obvious, but skimping on armour is a bad thing for quite a few Blue decks. Don’t just look at armour that gives bonuses to base defense or Tough; you might need to look at armour like Point Defense System, which lowers Pierce damage that can break through your defense.

Utilities
Keep an eye out for useful utilities; if you’re not too reliant on Tough, consider the upgrade W-5 Gyro Blaster to deny your opponent’s Bold. Fancy some card draw? Consider Security Console, which let’s you draw a card and optionally stack a card from hand on to the deck when defending.

Secret Actions
Still a bit of a new area, secret actions are likely to become more commonly played in Wave 4. In Wave 3 we saw Take Cover (denies direct damage), Infiltrate (denies orange actions), Hiding Spot (gives Stealth to a character), etc. Used well these can make for surprising games. If you’re taking these, take several different types and learn to time these actions when your opponent isn’t sure which one you’re playing.

Finally, official proof that Blue is better than Orange

Final Thoughts
This series only really covers some basic archetypes – the typical Orange aggro deck, and a variety of Blue strategies. There’s plenty of other ways to make a successful deck that aren’t Orange or Blue. Metroplex, for example, is regularly played with a wide range of pip colours. Many General Prime lists will play mostly aggro, but will focus quite heavily on Blue direct damage cards. There’s other concepts too – mill decks, draw decks, White decks, Black decks, rainbow decks, and there’s potentially other types of decks yet to be discovered. Things can change as new things are learned – that’s the fun part of a game like Transformers TCG.

This will be all for Drill Hall for the time being though. I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series, there will no doubt be future articles to add to this series later on! If you enjoy deck building and reading about deck building, please check out the rest of the blog.

Until next time!

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Drill Hall: Orange Decks, Pt 2

Welcome back to Drill Hall, a series of articles intended for new players of Transformers TCG. It’s time for Part 2 of our look at Orange Decks and how they are constructed. If you missed Part 1, don’t fret! It’s here: Drill Hall: Orange Decks, Pt 1

In the first part of this article, I described what an aggro deck is, and the kinds of cards needed to make them work. I also provided a line-up for a concept that could use an aggro deck: Impactor, Powertrain, Mudslinger, Tote and Highjump.

You might have read last week’s article and considered how you’d go about making this deck yourself. In the second part of this article, I’ll show you two decks I’ve made for Impactor and Co., and then we’ll talk about some other aggro decks and their similarities and differences. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what an aggro deck is, so you can build those decks yourself and go out and play them.

I recommend having Pojo and Computron up for referencing cards during this article.

So, shall we talk about some decks?

Ready to solve all your problems

Impactor and Off-Road Patrol
Last week, whilst I was writing the first part of this article, I put together a deck for Impactor and Co. I used the advice I wrote down in the first part of this article: It should have about 20 upgrades and 20 actions, it should have about 5-8 White pip cards, and it should only use Blue pips or blank cards if they are particularly good. It should also have card quantities within the following ranges:

Double Pip Cards: as many as possible
Bold Cards: as many as possible
Attack Cards: as many as possible
Draw Cards: 3-8
Upgrade Removal Cards: 2-6
Direct Damage Cards: 3-6
Defense: 0-3 (Forcefield)

In addition, for my first effort, I completely excluded blank cards and Blue pips. I also only used cards that were Common or Uncommon; this is to show that you can still make a reasonable list even with a limited card pool. Here’s how the deck looked:

Time for a quick patrol, make sure everything is in order…

Impactor and Off-Road Patrol (No Rares)
Characters:
Captain Impactor
Private Powertrain
Private Highjump
Private Tote
Private Mudslinger

Actions:
Confidence x 3
Ramming Speed x 3
Reckless Charge x 3
Supercharge x 3
Treasure Hunt x 3
Zap x 3

Upgrades:
Weapons

Enforcement Batons x 1
Erratic Lightning x 3
Flamethrower x 3
Grenade Launcher x 3
Powerpunch
x 3

Armour
Bashing Shield x 1
Forcefield x 3
Improvised Shield
x 3

Utilities
2 x Data Pad

Double Pip Cards: 3
Bold Cards: 9
Attack Cards: 9
Draw Cards: 8
Upgrade Removal Cards: 5
Direct Damage Cards: 3
Defense: 3

White Pips: 5
Orange Pips: 38
Other Pip Cards: 0

This deck met most of my criteria, though broke one requirement – it ended up having 18 actions and 22 upgrades. At the Common and Uncommon level, I think it’s easier to find decent weapons than it is decent actions. That’s okay; a card like Treasure Hunt prefers a slight lean towards upgrades, and a card like Confidence helps us dig for actions too. A 20/20 split is still an aim, but it’s not a hard rule.

It won’t win any tournaments, but this deck should be perfectly playable in a casual setting, and should feel like it can do something even if it isn’t especially powerful. When played, there should always be a useful card in your hand at all times.

How about if we wanted Rare cards in the mix though, or indeed some cards from Wave 4? Let’s see what changes we could make if we loosened up our rules:

Impactor isn’t sure about this card in front of him. 4 Wheel Drive? What’s that?

Impactor and Off-Road Patrol (Full)
Characters:
Captain Impactor
Private Powertrain
Private Highjump
Private Tote
Private Mudslinger

Actions:
4-Wheel Drive x 3
Confidence x 2
One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall x 3
Peace Through Tyranny x 3
Ramming Speed x 1
Reckless Charge x 3
Treasure Hunt x 3

Upgrades:
Weapons

Enforcement Batons x 1
Erratic Lightning x 3
Grenade Launcher x 3
Powerpunch x 3
Static Laser of Ironhide x 3

Armour
Bashing Shield x 1
Forcefield x 3
Improvised Shield x 3

Utilities
Datapad x 2

Double Pip Cards: 6
Bold Cards: 3
Attack Cards: 15
Draw Cards: 7
Upgrade Removal Cards: 3
Direct Damage Cards: 3
Defense: 3

White Pips: 5
Orange Pips: 35
Other Pip Cards: 6

(Press the Advantage would have been an auto-include in this list, but as it is now a banned card in organised play, I’m not including it)

This list brings in a few Rare cards of note: 4-Wheel Drive, One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall, Peace Through Tyranny and Static Laser of Ironhide. Peace Through Tyranny often becomes an auto-include in aggro lists, if only for the double-pips. The ability on the card is particularly powerful but as we can only use it on one card in this list, we’re including it only for it’s pips and nothing else. One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall is a very strong direct damage card – if an opponent is left with 3 health or less, it will let us kill two opponents at once for the cost of harming one of our own. Static Laser of Ironhide is just a particularly strong weapon, albeit one with a small cost – it damages the wielder when used; that’s fine, we expect the wielder to die next turn anyhow.

The only Wave 4 card I ended up including was 4-Wheel Drive, which is particularly powerful in this deck. Any of our micromasters would suddenly be hitting with Attack 7 and Bold 1, possibly boosted by any weapons they had on them. Rather frightening, especially on a disposable 4-star character. It’s off-colour, but the effect is essentially +4/+5 attack in this deck – if the effect is +4 attack or better, it’s definitely worth going non-Orange in an aggro deck.

Again, this list was quickly put together and not tested. Whilst some of these cards are nearly automatic choices, a few others have a bit more nuance and would take time to decide what is the best fit. Even as I write this, I can’t decide what the best number of Confidence, Treasure Hunt and Ramming Speed is for this deck; I’d have to play the deck and determine for myself what the best mix is. Part of the deck building process is starting with something untested, and simply trying it out and finding out what cards work best for you; it’s not always a hard science which card is best some of the time.

Finally, if I were trying this out, I’d also try out switching Impactor and either Tote or Highjump for General Optimus Prime from Wave 3; that might prove to be a much better line-up.

Other Aggro Decks
Now we’ve discussed what cards tend to exist in an aggro deck, and made a couple of example decks, let’s take a look at some decks that have done well in major competitions.

Ban on Press the Advantage enforced by Misfire and Spinister

Blaster
(Blaster, Ramhorn, Steeljaw, Firedrive)
Vector Sigma
Deck List @ Computron (Ben Saunders)

I featured this deck in the first Drill Hall. I think it’s an easy deck to get to grips with, and constructing it isn’t too difficult. Even if you didn’t have all the cards, you could easily find alternatives. Here’s how the make up of the deck looks:

Double Pip Cards: 6
Bold Cards: 1
Attack Cards: 15
Draw Cards: 8
Upgrade Scrap Cards: 2
Direct Damage Cards: 5
Defense: 3

White Pips: 5
Orange Pips: 38
Other Pip Cards: 3

I think this deck is a perfect example of a standard, no-frills aggro deck. The most off-beat card in this list is Field Communicator, which let’s you play the top card from your deck (so in a very loose sense could be considered a draw card). Otherwise I’d describe this deck as ‘vanilla aggro’… and it’s very good at doing that!

This deck favours cards that give a static buff to attack, rather than Bold – there’s only 1 card adding Bold here (Supercharge). This means it is resistant to anti-Bold cards like Gyro-Blasters.

My Impactor deck looks very much like this one, which is probably not a coincidence – they both take advantage of the same basic tactics, so use similar cards. That being said, I think Blaster will end up doing the job better; Blaster‘s ability to play extra cards, the large health pool, Firedrive… all of this makes better use of the deck than Impactor and Off-Road Patrol would.

(This deck would now be illegal – it has 3 copies of Press the Advantage – but these could be substituted with more Supercharge or Power Punch.)

Mmmm, tasty cards! (tasty cards)

Bugs
(Skrapnel, Chop Shop, Kickback, Barrage)
Deck List @ Computron (Blaine Bublitz)

Bugs are slowly losing their status in TransformersTCG with the recent advent of Blaster, but are still a fearsome deck. They are also a very good option for a new player. Below is the makeup of Blaine Bublitz’s deck that came Top 4 at Gencon 2019:

Double Pip Cards: 5
Bold Cards: 8
Attack Cards: 9
Draw Cards: 6
Upgrade Scrap Cards: 6
Direct Damage Cards: 3
Defense: None!
(in addition, this list has 3 x I Still Function)

White Pips: 3
Orange Pips: 39
Other Pip Cards: 3

I wanted to feature this particular Bugs list because not only did it do very well, it’s actually not an optimised list – if I recall correctly, Blaine didn’t have a third Peace Through Tyranny so he only ran 2 copies, and substituted the third with a different card. He still did very well.

This deck definitely favours Bold over static attack buffs when compared to the Blaster deck, and it goes about card draw in a different way. The Blaster deck wants to make sure it has as many cards as possible to enable Firedrive; this one just wants enough cards to keep playing an upgrade and action a turn, so it uses Work Overtime for card draw instead. The deck also uses Incoming Transmission, so it can draw cards and then stack a double-pip card on top of his deck.

An interesting build choice with this deck is the lack of Force Field. A philosophy with some aggro players is the belief that a card like Force Field will only be removed by a Bashing Shield, so you’re better off just equiping a weapon on a character, and doing more damage instead of trying to stay alive. Mileage on this tactic tends to vary, but it’s easy to see the argument for not including Force Field.

Otherwise the 2 signature cards for this deck are Swarm and I Still Function; neither would appear in a Blaster deck. However, replacing these cards with six ‘vanilla’ aggro cards could instantly make this a playable Blaster deck, and vice versa. The decks wouldn’t be entirely tuned – for example, each have their preferences for draw cards – but they would still work reasonably well.

Prowl considers the strategy behind these cards carefully.

Cars (Firewheels)
(Wheeljack, Prowl, Arcee, Fireflight)
Wreck n’ Rule
Deck List @ Computron (Brian Theurer)

Since Transformers TCG began, there’s been a number of different cars decks, though the main concepts behind them remain the same. Whilst there’s quite a few that contain the hard-to-get promo exclusive Cliffjumper, let’s focus on Origins Top 4 deck Firewheels as piloted by Brian Alan of Wreck n’ Rule. This deck doesn’t contain Cliffjumper so it’s much more accessible. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of that deck:

Double Pip Cards: 6
Bold Cards: 8
Attack Cards: 7
Draw Cards: 8
Upgrade Scrap Cards: 2
Direct Damage Cards: 1
Defense: 1
(in addition, this list has 1 x I Still Function!, 3 x Start Your Engines and 3 x Turbo Boosters)

White Pips: 3
Orange Pips: 39
Other Pip Cards: 4

This deck is a bit older than the others, so there’s less emphasis on general upgrade removal. I’d imagine an updated version of this list might be keen to include ways of removing weapons and utilities, since Wave 3 made those upgrades more problematic for aggro decks.

This deck has some ‘tribal’ cards, cards specific to the Cars alt-mode, in the shape of Start Your Engines and Turbo Boosters. These cards are used for untapping cars – letting us get more turns to attack with Wheeljack and Prowl, two big hitters in this list. Fireflight – who has the ability Brave, which forces incoming attacks to target him when able – serves as a means of redirecting attacks away from the others, whilst Arcee is there to deal large amounts of Pierce damage to high-defense targets.

This deck is a little more unusual than a standard cars deck, which might use Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant instead of the Arcee/Fireflight combo. However the use of Fireflight means that the poorly defended characters have a bit more breathing room and aren’t liable to take as many hits as normal.

This list is the most different from the others we’ve talked about, but has a lot of adaptablility within its own ‘tribe’. Without changing the deck, the line-up could be changed to use either Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant or Bumblebee Legendary Warrior instead of Arcee and Fireflight. It could also be used as a Blurr deck, partnered with both Prowl Military Strategist and Prowl Strategic Mastermind. There’s plenty of characters that turn into cars, so you could probably try out many using this same deck. Plus, like the Bugs and Blaster decks, many of these cards can be substituted with similar cards (although Start Your Engines and Turbo Boosters are fairly essential)

… and then they all lived happily ever after.

Conclusion
Aggro decks are relatively easy to build from scratch, adaptable to different teams, and quite forgiving in terms of card choice. You can build these decks with a variety of different cards, and so long as you’re including particular categories of cards, the deck should do its job very well. This makes an aggro deck the best place to start for a new player wanting to do well in the competitive scene.

Whilst netdecking is completely fine, I strongly encourage you to try and build your own aggro decks. Deckbuilding is a major part of the fun of a TCG, and aggro decks are an easy place to start.

There’s definitely more to discuss in this area – whether to have few big characters or many small characters, what to do with sideboards, what are favourable matchups, even aggro decks that are less focused on Orange pips. Those are subjects for another time, though!

Next
… but what if you didn’t want to play aggro? What if you wanted a more unusual playstyle? In the next Drill Hall, I’ll be talking about Blue decks, and what kinds of playstyles can utilise a deck that is mostly comprised of Blue pips.

Until next time!

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Drill Hall: Orange Decks, Pt 1

You’ve bought in to Transformers TCG. You’ve played some games – tried out your friend’s decks, maybe taken some decks from the internet, and just generally gotten to know the game. Now you want to learn a bit more about how these decks are made and how they work.

This week’s Drill Hall will focus on Orange-heavy decks, often referred to as aggro decks. In this two-part article, I’ll be going over the basics of how these decks work and how to go about creating them. In the first part I shall explain the basics of an aggro deck, what kinds of cards are used in these decks, and give you a line-up that you can build a deck for. In the second part, I’ll show you what I created for this line-up, and compare it to some decks that have done well in major competitive events.

This article is intended for new players, or players new to deck building. My assumption is that you do not have a huge amount of cards to work with, so our goal isn’t to jump in and make a deck that will always win and will require a large selection of rare cards. Instead, I am hoping to give you an easy understanding of a particular deck archetype, and encourage you to build your own decks and develop your own ideas. I will not be going over too many basic rules; my assumption is that you’ve read through the rules, are familiar with a couple of cards now, and hopefully had a game or two.

So without further ado, let’s talk about building decks!

WOTC Blaster Deck
Some of you might have bought the Blaster vs Soundwave deck, and immediately decided to play both decks out of the box against each other. No doubt you had a play at some point that looked like this:

Oh joy, well at least I can get some Backup Beams and flip even more not-Orange cards.

This is from a real game; in this picture, Steeljaw has Bold 4, meaning he can flip 4 more cards when he attacks an opponent. He has flipped a White pip card, which lets him flip 2 more cards. In total, Steeljaw is flipping 8 cards… but the result is only hitting an opponent for Attack 5. Despite having at least 2 upgrades on him, Steeljaw hasn’t hit for much at all.

Is Steeljaw just bad? No, definitely not. The problem here isn’t Steeljaw, or the upgrades on him that have granted him a total of Bold 4. It’s also not the ability Bold itself. The problem is the way this deck is constructed – in this deck, there are a large number of cards that grant Bold. However, in order for Bold to work, we need to be confident that most – if not all – of the cards we flip have Orange pips, else the Bold is not very useful. If the deck had been mostly Orange, Steeljaw might have attacked for something like Attack 11, instead of half that.

Clearly the deck that comes with Blaster – where less than half the cards have Orange pips – isn’t the right deck if we want to utilize Bold. If we’re going to make this work, we’re going to need an aggro deck.

Aggro
In its purest form, an aggro deck is a deck that is only concerned with creating the most damage possible. They rarely care about any sort of defense; philosophically, the aggro deck believes the best defense is a good offense.

Typically, a ‘pure aggro’ decklist will contain around 30 cards that have Orange pips, and would look to include as many double-Orange pip cards as possible. They will have perhaps 5-8 cards with White pips, intended to make sure the player flips more cards with Orange pips; and then they might have a few other cards that are key to making the deck work but otherwise aren’t Orange or White.

The idea of having a deck that is mostly Orange cards is so that whenever the player flips cards whilst attacking, they know they have a high chance of flipping cards with Orange pips each time. They can then feel confident about using abilities that let you flip multiple cards on attack – so abilities like Bold suddenly become very desirable (Scott Landis of Vector Sigma wrote a very in-depth article on Bold early on in the game that’s worth reading if you want a deeper and more involved understanding of Bold).

Obviously, simply flipping as many Orange cards as possible isn’t a complete strategy; successful aggro decks will often have ways of ensuring they can keep characters alive. They might use abilities like Brave or Stealth that dictate who gets attacked. They could have abilities or upgrades that limit the amount of damage they can take like the upgrade Forcefield, the Wave 1 character Skrapnel, or the new Wave 4 ability Safeguard. They can find ways of untapping characters, meaning that not only can they attack again, but they are once again hidden away from the opponent, a popular tactic of Cars decks. They can bring back dead characters to fight again using the card I Still Function, a tactic popular with Insecticons. Or they can simply have huge health pools, which is one of the reasons Blaster does so well.

Today, we’ll be going with a much simpler tactic though – just having overwhelming numbers.

Impactor and the Off Road Patrol

Deck concept
Let’s see if we can come up with a simple aggro deck, using some underused characters from Wave 3 and some new characters in Wave 4. Here’s the team I’d like us to work with:

Captain Impactor – 7 stars

Private Powertrain – 5 stars

Private Mudslinger – 5 stars
Private Tote – 4 stars
Private Highjump – 4 stars

This is the Off Road Patrol, but I’ve added to the group the new Impactor. In this list, Highjump, Mudslinger and Tote are not doing anything particularly special; they are intended to stay in truck mode, and do little else. We can’t use their tap abilities in bot mode, as we’re not intending on putting any Black cards in the deck.

It’s what Impactor and Powertrain do for them that we’re interested in. Powertrain has a static Bold 1 buff that applies to every member of the Off Road Patrol, including himself. Impactor, when he flips to his alt mode, gives everyone on his team Bold 1 as well. The idea is that we will try and get everyone in the team multiple Bold buffs. At the very least, we’ll have a static Bold 1 for everyone, and we’re going to try and set up at least Bold 2 when our opponent is tapped out, and we have at least 2 untapped bots. If our opponent has lots of characters, we can have Impactor flip each turn so we’re alternating between Bold 1 and Bold 2.

In play, each turn we’d look to play a weapon and hopefully either an action to draw us more cards (more weapons), or an action that would boost our attack value. We wouldn’t use either our action or upgrade for defensive purposes; we might consider using a Forcefield to try and keep a character in the fight for a little longer and perhaps get a second hit out of them (especially on Impactor himself), but mostly the intent is to hit for as much as possible, and expect our team to be killed outright one by one.

Our strategy is overwhelming numbers.

This isn’t a particularly grand strategy for a deck. Beyond adding Bold 1/2 to the team, there’s no innovative strategy here, but it is a good group to make a standard vanilla aggro deck around. Not every deck needs to be a tournament winner; this one is just an excuse to practice deck creation. That being said, we’re going to try and make the best possible heavy-Orange deck for this particular line-up.

“Right! If you want to be Wreckers, you gotta know how to move cards! Hop to it grunts!”

Deck construction
Now we have a deck concept, and a line-up for the deck, we can consider what cards we would actually want in our aggro deck. Rather than just listing out cards for you, I recommend trying to build the deck yourself based on my suggestions. You can either base this on cards you already have, trying to build this on the TransformersTCG phone app, or even just listing out cards yourself using an online card list (I recommend Pojo or Computron’s Lab for this, as the former has a complete card list and the latter lists cards by what they do). You can stick to currently available cards, or include Wave 4 battlecards if that’s what you want.

For an aggro deck, we should start with the following guidelines:

  • No more than 40 cards.
  • 30+ cards with Orange pips
  • 5-8 cards with White pips
  • 20 actions
  • 20 upgrades

Remember you can only have 3 of each card, and as we have 25 stars in characters, we can’t have any star cards.

That will mean we should on average have as many upgrades as actions in hand during the game, we can nearly guarantee cards flipped will have Orange pips, and that we should hit a White fairly regularly so we can get more Orange pips. Green pips are certainly nice to have, as well. We don’t need to worry about Blue or Black pips, at least not at this stage. It is usually okay to have about 3-6 cards that do not have either Orange or White pips, and still be a ‘heavy Orange’ aggro deck.

Any cards that have more than 1 Orange pip and don’t have a star cost (denoted by a star in the bottom left of the card), can be automatically included.

We know what pips we want on the cards, but what kind of cards do we need otherwise? Let’s look for the following types of cards to include in our deck:

Will Needlenose ever get a Generations toy, y’think?

Bold Cards
List of Cards
First and most obvious is any card that gives Bold 2 or more, either upgrade or action. Playing one of these cards will let us flip more cards on attack.

You can never have enough of these cards in an aggro deck. We should always have Bold 1 from Powertrain, and potentially another Bold 1 from Impactor; adding a card that does Bold 2 would make that Bold 4, so even a character with a tiny attack value can hit for large amounts.

A card that does Bold 1 isn’t worth taking, as we should have better cards to play.

Like most Autobots, Highjump loves and admires Thunderclash

Attack Buff Cards
List of Cards
Also obvious is any card that gives a high flat bonus to attack. We don’t necessarily mind if this comes with restrictions or costs, so long as it can be put on our characters. We only want to consider cards that do at least +3 Attack; lower than that is not generally worth playing in an aggro deck.

Like Bold cards, you can never have enough of these cards in a deck list this. If you have plenty of cards that boost attack by +3, these are generally more preferable to ones that only give Bold 2, should you find yourself in a position where you have to cut these cards.

Some cards that give high Bold or high attack buffs have negative penalties – they can only be used once, they cause damage to the wielder, etc. These are still very much worth taking. Your own characters taking damage to deal more damage to an enemy is normally an acceptable risk for an aggro deck.

Impactor wishes to invite Highjump on a Treasure Hunt.

Draw Cards
List of Cards
Any card that let’s you draw at least 2 cards, or has the potential to draw that many cards, is worth considering. These cards will help you draw the best possible cards to boost your attack damage. You don’t want to have too many of these cards, but maybe 3-6 is a good amount. Some aggro decks go as far as 8 and seem to do very well.

Normally an action card that let’s you draw upgrades is a good play, especially early in a game to give you more access to weapons that deal lots of damage. Some cards will also let you place a card from your hand on to the deck, useful for putting double-Orange cards into your flips.

Powertrain’s shield is a Bashing Shield

Upgrade Scrap Cards
List of Cards
Any card that removes upgrades from your opponent’s characters should be considered. Preference goes to cards that remove any type of upgrade, but the most important type to remove is armour. You’ll need these cards to get rid of enemy upgrades that will reduce your damage. You can also consider cards that remove a card from the battlefield and put them back in your opponent’s hand. About 2-6 of these cards is about right.

Someone appears to have zapped Impactor’s body.

Direct Damage Cards
List of Cards
It’s always useful to have a card in hand that can do a small amount of direct damage; you can sometimes get two KOs a turn if you finish off a nearly-KOed opponent with a Zap, and then attack and KO a second character. About 3-6 of these cards should do. Cards that do more than 1 damage are very much worth taking; if they can do 3 or more damage, they are extremely useful and should definitely be considered, even if they are not an Orange or White pip.

Seeing double here…

Additional Cards
A few cards are often staples of aggro decks for various reasons. Cards that untap characters, like Ready for Action, or bring characters back from the KO zone for a limited time like I Still Function, are popular for aggro decks, since they put us in a position where we can attack with multiple characters once our opponent is completely tapped out. The armour upgrade Forcefield is also a recurring card for these decks, as it prevents a character from taking more than 4 damage whilst they have the upgrade.

“Guys, trust me, you’re TOTALLY going to need this card.”

Cards NOT to Consider
It can be quite tempting to put in cards that might not generally fit into an aggro deck. Be very careful with such cards and ask yourself – will this card really advance my gameplan? We’re not interested in cards that have a Repair effect like Repair Bay or Field Repair, as we’d expect our characters to die in one hit or nearly die in one hit. We’re also not interested in cards that do Pierce; generally speaking an aggro deck should be doing more than enough damage to an opponent that it is higher than most Pierce values.

Naturally, we shouldn’t be using any cards that can’t be used by our team; for example, there’s no point putting Jaws of Steel in our team, since we don’t have any Dinobots!

Just because we have Trucks and a Tank in our line-up, doesn’t mean that cards that affect those alt-modes are useful. Don’t be tempted to take them!

“C’mon, quickly quickly, before Springer gets here!”

That pretty much covers the cards we should and shouldn’t be using for an aggro deck – it’s time to get cracking on putting together a deck list!

Hopefully finding cards that do all these things should give you far more than 40 cards for you to consider for your deck. Try and build something using the above suggestions. If you have lots of choices for cards in a particular type, try and work out for yourself which card feels more appropriate for the team – would Incoming Transmission be a better choice for card draw, or would Treasure Hunt? Often these things become very subjective, and only experience playing them yourself will tell you which is better suited for you.

Don’t worry if you are not exactly hitting a 20 / 20 split between actions and upgrades. It doesn’t matter too much if you are a couple of cards either way, especially if you have a limited card pool. Likewise, don’t worry if you’re not exactly meeting the amounts of cards I’ve suggested above; if you are low on cards of a particular type, have slightly more of another type of card.

As said before, treat this as an exercise for now; the end deck doesn’t need to great, this is just practice!

End of Part One
… so this was intended to be one article, but it was running rather long, and even I balk at the idea of releasing a 5,000 word essay and calling it suitable for new players. This will be it for Part 1 then, and next week I’ll show you what I came up with, and talk about other aggro decks and the similarities – and differences – between them.

In the meantime, why not try and create an aggro deck for Impactor and company? If you’re already experienced with the game, why not try and build that deck using the Wave 4 cards? That way you can get used to the cards in the new set. If you’re feeling very daring, why not try and build a Black aggro deck using Black pips instead of Orange pips?

Either way, if you make something, why not share it on the Flip Flip Bang Bang Facebook or Twitter, or even just post it as a reply on Reddit. Let’s see how similar our decks end up being.

Anyways, as will be tradition for Drill Hall, we’re ending on a collection of links made by other creators. This week I’ve chosen some actual play videos of people playing aggro decks. One of them features myself! Enjoy!

Wreck n’ Rule: Orange Cars vs Orange Cars
Blues on Attack: Bugs vs Orange Cards
Cityspeakers: Orange Alpha Trion vs Double Shockwave

Until next time!

Special thanks to Computron, who helped with a particular webpage at the last minute. Also thanks to Mat Armstrong and Cityspeakers for reading over my Drill Hall drafts and giving me input.

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

Drill Hall: Buying into Transformers TCG

Everyone has to start somewhere. You’ve discovered the game, you’ve seen it being played, and you’re excited to get into it. But where do you start? How do you start? What do you even need to buy? Or, alternatively, maybe you have a friend who wants to start playing, but you don’t know what to recommend to them?

This week I’m bringing to you Drill Hall, a small series of articles that will hopefully let new players get into the game, work out how to get started, and learn the basics of deck creation. I won’t be covering basic rules, rather I’ll be covering some often asked questions that aren’t answered elsewhere. However at the end of each article I’ll provide links for official rules, as well as resources and videos of other people playing the game. This way you can read this, get an idea of what to get, and then go and watch other people playing the game and be excited for Transformers TCG.

My hope with these articles is that you’ll feel more comfortable buying into the game, and feel excited and confident to make decks of your own and take part in your local Transformers TCG community – or indeed, start your own local community!

So whether you’re a new player looking to get stuck in, a veteran Magic player looking to quickly get a competitive deck going, someone with a fondness for Transformers taking a peek, or maybe you just know someone about to get into the game… this article is meant for you.

Mat from Dice Saloon about to open a ton of Siege booster packs.

Why Play Transformers TCG?

Let’s keep this one simple, and pick out some great points:

  • Fast gameplay – a single game averages about 15 minutes, so you can play lots of games in one session.
  • Easy to learn rules. Playable at many skill levels – young, old, casual, competitive, etc.
  • Increasing amount of depth if you want that kind of involvement.
  • Great art (and the game has progressed from solely re-using art assets to having original art by IDW comic artists like Nick Roche, Alex Milne, Andrew Griffith, Sara Pitre-Durocher, Casey Coller, Josh Perez, etc.)
  • Great support from developers.
  • Great community, both local and international.
  • Strong upcoming Organised Play and competitive scene.
  • Plenty of play options.
  • Still a young game, so everything still feels fresh and new.
  • … and its Transformers. Naturally.

Hopefully that’s enough convincing for you – now we can talk about the tricky stuff. *grins*

Where to Start
One of the first things that every new player has on their minds is this: What do you even buy first? Saying where to start isn’t as simple as just saying ‘Go get a box of Wave 1 boosters’. Different players have different budgets, different degrees of commitment, and different personalities. Let’s see if we can split new players in to four different groups:

  1. Parents with young children
    You have a son or daughter who likes the look of the game or likes Transformers, and you think it’d be a fun way of bonding in the evening.
  2. Casual Player
    You like Transformers, you’ve got lots of other stuff on, but you wouldn’t mind buying in a little and having some fun. You don’t have enough time to fully invest, or you’re not a veteran card gamer and just want to see what it’s like.
  3. Potential Competitive Player
    You like playing competitive games, you’ve heard this game has a good upcoming scene, and you want to jump in whilst its young.
  4. Potential Creative Player
    You like the creative side of deck building games, you like the look of the cards and the mechanics, and you want to get stuck in. (PS. You are also my target audience, so please hit me up on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll like what I do, despite my shameless plugging).

I’m going to give my honest recommendations as to where to start with all four of these player types, with recommendations for where to start cheaply, and where to go from there if you choose to buy in at a larger level. Chances are, you fall into more than one of these categories, so you might want to read through them all.

(I’ve provided product links from my local games shop Dice Saloon for many of these recommendations – please support your local games shop and buy from them, and help your local games community grow.)

George showing off Bumblebee vs Megatron.

Parents
Hopefully this will be a quick one – as someone who isn’t a parent myself, I can’t speak from experience. Instead I am speaking from reading other people’s comments on the game, and making my own assumptions based on that.

Realistically you probably don’t want to commit to buying too much, just in case your child doesn’t take to the game for more than a few minutes (Kids amirite?). So the easiest option is probably the Bumblebee vs Megatron starter set.

This set has no real value for competitive or involved advanced play; you’ll never see any of the characters in this set show up in a tournament or even most casual games. However, they have nice simple mechanics and clean, young person friendly art that is closer to the current Cyberverse cartoon. The characters are all popular with younger audiences – Bumblebee, Windblade, Megatron, Starscream. The set is also normally the cheapest available.

It’s worth remembering that the game has two sets of rules – Basic and Advanced, with the latter being the ruleset most players play. Basic play ignores the rules on the cards and ultimately becomes just about counting numbers; this makes it perfect for playing simple games with younger children, and teaching them basic math skills. However, Advanced play with this set is quite simple too, and the set in general is designed to be an easy introduction.

If you want to go further, then booster packs might be the way to go from there, especially if you want to keep things fairly simple. The Wave 1 booster packs will always have the simplest characters and mechanics, with later waves bringing in more complications, so that’s probably the best place to start. Turbo Sealed might be a good way of playing quick games with your children as well; rules for that type of gameplay can be found here, referred to as Two-Pack Sealed – Turbo Mode. You can even ditch the ‘sealed’ element and make turbo decks for quick play, but that’s an idea for another time.

The original Mat with the original Starter set.

Casual
I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I never intended to take this game as seriously I did. My original intention was just to buy some boosters, maybe play a few games, but mostly enjoy something that had Transformers on it. I am a Transformers fan first and foremost, not a card gamer. So these recommendations are coming from personal experience… but also with the knowledge that one year later, I have a rather large collection of cards and a website dedicated to dissecting them. Maybe that should be a warning?

If you want something to just learn the game with, then the Autobot Starter Set is a good starting point, along with some booster packs so you have some variety. That being said, any of the pre-built feature box sets – Metroplex, Devastator, Blaster vs Soundwave – are probably good starting points if you don’t mind a little bit of additional complexity. These sets are technically starter sets but are really just specialist decks – characters that don’t fit in with the type of gameplay featured in the booster cards. You’ll need to remember that these aren’t likely to win you tournaments ‘out of the box’, but since you’re a casual player you’re probably not going to mind that.

So long as you’re not too worried about collecting everything, you can more or less buy booster packs ‘for fun’ from that point on. If you do want to take things seriously, though, you can look further for my recommendations for Competitive and Creative players.

I don’t know what Mat is doing here either. Focus on Metroplex. Focus on him!

Competitive
There’s varying levels of competitive play, and arguably the answer to the question ‘what cards do I need to be a competitive player in Transformers?’ is… well… all the cards. The competitive scene changes constantly as new decks are developed, and new counters are developed for those decks, and the meta evolves from there. What was once dismissed six months ago is suddenly a regular feature in every sideboard, and what seemed great is now regarded as easy to deal with.

Simply saying ‘buy everything’ isn’t very helpful though. Let’s recommend some quick starting points to get you going and you can work from there.

At the time of writing, probably the easiest path to a strong competitive deck that can be picked up and learnt rather quickly, is the Blaster deck developed by Vector Sigma. This deck was the basis of the deck which subsequently won the UK Energon Open (that version of the deck list is here).

In order to put together this deck (sans sideboard) you’ll need:

One Blaster vs Soundwave set
Twelve Rare battle cards:
3 x Static Laser of Ironhide
3 x One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
3 x Press the Advantage
3 x Peace Through Tyranny
Seven Uncommon battle cards:
3 x Reckless Charge
3 x Treasure Hunt
1 x Grenade Launcher
Nineteen Common battle cards:
3 x Confidence
1 x Supercharge
1 x Enforcement Batons
3 x Erratic Lightning
3 x Forcefield
3 x Improvisd Shield
1 x Bashing Shield
2 x Field Communicator

The Uncommon and Common battle cards should be easy to get hold of. Hopefully your local community or local game store has some freebies they can give out. If they don’t, then you should be able to find them on ebay or at any online retailer that sells single cards. In the UK, example online singles resellers include Bearded Card Trader, Joker’s Toybox and Chaos Cards.

The rare cards are more of a problem – Static Laser of Ironhide should be easy enough to buy for £1, and One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall is relatively cheap too. However, Press the Advantage is often quite pricey and Peace Through Tyranny is one of the most expensive non-promo battle cards. Both are likely to appear in lots of decks you create, but as you’re just starting out, you might not want to commit to these cards just yet.

So instead, here are some recommended cards you can get cheaply that might fill the gaps temporarily: replace Static Laser of Ironhide with Flamethrower (two are included with Blaster vs Soundwave), replace One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall with the uncommon card Plasma Burst, then finally replace Press the Advantage and Peace through Tyranny with six cards from the following: Supercharge, Power Punch, Incoming Transmission, Zap, Bashing Shield, Enforcement Batons. Ideally you want a 20 / 20 split of actions and upgrades; the original deck leans a little to actions anyhow, so you can afford to replace one of these action cards with an upgrade quite happily. You can switch around these cards until you find something that works for you.

Understand that taking out the rare cards is going to result in a weaker version of the deck – Press the Advantage and Peace through Tyranny are particularly powerful cards and make one hell of a difference. However, this will give you a starting point – you can try out the game and see if you like it and want to invest further.

When you do decide take the further dive, I recommend picking up Wave 1 booster packs, or even just commit all the way and buy a box of Wave 1 boosters. You’ll hopefully pick up some good rare cards this way – ones to look out for are Peace Through Tyranny, I Still Function, Energon Axe and Security Checkpoint. You’ll also be able to pick up core cards for other competitive decks like Cars and Bugs – Start Your Engines and Swarm are both essential cards for these decks.

Once you’re at the point, you’ll no doubt be deep enough into the game that you’ll have a good idea what you want to buy from there.

Blaster is traditionally an Orange aggro deck – one that focuses on high damage with minimal defense – and quite a lot of other competitive decks work very similarly to it. I’ll be going into more detail about these decks and how to build them later in this series.

George really wanted to pose with Blaster vs Soundwave, apparently

Creative
I’m not sure if the creative player is the easiest or hardest person to recommend starting points to. In some ways the kind of player that wants to create and experiment with deck ideas and concepts is likely to be able to do that with whatever resources are available. In other ways, such a player never wants to limit their ideas by a lack of resources – so like the competitive player, the real answer is ‘you need to buy everything’. Again, that’s not helpful advice, so let’s see if we can come up with a good starting point and go from there.

Starting with one of the pre-built decks seems like a good idea, but you probably want to pick one that is particularly interesting. Blaster vs Soundwave definitely fits this bill. Aside from being good teams in general, and Soundwave being a bit of a puzzle in himself (and thus worth you trying to work out how to make him work), all the smaller characters have unique abilities you’ll want to use in other teams. I am finding increasingly that I can put characters alongside the likes of Ravage and Buzzsaw, so if you want good ideas straight from the start, this is going to be a good purchase for the future as well as the present.

Devastator is also a good choice, as you’ll find some use out of the unique battle cards in this set, and constructicons can make good filler characters in your teams. Metroplex is incredibly fun to build around as well and has interesting mechanics. So if you like weird and interesting concepts in your game, any of these three sets will prove to be interesting for you. You could possibly even buy each of them in turn, and build your collection that way.

From there, you’re probably going to find more strange and interesting cards in later sets than in Wave 1; certainly Wave 1 will contain a lot of staple cards, so you should definitely consider buying a box of Wave 1 if you’re looking to buy in proper. However if you want to really experiment, you can find a lot of value in Wave 3 cards, and definitely Wave 4 cards when they release. Those sets will provide you some strange and interesting characters and cards to play around with.

As a player you’re probably going to find the game more exciting once you have all the cards to play with, but starting with one of the pre-builts and building slowly is probably the most sensible way to go about building your collection.

This was my best ‘I am Devastator’ pose.

What Else
Here are some other things you should look into getting once you’ve started playing, though few are essential if you’re just starting. If you’re a veteran card gamer, you probably already have most of these.

  • Sleeves
    You don’t need to get fancy ones, but cards are easier to shuffle when sleeved and won’t get damaged. It’s also easier to store decks together if they are in different colour sleeves. Small children with dirty hands won’t ruin the cards.
  • Toploaders
    You want 3.5 x 5.125” toploaders (hard plastic sleeves) for your main character cards; for larger cards like Metroplex 6 x 8” will do, and for small or folded characters you want 3 x 4”. In the likely event your LGS doesn’t stock toploaders, you can buy them from Amazon (For people in the UK or other non-US locations, you can export from AmazonUS with minimal additional fees). Foiled cards have a tendency to bend, keeping them in these sleeves prevents them from doing this.
  • Counters
    These are for counting damage; the cardboard ones that come with the sets are fine, but something a bit more sturdy is more preferable. You can use counters from board games (I used counters from 7 Wonders for about 4 months), or you can buy counters from specialists (I use the ones from Customised Gaming, but there are many other options like Counter Attack Bases, and Etsy will have plenty of options too). Dice work as well, but be aware that dice can be accidentally knocked over, and rogue dice can confuse players – I have heard stories of high-level tournament games ruined by rogue dice on the table.
    (Please do not use the damage app, your opponent needs to see your board status.)
  • Storage
    You’ll need deck boxes for carrying your cards to and from your local game store, and you’ll need a place to store your cards at home too. Ultra-Pro make a lot of boxes for this; I can also recommend boxes from Customised Gaming (we even gave one away a few months back).
  • Playmat
    Often tables can get covered in water or gunk, having a playmat means all your cards are on a set surface. Also they look nice. You can even get custom game mats from various retailers like Inked Gaming in the US, or Patriot Games in the UK. If you’re getting a mat made with someone else’s artwork, be sure to ask the artist’s permission beforehand, don’t just rip off their art, and definitely don’t use copyrighted material. Support the arts, yo.
Pizza Queen (real name) has taken a Wave 1 box for herself

What’s next
Okay, so you’ve got a bunch of cards, you’ve read up on the rules, watched a few play videos, built a deck you’re certain is legal, been to your local game shop… but you don’t quite know how to build a deck that works properly. Or, you’ve built a deck based on a deck you read online, and know how to play it, but you want to build your own decks and don’t quite know how yet. In the next part of this series, I’ll talk about how to get started building a deck, specifically an Orange deck. I might even involve a few cards from Wave 4!

In the mean time, here are some helpful and/or entertaining links:

How to play:
Official Guide
Wreck n’ Rule Guide

Entertaining matches:
Wreck n’ Rule: Turbo Sealed Game
Wreck n’ Rule: Sealed Match
Blues on Attack: Shockwave vs Blaster
Gencon: Tournament Final
Cityspeakers: Commentated Match

Further links and Resources:
Online Resources @ Computron’s Lab

Until next time!

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

Thank you to George, Mat and The Pizza Queen, all from Dice Saloon, for posing for some product photography.

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

Building Megatron: Still Functioning, Pt 2

In the first part of this project, I set out an idea for a Megatron Living Weapon deck. This deck would have his upgrades focus on offense, with his actions providing the defense – mostly through secret actions, but also through upgrade removal, Hunker Down grabbing armour, Callous Leadership, card denial like Espionage, etc.

I built a prototype deck, pairing Megatron up with Firedrive and Fireflight, for a deck I jokingly refer to as Megadrive (kind of a play on FireBee). I’ve tried it out against some other jank, and whilst it had some problems, it had a lot of potential too.

I’ve also sat and tested it against my new Blaster deck. It didn’t do great… which isn’t really a surprise, I don’t think anyone would expect it to!

That got me thinking – in the current state it’s in, what does the deck currently do well against and what does it do badly against, at least with the level of practice I have with it now? Rather than the original plan of simply testing and tuning against a three-wide Optimus Prime deck, this week I wanted to simply report back how the deck performs against a series of other decks – ranging from tournament winning decks like Blaster, through to more casual decks I regularly play like Alpha Trion. I think that’ll tell us a lot more about the deck and the kind of shape it is in, so we can look at it more next week.

Assuming the cat let’s me anywhere near my cards.
(This isn’t a joke btw, I have had genuine issues getting testing done due to this critter basically telling me I’m not allowed to play cards and I have to play with him instead.)

Prototype
I already featured the prototype deck in my last Weekend Casual. This was a deck that I essentially threw together within 15 minutes whilst putting together both the Blaster and General Megatron decks I also played that weekend. Let’s have a look at those cards again:

Megadrive Prototype v0.01

Megadrive Prototype
Characters:
Megatron Living Weapon
Private Firedrive
Fireflight

Actions:
Callous Leadership x 3
Disarm x 3
Espionage x 1
Hunker Down x 3
Security Checkpoint x 3

Secret Actions:
Battlefield Report x 3
Dampening Field x 2
Hiding Spot x 3
Infiltrate x 3

Weapons:
Armed Hovercraft x 1

Drill Arms x 1

Energon Axe x 2
Fusion Cannon of Megatron x 3
Handheld Blaster x3

Laser Cutlass x 2
Scoundrel’s Blaster x 2

Armour:
Superior Plating x 2

Utilities:
None

Pips:
Blue = 37
Orange = 0
White = 6
Green = 3

Black = 3
Blank = 0

Sideboard:
None

So here are some issues I have with this build, from looking at the deck on its own and also from various games and playtesting:

  1. There’s not enough Green, and there’s not a good variety of Green. I can’t refine my hand well.
  2. There’s no utility at all (not too much of a problem, as it just means that slot is always for weapons)
  3. Not a good variety of armour. Superior Plating might be less preferable than Extra Padding in a lot of cases.
  4. Fusion Cannon of Megatron felt pointless if I’m not trying to triple stack it. I always wanted a stronger weapon.
  5. Laser Cutlass was just useless. I never got mileage out of it.
  6. Dampening Field is pretty poor when compared to the other secret actions.
  7. No Vaporize (sometimes you’d want to Vaporize instead of Disarm)
  8. Could do with a little more card draw.

Things that did work:

  1. The general idea felt mostly sound.
  2. Whilst I could use some card draw, Firedrive is good card draw on his own. I felt like I always had at least one good card in my hand.
  3. Secret actions were working very well.
  4. Callous Leadership ended up being pretty good if I had it in hand and let Megatron get in a risky spot. It adds to the secret actions for a more devious playstyle.
  5. Hunker Down into Superior Plating is infuriating if you don’t have something to kill the armour straight away.

For my first proper test build then, I’d look to remove the following:

  • Dampening Field x 3
  • Disarm x 1
  • Fusion Cannon of Megatron x 3
  • Laser Cutlass x 2
  • Superior Plating x 2

… and add:

  • Energy Pack x 3
  • Vaporise x 2
  • Quartermaster x 3
  • Extra Padding x 3

I didn’t really want to remove the Superior Plating, but having an armour that’s tricky to get on Megatron but also easily removed was an issue. Extra Padding on the other hand only needs me to collect two of the cards in hand, and then I could use Hunker Down to collect the third (a trick I’ve learned from playing Mondo Spanner’s General Megatron deck).

I added Quartermaster because I felt like it was quite easy to get rid of Firedrive with a Ramming Speed. With Firedrive, Megatron can really clean up a final foe, so I think it’s important I can always get Firedrive on him.. Adding Quartermaster also kept the level of White the same.

From the last build, I’ve only dropped three Blue in exchange for three Orange, we’ll see if lowering the Blue has too much of an impact. There’s a fair bit more Green in this build now, so I have a bit more card filtering options.

I’m happy with the action / upgrade balance. Seems crazy to have such a lean towards actions, but Megatron can normally retrieve weapons if I’m low on upgrades in hand, and can’t do the same with actions. I feel like less upgrades is fine.

Finally, so far I’ve been running Fireflight as the third member of the team. However, I feel I neither need his Brave, nor an extra turn of flipping Megatron, so I’ve decided to swap him out for the new Ravage. Ravage has a bit of extra damage with Pierce 2 and can give Megatron Tough 1. This is similar to Flamewar, but without giving himself or Firedrive the Tough. Instead of Brave, I already have Stealth from Hiding Spot which has served me quite well in testing.

“Okay, you’re all suited up Megs, let’s go get those Autobots!”

Test Gauntlet
I’ve picked out four different opponents for our test gauntlet:

Alpha Trion (Flip Flip Bang Bang build)
Blaster (Ben Saunders UK Energon Open build)
General Megatron (Mondo Spanner build)
Optimus Prime (Daniel Arnold Origins build)

For each test I’ll run through a game about five times each, and give myself an idea of how the test build does against each one.

These four decks are definitely different power levels. The Blaster deck I find to be upsettingly powerful; comparatively Alpha Trion will be a much more tame four-wide test. Similarly, the Optimus Prime deck, whilst a tournament winner, should feel dated since it has no Wave 3 cards. I’ve picked the General Megatron deck because I think it’d be interesting to compare how the two 13-star Megatrons perform (even if one of them has a well-honed deck behind it, and the other is a test build).

For Optimus Prime, I had a ton of lists to use from the Origins tournament, but I went with runner-up Daniel Arnold’s list over tournament champion Steffon Pinckney’s. The reason for this is that Steffon had three hand-removal cards (Disruptive Entrance and Espionage), and Daniel had none – excluding the three Security Checkpoints they all had, of course. This was mostly to make testing easier, since there’s less secret information that’s not actually secret.

Okay, shall we see how this goes?

Fireflight being Brave, whilst Arcee goes in for the Surprise Attack

Alpha Trion
Deck list
Flip Flip Bang Bang section on Alpha Trion

This deck is probably the easiest opponent to start with. My Mission Trion deck has done alright in local-level matches, but it’s hardly a major competition-worthy deck. It’s an alternative, mid-tier aggro deck. It’s good for a warm up before having to deal with Blaster.

Honestly, testing Megadrive into Mission Trion is a fun testing experience. Both decks require a bit of finesse and tricks – Alpha Trion working out the chances of hitting a Blue action, Megatron trying to divert attacks and reallocate damage.

Much to my surprise, Megatron seems to do really well here. There’s definitely a risk of being hit by Arcee for crazy amounts of damage, but good use of secret actions does tend to hinder her when played correctly. There were some risky moments in testing (There was an Arcee swing for about 12 points of Pierce into Megatron at one point), but mostly I think this one comes down to practice.

So long as Arcee is forced to divert attacks away from Megatron, and there is enough pressure on Alpha Trion, this ends up being a pretty good matchup for Megatron.

Deck seems to be working well; Ravage was excellent. Mat Armstrong suggested a good play which is flipping Ravage to alt-mode (thus in Stealth, which applies always, not just when untapped like micromasters) whilst also putting Hiding Spot on Megatron – so the opponent has to swing into Firedrive. I can confirm this play works very well.

Extra Paddings seem to work okay, probably would want to try them some more before deciding if they should replace Superior Plating permanently; Energy Pack provided a nice obstacle, Quartermaster was also excellent and can salvage matches near the end. Callous Leadership is still doing immense work – when in hand it seems to be a winning card for Megatron, especially if I can play it twice in a game.

Shall we see if this winning streak continues into another four-wide aggro deck?

“Misfire, I don’t think this is Blaster. I think this is just a stereo.”

Blaster
Deck list
Original Vector Sigma Gencon Report

Alpha Trion is an interesting, powerful but mostly mid-tier aggro deck. In comparison, Blaster is a top-tier list that very few other four-wide aggro lists can top. The Vector Sigma deck has simply so much going for it. Ben Saunders’ version changed by exactly one card in the main deck. It’s a very hard list to play against, and a fairly easy deck to get to grips with and play. Nearly every card in that list does it’s job perfectly.

The Megatron Living Weapon deck can’t even get close.

Blaster is able to play plentiful amounts of cards, he has access to anti-Decepticon tech like Press the Advantage, if Firedrive isn’t dealt with he can be hit with Peace Through Tyranny giving Blaster way too much of an advantage, and he has a ton of Bold. Even if anti-Bold was in play, most of the cards are giving Blaster and friends static bonuses so they’d still hit hard even without the Bold. Finally, the whole list provides an absolute mountain of health to chew through.

In order for Megatron to win in this matchup, the cards need to not only be in his favour, but not in Blaster‘s favour as well, and even then it’s a hard tactical matchup for him. Testing into Blaster is demoralising. I genuinely don’t think there’s anything I can do here, I’d have to prove Megatron works in other environments before I could even consider this match up.

So with that being said, let’s go for some Blue.

“No, YOU are clearly Player 2. Just look at you, with your additional purple bits.”

General Megatron
Bleeped-up Productions Profile

This is an interesting matchup conceptually – two versions of Megatron, both wielding battlemasters, both with sidekicks that grant Tough to Megatron. Same amount of combined health, but definitely a lot more Tough going on in the General Megatron list. Since I’ve stolen a few of the General Megatron tricks for my own list, there’s a lot of things that both lists are doing like using Hunker Down for Extra Padding.

However, General Megatron definitely has the upper hand here. With both lists deploying as much Tough as possible, it ultimately comes down to who has the most ways of breaking through the armour. Living Weapon has some Pierce in the deck, but it’s nothing compared to the amount of direct damage General Megatron can whip out by having Attack Drones and other weapons, and simply flipping back and forth.

Putting the Fusion Cannon of Megatron cards back into the list is probably an option for Living Weapon if we want to tech for this particular matchup, as it might be the case for hard Blue matches in general. Certainly at the moment General Megatron has a major tactical advantage; I definitely would need to change the deck to make it work.

“Sigh. This again? Yes yes, I know, One Shall Stand…”

Optimus Prime
Deck Lists
Daniel Arnold Vector Sigma Report

You just wince when you think about him, don’t you? Fair enough, the guy is starting to feel like yesterday’s model, ready for the scrap heap, but you still have to remember the guy packs a mean punch. A base attack of 8 that is very easily boosted to 10+ makes him fearsome to anyone. Maybe he hasn’t won a major tournament since Wave 2, but still… guy is scary.

I get why someone might think Megatron Living Weapon was meant to be comparable though – stacking weapons on Megatron means he’s hitting for roughly the same amount as Optimus Prime each turn, despite slightly lower stats.

The problem is, Optimus Prime feels better at dealing with Megatron‘s support than Megatron is in return. More so than the other decks, I was feeling like Optimus Prime was able to take care of Firedrive and Ravage very quickly, very easily. So many of the tricks we’ve put in Megatron‘s deck (the secret actions, Callous Leadership, etc.) end up becoming quite ineffective quite quickly.

After Megatron is on his own, he’s normally able to hold his ground – he should have the Extra Padding on, and if Firedrive is knocked off, access to Quartermaster make things alright. Megatron is fighting from a weaker position, though – normally his support is gone, and he still has to deal with Optimus Prime‘s support, so it’s a long climb back up.

If Megatron is going to crack through a 3-wide Optimus Prime list, then it’s going to require some changes to the current list.

“Guess this didn’t go well for him, eh Spinister?”
“Guess not.”
“Gratz on finally getting a card though. They won’t give me a card. Even though my gun got one.”

Summary
The list is definitely not up to scratch, although to be fair I’ve thrown it at one list that it did well at, and three other lists that have had long periods of tuning and refining. I can’t really beat myself up about these results – it’d be arrogant to expect a list developed in a week would instantly do well against lists that have taken much longer to perfect.

I must admit though I’m enjoying playing Megatron. Whilst he is not entirely powerful, the list is providing me more fun and nuance than I was expecting. I think it is worth playing in its current form some more.

My next step is to go over these results and see what I can do, possibly building a sideboard so I have options for dealing with Orange and Blue builds equally. In all honesty, as I’ve said from the start, I don’t think I’ll make strong progress with this build because I know better players than I have tried and failed. However, it’s a line-up I’m enjoying, so I’m going to make the most of it and try and have fun. A week of thinking over the deck should hopefully give me new insights. I’ll certainly be testing it specifically into the Optimus Prime build, since that’s the one I want to see it excel against (even though I don’t think it will).

Next week is a local tournament in Brighton, so the third and final part of this project will be about how I refine this build, and how it performs in a local tournament environment.

Until next time!

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

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

Weekend Casual: Megatron and Blaster

Alright there, had a good weekend?

Last week was kind of insane for Transformers TCG players, especially in the UK, where I think the entire community was in UK Energon Open aftermath mode. We were all brewing crazy new ideas now that the competition was over, chatting to new friends and basically feeling pretty damn good about the game.

… and that’s without thinking about the monsoon of spoilers last week. How about those Kinetic battle cards?? How about Astrotrain and Sandstorm? How about the insane invasion of black pips this wave? How about Impactor, did you ever think you’d see an Impactor card? All that, and Apeface and Spinister are still to come! ARGH!!!!!

Needless to say it was an exciting week for Transformers players – and naturally I was very sick and bedridden for most of the week.

However, I was well enough to make gaming on Saturday, so I got a bit of Transformers in at least.

Mat & Marc getting some games in.

During this wave, I’ve been taking in-development decks to casual Saturday gaming. I did that again this week, taking a very early prototype of the Megatron Living Weapon deck I’m working on (I’m calling in Megadrive btw, but for the North Americans, you can call it Genesis). However I wanted to mix it up a bit this week. First up, since Blaster vs Soundwave is finally out in its retail version, I took a copy of Ben Saunder’s version of the Vector Sigma Blaster deck. This is the first time this wave I’ve actually put together a ‘meta deck’ to play with. I wanted to try it out, and have it replace Insecticons as my go-to four-wide aggro test deck, since the deck is likely to become more prominent now that it’s readily available.

Secondly, you might have heard a bit of buzz about another deck that was at the UK Energon Open, and that’s Mondo Spanner’s General Megatron deck, which he talked about on Bleeped Up Productions. Kevin Richardson of the Cityspeakers had a copy of the deck built, and let me have a go with it (I also built the deck, but it turned out the version of the deck I got was incomplete, d’oh!).

I didn’t read up too much on either of these decks. For Blaster I was relying on my knowledge of the deck from seeing it in play. For General Megatron though, I was mostly just aiming to see if I could work out how the deck played from looking at the cards.

A replay of the UK Energon Open finale – Blaster vs Shockwave

As it turned out my decks would be first enjoyed by someone else – store regular Alex had just bought Blaster, so I offered him my deck to try out so he could feel the full force of Blaster, rather than just play the less exciting pre-built deck. He played it into Mat’s Major Shockwave build. As Alex hadn’t seen Blaster in play, he was at a bit of a disadvantage, but then I saw both players making a lot of misplays – it was early, and it was a friendly game. Major Shockwave has a lot of game regardless; even against Blaster his card denial game is terrifying, and every aggro player needs to fear Gyro Blasters.

Soundwave isn’t as loyal as you might think.

After that Kevin arrived from Southampton, and the pair of us played Megatron Living Weapon (me) vs new Soundwave (Kevin). This was actually the first game Kevin and I have played against each other for nearly a year – the first time we played was at Dice Saloon’s inaugural Transformers tournament back in late October / early November.

My full list for Megatron Living Weapon is at the end of this post, but the lineup I picked was Megatron, Firedrive and Fireflight. Fireflight was the one I wasn’t sure on, but I also figured I couldn’t go wrong with him. Other candidates would be Flamewar, Ravage, or one of the card draw Stunticons. The deck was VERY heavy on the Blue, with 6 White, 3 Black, no blank or Orange.

We played best of three; for the first game I felt very much on the ropes, with Megatron suffering a lot of damage early on (I exposed him a bit too early). Whilst Soundwave doesn’t hit too hard, Kevin managed to get some Pierce out relatively early and even had an Erratic Energy Grenade on the go for me to deal with.

Much to my annoyance, I had put Disarm in my deck instead of Vaporise. That’s useful for dealing with battlemasters, but against an Erratic Energy Grenade I was essentially just making sure the bomb didn’t go off this time round, and moving it to the next goon next turn.

Still, the deck was kind of working – I managed to use Callous Leadership TWICE to keep Megatron alive, and even managed to Hunker Down into a Superior Plating. Once I had dealt with the smaller minions, and Firedrive was being wielded by Megatron, killing Soundwave wasn’t too difficult – Megatron with a Scoundrel’s Blaster, Firedrive and 5+ cards in hand is a terrifying attack for just about anyone. Unless you can pull out a lot of Pierce, or hit beyond 12 damage per swing, you either need to knock off the Superior Plating or realize you’re not doing damage.

The second game went a bit more in my favour from the start, though Kevin was able to pull out some tricks like a Recover Cassette on a heavily damaged Ravage. I forgot that card was a thing – definitely one to look out for in Soundwave decks. However I think my winning play was leaving Megatron exposed and ready to be killed… but secretly playing a Hiding Spot, forcing Kevin to attack into Firedrive instead; to which Megatron retaliated by hitting Soundwave for 20+ damage.

The deck is faaaaaaar from being in a working condition, there’s a lot of dud cards and choices that can be improved, but it’s a start and it has potential. Soundwave isn’t a good test for the deck, but it let me ‘get the reps in’, as Kevin would say.

Mat unhappy about Ion Storm’s current dilema

After that it was Blaster time vs Mat. Mat was playing Ion Storm, as piloted by Ben Cottee and based on an original deck by Kevin of Wreck n’ Rule.

First game went pretty well; definitely some teething issues from me – for one, I hadn’t played into Ion Storm since release day (I kept putting on Forcefields and then immediately remembering that Ion Storm can knock them off with ease). Secondly… Blaster can be mildly tricky if you’ve not played him before.

Still I kind of got into a groove, felt the music and the rhythm flow through me, and blasted through the first game. Mat then sided into Ion Storm / Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader, and promptly smashed me into the ground. I don’t think there was much that I could do, both of those characters have such might and can easily pulverize any of my team. Also, I just wasn’t expecting it!

I hadn’t brought a sideboard character with me, but Mat had General Prime on him anyhow, so I tried the Blaster / General Prime / Steeljaw team. Despite really not knowing how to play this particular line-up, it felt pretty good and I was still able to take on Optimus Prime and Ion Storm.

Blaster seems really good, especially the Vector Sigma build. There’s a bit of complexity in Blaster, but other than that I think the deck is fairly intuitive one to play. I can see why people are doing well with it. I wasn’t entirely sold on the presence of Confidence in the deck, but later testing with the deck suggested there’s a lot of worth in those cards. I think with more practice it will end up being an excellent test deck to replace Bugs.

Michael had taken up Bee keeping.

After that I had a bit of chill time, whilst Kevin played against Michael and Mat played against Marc. Marc has a very interesting list that I won’t say anything about just yet, but hopefully he’ll be talking about it more soon. #GetHyped

My last game of the day was against Michael. I got to borrow Kevin’s General Megatron deck, and Michael played a Beehive list. Michael had basically set himself a weird challenge – a lineup that contained only Bumblebees, and the deck had to have a complete playset of every card that had Bumblebee on (Zap, Team-Up Tactics, Handheld Blaster, etc.). Beehive decks don’t tend to be very good, but this was obviously a fun, novelty deck that Michael had cooked up just because he could. It also had a Lunar Bee in it, which is not something you see everyday.

As such, this wasn’t an especially fair test for the General Megatron deck, since one deck is a novelty and the other deck nearly made it to Top 8 at the UK Energon Open. It did mean I got a nice, gentle pair of games to finish the day with and determine if I can work out General Megatron.

So I haven’t watched Mondo Spanner’s deck profile at Bleeped Productions yet (but will do as soon as I’ve finished writing this). I wasn’t going into the deck completely blind – I had spoken to Mondo Spanner briefly about it and he made a few deck change recommendations, and Kevin had informed me of a great play with Hunker Down. If you haven’t seen the deck, it’s General Megatron, Aimless and Flamewar, in very heavy Blue.

The deck has both Attack Drones and Extra Paddings, so there is a focus on getting upgrades on the table quickly and in large quantities to help with General Megatron‘s abilities. There’s no other armour, and the only other weapons are Scoundrel’s Blasters and Armed Hovercrafts (the latter of which Mondo Spanner recommended replacing with The Bigger They Are, but Kevin hadn’t made this change in his deck). Another thing I noticed was the deck did not use upgrades for upgrade removal (no Bashing Shield, Drill Arms, Enforcement Batons, etc.), instead it exclusively used Disarm and Vaporize for this purpose. That’s a really interesting choice I think – since you’re using upgrades to play the Attack Drones / Extra Paddings, using your action for killing enemy upgrades works quite well. Also, both of these can kill utilities, and Disarm is also great at killing battlemasters. Finally the deck made a lot of use of flip actions – complete playsets of Escape Route and Hunker Down. Naturally, these were to keep General Megatron flipping and applying his alt mode damage, but then be ready for his next turn in his bot mode for the sweeping direct damage effect.

General Megatron all padded up and ready to dish out direct damage

As said before, this was not a particularly fair game – it’s competitive vs novelty – but after playing the General Megatron deck, I’ve got to say I’m a huge fan. It is very easy to understand and it’s very easy to get Megatron in a state where he is constantly delivering direct damage. A great play that was suggested to me by Kevin was using Hunker Down to play one Extra Padding on General Megatron, whilst you had the other two Extra Padding in hand. That makes collecting the Extra Padding much easier, and it’s definitely a consideration for my own Megatron deck. Both the Hunker Down and Escape Route cards meant I could regularly get out direct damage, so I think every turn I was doing about 5 points of direct damage; that’s without any battle cards that do direct damage themselves.

There were a few things I didn’t get to see with the deck – it had a playset of Bravery for diverting damage to Aimless which was cool, and I didn’t really get to play enough Attack Drones to REALLY maximize Megatron‘s alt mode ability. Overall though I was really impressed; I expect to see General Megatron being played a lot more after the buzz surrounding this deck.

After that, it was time to go. Good casual day’s gaming.

Megadrive Prototype v0.01

Megadrive Prototype
Characters:
Megatron Living Weapon
Private Firedrive
Fireflight

Actions:
Callous Leadership x 3
Disarm x 3
Espionage x 1
Hunker Down x 3
Security Checkpoint x 3

Secret Actions:
Battlefield Report x 3
Dampening Field x 2
Hiding Spot x 3
Infiltrate x 3

Weapons:
Armed Hovercraft x 1

Drill Arms x 1

Energon Axe x 2
Fusion Cannon of Megatron x 3
Handheld Blaster x3

Laser Cutlass x 2
Scoundrel’s Blaster x 2

Armour:
Superior Plating x 2

Utilities:
None

Pips:
Blue = 37
Orange = 0
White = 6
Green = 3

Black = 3
Blank = 0

Sideboard:
None

This is an extremely early prototype, thrown together in about 15 minutes on a Saturday morning, so there are A LOT of obvious issues with it – no utilities, dead cards, lack of Green, etc. It gives you an idea of the direction I want to go in, though – more action-orientated than you’d expect, hard Blue, lots of secret actions. I’ll comment more on this deck when I write up Megatron Pt 2, but for now you can take a look at what I went with and make your own thoughts.

Finally
Worth giving a shout out to Dice Saloon – this Saturday was their 4th year in business. They’ve been a great social centre not only for the Transformers TCG, but for a lot of board gaming, miniature gaming, card gaming and roleplaying in Brighton during these four years. I’ve made a hell of a lot friends in the Brighton area thanks to the shop, so to everyone who works there thank you so much for all the effort you’ve put in over these years. Let’s make this year a big one for gaming in Brighton, eh?

Until next time!

Megadrive/Genesis joke by Michael. Stolen without shame or permission.

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Building Megatron: Still Functioning, Pt 1

Megatron. Living. Weapon.

deep breath

I’m not sure there is any card in the game to date that has had so much potential, yet regularly falls flat. It was one of only two cards in the original set that costed 13 stars and the other was Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, a character that came to pretty much define the second half of the meta in the game’s opening wave and has been a benchmark for the game ever since. Megatron Living Weapon never matched up to that suggested promise – if the development team were to be accused of preferring Autobots over Decepticons, Megatron Living Weapon would be the first case raised.

That being said, was Megatron Living Weapon expected to do much better in Wave 1? There’s always been the suspicion that Megatron Living Weapon was expected to do a lot better than he actually did. I mean, there had to be some reason why they costed him like that, right? Was there an expectation that not only would Megatron be good, but he’d be outstanding?

As decided by a public poll on the main Transformers Trading Card Game facebook group, I’m going to spend a few weeks looking at Megatron Living Weapon in detail and see if I can’t find something new in the old warhorse. Certainly better players than I have tried and failed; and hell, I’ve tried and failed myself many a time, but hopefully in going back to this character, studying him and trying to make him work we’ll learn a bit more about the game.

“Decepticons, we shall invade this world and plunder its resources! Also, we shall enjoy the lovely purple flowers!”

Goal
Last project I set myself a specific goal – I identified a matchup that I thought was practical to build into (a three-wide Blue Captain Starcream into a four-wide Orange Bugs), and used that as an end point for the project. I want to do the same this time, but I want something more challenging. So for this project, my aim is to build a list that will be able to take on an Origins 3-wide Prime list. This isn’t a particularly modern deck, but a tried and tested one and one that I think is thematically similar to a Megatron Living Weapon deck. I want to state very clearly that I do not expect to come up with anything that can reliably win in this match up – but the fun is in the trying, the failing, and trying again.

If I somehow manage to make a list that I feel can confidently deal with 3-wide Prime, then I should look at other opponents for the list as a part 3. Otherwise, we’ll probably move on.

For the first part of this project, I’m going to look at ideas for things we can do with Megatron; kind of like a brainstorming session. Normally I view these projects as opportunities to talk about specific subjects or go over particular types of cards, but for this one it will mostly be me throwing ideas on the table. I want to articulate how I want to go about Megatron Living Weapon and see if there’s something that feels a bit different that hasn’t been tried before. If you feel like I’ve missed anything out, you should absolutely let me know!

Oh man, that blue background gives me such nostalgia.

Basics
Megatron is a 13 star character with alt mode stats of 5 / 14 / 2 and bot mode stats of 7 / 14 / 2. Both of these stat arrays are short of comparable wave-mate Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend. When flipping to his alt mode, Megatron can pull a weapon from his scrap, and whilst in bot mode, Megatron can put a weapon into any of his upgrade slots – which is different from having multiple weapon slots like Predaking.

Megatron is a tank (no matter how much G1 purists want to tell us he is a gun) and so could potentially have access to Crushing Treads, which I think would be unnecessary, and Hunker Down, which would be very useful if we could encourage it into our hand. Two-Pronged Attack could be a thing, too.

As a Decepticon, he is vulnerable to Press the Advantage, and can’t use it himself. Sucks to be him.

Aggro vs Control
Typically, Megatron Living Weapon is played as a Blue deck – with an Attack 7 and the ability to stack weapons, it’s not difficult for Megatron to have a high damage output that can take on just about anything. It’s also really easy for him to stack Pierce too; Fusion Cannon of Megatron gives him Pierce 3 for each gun and it’s perfectly easy to get all three cannons on him.

Whilst I’ve seen him being played in Orange (in fact, I saw someone playing a Megatron / Lionizer build at the UK Energon Open), I struggle to feel like it’s the best use of the character. In Orange, Megatron Living Weapon is very vulnerable to being one-shotted by a good hit from someone like Wave 1 Wheeljack, or nearly anyone with a Press the Advantage.

As such, we’ll be aiming for a Blue build here…. again. I’ll build an Orange or Black deck one of these days, I swear.

Potential Formations
As a 13 star character, the range of team formations we can use is pretty low. They’d be:

13-12
13-8-4
13-7-5
13-6-6
13-4-4-4

That’s all our options – not exactly a lot, is it?

For the moment, I think a 3-wide list is the way to go with Megatron Living Weapon. I’m extremely tempted to try him out with Ultra Magnus (the ‘we have to suffer Rodimus‘ list), but I think for the moment we’ll stick to 3-wide.

“More Weapons! I must feel the play pattern flowing through me!”

Weapons and Megatron
So a good thing about doing Megatron at this point is that I’ve already done Captain Ironhide, another character that has a large focus on weapons. I recommend going back and reading the first part of that project since it covers a lot of ground we need for this project:

Ironhide Part 1

Captain Ironhide and Megatron Living Weapon have a key similarity in that they both can make use of two (or more) weapon upgrade cards at the same time, just in different ways.

For Ironhide, you are essentially playing a weapon upgrade’s effect ‘for free’, since you’re swapping a weapon out of your hand and another back into your hand, meaning you still have the same number of weapons in hand and on your character as when you started, and hopefully you’ve managed to trigger an effect from doing so. With Megatron you’re not doing this for free, but you don’t need to re-play an existing weapon either – so you can put an Energon Axe on Megatron first, and then later put on an Armed Hovercraft without losing the +3 Attack and Pierce 2 from the Energon Axe; in fact, you’re adding an extra +1 Attack, the weapons are stacking.

Another advantage Megatron has over Ironhide is that Ironhide had some built in restrictions to his swap ability – most notably he couldn’t swap in an Anticipation Engine. This meant a player could not attack with a Mining Pick, use the Plan to stack an action, and then swap in the Anticipation Engine. Megatron can potentially use both of these weapons at the same time; or potentially use other weapons that have Plan (such as Lionizer). Whether I actually want to use this interaction though is another question, but it’s an option nonetheless.

The four big weapons for Megatron though are probably the following: Grenade Launcher, Energon Axe, Scoundrel’s Blaster and Fusion Cannon of Megatron. These all represent various levels of good Attack and Pierce bonuses, and are obvious choices for this deck regardless of what direction we want to go in.

We shouldn’t just think about stacking weapons though – I think this is the pitfall most of us have fallen into; just because Megatron can stack weapons, doesn’t mean we should do this at the expense of armour or utilities. We have to think of those slots as optionally allowing weapons, and still use them for armour and utilities.

Although he can’t wield them, a deck like this should consider Laser Cutlasses for the supporting characters.

“Now, which of you to pick? You all look so alike…”

Battlemasters
When Wave 3 released, the idea of combining Megatron Living Weapon with Battlemasters was quite in vogue, especially a two-battlemaster wielding Megatron. In practice the double-wielding ideas kind of sputtered out very early on – it was a nice novelty, but perhaps not much more than that.

However, we should still try out some battlemasters, as they fit well with Megatron and cards like Callous Leadership will let us move damage away from Megatron on to the Battlemaster, making it easier for us to get the battlemaster in hand.

There’s three battlemasters that might have potential:

Aimless
(decent numbers, good at absorbing damage, some chance of direct damage)

Firedrive
(card draw, can potentially boost Megatron’s damage to a very high amount if we have other draw abilities)

Nightstick
(some much needed additional defense, slim chance of hand disruption if we run Black)

I could also consider Pteraxadon if I just want a flat +3 Attack for 6 stars, or Blowpipe / Smashdown if I feel there’s enough variety in colour in my list and I only have 5 stars for a battlemaster. Lionizer is simply the wrong style for the type of deck I want to make.

Of these, I think Firedrive is probably the best pick. Some early card advantage is rather helpful and he is the biggest hitter of the bunch.

Aimless has always felt a bit disappointing to me. However, as my friend Computron has pointed out (yes I’m friends with a giant gestalt robot), when combined with a very low amount of Bold, Aimless has a very good chance of triggering. With the Bold 1 from a lowly Handheld Blaster, Aimless has a 75% chance of triggering. Computron did the math. Cheers Computron.

If I had a 6 star companion for Megatron that I desperately wanted over one of the obvious 5 star picks, then I guess Nightstick would be on the table too if only for the +1 DEF, but for now I’m thinking of this deck as being a Megatron / Firedrive deck.

(Fun fact: the original sketch of the cover illustration had Megatron wielding Firebolt, the original version of Firedrive, but was then replaced with Nightstick on my recommendation. The irony that I’m now using Firedrive is not lost on me.)

“Laserbeak, go and explore! Just avoid this creature called The Cat. I hear he is like Ravage… but far more aggressive!”

Secret Actions
When I took a brief look at Megatron at the start of Wave 3, I had thought that I could focus my upgrades on offense, and my actions on defense, which would require the use of secret actions. I haven’t really been successful at using secret actions since then – and so I’ve more or less stayed clear of them.

However, after seeing a lot of secret action use at the UK Energon Open, I think it’s time to revisit them. In particular Hiding Spot and Infiltrate seem like great choices for Megatron – especially as deterrents to Press the Advantage, perhaps complimented by other actions like Battlefield Report and possibly even Take Cover or Dampening Field.

I feel like mastering secret actions is essential to being a good player at this point, especially when running Blue-heavy Decepticon teams. I need to give all of these a proper try, and practice using them. So even if this might not be the best place for them, I feel this is a good opportunity as a player.

Other Cards
UK Energon Open left me quite inspired as I saw a great deal of cards being played and quite a lot of them fit the general deck I’m trying to make. In particular I want to single out a few cards that I think would greatly benefit Megatron:

Callous Leadership
This just seems like the most obvious card to take with Megatron Living Weapon. I want to have my actions be defensive and my upgrades be offensive, to get most use of bot mode ability. Moving damage to Megatron‘s minions does this perfectly.

Hunker Down / Escape Route
Again, we want to use actions for defense – Hunker Down essentially does this so long as we have an appropriate armour in Megatron‘s scrap. We could potentially put dirty armour like Superior Plating in the deck specifically for the purpose of retrieving with Hunker Down. Both Hunker Down and Escape Route would let Megatron dive into the scrap and then return to bot mode straight after; I think the extra flips would be worthwhile.

Energy Pack
This is a utility and an Orange pip so arguably it’s not fitting with our gameplan, but making Megatron Living Weapon 18 health seems like a good idea to me, and I know this card has kept many a Decepticon alive in tournaments. I think it’s worth trying out. Also, as stated earlier, we should still have some armour and utility in our build and view the bot mode ability as an option, not a rule.

“Prime! I should have known you would be here protecting GardenWorld!”

Initial Deck Layout
So I’m imagining a deck looking something like the following:

Upgrades:
9 – 12 ‘core’ weapons
(Grenade Launcher, Energon Axe, Fusion Cannon, Scoundrel’s Blaster)

3 – 6 ‘specialist’ weapons
(Armed Hovercraft, Mining Pick, Drill Arms, Anticipation Engine)

3 – 6 armours
(either Sparring Gear, or Superior Plating if we’re going that route)

3 Energy Pack

I’d have to play with what works here; just looking at this list I can see a lot of these are going to be chucked out the deck before I run the first test.

Actions:
3 Callous Leaderships
3 Hunker Downs
2-3 Escape Routes
Around 9 Secret Actions (Infiltrate, Hiding Spot, Battlefield Report)

I will also need to add some standards in there, like Vaporize or possibly Espionage. Utility removal is vital, as is some card disruption. I also need the obligatory Security Checkpoints and Handheld Blasters.

If you’ve been counting, you’ll have noticed that all of this is way more than 40 cards. I need to work out what can be trimmed.

Next
The first thing I’m going to do is create a prototype of this deck and try it out – by the time you’ve read this I’ll have already done this. I’ll then basically set out a plan to test out the various cards I’ve picked and see if I can find a configuration that actually does well into Optimus Prime. Bit of a challenge I think, but I think it should be fun trying to make it work.

Until next time!

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

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