Building Starscream: Mr Grumpy, Pt 3

First of all, for those catching up, here’s Parts 1 + 2, which go over the basics of Captain Starscream and the aims of the project:

Part 1
Part 2

We finished the last part of this project having built a deck that seemed to test well in to a bugs deck; but simply throwing in a General Megatron and a trio of Photon Bombs didn’t automatically make the deck work against Aerialbots. Funny that, who knew you had to put work into fighting Superion?

In the conclusion to this project, I want to take a look at what we can do to change the sideboard variant of this deck. However, I don’t want to restrict ourselves to the original choice of General Megatron (who I don’t own anyhow) – let’s see who else can help ol’ grumpypants take on those wannabe Autobot seekers.

In part 2, I was quite meticulous in keeping track of how much direct damage was being pumped out by my deck, specifically tracking damage created by Starscream‘s card. In this part, I’ll be taking a more casual approach, since I’m trying out lots of different battle cards and even different characters each time. So my assessment of each character is not from aggressive, multi-hour testing sessions… it’s a few tests, getting the general idea, and reporting back.

Afterwards, I’d like to give a summary of where I’m at with Captain Starscream, and a near finished deck that you could try out for yourself… y’know, if you really want to play a Starscream deck.

Shall we look at some buds for Starscream, then?

“Wait, you’re not Prime!”
“Of course I am, it says on my rather impressive chest!”

Candidate #1: Optimus Prime, Battlefield Legend
I mean, we should just start with someone who we know is going to work, right? Let’s start with the best card in the game, and make sure we can actually take on Superion in a setup that we know works. Consider this a calibration test – if this doesn’t work, the problem is the deck tester, not the deck.

I’ve not changed the deck from the last test from the last entry. The deck is below – let’s try it and see if it works.

Secretly a Double Screams deck.

Result:
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

*Ahem*

It’s been a while since I’ve actually played Aerialbots, and I’ve never properly played Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend despite playing against him a ton. I knew the basic idea of the Double Primes set up for Aerialbots – you play Photon Bomb to effectively do 4 damage to your own team for 10 damage to your opponent’s team, and you try and do that as many times as you can, using Optimus Prime‘s alt mode ability to retrieve the Photon Bomb back into your hand. In the meantime you’re taking Pierce damage… but it doesn’t matter, because you’ll do more direct damage to the Aerialbots. It’s a race you should be able to win.

… and yeah, it absolutely wasted the Aerialbots; I think in my first test I got to play 3 Photon Bombs and an Armed Hovercraft. Aerialbots never got to the state where they could even consider combining. It NEVER lost. I’ve seen plenty of builds like this that use Cornered but I don’t think it was necessary, this list absolutely annihilated the Aerialbots within four turns every time without problem.

So… Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, in the sideboard, job done, nice quick article, see you for the next one.

Until next time.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media …










… okay, wait, come back, no. That’s not how we do things here at Flip Flip Bang Bang.

Yes, obviously this would work as a sideboard, but:

  1. If you’re going to have Optimus Prime in the sideboard, why front and have Starscream in your maindeck? Why not just play 3-wide Optimus Prime, and have Ultra Magnus in your sideboard? It would be better, don’t feel bad about playing a competitive build.
  2. Optimus Prime and Starscream is basically just Optimus Prime and Nemesis Prime, but with easier access to Armed Hovercraft… and that’s an idea that has already been thoroughly explored. Let’s not just repeat other people’s well established work, at least not deliberately.

Rather than simply stick with Optimus Prime – which is still a workable solution – let’s look at who else we can play. Why win against Superion with arguably the best character card in the game, when you can win against Superion with characters that’s aren’t?

Let’s see if we can take this general idea… and see if we can’t apply it to some other characters. How about another seeker, for example?

“Wait, you’re not Skywarp!”
“No I’m Ion Storm. Skywarp was too expensive and there’s been budget cuts.”

Candidate #2: Skywarp, Teleporting Seeker
Possibly not the most obvious choice but certainly a very thematic one would be Skywarp from Wave 2. Stat-wise he is a step down from Optimus Prime, and he lacks his ability to play actions from his attack flip, but he can still pull blank cards from the scrap – so the Photon Bomb strategy is still perfectly viable with Skywarp.

The changes I’ve made to the deck are to swap out the Security Consoles for Field Communicators, and Underhanded Tactics for Leaps of Faith. I also experimented with Cornered in place of Sparring Gears (Tough is pretty pointless when it’s a Direct Damage vs Pierce race).

I’m hoping the Field Communicator and Leap of Faith cards will allow me to play additional Strafing Run / Photon Bomb / Armed Hovercraft / Squish them like Bugs cards throughout the game. Meanwhile, I’m hoping Cornered gives me some leeway if I don’t manage to see those sweeping direct damage cards early enough.

Let’s do the Skywarp again?

Result:
Hmmmm.

The setup isn’t a complete wash by any means, it still wins some of the time. It mostly comes down to whether the Pierce cards are getting played on the Aerialbots enough for them to take down a seeker.

Honestly I don’t think the Cornered cards are necessary – either you take out the Aerialbots quickly enough to win, or they’ve Pierced you down before you can gain a decent advantage. That’s a drawback with Skywarp over Optimus PrimeSkywarp is vulnerable to Noble’s Blasters, which are much easier to get on the field than Laser Cutlasses or Energon Axes.

Whilst Skywarp can bring Photon Bombs from the scrap to the hand, the simple fact that Optimus Prime can play the sweeping direct damage actions cards on his attacks means it’s managing to achieve more. Leap of Faith and Field Communicator just aren’t making up the difference, it’s not even close.

This being said, I did like seeing the two seeker jets on the table together; and they can still win against Aerialbots, the tools are there. They just aren’t especially reliable.

Who’s next?

“Wait, you’re not Megatron!”
“No, I’m Archforce. I’m fanservice for exactly one reader.”
“… I think I like you more, you can stay.”

Candidate #3: General Megatron (again)
So back to this guy, eh? Hey, someone nearly took him to the Top 8 at the UK Energon Open, he has to be the new forthcoming meta, right?

So despite my misgivings, I’m keeping the Cornered cards for now, and replacing the Leap of Faith cards with Attack Drones (I can’t keep the Leap of Faith cards anyhow, since that would result in a 28 star deck). Field Communicator is now useless, so we’ll bring back the Security Consoles.

We can’t just get Photon Bomb into hand with General Megatron, so this time we’re looking to add further sweeping direct damage by trying to get the Attack Drones on Megatron. Generally speaking, the General wants all upgrades as early as possible so we can move him into bot mode and start delivering his own sweeping direct damage. That’s where Cornered comes in – we’ll be using Cornered to give us extra turns for Megatron to do his thing before Superion shows up. He can even flip to tank mode once the Aerialbots are down to one man and make one last big direct damage strike.

I am getting serious mileage out of this proxy.

Result:
Still not working.

So there’s a few problems with my deck – I didn’t have any armour, so unless I got at least two Attack Drones on Megatron, I couldn’t trigger his ability. Armour is essentially useless on Megatron in this matchup (unless it’s Point Defense System, which isn’t a bad idea at all), but if we want to trigger his ability we might need it. The main problem though is a little Aerialbot named Air Raid – with a Noble’s Blaster on him, he can just snipe off upgrades from Megatron before he can use his ability. I managed to get this to happen every time. I can try and kill Air Raid, but more often than not Fireflight gets in the way. The plan is a dud.

So with that in mind… why bother with Megatron? He can still do some direct damage by flipping to his alt mode, and that’s a pretty good effect (and unlike Starscream, he can do this even when a target has an upgrade). I can’t help but feel he’s a poor choice, though – even without bringing Optimus Prime into consideration, I feel like someone like Ultra Magnus can achieve everything far better than Megatron, whilst being immune to the Pierce from Noble’s Blaster AND pulling away those attacks from Starscream with his natural Brave.

… I mean, I didn’t originally intend to, but shall we just try out Ultra Magnus?

“Okay, you’re definitely not Ultra Magnus!”
“You need to read more comics.”

Candidate #3.5: Ultra Magnus
Nearly the same build as Megatron, but removed the Attack Drones; we might as well replace them with Point-Defense Systems and a Leap of Faith.

Did these two even talk to each other, like, ever?

Result:
Nope, still not there. A lot of near misses, maybe about 4 points of health left before Ultra Magnus and Starscream finally crumbled.

Like before, playing Cornered is fine but eventually the Aerialbots can just Pierce you down, even if you’re immune to the Pierce from Noble’s Blaster; and smart playing of Aerialbots let’s you avoid the Brave from Ultra Magnus so you can keep chipping at Starscream. The low defense of Ultra Magnus starts becoming noticeable as well; there’s a lot of health here, and the Blue does mitigate a lot of the Aerialbot’s attacks, but an Air Raid swinging at six is still enough to deal some damage and remove an upgrade.

Okay. One more. I want to try something.

“Oh c’mon, no Windblade?”
“No, sorry, this is Novastorm – Thundercracker just painted me to look like Windblade, said it worked for his movie.”

Candidate #4: Windblade
This is what it’s all leading up to. The dynamic duo. The two red jets, one Autobot and one Decepticon, flying into a bunch of other jets.

I’ve taken out Point-Defense System and put back in Field Communicator, so this deck is quite similar to the Skywarp deck from earlier on.

First post of Flip Flip Bang Bang had their heads on pikes; now we have come full circle.

Result:
I think it’s about 50/50. Of all these candidates, she’s the one that seemed to works the best (not including Optimus Prime). She does better than Skywarp, and much better than Megatron and Ultra Magnus.

She’s a specialist like Skywarp, but she has universally better stats and she has protection from Noble’s Blaster. She’s got less health than Ultra Magnus but she’s also not a magnet for damage, and that one point of defense really does matter to these big 12-star characters.

Also… I don’t need to worry so much about Cornered. So long as I’ve got Windblade mostly damage free and I’ve put out enough damage, I can just let Superion form and Windblade can finally – FINALLY – make use of that bot mode ability (and in testing, it *nearly* came up – the alt mode ability never came up, naturally). Cornered is still useful, but it’s no longer a death sentence if Superion does form, so long as Windblade isn’t too banged up by that point.

It’s still a tough matchup, though. There’s no doubt that if you wanted a guaranteed win, Windblade is absolutely not your option. There’s probably some tweaks you could make to this deck to improve it’s odds if you really wanted to see a Windscream deck – maybe some big Pierce cards, for example. Also, let’s face it, Superion deck tech is constantly evolving and decks now will no doubt find ways to defend themselves from older plans – a more evolved deck is likely to find solutions and outs for recurring strategies, such as Photon Bomb.

This, however, is as far as I’m going to go with this deck development though. Partly because I don’t know anyone in my local area who still plays Superion, possibly because everyone has a Superion sideboard these days. But also… test after test into Superion is tiring as hell.

I think we can consider this the end.

Starscream v1.0

Final Build
Characters:
Captain Starscream
Flamewar Veteran Decepticon
Bombshell Insecticon Mind-Controller

Actions:
Leap into Battle x 3

Marksmanship x 3

Security Checkpoint x 2

Smelt x 3

Squish them like Bugs x 3
Strafing Run x 3
Underhanded Tactics x 3

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Armed Hovercraft x 3

Drill Arms x 3

Handheld Blaster x3

Scoundrel’s Blaster x 3

Armour:
Sparring Gear x 2

Utilities:
Field Communicator x 3

Security Console x 3

Pips:
Blue = 31
Orange = 5
White = 6
Green = 8
Blank = 3

Sideboard:
Windblade Combiner Hunter
Photon Bomb x 3, Leap of Faith x 1, Cornered x 3, Bashing Shield x 2, Enforcement Batons x 1

Given more time, I’d probably want to look at the sideboard options in a little more detail, and try this out into much more Orange aggro decks. So whilst this is the ‘finished’ deck, in truth I think A LOT more work could be done. I don’t think I’ll be progressing this one any further myself, though – however, if you happen to take this deck as a base to make something else, I’d love to hear about it.

Starscream Summary
In the end, what did I get out of this project, and how do I feel about Starscream?

Let’s get the easy part out of the way and talk about Starscream himself. I started this thinking about other 12 star characters we could compare Starscream to that might fit similar roles – Ultra Magnus, Nemesis Prime, Ion Storm, etc. Honestly I think if your lineup isn’t too flip intensive, Starscream is actually a really good choice. His stats are great, Ranged is always an excellent trait to have and in most cases better than Melee, and his abilities are actually really fun to work with. If you look at some of the test data from the last post about Starscream, my regular flipping of Starscream combined with upgrade removal was regularly doing between 3-5 damage per game. I think that makes up for having one less attack than Nemesis or Ion Storm; and yes, those characters bring other things to the table too; it ultimately depends what you need from the role and who you’re bringing with him.

Starscream by no means is going to be an unstoppable juggernaut, but he definitely can be good in the right team and matchup.

That brings me to what I got out of this project. I wanted to build into a very specific matchup I figured would work out (this is not how I’ve built decks before, at least not deliberately)… and, well, it did. I tried the Starscream deck out against a bugs deck being played by someone else, which was very different from my own bugs deck, and Starscream worked perfectly well. I did have some advantage – I knew how bugs worked, but he didn’t really know how to deal with Starscream. Perhaps one could push a bugs deck into working out how to do that particular match up, too?

However… the deck didn’t perform anywhere near as well into other decks. I played into a 4-wide cars deck and whilst it didn’t get crushed, I definitely lost. I also played it into a 3-wide Blue Megatron Living Weapon deck and … well … let’s just say there were scenes from the latest season of Cyberverse that were re-created on the tabletop. Starscream suffered, is what I’m saying.

I don’t feel confident in saying there’s a configuration of this Starscream build that could outclass a well made and reliable three-wide Blue build, I just don’t think it has the Pierce nor the raw damage output – the likes of Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, Major Shockwave, Nemesis Prime and, yes, even Megatron Living Weapon would outshine him. I think even regular Shockwave from Wave 1 would have an easy time of him.

Against Superion, honestly it was never about Starscream. Starscream played a role in all those tests but it very much relied on who I was pairing him with. If I had been changing who Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend was paired with in that deck, I don’t think it’d make more of a difference.

The project has been interesting and enlightening, and I did feel like I understood the archetypes of the game a little better having worked on these particular matches… but I am absolutely ready to move on from Starscream, and don’t plan to devote much more words to him in future.

So with that, it’s goodbye to Captain Starscream, and on to the next one.

Next week, the boss of the Decepticons himself.

Until next time.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Weekend Tournament: UK Energon Open

Well, UK Energon Open was a thing, wasn’t it?

So a quick summary for those not familiar – the UK Energon Open was a tournament at the Dark Sphere megastore in Shepherd’s Bush, London. It was announced only a couple of months ago, with the big prize being an all expenses paid trip to the US to compete in the Energon Invitational… so kind of a big deal! There were also ‘lesser prizes’ like the last SDCC 2018 promo packs, eight Wave 1 uncut sheets and a staggering thirty-two 35th Anniversary Blaster vs Soundwave sets. Plus lots of extra spot prizes like boosters and goodies and all that.

A few weeks ago I actually wrote about how I was feeling about the competition and how I wanted to mostly hang back and play something weird rather than worry about the big prizes (since that’d mean trying to play the meta and I wasn’t really interested in that). You can read that here. However during the writing of that article I actually got asked if I would consider judging the event, so I said sure, seemed like the right thing to do. I would be working as a floor judge, working for Luke May of WOTC.

This was my first time judging a major tournament, I had very little sleep, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect… but I can now say I had a good time. I also got given some free stuff for my trouble, which was nice.

Calm before the storm…

Turn out was about 56 players, and it was great to see not only a large number of players from the local Brighton meta, but our neighbours in Chichester and Southampton too. It was also great to see familiar faces I’ve met over the last year outside of those scenes too, as well as meeting a few people I’ve only known on social media up until now. It was a very long day and I had to concentrate a lot (very hard when very tired)… so I apologise if at any time it felt like I was ignoring you; I was busy, I was trying my best to make sure everything was going okay, even though I’d have loved to just stand there and chat about various decklists people were cooking up.

The tournament was 6 rounds of 50 minutes each, then it went to a Top 8 knock-out tournament.

Round 3 in play

Huge mix of line-ups across the tournament; some familiar standards like classic bugs, cars, Major Shockwave, Superion, Blaster (let’s face it, it’s becoming pretty common isn’t it?), Metroplex, Devastator, the return of Nemesis decks, the recent Trigger Happy / Ion Storm deck, various General Prime-type lists. There were several really unique ones in the mix too – Dreadwing w/Firedrive did really well, Menasor, Dinobots, a Megatron Living Weapon / Lionizer which was very novel, an Orange Superion deck, even someone running Elita-1 with Skrapnel.

Major Shockwave vs General Megatron

Perhaps the biggest surprise though was a player taking General Megatron to 4-0 (admittedly including two Byes) and hitting the top table by Round 5; unfortunately that player had two pretty gruesome matches straight after and didn’t break the Top 8, but for a moment it was pretty exciting that a possible outsider deck was going to be in the play-offs.

Lee McAlpin posing for the camera.

Probably the most intense match I saw was Timothy Teo vs Mat Armstrong in Round 6, a General Prime vs Major Shockwave match, effectively playing for a spot in the Top 8. Shockwave was looking like he’d go down but he managed to stick around with an Energy Pack and a Sparring Gear, just absorbing hit after hit whilst still having a relatively high amount of Orange in his deck. The game ended up going to time, but was won on Shockwave‘s final turn. My hands were shaking, let alone the players! A little luck and maybe Mat could have done it, but the cards just weren’t in his favour.

Top 8

Top 8 consisted of Rhys Bradley, Chris McDonald, Timothy Teo (all running Shockwave), Francis Thomas, Simon Munday (both Superion), Joe Rodway (4-wide Cars), Ben Saunders (Blaster) and Ben Cottee (Ion Storm + Triggerhappy). Alas I didn’t get to see any of the Top 8 match between Rhys and Ben Cottee, but I saw the other three games. Both Superions got knocked out in two rounds by Blaster and Shockwave, leaving a grueling match between Shockwave and 4-wide Cars. These matches were not on the clock, so there was no going to time in these contests, which meant the match ended up being a tough but very thought-out slog. Having spoken to Joe beforehand, I knew he was a bit anxious about going up against Shockwave and the game was tight as hell, but Cars eventually prevailed and Joe won himself an SDCC pack…. which is annoying because he clearly already has a Cliffjumper. I’m not jealous at all.

Victorious Joe, just rubbing it in my face.

For Top 4, I mostly just stuck with the Shockwave face-off between Rhys and Chris… this had all the hallmarks of another slow game, but both players were lightning quick and watching the two Shockwaves slowly beat each other was almost dizzying. The amount of card draw and discard going on meant that both players were constantly losing hands and then building them back again. Another very close game that went 2-1 to Chris; likewise, Blaster vs Cars went 2-1 to Ben and Blaster.

Very shocking match

Which left the final – you can watch the stream here if you like, but I don’t think it fully captured the tense but also kind of jovial final game for the trip to America. I had been seeing a lot of secret actions all day, but I think in this one I was really seeing not only the secret actions in play, but the prediction of what they would be from the opposing side as well. This was really exciting and definitely made the game feel a bit more different and tactical. Despite some strong resistance from Chris, who took the second game after losing the first, this ended up being Blaster‘s day and Ben took the tournament.

Shockwave vs Blaster for the 40th anniversary set?

There’s definitely some cards I now have a massive amount of respect for – in particular I think Energy Pack and Gyro-Blaster did a hell of a lot of work, especially for the Major Shockwave players. I think everyone will be thinking about anti-utility tech for the next one, if they aren’t already (and you should be). Also, if you can master secret actions, I think they can take you very far. I think the best players this Saturday were the ones who had looked at Wave 3, and worked out how best to use every card in that set, rather than relying on old mentalities (people like me most likely!).

Swiss results.

I hope this becomes a regular thing in this country, I saw a lot of happy faces and people really excited about Transformers. For myself, I definitely would like to judge larger tournaments again… it’s tiring work, but I definitely felt more involved in things than if I had just been playing. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to do so again.

Anyhow, hope you enjoyed the pictures and the quick summary; regular Weekend write-ups should resume again soon!

Your UK champion Ben Saunders (also a terribly nice person, buy him a pint!)

Until next time.

Special Thanks to Luke May of WOTC and Alexi Tingey of Dark Sphere for taking me on this Saturday, and the entire Dark Sphere crew for all their help and the amazing work they did.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Building Starscream: Mr Grumpy, Pt 2

Once again. thanks to Emily Stewart for letting me use her Starscream drawing above. You can find her art on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, as well as her Etsy store where she sells this design as a bookmark with both Skywarp and Thundercracker. Check out her work!

Last time, I set out a plan regarding how to go about building a deck around Captain Starscream. I wanted to try and do something a bit off-beat, but at the same time aim for a very specific goal:

  1. I wanted to start with a deck of nothing but upgrade-scrapping cards and direct damage cards.
  2. I wanted to build a main deck composed of Captain Starscream, Bombshell and Flamewar, that could comfortably take on a Bugs list.
  3. I wanted to build a sideboard option with General Megatron that could take on Superion.

The two match ups were decided by referencing Vector Sigma’s Spheres theory, which suggests a three-wide Blue deck should do well against a four-wide Orange deck, and a two-wide Blue deck should do well against a four-wide Blue deck. We’re not looking to prove or disprove that theory, we’re just using this to help establish an achievable goal. I’m also not worrying too much about trying to make a deck that will do well in other match-ups – I find it hard to believe any three-wide Starscream deck will be able to take on a similar three-wide Optimus Prime deck, for example.

I want to get the most out of Captain Starscream; if I’m not getting at least one direct damage from him on my turns, then I think Nemesis Prime or Ion Storm are almost always going to be better choices. I think as such we almost always want to have one card in hand that can remove an enemy upgrade. When there’s no enemy upgrades in play, Starscream should be switching to alt mode to deliver direct damage that way (hopefully damaging a secondary target whilst cleaning up a primary target on his attack).

Because of the nature of the deck and what I’m trying to achieve with Starscream, I’m going to try and keep a record of how much direct damage is delivered per test, with how much damage is directly attributable to Starscream‘s card counted separately. The Starscream direct damage count does not include any direct damage as a result of Starscream‘s Ranged trait (Armed Hovercraft, Marksmanship) or star value (Squish them like Bugs), since Ion Storm could enable these cards just as well. This will help us determine how much worth Starscream has at the end of the project.

If you need a quick refresher on Captain Starscream before we start, check out part 1.

We ready? Cool. Let’s see how this does.

Yeah, we’re ready! Get ’em, Starscream! Pew! Pew Pew!

Test Summary – Bugs
For our initial tests, I want to start by running a deck with Bombshell and Flamewar into my test Bugs deck. Before we start, I want to go over what tactics I use for Bugs when I test my decks out on them. I’m currently using the classic line-up of Skrapnel, Barrage and Kickback, with Chop Shop as my fourth.

Against the Starscream deck, Skrapnel will go first but in alt mode; Skrapnel is vulnerable in bot mode, but would require an in bot-mode Starscream or Bombshell to deal decent damage to him in alt-mode. So he remains in his beetle mode.

I am then being careful where I place my upgrades; each upgrade I use is likely to be burnt off by Starscream, so every upgrade I play needs to be earning it’s play value that turn as it’s unlikely to remain next turn. As a result, I’m not pre-emptively playing upgrades – I’m not loading Kickback with a Grenade Launcher the turn before he attacks, so that I can play another weapon on Barrage the same turn. It’s worth remembering that upgrades like Grenade Launcher, Power Punch and Force Field, all Insecticon staples, will trigger Starscream‘s bot-mode ability when they are scrapped as a result of their own rules; so using Grenade Launcher and Power Punch can end up causing damage to the wielder after the attack, and Force Field is useless at five health left instead of four.

Attack order is Skrapnel, Chop Shop, Kickback, Barrage. I only flip Kickback and Barrage, and I leave it as late as I can so they don’t get hit by Marksmanship. It’s well worth remembering that Barrage can flip back to his alt mode to give someone Pierce 2 – relevant when fighting against Blue lists (and often forgotten by most players).

Additionally, in all tests Starscream is going first – this is to establish consistency. If I were to play this deck in a tournament, I’d test and practice going second as well, but that wouldn’t be especially interesting to write about. This does mean that in every test, Barrage and Kickback can gang up on the best target, and I might even be able to I Still Function in Chop Shop too.

Test #0: Stupidity
I wanted to start at the most ridiculous place I could, and work my way back to sanity from there. I said I wanted a deck that would have nothing but direct damage and upgrade scrapping cards in it. I’d try and steer towards Blue, but in order to make such a deck I’d probably end up bringing in lots of cards that had no Blue pips, and since neither Security Checkpoint nor Handheld Blaster fall in to the category of cards that do direct damage or upgrade scrapping, the number of Blues was pretty low.

Total Pips:
Blue: 21
Orange: 10
White: 6
Black: 0
Green: 7
Blank:
3

Direct Damage: 21
Upgrade Scrap:
19

Result:
This deck was too silly for me to be recording direct damage quantities, so I didn’t keep note of them. I just wanted to see how this did.

For the most part, it did about as well as you’d expect. It still managed to kill a few bugs but in most of the tests it was quite a long way off. There was, however, a test where it lost by taking just enough damage for a total KO. That’s promising – that means so long as I can make the deck a little bit more defensive, it can stand a chance against the Bugs test deck.

So let’s start this proper shall we?

This is still a weird bunch of cards.

Test #1
I actually changed only a few cards from the ‘ridiculous’ initial test; basically I took out the Scrapper Gauntlets as the deck really needed more Blue, and I also took out one each of Bashing Shield and Enforcement Batons. This kept the essence of what the initial deck was doing, but sanitized it into a Blue defensive deck that would benefit from Flamewar and make Bombshell a tough bulwark to break through. They were replaced with two Security Checkpoints and three Handheld Blasters (I’m using these only for the pips). As yet I didn’t feel the need for a third Security Checkpoint.

Total Pips:
Blue: 31
Orange: 5
White: 6
Black: 0
Green: 5
Blank:
3

Direct Damage: 21
Upgrade Scrap:
14

Result:
5 tests ran, 60% success ratio for Starscream.
Direct Damage on wins: 13 (2 from Starscream), 15 (3), 19 (4)
Direct Damage on losses: 9 (3 from Starscream), 10 (1)

Nearly all of these tests were very close, only a few hit points out either way. The big deciding factor seems to be how many direct damage cards I can play within the game, especially the big sweeping damage cards – Armed Hovercraft, Strafing Run and Squish them like Bugs. All three of these played very well.

General strategy was to survive the first round and try and spread as much direct damage as possible, and then hammer decisive kill shots one by one during the second round with Starscream and/or Bombshell.

There’s definitely too much upgrade scrapping cards in this iteration of the deck, I almost always had at least two cards that could kill an opponent upgrade and usually there was only one on the table. I could probably rein in those cards a bit. I also found I had plenty of 1-point damage cards in my hand, so I think the Heavy Landing cards can be cut too, though still keeping the similar Underhanded Tactics.

This deck could use some traditional +ATK and Toughness cards, as some added survivability would be nice (even if just to force an opposing action/upgrade to be devoted to removing the armour), and the list does regularly struggle to get enough attack up. That’s some easy card swaps for the next test.

Starting to resemble a normal deck?

Test #2
I managed to identify 7 cards I felt okay with switching out from the last iteration of the deck. I felt like Smelt was enough upgrade removal most of the time and I was okay with getting rid of Vaporize, Enforcement Batons, Bashing Shield and Crushing Size. I kept Drill Arms though, as it has additional effects and is still a Blue pip. I also ditched Heavy Landing.

Increasing damage output was the main priority, so in was Scoundrel’s Blaster and Leap Into Battle for predictable, easy +ATK boosts. I also added two copies of Sparring Gear with the aim to upgrade someone in the first round to try and keep someone alive for one more hit. Most pip ratios didn’t change, apart from having a little more Green in the mix.

Total Pips:
Blue: 31
Orange: 5
White: 6
Black: 0
Green: 8
Blank:
3

Direct Damage: 18
Upgrade Scrap:
6

Result:
5 tests ran, 80% success ratio for Starscream.
Direct Damage on wins: 14 (5 from Starscream), 13 (1), 8* (2), 17 (4)
Direct Damage on losses: 6 (0 from Starscream)

*This test was won when Bombshell was given a Scoundrel’s Blaster and Leap Into Battle, nearly one-shotting a Barrage that had taken a couple of direct damage already. The change of cards had worked well.

The deck is certainly favourable over Bugs at this point. I’m feeling like I have the same advantage over them that I do when I’m playing Aerialbots. That’s a good position to be in.

It definitely felt like it was capable of taking Bugs on and was able to hold its own against some pretty powerful strikes (the two Sparring Gear made a great deal of difference). The inclusion of Leap into Battle and Scoundrel’s Blaster essentially made it so that bugs were cleared out properly, and usually I could co-ordinate my plays so that I’d be boosting ATK whilst still being able to play direct damage cards at the same time.

The triple threat of Strafing Run, Squish them like Bugs and Armed Hovercraft is really frightening for a wide deck, and I nearly always have at least one of them in my starting hand. The high results for direct damage in these tests are usually a result of being able to play as many as three of these in the first round. Usually by the second round (the first round is normally spent softening up the bugs), bugs are dying two at a time and the round is spent trying to make sure I get the best possible hit out of Bombshell or Starscream whilst keeping them both alive long enough to finish off Barrage (who is almost always the last to die thanks to his high health pool).

There’s still some duff cards here; I think Frag Toss can be replaced by something else. I also don’t know if I need Underhanded Tactics. However, these are considerations for another time – an 80% win rate in the test environment is a healthy sign for the deck, and whilst I’d probably want to make further tweaks to it, and as said before test going second, I think it’s working against it’s main target.

“So, we do have a plan to deal with this guy, right?”

Test #3 – Aerialbots
Time to look at the sideboard. For this test I swapped out Frag Toss for Photon Bomb, and Bombshell and Flamewar for a proxy of General Megatron.

Totally legal card, will sell for £55.

The Aerialbots deck is fairly old and hasn’t been updated since Wave 3 – so whilst it is still intimidating, it has no Black cards, nor does it have any Battlefield Reports or Laser Cutlasses. all of which I’d expect to see in Superion decks now. Worth keeping in mind – a real Wave 3 Superion build is likely to have a lot more Pierce than the one I’m using.

Total Pips:
Blue: 31
Orange: 5
White: 3
Black: 0
Green: 8
Blank:
6

Direct Damage: 21
Upgrade Scrap:
6

Result:
I didn’t record the direct damage in the few tests I ran… as the deck was failing to seal the deal. It would often do enough damage to leave Superion in the mid-30s damage wise, but it still felt a bit wanting.

The amount of direct damage being delivered by the two is pretty gruesome – I think in every test I was able to get out a Photon Bomb and at least two of either Strafing Run or Armed Hovercraft. That’s a good 20 direct damage. Unfortunately I can’t quite get the two of them to clean the rest up before Superion forms. Usually when Superion forms he takes out Starscream quite quickly, and whilst Megatron is rather tough he is an easy victim to a Noble’s Blaster for Pierce 5. I’m also failing to get upgrades on Megatron to trigger his bot-mode ability.

This might need some extra thought…

Besides, the cat has now beaten up Starscream… and I was worried about Superion…

To Be Continued…
… I was hoping for this to be over in two parts. This was either going to be something that didn’t work, and we’d move on, or something that turned out to work quite well, and I’d call it there.

Except… it seems like it’s a bit of both.

Against Bugs the list was doing exactly what I wanted it to, but against Superion it felt like a near miss. There’s quite a few things I’d like to try against Aerialbots, so…. I’m adding another part to this project. Next week, we’ll be discussing some options for the Captain Starscream sideboard, trying them out to see if we can get Superion to crack. Then I’ll give a final summary of Starscream himself, and talk about other match-ups I’ve already played Starscream into.

Hopefully next week will go a little better than the last time I tried to work out a sideboard to tackle a problem opponent. Fingers crossed.

Until next time.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Building Starscream: Mr Grumpy, Pt 1

Thanks to Emily Stewart for letting me use her Starscream drawing above. You can find her art on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, as well as her Etsy store where she sells this design as a bookmark with both Skywarp and Thundercracker. Check out her work!

Oh Starscream.

Starscream is arguably the most popular character in the entire mega-franchise of the Transformers. The character most remembered is the G1 cartoon version – who was comically treacherous to the point of pure parody. But he’s had plenty of iterations, including the self-cloning renegade in Transformers Animated, the sniveling evil chancellor type in Transformers Prime, and even though I’ve never seen Armada, I’m well aware of Starscream‘s arc in the series, despite knowing nothing else about the series! In the comics world, Starscream actually does get to be the leader like he always wanted – leading the entire Cybertron populace for a good number or years, particularly in the Windblade / Til All Are One comics.

Yet, despite his prominence in the franchise, and a staggering five character cards (a number only beaten by Bumblebee)… Starscream hasn’t been doing very well in the TCG. Actually, none of the seekers have been doing very well. We’re somehow three Skywarps in after three waves and none of them have been particularly popular; Thundercracker is king of jank decks but not much else; Slipstream is nowhere near as controversial as her SDCC’18 mate Cliffjumper, and all the characters with Storm in their name all seem good, but you don’t see them around the competitive circuit much, do you?

That kind of makes Captain Starscream, the latest incarnation of the character in the TCG, perfect fodder for a website like Flip Flip Bang Bang. An underused, under appreciated rogue who desperately wants the Leader trait but has been denied it by the developers. Can we at least make something interesting with this guy? If he isn’t ‘competitive’, can we at least see if he can be enjoyable? Let’s see what we can do.

Hello you.

Basics
We should start, as usual, by going over what Captain Starscream does and what he’d bring to a deck. Starscream is a 12-star character; his options for team-mates are going to be quite limited, so we’re probably looking at a 12-8-5 or 12-7-6 formation if we want to go three wide. Going two tall would mean teaming with anyone who isn’t as expensive as Major Shockwave. Four wide would mean running with a 5-star and two 4-stars, which isn’t really an option.

Captain Starscream has alt stats of 4 ATK / 16 Health / 2 DEF and bot stats of 6 ATK / 1 DEF. Those stats are in a similar ballpark to wave-mate Elita-1, but slightly weaker than Ultra Magnus (even without armour) and a fair bit weaker than fellow decepticon jet Ion Storm. Perhaps the most obvious 12* card to compare him to would be Nemesis Prime, and Starscream falls short of him in both attack and defense.

As his stats are weaker than a few examples I’ve already given, we need to find advantage in his abilities and traits if this project is going to be worth our while. Starscream has a unique and interesting bot mode ability – whenever an enemy upgrade is scrapped from a character, that character takes one damage. This should hopefully give us some extra value in our upgrade scrapping cards – each of these cards played will effectively double up as a free Zap whilst Starscream is in bot mode.

When Starscream flips to his plane mode, he does one point of damage to an opponent with no upgrades. For Captain Starscream to make his build cost, we need to be able to utilize both abilities effectively; that might mean having a low flip-density in the rest of our team.

Captain Starscream is ranged in both modes, so we have access to all the usual Ranged direct damage cards. He is also a Plane, which means we have access to Plane cards – which also tend to be direct damage cards.

…. I don’t know about you, but I think the idea is we’re meant to be doing lots of direct damage with this guy, what do you think?

Why would you even want to be leader, Screamer? It doesn’t make you happy. Ever.

Project Overview
For this project I’d like to do a few things:

  1. I’d like to go over our options for upgrade scrapping cards. I kind of like the idea of starting the deck with a ton of upgrade scrapping cards and just seeing how it plays out. It’ll no doubt be super terrible but it should be interesting regardless.
  2. I’d like to go over direct damage cards. I’ve been using Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship in a lot of my decks this wave, I know, but I’d like to go over what other options we have.
  3. I originally thought about discussing planetech… but I don’t know if Starscream will be in his alt mode that reliably, so I think planetech can wait for another time. Who knows, maybe Wave 4 will be kind to planes?

Then I’d like to build a main deck with sideboard. In the most recent Vector Sigma article, Scott Landis described a pretty interesting theory that touched on what types of deck do well against certain other types of deck. I’d like to use his theory as a base to build a three-wide Blue deck that could do really well against a four-wide Orange deck (using my Wave 2 Bugs) but then pivot into a two-tall deck that could do really well against a four-wide Blue deck (using my Wave 2 Aerialbots – which needs updating, but I’ll be using it untouched for now). Understand that failure or success will neither prove nor disprove his theories, but gives us an end goal for the project other than simply having fun making things.

Essentially Elita-1 was built with these match ups in mind but I don’t think I really pushed it as much as I should have. This time around, I’ll focus on these match ups and hopefully come out with a promising configuration that works well into those two builds.

Hurry! Remove his upgrades whilst he is tripped over! Also I’m the leader now!

Upgrade Scrapping Cards
Right, let’s see how many cards we have in this category. Once, long ago, it felt like there were only a handful of these cards, but now we have tonnes. I’m listing them with colour and what type of upgrade they remove, and not bothering to list all the other effects just yet.

Here are all the actions:

Collaterial Damage (Blue, Weapon)
Device Virus (Black, Any but special rules)
Dismantle (Black, Weapon or Armour)
Ramming Speed (Orange, Any)
Salvage for Parts (Blank, All)
Smelt (Blue/Green, Any)
Vandalize (Orange, All of one type)
Vaporize (Blue, Any)

Here are all the upgrades:

Bashing Shield (Orange/Green, Armour)
Crushing Size (White, Utility)
Dismantling Claw (Blue/Green, Weapon*)
Drill Arms (Blue, Armour)
Enforcement Batons (Orange/Green, Weapon)
P. Targeting Drone (White/Green, Utility*)
Reactive Armour (Orange/Green, Armour*)
Scrapper Gauntlets (Orange, Weapon)

*but only when this card is scrapped

That’s 16 different cards; theoretically we could just take 2-3 of all of these and call it a deck…. I mean, we won’t, but we could. If we were bored, and didn’t have an article to write.

I think we want to be as Blue as possible as we’re probably not going to be flipping multiple cards on attack and want to aim for a two-tall build (likely to be taking lots of attacks); so we only want to consider Orange and Black cards that seem especially worthwhile.

From an action perspective, I think that means we can exclude Dismantle and Ramming Speed. We can consider Vandalize only if we have spare stars, which is probably not going to be the case, so excluding that too. Collateral Damage is probably too niche (for, well, anyone), and Salvage for Parts will only be worth running if we’re using Torox for the repair-denial as well. Device Virus – which requires us to scrap an upgrade to scrap two of the same type on the opponent – feels a bit difficult to use, but if any deck was going to get mileage out of it it’s going to be this one, right? So I think we’re considering: Vaporize, Smelt, and Device Virus

For upgrades, we can safely remove Dismantling Claw, Personal Targeting Drone and Reactive Armour from consideration. These are kind of fun in Sealed but impractical in Constructed. All our other upgrades are fair game though – Drill Arms, Crushing Size and Scrapper Gauntlets all have the advantages of card draw if they don’t scrap, and Bashing Shield and Enforcement Batons have Green pips so they can be swapped into hand easily.

That’s about 8 cards; we probably don’t want full sets of some of these, especially the cards with green pips, but we can experiment and see how they are working.

“Hold on tight Spinister, we’re going on a Bombing Run!”

Direct Damage Cards
Like upgrade scrapping cards, the number of cards that deal direct damage has increased significantly over the last few waves. Where in Wave 1 we probably only had a handful, now we have a pretty wide selection.

(I’ve excluded anything that Captain Starscream himself can’t use, e.g. Energon Slingshot, Swarm!, etc. Also excluding planetech, I don’t think we want to restrict ourselves to planes)

Armed Hovercraft (Blue, 1 to all enemies)
Bad Attitude (Blank, 1 to each Autobot)
Erratic Energy Grenade
(Black, 2 to all enemies when upgraded character dies)
Fling (Blank, move 1 damage from friendly to enemy)
Frag Toss
(White, 2 damage to an enemy of your opponent’s choice)
Heavy Landing (Blue, 1 to on enemy)
Inferno Breath
(Blue, tap character for 3 damage to enemy)
Marksmanship (Blue, 2 damage to enemy in bot mode)
One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
(Blank, 3 to one enemy and one friendly)
Photon Bomb (Blank, 2 to everyone)
Plasma Burst (Blank, 2 to one enemy)
Rock Toss (Orange/Black, 1 to a tapped enemy)
Squish them like Bugs
(Orange, 1 to all enemies with less stars than a character who does attack damage)
Strafing Run (Blank, 1 to each enemy)
Underhanded Tactics (Blue, 1 to on enemy)
Zap (Orange, 1 to one enemy)

We’re definitely favouring actions here with 14 to pick from, and only 2 upgrades. Marksmanship and Armed Hovercraft are obvious choices as they are Blue and deal a decent amount each. Squish them like Bugs also seems good despite being off-colour.

The rest might depend on matches. Frag Toss seems like a nice include simply because it is a White card. Marksmanship, Heavy Landing and Underhanded Tactics seem like general all-purpose Blue direct damage cards and can be included.

The rest I’m less sure on, though I will try out Photon Bomb, Strafing Run and/or One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall at least. Most of the rest aren’t very suitable; some seem better for wider decks (Erratic Energy Grenade and Inferno Breath being good examples).

“Starscream! Flamewar! With my Cerebro Shells, I command you to destroy the rest of the Insecticons! Mwahahaha!”

Starting Team
I don’t want to go into another long post going through team-mates – I’d be repeating text from previous projects – so I’m going to show you who I’ve already decided is going to be in our team. These are subject to change, of course, but possibly not by much.

Main Deck
Captain StarscreamBombshell Flamewar
This is our main team which will be mostly tested into Insecticons. Bombshell is our point and blocker. I had originally considered Dreadwind, despite the fact he was in my last project. However Bombshell, with his 4 defence, should be able to handle incoming damage slightly better than Dreadwind even though he has less health. He’ll do worse into a Skrapnel in alt mode due to his lack of Pierce, but he’ll do better in the late game into Kickback / Barrage when he flips to his bot mode and hits for 4+ damage.

Flamewar needs no introduction. She’s one of the most prolific characters in the game. Passive Tough 1 in a Blue deck is fantastic.

No we can definitely work together! Really!

Side Deck
Captain StarscreamGeneral Megatron
So here’s a thing – I don’t actually have General Megatron, as I traded it for a Major Shockwave thinking I’d end up playing Major Shockwave far sooner than General Megatron. Naturally this changed. Whoops.

I think General Megatron could be pretty interesting though, especially if I can get the three upgrades on him quickly. Into Aerialbots, chucking out that much direct damage should sort things out very quickly.

If I have not acquired Megatron by the time of Part 2, I’ll just have to use a proxy!

Incidentally: Thundercracker – Snarky, Starscream – Grumpy. Deal with it.

Summary
I’m not expecting a lot out of Captain Starscream – I think he’s an awkward character who pales in comparison to other characters of his weight class. As such, in this project my general mantra of “Let’s just see what we can do regardless of how good it is” applies double. Whilst Ironhide, Elita-1 and Alpha Trion all have really interesting aspects about them, I don’t think Starscream‘s small amounts of direct damage is quite on the same level.

We’ll see – I’m happy to be surprised!

Until next time!

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Weekend Tournament: Energon Open Trial

This weekend was the Brighton Energon Trial at Dice Saloon; the prize – two free byes at the UK Energon Open. Whilst I had long ago bought a ticket for the tournament, I ended up stepping aside to effectively run the event. There were a few reasons for this:

  1. I wasn’t actually fussed about playing in a competitive event and didn’t care about the two byes for the UK Energon Open.
  2. Mat would’ve had to step out of the event, meaning he didn’t have an opportunity to try and get the byes.
  3. I wanted more experience doing things like this.

Downside? I don’t really have too much to say this weekend. I was kind of hoping to have some amazing outlook from being an observer instead of a player, but I actually didn’t get much of a chance to really watch games in detail.

Those watching the fields from the previous Energon Trials were probably expecting a heavy leaning towards Blue, especially as Superion won in both Bournemouth and Bristol. However there was barely any Blue – out of twelve players, only two were running Blue decks (Major Shockwave and a single Superion), three were running mixed-pip General Prime / Metroplex decks, with the rest of the field being heavy Orange (three Bugs, two Cliffjumper 4-wide cards, one Grimlock/Lionizer and a Blaster/Firedrive)

I was hoping to see Blaster in action, and even sat next to a table where he was being played during Round 1 for that reason; but I missed all the exciting plays as I was busy making sure everything else was okay. I did see some nail-biting finishes (I watched the end of some really close games with Major Shockwave), a painful mistake when someone put Bold 14 on Grimlock only to ram straight into a Forcefield, and more Firedrives failing to draw cards than I care to count (but someone else did). But if you’re hoping for a deep analysis of the competitive meta in preparation for the UK Energon Open, I would like to direct you towards TCG Cityspeakers who will be putting up a podcast later this week.

I can give you a couple of things though; first of all, here are the results:

1st : Joe R – 4-Wide Cliffjumper Cars
2nd : Dan G – Bugs
3rd : Nick C – General Prime w/Hot Rod + Firedrive
4th : Blaster
5th : Major Shockwave
6th : Bugs
7th : 4-Wide Cliffjumper Anticipation Cars
8th : General Prime (Ranged)
9th : Bugs
10th : Metroplex
11th : Superion
12th : Grimlock w/ Lionizer

Honestly, if I were to do a quick analysis of these results I’d say that experience and skill counts for a lot. I know that at least one of these players lost out on a podium finish because of an unfortunate misplay.

Being vulnerable to bad matchups hurts a lot – Blaster did very well in every single game, but wasn’t quite up to standing against Shockwave (despite looking like he had Shockwave on the ropes very early on). I think a lot of people were expecting Superion as well; just about everyone that Steve played against had seen the results in Bournemouth and Bristol and had teched accordingly. As a result Steve lost a lot of games, only winning against Don in the final round.

Being used to a competitive atmosphere matters as well. There were a lot of shaking hands in the tournament; I notice this sometimes with players in the local tournaments, but observing this time round I saw an awful lot more. Try and not over-pressure yourself, even if the tournament is competitive; remember you are here to have fun!

It did feel like a more serious atmosphere than normal… I’d say around Round #2 things had lightened up and there was a lot of laughter in the air, but by Round #3 + #4 everything was very quiet as people had become very tense, focused and/or tired and frustrated. Honestly I was a little anxious myself – was I collecting scores correctly, was I putting them correctly into the computer, was I being a fair judge when calls were required?

Anyways, I think the players themselves can give you a better in depth analysis, so again check out TCG Cityspeakers when they put up their tournament analysis. In the meantime, here’s a gallery of pictures from the event. Enjoy!

EDIT: The TCG Cityspeakers podcast for the tournament is now up:

Round 1

Blaster vs Shockwave
Cliffjumper vs Superion, Bugs vs Metroplex
General Prime vs Cliffjumper
General Prime vs Bugs, with Marc rocking the Cybergoth look

Round 2

Cliffjumper vs Bugs, General Prime vs Metroplex
Classic Bugs vs Bugs confrontation
Cliffjumper vs Shockwave

Round 3

Daniel. (plus General Prime vs Blaster, Bugs vs Cliffjumper)
Metroplex vs Bugs
Grimlock/Lionizer vs Aerialbots
Bold 14… into a Forcefield

Round 4

Nick is fed up of going against 4-wide Cliffjumper (he played against both players)
General Prime vs Cliffjumper, two Overkills.
Blaster vs Bugs. Check out those Kreons!
Top Table – Bugs vs Cliffjumper

That’s it for now! More details about the UK Energon Open in London UK, September 14th at Dark Sphere Megastore here.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Building Ironhide: Liquid Nitrogen, Pt 4

If this is the first article you’ve read in this series, you’ve got some catching up to do. Here’s the story so far:

Part 1
Part 2
Tournament Report
Part 3

The experience of the Ironhide and the Space Jets deck has been that it is rather powerful… at least, going into other Blue decks it is. However, playing into aggro decks – Bugs, General Prime, Cars, surely Lionizer decks as well – the deck falls rather short. Without too deep an analysis, we can pinpoint some flaws in the deck that result in it failing against aggro:

  • Low defense (no bot can handle a punch of 15+)
  • Low actual damage output (only Ironhide can hit for high numbers, the other two are relying on Pierce)
  • No real means of controlling where damage is going.

That’s some fundamental flaws right there!

The purpose of this fourth and final part of our look into Ironhide is to see if there’s any way of steering the current deck so that it has a fighting chance of taking on one of these aggro decks. As usual we’re just looking at the options – considering what we can possibly do to the deck, trying things out, and recording what we find.

The ultimate conclusion might be that this deck – and possibly Ironhide himself – doesn’t have much of a place in a meta dominated by high-powered aggro decks. If that’s the case, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line for Ironhide or even this deck; there might be deck construction ideas I missed, cards in the future might provide Ironhide with more options, I might simply have needed more practice and testing, etc. The point is we’re going over some options, and seeing if there’s anything that immediately jumps out.

Finally – and it’s always worth remembering this in general, but especially with this blog – creating the ultimate deck isn’t the goal, discovering things and having fun building a deck is. I’m already there as far as this is concerned, I’ve had a lot of fun building and playing with the options for Ironhide. This is just seeing if we can go the extra mile before moving on to the next project.

So, enough chit-chat, let’s get into this.

There’s only room for one red iconic Autobot voiced by Peter Cullen, Prime!

Setup
I wanted to go back to the final match of the last Brighton tournament, against Nick’s General Prime / Wheeljack / Dragstrip deck. This was a straight forward deck that didn’t do anything especially bizarre. It simply had lots of attack boosting cards, a bit of Blue, some card draw, and that was about it. It worked very well, and performed in a simple and easy to understand way. It’s about as vanilla-Bold as they come, but boy does it do the job it’s meant to do. This makes it a pretty good test deck as far as I’m concerned (It’s also a very good deck to give to new players).

Nick gave me his deck for testing, which according to Nick is based on a Vector Sigma deck by Adam Bixler (I’ve not seen the original deck so I don’t know how much has changed). I’ve had to make a few small adjustments to the deck due to availability of cards, but the intent is still there.

… wait, what are those two doing?

I tried it out against my current, unaltered Ironhide and the Space Jets deck. Ironhide does not do well, which is something we already knew.

I wanted to try out something new though, and that was to try siding in a new character, as discussed in the last entry on Ironhide. So for a second batch of tests, I tried swapping out Triggerhappy for Blackwing; this changes my deck from a quasi-Burn and Pierce deck to a Dreadwing deck using Ironhide. In this set up, I’d essentially have four activations before I was tapped out – Dreadwind, Blackwing, Ironhide, then the combined Dreadwing.

Testing into the General Prime build with the same Ironhide deck but with Blackwing gave me much better results. Now, instead of my deck being easily crushed, it was maybe losing matches by about 3-4 damage each time. This is something I can actually work with; I just need to change the deck enough that I can either take a bit more incoming damage, or hit just a little bit harder each time. At least, that’s the plan.

So let’s try some things out, and see if we can’t make up that difference. If we can work out a way of dealing with General Prime, we can see about other types of aggro deck.

Attempt #1: Less Orange, More Armour
So this ended up being a quick two step process – first I tried to remove some Orange cards and replace them with two Reflex Circuits and two Forcefields, then I went one step further and replaced the now redundant Escape Routes with Work Overtimes so I could recover cards after Dreadwing combined. I could potentially also have used System Reboots instead of Work Overtimes, they’d have fulfilled the same role and disrupted my opponent’s hand at the same time.

Here we go again…

Result:
It didn’t really do any better than before.

Here’s the general flow of activations:

Turn 1: Dreadwind does 2 damage to Dragstrip
Turn 2: Dragstrip does maybe 1 – 2 damage to Dreadwind, tops.
Turn 3: Blackwing, hopefully, kills Dragstrip. Dreadwind and Blackwing form Dreadwing
Turn 4: Wheeljack severely wounds Ironhide (or outright KOs him)
Turn 5: Dreadwing attacks Wheeljack, gets him to half health.
Turn 6: Prime takes out half of Dreadwing‘s health (often with a Press the Advantage)
Turn 7: Ironhide finishes Wheeljack
Turn 8: Prime finishes Ironhide
Turn 9: Dreadwing takes out half of Prime‘s health
Turn 10: Prime finishes Dreadwing

That’s…. more or less it, every time. In fact it normally works out worse than this – Dragstrip sometimes survives Turn 3, allowing him to use a Turbo Booster on Turn 4 and absorb an attack on Turn 5. Often Wheeljack just KOs Ironhide instantly on Turn 4 and there’s nothing left to do.

Armour isn’t really helping; certainly I’ve picked two weird ones here, Forcefield and Reflex Circuits. The former so I can physically reduce big swings to 4 damage, the latter because +2 DEF against Wheeljack seems pretty relevant. But often I’d only get to play one Reflex Circuits per game, and often not see the Forcefields at all. Armours also seem to fall off from Bashing Shield very easy, since General Prime is running many of them. So even if I were getting Tough 2/3 armours on to my team, I don’t think they’d stay on long enough to be useful.

Plus…. playing armours means not playing weapons, and we need weapons, that’s Ironhide‘s entire schtick!

Let’s try something else. Even if only for science.

Attempt #2: Secret Actions
I haven’t had much of a chance to go over the new secret actions cards in this blog, other than a brief mention in the Megatron Weekend Casual blog post way back when Flip Flip Bang Bang first started.

Let’s have a quick look at our options:

Battlefield Report (Blue, draw two stack one)
Bolster
(Orange, play an armour)
Dampening Field
(White, attacker can only flip 4 cards)
Defensive Formation
(Orange, +1 Defense to everyone)
Hiding Spot
(Black, someone gets Stealth)
Infiltrate (
Blue, negates an Orange action)
Scavenge the Battlefield
(Orange, takes upgrades form KO’d character)
Take Cover
(Blue, character can’t take non-attack damage this turn)

Of these I think we can automatically remove Hiding Spot – we’re generally speaking controlling who is getting attacked each turn anyhow, so this card is redundant apart from on Turn 3. We can also ignore Scavenge the Battlefield (it just isn’t that effective for us) and Take Cover (one of our characters is already immune). Bolster requires us to have both the action and the armour in hand, so I think that’s out too. Dampening Field is also out – it’ll reign in Wheeljack a little, but not by enough to really swing the game. Defensive Formation might be nice, but I don’t think +1 Defense from an Orange card is going to be a great trade for us.

That leaves two Blue cards – Battlefield Report and Infiltrate, both on colour and both effective against an Orange deck. Let’s give these a whirl:

I think my own lil Ravage Infiltrated my test area! Quick, get me a Battlefield Report, stat!

Result:
So the good news is that I finally got a win with this set up. Not a convincing win – I’m sure there was a misplay at one point where I opted for Prime to swing at Dreadwing instead of Ironhide and he didn’t quite kill him, leaving him exposed, but a win nonetheless. This is out of many test games played, though.

The bad news: Infiltrate didn’t come up once. But Battlefield Report came up a few times and seemed genuinely useful. It seems particularly useful on turns where I’m forming Dreadwing.

I find myself unconvinced that secret actions are the answer. They feel few and far between, and it is difficult to build a plan around a card that you have no real means of getting in your hand other than through chance. Battlefield Report is a keeper though.

Attempt #3: More Damage!
In this setup I’m going to try for more direct damage cards, and see if I can’t chip away my opponents before swinging in with Dreadwing.

I initially looked at Two-Pronged Attack, but I was upset to discover that the card let’s the opponent choose where the damage goes (ala Nemesis Prime). Plane-tech really is the worst, isn’t it?

I’m going to try putting in Bombing Run though, and hopefully a small bit of damage shifting will help Dreadwing stay alive just a moment longer to deliver a finishing blow.

Might be clutching at straws and going crazy at this point

Result:
Still not good. I’d say there’s about a 10% chance of victory, I very occasionally scrape a victory that is often the result of a poor hand for General Prime.

I did feel like a better activation sequence is Dreadwind->Ironhide->Blackwing->Dreadwing though, that seemed better at redirecting the Wheeljack swing to a favourable position; either take out Ironhide, or try and take out only half of Dreadwing before he combines.

Bombing Run pretty much always got snubbed for a better card. It’s out.

Attempt #4: Flat Out Cheating
Finally, I decided to take a different approach and change the General Prime deck instead. In almost every test, I found that at least one blow on Dreadwing would use a Press the Advantage and that seemed to take victory for General Prime and the gang.

We’ve all discussed Press the Advantage and how strong it is, and certainly in every test I’ve done so far I’ve felt the sting of a well placed Grenade Launcher + Press the Advantage combo.

So let’s cheat: Let’s just take Press the Advantage out of the General Prime deck. It had two copies, it now has none (it’s also now a 38 card deck, so I’m really cheating here). Let’s see if this is actually a key card, and if it is, work towards some sort of card disruption.

“Quickly Spinister, before he notices we’ve stolen them!”

Result:
If there’s anything to be learned from this entire post and test session it’s this: taking out Press the Advantage didn’t really change much.

Several tests in and it still just doesn’t cut it. Certainly General Prime doesn’t quite hit as much as he used to, as he is now having to rely on Leap into Battle, Reckless Charge and One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall for his attack actions (all of which either hit softer or damage Prime‘s team); but Dreadwing just isn’t managing to seal the deal regularly enough to make it work.

If removing the best card from General Prime‘s deck is still not swinging the tests, is there much point in continuing? What can I really do?

You WILL Hail Optimus, bitch!

Summary
At this point I’m feeling somewhat burnt out, so I think it is time to call it a day on trying to make Ironhide w/Dreadwing a possible answer to General Prime. I feel comfortable in saying it’s not a solution.

There are definitely cards that look like they are meant to counter a deck like General Prime, but quite a lot of these don’t really escape the fact that Wheeljack and General Prime only need a weapon in play to deal a sizeable amount of damage. Each card I play specifically to counter or neuter the next incoming blow is softening my own attacks, and these are always weaker attacks than those that I’m receiving even without weapons and actions.

We could have counter-cards in our deck, but we need those cards in our hand in order for them to be useful. Everytime an obstacle is put in our way (an incoming Press the Advantage, a Forcefield, etc.), we need to have the exact right card in hand and sometimes even pre-emptively plan for the incoming action (as is the case for Espionage or secret actions like Infiltrate). These strategies go against the grain of how Dreadwing works, too – Dreadwing needs to scrap three cards in order to combine, so our options become very limited very fast, because we either have little to no hand or are about to be in that situation.

We also need to factor in that the more this deck is changed, the harder it will be to configure a main deck that pivots to the Dreadwing side deck. With each change, this becomes harder and harder. Also, increasingly this is feeling like a deck about Dreadwing and not one about Ironhide, and from a personal perspective that’s not what I want.

When it starts feeling like only good luck is going to swing victory, and it’s taking this much effort to try and make everything work, time to call it a day. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Besides, the cat has decided the deck is his now.

Conclusions
Despite finding that this Ironhide deck works rather well in some match ups, its time is probably not now. The original deck has strong legs against Blue lists (an arena that is already seeing competition from the infamous 4-wide Pierce list designed by David Fox and popularized by Wreck n’ Rule), but right now there doesn’t seem to be a reliable means of taking on the various General Prime decks. This is without taking into account other aggro lists like Insecticons, Cars or the assorted Lionizer builds.

That’s not to say the deck can’t find value another time. Wave 4 is only a couple of months away, and comes with the promise of Decepticon tech – which, oddly enough, is probably what this deck is craving despite the presence of the Autobot Ironhide.

All being said, Ironhide is still a great character, and I definitely hope to return to him another time.

For now though, this project can be put to rest, and we can move on to the next character… which apparently is going to be another Captain, just one who works for the other faction…

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Weekend Casual: Ratchet and Energon Open

Y’alright there, shall we talk about cards?

I don’t have especially much to talk about in this week’s Weekend Casual. Normally with these I’ll have a deck I made on the fly and tried out; just something to include at the end so it’s not entirely just me waffling on about my weekend. However, over the course of about two weekends and an evening session last Thursday, I played about three decks – all of which have been featured previously in the blog. So there goes that plan.

I still need to talk about how Ratchet has been playing out though, and I’ve had a few games in with Ratchet and it’s proven to be an interesting gaming experience. We’re also into Energon Trial season; as I’m writing this, the tournament in Bournemouth is about to start and I know a few of you reading this took part, and next weekend is Brighton which I’ll be participating in. So in this week’s Weekend Casual, rather than focusing on a low level casual deck, I want to first talk about my experiences with Ratchet, and then move on to my general thoughts on the competitive scene and how I’m personally feeling about it.

That Deck, if we had forgotten it.

Ratchet
So if you recall from last week’s blog, I made a somewhat silly list that had Ratchet, Chromia and Captain Wheeljack, and the whole purpose of the deck was to get the deck in hand, huge amounts of upgrades in play, use Salvage for Parts to repair for massive amounts of damage and then let Ratchet hit for a huge amount of damage in response. The deck was totally untested when I published it, but it was published with the promise that I’d go out and play it over the week and I’d report back on how it went.

If you need a refresher on the deck and how it works, you should read the post here.

Read it? We good? Good.

It mostly works. Mostly. No cards were ever changed, and I used no cards from the sideboard.

There were a few games where the important cards in the deck showed up at the worst times. I had a game where Equipment Enthusiast didn’t get flipped until the last few cards in the deck, and Chromia wasn’t even in the right mode to flip and grab them. After that, there was a deck shuffle and Salvage for Parts was the first card in the scrap. That’s basically a dead game for the deck right there.

The nearest to a competitive deck it played against was a Metroplex deck that was being piloted by Brighton regular Joe, who had only just assembled it. Ratchet couldn’t do anything into Metroplex at all. The deck did mildly trigger, and I got to see Ratchet with a +6 Attack buff, but that’s about as close to a victory as I got in either of the games we played. So that’s a no to the deck being the new meta, sorry guys.

Ahhhh, Barroom TFTCG!

I also got some games in with Ratchet at TFNation, playing against Jon Primus who was running a very different specialist deck with Captain Wheeljack, Sergeant Skywarp and Pteraxadon. Memory is somewhat hazy on the games – we both were hitting the lagers a fair bit – but I do seem to recall the deck working rather well and getting some attack buffs in the +6 to +8 range.

But perhaps the most vivid recollection of a match using Ratchet was the one I played on Saturday against Brighton regular Alex. Alex is a very casual player, but he had cooked up an aggro deck with General Prime, Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant and Topshot. There wasn’t too much punch in the deck – I’d say about 50% of the deck were orange cards, rest were White, Black or pipless. The characters were all powerful in their own rights, but this was a casual-level deck for a bit of fun on a Saturday afternoon.

We played one game. My deck was starting to get into the fully-powered stage a few turns in; but unfortunately I lost Ratchet quite early on, so I was basically sitting there with the deck in my hand, and no Ratchet to buff.

But it turns out that boosting Ratchet is only half the benefit. Below is a board state where I got to trigger for the first time in the game:

Living the dream. Sorta.

That’s Wheeljack with 7 damage and a complete set of Extra Padding and Attack Drones, and opponents with four upgrades between them, both damaged. That’s a total repair of 10; if Ratchet were still alive, he’d be hitting for a whopping 13+ and could have taken out General Prime easily, leaving a fatally wounded Bumblebee. But as it stood, Wheeljack still went from somewhat likely to die next turn, to nearly fully recovered, and Bumblebee fell shortly after. That’s kind of huge.

This wasn’t the only time this happened – pretty much every turn I’d start by combo-playing upgrades on the table, cheating in Equipment Enthusiast or Brainstorm somehow, and then eventually build towards the Salvage for Parts play. I was regularly able to repair for 4-5 damage every other turn. As it turned out I could keep Chromia and Wheeljack alive long enough to whittle down his team, eventually somehow winning a duel between Chromia and General Prime.

My conclusion with the deck is that I rather enjoyed it, but it definitely needs to be played against the right opponent. Alex wasn’t really the right opponent, and was visibly frustrated at turns that played 10+ cards instead of just two – that’s my bad. A casual player, or a newbie player, won’t appreciate how strange the deck is and will be either confused or bored or both. A competitive player will just jump all over it. For those players that like to see what can be done with the game engine though, it is very fun. If anything, what I’ve been able to see with this deck is how powerful repair could be if it had been allowed to be more than 1 or 2 damage here and there. A deck that could repair easily for more than that would cause casual games to fall into stalemate.

So Ratchet – it was cool to finally try out this concept, and see it not only doing what I intended it to do, but see the mechanics benefit me in ways I had overlooked. That’s probably about as much as I’ll ever play him though, until my next stupid idea comes along.

Alex tells me how he feels.

UK Energon Open Season
I don’t think I really articulated my thoughts on the UK Energon Open and its associated trials on the blog, so given that the summary of Ratchet was a bit short, I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk about it today, as well as talk about how I’m feeling about the game as a whole and my own place within it.

There’s many reasons to be into a ‘competitive game’ as a hobby. There are obviously people who want to play this game to win, to practice a good game, to become skilled in it, and then win tournaments and hopefully one day win major tournaments with significant prizes. This is a perfectly reasonable and expected reason to be into a game like TransformersTCG, and if this is your reason, that’s excellent.

It’s not my reason though; I definitely didn’t buy into the game originally to play competitively (it was always intended as a bit of fun on the weekend for me). During the end of Wave 1 and maybe some of Wave 2 I was arguably in a competitive mindset, but as the game has progressed and especially after Organised Play got announced, I found this kind of approach detrimental to my own enjoyment of the game.

I don’t find myself having fun if I stress myself out about trying to win; I don’t enjoy ‘chasing’ the ultimate Tier 1 list, I don’t enjoy making myself feel under pressure in a game that I’m playing for fun. Truth be told, on the way home from both of the local tournaments I won, I found myself questioning plays I did or undermining my own victories by pointing out errors my opponents made that somehow gave me the victory. This is something I don’t do when I just place (for example: I didn’t feel like I earned first place with Alpha Trion, but felt great about placing second with Ironhide). Winning isn’t quite the great reward I’d always hoped it would be – though the free pizza is both great and tasty.

With this in mind, when it comes to the subject of the UK Energon Open , I can’t say I’m really thinking of it in terms of a competitive event. My mind isn’t on what deck will win, or what is the best possible deck that I could take. My mind is on whether or not I have a fun experience; and I’ll feel like I’ll have a fun experience if I ignore ‘the meta’, take a deck that I’ve enjoyed playing, and just show up and have some fun playing cards. I’m a reasonably good player, I stand to win a few games regardless of what I play, but it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t make Top 8 or Top 32 or even just lose every single one of my games because everyone showed up with some magical ‘I win’ deck.

For me, the UK Energon Open is an opportunity to see the UK TransformersTCG scene as a whole. It’ll be to say I was there, to see and speak to people I’ve only known online up until now, to hang out with my friends from Brighton who I see every week, to see new friends who I’ve met playing in Southampton or TFNation, to just soak in the love we all have for this game.

Finally, it’ll be a massively poor showing if I showed up at the Energon Open with the latest cool aggro deck, instead of playing one of the decks I’ve publicly worked on for Flip Flip Bang Bang. What’s the greater win, making the Top 8 with a Lionizer or General Prime list, or for me to just show up with a list that nobody else plays and winning some games regardless?

Transformers TCG is also popular on Velocitron

I think TransformersTCG is a broad game and has room for a lot of different types of players, and all those players still have a place in an event like the Energon Open. You have your competitive players who are primarily interested in playing to win; casual players who primarily want to just sit and have fun and aren’t likely to get in deep with the game; and then people like myself who are more interested in finding new things in the game and seeing what can be done with the game. Loving a game doesn’t necessarily mean being the best at it, we all come at it from different angles.

Anyhow, those are my excuses, you’ll still be reading this blog when I come dead last at the UK Energon Open, right? Right??

More details about the UK Energon Open in London UK, September 14th at Dark Sphere Megastore here.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Building Ratchet: Autopsy

That Ironhide project is getting a bit intense isn’t it? I think we could do with something a bit lighter this week, don’t you? Let’s make something exceptionally janky, something that definitely won’t be competitive – but it will be fun, and will do something incredibly stupid. This will be a light one – when this article releases, I’ll be on a train coming home from TFNation, and I definitely won’t be thinking about heavy subjects like how to deal with Lionizer, Bugs or General Prime.

Anyhow, guys and gals, bots, cons and NAILS, let me tell you about a stupid idea I have.

Let’s talk about Salvage for Parts

This is an autopsy. This card is disturbing

Is there a worse rare battle card in Wave 1 than Salvage for Parts? I mean, sure, some of you are probably already saying Null Ray of Starscream; but Null Ray of Starscream is still good if you’re playing Starscream… it’s just you’re probably not playing Starscream. Same with quite a few cards in Wave 1 – they aren’t good, because you aren’t playing the characters who use those cards, but if you were, you would. You could even just use those cards for the pips!

Nobody, though, has had any practical use for Salvage for Parts. It’s a card that repairs your opponent’s bots and kills all your upgrades, and it has no pips. Nobody would ever take this card – unless they’ve chucked a random deck together, playing in a Sealed game, or just don’t know how to build a deck yet.

With that all being said… let’s build a deck that not only has Salvage for Parts in it, but it’s the main core card that we want to play!

The oldest, grumpiest bot in town.. that isn’t Gears.

About a week into Wave 3 I came up with the following idea; “What if we were playing Ratchet, and we used Salvage for Parts; how much of an attack boost could Ratchet get?”

We discussed some potential ways of really maximising this, or combining it with other bots. You could flood upgrades on to Hound, boost his attack really high, then scrap the upgrades with Salvage for Parts and then boost Ratchet.

You could play Ratchet with Wave 2 Skywarp Skywarp would make sure you got the Salvage for Parts at the right time, Ratchet would be super powered and attack; plus you’d have all of Skywarp‘s other tricks (this would have been an idea presented in the Skywarp article had people voted for it).

You could also use Elita-1 with Ratchet; she could help keep the damage balanced, so when the Salvage for Parts was played, it played for maximum benefit.

Instead though I have another idea; I’m going to run through the concept here, create a rough test build, and then take it to TFNation and see how it plays. By the time you read this, the damage will have already been done. Hopefully that damage was in the late teens.

Team
First of all, let’s talk about the team:

Specialist Ratchet
Captain Wheeljack
Wave 1 Chromia

All three of our characters have the Specialist trait. I feel like Specialists are always about twisting the game, seeing what we can do. Sometimes things break so much they can win tournaments…. but usually it’s not in a good way, like the infinite turns decks. Specialists aren’t here to win, they are here to show what you can do with the game engine. That’s kind of what we’re doing here today.

I picked these three characters because between the three I think we can create a pretty intense card draw deck. We’re guaranteed to have a Brainstorm in our hand thanks to Wheeljack, and Chromia can retrieve an Equipment Enthusiast into our hand using her alt mode ability. So long as we’re constantly upgrading our team, we should be able to engineer a game state where there are lots of upgrades on the table, and both an Equipment Enthusiast and Brainstorm in our hand. From there, we can make a recurring Brainstorm/Equipment Enthusiast play; this is our main goal, to get into a situation where we can easily do this multiple times in a turn. I’ve managed to get this to work with Bombshell, allowing him to kill combiners; the experiment here is to see if we can do the same with Ratchet.

Once we have a huge hand, and we’ve done our Salvage for Parts play once, we can set up to try and do this a second time by playing multiple upgrades from our hand, thanks to specialist cards. Because Salvage for Parts scraps cards, they’ll return to our deck immediately on shuffle, so we can Brainstorm->Salvage for Parts, Treasure Hunt.

The maximum number of upgrades we can have on our team is 13; assuming the enemy might have 1-2 upgrades in play and we’ve played to have a spread of damage on the table, we can maybe get as high as 18 attack with Ratchet.

Wheeljack and Chromia are otherwise unremarkable, though they both can draw cards when they do stuff I’d be doing anyhow. Ratchet, though, is what this is all about.

A core for a draw deck

Base Card Draw Deck
The following is the core of a card draw deck using Equipment Enthusiast ONLY. Generally speaking the rest of the deck should lean Blue. Typically you could use this core for Firedrive, Sunstorm or Bombshell decks, but we’re using it for a weird Ratchet deck today.

Upgrades:
Attack Drone x 3
Field Communicator x 3
Multi-Mission Gear x 3
Multi-Tool x 3
Extra Padding x 3

Actions:
Brainstorm x 3
Equipment Enthusiast x 3
New Designs x 3

Blue = 9
Orange = 6
White = 9
Green = 6
Cards = 24

There’s only one card here that actually draws cards, and that’s Equipment Enthusiast. I’ve not included Treasure Hunt (6 Orange is already quite a bit of Orange) nor Data Bank (9 White is A LOT of White). The objective is to play an upgrade each turn, and build up a set of Attack Drone or Extra Padding. We’re also using the specialist cards for extra plays, and New Designs to play an upgrade if we’ve already done so this turn; for example, if we’ve played Field Communicator and it triggered an Equipment Enthusiast, we can use New Designs to play a card drawn from that card.

This is obviously just the core 24 cards. We have 16 more cards to include beyond this – we can add some double blue pips for defense, general attack cards (The Bigger They Are or Energon Axes might be useful), further draw cards (a copy or two of Treasure Hunt if we don’t mind going further Orange, Data Bank if we’re okay with even more White, maybe even Metal Detector)… and in this deck, we’re going to also want repair cards.

Repair Cards
So very quickly, I want to list out some repair cards, see if there’s any we might want to take:

Cooling Vents (Orange, 1 from one Ranged bot)
Diagnosis (White, 1 from one bot)
Emergency Maintenance (Orange, 1-2 from one bot)
Field Repair (Orange, 1 from one bot)
Medic! (Blank, 2 from one bot)
Repair Bay (Orange, 1 from all friendly bots)
Rest and Relaxation (Green, 1 from one bot)
Salvage for Parts (Blank, variable repair from variable bots)

I won’t lie – this is a really disappointing set of cards. I can definitely understand that the designers don’t want to include Blue repair cards, but that doesn’t really change the fact that we don’t really want Orange cards for repairing. Diagnosis might be tempting (especially as it draws a card), but we’re already full on White. Also, nearly all these cards are repairing just one damage. Just one.

Let’s take one Salvage for Parts (we only ever want to play the one card), one Medic! (because it’ll start in our hand anyhow), and consider taking either another Medic! or a Repair Bay.

You totally can see my socks. And a Sainsburys bag. Professionalism!

Characters:
Chromia
Specialist Ratchet
Captain Wheeljack

Upgrades:
Attack drone x 3
Extra Padding x 3
Field Communicator x 3
Handheld Blaster x 3
Multi-Misison Gear x 3
Multi-Tool x 3
Noble’s Blaster x 2
Sturdy Armor x 3
= 23

Actions:
Brainstorm x 3
Equipment Enthusiast x 3
Medic! x 2
New Designs x 3
Salvage for Parts x 1
Security Checkpoint x 3
Treasure Hunt x 2
= 17

Blue = 26
Orange = 8
White = 9
Green = 12
Black = 0
Blanks = 3

Sideboard: 1 Repair Bay, 2 Press the Advantage, 2 Vaporize, 3 Battlefield Report, 2 Photon Bombs, 2 Ready for Actions

The ‘sideboard’ is less an actual sideboard (it has 12 cards for starters) and more a selection of cards that I want with me to switch out cards and try out different things, as I’m only playing this deck on a casual level. The Sturdy Armor and Noble’s Blaster cards will be the first things swapped out.

On top of the core deck, I’ve added the double-blue suite, two copies of Treasure Hunt (so I can bring back upgrades the turn I played Salvage for Parts), some standard Green pip upgrades and then the repair cards discussed earlier. Pretty much half the sideboard are general ‘good’ cards for Blue autobot decks, plus I have included one Repair Bay to see if that will work better than two copies of Medic!

I’ve added Ready for Action as an option; I figure I could potentially stand Ratchet back up and do it all over again if I can get upgrades in play straight after a Salvage for Parts. I’ve also put two Photon Bombs in the sideboard; I’m taking these in case I find that Salvage for Parts can’t find the damage to repair from my bots. In that case, I’ll hurt my bots first, and THEN repair them.

Intended Result

Final Thoughts
Do I think this deck will work? Well, I think we’ll at least get to see Ratchet hit for a high attack value. That’s really the goal, rather than actually winning a game. Different decks have different win conditions – and for this one, the win isn’t winning the game, the win is being able to say ‘I played a game where Ratchet hit for 19 damage’.

Hopefully by the time you’ve read this, I’ll already be able to say if I could do this or not.

Until next time.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Building Ironhide: Liquid Nitrogen, Pt 3

So I’ve talked about things we can do with Captain Ironhide, and even taken Ironhide out to a tournament. Much to my surprise, my test deck actually does quite well. I’ve since then tested the list against my Aerialbots deck, and it seems to do pretty well there too, even without Espionage.

The team felt cohesive, and even thematic – it harkerned back to a period in the IDW comics where Ironhide had to work with misfit former Decepticons as part of Cybertron’s defense. But is this the definitive Ironhide team? In this week’s Building article, I want to take a look at possible ‘formations’ for a character like Ironhide, and what characters could fit into such formations. From there, we can create new ideas for line-ups, and perhaps even finding something better!

Fair warning: This is going to be a long one; we’re going to consider a lot of character cards. This blog is all about the deep dives, so brace yourself – put on your spelunking gear, we’re going in!

(all art from this post comes from Til All Are One volume 1, as drawn by Sara Pitre-Durocher. If you haven’t read it, you should, it’s a great Ironhide-centered story!)

Formations
After a while of playing Transformers TCG, you start to see familiar numerical patterns when it comes to the star cost of characters within a line-up. For example, a 13 star character will be teamed up with a 7 and a 5, a 10 star character could regularly appear with a 9 and 6 star, etc.

That seems obvious, the numbers all add to 25 duuuuuuh; and you’re right, it is obvious. I don’t think we all think in terms of these numerical patterns, though. I don’t know if card players have a general term for this, but I’m going to refer to them as formations in this blog.

Thinking in terms of these formations ahead of time helps us think about what characters we can team a character with. It helps us to get out of the habit of trying to create line-ups that are well under the 25 star limit or over it. If we’re thinking in terms of numerical formations, we can quickly determine sideboard characters, including ones that make our list taller (a list that is 13-7-5 can easily turn into 13-12, for example). It also helps us perceive what kind of role our character playing; is he the centre of a four wide team? A support character to a much larger player? Just one of three equally powered characters?

I went through this a bit with Alpha Trion, and how his star cost meant there was a great deal of versatility to the formations he could be used in compared to Optimus Prime. Ironhide increases these possibilities even moreso:

Three Wide
Ironhide / 12 / 4
Ironhide / 11 / 5
Ironhide / 10 / 6
Ironhide / 9 / 7
Ironhide / 8 / 8
(the deck from last weekend is this formation)

Four Wide
Ironhide / 8 / 4 / 4
Ironhide / 7 / 5 / 4
Ironhide / 6 / 6 / 4
Ironhide / 6 / 5 / 5

That’s an almost overwhelming number of possible teammates we can give Ironhide, and that’s without the consideration of not playing to a maximum star count or putting star cards in our deck. With each of these formations, Ironhide‘s role changes as well.

We need to restrict our possbilities, else risk total overload. With Elita-1, I tried to do this by just teaming her exclusively with cars, because cars are a very good tribe with plenty of good candidates and a great gimmick in untap cards. However, Ironhide is a truck; trucks aren’t an especially good tribe unless you’re a sucker for Cargo Trailers (I am not – and I don’t think Ironhide is either, he wants to be upgraded with weapons regularly). Besides, I’m more interested in Ironhide‘s bot mode, so alt mode cards aren’t of interest.

Instead let’s go about this in a different way – let’s ask ourselves the question ‘What will Ironhide bring to a team, that another 9 star card will not’. That might help us narrow down some possible team mates, but also help define what our deck will look like.

Rivals… Sparring Buddies… oh hi Sparkstalker!

Rivals
So here is every 9 star character in the game so far:

Wave 1: Bumblebee (Common), Darkmount, Mirage, Slug, Wheeljack
Wave 2: Grimlock, Thrust, Venin
Wave 3: Hound, Skrapnel, Wheeljack

We probably don’t need to think about comparisons with most of these; we’re unlikely to build a list that would prefer Slug, Grimlock, Venin, Skrapnel, Mirage or Common Bumblebee. Thrust has a very particular, non-comparable mechanic (but might be an interesting sideboard character in some lists if we want to go quasi-taller).

I don’t know what to make of Wave 3 Wheeljack just yet, which might mean I have to give him some attention in a later project. Who would benefit from Brainstorm… hmmmm…

Darkmount is kind of hard to measure up against; I think maybe in a really hard Blue build, Darkmount might be preferable, but Ironhide is so much better at handling Pierce (he has more health) and direct damage (he can stay in alt mode and be immune; also more health). But in some instances Darkmount might be preferable, as he does have an impressive amount of defense. Hound can also reach higher attack levels too, but has less in the terms of hijinks; Hound is somewhat one dimensional in that we simply throw as many upgrades on him as possible to make a big hit.

This analysis really comes down to one point: in the line-ups we make, is Wave 1 Wheeljack going to be better? Wave 1 Wheeljack is – and I don’t think this is a controversial take – the best 9 star character card and one of the best characters in the game. He is noticeably ahead of the power curve. In a mostly Orange list, Wheeljack will almost always be a better pick than Ironhide. So when we’re looking at who to team-up with Ironhide, we need to think if that pairing will work in a Mixed or Blue deck, because otherwise Wheeljack is our default 9 star.

Wheeljack stole most of the transformers; now Ironhide has to beg. Poor Ironhide 😦

Potential Partners
I think the best thing to do is go through the formations starting from the most wide to the most tall, and singling out potential team-mates as we go through the star ranges. We can remember interesting characters as we go up, in case we want to pick someone who will leave us with extra stars free.

I’m going to ignore some of the formations that are only two-tall, bar any four star characters. I think having one 4-star character to enable four-wide is okay; but just having two characters and then one or two 4-star starts to feel like you’re just running two-tall, and I’m not sure I’m interested in that with this character.

I can also easily ignore battle masters (they do not fit well with Captain Ironhide) and anything that plays Orange (because Wheeljack will always be better in Orange lists).

Shall we get started?

Four Wide
9 / 6 / 5 / 5
In this formation (as well as the next one), Ironhide is the big gun, and then we have three small characters – much like my Alpha Trion list or Brian Alan’s Firewheels deck (but not like Keith Allen’s 4-wide cars or typical Bugs, which are much more even across the team). This would normally play better in Orange, rather than Blue, and we already know we want to avoid Orange as it would work better with Wheeljack. In Orange you can use Bold or other attack bonuses to make up for low attack values; that’s harder to do in Blue, even with Pierce. Let’s see where this goes anyhow.

The two five star characters will need to either be blockers, utility characters or small Pierce characters. Some suggestions here:

Air Raid (Utility / Damage)
Alpha Bravo (Pierce)
Buzzsaw (Utility)
Fireflight (Blocker)
Flamewar (Utility)
Frenzy (Utility)
Raider Laserbeak (Pierce)
Rampage (Pierce)
Raider Ravage (Direct Damage)
Ravage (Pierce)
Skydive (Blocker)

Soundwave‘s minions – in both forms – are interesting options as they offer lots of Pierce. Buzzsaw is an interesting one as his ability looks similar to Ironhide‘s, but unfortunately it plays a blue weapon rather than swaps, so would mean we’re losing cards from our hand quick. We’re also using a blue weapon on Buzzsaw instead of on Ironhide, which seems a little counter-intuitive unless we have some serious card draw on the go.

At the six star range we could pick:

Acid Storm
Chop Shop
Ransack
Red Alert
Swoop
Warpath

None of these characters seem quite right; ChopShop sounds like he could be handy but I don’t think we want to take a weapon away from Ironhide. The best we might be able to do here are strong stat blocks like Red Alert and Swoop, or a meta-breaker like Acid Storm or Warpath (and we really don’t want the very squishy Warpath).

This doesn’t seem like the right formation for us; a wide Blue formation would be very fun, but not with Ironhide. The four-wide Pierce Blue formation with Triggerhappy featured on Wreck n’ Rule this week would be better. Let’s move on. We can ignore 9 / 6 / 6 / 4 too.

9 / 7 / 5 / 4
In this formation we’re looking to pair Ironhide with someone a little meatier, but still managing to get a four-wide arrangement. The 7 star character needs to be able to carry things a little more though, as we have a 4 star in this set up who is probably just going to drop dead at the first hit.

Anyhow, some seven star characters:

Sergeant Chromia
Raider Flamewar
Sentinel Hot Rod
Sentinel Mirage

Private Red Alert
Sentinel Sunstreaker

The sentinels are all good picks for different reasons. I’ve already enjoyed Hot Rod and Mirage, and I think they would be good choices – Sunstreaker slightly less so. Flamewar could be good in the type of slightly mixed deck I’m running, likewise Red Alert.

Chromia could be handy; I struggle to play armour in this list because I’m always playing weapons, she’d allow an armour play to be cheated in.

This looks better than 9 / 6 / 5 / 5, and I think the highlighted characters have potential, but perhaps not enough to warrant the formation. It still feels like we’d want to go for a four-wide Pierce heavy list, in which case I still prefer Triggerhappy as the big player. Ironhide is probably destined not to go four wide.

Onslaught, a probable 5 star character in Wave 6, refuses to work with Ironhide. Nice guy.

Three Wide
9 / 8 / 8
So the current Ironhide and the Space Jets decklist is this formation; and the third member of this formation could quite easily be two 4 star characters instead (Hook and Bonecrusher for example). It’s a solid formation that you don’t tend to see much of outside those based around Dreadwing; and funnily enough, Ironhide and the Space Jets has half of Dreadwing already. This formation has three evenly costed characters who can all do work on their own. An opponent will struggle to pick who to attack first.

Here are some of our options:

Blackwing
Bombshell (Wave 1)
Dinobot Sludge (Wave 2)
Dirge
Dreadwind
Private Arcee
Raider Triggerhappy

So there were more options than this, I took a few out that would not have been useful with the deck list at present; the likes of Sergeant Skywarp and Specialist Ratchet could be useful, but they require changing the deck in a way that is going in a different direction. If I started putting secret actions in the deck, Skywarp might come back into consideration. I also really wanted to consider Sparkstalker for thematic reasons, but he definitely doesn’t fit.

It’s really difficult to argue with Dreadwind and Triggerhappy, especially the latter, but we do have good options here. Bombshell does have a lot of defense and could be an impressive blocker, though he doesn’t have the added bonus of Pierce like Dreadwind. Dirge might play well into our careful control playstyle. Wave 2 Sludge is neat for card draw which we definitely need.

Arcee looks quite promising too; we’re playing lots of weapons so she would quite quickly find herself with Bold 1/Tough 1.

Realistically in this formation I think the current group is the winner; but I think Blackwing is worth thinking about in the sideboard. Aside from the fact he does more damage (in the same ballpark as Arcee), putting him in the sideboard can give us a pair of Dreadwing decks – one with Triggerhappy acting as wingman, another with Ironhide acting as wingman. If we don’t want Dreadwing ever, then Arcee might be a better sideboard character. More investigation is required.

I think we always have to take Triggerhappy in this formation. He simply brings too much to the table as a partner for Ironhide. Triggerhappy is rather underrated, and hopefully when the meta next shifts to Blue we will see much more of him; then those Autobots will be molten metal! Plus, it’s bloody Triggerhappy, can you believe he even has a card? Great right?

9 / 9 / 7
A similar formation to the last one – three mid-range characters of even power level. We already talked about 7 star characters; we’d probably go with Hot Rod, Mirage or Chromia. But what about the rival 9 star characters mentioned earlier? Let’s look at the highlights:

Darkmount
Wave 1 Wheeljack
Thrust
Hound
Skrapnel

At this point we have to ask ourselves ‘is this character better than Triggerhappy‘? Many of these are great characters; but alongside Ironhide, I don’t think any of them come close to Triggerhappy. Thrust makes us tall, Darkmount is easy to Pierce down, Hound twists our upgrade sequencing, Skrapnel diverts attention but not much else.

Wheeljack would swing this entire project in a different direction; our argument has been ‘this must be Blue, because otherwise take Wheeljack‘. But if we already had Wheeljack, we could consider Ironhide in a much more aggressive list, with the third member being Sentinel Prowl or even Sentinel Ironhide for double Ironhide hijinks. Wheeljack and Ironhide even have a weird synergy in that they both play off large amounts of weapons. Perhaps not a deck for today – but let’s put a pin in this idea, and come back to it another time.

Otherwise, this formation is a pass, let’s move on.

Wheeljack is still undecided though.

9 / 10 / 6
This is a very common formation where you have one 10 star character that looks like the main player, but usually the two other characters are doing more work than it looks. Most 3-wide cars list are here, as are a lot of Grimlock lists or similar to it. I normally like the 10 star mark, as that tends to be the sweet spot for bots that do a lot of work, but still leave room for some solid characters next to them. Here’s some highlights:

Blaster
Bumblebee Legendary Warrior
Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant
Megatron Arrogant Ruler
Ramjet
Soundwave
Private Trailbreaker

Almost everyone here hits decently, especially with a weapon in hand. Some have gimmicks we can make use of, like multiple action plays (Trusted Lieutenant), playing more upgrades (Megatron), or diverting attention (Trailbreaker). We should skip Blaster and Soundwave for now as neither are out yet in most places (even though we did discuss some of their minions earlier).

I think there’s potential for a few builds here:

Ironhide / Megatron / Fireflight or Skydive
(Megatron cycles through upgrades and tries to upgrade everyone, using Ironhide as a big hitter whilst still being Blue)

Ironhide / Ramjet / Flamewar
(Ramjet is big, stupid and hits for so much damage, and potentially so could Ironhide)

Ironhide / Trailbreaker / Flamewar
(Trailbreaker keeps up a Forcefield and holds attention, gear up for big hit from Ironhide. Not sold on this idea.)

Some ideas, but nothing that makes me want to ditch the 9 / 8 / 8 formation and Triggerhappy.

9 / 11 / 5
Our final formation, this one will use Ironhide as a key side character, with a central figure doing most of the core work. Here Ironhide will basically be contributing shenanigans (our Armed Hovercraft / Drill Arms / Enforcement Batons type plays) whilst a bigger character takes care of the big hits, or contributes a major ability.

Here are three 11 star characters that I find particular interesting:

Alpha Trion
General Prime
Shockwave

Of course I need to list Alpha Trion – I already spent a few weeks focusing on him and know how he works pretty well at this point. I do think Alpha Trion would work better in an Orange list – so Wheeljack is probably a better friend for him. But Alpha Trion would give Ironhide an interesting companion and could still work in Blue. In particular I like the idea of Alpha Trion guaranteeing us a Treasure Hunt or maybe even a Relentless Charge to set up a strong swing with Ironhide despite being in a Blue shell.

Shockwave is an almost perverse idea; why not use the guy who Ironhide otherwise negates? There’s more chemistry between the two than you might think, too – Shockwave brings the team a lot of card draw and benefits from System Reboot to reset cards; the weapons received from doing this can then be used with Ironhide. I like this idea way more than I think I should.

Finally, there’s General Optimus Prime. The General is one of the best all-rounders in the game right now, just a solid buff bot that can switch to a powerhouse. He swings well in Orange with Wheeljack (and, well, any character you care to name); there’s absolutely no reason he can’t do the same with Ironhide and Flamewar in a Blue shell. I don’t think many people are playing General Prime in this way, so it might be an interesting experiment.

Now Ironhide has plenty of team mates. Including Sparkstalker. Hi Sparkstalker, you are totally not Swerve.

Summary
So, we went through all the formations, and jotted down a few lineup ideas. Here’s a summation of them:

Ironhide and the Space Jets
Ironhide / Triggerhappy / Dreadwind
(Soft blue, with either Arcee or Blackwing in sideboard)

Ironhide / Wheeljack / Sentinel Prowl
(Soft to Hard Orange)

Ironhide / Megatron / Fireflight or Skydive
(Blue, Megatron cycles upgrades)

Ironhide / Ramjet / Flamewar
(Dumb Blue smash!)

Ironhide / Alpha Trion / Fireflight or Skydive
(Alpha Trion build that pulls Treasure Hunt from scrap)

Ironhide / Shockwave / Flamewar
(Shockwave build with lots of card draw to get Ironhide the right weapons)

Ironhide / General Prime / Flamewar
(High native Tough build)

The original line-up is still sounding the best to me, but I hadn’t really thought about pairing Ironhide with Private Arcee, so that’s something to try out. Whilst I was mostly thinking about Blackwing in the sideboard, Arcee could be a good idea too.

Otherwise, I think I’d like to try a few of these ideas out at a later stage in future casual days; I’ve always wanted to try and play Shockwave, and I’ve yet to give General Prime a go, so whilst I might not do anything with these line-up ideas just yet, I now have a record of them and their basic function for future use.

Joke’s on Bruticus, Ironhide is immune to Burn.

Next
Now that I’m committed to the main line-up, and have narrowed down a sideboard character to two candidates, the next step is to sort out what battle cards are missing from my mainboard, and work out what I want in my sideboard and when to play them. I also need to work our a strategy for playing into aggro, as so far this list does not do well into strong aggro lists. That will be the subject of the fourth and final part of this now lengthy project.

However, there might need to be a one shot distraction before then – because we don’t want to burn out on Ironhide. So next week, expect a little diversion before we finish off the Ironhide project. I may have hinted in this post who might be featured in that diversion. *grins*

Until next time.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!

Weekend Tournament: Ironhide

Third Brighton tournament of Wave 3 already? Seems these things are coming up thick and fast. This was a particularly odd one since Mat couldn’t directly run it, so I volunteered to proxy-run it for him, running pairing sheets between the tournament and the Magic control room (which a) is a thing and b) I now realise is full of pizza?).

Prize for winning the tournament? Free pizza of course! (or boosters or store credit, if you’re boring)

Let’s talk about the deck I ran first:

Captain Ironhide, v0.9

Characters:
Captain Ironhide
Dreadwind
Raider Triggerhappy

Actions:
Escape Route x 2
Leap into Battle x 3
Marksmanship x 2
Security Checkpoint x 3
The Bigger They Are x 3
Treasure Hunt x 3
Vaporize x 2

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Armed Hovercraft x 3
Drill Arms x 2
Energon Axe x 3
Enforcement Batons x 1
Handheld Blaster x 3
Mining Pick x 3
Noble’s Blaster x 2

Armour:
Improvised Shield x 3

Utilities:
Security Console x 2

Sideboard:
None

Blue Pips = 30
Orange Pips = 13
White Pips = 4
Green Pips = 5
Black Pips = 0
Blanks = 0

I’m calling this Ironhide and the Space Jets. I imagine this group as being like Ironhide‘s security team in Til All Are One; Ironhide is the security chief, he’s got some reformed Decepticons backing him up, and they’re out to keep the streets of Cybertron safe. If only the Combaticons were in the game. Maybe I should’ve had Sparkstalker in the sideboard, for some real Til All Are One vibes?

Nothing much has changed from testing – that’s mostly because I was too busy having fun testing this particular build that I didn’t really change it all that much, despite having some deficiencies. I swapped out the Sparring Gear and the Scoundrel’s Blaster for some Improvised Shields; this was mostly for Mining Picks, as I wanted to see if I could get some sort of maximum hit from Ironhide by having him Mining Pick into two Improvised Shields and then swap into an Energon Axe.

I wasn’t feeling especially confident about this deck – I had tested it into bugs and it did badly, and I knew the likelihood of it dealing with Aerialbots was minimal (I based this on no testing at all). I also had very little actual play with the deck – the most play I had with it was a couple games against Mat two days earlier, and that was against a weirdo Cosmos deck at that (we won a game each).

That being said I wasn’t too concerned about winning. I knew that people would be trying out competitive builds on the road to the European Energon Open (henceforth referred to as EEO in this blog). However I had just won the last tournament, so I was happy to show up and have some fun with a new deck and basically show off what Ironhide could do.

Photo by Mat Armstrong, really capturing my essence

So again, 6 players turned up for this tournament. No Michael, no Mat, no Matt for that matter, but there was a guest appearance from Dave Relph.

Here’s what everyone was playing:
Captain Ironhide / Triggerhappy / Dreadwing (me)
Major Soundwave / Detour / Laserbeak / Ravage (Alex)
Major Shockwave / Swoop / Flamewar (Dave)
Predacons (Joe)
General Prime / Wheeljack / Dragstrip (Nick)
Grimlock / Arcee / Lionizer (Marc)

Another weird mix, but the power level of the decks has definitely gone up since the last tournament. There’s a ‘classic’ Grimlock/Lionizer list, a General Prime list, and a Shockwave list in the mix. The Predacons list was in Blue which I wasn’t entirely sure about; and also Soundwave was there, because Alex likes Soundwave.

Pairings were made, games were played. Here’s how it went.

Photo by Mat Armstrong, Predacons vs Grimlock

Round 1 – Predacons
So real talk – a lot of my mind in this particular game, especially at the start, was on making sure I did all the things I was meant to do when ‘running’ a tournament. That effectively amounted to starting a timer and letting people know how much time they had on the clock, but about 20% of my brain power was devoted to this teeny tiny function.

This small distraction meant that, after about four turns of play, I finally realised I was playing against robots that transformed in to Predaking, and not Menasor. I am a good player, honest.

Predacons in Blue weren’t especially taxing for Ironhide and the Space Jets; both Triggerhappy and Dreadwing were designed to take out small, low health bots and repeated applications of Armed Hovercraft helped even more. I wasn’t packing any Espionage so I couldn’t stop Predaking from combining, but honestly I don’t think I really needed to. I was able to make sure that any Laser Cutlass upgrades were taken out with Vaporize or Enforcement Batons, which was nice.

By the time Predaking would form, he’d have 22-24 damage on him whilst I still had relatively clean bots. Predaking would only last a couple of turns; I could simply stack Pierce against him. Fairly clean win.

First round: 2-0

Photo by Mat Armstrong,Soundwave vs Shockwave

Round 2 – Major Shockwave
Dave and I played a couple of games against each before the tournament started, and in both of the games we played, Ironhide got an absolutely hammering. Major Shockwave‘s hand removal is absolutely no joke, and can really cripple a character reliant on upgrades (which is something I discussed briefly in the second part of my look at Ironhide). When I got the pairings, I joked that Dave was getting a free win out of this.

I don’t know exactly what happened between those games and the tournament games. Perhaps I was just more locked into these games than the ones earlier – I definitely felt more in the zone and blanking out everything else in this match.

First game was extremely tight – it basically amounted to Dave having to kill Triggerhappy in one blow, or else face a Pierce swing that would have automatically killed him. He hit for a quite substantial number, and absolutely on the dot. It was the kind of tight, close game that a lot of us expect from Transformers now.

In the second game I started to really find myself back on my feet, cutting down health from Shockwave early, and using direct damage and Pierce in a controlled and effective manner. I was surprised to find a win, and with only 15 minutes left on the clock, I started to think this would go to time.

The third game was also close, but ultimately came down to a devastating finishing blow that also revealed a trick in Ironhide that I hadn’t noticed in testing. Shockwave had taken only 6 damage, and had just failed to kill Triggerhappy (he had one health remaining); Dreadwind and Triggerhappy were both wielding Energon Axes, and Ironhide had an Armed Hovercraft on him. Realistically, this game at this point was mine anyhow, but Dave could probably salvage things. Shockwave could survive the Pierce from Dreadwind and Triggerhappy this round, and Ironhide was unlikely to break through his armour. Next turn he could do some direct damage to Triggerhappy, finish off Dreadwind and then leave me with just Ironhide.

Dreadwind swings, Pierce 4 damage. Triggerhappy swings, Pierce 5 damage and flips a Noble’s Blaster on the attack which I swap into my hand. Then Ironhide attacks… and I realise the Noble’s Blaster (which I didn’t have before the attacks started) can be swapped on to Ironhide to guarantee the kill. Huh. Hadn’t thought about that interaction at all, but it was a quick Pierce 2 that sealed the deal.

This was a really tough match, probably the most shaky I’ve been in a tournament match for a long time, really enjoyable round and probably evidence that Ironhide and the Space Jets were better than I thought they were. My team isn’t especially heavy on Blue, but they are probably Blue enough that if you aren’t stacking high numbers or high Pierce, they’d be hard to chomp through. I think that was Shockwave‘s problem here; I had managed to get the Pierce out, he wasn’t hitting hard enough in response.

Second round: 2-1

Genuine real board state

Round 3 – General Prime
I’ll be really honest – I did not want to win this game. If I won this game, it would mean I’d have won two tournaments in a row with decks I’ve made from scratch over a period of weeks as some sort of ‘infotainment’ on this blog. I would get an ego… actually, I already have an ego, this would have made my ego unbearable (moreso). I wasn’t going to throw the game – winning a Brighton tournament is a free pizza after all – but man did I not want to win for ‘mental health’ reasons.

I didn’t have much to worry about though; even from the low hits from Dragstrip, I was definitely feeling more damage coming in than I had with Shockwave or the Predacons. Captain Ironhide‘s crew had plenty of Pierce, sure, but it was only enough to maybe take a couple of bots down; General Prime would still be standing at the end, ready to punch the last of the group down.

Nick also made an astute assessment of my team – rather than worry about Triggerhappy (probably the hardest hitting in the previous two rounds), he instead targeted Ironhide with the most persecution. Triggerhappy and Dreadwind weren’t really offering threats with their low attack values, but Ironhide could reach a range of between 12-16 if the cards were played right. He could potentially take down Wheeljack in one hit. Once Ironhide was down, I could still get good Pierce levels of 5-7 with The Bigger They Are out from the space jets, but that wasn’t enough.

Oh, and Press the Advantage is a pain. But we all knew that.

This match-up needed more work if I wanted to get Ironhide in a position to take General Prime on.

Third round: 0-2

Placing: Second

Final Results

Aftermath
Placing at all with Captain Ironhide was something I didn’t think was likely, but placing second was something I really didn’t expect. That gave me a lot of excitement for the list, and I came home thinking there was probably a lot more I could do with the list if I tested it some more and went over my options for characters to team with Ironhide, battle cards I should be using and how I want to develop my sideboard. That’s not where I expected to be when he was picked over Skywarp to be the third character focus of this blog. Cheers everyone for voting for him, this has been a lot of fun.

Dealing with aggro is certainly an issue for the list as it is right now, so that’s going to be something I will need to look at. What I’d like to find is a sideboard character that can handle aggro but also do a decent amount of damage in a Blue deck. That might not be so easy.

Last tournament I was left with the feeling that I probably sneaked into first place rather than earned it; but this time around I’d be hard pressed to say that Ironhide and the Space Jets didn’t earn their place. The games against Shockwave were very hard work, and even Joe’s Predacons weren’t entirely a push over and required foresight to make sure Predaking wasn’t full powered. I would have probably lost against Marc’s Grimlock deck, though Ironhide being able to negate Grimlock‘s trample damage is something I’m now aware of (thanks Blaine if you’re reading). Overall though, I felt like I earned second place this time around.

Future for the Ironhide deck
There’s a lot more to think about with Ironhide, as I think my focus so far has been mostly on what he can do with weapons, and not too much on everything else. So if you will indulge me, I’ll be continuing on with Ironhide for at least one more week, possibly two, and will be trying to improve the deck a bit more. Hopefully we can gleam a bit more from him than we’re already seeing.

Otherwise, the next few weeks are very busy; TFNation will be next week, and I’ll be bringing both the Alpha Trion and Ironhide decks (and some newbie decks, and maybe Elita-1) with me if anyone wants to see them in action. If you’re coming, and aren’t already on the Transformers TCG UK facebook group, you should absolutely join it so you hear about games as they are being arranged.

Then on August 24th there is a tournament in Southampton that I’m strongly considering going to, and on August 31st in Brighton there is an EEO trial tournament. Finally on September 14th, as I’m sure you’re all aware, there’s the EEO tournament itself which I can finally say I will attend (because it doesn’t start at 8am anymore). It’s a busy one f’sure; if I end up skipping a blog post here or there, this busy schedule will be why.

Until then, hope you have a good time flipping cards!

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on Facebook and Twitter. I’m endeavouring to only post once a week on non-local social media pages, so if you want to read posts as they happen, please follow the blog on your chosen Social Media platform. Thanks!