Building Ironhide: Liquid Nitrogen, Pt 2

At the end of the first post on Ironhide, I tried to list out a bunch of interactions I felt could be made with Ironhide‘s bot mode ability. To summarise, I felt there were two parts to Ironhide‘s ability – getting back a card that had fulfilled it’s usefulness, and swapping in a new card as a bonus.

There were four interactions I was particularly interested in:

  • Upgrading Ironhide with an upgrade-scrapping upgrade (Drill Arms or Enforcement Batons), then swapping to a more damaging upgrade
  • Upgrading Ironhide with Armed Hovercraft; and then more Armed Hovercraft. More direct damage!
  • Upgrading Ironhide with an Anticipation Engine, triggering an action from the reveal, and then swapping to a damaging upgrade.
  • Upgrading Ironhide to Mining Pick to utilitize Plan 2 and subsequent damage buff, then swapping to a more damaging upgrade.

I wanted to try and test out all four of these interactions; setup a quick deck that would be centered on trying to get the interactions to happen as quickly and easily as possible, and play them into a deck that would require those interactions.

For my ‘opponent deck’, I chose my Runabout/Runamuck/Flamewar deck. This is a deck I’ve been using to test decks into ‘average’ Blue decks, as opposed to the grueling, despiriting horror that is my Superion deck. I’m not looking to try and create something ‘good’ just yet; I just want to try and see the interactions in play.

What a mess. Let’s get started?

The Team
My requirement for the test deck was that it had to run in Blue (because Orange would die quite quickly), and it would need to have some way of helping me get weapons into my hand. This meant that Triggerhappy was a sure thing – there are other characters that can pull weapons from the scrap, but Triggerhappy is the cheapest option for this, and his Attack 2 / Pierce 4 on bot mode side was likely to be a useful asset. There were a few options for a third teammate, but I settled on Dreadwind – aside from the fact I never get to play Dreadwind, he has strong defensive stats, Pierce 2 in alt mode and never needs to flip.

My sequencing would be as follows:
Turn 1: Flip Triggerhappy, attack with Dreadwind.
Turn 2: Flip Ironhide, attack with Triggerhappy.
Turn 3: Flip Triggerhappy, recall weapon from scrap, attack with Ironhide.

Obviously this would have to change on the fly if the weapon being tested wasn’t in my scrap pile, or I didn’t have the second weapon either already in play or in hand, but this was the general sequencing.

Each test would involve me switching out the deck a little, and then mock-playing Ironhide into the Decepticon car team.

So without further ado, here’s how everything went…

Test 1.

Test #1 – Upgrade Removal Weapons
My first test was to try and utilize Drill Arms and Enforcement Batons, then replace them with either Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe for better damage / Pierce 2. Decepticon Cars were good for this test because they had lots of armours and Pierce weapons that would need to be removed else they’d take very little damage from Ironhide and deal lots of Pierce in return.

The interaction seemed to work quite well – Ironhide could use a Drill Arms first, then replace it with a Noble’s Blaster. I’d still have a Drill Arms in hand afterwards – Ironhide essentially got to use a Drill Arms for free.

I found other neat combos with Ironhide and Triggerhappy too. In one turn I used Drill Arms then Noble’s Blaster; then, next turn, Ironhide would use the Drill Arms again (sending the Noble’s Blaster to scrap), Triggerhappy would flip to alt mode and retrieve the Noble’s Blaster, and basically throw it back to the Captain.

It didn’t seem to affect the cars too much, as they never seemed to not have an armour in hand (I think I had about 7-8 in the deck); but they did have to continually play armours, and not weapons. If I felt threatened by their weapons, I could just play Enforcement Batons instead.

A major thing of note was that I never had the cars use Security Checkpoint, despite it being an optimal card to use several times. Whilst I did this so I could still see if the interaction worked, I think in a real game Ironhide would see his hand crashed a lot against Blue decks, since upgrades are part of his playstyle and thus an easy target for Security Checkpoint.

Ironhide‘s alt mode felt very effective. In this matchup, I was not taking any direct damage from the boys, but there was a point where Ironhide was one damage from death. I flipped him to alt mode and had him be the last to attack that round of turns. He felt safe and secure, and invulnerable to imaginary Zaps and Plasma Bursts. It felt good.

One thing I did feel though during all these tests is that the Drill Arms weren’t especially useful in this deck and in this matchup, since I was running so much Pierce. If Point-Defense System became more of a thing, the Drill Arms interaction would still be very useful to a Pierce-heavy deck.

I also – unintentionally – managed to create a team of all Ranged. So setting up for Test 2 was pretty straight forward.

Verdict: The interaction felt like free upgrade removal, and was quite easy to set up. With Triggerhappy, I felt I almost always could play two weapons with Ironhide, one to kill an upgrade, one for actual damage.

Test 2

Test #2 – Armed Hovercraft
The second test didn’t change the deck too much – I ditched the Scoundrel’s Blasters, one Drill Arms and the Calculated Strikes, and replaced them with Marksmanships and Armed Hovercrafts. I then played into the same Decepticon cars deck.

Mostly the goal was to get a chain of Armed Hovercrafts working, as many as possible. It didn’t really deliver as much as I thought it could – I might have gotten two Armed Hovercraft plays throughout the entire test, which was disappointing. It didn’t seem like Armed Hovercraft was in my hand enough; perhaps because in the last test I was playing with both Drill Arms and Enforcement Batons instead of just one of the two, the interaction just didn’t happen nearly as much.

I tried playing this setup into Aerialbots as well; Superion had about 24 damage on him before I decided that there was no way Ironhide could get Superion to 30, let alone 39, and the cards weren’t in my hand to play with the interaction anymore, so I called the test done and moved on.

Verdict: Might feel better if there were more direct damage weapons in the game, as it stood it seemed too dependent on getting more than one Armed Hovercraft in hand, and getting a chain of Armed Hovercrafts working didn’t happen.

Test 3

Test #3 – Anticipation Engine
To get this interaction I’d need to shift the upgrade/action balance a little bit. I slotted in the three Anticipation Engines, and then had to remove various upgrades to get to 16 upgrades total. Then I re-added the Calculated Strikes I removed from the last test. Finally, I added one solitary Press the Advantage.

I’m happy to say I was able to get the interaction – I played The Bigger They Are on Ironhide, then an Anticipation Engine, with an Armed Hovercraft in my hand for the swap thanks to Triggerhappy. Then I revealed the card on the top of the deck – it was my one copy of Press the Advantage. It was something of an overkill shot, as Ironhide‘s target could only take about 4 damage, but it was fun to see nonetheless. It would have hit for 10 damage, plus the Armed Hovercraft Direct Damage, plus the -2 to Runabout‘s defense. Pretty sweet.

That, however, was about the sum of the interaction in the test. I got to see Anticipation Engine at work on Dreadwind a few times, but honestly it felt more like a bit of fun than something that could exist in a reliable, working deck.

Finally – I found building around this frustrating. In order to stack the odds in favour of Anticipation Engine working, I had to drop a lot of upgrades including weapons, which are the very things I’m trying to use with Ironhide! Also, whilst in the previous tests Ironhide was able to defeat the cars, this time round it was a close defeat for Ironhide. I think Anticipation Engine, whilst having an interesting interaction with Ironhide, is at odds with his ability as well.

Verdict: It was kind of cute, and a fun thing to do, but that was it. I wouldn’t try building around it.

Test 4

Test #4 – Mining Pick
Finally I wanted to try out Mining Pick. I removed the actions and Anticipation Engines from the last test, and returned the removed upgrades. I also removed an Escape Route, Security Console and Marksmanship, and added the three Mining Picks. My balance was now 22 upgrades / 18 actions. I wanted a little bit of lean towards upgrades so I could use Treasure Hunt for some card draw; though I hardly ever saw Treasure Hunt in any of my tests.

In the test, I managed to get Mining Pick and Noble’s Blaster into my hand, and I finally saw a Treasure Hunt which retrieved a bunch of upgrades to boost my hand.

I managed to get the following play with Mining Pick: Leap into Battle on Ironhide, Mining Pick on Ironhide, attack with Ironhide and Plan 2 (an Escape Route and Enforcement Batons, so one White and one Orange pip), then swapped the Mining Pick with the Noble’s Blaster. The total damage was 13; enough to nearly kill an undamaged Flamewar in one hit (which was easily cleaned up with an Armed Hovercraft the next turn).

The interaction felt a bit like trying a lot for just a couple of extra damage, but at the same time when playing Blue, two damage can mean an awful lot, and sometimes I was able to Plan a White or Orange card for that extra bit of controlled flip damage. I also couldn’t help but think to myself that I always had a Mining Pick in my hand due to Ironhide‘s ability; a Mining Pick and Plan 1 on Triggerhappy is Pierce 4 guaranteed after all.

Obviously Mining Pick might be better suited for a build that is using double-Orange cards or just more Orange cards in general; or a deck that has stronger card draw than just Treasure Hunt. It did, however, seem to work quite well here.

Verdict: Surprisingly good.

Ironhide pre-judging the final build.
Thanks Ironhide.
(art: Sara Pitre-Durocher, origin: Til All Are One #2)

Final Test Build
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
Scoundrel’s Blaster x 1

Armour:
Sparring Gear x 2

Utilities:
Security Console x 2

Conclusions
I managed to see each of the four interactions in play, with varying results. Anticipation Engine is a no-go. There’s simply too much variance, and too much clash between Anticipation Engine‘s wanting an action-heavy deck and Ironhide‘s requirement for an upgrade-heavy deck. So unless you have some way of using Plan or can see the top card of your deck, it’s just not worth using for Ironhide.

I also wasn’t really sold on the Armed Hovercraft play; it seemed okay but nothing especially groundbreaking.

However the other two worked quite well. The Drill Arms / Enforcement Batons play worked great, I felt like I was able to dice up enemy upgrades with impunity. The Mining Pick play also let me hit for a real high amount, even in a Blue deck with only a few Orange cards.

The main positive feeling I had from using Ironhide‘s bot mode ability though was always seeing weapons return to my hand. Being able to repeat all of these cards is really useful and separates Ironhide from other characters. I think that’s the main take away from all these tests; the actual interactions themselves are fine, but it’s the fact you are able to play two weapons for the price of one that makes Ironhide shine a little brighter than I thought he would. It’s hardly in the same league, but it isn’t that far from characters who can cheat a second action somehow (Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Cindersaur, Alpha Trion, etc.) Like those characters, new weapons might see what we can do with this ability improve.

What’s Next?
Next, I’d like to take this deck and refine it, and take a better look at what we can partner Ironhide with. I also want to compare Ironhide with other 9 star characters to gauge his actual worth; in particular, how does he compare to an omnipresent 9 star character like Wheeljack.

Oh, but before then, I get to play Ironhide in the wilds of Brighton. We’ll see how that goes, eh?

Giveaway! Cassette Storage Box!

Flip Flip Bang Bang and TCG Cityspeakers are proud to announce a joint give away!

Wayne Salter from Customized Gaming has very kindly given us one of his custom cassette deck boxes to give away. If you’ve not checked out Customized Gaming before, they sell a wide range of wooden deck boxes and acrylic tokens, including brand new matrix, cassette and Rodimus Star tokens. The boxes themselves need to be assembled with wood glue, but they come with clear instructions and are easy to assemble. Once assembled they look great, and are surprisingly sturdy. They perfectly fit all your dice/tokens, a sleeved deck (including sideboard) and a whole line up of character cards in toploaders. You could even use the box for other games, if you’re into that kind of thing.

How to Enter:
We have one box to give away; all you have to do is comment with the hashtag #Longhaul4Life, on any TCG Cityspeakers video, Flip Flip Bang Bang blog post, the Flip Flip Bang Bang Facebook page or tag either of us on Twitter (Cityspeakers, Flip Flip). The competition is open until Wednesday August 14th, where we will randomly select a winner.

(Unfortunately, this competition is only open to those with a UK postal address. Prize can not be exchanged for cash. Only one entry per person)

Weekend Casual: Alpha Trion

Due to Brighton Pride this weekend, I stayed home this weekend rather than make the trek into Brighton (train travel on Pride weekends is kind of crazy). As such I don’t have anything to report in terms of casual play – though I did get a lot of work done on next week’s Building article, which will be up this Friday.

What I did do was play my Alpha Trion deck in front of a camera for TCG Cityspeakers, which some of you might already have seen as it’s a few days old now. However, for anyone reading through the Alpha Trion posts as a whole, here is the video of the final Alpha Trion deck being played into Double Shockwave. I think this video is a good end-note for the Alpha Trion project, so I’m sharing it here on the blog.

#Longhaul4Life

Regular weekend wrap-ups will resume next week, where there will be a tournament in Brighton. If you’re local, please come along!

Building Ironhide: Liquid Nitrogen, Pt 1

Some days you just gotta let the man with the nice voice explain the character background.

One of the most recognizable Autobot characters, Ironhide has had some lacklustre representation in the Transformers TCG so far. He was an undesirable 6 star vanilla character in Wave 1, a semi-ok addition to the Sentinels in Wave 2, and in Wave 3 he is a rather odd Rare character that has somewhat baffled a lot of players.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking a look at the that last card, try and explore what his card can do and see what kind of decks we can come up with that include him. As usual, some of these ideas won’t work and we might find that in the end, Ironhide isn’t such a great character card no matter what we do. Creating something good isn’t the point, though – exploring, examining and hopefully discovering is our goal, as it always is.

So then, let’s get out the liquid nitrogen and bust up some decepticreeps. Or something.

Captain Ironhide! He’s a hero! Gonna take decepticreeps down to zero!

Overview
Captain Ironhide is a Rare character card with a build cost of 9 stars. He is Ranged on both sides, so he can make the best of cards like Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship, among other Ranged cards. He has raw stats of 4 / 12 /2 in alt mode, and 5 / 12 / 2 in robot mode. His alt mode is a truck, so he can use cards like Team-up Tactics, Battering Ram and Cargo Trailer (if you’re into that kind of thing).

His alt mode ability is a rare constant effect rather than a flip-to ability; “This can’t take non-attack damage from your opponent’s cards”. Be careful with the wording here – he doesn’t take non-attack damage from your opponent’s cards; cards that you play yourself will still affect him (He’ll still take damage from a Photon Bomb or Ultra Magnus, for example). Damage caused by characters like Decepticon Shockwave or Swarm!, which require the other player to play damage counters on characters of their choice, can be assigned to Captain Ironhide and if they are, Captain Ironhide takes no damage (as per Rules Roundup 17th May 2019).

I don’t think Ironhide’s alt mode ability is something we necessarily build around, rather it is just a great ability to passively have, and would have more influence as to who we play Ironhide against. It’s a handy ability to have when playing against particular cards.

What we’re more curious about is his bot mode ability; the ability to, whilst Ironhide is upgraded with a weapon, to swap that weapon with a weapon in the player’s hand. What can we do with that? That’s what we’re going to discuss in part one of this investigation.

That one decent Ironhide figure…

Bot Mode and Weapons
Ironhide’s bot mode ability has been something that has confounded just about every player. What exactly was the intention here? Is there a particular Blue weapon that we’re meant to be swapping onto Ironhide? Is limiting the ability to Blue a clue?

I think we should break down that ability a little bit, because there’s two variable possible reasons for it:

  1. Ironhide currently has a weapon that we no longer want on him; either because it’s no longer useful or we want it somewhere else next turn.
  2. We have a weapon with a Blue pip in hand, and for some reason we want to replace Ironhide’s current weapon with this weapon.

It’s the first part that I think might be quite important when looking at options for Ironhide and weapons. That is the part that is unrestricted, and possibly overlooked.

The second part is probably not so much a clue, but more a restriction to prevent certain weapons being sneaked on Ironhide. For example, it would restrict us from putting a Superior Cannon on Ironhide, which would have been legal otherwise.

So for going through Ironhide’s weapons, we should actually consider *every* weapon that can be put on Ironhide, regardless of what pip colour they are or whether they require Ironhide to be in Truck mode or not.

So, without further ado…. Here’s every weapon that Ironhide can use:

Wave 1: Armed Hovercraft, Cybertonium Bow, Drill Arms, Energon Axe, Flamethrower, Handheld Blaster, Piercing Blaster, Primary Laser, Static Laser of Ironhide (obviously), Thermal Weaponry

Wave 2: Attack Drone, Backup Beam, Enforcement Batons, Erratic Lightning, Mining Pick, Mounted Missiles, Noble’s Blaster, Power Punch, Superior Cannon

Wave 3: Anticipation Engine, Battering Ram, Combat Dagger, Dismantling Claw, EM24 IR Laser Launcher, RR Disruptor Blade, Smokethrower

(I’ve ignored anything that just gives Ironhide +1, such as Multi-Tool, Null Ray of Starscream, etc.)

That’s a big list. In fact, it’s three big lists. Let’s narrow this down to one list, and exclude all weapons whose sole purpose would be to give Ironhide Pierce, Bold or a static attack bonus:

Anticipation Engine, Armed Hovercraft, Battering Ram, Dismantling Claw, Drill Arms, Enforcement Batons, Mining Pick

That’s a much shorter list and makes analysizing the options easier. Let’s go through them and see what interactions we can come up with. Again, we want to create hypothetical ideas here for now, rather than worry if they are good or practical.

So when do we get a card for the real Ironhide?

Drill Arms / Enforcement Batons / Dismantling Claw
These are fairly straight-forward – for this interaction, we want to scrap an enemy weapon (Enforcement Batons) or an enemy Armour (Drill Arms). Then, rather than stay with a bland +1 attack bonus, we simply swap out to a Backup Beam, Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe to suit.

Not only are we getting more punch whilst still removing the enemy weapon/armour, but we’re also keeping hold of the scrapping weapon in case we need to use it in the next turn. We’ve essentially used Ironhide‘s ability to give us a free upgrade removal action, so long as we had the correct card in hand.

I’ve put Dismantling Claw here because it belongs to the same group of upgrades, but the way it works is not really suited for our interaction, so I think we can happily rule it’s use out. Dismantling Claw needs to be scrapped to be effective; swapping it back into hand won’t trigger it, thus it ends up being awkward and somewhat unusable for Ironhide. Ironic since it has Ironhide on it.

Armed Hovercraft
Another straight forward upgrade, and probably the most obvious choice for Ironhide. Simply apply and do damage; then, when Ironhide attacks, replace with a better weapon OR swap with yet another Armed Hovercraft, and have a third play of Armed Hovercraft in hand for next turn. 3 damage to every Aerialbot, anyone?

There’s not much else to say here. It’s a simple interaction.

Mining Pick
Mining Pick’s gives Plan 2 , which triggers when you attack (so triggers at the same time as Ironhide’s ability); and for every card you put on your deck, you get +1 to your attack.

You should be able to Plan 2, get the +2 to your attack, AND THEN switch out your Mining Pick for your weapon of choice. Not only would you get the Mining Pick back in hand, but you should essentially be attacking with Ironhide with a Mining Pick+. With Mining Pick->Energon Axe, Ironhide is hitting for Attack 10 plus whatever cards he has planned in.

You could, if you really wanted to, do Mining Pick->Cybetronian Bow, and Plan 2 Matrix of Leadership or Roll-Outs for 12 damage. It’s a thing you can do; maybe not a good one, but it’s a thing.

Anticipation Engine
This upgrade’s a weird one – reveal the top of your deck, if it’s an action, you can play it. Both Ironhide’s ability and Anticipation Engine trigger when Ironhide attacks, so Ironhide can choose to trigger Anticipation Engine first, and then replace it with a weapon that actually does damage.

I don’t know if Anticipation Engine is necessarily good; it might be more useful if we have some way of stacking the deck (having access to Plan somewhere), or have some way of seeing the top card of our deck (Major Shockwave, Wave 1 Skywarp). Alternatively you can build the deck to be action heavy, and play the percentage game when Ironhide attacks.

Side note: an interaction we can’t do is using Mining Pick->Anticipation Engine. This would have been a great interaction, as we could guarantee an action AND have +1/+2 to our attack still.

Battering Ram
I guess we have to talk about the odd sod in this list, Battering Ram. We can’t swap into Battering Ram (because Ironhide is in the wrong mode), but we could potentially get out of Battering Ram if we don’t want to execute it. Using the Aerialbots match up as an example, we could equip Battering Ram to ram an Aerialbot in bot mode to alt mode, and then swap it out when we’re suddenly forced to attack an Aerialbot like Fireflight in alt mode. Tricky, but one way to slow down Aerialbots or other combiners.

General Upgrades
Finally, I think it’s worth bringing up that we don’t need to have a particular mechanical interaction, we may just want to have the option of ‘switching styles’ with Ironhide. For one turn it might be imperative to have a static attack buff or Pierce (Energon Axe), but then another turn we might want to be using Bold (Back-up Beam). Ironhide’s ability would let us switch, without having to send an upgrade to the scrap pile in the process.

We can also simply upgrade our upgrade – for one turn we might be using a Noble’s Blaster, and then later we might upgrade Ironhide to an Energon Axe and use the Noble’s Blaster on another character, or to trade for another Green pip card.

Ironhide now has all the weapons he needs
(art: Sara Pitre-Durocher, origin: Til All Are One #4)

Summary
So, in short we have the following interactions:

  • Upgrading Ironhide with an upgrade-scrapping upgrade, then swapping to a more damaging upgrade
  • Upgrading Ironhide with Armed Hovercraft; and then more Armed Hovercraft. More direct damage!
  • Upgrading Ironhide to Mining Pick to utilitize Plan 2 and subsequent damage buff, then swapping to a more damaging upgrade.
  • Upgrading Ironhide with an Anticipation Engine, triggering an action from the reveal, and then swapping to a damaging upgrade.
  • Swapping out a Battering Ram that we no longer want to use.
  • Switching the style of attack for Ironhide (from a static attack buff or Pierce, to Bold, or vice versa).
  • Upgrading an upgrade whilst keeping the original weapon.

This is a lot more interactions than I originally thought I’d find. Some of them are very niche or generic, and aren’t worth building towards; but the first four or possibly five all have some merits.

As such, in part 2, I’ll be looking at each of the first four and trying to execute the interaction in a test environment. I’ll setup a few test decks to enable each interaction, and play them into another deck that the interaction would be able to work against. Then I’ll report back the results, and see how it does.

For Science?

Ironhide is ready for testing
(art: Marcelo Matere and Priscilla Tramontano, origin: Robots in Disguise #1)

Final Thought
As I was looking into this card, I couldn’t help but picture Ironhide from the original Generation 1 cartoon. In the cartoon, Ironhide seemed to have a liquid for everything. One moment he could cover the place with fire, the next with ice, the next with air, etc. The way Ironhide flips between different liquids as if from Batman’s utility belt is quite silly, but a fun gimmick for the character.

I think his bot ability captures that surprisingly well. So regardless of anything else we might find, I think the card is an excellent representation of him. Good work designers, I like it.

PS. Flip Flip Bang Bang is now on both Facebook and Twitter. I only share new posts on major Facebook and Reddit groups once a week, so if you want to read updates as they happen, please follow the blog on either of those social media platforms by clicking the links below.

Weekend Tournament: Alpha Trion

Time for the second tournament of Wave 3 in Brighton, this time it’s the turn of Alpha Trion and his merry mob of tiny misfits to see how they can do. Normally I’d leave the decklist until the end of the article but this time I’m going to mix it up. Let’s get straight into the decklist, and then summarize how I did after that. Sound good? Bit late if it isn’t.

Mission Trion, v1.1

Characters:
Alpha Trion
Arcee
Fireflight
Longhaul (new)

Actions:
I Still Function x 3
Incoming Transmission x 3
Leap into Battle x 3
Peace Through Tyranny x 3
Ramming Speed x 1
Supercharge x 3
Swap Missions x 3
Treasure Hunt x 2 (new)
Zap x 1

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Flamethrower x 3
Grenade Launcher x 3
Power Punch x 3

Armour:
Bashing Shield x 1 (new)
Forcefield x 2
Improvised Shield x 3

Utilities:
Data Pad x 2

Sideboard:
Razorclaw; Bashing Shield x 1, Bolster x 1 Enforcement Batons x 1, Espionage x 2, Press the Advantage x 2, Ramming Speed x 1, Scrapper Gauntlets x 2

(The following was written on the morning of Saturday 27the June, about 10 minutes before leaving for the tournament)

So what’s changed?

Well, first of all Topshot has been thrown out and replaced by Longhaul. I don’t want to use Topshot‘s tap ability, despite it potentially being useful, because I want the benefit of being four wide; using his tap ability would inhibit that. Longhaul is pretty good for a 4 star in an aggro deck too; 2 Attack with Bold 1, that’s an okay opening hit, and he can take a hit of 7 damage, or 6 in Pierce / Direct Damage.

Confidence is gone completely (the card that is, who knows about my self esteem). Press the Advantage has been moved to the sideboard; don’t get me wrong, Press the Advantage is amazing but it didn’t feel like the best card to play often. It’ll be brought back into the deck against Decepticons, naturally. Replacing those were two Treasure Hunts and a Bashing Shield; I felt the Bashing Shield was essential and couldn’t believe I missed it, and the two Treasure Hunts mean I have a better chance of seeing my weapons for Arcee.

In the sideboard, I have the aforementioned Press the Advantage, Espionage for killing enigmas from combiner teams, Scrapper Gauntlets and Enforcement Batons for killing Battlemasters, Bolster to try and sneak in an armour. Chances are I’d be using Bolster ‘openly’ – Alpha Trion retrieving it, playing it, and making it so that the player would have to do something about my hand instead of doing an alternative action. There’s also another Bashing Shield and Ramming Speed if I feel there’s too much armour or utility in play.

I’m not sure about some of my choices in the sideboard; I skipped a second Zap and a third Treasure Hunt, both of which I feel would be useful if against Bugs or Shockwave.

Finally, Razorclaw is in the sideboard to replace Arcee when fighting into Orange decks, as Arcee would be a bit redundant.

I’m still not keen on sideboards, I feel they change the pace of the game in a way that I don’t find appealing. But we’ll see how it goes.

So, a plane, bike, hauler and spaceship walk into a bar…

(the following was written about ten hours later)

Well, that was a thing!

Only 6 players this time around, with Mat dropping to prevent a Bye from being a thing. Usual crowd, plus a new player all the way from Weybridge. Here’s what was being played:

Alpha Trion / Arcee / Longhaul / Fireflight (me)
Runamuck / Runabout / Deadend (Marc)
Optimus Prime BFL / Starter Bee / Skydive (Michael)
Needlenose / Triggerhappy / Hot Rod (Nick)
Dreadwind / Blackwing / Lionizer (James)
Stunticons (Joe B)

Bit of a weird mix this time around, nothing blatantly overpowered (even the Optimus Prime deck wasn’t the most common of combinations). If I wanted to see how Mission Trion was to fare in a competitive environment, this was probably not the right weekend. This apparently was the weekend for everyone to try out something weird and interesting.

Round 1 – Needlenose / Triggerhappy / Hot Rod
Must admit I was surprised to see this combination coming from Nick, I was kind of expecting him to bring something similar to what he had last time I played him – a psuedo Dinobot deck with Lionizer.

But no, instead Nick brought with him a deck that he’s been talking about for a while. This is a mostly Blue concoction that is looking to play Bolt of Lightning from Needlenose, dealing extra damage in the process. Getting hit by 4 points of direct damage is no laughing matter, and when you’re pairing it up with Triggerhappy‘s weapon grab and high Pierce, this is a machine when it comes to chewing through Blue.

… but I’m not Blue. Don’t get me wrong, a Hot Rod with an Energon Axe is still 7 points of damage and something the likes of Arcee should be rather weary of, but it did feel like my deck had a bit of an advantage. Nick’s an uncanny player though, and I still felt there were a couple of occasions where I was very much on the ropes and only just about squeaking victory; a stray Blue pip probably saved the first game. Sideboarding into Press the Advantage probably helped in the second.

Kudos to Nick, the deck he was playing was really cool, and I love seeing characters like Needlenose and Triggerhappy on the table; I love the old target masters, as you can probably guess by the Misfire-themed blog. In the end it was a clean victory with no defeats, but it was still pretty close.

First round: 2-0

Round 2 – Dreadwind / Blackwing / Lionizer
For some reason I got paired down for my second match and got to play new guy James, who came down all the way from Surrey. He was playing a mostly Orange version of the Dreadwing deck, with Lionizer instead of Thrust (I’m so used to Thrust I called him out on star cards in his deck, even though they were completely legal, stupid me!).

First game was a bit of a wash – a misplay meant Blackwing was killed very easily by Alpha Trion, and then a combined Dreadwing didn’t last long against a fully charged Arcee. A very quick, very easy victory for Mission Trion.

I felt a bit cocky at that point and subbed in Bolster and some Scrapper Gauntlets for game 2, when I should have pulled in Press the Advantage. He replaced Lionizer with Firedrive…. which I think was the right move. Dreadwing is built for card draw, and James’s deck was pretty mixed so he got a lot more mileage out of Firedrive. Plus, he managed to get an Energy Pack on Dreadwing. With plenty of 12+ damage hits being fired out from a Dreadwing with Firedrive AND a Scoundrel’s Blaster, and with me not able to churn out enough damage, I lost the second game.

For game 3 I did the smart thing and brought in the Press the Advantage, and threw out the Bolster and Scrapper Gauntlets that had not been useful in the slightest. This time around the cards were a lot more in my favour, and the all important Alpha Trion / Arcee swings were combined with applying Press the Advantage on at least two occasions. Clearly this was a card I needed to be using in the last game. Even with Energy Pack on, I was able to cut down Dreadwing without issue.

Second round: 2-1

Mat plays a Secret Action against my Bold deck. What could it be???

Extra Bonus Secret Round – Soundwave!
So I had won two matches and was about to play my last…. but before we talk about that, let’s talk about a post-tournament match and build up unnecessary suspense!

I’ve not had a chance to play against Soundwave in Constructed yet; I got to play against Joe B using Soundwave in Sealed and he seems pretty damn solid, especially with an Energy Pack on, so I was quite excited to have a chance to play against him after the tournament.

I’m not sure how sold I am on him in Constructed. Mat would send Laserbeak out, do a little bit of Pierce, then I’d kill Laserbeak with a big Alpha Trion swing (and somehow Swap Missions from the flip because I’m flukey), then I’d kill Ravage… and then after that Soundwave is more or less just a big dude who doesn’t hit all that hard without a weapon? Mat felt that Soundwave wasn’t really that good at dealing with aggro decks, and I think I agree with him. Cards like Callous Leadership do keep Soundwave alive for a bit, but it feels like he wants the Spy Patrol to stay alive for more than a round, and any deck that can one-shot them has an advantage.

Secret Actions aren’t feeling too strong. At one point a Dampening Field was played; I simply held back my big Bold swing, and attacked with someone else. Maybe there’s more required nuance for Secret Actions, and we as players haven’t reached that point yet.

Extra Bonus Secret Round: 2-0

Round 3 – Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader
Oh boy, this guy, we all know this guy right? Urgh….

I had a couple advantages here. Firstly, Michael doesn’t normally run this deck, or at least I’ve not seen him do so. Secondly, this isn’t necessarily the most optimal configuration of the line-up (no Flamewar, no Hot Rod). That being said, starter Bumblebee is still 9 health, 2 defense and Tough 1, and Skydive is Tough 2; it’s a really hard pair to crack through. That’s before you get to Optimus Prime.

My general strategy was the same as usual, but probably more focused here – throw Fireflight and Longhaul under the bus (or truck as the case might be), and then slam Arcee and Alpha Trion as hard as I can into Prime and hope for the best. Pre-load weapons if I can.

For the first game this plan looked like it was working; Alpha Trion and Arcee were ready for the hit… but it didn’t quite work out. An Armour on Prime meant that I was doing little damage with Alpha Trion, so only Arcee’s (admittedly huge) Pierce damage got through. Arcee got butchered by a Pierce-loaded Bumblebee, Alpha Trion finished off Optimus Prime but by that point he too had taken a lot of damage and couldn’t do enough to get rid of both Tough boys. First game lost.

The second played very similarly – this time though I got Optimus Prime to one health left, and waited for the retalitory swing. Alas, a misplay – Michael swung in with Skydive, completed the attack, and then misread the table thinking I was tapped out for some reason. Unfortunately that meant I could use Alpha Trion to pull a Zap from the scrap, kill Optimus Prime, and then clear up the rest. Second game won, albeit perhaps not through any fault of my own.

That left a decider, and Michael decided to bring in General Optimus Prime to try out double Prime. I think he mostly just wanted to try it for funsies at this point, and it’s not like General Optimus Prime isn’t good, right?

I do think playing into two-wide is advantageous for any four-wide aggro deck, though. The same routine played out, with Fireflight and Longhaul being sacrificial lambs, ready for the Arcee and Alpha Trion swings. Both were loaded, Arcee with a Grenade Launcher and Supercharge, Alpha Trion with a Flamethrower. I checked the scrap pile and saw there was likely to be a Leap into Battle coming up. I swung with Alpha Trion – and indeed Leap into Battle was in the flip. Rather than play it on Alpha Trion, I played it on Arcee just in case. Alpha Trion had done 4 points of damage to Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader. Arcee attacked – and hit a lot of not-Orange, but was able to hit two Orange pips. 10 Pierce 10 damage in total; a perfectly dead Optimus Prime.

After that General Prime was relatively easy to clean up.

Did…. did I just win?

Third round: 2-1.

Placing…. First?

Myself, not smiling or looking at the camera, with all the promos.

Aftermath
This was obviously not the toughest of tournaments; don’t take Mission Trion coming first as some sign that it’s a meta-buster. Most everyone was playing cool and interesting stuff and not the usual decks they play. Marc was running Runabrothers rather than Insecticons, Nick was running Triggerhappy and Needlenose instead of three-wide Prime, Michael was running a Prime deck instead of his Cars, etc. There were also misplays, perhaps as a result of the recent weather, tiredness, etc.

I think in a more grueling tournament I’d have placed a lot lower. But I enjoyed seeing such a wide range of things in play. That’s my kind of tournament – nearly everyone prefers seeing strange stuff on the table, as opposed to an endless see of Bugs and Primes, so I think this was a favourite tournament for me. Winning was a bonus.

Still, yay I won! That meant I got my promos (apparently I was the only one there who didn’t have most or all of the promos!). I also got a free pizza – that’s not a joke btw, I won enough store credit for a free pizza. That’s the real reason you should go to these tournaments.

Future for the Alpha Trion deck
Some cards didn’t really see play. Treasure Hunt never got into my hand in any of the games I played; but it also ended up swapped out a lot, so apparently I’m undervaluing it or feel it is my most disposable card. Bolster / Scrapper Gauntlets never seemed worthwhile, so will be scrapped. I think I’d have to play into Battlemasters more to determine if Enforcement Batons should be dumped too. I didn’t play Espionage at all, but then I didn’t play against any combiners – had I played against the Stunticons deck, it would have been straight into my deck.

Zap was essential; I questioned whether I needed a second Zap in my sideboard and the answer is YES. I think I also might want to experiment with maybe putting in a blue Zap (Underhanded Tactics / Heavy Landing). Force Field actually worked a couple of times, and the bold suite is doing great. There’s anti-Bold tech around but it feels rare or easy enough to deal with, we’ll have to see if Gyro Blasters or Infiltrate really become a thing. I Still Function gets work done. The current Blue cards are working perfectly.

I really enjoy the deck, I think it could do with a couple more tweaks, but nothing big. I probably won’t be writing anything further about it, as I think the changes I’ll make will be small. Overall though I’m very happy with the deck, and whilst I do not think it is a top tier list, I do recommend giving it a go and trying it out for yourself, as I think it is rather fun.

Next week is Pride weekend in Brighton which will prevent me from using the trains. So instead I’ll be writing something different before I embark on the next project.

Otherwise, the next tournament in Brighton is August 10th. See you there!

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 Alpha Trion: Action Man, Pt 2

Over the last week I’ve thought about which line-up with Alpha Trion I wanted to play the most. Ultimately time meant I only ended up building two decks – one was the Hound / Alpha Trion deck I posted earlier this week as part of Weekend Casual. The second, a four-wide Alpha Trion aggro deck utilising Swap Missions, ended up being pretty good and something I want to develop further.

In this post I’ll show you the first version of that deck and give a quick overview of how it works. But first I wanted to talk about the line-ups I ended up ruling out.

What I’m saying Optimus, is bugger off, I got this.

Alpha Trion / Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader
This wasn’t a line-up I mentioned in my post last week but one that was brought up and rightly so – it’s a popular pairing and the one that I think most people talked about since Alpha Trion came out.

I have a lot to say on this pairing, but I’ll narrow it down to three points:

  1. Building a deck around Alpha Trion limits the options for Optimus Prime. Alpha Trion has a strict limitation on what actions he can play from his attack flip – they need to have a blue pip. Optimus Prime does not have this restriction, they can be any action he chooses. This means you have to make one of two choices – either restrict your actions to mostly Blue, thus limiting Optimus Prime‘s card pool (no One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall, Plasma Burst, etc.), or dilute the number of Blue actions in the card pool and risk Alpha Trion not triggering. Neither of these strike me as fun options.
  2. Alpha Trion is very fragile; in two-wide Optimus Prime decks, Prime’s partner normally is the one with the higher defense or larger health – allowing them to soak a large attack so Prime doesn’t have to. Alpha Trion can’t do that; he has an okay amount of health for an 11 star character but a weak defense, in a two wide deck he’ll be clobbered. Bugs would have him for lunch; after they’ve killed Optimus Prime of course.
  3. If you’re going to be playing Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader, pick the best companion for Optimus Prime, not the best companion for Alpha Trion. Optimus Prime is, almost indisputably, the best card in the game. Any line-up that features him will be dwarfed by him, and honestly you should be trying to find the best competitive partner for him; you aren’t going for ‘casual janky fun’ when you’re considering Optimus Prime. I don’t think there is any scenario where Nemesis Prime or Ultra Magnus aren’t better companions for a two-wide Optimus Prime deck than Alpha Trion. (This is also why I ditched the idea of looking into Elita-1 / Optimus Prime, despite the thematic synergy of the two characters).

Plus… I just don’t want to talk about Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader, he’s been talked about already by many, many other writers and producers with more competitive credentials than I. Let’s move on.

Alpha Trion / Hound / Flamewar
I already linked the decklist for this one earlier this week; I found it to be a fun deck, but nothing I wanted to continue on with. I’d like to try and do something more with Hound in the future, but probably not with Alpha Trion. Fireflight or Skydive are better partners than Flamewar

Alpha Trion / Ratchet / Arcee
I love Ratchet, I think he has so much janky potential. I definitely intend to try and build around him one day, but I don’t think Alpha Trion is the right place. I actually think maybe Wave 2 Skywarp is a better pairing – Skywarp can retrieve not only Medic!, but Salvage for Parts from the scrap pile. The later has the potential to boost Ratchet‘s attack by a massive amount with the correct board state. I think that’s a better synergy for Ratchet than Alpha Trion and simply pulling and playing Repair Bay.

Alpha Trion / Aimless / Hot Rod
I actually think this idea has some potential, using Peace Through Tyranny to put Aimless in Alpha Trion‘s hand and then going all out. There’s some things that this list can do that an equivalent Optimus Prime / Aimless / Flamewar build couldn’t – it could keep Hot Rod untapped using Car cards, so that Alpha Trion gets a turn with all enemy cards tapped; then uses Peace Through Tyranny, pulls Aimless on himself, then gets two blasts with Aimless.

I don’t know if it would actually be any good; but if I had the time to build a third Alpha Trion list, this would have been the one. I might have a look at it after the weekend. An alternative might be the same but in Orange and with Prowl and Lionizer, but I think we’re all sick of Lionizer at this point. We’re probably all sick of Aimless come to think of it.

Alpha Trion / Armoured Ultra Magnus
A list that would try and do lots of direct damage and use stuff like Squish them like Bugs, Armored Hovercraft, etc. I think this would be a fun idea, but I’m not all that keen on building two-wide if I’m honest. That possibly became clear when I was discussing Optimus Prime earlier.

Alpha Trion / Major Shockwave
I think this was the worst of the ideas I had – a list that would use card disruption, basically. I even said in the post it wasn’t the most optimal Shockwave list and that’s very true; why play this when you can play three-wide Shockwave, or even double Shockwave? Pass.

Alpha Trion / Flamewar / Fireflight / Detour
This concept was mostly my Orange four-wide concept, but in Blue. If there’s anything I’ve learned with testing Elita-1, is that just because you can go Blue doesn’t mean you should. Getting Pierce out on small bots is difficult and means you aren’t putting out armour; meaning you’re probably only adding 2-3 defense every defensive flip. Flamewar has a great amount of health but other characters in that star cost range don’t; so even in Blue characters are likely to fall to two hits. It also means Alpha Trion has to pull his weight a lot more, and use actions to be doing more damage since there’s no Orange. Card disruption will make getting Pierce out really difficult; a lesson I learned playing against Major Shockwave with Elita-1.

It’s an idea… just not really an appealing one.

Mission Trion, Version 1.0
So what did I build? Well, here’s the initial draft of the deck.

Mission Trion, Draft 1

Characters:
Alpha Trion
Arcee
Fireflight

Topshot

Actions:
Confidence x 1
I Still Function x 3
Incoming Transmission x 3
Leap into Battle x 3
Peace Through Tyranny x 3
Press the Advantage x 2
Ramming Speed x 1
Supercharge x 3
Swap Missions x 3
Zap x 1

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Flamethrower x 3
Grenade Launcher x 3
Power Punch x 3

Armour:
Forcefield x 2
Improvised Shield x 3

Utilities:
Data Pad x 3

Orange Pips = 32
Blue Pips = 6
White Pips = 5
Green Pips = 2
Black Pips = 0
Blanks = 3

So we have four key roles here:

Fireflight : Initial attack soaker, keeps attention away from Arcee in the first turn, then away from Alpha Trion in later turns.

Topshot : An extra body mostly; normally goes first (he is very expendable).

Alpha Trion : Core hitter, wants to attack whilst when Bold cards have been played, also wants to stack the deck with Swap Missions to potentially attack a second turn.

Arcee : Finisher. Will be fully loaded, especially against Blue.

The deck is built around a few basic gameplay elements:

  • Alpha Trion is the hardest hitter, and I want to use Swap Missions to get as many attacks with him as possible.
  • I want to be playing as many cards on attack as possible to try and get a Swap Missions, letting Alpha Trion attack, then hide and throw either Topshot or Fireflight into the opposing player’s next attack. So using Bold cards on Alpha TrionPower Punch, Supercharge, Flamethrower – all improve this chance.
  • The cards Data Pad and Incoming Transmission will be used to try and stack the deck with a Swap Missions, guaranteeing multiple Alpha Trion swings.
  • Should Alpha Trion die, I can still use I Still Function to get him back, and get yet another swing with him. If I know a Swap Missions is coming up, and my opponent is tapped out, I can even use I Still Function to bring back Fireflight or Topshot, attack with Alpha Trion, play the Swap Missions on the attack flip to untap/tap before they are KOed again, and then attack with Alpha Trion a second time instead of one of my disposable characters.

This isn’t an especially secure strategy; a lot of this is gambling on the possibility that I flip a Swap Missions on Alpha Trion‘s attack. I’m trying to increase the odds of this working by applying Bold, and by using deck-stacking cards, but inevitably this is going to fail and Alpha Trion is going to be exposed. That’s just a risk though, and I will have to rely on Fireflight and I Still Function to keep Alpha Trion alive, or return him to life if necessary.

What’s Missing?
The good thing about writing about decks in progress on this blog is I can use it to point out to myself the missing elements in a deck. Here’s are a few cards I feel I missed out:

Bashing Shield
Gah, really? No Bashing Shield? What am I thinking? Just one Ramming Speed for upgrade removal sounds like a big mistake. At least one Bashing Shield should be in the mix, and maybe another Ramming Speed

Treasure Hunt
Especially for Arcee, weapons are a good way of improving damage and bringing more of them in hand, especially in earlier turns, would be important. This definitely replaces Confidence, which I don’t think has much of a place here.

Espionage
Even it’s just two, these are really needed to deal with combiners. I could alternatively have Disruptive Entrances, which can be played from Alpha Trion‘s attacks as they are Blue.

Zap
In a test against Bugs, I definitely felt like 1 Zap was not enough Direct Damage for certain situations (like Skrapnel). A second Zap should be considered.

Bolster
There’s actually not much in the way of armour here, but Bolster would work quite well to sneak a weapon on the attack and a armour on the defense.

Scrapper Gaunlets / Enforcement Batons
Becoming quite the thing aren’t they? Scrapper Gauntlets are definitely gelling well with Bolster, but the Enforcement Batons might be the better pick as I don’t have many Green cards in m ydeck.

Some of these might replace cards in the current deck sooner rather than later, others might form a sideboard.

What about characters though? I definitely think Topshot isn’t the right pick if I’m ditching Confidence (which I definitely am). One of the Constructicons would be a better fit – I forget which one it is (does anyone remember which Constructicon is which?), but there’s one which has Bold 1 on the bot mode and 2 Attack, and yet still has the same combined health and armour as Topshot, so I think he’s going in. I’ll also sneak in Razorclaw in my sideboard, as a replacement for Arcee when playing against Orange decks like Insecticons (Hi Nick! Stole your idea!).

Where Next?
Mostly, right now, it is too hot to be thinking about cards too much. Even my cat is dying for shade.

We see you buddy.

Weather aside, next is to try this out at this weekend’s tournament in Brighton (link). I haven’t really had much of a chance to do some testing this week, and I do personally believe that this deck’s strategies and piloting need a bit more practice and development; as such, I don’t think I’ll actually do well with it. I’ll simply play it, give an honest report back next week, and go from there.

I’ve really enjoyed playing this deck, though – there were points with Elita-1 where I couldn’t really say that, but this one I think is fun and interesting with occasional spikes of greatness. So even if I do really badly on Saturday, I’ll probably give this deck another look and see if I can’t tweak it, and improve my own piloting with it.

So next week: Tournament report and an updated deck!

Weekend Casual: Hound & Alpha Trion

Welcome to Weekend Casual, where I round up some fun stuff I did over the week related to the Transformers TCG, relate a bit about various characters and cards I saw being played or played myself, then give you a deck list at the end that isn’t especially amazing, but probably fun to play regardless. Sit back, relax, forget about the forthcoming miserable week of work, and read about Transformers TCG for a bit!

This past week I’ve been mostly focused on Alpha Trion. I had hoped to find time to make at least three different decks related to the old man, but unfortunately time constraints meant that I only got round to making two.

What I did make was:

Alpha Trion / Arcee / Fireflight / Topshot (aka Mission Trion)
(Orange w/ 3 x Leap into Battle, 3 x Swap Missions)

&

Alpha Trion / Hound / Flamewar
(Blue, w/ 2 x Press the Advantage, 1 x Battle Ready, 1 x Bolster)

I actually think Mission Trion has some decent potential; in testing it’s walked all over my mid-tier Blue decks (it wasted poor Elita-1, and Runabout / Runamuck just can’t cope with it at all). I haven’t tested it against Aerialbots or Major Shockwave yet, but that’s certainly coming next week. I have been testing it against Insecticons though, and against them I think it’s just a case of learning how to pilot the deck better. It can finish them off, certainly – but it’s not quite there yet, and I think a lot of that is me, not the deck, I just need to ‘get the reps in’, as a certain Southampton tournament organizer would say. If I can just master that line up, and it does alright against Aerialbots and Major Shockwave… any games I lose are on me and not the deck. No pressure at all.

Also, three weeks on from Siege I being released, and my desk is a mess.

Just cards everywhere. Chaos.

It was a quiet one on casual Saturday @ Dice Saloon this week; just Mat, Michael and myself. Michael has been creating a whole host of imaginative decks, steering clear of power decks and just making stuff that is interesting and fun.

First up from him was a White deck, featuring Pteraxadon, Mirage and Chromia. If you’ve never seen a White deck, most of them tend to try and get Mirage‘s bot mode trigger – he flips three whites, he untaps. Pulling this off is a real pain for the other player who is stuck punching into the same person again and again. Traditionally this is Jazz (who is also trying to reduce your damage to only 2), but here it is Pteraxadon.

I decided to start the day by playing the Hound / Alpha Trion deck. I really like Hound, I pretty much fell in love with the card when I was playing him in Sealed, and in Constructed I think he has even more game. +2 attack for every upgrade played is an incredible bonus if you’re building your deck around him – it’s not difficult to collect Attack Drones, and playing 3 all at once drives Hound to a somewhat silly 13 attack. With Alpha Trion able to grab a Battle Ready on command, that’s a reasonably dependable 16 attack in games without card disruption.

The deck itself performed okay – it scraped a win against the White brigade. I do find Pteraxdon a bit of a disappointment; denying base defense just seems like a very poor man’s Pierce. When Wave 1 Mirage works correctly I think he is an excellent character, but three White is a hard target to hit without some Bold, and your deck hurts with a high ratio of cards that are neither Orange or Blue. Chromia has game though; I think her ability to fetch any White card from the scrap, action or upgrade, is incredibly powerful and can be the centrepiece of some amazing, interesting decks, not least of which were those infinite turns decks that people kept making a while back.

After a few games with Alpha Trion, I was happy to sit out a few games and just watch Mat and Michael play a few rounds. Mat brought out a surprise Firecon deck, which wasn’t something I was expecting. Meanwhile Michael played an Orange deck consisting of all three Prowl cards. Here’s something about every Autobot Cars deck – they all inevitably play the same. Every Autobot Cars deck is Hot Wheels. Regardless of who your characters are, you are essentially looking for Turbo Boosters or Start Your Engines. An all-Prowl Cars list… is exactly like Blurr, or the Elita-1 Orange list I posted several posts back. Blue plays slightly different but not by much. Inevitably it always comes back to that same play style – hit for lots, untap, hit for lots more. Wave 1 Prowl is particularly good in these lists; it’s no wonder that he has become the mainstay and not Wheeljack or either of the Bees.

Still, regardless, it is fun seeing three Prowls in one team. Prowl works best with just himself I guess?

Urgh, this guy, am I right?

Michael also played an all Skywarp deck that was a lot weirder, and I wasn’t fully sure on it’s ultimate game plan. Wave 2 Skywarp treating secret actions as blank cards is something of a revelation though, and overall I’m starting to feel an urge myself to try out one or possibly both of the better Skywarp cards so I can get a better feel for them. Frankly though Wave 1 Skywarp should stay in the folder and be replaced by Acid Storm; but then the deck wouldn’t be so thematic, would it?

After that I tried Mission Trion again Firecons; it seemed to do pretty well. Firecons seem okay but I’m having a hard time seeing them as anything more than a curiosity. Flamefeather‘s defensive abilities are… fine? Sparkstalker seems mostly just okay. Cindersaur‘s ability to play extra actions should not be dismissed though, especially not at 8 stars. That is an incredibly good ability at such a lower build cost, and might be worth thinking about elsewhere if you can get Orange cards in hand (like, for example, if you were playing a certain Cybertronian Sage)

Michael then brought out his Shockwave deck, and I tried Mission Trion into Shockwave; Alpha Trion did not treat Shockwave very well, or rather, a highly boosted, swinging for Pierce 11+ Arcee didn’t. The biggest problem I have with Wave 1 Shockwave is that at 11 health points, he’s easy fodder for most Pierce-centric builds. Elita-1 seems to deal with him okay, and an Arcee with a Grenade Launcher and Supercharge is just going to one-shot the poor old cyclops every time.

We had a bit of chat between the three of us over how we all would improve the deck, what we thought could be tweaked about the deck, before Mat tried his Hound / Inferno deck against Shockwave.

Meanwhile, I created shocking, electrifying Kaon x Shockwave fan fiction that involved Shockwave begging Kaon to transform into an electric chair so he could feel the sparks fly. I have since been banned from playing with Michael’s transformers and I have absolutely no idea why.

“Electric laaaaaarrraaaarrraavvee….”

Mat’s Hound / Inferno deck has some pretty neat ideas in it, many of which I stole for my Alpha Trion list, not least of which is the fact that both Inferno‘s flip ability and the card Disarm can be used on your own characters – bouncing Attack Drones away from Hound with Disarm or the on-demand Inferno ability, and then simply reattaching them, means you can hit for 10-13 damage with Hound A LOT, even in Blue. You can see Mat playing this deck in one of the latest City Speakers videos.

I finished the day with a few games against Mat’s General Prime deck, which won the first local Siege Constructed tournament in Brighton last week. I played both Elita-1 and Mission Trion. Elita-1 got absolutely wrecked by it, I think I managed to get only one character down through the entire match. Mission Trion, however, did pretty well against it. There’s some tweaks to do on the deck, but it will almost certainly be one I’ll be talking about over the next week.

In the meantime, here is the Alpha Trion / Hound / Flamewar deck I played:

(Not pictured: A much tidier working space)

Characters:
Alpha Trion
Sergeant Hound
Flame War or Fireflight or Skydive

Actions:
Battle Ready x 1
Bolster x 1
Disarm x 2
Heavy Handed x 3
Heavy Landing x 2
Leap into Battle x 3
Press the Advantage x 2
Security Checkpoint x 3
Steady Shot x 3
The Bigger They Are x 3
Vaporize x 2

Secret Actions:
None

Weapons:
Attack Drone x 3
Energon Axe x 1 (honestly, I’d have had more, but this was the only spare one I had)
Handheld Blaster x 2

Armour:
Bashing Shield x 1
Extra Padding x 3
Sparring Gear x 2

Utilities:
Data Pad x 3

Orange Pips = 7
Blue Pips = 32
White Pips = 6
Green Pips = 11
Black Pips = 3
Blanks = 0

I don’t know if Flamewar is really the right choice here, and I might be tempted to go with Fireflight or Skydive over her instead if I’m honest (and did so in testing). She rarely lives long enough for the team to take full advantage of the Tough 1 being put out.

The general play pattern is to try and get either a full set of Attack Drones, or failing that a full set of Extra Padding by Turn 3. The first turn have your 5 star character go in and attack; if it’s Flamewar she should be flipped, otherwise flip Hound. Then on your second flip Alpha Trion, and attack with him. On Turn 3, if Hound is already flipped (because you went with Fireflight or Skydive), flip Alpha Trion and pull back a Battle Ready; hopefully by this point you’ll have a set of Attack Drones or Extra Paddings, play the set, then play Battle Ready. This could end up giving you 16 Attack on Hound. It’s not entirely reliable, there’s a few moving parts and it probably works should work better without Flamewar, but it is quite a fun deck to play around with.

I’d probably put a Ramming Speed in this deck too, as I found I wanted Alpha Trion to pull upgrade-removal into hand a lot more. Otherwise I’d probably look to lower the amount of Orange in this deck, as the level of Blue is rather low. Reinforced Plating over Sparring Gear maybe? Either way I don’t think I’ll keep the deck long-term as I have other plans for Alpha Trion, but if you want some Hound related ideas this deck could be a good starting point.

Later this week I’ll be discussing the other Alpha Trion deck ideas, and then getting to the real meat of this project, Mission Trion itself.

Until next time, happy flipping.

Building Alpha Trion: Action Man, Pt 1

It’s time to put Elita-1 away for a little bit and try out a different character from Wave 3. This time I’m going to look at the Cybertronian Sage himself, Alpha Trion.

There’s not too much to say about Alpha Trion in the fiction. He’s a sagely figure, often a father figure for the Autobots, and in the original cartoon, the man who turns humble Orion Pax into the power house Optimus Prime. Some say he taught Optimus Prime everything he knows, and in the card game, that apparently translates well!

Alpha Trion – Cybertronian Sage, in all his glory

Line Up
I think everyone had the same reaction to Alpha Trion – he is basically Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, but with poorer stats and more restrictions, for a lower star cost. A poor man’s Optimus Prime, if you will. Let’s detail it all out:

  • He’s a Spaceship, not a Truck (Spaceships have less tribal support)
  • He can only pull Orange actions from the scrap.
  • He can only play Blue actions from the attack play.
  • His defense is one less on both sides
  • His attack is 1 less in alt mode and 2 less in bot mode.
  • Melee on bot, Ranged on alt; instead of Ranged on bot, Melee on alt. If he’s the only Ranged, he can’t play Marksmanship from the attack flip.

There’s no denying that Alpha Trion is a much more toned down version of Optimus Prime, perhaps dramatically so. Does costing 2 less stars really make that much of a difference?

Well, from a line-up construction perspective we do get more options. Optimus Prime traditionally has the following line ups:

Optimus Prime + 12 star character (e.g. Nemesis Prime, Novastar, Ultra Magnus, etc.)
Optimus Prime + 7 star + 5 star character (e.g. Hot Rod + Flamewar, Aimless + Flamewar, etc.)

(I’d list Prime with 2 6 star characters… but have you ever seen that? I haven’t)

Sometimes the number of stars per character will go down, and star cards will be added in, like in the Optimus Prime / Bumblebee or Shockwave decks. But that’s more or less your options for Optimus Prime.

For Alpha Trion, we have a lot more options:
Alpha Trion + 14 star character (e.g. Major Shockwave, Ultra Magnus)
Alpha Trion + 10 + 4 star characters (e.g. Grimlock and Top Shot)
Alpha Trion + 9 + 5 star characters (e.g. Wheeljack and Arcee)
Alpha Trion + 8 + 6 star characters (e.g. Cindersaur and Demolisher)
Alpha Trion + 7 + 7 star characters (e.g. two Sentinels, a Sentinel and a Battlemaster)
Alpha Trion + 5 + 5 + 4 star character (e.g. Arcee, Fireflight and a Micromaster)

That’s an awful lot more versatility. Where Optimus Prime is more or less locked into a lineup that becomes a delivery mechanism for Optimus Prime, or stuck being two-wide, we could potentially add some interesting elements to a team with Alpha Trion. Even some of the above hastily cobbled together line-ups sound kind of interesting – Wheeljack, Alpha Trion and Arcee anyone?

Alpha Trion, in all his pomp and majesty

The Mixed Pip Situation
So the fact that Alpha Trion pulls Orange from the scrap on his flip, but plays Blue on the attack is something that miffed a lot of people. But it doesn’t necessary mean you have to play in a mixed deck at all; we can build Alpha Trion in Blue or Orange, just means the deck itself has to play by a few simple rules:

  • In Blue, we would expect to have a few key Orange actions in the deck. When they are in the scrap, we can pull them into hand when we most need them. A good example of a key card like this might be Peace Through Tyranny; when the time is right, Alpha Trion pulls the card, KOs Aimless, and we get two turns of attacks, possibly both whilst wielding Aimless and triggering Leap into Battle on the attack flip.
  • In Orange, we have a few key Blue actions in the deck, and we increase our chances of seeing them on the attack by ramping up the Bold on Alpha Trion‘s attacks. A perfect example of what we could do is the ol’ Swap Missions trick; Alpha Trion is given a Supercharge and a Power Punch, he swings for 8-10 cards, giving a good chance of hitting one of our three Swap Missions. We can also use Incoming Transmission and Data Pad to increase our chances of seeing a Swap Missions.

Those are some easy examples, but you get the picture: so long as we know the rules ahead of time, it should be easy to set up some tricks in a deck that make Alpha Trion worth playing, and whilst he’ll lack Optimus Prime‘s power and versatility in what cards to play, he should hopefully make up some of that with the versatility of partners he swings with.

How do metal aliens grow beards anyhow? And why?

Orange
I think we can work out what we want do with Alpha Trion by simply looking at the actions available. By looking over the entire library of actions as a whole, and whittling them down to a manageable amount, we can start to see options for Alpha Trion.

Let’s start with Orange. Here’s every action in Orange, for Waves 1, 2 and 3, plus the Devastator box (but not the Metroplex or Soundwave/Blaster boxes, for reasons)

Wave 1
Battle Ready, Computer Sabotage, Disruption, Emergence Maintenance, Incoming Transmission, New Designs, Peace Through Tyranny, Ramming Speed, Repair Bay, Roll Out!, Supercharge, Swarm!, Treasure Hunt, Zap

Wave 2
Ancient Wisdom, Confidence, Field Repair, Focus Fire, Press the Advantage, Reckless Charge, Scrounge, Swindled, Tackle, Testify, Vandalize

Wave 3
Bolster, Defensive Formation, Fuel Cache, Full Loadout, Heroic Team-Up, Rock Toss, Scavenge the Battlefield, Squish them like Bugs, Two-Pronged Attack

That’s a lot of actions to chew through. Let’s cut out all the actions that apply to alt modes, or ONLY affect Decepticons, which are these:
Swarm!
Swindled
Two-Pronged Attack

… and star cards, and cards related to star cards (just for sanity at this point!):
Ancient Wisdom
Vandalize
Fuel Cache
Full Loadout
Heroic Team-Up

Let’s remove the following too, with comments:
Computer Sabotage (this is a very weak effect)
Scrounge (I struggle to find a legitimate reason to use this unless I can stack my deck)
Rock Toss (It’s a restricted version of Zap)

That leaves us with 24 orange actions we can consider, which we can now break up in to various categories:

Alpha Trion with another old fogey?

Healing
Emergence Maintenance
Field Repair
Repair Bay

For the most part I don’t like the idea of healing cards, especially as most healing cards are Orange (where you are going to take more damage than you can possibly heal). However, one or two key heal cards in a Blue deck, where damage is much smaller, could be something worth experimenting with. In particular, it would have a double use if Alpha Trion was coupled with 8 star Ratchet (something that we can’t do well with Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend).

Upgrade Manipulation
Battle Ready
Bolster
New Designs
Scavenge the Battlefield
Treasure Hunt

All these actions do stuff with upgrades or retrieve more upgrades – Bolster and New Designs cheat in upgrades, and Battle Ready rewards the player for having lots of upgrades on the table, Treasure Hunt finds more upgrades. Bolster has lots of tricky uses in Orange decks by allowing the player cheat in Forcefield and Scrapper Gauntlets, so that’s worth considering generally, but in a Blue deck it could also cheat in Tough-orientated armours, like Extra Padding.

Battle Ready is mostly an uninteresting card but combined with an upgrade focused build, a one-off card that Alpha Trion pulls to maximize damage could be interesting. Wave 3 Hound playing 3 Attack Drones, and then using Battle Ready is hitting for at least 16 Attack; this could be achieved relatively easily with Alpha Trion, as the Attack Drones are green pips and we can get Battle Ready into hand with his ability.

Scavenge the Battlefield also exists in this group but I think it’s play style is more for pulling battle masters away from dying characters; that could be interesting if we’re playing with Aimless or Lionizer.

Hand Disruption
Disruption

Disruption is a card that nobody really plays, but given some upgrades in use at this point, I’m not ready to discount any card that kills upgrades from hand. It’s probably not appearing in any Alpha Trion list, but it shouldn’t be automatically discounted.

Direct Damage
Squish them like Bugs
Zap

Sometimes someone just has one health left, and Zap is a good tool for that. Squish them like Bugs could be handy if you want to combine it with other means to inflict wide direct damage (Armed Hovercraft, Ultra Magnus, General Megatron, etc.)

General Offense
Focus Fire
Press the Advantage
Reckless Charge
Supercharge

These are general offensive cards that boost attack or add Bold. I don’t think anything else needs to be said about them. If you’re running Orange you’d want most of these, if you’re running Blue you might want Press the Advantage but that doesn’t require Alpha Trion to retrieve, it has a Green pip.

Focus Fire is an outside choice, could be handy for Alpha Trion to hit for huge Bold on occasion if Supercharge isn’t doing enough work somehow. Honestly it probably isn’t a good direction, as it is a lot of cards, but it exists.

Card Draw
Incoming Transmission
Confidence
Testify

All of these fall into the realm of drawing new cards. I don’t think Confidence is a good card for Alpha Trion – unless we’re looking for an upgrade, we can already look for our key actions in other way. Testify has corner case use in some builds, like if we were to mix Alpha Trion with Wave 1 Shockwave (who both share the same alt mode type).

Incoming Transmission, though, might as well be an auto-include in any Orange deck for Alpha Trion, as it would let us cheat in a Blue Action into our attack. It’s essentially a better version of Confidence to Alpha Trion.

Miscellaneous
Peace Through Tyranny
There’s been lots of talk about builds that use Peace Through Tyranny to kill Lionizer and then get two attacks if you’ve timed the play for the end of the turn. We can still do that here; we can also do this in a Blue build, using Aimless instead and having a single Peace Through Tyranny in our scrap pile to achieve this.

Ramming Speed
A fairly reliable card that would be good to retrieve and use to kill utilities and weapons, and sometimes also armour if Bashing Shield isn’t available.

Tackle
Alpha Trion is Melee on his bot mode side, so flipping to retrieve and use this is probably not as easy as it should be. Worth remembering that it exists, at least.

Defensive Formation
+1 Defense is something I guess?

That’s a lot to consider, and we now have a sorted list so we can go over it for future ideas too. Right now though, just from examining these cards, I can think of some interesting setups:

Alpha Trion / Hound / Flamewar – A Tough and Upgrade-focused Blue list, key action: Battle Ready.
Alpha Trion / Ratchet / Arcee – A Healing focused Blue list, key action: Repair Bay and other healing cards.
Alpha Trion / Aimless / Hot Rod – A Blue list focused on Aimless, key action: Peace Through Tyranny
Alpha Trion / Armoured Ultra Magnus – A Blue Direct Damage list, key action: Squish them like Bugs

Most of these might not be any good, but they are ideas for now; we can play with them, and see what works, and what doesn’t.

Alpha Trion and Clobber, which may as well be Baby Grimlock

Blue
Okay, now let’s do the same thing with the Blue Actions. Here they all are:

Wave 1
Bombing Run, Brainstorm, Collateral Damage, Dino-Chomp!, Disarm, Disruptive Entrance, Hunker Down, Inspiring Leadership, Leap into Battle, Roll Out!, Security Checkpoint, Start Your Engines, Swap Missions, Team-Up Tactics, The Bigger They Are

Wave 2
Heavy-Handed, Heavy Landing, Inferno Breath, Marksmanship, Master Plan, Pep Talk, Reclaim, Underhanded Tactics, Universal Network Access, Unleash Potential, Vaporize

Wave 3
Battlefield Report, EMP Wave, Fuel Cache, Heroic Team-Up, Infiltrate, Steady Shot, Take Cover, Unconventional Flying Object

Again, let’s take out those that apply to different alt modes and Decepticons. Should be more to cut out this time:
Bombing Run, Dino-Chomp!, Hunker Down, Start Your Engines, Team-Up Tactics, Underhanded Tactics

… and star cards, and cards related to star cards:
Universal Network Access, Unleash Potential, EMP Wave, Fuel Cache, Heroic Team-Up

These are probably no good for us too:
Master Plan (Requires lot of hand draw)
Reclaim (I guess putting an Orange double-pip on the top of the deck is an option but not a great one)

This leaves us with 21 action cards to go through. Again, let’s split these into groups as quite a few of them are going to have similar effects.

The Titans Return Alpha Trion toy was a bit weird.

General Offense
Leap into Battle, The Bigger They Are, Heavy-Handed, Steady Shot

Bread and butter +2/3 Attack cards, the mainstay of any Blue Optimus Prime deck; that does not change for Alpha Trion, whether he is running in Orange or Blue. If in Orange, probably only want the Leap into Battle as Pierce is irrelevant, for Blue we might want to mix and match. Steady Shot probably wants to be skipped, unless we really want to sneak some Black in.

Card Draw
Inspiring Leadership, Pep Talk, Battlefield Report

Battlefield Report has become a staple of a lot of Blue decks; it’s still useful here, even if it’s reveal in an attack flip will mean the other player knows exactly what we’re playing. Pep Talk and Inspiring Leadership are fine but I don’t think they are exciting for a Alpha Trion deck. Not really what we want.

Hand Disruption
Collateral Damage, Disruptive Entrance, Security Checkpoint

Security Checkpoint is a mainstay in all Blue decks thanks to it’s double-pip, Disruptive Entrance is pretty useful as well. Collateral Damage is a bit of a weird one that I don’t think does as much work as the other two. Both Security Checkpoint and Disruptive Entrance would work great with either Shockwave, or in any match where hand removal is critical.

Play Disruption
Disarm, Infiltrate, Vaporize

Vaporize is a great card to play on an attack flip if you’re going into someone with armour (remember, Security Console plays before the attack flip, so your opponent still gets to use it). Disarm would work wonders against Battlemasters. Infiltrate is less useful, as your opponent would know you’re blocking Orange cards if you played it on the attack.

Direct Damage
Heavy Landing, Inferno Breath, Marksmanship

I actually forgot about Heavy Landing, it’s a Blue Zap and that’s neat, and probably wants to be in my Elita-1 deck. Inferno Breath would be useful in a 3 or 4 wide team, especially if it has Fireflight. Marksmanship is only useful if one of our line-up is also ranged – Alpha Trion is not ranged on his bot-mode, so he can’t trigger this on the attack flip.

Additional Flipping
Roll Out!, Unconventional Flying Object

Roll Out! is really line-up specific, if we have a plan for it that’s great but otherwise it’s a bit of a weird one. Unconventional Flying Object would be good if we paired Alpha Trion with either Shockwave, but can not be played on an Alpha Trion attack flip, since Alpha Trion must be in alt mode to use it.

Miscellaneous
Brainstorm

This card isn’t terrible if you can create a workable plan around it, probably involving lots of card draw or retrieving particular Orange cards from your scrap. Might require too much of a convoluted plan to really get mileage out of.

Swap Missions
A nasty trick in the old Optimus Prime decks was to attack with Prime, then play Swap Missions from the attack, hiding him from attack. The advantage Alpha Trion has over Optimus Prime is that Optimus Prime could only swap with two other characters; Alpha Trion can potentially do this with three. A hard hitting Orange build using this sounds like it could be a lot of fun, and it’d be crazy not to at least try a ‘Mission Trion’ list that takes the concept four-wide.

Take Cover
It’s a card I guess? Probably something for the sideboard, better than a kick in the teeth, but useless in some matchups certainly.

I think I’m less inspired by the Blue cards than the Orange cards, if only because I think quite a lot of these cards have been considered for Blue decks regularly in the past and we all know their place in Blue decks. That being said, I can think of some Alpha Trion line-ups worth looking into:

Alpha Trion / Arcee / Fireflight / Topshot – an Orange ‘Mission Trion’ list, heavy on bold, with Arcee as our finisher and Fireflight as our point.
Alpha Trion / Flame War / Fireflight / Detour – a Blue ‘Mission Trion’ list, much like the above but without the bold.
Alpha Trion / Major Shockwave – a Blue Disruption list, probably not the optimal Shockwave list but something to think about.

Shockwave is totally down with playing with Alpha Trion

That’s an entire 7 line-ups to try out, and there’s certainly more that we could come up with. I haven’t even suggested Lionizer in any of these line-ups, and Alpha Trion would definitely fit into the archetype that would utilize him well.

I think the next step would be to pick three of the most interesting concepts, and try them out and see what actually works. I’ll be doing that over the weekend, and seeing what clicks come Monday.

Until then, I hope this post has inspired you to think about Alpha Trion yourself and come up with some line-ups of your own.

Weekend Tournament: Elita-1

This weekend, the Elita-1 Blue Cars deck was put through it’s paces at two tournaments in Southampton (Dice in the City) and Brighton (Dice Saloon) plus extra games: 15 tournament games, 2 post-round games, 1 warm-up game, 2 casual games, for 20 games in total.

Here’s the full deck list:

Lots and lots of paaaaaaaaaank.

Characters:
Elita-1
Wave 2 Mirage
Wave 1 Red Alert

Sideboard: Novastar

Actions:
I Still Function x 3
Marksmanship x 3
Press the Advantage x 2
Security Checkpoint x 3
Start Your Engines x 3

Vaporize x 2

Secret Actions:
Battlefield Report x 3

Weapons:
Armed Hovercraft x 3
Energon Axe x 2
Handheld Blaster x 2
Laser Cutlass x 2
Noble’s Blaster x 2

Armour:
Bashing Shield x 2

Utilities:
Field Communicator x 3
Turbo Boosters x 3

Orange Pips = 8
Blue Pips = 34
White Pips = 3
Green Pips = 6
Black Pips = 0
Blanks = 3

Sideboard: Espionage x 3, Leap of Faith x 1, Infiltrate x 1, Calculated Strike x 3, Heavy Handed x 2

In a nutshell, the tactic has been to untap where possible, throw as much Pierce weapons on Red Alert and Mirage as I can, boost Elita-1 to 10 Attack w/Field Communicator + Energon Axe (and possibly Press the Advantage for 12 Attack) where possible. Elita-1 absorbs damage from Mirage and Red Alert, Direct Damage cards are applied when available, Elita-1 is brought back with I Still Function in later stages of the game. Mirage is often allowed to die so he becomes a Disruptive Entrance and kills an action from the other player’s hand. That’s a very cliff notes version, but we’ve talked about this deck a lot so let’s not dwell too much more.

Shall we hit the stats for how she did?

Wins
vs Shockwave 1 / Aimless / Flamewar (x 1, casual)
vs Demolisher / Darkmount / Warpath / Flak (x 1, casual)
vs King Starscream (x 2, tournament)
vs Hound Jank (x 1, warm-up)
vs General Megatron (x 2, tournament)
vs Optimus Prime BFL / Arcee Lionizer (x 1, post-round*)
vs Hot Wheels (x 2, tournament**)
= 10, 4 casual, 6 tournament.

Losses
vs Grimlock BFL / Swoop / Lionizer (x 3, 2 tournament, 1 post-round*)
vs Menasor (x 2, tournament)
vs Optimus Prime BFL (x 2, tournament)
vs Double Shockwave (x 2, tournament)
vs Hot Wheels (x 1, tournament)
= 10, 1 casual, 9 tournament.

* match had been won, a third round was played for fun.
** one of these games went to time, we played the last few turns anyhow and Elita-1 won

I think those results say a lot about the state of the deck and where it sits amongst other decks; a fun, interesting and unique experience that will win on occasion in casual play, has some cool twists and a neat mechanic, but not really enough to warrant regular play in a competitive environment.

I won’t go into every single game individually – partly because I haven’t taken notes, partly because such a task even without notes would result in a massively long essay that wouldn’t be interesting. But let’s pick out some highlights and give a general summary.

Cityspeakers talking about both Brighton and Southampton

King Starscream
I’m picking this match out because Marc ‘Good Moment, El Scarscream here’ La Cras talked about the match already in this week’s City Speakers podcast. They actually gave Flip Flip Bang Bang a plug this week, so let me plug them right back – guys, you’ve been plugged. If you want to skip to Marc’s discussion of our match, skip to 23:55, but I recommend you give the whole podcast a listen, even if only for Mat’s ‘Test yourself for Bugs today!’ joke.

Sometimes it’s really good to get an opponent’s perspective of a match, because what Marc probably didn’t realise is that I didn’t think I was going to win this match at all, and I felt both of our games were much closer than they actually were. Marc talks a bit about being frustrated in dealing with Elita-1, and how it means any damage you do on Mirage just ends up meaning very little. That means that the deck is actually working the way I want it to, and whilst it doesn’t work all the time, there is at least some sound logic there.

There were other things that were working in this match – apparently I used Security Checkpoint in this match (I honestly don’t remember!), but what I certainly recall is hitting a Vaporize on an Elita-1 death, knocking off a Mining Pick from Starscream. Starscream needs his pieces in place, removing them makes him a very vulnerable target.

Double Shockwave
Elita-1 was able to remove Starscream‘s required pieces, so shall we talk about a deck that does the same to Elita-1?

I don’t think there is a character in the game that can ruin Elita-1‘s game plan quite as much as Major Shockwave. Wave 1 Shockwave is fine – indeed I got a win earlier in the week, mostly because he has low health and I can get enough Pierce on the table to wipe out 11 health without much trouble.

However Major Shockwave is 17 HP of hand removal. My Elita-1 deck needs cards in hand in order to do untap abilities, and to give Pierce and Direct Damage to Mirage and Red Alert. So having those cards removed, often early and often with damage applied to me at the same time, there’s not really much I can do.

Oh, and then there’s this upsetting starting hand:

Can you hear the Bugs players salivating on the table next to me?

Great, every I Still Function, and they are all being removed from my hand before I can use them. I’ll go cry in a corner now.

So long as Major Shockwave is around, unless I can find a suitable way to deal with him, this deck won’t be able to find it’s footing. This player didn’t do too well in this tournament as it happens, but given that another Shockwave player did very well this weekend, I think we’ll be seeing much more of Shockwave, and much less of Elita-1.

Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader / Arcee / Lionizer
Finally let’s talk about this match-up. There were two Lionizer decks played this weekend, imho I think this was the weaker of the two – Grimlock with Lionizer just shreds through everything in it’s path, and whilst Optimus Prime always has game, I think in a Bold-heavy aggro deck, Grimlock triumphs. Plus he can be brought back from the dead.

My first game against Optimus Prime was extremely close. Elita-1‘s schtick was working – Mirage goes in, does a bit of damage, then takes about 6-8 damage from the opponent, then Elita-1 absorbs the damage, Mirage is untapped with Turbo Boosters or Start Your Engines, rinse and repeat. Steve, my opponent, was doing something similar – Lionizer goes in, does some damge, then is attacked, takes some damage, Lionizer uses Ready for Action, rinse and repeat.

This created something of a stand-off, with myself using every opportunity I could to take down health from Optimus Prime – if he was tapped, he’d take damage. Eventually Mirage would fall, and I’d use his KO flip ability to sap a card from Steve’s hand; Peace Through Tyranny would be the priority target, because it would be late in the round and I didn’t want to be hit by a double swing from a Lionizer wielding Arcee. Unfortunately that wasn’t quite enough in the first game, and I got hit twice by heavy blows anyway… but the first game was close.

In the second game I brought in Novastar, and I simply got out activated. Bringing in Novastar felt better against Nick’s Grimlock variant the day before, but here I think I needed the extra body more and I didn’t need to worry about Grimlock‘s ability. The other player thought I made the wrong choice and I agreed, and he even reckoned it would have been a tight match up had I stuck with Mirage and Red Alert.

We had time left on the clock so we played a third game, with everything reset to how it was in game one. The game proceeded just as the first did. It did feel a little like my opponent wasn’t being as crafty as before (or, perhaps, he simply didn’t have the right cards), but still the third game turned out to be a surprise win for Elita-1, she simply managed to out-tap and got the important hits in. Playing into an Orange deck, it is much easier for Elita-1 to swing for 8-10 damage and actually get some hurt in, unlike against Blue decks (like Shockwave above) where she is just hitting for 2-3. I’d like to play into this team again, and see how often Elita-1 can actually get a win here.

Mat relaxing before the Southampton tournament

General Tournament Thoughts
I really enjoyed both tournaments in Brighton and Southampton, so thanks to ‘Mixed Pip’ Mat and Kevin for organizing the pair of them. It was especially nice to play in a new town and meet new people, I hope plenty of these guys make the road trip to Brighton next time, it wasn’t such a long ride. Also thanks to Marc for driving Mat and myself down from Brighton, I don’t think I could have done the trek all the way from Seaford otherwise.

ME GRIMLOCK TOO MUCH FOR FANCY LADY!

The Future for Elita-1
I’m going to pause the Elita-1 deck for a little and try out something new – more on that later in the week. I’m enjoying Elita-1 but I feel she exists in the same niche as characters like Wave 1 Shockwave, Sunstorm, Wave 2 Bombshell, etc. – strange, mischievous characters that twist rules and bring an interesting element to the game. They make tournaments interesting, because they bring the unexpected – see the King Starscream match above, when combat goes in a way you don’t expect, it can really throw you.

She’s reasonably good into aggressive lists, though I think Grimlock is a difficult match up for her unless you’re being incredibly clever with what you have tapped. I wish I had the opportunity to play into an Insecticons list, as I think that would have been a fun matchup. Alas, I didn’t get to play against any Insecticon players over the weekend.

However, against control and hand disruption, this list can’t do anything at all. On a lucky day it can perhaps achieve something, but most of the time it’ll crumble into nothing.

Novastar never proved her worth; I don’t think I’d use her again. I actually find sideboards a bit tiring and not especially fun, mentally I don’t want to second-guess deck decisions on the fly. I appreciate some people are really enjoying them but I prefer to just know what I’m playing. But, that’s where this game is apparently. I might adapt to them more as this wave goes on.

So… what about Aggro Elita-1? Honestly I keep coming back to this, and it seems like a good idea on paper; someone takes damage, Elita-1 absorbs, untap and go again but this time with a hard hitter and Bold 1+. Great in theory, but Elita-1 would absorb nearly as much damage as she would take if she had just led out, which defeats the point a bit. A 11 HP+Def character like either of the early Prowls is also liable to be one-shotted by a lot of decks. It’s an idea, for sure, but it won’t offer anything that is particularly noteworthy and if you’re going to make an aggro deck centered on a 12-star car, it should be Blurr.

There’s more to look into though, and I plan to do that later in Wave 3, but for now I think I’m done with Elita-1, and ready to move on to someone older… someone wiser… someone sage-like…

Until next time!

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Building Elita-1: I’m In Love With My Car (Part 2)

No points for originality with this video.

Part 1: https://flipflipbangbang.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/building-elita-1-im-in-love-with-my-car-part-1/

When I last left my Elita-1 deck, she was accompanied by Hot Rod and Red Alert, and they were just about dealing with bugs in a test environment; I rated it as having a 60% chance of taking on a bugs list. Not great odds, but not terrible. It was able to do this by having a degree of survivability through blue flips and damage transference – success or failure would come down to hands, flips, and I’d imagine in a live environment good play. However, the team crumbled in the face of blue lists, having been tested and played against Superion, three-wide Nemesis and Runabout/Runamuck. A small amount of Pierce and some direct damage just isn’t enough to take on these set-ups when your base damage is regularly outclassed by their defense.

If I’m honest with myself, this is a limitation of trying to build Blue decks. A Blue deck needs to have something about it that makes up for the fact it can’t flip tonnes of Orange pips on attack. Nemesis has his powering up, Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader has his action flips on attack, Superion has Pierce, even someone like Shockwave has large amounts of direct damage. Elita-1 doesn’t have that inherent advantage; her core mechanic favours keeping her team-mates alive by absorbing damage, and then rewarding this play by giving a random chance of additional extra card plays if she then dies. That’s not really enough to warrant a Blue deck, it just can’t get the damage output out.

Does a nice cup of coke warrant a Blue deck?

I’m going to struggle through though and see if we can’t get the most out of a Blue Autobot Cars deck centred on Elita-1. Perhaps we need to go over our current line-up again though, and see if we can’t improve it; at the very least, we can think about sideboard options if we want to try and go 2-wide instead of 3-wide for some matchups.

So what are our options? Let’s list every Autobot Car in the game, separated by star cost, and see what we got:

4 stars
Scamper City Patrol
Private Stakeout

6 stars
Bumblebee Brave Warrior
Jazz Special Ops
Prowl Military Strategist
Red Alert Security Chief

7 stars
Hot Rod Impulsive Fighter
Mirage Counterintelligence
Prowl Strategic Mastermind
Sunstreaker Bold Warrior
Bumblebee Least Likely, Most Dangerous
Sergeant Chromia

8 stars
Bluestreak Reluctant Soldier
Private Arcee
Private Sideswipe

9 stars
Bumblebee Courageous Scout
Mirage Lone Wolf
Wheeljack Weapons Inventor
Captain Wheeljack

10 stars
Bumblebee Legendary Warrior
Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant
Major Prowl

12 stars
Blurr Fastest Bot in the Galaxy
Novastar Search and Rescue

(There are no autobot cards that cost 5 stars, 11 stars or 13 stars or more)

Which one of these fine lads will be let on the team?

Let’s shake down that list a bit. For the purposes of this deck so far, we don’t want to consider non-Autobots or non-Cars, at least not yet. That rules out a 4-wide list (we only have 2 cards of 5 stars or less available). Neither Scamper nor Stakeout are very interesting, they are both low health bots that can serve as blockers for other lists, and little else. I don’t think Elita-1 really needs a low health blocker; she’d make use of a moderate health blocker that can defend so she can absorb their damage afterwards, but not a low health one as they are likely to be one-shotted. That knocks out both of our 4 star bots, so unless I want to use a two wide list with 4+ stars in battle cards, we can exclude the 8 star bots and 9 star bots too.

We can also exclude Jazz; with Pierce being omnipresent thanks to black pips, Jazz isn’t even worth considering and Red Alert is better statted for a 6 star card. Both Prowls can be excluded too – they’re the picks of choice if I want to look at an Orange or even a Black deck, but for a Blue deck they’re Bold bonuses will go unused, making them less desirable. Same for Wave 2 Starter Bumblebee (not that he was ever really being considered). We can also take out Sunstreaker – his stats are weaker than Hot Rod‘s, and so is his KO ability.

That leaves us with the following for three wide:
Bumblebee Brave Warrior
Red Alert Security Chief
Hot Rod Impulsive Fighter
Mirage Counter-intelligence
Sergeant Chromia

… and these for two wide …

Bumblebee Legendary Warrior
Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant
Major Prowl
Blurr Fastest Bot in the Galaxy
Novastar Search and Rescue

As it happens I had already considered two of the options for three wide in my last entry on Elita-1Bumblebee Brave Warrior and Sergeant Chromia. Again, Chromia just isn’t fitting the play style; she wants to be flipped, her defense is weak, and she just let’s you play armours which aren’t even in the deck right now. Bumblebee Brave Warrior is okay, but adding Tough 1 in Bot Mode means he wants to be flipped too, and Red Alert has more health AND is Ranged. Neither of these should be considered any further.

… but Mirage is interesting. He’s Specialist, which is actually something I’m less interested in than Hot Rod’s Ranged, but he has Pierce 2. Given that our main problem is getting damage out, Mirage attacking with a Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe might be worthwhile. I can also repeat these attacks using Turbo Boosters / Start Your Engines, and absorb the damage Mirage is taking in response with Elita-1. If I wanted my sideboard to stay three-wide throughout, Mirage isn’t only an interesting option; he is the only option, at least if I want to lock myself into Autobot Cars. Honestly, replacing Hot Rod with Mirage in the main deck sounds good to me.

As for the 2-tall options, I think we can take Major Prowl out of the running. He’s fun in Sealed, but otherwise he isn’t consistently doing damage and his stats aren’t as good as the Bumblebees at this star cost. His ability also isn’t anywhere close to being as good as the Bees.

Both Bees are really interesting. I think most everyone realises how powerful Trusted Lieutenant is by now; the extra card draw would mean I have a better chance of getting a Start Your Engines in hand, and his car flip ability means that I could potentially play another card straight after that. Unfortunately, one of the cards I can’t play when he does that is Marksmanship – Bee is only Ranged in his bot mode.

Legendary Warrior is also interesting; Elita-1’s schtick is to absorb damage, and is meant to die first in a list; meanwhile, Legendary Warrior is buffed if he is the only one on the battlefield. It’s an interesting synergy – unfortunately, he is Melee on both sides so no Ranged cards at all. At 15 HP, Legendary Warrior would provide the highest amount of collective health of any two wide car team at 32 HP.

Both Bees would offer three star cards if I use them; Leap of Faith, Bolt of Lightning or one of the double-blue pip cards could be considered if that’s a direction to go in. Bolts of Lightning might make a suitable swap for Marksmanship, and Energon Slingshot for Armed Hovercraft. Worth thinking about.

That leaves the 12 star characters. Blurr is really powerful, but fragile as hell for his start cost, and would need some serious Pierce to get work out of him in a blue deck. He is Melee. Interesting, but probably not a good fit.

That leaves Novastar. Novastar is beefy, with impressive defense in her car mode. She hits hard, especially in her bot mode. She’s only Ranged in her bot mode, but there’s no pressure for her to be in her card mode except for Turbo Boosters. Her health is okay, 2 short of Legendary Warrior, but made up for by the fact she can deliver comparable stats even when Elita-1 is alive. She’s arguably the best choice.

Oh no! We didn’t even bother asking Prime if he wanted to join Elita-1. It’s okay Prime, everyone will play you with Elita-1 anyhow…

I think Novastar is our woman for the sideboard; the Bees are interesting and worth toying with when I get a free moment to tinker with the deck, but Novastar seems like the least complicated. I think Mirage is better for the main deck than Hot Rod; Tough 1 doesn’t serve me as well as Pierce 2. It’s been fun Hot Rod, we’ll see each other again I’m sure. Red Alert isn’t offering much but he is the right bot for the slot, so he gets to stay too.

This being said, I think limiting Elita-1 to cars and indeed Autobots isn’t really working out. I think much more options and possibilities could be opened up if the line-up could consider a 5-star card like Flamewar, for example, at which point I can consider 8 star cards that might give high amounts of Pierce (Triggerhappy, I’m looking at you, let’s make some Autobots molten metal eh?).

In the next part of looking at this character the doors will be opened a lot more. That can probably start with looking at Elita-1 as less the lead character, and more as a support in a two-wide deck, with someone like Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, Megatron Living Weapon or, god forbid, Starscream Decepticon King. It could also mean looking at non-cars as suggested above, or it might simply be taking another look at Elita-1 in an Orange setup.

Next up is tournament weekend where we’ll get to see how Elita-1 really does; I’m expecting a low result, if I’m honest, but we’ll see what happens.

(Note: There’s no deck list this post; I was going to write about a sideboard but honestly it isn’t ready yet, and this post went on quite long anyhow. Expect to see what I play this weekend with this lineup in my next post)