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Freedom Lies in Being Bold: Part I, Aggressive Bold

by Scott Landis

As of this posting Bold is the most prolific keyword in the Transformers Trading Card Game. Granted, there are only two to choice from (Tough and Bold) but what surprises me thus far is just how rampant Bold is found on various types of cards: Action Cards, Equipment, and the Transformers themselves. The ability of Bold is rather obvious, since the combat system revolves around flipping cards from the top of the deck at random to add to either side of the combat stats. What impresses me about Bold, and the Transformers Trading Card Game in general, is there is “More than Meets the Eye” to this ability than simply giving you the ability to do more damage by flipping more cards. Over the next three days I will show you some powerful ways to take advantage of the Bold keyword. 

Part of what I love about this game is you are not simply building your deck for the abilities on the cards themselves. The Combat Icons (which I will thus forth call “Pips”) the cards have can be as important as the card abilities. In some cases the Pips are actually MORE important!



Until last week (writing this on 9/18/2018) I did not think an aggressive deck build centered on Bold actually existed. Sure, flipping more cards on attack was never going to be a “bad thing” but even if you played an overabundance of Orange Pips in your deck it was going to be rare that it was going to be more efficient than simply adding a weapon to your Transformers that was more efficient than simply “+2 attack” like Primary Laser. While I still think in isolation the comparison to “Bold 2” versus “+2 Attack” is in the favor of the latter, and the opportunity cost of playing one upgrade a turn is something I will explore in other articles, you need to build your draw deck in such a way that reverses that trend: a way to make “Bold 2” actually better than “+2” for your specific build.


The ways to do this are simple: play more cards with double Orange Pips (regardless of how “playable” the cards actually is) and find the sweet spot of White Pips to play where the extra Bold you are giving your Transformers helps mathematically flip more of them, and then the two extra cards flipped result in enough extra damage to outweigh this. We have already seen two cards that are the lynchpin of this type of strategy: Double Orange Pips (namely Improvised Shield and Peace Through Tyranny). If more exist, the viability of this strategy simply increases.

Let’s look at the deck breakdown:

The Transformers: Grimlock, Sludge, Snarl – 25 Stars


Transformers: Grimlock, Sludge, Snarl


As I was writing this Grimlock was spoiled and changed the entire composition of this deck build. His “on transform” ability of his alt mode fits perfectly in an aggressive Bold based strategy, but it is his Bot mode that completely changed the makeup of the deck. Suddenly now we can base an entire strategy around massive attacks and there is a benefit to “picking on the little guy” as his overflow damage does not go to waste. This really puts emphasis on Grimlock being your workhorse, whereas before he was spoiled you could play more of a mid-range game, now you can focus your energy on Grimlock.


(Created by my TF Combat simulator, running 250 Trials)


If you look at the combat simulator, you can see that at various “Bold levels” you are adding anywhere from around 2 to 11.5 (!) attack, depending on Bold level Grimlock can actually achieve (zero to 12). This added to Grimlock’s Bot mode six starting attack means you are normally attacking for a starting base of six damage before even adding an upgrade. As we get to the Battle Cards section I will look at the varying effects of adding degrees of Bold to Grimlock, but it is pretty realistic for him to have at least Bold 5 on any one given turn, given the ways of manipulating both Alt Mode Transform ability and various upgrades. The fact that his damage carries over from one Transformer to another really tramples the competition. 

The main issue this team has is some of its fragility in the hit point department, but luckily each of your Transformers has a usual mode defense of 2 to start (yes Sludge in Alt mode only has a one, but he should be in Bot mode more often).


Sludge is part of the decks’ engine and survivability. He keeps his brethren alive through both of this healing abilities, and his transform effect into alt mode is a key combo with a powerful upgrade I will discuss below. He sports a decent health pool for his cost, and his Bot mode has a solid two starting defense. 

Snarl is one of the best Transformers in the game, with some massive attack and defense stats for his low cost, especially in Bot Mode. Even without the Bold based upgrades and abilities, Snarl should easily do around seven base damage in this build, prior to upgrades, but realistically it is more. His ability to put a card from your hand on top of your deck already helps any combat you are in, but especially in deck that features cards with double orange pips you have little desire to actually play, ever. This gives you a built in “out” to drawing one of these cards you do not want to play and saves you a few precious deck slots a lot of Bold based decks use on upgrades like Data Pad. His transform ability into alt mode simply draws you two cards if you have none in hand, which is pretty easy to do in this deck given its aggressive nature. Remember, you can play your Upgrade and Events for the turn, THEN transform, so you should not lose any tempo transforming him back into alt mode. You should be able to use this transform ability reliably once per turn cycle, although not as often as in other Bold based builds featuring him later on.


Draw Deck (*Subject to Change given new Spoilers)

Fortune Favors the Bold: the Weapons


The reveal of Jaws of Steel as a utility, not a weapon, is really what makes this deck shine. Also the fact that Dinobots are ALWAYS “Dinobots” no matter which form they are, Robot mode or Alt mode, which means you will be able to take advantage of their powerful “When Transformed to this mode” abilities found on most of their Alt modes. This means that you can attach a powerful Bold based weapon like Power Sword, to your Transfomers in addition to Jaws of Steel. It also has an Orange PiP which is obviously a bonus in a Bold based attack deck.

The key distinction I wanted to make up front was in my primary weapon choices. Since this is an aggressive Bold based deck, this was going to be key. So the first “decision” was between Flamethrower and Power Sword. 

Let’s start with Flamethrower. You trade 1 point of Bold for an Orange Pip. Here are the results based on a simulated 15 flips with this deck using only Flamethrower and the two “Power Sword slots” are random Orange PiP cards:


Test One: Flamethrower x 3, Power Sword x0 (Relevant Combat Pip Breakdown: 6xOO, 14xO, 6x OB, 6xW)


So how do you interpret this chart? Well this gives you every instance of Bold from zero to thirteen (hypothetical highest in this build) and simulates flipping up 17 cards (two base, Bold 13, white Pip once) and then calculates the total Orange Pips you will flip, thus adding to base attack. I ran a simulated 250 different flips (which may not be enough to be honest) and took an average of each level of Bold, accounting for the chances to flip a white and draw two more, double oranges, orange/blues, etc. 

The first thing that jumps out to me (sorry for the size, trust me it JUMPS lol) is given this deck build (triple Flamethrower, no Power Swords) we achieved our first goal of “Making Bold 2 better than +2 attack” because the average damage added for Bold 2 is a whopping 4.048 damage, over a full one per card flipped! This deck will naturally (given no top of deck manipulation) add 2.028 damage to any attack, so adding a “+2” on top of this would give you 4.028, less than the Bold 2 is giving us (granted without the “randomness”). 



Then I took a look at the change in damage for each level of Bold, and the key here is important: IT IS NOT A LINEAR RELATIONSHIP. Take a look at Bold 1, adding an average of 0.848 damage above having none. One may assume a linear curve but take a look at this chart. It may seem linear, but if that were the case than “Bold 4” would add 3.392 total attack (4 times the Bold 1) but in fact it adds even more at 3.984. This is very important because it allows us to understand that Battle Cards and Transform effects that add Bold are better than their stagnant attack buff counterparts. Otherwise why would we even build this deck?!

But back to Flamethrower. By itself with Bold 2 it will add about an extra 2.02 to the combat, off of a base of 2.028. This means given this build Jaws of Steel will add the same. Grimlock’s ability by itself will add 3.044 above the baseline; Dino-Chomp 4.884, etc. These numbers are important in our comparison because obviously the Bold 3 on Power Sword is not apples-to-apples with the Bold 2 on Flamethrower.


Test Two: Flamethrower x0, Power Sword x3 (Relevant Combat Pip Breakdown: 6xOO, 11xO, 6x OB, 6xW)


The math clearly changes. Now our baseline damage is “only” 1.972. More importantly Bold 2 is at an average of “only” 3.728 damage, less than a “+2” added to the 1.972 (3.972). Now the equipped Power Sword will give you Bold 3, adding a total of 4.572 compared to Flamethrower’s 4.048, but the effect of that Bold 3 is only 2.6 off the baseline. Bold 3 in the Flamethrower version 3.044, a full 17% more than this Power Sword version.

(Note: Yes I understand playing out the Power Sword removes a Blue Pip from the deck itself, and playing Flamethrower removes an Orange, but that is very complicated to model given other cards you will draw and use so I run each simulation against the full deck contents to be consistent)

Will you do more damage on average using three Power Swords in your deck over three Flamethrowers? Well, the 4.572 added to the base attack of our Dinos will be an average of 9.572 or 10.572 given no upgrades or effects, depending on which Dino is using it (in Bot Mode). The Flamethrower addition of 4.048 will be 9.048 to 10.048. Less, but that’s only half the story.

Your other Bold abilities are more severely impacted by the change:



Grimlock’s ability is reduced by 11%, Dino-Chomp by 9.92%, Jaws of Steel by 8.58%. This may not seem like much but as you begin to combine some of these effects the change in damage starts to approach and eventually surpass 1 full point of damage, which may make a difference between your opponent’s Transformer surviving combat. 

Too much math? Since this deck is built upon combining Bold effects, I would go with Flamethrower.


Upgrades without BOLD

  The first is a weapon simply too good to ignore: Energon Axe. I know what you are thinking “but Scott, you just showed us Bold was better in this deck than pure attack buffs, why would you play Energon Axe over Power Sword?” Well, you could argue both ways…see below:



Our baseline remains 2.028 so the Energon Axe will but out an average damage with no other instances of Bold of 5.028. Power Sword does more with its Bold 3 to 5.072. This issue is when you start to combine the Bold effects. Adding a Jaws of Steel, the Axe wins out, and this gets magnified as you hit a sweet spot of extra Bold 5 to 8. I think this may be splitting hairs, but I want to stay consistent on a mathematical comparison of these weapons, so yes no Power Sword at all in the aggressive Bold deck!

This powerful weapon has a big drawback, it has to be attached to a damaged Transformer. Since the combat rules say that your opponent must attack your tapped Transformers, typically you would have to wait an entire turn cycle until the Transformer untaps to “use” the Energon Axe. He could potentially be knocked out before then, wasting your valuable upgrade before it can even be used! Fortunately half the time we can get around this, by going second your opponent can attack any untapped Transformer so you will have a “live target” for the axe. I am not a fan of playing “50/50” cards, and to be honest it may not even be that high if you are playing low health Transformers that may be too vulnerable to put them in harm’s way after that first attack, axe or no axe. Thus we have to find alternate ways making Energon Axe work, and I found one with Sludge. 

See, when Sludge transforms into Alt Mode, he can take one damage from one of your damaged Dinobots onto himself. As long as you can transform Sludge twice before he attacks, and one of your other Dinobots is damaged of course, you will have an untapped Sludge to wield the Axe. We can also use Ready for Action on our damaged Transformer, saving them from future attacks until you are ready to swing back with the axe.

Grenade Launcher is in here currently as a 2x simply because I wanted an orange pip weapon with decent stats. Although I would not play it as a primary weapon, I can see situations where Grimlock will want to run this to increase his breakthrough damage.



Armor wise, Force Field provides us a way of mitigating giant chunks of damage from our opponent’s attacks along with an important white pip. I only have two Multi-Mission Gear in the deck right now, simply to get +1 Defense and an orange pip. If a better armor comes along, not only are they replaceable, but the total count of this orange pip armor in the deck will likely increase (likely cutting a Ready for Action and/or Grenade Launcher each time).

Yes, Improvised Shield is technically an Armor, but you never want it to actually enter play. It might as well have a blank text box and two orange pips, that’s why it is in here. Given both Snarl’s ability and Incoming Transmission in the deck, there are plenty of ways of insuring you will never actually attach this.

Lastly we have our secondary Utility upgrade in Matrix of Leadership. Grimlock can equip it, giving your team +1 attack (the Pierce is irrelevant) but this is inferior to Jaws of Steel in this deck under the same “Bold 2 vs. +2” discussion from earlier. Since this deck cannot reliably draw cards outside of Snarl’s ability, it is fine to equip it as a backup Utility if you do not draw Jaws of Steel, but currently the Matrix is in here for its pips.  


Action Cards

More BOLD!


Dino-Chomp is an amazing card, and playing it in a deck with Snarl mitigates a lot of its downside. Turn sequencing is important if you have upgrades in hand you want to play, but for example you can play Dino-Chomp! as your first of three actions in the turn, then transform Snarl (regardless if he is the target of the Chomp), and if you draw into an upgrade (assuming you did not have one you wanted to play before the Chomp) you can then play it. There is little downside to this play, other than losing the “other cards” you have in hand, but it will rarely matter anyway. Bold 5 in this build is an average added damage of 6.912, an increase of almost a full five from the baseline damage. This is the ratio we want to maintain, a one-to-one ratio of Bold to added damage. An easy three of.



Many decks can take advantage of powerful Transform abilities, but this deck is one where the abilty truly shines. Each of our Transformers have game changing abilities when you transform into alt mode: Sludge keeps the team alive, Grimlock enhances combat, and Snarl draws us cards. Before the spoiling of Roll Out! this deck made heavy use of Rapid Conversion, because oftentimes we wanted out Dinos to use their transform into alt mode abilities the same turn as attacking in their more combat ready bot modes. Now that two cards exist, the consistency of pulling off these powerful plays increases. In fact, as you will see below, certain optimal plays were difficult given only the ability to only transform once a turn without Rapid Conversion. Having six ways to transform at least twice a turn will greatly up that consistency. In some decks transforming to different modes is a “nice to have” but in this one each transform ability is worth more than one action. Having an upgrade in stats is one thing, getting Bold 3, drawing 2 cards, or healing your team, are quite different!


Combat Enhancement

For the cards thus far seen, I cannot imagine a deck that would not want to play Incoming Transmission. Don’t have an upgrade yet? Go find it. Want to set up that double orange for combat you don’t want to play? Put it on top. The only “downside” is that it takes up your action play for the turn, but I cannot currently see how any deck does not currently begin with “3x Incoming Transmission.”

Peace Through Tyranny is an interesting card. Clearly it is here because of the double orange pips, but given the Grimlock “trample ability” I can see situations you would actually want to sacrifice Snarl or Sludge to set up one to two giant Grimlock attacks. See you want to attack with Grimlock fully suited up, typically with a Flamethrower/Energon Axe and Jaws of Steel at the minimum, with some attack bonus armor as well if you have it. Since you can only play one upgrade a turn, you may need to “Time Walk” to suit him up early or even allow him to attack twice through Ready for Action.

This is a realistic situation:

We are in the second round of turns and Grimlock is not fully suited up. You draw into Peace Through Tyranny and then you chose to suit up Snarl or Sludge instead, to get off a decent attack. You then Peace Through Tyranny the tapped bot, attack with Grimlock right away, normally waiting until the last attack of the turn, preferably adding one of your Upgrades (this is where Grenade Launcher would shine) instead of waiting to upgrade him more aggressively. Then in turn three, taken before your opponent can attack Grimlock, you play Ready for Action on him, add another powerful upgrade and attack for hopefully a tremendous amount of breakthrough damage! 

This play really only works because of Grimlock’s insane Trample-like ability, as it can allow you to kill multiple opposing Transformers per attack. If your opponent choses to attack the first attacker with a Transformer near death they may be expecting a retaliatory strike from Grimlock and some extra damage on an untapped Transformer of their choice, that they will just use to finish off the first attacker or Grimlock, but they may not then be ready for Grimlock to be able to immediately attack the damaged Transformer, potentially not only killing that breakthrough damage recipient, but maybe even his allies!

Oh did I mention it also has 2 orange pips?

With so many upgrades in the deck, New Designs is an interesting option. This card can allow some quick kills, potentially functioning as virtual “Dino-Chomp!” four and five given the right hand. It is mostly here for its orange pip, with some potential play.


Scripting the First Turns!


I am a huge fan of NFL football. Typically teams will script the first 12 to 15 plays given the tendencies of themselves and their opponents, and then the game becomes more fluid from there. Given the back and forth nature of the Transformers TCG I like to think out my turns in a similar fashion and since I am a data analyst, I tend to think of these as a flow chart so here goes:

I. You Play first. Do you have an Energon Axe in hand?

    A. Yes, Axe, Do you have a “Transform” action in hand? Yes

         1. Turn One, Transform Snarl and Attack best target

         2. Turn Two, Transform Sludge to Bot Mode, use Transfrom Ability to Transform back to           alt mode, take damage onto Sludge, Play Energon Axe on Sludge, large attack

         3. Turn Three, suit up Grimlock and finish off targets, breakthough for more

B. Yes, Axe, Do you have a “Transform” action in hand? No

         1. Turn One, Transform Sludge but Attack best target, with Snarl

        2. Turn Two, Transform Sludge to alt Mode, take damage onto Sludge, Play Energon Axe          on Sludge, large attack onto target

        3. Turn Three, suit up Grimlock and finish off targets, breakthough for more

       4. Only exception I can see to above is if you have a double orange in hand and you         want Snarl to make a larger attacker by sacrificing the easy “attach axe, attack with         axe” in first turn rotation, you can use that with bot mode ability. Losing one base         attack is not a big deal, but keeping the double orange stranded in hand may be. You         may also top deck into a transform ability and look like a genius!

II. You Play first. Do you have an Energon Axe in hand? No

     A. No, Axe, Do you have a double orange in hand?

        1. Turn One, Transform Snarl and Attack best target with double orange

       2. “as dictated by hand”

III. You Play second. If damaged target is is Snarl or Sludge, Equip Axe and attack

The flow of play is dictated by the drawing of Energon Axe, which in my opinion is an amazing “turn one” play if you are going second. A smart opponent will not be tempted by the nine HP Snarl fearing a potential turn one “Axe, put double orange on top, attack for at least ten” unless they attack with someone like Shrapnel first (your biggest enemy).



I hope you enjoyed my first deckbuilt/strategy article for the Transformers Trading Card game. Next time I will take a look at another flavor of Bold based decks, a defensive build. Keep your eyes on the fan Facebook group and/or Discord for when it goes live, and please hit me up with any comments on Facebook, email, Discord (AUStarwars#1576), or Line (austarwars). 

Note: Yes, since writing this some cards have been spoiled that will clearly improve this deck build (Supercharge being a big one!), so after this series I will list all three builds with changes

“Till All Are One!”