Freedom Lies in Being Bold: Part II, Aggro-Control Bold

A Different Type of Plane Deck

by Scott Landis

  

Thank you all for the overwhelmingly positive response to the launch of VectorSigma.info! I hope you all are enjoying cracking your packs and working on decks. I am anxiously awaiting my box orders but I was lucky enough to play in a release sealed deck even on 9/28 in South New Jersey which was a lot of fun! I will be talking about that event later on, which is just one of the many ideas I have floating around in my head for more informative articles, but I really want to finish up this BOLD series first, because I know.  you are all anxiously awaiting the Aggro-Control and Control versions (some with multiple decks, spoiler!). So let’s look today at a version of an aggro-control build using BOLD.


Full disclosure: As more cards, and especially all the Transformers themselves, were released, I went away from needing to use BOLD as the complete engine to make this deck work. I am still including a few BOLD cards in here, and I had the idea in my head already, so I wanted to give a different spin on a potential archetype that I have not seen anyone mention yet. I wanted to give Full Disclosure though, this is not “really” a deck based around BOLD but I am using it to fit the “Trilogy of articles” narrative ;-)

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Decklist

  

While many are focused on building the traditional Seeker deck with the Decepticon Planes, I wanted to look at another option focusing on Slipstream and Jetfire. The real comparison we need to do is between Slipstream/Jetfire and Starscream: Air Commander/Thundercracker. I feel the decks play out much differently than one another. 


The traditional Seeker deck, which I will cover at a later date as it is not truly “Bold focused,” is more of your traditional action card based aggressive deck, even using cards like Brainstorm to set up large Thundercracker attacks and using transform abilities to set up some non-combat damage as well. That deck likely does a lot of things well, but one of its major issues is that while the transform into alt mode abilities are powerful, you never want to actually be attacking in Plane mode with any of the Transformers. Starscream loses an attack, a defense, AND Bold 2; Thundercracker while you can play out the turn intelligently so that he will still have his Bot mode bonues, still loses an attack overall and his transform ability can only target melee characters. All in all you unless you are flush with transforming battle cards in hand, the alt mode transform abilities form a catch-22 of “is this worth it this turn to do some out of combat damage to drastically reduce my combat damage.” At times the answer will be yes, others no. This does not make this strategy “worse” in isolation, just makes it more difficult to manage (again, without very consistent drawing and playing of Roll Out and Rapid Conversion).


Let’s look at the deck breakdown:


The Transformers: Jetfire, Slipstream, Skywarp - 24 Stars

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Transformers: Slipstream, Jetfire, Skywarp

    

Even Slipstream is not immune to the “would rather attack in Bot mode vs. Alt mode” syndrome of most Planes, though her static alt mode ability can mitigate this need if it is simply not possible given the game flow. Slipstream’s ability in Bot mode is to gain 3 attack when attacking if you flip three different colored battle icons during the combat. This means at minimum she will add four attack since one icon will be orange, giving her at minimum almost a 1:1 ratio of attack power to cost, a difficult feat on any Transformer, especially above seven stars. A seven attack is massive, especially at eight stars, and that does not factor the chances at flipping additional oranges with Bold or even just the White battle icon. This is where the deck wants a small Bold engine built into it combined with the numerous Plane synergies that allow you to look at the top card of the deck and potentially discard it.


Is this a lot of work to make a make up for an eight star character’s deficiencies? Sure, but that is the point of adjusting your deck to turn what seems like an underpowered character into an overpowered one. Sure, a 3 attack base is the lowest for an eight star character, but a seven attack is the highest! Am I cheating a bit to make the argument? Sure. See, every character in combat will flip battle cards, so there is a chance of just using a larger base attack with a stacked orange deck will result in a higher attack amount. So we need to look at why else you would use Slipstream and the answer is that she still allows you to comparatively make attacks more efficient in either mode.


See Slipstream’s alt mode ability is not a transform effect, it is a static ability that assists all of your Transformers in plane mode. Her ability to allow your planes to transform damage onto the defender allows you to combine a minor heal effect (which are quite rare in this game) with some “out of combat damage.” This ability is the basis of the entire deck strategy.


So Slipstream addresses the “Planes would rather attack in Bot Mode, but most of their battle cards are active in Alt Mode” issue. See she WANTS you to attack in Plane mode, to heal one from the attacker and automatically deal it to the opponent. This is where the entire concept really came from: are there other planes we can use that would rather transform to bot mode for the transform ability but actually attack in plane mode? Enter Jetfire.

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I opened Jetfire at my Release Day event in one of my six packs and put him on the team. His ability when you transform him into Bot mode was awesome, essentially giving you an additional action each turn you could activate it. I was also able to set up some “soft locks” using this ability with Rapid Ascent to keep opponents low on options, often simply substituting one Rapid Ascent with another. Differently from the other Transformers on my team (I also played with Thundercracker and the Starter Deck Optimus Prime), Jetfire wanted to attack in Alt mode, given his extra attack and Bold 1 as a Plane. This was a stark difference to Thundercracker, where I wanted to be in Alt Mode for a hot second before I was right back to Bot mode at all times.


Lastly, Skywarp makes the team work. As the cheapest Plane of 6 stars, Skywarp is the Transformer that allows the deck to come together. His stats are even in both modes, and his Bot mode has some interesting synergy with Slipstream, allowing you to use her ability immediately with damage transferred from Skywarp (attack with him first, they attack him back, he transfers damage to an untapped Plane). His transform ability into Alt mode also assists with setting up Slipstream’s attacks, functioning as a “mini BOLD” to enable her +3 attack ability more consistently.

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Battle Deck

  

So there are four main themes to the Battle Cards we want to include in the deck: The self-damage engine for Slipstream and Bombing Run; Ones that enable us to efficiently make sure that Slipstream will be a base 7 attack when attacking; An engine for Jetfire to control the board through his Transform to Bot mode ability; Solid Plane aggro-control elements or simple “good cards.”


Need to start with my universal staples: Rapid Conversion and Roll Out! Every deck I have been working on is flush with powerful Transforming abilities from one mode to another. Having the ability to transform only once a turn is arguably debilitating for certain decks (see my earlier Seeker discussion) to an annoyance. This deck takes huge advantage of Transforming, and using an action card to attack in the superior mode (in this deck it is usually Alt mode) is huge. 

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Self-Damage: "And you'll die trying, just like Megatron"

Let’s start with the self-damage enablers and benefits, the “Slipstream” portion of the deck. This is where the heavy hitting weapons come into play. The first one is simply and awesome combination of Static Laser of Ironhide and the Slipstream ability. The Static Laser is a huge weapon. Remember, Primary Laser is the “basis” for all damage upgrades: one upgrade equals two attack (with a blue battle icon of course, it is possible that if it had an orange icon the math may be different). Anything with a ratio above that is either uniquely powerful on a certain bot (think Ion Blaster of Optimus Prime or Null-Ray of Starscream) or has a drawback to play it/use it. The Static Laser of Ironhide has a pretty big drawback, the Transformer using it takes two damage right away, so you are essentially trading a potential three damage to the enemy for two to the attacker. This is by no means terrible, and will certainly speed up games, but I am not sure you want to consistently take back almost as much damage as you deal each attack. Well, this deck found a way around that downside and actually turns it into an engine! See Slipstream’s static Alt mode ability allows your planes to move one damage from the attacker to the defender when the attacker attacks, the same exact timing window of when Static Laser will cause you to take the two damage. So, assuming you have more than two HP remaining, you can “stack” the effects to your benefit! You chose to put two damage on the Transformer in Plane mode, then use the Slipstream ability to move it to the defender. This means that instead of a 3:2 ratio, now you have a 4:1 ratio (3 attack plus the one “free” damage). More importantly it allows you to get this ability started right away (well turn 2 if you go second) since you have a positive source of doing damage to one of your own Transformers. Plus, it has an Orange Battle Icon?!


One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall is in a similar vein, with a more targeted and larger damage amount. I feel the three damage to one Transformer is more effective than say Photon Bomb or Plasma Burst because this will turn into a four damage to your target, take two to yours. Photon Bomb is likely better in combination with an immediate Bombing Run, which means we are back on the Brainstorm play, which means we are back to Thundercracker. Therefore, for this build I will go with OSS,OSF.


The last card that interacts with damage on your Transformers is Energon Axe. This build makes excellent use of this powerful weapon. It can use that aforementioned OSS,OSF or Skywarp’s ability to shift damage to an untapped Transformer so you can attach the Energon Axe before you attack (the key part of effective Axe use). 

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Buffing Slipstream for Attack!

  

Remember, Slipstream’s base attack of three is pretty underpowered for an eight cost Transformer. If she can consistently user her ability when attacking in Plane mode each turn, your “attack” goes up by one/two (depending on how you count the healing one as well) with the damage and heal, but we need to do better. This is where deck construction and BOLD finally come into play.


Slipstream has to flip any combination of Blue, Orange, and White during her attack, which means outside of any additions from BOLD you need to flip a White battle icon in your initial two for the attack. You then have “three chances” to land the other two, but flipping all three in even four cards can be difficult, see the chart below:



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I cannot tell you how difficult this was to make in Excel (see above for an extremely tiny snippet lol), but trust me when I say that only 163 combinations of “Orange, Blue, White, Orange/Blue, Blank” (including doubles) of the 240 relevant different potential combinations of these icons coming up (in any order) will allow one of each to flip in four cards. Now that sounds like a large percentage, but remember I am not counting any flips that do not have a white at all to even flip cards three and four, so the number of “four card flips” is largely a “good flip” for Slipstream, but there are so many that do not even flip the four cards. Looking at my sample of 250 combats, Slipstream’s Bot mode would have activated its “+3 attack” 53 of 250 times, or 21.20%. This is not great odds, especially when you factor in the actual build of THIS deck, not just the way to flip this in general. That includes flipping Roll Out or Matrix of Leadership as both icons as well. Those are percentages we need to improve on. 


This is where Bold comes into play.  Since we are only really adding this attack to Slipstream, I decided to only go with one Flamethrower, since most of the time we will want to play Static Laser and Energon Axe, and two Supercharges, since it is a universally good card.


Having Bold 2 changes these percentages to a whopping 52%, since we have four chances to hit that needed white to flip six cards, where it is virtually impossible to NOT get at least one Orange, one Blue from there. I could not run the combinations of seven cards, trying to simulate Bold 3 from Supercharge because to run the different combinations basically shut down Excel, but I would imagine the odds go up significantly. Slipstream has to be attacking for a base six, going from the worst eight star attacker at a base of three to the best with six. Remember, she is not the cornerstone of this deck build due to her raw attacking abilities, but rather the sustain power her alt mode adds to herself and others, but it is nice to consistently get her attack to one of the best ratios in the game rather consistently. This is why raw power cards like Leap into Battle or Grenade Launcher are not in this build, we want sustained damage each turn extending the number of turns with the light control elements of damage transfer.


Note that the average damage bonuses in this build factoring in various levels of Bold are as below. You can see this is not a heavy Bold deck, as we are on the losing side of the continued debate of “Primary Laser vs. Flamethrower, standard of +2 vs. Bold 2.” The Primary Laser would likely win out in this case, as Bold 2 is only adding an average of 1.496 above the normal two card flip (we need this over two as explained last article), but that is not unexpected given the fact that we do not even have double Orange battle icon cards in this build. This deck uses Bold as an enabler, not a pure as a pure damage dealer.

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Autobots, Start your Engines!

 Jetfire is an engine card. His flip allowing you to play an Armor or Utility from the scrap pile forms and engine as the game goes on. Each time you Transform into bot mode, you can chose the situation you need to adapt the 15 HP bot to. This essentially gives you a free action each turn, or the equivalent of trading your ability to play an action card with an upgrade if you use a Transforming action card to flip to Alt mode, and the one Transform per turn to go back to Bot mode.


Facing a deck with a heavy hitter? You will likely want to be chain equipping Force Field from your Scrap Pile. Is your opponent low in cards and you can hold off with leaving Jetfire vulnerable without a Force Field? Rapid Ascent will limit their options and advance your plans. Are they beating you down with a Power Sword or some really powerful unique weapon? Grap a Scrapper Gauntlets and scrap it! I think these options really add flexibility to Jetfire, and this deck aims to keep him around longer to keep this advantage going each turn. Each one is an armor, so simply replace the one equipped with the one from the Scrap Pile, and with the exception of the unique nature of Force Field, you will add the same one defense.


He can also return Utility cards from the Scrap Pile as well. Although the Matrix of Leadership is in here for its double Battle Icons, it is a Utility you may want to grab to boost attack in a pinch. Aerial Recon will be the most likely target, acting as a both a way to smooth out your combat flips and gives you an additional armor (likely getting you to three with the Armor attached above). It is hard to mathematically quantify the decision making that Aerial Recon gives you by being able to manipulate the top of your attack on BOTH sides of combat, but it certainly helps when you know you can keep a White or the appropriate sided icon on top. It can also help you put additional utilities and armors in your Scrap Pile to use later with Jetfire.


That is an important thing to point out and another reason why BOLD enablers are so solid in this deck. Since the cards you flip for combat go into your Scrap, you want to have as many of them in there as quickly as possible. Cards that give you BOLD and cards like Aerial Recon allow this earlier than normal.



Security Checkpoint

The Final Pieces

Finally we have a few Battle Cards to round out the deck. Bombing Run should be obvious, using this a more effective, out of combat version of Slipstream’s alt ability. Incoming Transmission should be in any deck that cares about what you flip when you are attacking. It is not “as powerful” in this deck because without a preponderance of Bold Weapons even putting a White battle icon card on top will not guarantee a Slipstream activation, but it certainly goes a long way. For example, in my 250 simulated trials, in 34 of them the first card flipped had a White battle icon. Of these 34, 22 of them would have activated Slipstream’s Bot ability; 64.71% of the time. Remember, with no manipulation there is only a 21.20% chance. So the use of Incoming Transmission putting a White combat icon raises your chances of “Slipstream Success” by over 43%. That is massive!


Data Pad simulates the ability on Incoming Transmission. Now that of course opens a side discussion of “Aerial Recon versus Data Pad.” Well, I think you can simulate the Data Pad effect with Aerial Recon through careful “White Battle Icon” tracking. You need to consistently count how many White battle icons you have left in your deck and if the chances are high, always use Aerial Recon’s ability to discard any non-White card. You also get an extra point of defense. Data Pad is a great backup to Aerial Recon, giving your deck a key White battle icon on a great card.


The last card I wanted to play in this deck is Security Checkpoint. While any deck playing Security Checkpoint should have the advantage, playing the Upgrade first then this to hurt your opponent more than the player, this deck takes advantage of the mirror nature of the card through Jetfire’s ability. Jetfire gives this card very little downside and combined with Scrapper Gauntlets can put a serious hurt on your opponents’ offense. The fact that it has Double Blue battle icons is just icing on the cake!

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Scripting the First Few Turns

  

I cannot imagine a situation where the first play, regardless if you are going first or second, is NOT transforming Skywarp and attacking. You want him to be attacked back, allowing him the chance to transfer damage to Jetfire or Slipstream, especially on smaller hits, to activate both her ability and Energon Axe right away. 


The only exception I can see is if you are going second and from the first combat you had a Rapid Ascent, Aerial Recon, or Forcefield flipped and now in the Scrap Pile. Assuming your opponent attacked with a decent target, and you have a Transform action in hand, you could transform Jetfire to Bot mode, attach one of these, transform back to Alt mode (Jetfire should swing for 7.2 damage per attack with his Bold 1). I still believe attacking with Skywarp to set up this turn on your second or third turn may be better, but I can see situations where you want to start whittling down your opponent’s hand right away would be advantageous (access to multiple Rapid Ascent in the Scrap for example).

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Captain of the Skies!

  

You want your Transformers to have as little damage on them as possible each turn, setting up as many “deal and heal” moments as possible throughout each turn. Remember, you want Slipstream to simulate the ability of a “Lord of the Skies” giving a virtual +1 attack and +1 defense to her disciples.


Is this build superior to the straight Seeker aggro deck? Time will tell, but I think this is an interesting way to take the Plane build that I have not seen anyone discuss. Let me know what you would change about the deck, and what you think. Until next time, Till All Are One!


“Till All Are One!”