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Insecticons - Straight Gas!

Bugs: Pax Unplugged Tournament Recap and Deck Tech

by Jon Palmer

This is the version of Insecticons that I played to a 5-0 (as well as a 3-2 and 4-1) finish at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia this past weekend. It’s a pure aggro build, eschewing any sort of defense in favor of ending games quickly and decisively.

Editors Note: Yes most of these pics have Bombshell in them, that is because most artists tend to show bugs as the "original three" - Scott





Insecticon Skrapnel (7) – the leader, the only rare, and the guy you’re almost always swinging with first. 

Ransack (6) – I’ve seen some lists that use Chop Shop in this slot, but Ransack is the far better choice. He’s normally the best option to swing with second, and when he dies he’s a base seven attack after you bring him back via I Still Function.

Kickback (5) – the engine that makes the deck work, with a completely unfair damage output at five stars. Protect him when you can, bring him back when you can, and if you’re facing this deck, he’s your easiest kill.

Barrage (7) – the most consistent source of damage in the deck, and more bulk than Kickback (a lot of decks can one-shot Kickback, it’s much tougher to do with Barrage). Just make sure he’s attacking someone with damage to turn on his Bold.






3x Grenade Launcher – a mostly ridiculous weapon, with an orange pip and a massive +4 attack. Along with Supercharge this allowed Kickback to one-shot Optimus Prime, Battlefield Legend in my final game.

3x Flamethrower – since you’re essentially only flipping orange pips, Bold is actually better than a similar straight attack bonus (see Scott’s article on Bold Dinobots ( ) . Bold 2 with an orange pip is excellent.

1x Static Laser of Ironhide – an orange pip and +3 attack is great. It also turns Ransack into a 5 strength attacker if your opponent has ignored him, or 8 strength if you’ve hit him for 3 yourself (see below).

3x Force Field – a card that goes in almost every deck, even more important in this environment of big hitters like the Primes, Grimlock, Wheeljack, and Kickback/Barrage.

3x Improvised Shield – aka “double orange”. The only time you’d ever equip this is if you had multiples in your hand and were trying to get one into your discard by putting it on the next Insecticon to die.  Great combo with Data Pad.

2x Data Pad – the deck needs a bit of card draw and also white to trigger crits; being able to put one of your double orange pips on top before an attack can prove lethal to your opponent.

1x Debilitating Crystal – went in as a last minute change to replace a second Static Laser of Ironhide. Gives you an additional out against opposing Force Fields or Body Armor/Reinforced Plating – important given the way the Power of the Primes deck dominated the field Friday and Saturday. It’s searchable via Treasure Hunt, and a non-blue answer to armor that isn’t hit by Disruptive Entrance.  



3x Peace Through Tyranny – double orange pips. The action is very occasionally useful, although I don’t think I triggered it once in twenty games. Keep in mind you can’t sacrifice Kickback to this as he’s only five stars.

3x Supercharge – flipping more cards is good. Flipping more cards in a heavy orange deck is great.

3x Incoming Transmission – card draw and an orange pip, and then you get to put one of your double oranges on top.

3x Swarm – orange pip with indirect damage. Useful as a finisher or to activate Barrage’s Bold. More useful if you’re Mark and always manage to flip six orange pips against me.

2x Ramming Speed – the same usefulness as Debilitating Crystal, but with an orange pip. Ran the Crystal over a third one of these to get a sixth white pip and to allow me to play an action and bust a Force Field on a turn, if necessary.

2x Zap – orange pip, direct damage. Important for hitting Skrapnel in the mirror, activating Barrage, or for those incredibly annoying times when you come up one short of killing someone.

2x Treasure Hunt – more card draw for  the deck, will generally hit one or two Upgrades. A solid play if you go second, to set up your future turns.

3x I Still Function – the absolute hammer of this deck, as Kickback is great when you bring him back, Barrage is great when you bring him back, and Ransack is his absolute best when you bring him back. Drew two of these in my final match and knew it was almost a guaranteed win.

3x One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall – an underrated card, the damage on your guys doesn’t matter that much (and indeed it improves Ransack) and being able to guarantee a kill on your attack, or kill someone at three or less attack, or remove Slammer without having to attack him, or turn on Barrage, are all incredible effects. Also a good way to kill someone with a Force Field if they’re at 5-7 health.

So that’s the list. No Bug Bombs, no Leap Into Battle, and exactly forty cards. Six blank, six white, twenty eight orange cards, thirty four orange pips. Like the Insecticons, it’ll chew through just about anything.


Game Play tips by Matchup

Your order of battle on turn 1 is normally flip/swing with Skrapnel, flip Kickback/swing with Ransack, flip Barrage/swing with Kickback, swing with Barrage. This can change if Barrage is needed to finish off a target and Kickback is going for someone undamaged. I Still Function is almost always best played at the end of this cycle to give you 2/3 uninterrupted attacks.

You basically always want to go first, as that gets Skrapnel into defense mode. In the mirror (or against any deck running Skrapnel), swing yours into Skrapnel in hopes of flipping two orange and them flipping no blue – this gets four damage on him, which is like an extra successful attack. If you can’t, you want to see either Zap or One Shall Stand to let you skip an attack on him.

Ransack attacks second because that’s who you want them putting damage on if they decide to ignore Skrapnel for the time being. The main time you’d deviate from the above sequence is if you play One Shall Stand on t2 targeting your Ransack; at the point you can flip him to take advantage of his second point of armor. However, if playing against any two transformer lineup, or three transformer lineup where they went first, keep in mind that you will not get four flips on the first round – you must prioritize flipping Kickback and Barrage over Ransack.

If you’re going second in the mirror, you have some options. If they put four on my Skrapnel I’ll normally send my Ransack into their Skrapnel – if not I lead with Skrapnel and do the normal defensive setup. Leading with Ransack gets some damage on him assuming he’s alive into turn 2. Your advantage in this game line is that they’re forced to expose their Kickback or Barrage to yours first, but it’s important that you one-hit them or you’re going to be in trouble. If you lead with a 4-damage Skrapnel you open yourself up to One Shall Stand killing him and then leaving you untapped for them to swing into one of your big guns and possibly one-shot him with the aid of a weapon – bad times.

Against Primes if going first I generally send Skrapnel into Nemesis as he has one fewer point of armor, and although I’m going to focus on Optimus later, it means I never end up in a situation where Barrage is attacking an undamaged character. When going second you need either luck or I Still Function on your side; Optimus has about a 45% chance of one-shotting Kickback (if running 3x Leap Into Battle + The Bigger They Are + Plasma Burst) or an 60% chance (if also running One Shall Stand). The upside of that order of battle is that if you do see an I Still Function, Skrapnel + Kickback + Barrage may kill Optimus before he untaps.

Dinobots is a really advantageous matchup as generally they’re trying to do the same thing to you that you’re doing to them (a lot of damage, fast) but you’re better at it. Beware of putting damage on Snarl/Grimlock that Sludge can heal off, and beware of the Sludge + I Still Function + flip to heal both of them. Their strategy against you is to try to put damage on your bugs without killing them and then allow Grimlock to kill two at a time – plan your attacks to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Autobot Cars is a difficult matchup for this deck as Bumblebee’s ability to attack standing characters means that if they go first and have an untap, they can play to kill Kickback or Barrage while they’re untapped. In this case you may want to sacrifice that character and swing with them immediately, although if it’s Barrage you’re only going to want to do so if you have direct damage to activate his Bold first. Outside of that I generally let my opponent dictate whether I kill Bumblebee or Wheeljack first – Wheeljack is the better target but most players are smart enough not to expose him early.

In all other matchups it’s just basically a game of holding back your Kickback and Barrage to kill your enemy’s best Transformer at the end of the first round. Even if one of them dies at the start of your second round, you’re still probably in good shape. And Force Field plus Skrapnel’s ability give you staying power despite your lack of blue pips. There are definitely times where I’ve won simply because I have a Skrapnel with three damage and my opponent can’t make that extra turn to kill him before Skrapnel’s 5 attack plus the massive amount of orange in the deck wins out. 



In the wave one Transformers environment, the best way to win is to break the rules in some fashion. Optimus gives you an extra action when he swings, Grimlock has trample, Bumblebee ignores the normal way defense works. With Insecticons, it’s a combination of Skrapnel almost always requiring three attacks to kill, and Kickback giving you insane value for five stars. I expect this deck to tail off a bit as more cards are released as it’ll be tough to replace any cards in it, but for now it’s clearly one of your best options, and also one of the most straightforward.

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