Insecticons Redux - understanding the primes matchup

Insecticons vs. POwer of the PRimes/THe Touch

by Mark Kinney

Hello, faithful readers! Hopefully my debut article for VectorSigma is just a preview of many more to come but I should probably give a bit of background info on myself. I've mostly played Magic: the Gathering as my default TCG since the Tempest set. 


The last few years, work commitments and real life basically forced me to shelve up serious competitive play. It was also impossible to justify the financial burden of keeping up with the game when I could only play once every 3 or 4 months. I was still able to play Commander with a group of friends but it's not the same as adapting to an ever changing metagame and being rewarded for proper deck construction and piloting. 


Let's fast forward to the release of the Transformers TCG. The game was able to rekindle my deckbuilding urges. The fire had returned. I was constantly reaching out to new players about getting involved and critiquing decks. I happened to stumble into Scott through a Facebook group and we have been talking Transformers strategy ever since. We have an almost identical drive to play at the top of the game and to always examine plays in depth. Sometimes it’s sickening, and I love it! This game has sucked me back in and it's all I want to play.


I've been playing Insecticons since the inception and have been using the hyper-aggressive build for its ruthless efficiency and raw power. It's been the bench mark for the team to use and was the main inspiration for Jon Palmers 5-0 winning list at PAX Unplugged. I've had quite a few Victories with the deck, however that flawless record has eluded me. I went 4-1 in 2 of the 3 events I played it at PAX plus a bunch of other top 4 Swiss finishes at every local event I've played in. 

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Now that both Insecticons and Primes (whether it be Scott’s “The Touch” (https://vectorsigma.info/article-the-touch-1 ) or Joe’s version) are currently heavily played, with Primes being changed to specifically deal with the Insecticon threat, it becomes important to understand the matchup from the Bugs side.


Have you been having difficulty against Optimus Prime turning your bugs to slag on a daily basis? Are you coming up a few points short of knocking out Nemesis? Does Ransack never do enough damage? Have no fear. I'm here to shed some light on what has recently become a very common, yet difficult match-up.

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Decklist

  


Deck Commentary

A quick word about some particular card choices as well as ommitances.


ZERO ForceField? Am I insane? 


The reason I've chosen to omit ForceField is 2 fold. The expected meta has shifted away from the bug on bug violence where ForceField is great at creating an additional attack. The problem? Its unnecessary against Primes. There is so much direct damage that they can mitigate the armor to being close to useless. You also need it early. If you are using it early, you are sacrificing one of the few opportunities you have to pile on damage to an unprotected Prime.


1 Ramming Speed and 2 Debilitating Crystal. Isn't it just BETTER to destroy an upgrade rather than bounce it?


I want to go on the record as stating that I absolutely loathe either of these cards in Insecticons. They are always reactive and you should always be looking to do things on your own terms. With that being said, these cards are a necessary evil as a way to deal with the powerful armor in the environment. Namely Body Armor and Reinforced Plating. Those 2 are responsible for gaining the Primes anywhere between 10-12 health within the course of a game. That is detrimental to our deck and it needs to be addressed. The split is because most every other action in the deck is better than Ramming Speed and we have ways to dig for Crystals with Treasure Hunt. Hold these cards for Armor even if you have multiple copies. Primes crushes you because of their armor, not because of any other upgrade.

There are 2 ways this matchup can play out. Both take dramatically different lines of play depending whether you are on the play or the draw. 

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Going First: Play by Play

Well you won the die roll. Very skillfully done. You will reap the spoils of victory shortly. This turns into easy mode if you can follow these simple sequences.

Flip Skrapnel and attack! This is going to be the standard for ANY match 99% of the time if you are going first. Deviating from that play pattern just has you giving up an additional attack. This forces your opponent to waste their attack for a measly 3 damage. The worst case scenario is that this will use up 2 actions (direct damage) and one attack. 


Who should you attack?


Optimus Prime is the reason the deck is scary and powerful. Nemesis is just his body guard, who happens to do a sizable amount of damage when attacking. Without Optimus in play, they aren't able to pressure you and gain possible 2 kills in any given turn. They will also not be able to continue to reuse their direct damage via his flip. But…


Attack NEMESIS first! This may seem to be conflict with what makes the deck strong and I would agree with you. This has been a strong point of contention amongst the team but follow me for a moment. Nemesis has 2 defense in both modes. Optimus has 3 defense to start. Nemesis has 16 health and Optimus has 14. So it would appear that it's easier to deal more damage to Optimus. My strategy has been to try and get some amount of damage onto Nemesis first. That entices the opponent to attack with Nemesis first into our Skrapnel while suiting up Optimus. If they choose to send an undamaged Optimus in first, there’s a solid chance that he can die to Kickback on our second attack and then that puts them dead to rights to the horde. If they chose to keep Nemesis back and then send in Optimus, take the opportunity to attack light that Prime up!


After a successful Skrapnel attack that hopefully did a small amount of damage, the retaliatory attack should be with said Nemesis. Next, it is crucial to make sure that during the wheel turn, we have both Barrage and Kickback in bot mode. So we send in an untransformed Ransack (preferably upgraded) and flip either Barrage or Kickback. Optimus will do his thing and squash a bug. Then you get the chance to flip your last character and get 2 solid hits in on Optimus. 


Kickback goes in first so Optimus will be damaged for the Barrage attack. Then Barrage can do even more damage. If you have a Peace Thru Tyranny, play it now. Offering up your tapped character (Shrapnel or Ransack, whichever Prime did not smash). This will allow for 3 fully transformed attacks from the 2 strongest characters. Attack with Kickback, Barrage, untap on your second “Peace turn”, play cards attack with your choice of characters. I like Barrage simply because he has the highest survivability rate between the 2 as both are normally undamaged through the first combat round (with you on the play of course). 

Seems simple enough, right?

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Going Second: Play by play

So what happens if you are on the draw? 


Honestly, you have to hope for some negative RNG for your opponent. Given their choice of attacks (with Optimus getting to 10 damage or more), they should focus on Kickback first and Skrapnel second. Hope the attack flip doesn't reveal direct damage or a buff, to get to the ten attack/damage. If it does, you are down to 3 characters and are in the same situation as before, but minus your strongest attacker and 1 attack with an unflipped character. Peace Through Tyranny will not work in this situation. It will leave you dead to direct damage. I Still Function on your newly murdered Kickback seems exciting, but he is unflipped and not as strong and will not protect the rest of the targets giving them the continued ability to attack whomever they want.


So what happens if we survive the Nightmare and Optimus fails to one shot someone?


Mentally first pump and get ready for a slug fest! Whatever you do, regardless of who was attacked, flip them and strike back! You need to make sure all of your attacks count and trying to sheepishly protect your severely damaged comrade by attacking someone else will lead to an untimely demise that costs you an important attack. Realize that your damaged character is not long for this world and send him off like a Spartan. If they have direct damage they will use it and get to attack anyway. If they don't have direct damage, they will waste an attack to do the 1-2 remaining hit points.


Remember that Nemesis cannot one shot any character without the aid of an action or Energon Axe. And Axe specifically only works with One Shall Stand before attaching it while attacking second. 


The games should not last more than four meaningful turns each so each decision you make has a very high impact on the outcome of the game

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Specific card pointers

Some pointers about specific cards:


- Try to always make Swarm the last action you play so you don't give them a free Axe.


- If you are second try to use your single card to set up the rest of your turns. Treasure Hunt to find damage or Crystal, Incoming Transmission to set up your hand and ditch useless Improvised Shields


- Do NOT waste upgrade removal on anything but Armor


- Don't be afraid to hook up a non-Ransack bug with Static Laser to push maximum damage each attack, especially if you can replace it later on


- Do NOT play Improvised Shield, EVER. It's better to rot in your hand then to play it. You may draw Data Pad or Transmission and turn it into 2 attack


The most important cards in the matchup are the ones that generate extra Attacks:


- Peace Through Tyranny

- I Still Function!

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the prime match-up conclusion

When you get to the zero turn, it is better to use an action and upgrade on the same character instead of spreading them across the 2. The way to beat defensive decks is to do huge packets of damage in one attack, thus mitigating the extra defense they would gain from separate attacks. 


While I would agree that Primes are favored on the play, I do believe they are beatable thru proper sequencing. A bit of negative variance doesn't hurt your chances either. 


Practice winning the Die roll and do not worry about damaging or even killing off your own characters for value. It's pretty tough to lose if you go first if you follow this strategy and you can mitigate the disadvantage going second as well.


The pendulum may have seemed to be swinging towards the direction of control builds, heavy with Blue cards and Armor, but never forget that the aggressive builds can oftentimes shift 5-6 battle cards and force the control deck to react back. (Editors Note: changing a battle deck by 5-6 cards creates an entirely different deck in my opinion as it is 15% of the build and you see cards so often in different ways, it is significant; having the same character lineup as another deck but a 5-6 battle card difference is significant)

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Thank you for reading my premier article on VectorSigma.info.  Be on the lookout for more in the coming months as I continue to scratch my writing itch!


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