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Welcome everyone to the final reveals for the second set created by the Alpha Trion Protocols team. This set is more than double the size of last set and brings a lot of exciting and needed cards and effects to the current competitive Transformers TCG metagame. I am very happy with the process that went into designing, playtesting, and tweaking these cards to their current forms. I have to give a huge shoutout to the ATP team as well as the dedicated playtesting community that assisted us in this effort. This set truly felt like a community effort spearheaded by the dedicated tournament community that is still thriving in this complicated world, and again, I thank you! If you are looking to join these efforts in any way, from playtesting to tournament play, please reach out to us!
Traditional Combiner teams in the Transformers TCG have been in a poor competitive position since, ironically, the end of the Rise of the Combiners metagame. They were very playable, and the Aerielbots were dominant, during most of the RotC meta, but they fell off once Sideboards became playable. This problem was compounded during Siege I, where three wide “big man aggressive strategies” were prominent, and it only got worse from there. I was always a giant fan of the Combiner mechanic in the Transformers IP, and it has been painful to see them become unplayable as the game continued. So the Alpha Trion Protocols team had a tough hill to climb to make these teams playable, and it was an exciting challenge to take on.I know you all are scrolling just to see the new cards, but honestly this entire process requires explanation to understand how we arrived at solving this puzzle. Plus, you already know the general outline if you watched my ATP teammate Kye’s video on the Aerielbots (if you did not, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwcUMj8vc-E).
The problems to solve with Combiners included:
1. Problems with Wide Teams in general dealing with AOE
2. Problems with low damage output, especially against the plethora of current base two defense chracters
3. Ease and Speed of Combination
4. Effectiveness of the Combiner once formed (ie. the Juice is worth the Squeeze)
Along with sticking to a team theme, these were the four issues we needed to address in meaningful ways. So let’s see how we addressed this with the Stunticons. The first issue could have been solved in easy and frankly boring ways with Stratagems that limited damage outside of combat, but luckily the Stunticon leader, Motormaster, already had the ability to control non-attack damage. So it was just a matter of porting this ability over to his new form:
As you can see, Motormaster has the ability to force all non-attack damage his way very similar to the original five star version (more on the star increase in a bit..):
So luckily, for the Stunticons issue one was easy to address, as Motormaster brought this ability to the game already. For other combiner teams we would need to decide how much of an issue the available Area of Effect (AoE) would affect the team, but honestly this issue is addressed mostly by speeding up the combination of the team. Of course, once you are the giant combiner the AOE if heavily muted, so the need to do things like “slap Defensive Driving” for each team (a potential boring early version solution), was luckily avoided.
The second issue of low damage output was very difficult to solve. We are dealing with
five star characters, after all, and anything that allowed them to attack more effectively was quickly found to be overpowered. You do not want a world where five star characters are dominant in battle, it would simply upset the balance of the game too heavily, so we had to address this issue by fixing the third problem.
The ease and speed of combination is by far the biggest problem that the large combiner teams face in the modern metagame. Dependence on combining through an Enigma, coupled with having to flip five characters before you can play it, is a death sentence for these teams. Games may not even last five rounds, and effectiveness of non-combat damage and hand disruption in the modern meta is too much to overcome. You simply cannot take up that much time leading to the combination turn, along with “wasting” half that turn simply to play the Enigma. We knew we needed to solve this issue intelligently as it would for the basis for Combiner success.
First, look again to the revised Motormaster above. You will notice that he costs eight stars, but you start with one Stunticon in your KO pile to start the game. This effectively reduces your starting team by one character, but you still need to flip a total of five characters throughout the course of the game. So that alone was not enough. When you look to his Bot Mode side, you will see where the real acceleration comes into play!
The Stunticons already want to be a bit of a mixed pip deck, mostly due to Drag Strip’s amazing draw ability. So we made the new Motormaster take this even further. As long as you flip at least an Orange and Blue while attacking, you can flip any one of the five star Stunticons to their other mode (likely Bot mode to combine faster). Yes, you can order multiple abilities like Drag Strip as you want, still allowing the card draw before going into the more advantageous attacking mode.
This essentially gives you the ability to Rapid Conversion during any attack phase of the game. This is powerful, but honestly very necessary for any older wide combiner team to survive. You simply could not wait until each team member manually flipped to then combine. We needed to speed up this process, and while this cost may seem low, you have to build your deck to accommodate it. How else do we help out this process you ask?
Note: this is the front side of the Stratagem
High-Speed Chase is a Stratagem for the new Motormaster, which is why he is eight stars instead of ten (five to replace the old Motormaster, five to replace the Stunticon you chose to start in the KO Area). The two extra stars allow you to run High-Speed Chase and Villainous Spotlight, giving the deck even more punch. You will notice that this gives each of your Stunticons Bold 1, which will help you flip the needed Orange and Blue, without turning these lowly five drops into overpowered death machines. It also allows you to play a deck without the traditional non-star battle card Orange/Blues Matrix of Leadership and Roll-Out!, both of which are net negatives for the deck to ever actually play instead of simply flip.
The last ability is arguably the most important: At the end of your turn if you have five Stunicons in Bot Mode on the battlefield and/or the KO Area you can combine into Menasor. This gives you an on-board replacement for the Stunticon Enigma, with the downside being that you combine at the end of the turn untapped, thus you do not get to attack with Menasor right away (similar to the Dreadwing ruling, do not worry we have an FAQ releasing soon specifically covering this set).
So now we have the first three major issues under control, time for the last one: making Menasor relevant once he is combined:
Luckily this is not a problem, as Menasor arguably has the best printed ability once combined of any of the current team combiners. A built in “Brainstorm” effect means that you have to keep a hand full of Actions, which is not really an issue with the Stunticons. Think about it, you normally have a FIVE card draw advantage over your opponent without even trying: Fliping Dead End, Hitting on Drag Strip’s ability, and drawing two when you combine. That is a lot of fuel for the Brainstorming fire!
To go along with the extra action per turn theme, we gave Menasor an added one attack, five hit points (which is the difference from the old Motormaster to the new one only), and the ability to easily Repair once per turn, with an ability on the back side of the High-Speed Chase Stratagem. The other issue once combined is going from a wide team to suddenly a “one-tall” team and how the game changes dramatically. This is why for the Combiners themselves we added a “critical ability.” For Menasor this ability continues the theme of him allowing you to win through the card advantage you can build up as the game continues, granting him the new Study keyword you can find on a couple other cards in the ATP-2 set!
Note: This the Back of the Stratagem
The keyword Sturdy means : When a Sturdy character would take damage from an opponent’s card, it takes that much damage minus one instead. This abilty is not "stackable," you cannot be "Sturdy 2" for example. This means that in combat you take one less final damage, which gives Menasor some Pierce defense, and at least some additional shielding versus large multiple incoming attacks. It also protects him from incoming non-combat damage, further pushing the theme from Motormaster. You can see a larger description of this new keyword in Steffon's video found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6871ZUVmPAQ
So what’s left for this Colossus? Well, you need some signature upgrade to keep the card advantage engine going and strike for additional damage so you do not fall too far behind. After all, you spent all this time and effort to combine into a giant Kaiju form right? You cannot actually dominate the board with six attack base and a capped max based on random upgrades right? So the final piece of this complicated puzzle is Motormaster’s signature blade: the Ionizer Sword.
This +3 weapon sports the needed Orange/Blue icons, for Stunicons only, and is likely where you will find use of the two stars that Villainous Spotlight provides for you. Now the Stunticons will have an Orange/Blue they actually want to play for value and continues the card draw theme that Menasor needs. It fuels both his Brainstorm ability built in and the Repair ability from High-Speed Chase.
Phew that was a lot. It was important for you to understand not only the “what” of these improvements to the classic Combiner team, but the “whys” as well. The Transformers TCG may have passed Menasor by while it was being printed by WotC, but I believe that these updates to his card pool and abilities will make him a force to be reckoned with throughout the competitive scene. I am personally looking forward to sleeving him up at the next opportunity in December and beyond.
Look out later this week for the ATP-2 FAQ, the printable PDFs, and loads of additional ATP content over the coming weeks! Feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback on these cards, anything to do with the Alpha Trion Protocols, or the Alpha Trion Tournament series, the largest and most exciting online Transformers TCG tournaments!
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Info on the Alpha Trion Protocols and images of the first set: https://vectorsigma.info/alpha-trion-protocols
Info on Season Two of the Alpha Trion Tournament series, the premier tournament series in the Transformers TCG!, can be found here: https://vectorsigma.info/alpha-trion-series
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