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The Ban-List for Transformers TCG currently consists of only a few cards from the game, all of them stemming from the first two sets of the game. In early game creation, it can be hard to pick a direction and set the correct boundaries within which you want to work. All three of the cards targeted for banning by Wizards of the Coast all had something in common, however: Swap Parts, Multi-Mission Gear, and Press the Advantage, were all Negative Play Experiences (NPEs) for the other side.
After the game was discontinued, we decided to continue stoking the spirit of Organized Play (the competitive game), through ongoing tournament series and breathe further life into it with the design and development of new releases of balanced, tournament-caliber cards.
By the time our second meeting had occurred for the Alpha Trion Protocols, we all had an agreement of a few things that needed to change. This is the step-by-step process by which we came to ban cards moving forward in the Alpha Trion Tournament Series.
Today we will cover updates to the “Full Constructed” (or just “Constructed”) format, as it has an immediate impact on the Alpha Trion Invitational.
Current Full Constructed current Ban list – Multi Mission Gear, Press the Advantage, Swap Parts, Peace through Tyranny, Daring Escape
Cards being added as of 1/15/21 - Security Checkpoint
Cards being removed of 1/15/21 - None
Current Titan One Banned List - Swap Parts, Press the Advantage, Multi Mission Gear, Peace Through Tyranny, Daring Escape, Security Checkpoint, Rally, Heed the Call, I Don’t Believe in Destiny, Sky Shadow Sync (see https://www.patreon.com/posts/titan-one-for-on-44843692 for explanations)
Current Junkion Banned List - Sergeant Springer, Raider Tailwind, Private Powertrain
Security Checkpoint added to Full Constructed Ban List:
Reasons for removal?
1. NPE Like experience
2. Lack of mirrored effect for Control Decks
3. Creates long game times
Security Checkpoint, like Peace through Tyranny, has been a mainstay double pip in just about every blue deck since the game launched. In many ways it has been a catalyst for wins on the control side of the game. It wins games more subtlety than say the extra turn from a PTT, but many games are equivalently over the turn that a Checkpoint is played, for the player who played it. It creates a game state for opponents that can be very frustrating: losing most of your hand can cripple many games for an opponent and leave you feeling quite helpless. Even with 20/20 split for actions and upgrades it’s very possible to have an opening hand of three upgrades, so when your opponent has a turn one/two Checkpoint, the game can just end because you simply will be unable to recover in time.
This not only creates a negative play experience for players by feeling “helpless,” it is very easy for the player that played the checkpoint to recover from it faster. This is the lack of it having a cost as a mirrored effect. For example, the player using Checkpoint may be able to use Perceptor to quickly refill their hand, or Jetfire an upgrade from the scrap pile, or even simply playing an upgrade before the Checkpoint can mean you have one and your opponent does not, creating a near zero draw back to playing the card. There are few losses in either instance, and the gain very much outweighs the “cost” of the card.
To reiterate NPE for point three, game times, Security Checkpoint by nature creates longer games. By removing the more offensive tools for either player to propel towards victory (including giving additional options to gather Greens for example), more turns are exponentially added to the game. This leads to more rounds, which leads to more time for games. With WotC at the helm we had 50 Min rounds, all throughout our webcam world, we have been incapable to reach that goal of 50 min rounds. The average game time is simply too long, and we are hoping the removal of this card actively works toward our goal of getting back to 50 min rounds, by removing dead turns in games without significant board advancement.
Please note: the balance of aggressive (Orange) versus control (Blue) decks was not a factor in this decision. In fact, many aggressive strategies continue to flourish after the bannings in October. This decision is not being made to mirror bannings made in the past.
As usual, we do not by any means take these bans lightly, as we have been actively working toward creating a healthy meta-game for our events. This change has been tested extensively and games prior to its banning were reviewed to prove the power level was correct for this action.
No other cards will be added to the banned list for Full Constructed at this time, and the next planned update is the kickoff of season three in March. After that, updates are planned every four months after that, as seasons begin, with the ability to take any off-cycle action if the format warrants any emergency response.
Peace through Tyranny(PTT) has been an issue throughout the life-cycle of the game since Wave One, prompting a rule change to not allow for more than two turns in succession. So it is the only card to ever be exploitable enough to change the game system. Thus performing “unfair” play patterns even before the format menace it has now become in the wake of Titan Masters Attack. PTT has issues with:
1. Negative Play Experience
2. Already Errated by Wizards of the coast
3. Massively low base opportunity cost
4. Ever-decreasing “drawback” with an ever-increasing “upside”
5. Meta Warping, or the reduction of format diversity to a detrimental degree
We can look at points one and two together to start. As stated above, the rules surrounding Peace through Tyranny forced a game-system errata from WotC to not allow for more than one additional turn in a row. This was a fair direction for the game to prevent the “infinite turns“ that decks were able to perform through draw and extra actions, setting up a board state to play I Still Function and Peace Through Tyranny every turn and grind a slow, deliberate, and deterministic win condition. By limiting the game to only one extra turn each turn cycle, this first abuse of PTT was halted.
During the Siege One metagame, PTT started to show additional power as the cost to playing it was nearly completely removed through the Battlemaster (and Weaponizer) mechanic. You were able to attack with your Battlemaster, and then if it survived, you would simply sacrifice it to PTT and now get two turns of attacks, all while your action created a “free” upgrade for you character. This generated an even larger upside for the extra turn by relieving strain from your upgrade play to either play an additional upgrade your first character or a support upgrade (Bashing Shield as an example) to assist with applying further pressure. The Gen Con metagame was filled with decks abusing this line of play. Whether it was Cliffjumper trying to draw you extra cards from flips, or LT Bumblebee helping you find you the PTT, or more fair decks like General Optimus simply drawing it, the game revolved around getting out the fastest and most efficient PTT. Most of the Top Eight revolved around the key sequencing of: Draw PTT, KO a Battlemaster, kill their tapped guy, then Steal and attack from them. Peace Through Tyranny was at an all time high in value.
With Siege Two came the release of Daring Escape (which will have more on later), giving PTT another avenue to “steal” wins—this time out of combat. It was evident early on in the card’s life cycle, and discussed with WotC, how seemingly unfair it was the idea that going second you could build up a hand and then PTT a character to get a full turn, and with ONE additional turn simply win the game without your opponent ever being able to play a card. This was just too much for the game to handle. Through internal communication and confirmed “in the wild” via results from PPT Dallas, WOTC made the choice to ban Multi-Mission Gear to avoid this situation at the Energon Invitational.
Now this card had at this point forced game errata, was the major factor of the current metagame, and was now a catalyst in NPE combo as well (and remains it currently). It appeared as if WOTC did not want to ban a staple rare from Wave One required in its intended from to help aggressive decks compete with control decks, that was a source of double orange pips.
This last part, we believe, is what kept the card around, and while we may never know any official updates after the Titan Masters Attack release, it is evident that the ability on Peace through Tyranny transcends the fact that it is also “the rare double orange” card. In all likelihood it would still see play without the pips at this point in a Titan Masters based metagame, with the addition of Titan Masters, the “cost” of Peace through Tyranny became virtually nothing—even moreso, in fact, than it had with the introduction of Battlemasters.
We have witnessed six months of competitive events with TMA legal. The four earliest events saw three different decks, 2 Sky Shadow Horri-bull based, a Black-Orange Pierce variant, and a Perceptor Sky Shadow dominate the landscape. All of these decks featured a playset of PTTs and two (or more) Titan Masters. Perceptor-Sky Shadow is a Blue based control deck that played PTT, because Perceptor gives you a higher chance to find it. This is a repeat of the Siege One metagame, but worse because when you play Peace Through Tyranny now you do not even lose a character, numerically. In fact, for three of those decks you actually get to get rid of a smaller character to create a bigger character with increased stats and text box, propelling the eventual win condition.
Some may believe that Sky Shadow himself is the problem, but the truth is that he is only the extreme example of it: getting additional value from the play pattern instead of “just taking an extra turn and maintaining board state.” If you remove Sky Shadow from the picture, other Titan Masters such as Horri-bull, Fangry, and especially Quake all still very abusive to PTT. In fact, any Titan Master in the game will be happy to PTT when the time is right (often post attacking): getting KO’d, deploy its head, and give yourself an additional turn. The “cost” for one of the most powerful cards in the game became literal Zero. This is the epitome of Negative Play Experience, both decks simply racing to the same card every game.
There is nothing remotely close the power level that comes with a “Time Walk” and the “answers” to it are so narrow, need perfect timing, and/or require play patterns that force your deck to adjust unconscionably. Taking an extra turn in this game is the most powerful thing you can do outside of just winning the game on the spot, and having this at no cost has created a repetitive, irredeemably negative play pattern.
We understand that players may complain that a double orange was taken from the environment, thus hurting aggressive strategies. There are two responses to this. First, we have been testing the impact of this banning for months now, and this testing carried over to the ATP-1 set and beyond. The sheer volume of Orange-Black multi-pip’ed cards (which is another issue in the metagame, to be discussed in the “Cards to Watch” below) actually makes the “loss” of a double orange a greatly lesser impact to the aggressive strategies. A critical mass of guaranteed damage, especially when upped through various Bold effects, is actually more consistent than having a high score from a large amount of double oranges, mathematically. Secondly, we understand this “loss” to the environment and are working on new cards and strategies internally to address this, and you can see on ATP-1 Stratagems like Rampage (Dinobot based) impactful ways to address this through more innovative and varied means.
Thus, from this point forward Peace through Tyranny is added to the Ban-List for all Constructed Formats under the scope of the Alpha Trion Tournament Series.
Daring Escape has been a conceptual problem from the day it was spoiled. A conceptual problem turned material, as evidenced in the banning of Multi-Mission Gear (MMG). MMG was a card that “broke” many rules of the game, specifically the ability to start upgrade and action chains during your opponent’s turn. Thus the ability to even win the game during another player’s turn and squarely invalidating the most effective “answer” being the deciding factor. However, its banning still left us with Daring Escape (DE) yet alive and ready to provide a payoff for similar play patterns in the future.
Daring Escape has never won an event, yet DE has never gone away. What it has done is to leave many players with a true feeling of disdain. It is a rare commodity when a player sits through an entire DE game and does not walk away feeling as if the entire endeavor was pointless.
As a group, we have done numerous pieces in the past on Daring Escape, including conversations with WotC over “why” these types of cards exist in card games to begin with. While we understand and respect their reasons for including them, the stated philosophy behind it has not proved fruitful in the Transformers TCG. In fact, the exact contingent they were trying to play to with this style of card: the competitive population, were perhaps the most vocal opposition to it. Disincentivizing many avenues of choice in sideboard construction, invalidating many “flex slots” in main decks, and putting most of the weight of the combo on the opponent as opposed to the actual combo player. The very nature of the game did not allow the inclusion of enough answers to DE in every competitive player’s list. Even as additional answers were printed, the engine that was DE always had the upper hand. Midrange, and even strategies that attempted to control the pace of the game could not adapt readily enough—too much was required.
Daring Escape supposedly crafts a metagame problem for players to solve: you sit down and know you will be winning or losing a game before either player draws their opening hand because you are either prepared or unprepared for the matchup. This game was decided before you played a turn at the time players submitted their decklists, provably. And while it’s true that one could issue forth a bad faith argument that this is “always the case” for some matchups or player quality disparities, little to no data supports that conclusion. In addition to this, DE players force games to be played in a zero-sum-fun manner: they either have the hate at the right time and DE loses, or they don’t and DE wins. Games decided outside of game-long interplay lead to unusual and frankly discouraging experiences.
Daring Escape ignores the core principal for how games are played and won: using your characters to KO the enemy’s characters. Instead, the deck seeks to employ its character lineup as a portal outside the normal axis of play entirely, eschewing many fundamentals and interaction in the process. The problem here isn’t solely on the card, as the incentives behind competitive play mean that players WILL choose to subject themselves and their opponent’s to un-fun gameplay if it means that they will win. As stewards of the competitive landscape, it is not the place of the Alpha Trion Protocols to criticize how any player or group of players play the game. Instead, it is our obligation to police in what ways it is possible to play the game where we can and ensure a better community experience as best we can.
In the past you were able to do things like play Turbo Board at the Energon Invitational and eventually Thrust at PPG Orlando as “guaranteed answers” to combat the deck and slow them down. The issue, as it is with any character-based answer, is that you had to thus build your MAIN DECK to accommodate your SIDEBOARD changes from a star cost perspective, on top of the fact that the “simple binary” nature of the combo matchups meant that you couldn’t afford slots to other matchups you desperately needed to.
In week one of the Alpha Trion Protocols we realized we did not want players in our events to have to worry about playing rounds under a shroud of fear that they would be taking an hour of their time then, virtually, and not even being able to play the game in a constructive fashion. This card is universally despised by both the competitive player base currently and those we wish to attract, and the NPE nature of this deck would cause ripple effects to turn away attendees to events. That fact cannot be ignored any longer.
The completive environment will just feel better knowing they don’t need to waste 40% of their sideboard to worry about the deck. Even in a limited “Block Constructed” format held during the Alpha Trion Season One, a DE deck was able to 6-0 the Swiss rounds with ease, and only eventually lost due to a misplay in Top 8. There were reports of other events with similar outcomes. While it behooves the DE players to make the experience less oppressive to their opponents, that is simply impossible when players simply want to actually PLAY the Transformers TCG, not the “Daring Escape or not this week, TCG.” There will always be a way to “Break” the game with Daring Escape and as stated we do not wish to put our players through that, nor do we want to worry about our card creation process enhancing this strategy.
These are our reasons for banning these two cards moving forward for all formats in the tournament. The NPE given off by both can be incredible frustrating, and as completive players we do not wish for players to walk away with that experience. These actions were not taken lightly, and no ban ever will be. However, both of these cards can truly meta warp and environment for different reasons, and the experience with them in the Titan Masters Attacks metagame has been quite the damper on the format and is limiting future card development.
Full Constructed – Watch list (in no particular order):
1. Magnetic Disfunction Ray
2. Horri-bull, Ground Trooper
Each of these cards are abusive and hamper current deck construction options. Magnetic Dysfunction Ray has been keeping Autobots at bay for about as long as Press the Advantage did to Decepticons. The non-green nature of it is what gives us hesitance in regard to full ban action currently. However, its continued results and performance are under careful watch moving forward.
Horri-bull may be the most powerful character ever printed from an incremental advantage standpoint. The fact that each of the turns for the Horri-bull player is capped with “3 to your character, one to mine” most of the time IN ADDITION to actually normally playing out upgrades and actions, is well above the power curve. The “downside” of self-inflicting damage is negligible in most cases.
Grax for 3*s basically eliminates every other four, three, and two star head in the game as a viable starting option when deckbuilding. Adding ten hit points and an HP stopgap to the total for the team and leaving you with a viable sized character is currently a bit more powerful for three stars than we’d ideally like.
We will continue to monitor these cards going forward, and potentially add others as results are gathered
Side Note: It is very difficult to gather data throughout the entirety of the current Transformers TCG competitive landscape. Other events outside the Alpha Trion series may use formats that do not allow adequate competitive data to be gathered as they are “one-time events” or enforce extreme deck building rules that do not allow for proper analysis. If we can gather data from outside this series, we will do our best to use it as stated above when and where appropriate.
Next time we will be discussing Titan One and Junkion formats for the Ban list and Watch List, in addition to the Full Constructed format. We took an incredible amount of data in from the events held in all formats this past summer, and we are looking to create a better play environment for all going forward. We ideally want to produce a more diverse metagame and grant players more creative leeway to flex their deck building ability.
If you are reading this, we assume you are confident in this group’s ability to correctly steer the competitive direction of the game, whether due to past performances, organized play continuation since March (over 6 months at the time of this article’s release), and/or simple deep level understanding of the goals of the Transformers TCG.
Remember, our goal is to keep the competitive landscape of the Transformers TCG fair and fun for all interested players, not to push any specific strategies to the forefront, or force adoption to all new card sets due to increased power levels or perceived lore implications.
Cards created by and played under the ATP banner are intended to be fun and balanced inclusions alongside your existing collection, not replacing it with another. Our (largely public) efforts and conversations with players and playtesters in the last six months have strove to prove this point through action. We hope that the concrete, continued, consistent action and content on the part of this group and tournament series drive this point home. A discussion of plans is nice and well, but there is a marked difference between that and any solid infrastructure for Organized Play. If you’d like to see what that is like for yourself, we recommend you join us in the Alpha Trion Tournament Series or ask any of the present participants about their experience.
Looking to assist in keeping the competitive portion of the Transformers TCG going? Looking to expand how you play the game currently? Want to help playtest new cards and see your work pay off as the cards are used competitively? Want to join a great community of players?
Keep your eyes on the fan Facebook groups and/or our Facebook Page and Reddit when our next content goes live, and please hit me up with any comments on Facebook, email, Discord (AUStarwars#1576), or Line (austarwars).
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“Till All Are One!”
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