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Walking out your door

My first Transformers TCG tournament experiences

by Dan Arnold

Hello everyone! A few weekends ago was my 2nd Experience at the Convention Called Pax Unplugged but more Importantly It was my first time ever playing Transformers TCG. Now before I get Into my time playing tcgs let me take a brief moment to Introduce myself.

My name Is Dan Arnold, and for as long as I can remember nearing the 20 year mark I have played all sorts of games. I started with Pokemon, a brief time playing Yu-gi-oh and then a good amount of years playing Magic the Gathering, which finally lead me to the game that I became a PRO at: the World of Warcraft TCG. My time In the WoW TCG was some of the best times In my young life, traveling all over with my team member/founder Scott Landis, however when the WoW TCG fell by the waste side we had to move on to find other outlets of gaming (Editor’s note: if you want a story of how digital card game can ruin IRL ones, ask Me..Scott). That Lead us Game of Thrones by FFG (for a short period), then to about a year and half of Star Wars Destiny by FFG. However at Gen Con 2018 friends had told us rumblings of the Transformers TCG game and here begins the story of my first experience of the game!


For me time isn't always on my side when it comes to gaming; I travel for a living for work four days a week, and I now have not one, but two children to spend my weekends with. Even with all that I was counting the days until Pax Unplugged. 

I arrived Friday morning at about 11 am, and by 11:45 am another fellow member Jon Palmer was teaching me how to play Transformers! My first game I played I was playing with the starter deck against his League deck that contained the Rare Optimus prime… yea I’m sure you know how that sounds… however I managed to defeat BL Prime and win my first ever game! I then went and bought into the League myself and built my first ever deck out of the five packs! I didn't do very well character wise, as I opened five heavy star guys, and ended up playing Inferno and common Optimus. We then played a few more games and I was learning with each and every game turn. Then about 12:45 pm I asked Scott If he had anything for me to play in the main event at 1 pm, and Scott handed me his latest incarnation of DinoBots!

Now I can't exactly recall every specific game I played Friday, I was more focused on learning the game Itself, and more Importantly going over with team members the mistakes I had been making to ensure I didn't keep making those same mistakes, before we get Into exactly how I did, let's look at the deck!

Dino Bots Pax Unplugged Friday 1 pm Uncut Sheet Event


Day One Decklist - Updated Dinos

So Dinobots would be my first competitive deck I would play in my first ever Event, and this was very much a learning curve event for me. I had to read just about every character put down, probably more the once, and I read as many cards as I could along the way. Now I’m a little foggy on the exact details of matches I played on Friday but from memory I went 2-3 in that first event. I remember playing against the various Power of the Primes builds, a few Insecticons, and the mirror Dinobots. I went 1-2 vs Insecticons, won against the mirror, and lost to Power of the Primes (if anyone was wondering), but what I learned about playing the game at a competitive level was way more important than results.

Learning curves of this game were tough, and whenever I made a wrong decision early I was punished for the remainder of them game, I made a wrong attack in my first game vs Insecticons (will come back to this) and because of that I was punished later. I believe I lost very early in the game without even consciously understanding it at the time. I made an even bigger mistake by targeting Nemesis in the game vs Primes rather than killing the Optimus who eventually virtually one shot all three of my guys. The mistakes go greater than that: I wasn't playing my cards correctly either, and that was basically just not fully understanding the game. 

So after an afternoon of mistakes I talked it over with the members of and retooled myself to understanding my matchups and signed up for the 5 pm event as well. This is what was so great about Pax Unplugged, you could just immediately retool for an event a few minutes later!

The Bugs matchup for me had a lot to do with going first, and that was because the deck (at the time) didn't have any direct damage so going first and getting at least three damage on Shrapnel on my first attack before he could be flipped, was extremely important. I now knew that Optimus was definitely the bigger problem vs Primes, and generally speaking I better understood how to use some of the cards in my deck such Peace Through Tyranny as an actual action you could play not just a double orange pip. I also learned that I needed to not waste Grenade Launcher, and I what I mean by waste Is understanding how much damage each of my characters was capable of so I could save the “trample” damage for my Grimlock attack. Onto the 5 pm!

The 5 pm started off fun with me playing against Jon round 1, he was playing Bugs ( for exact list see , I won the die roll and managed to get off to a great start by getting the 4 damage on Shrapnel, and from there the entire game just felt so much easier. I managed to beat Jon and start off the event on the right track! I then went into round 2 and played against a mirror and won that as well so starting my second event 2-0 I was feeling good about myself. Then round 3 I played against Primes, at this point it was only my 2nd time playing against the deck, I knew now that I had to focus Optimus down and get him off the table as fast as possible. I had an early knock out on Optimus and the game was close, but I remember not killing Nemesis by 1 point and because of that he was able to swing back and take me out. It was a close game but I learned later that along the way I didn’t play aggressive enough with an I Still Function. The Card to me was a failsafe “if this guy dies I’ll bring him back get one more attack and move on” however I could have gotten back Sludge flipped and healed Grimlock to full which would have given me another attack with Grimlock rather than attacking with Sludge. I learned this game is filled with little interactions all over the place, and when you miss one on any given turn it could very well cost you the game, especially early on in the game’s lifecycle and the nature of all games being close to begin with, and that one mistake most certainly didn't do me any favors. The last 2 rounds went by and I ended up 3-2 squeaking a win past Insecticons in the final round to end on a positive record. 

So through 10 rounds I went 5-5 which I suppose is fine for my first day in the game. I wasn't upset with that at all, and more importantly I had a blast playing! I took in a lot of information all day long being unfamiliar with the deck and I don't think this incarnation of Dinobots is an easy deck to play, as learning how to correctly attack early on is a big deal; learning when to play Peace Through Tyranny for full value is a big deal; learning when to run Grimlock in and basically sacrifice him to later play I Still function on him is something I didn't think of at all through the first day also for example.


These are all thing I learned: A, from playing but more importantly, B, from having a strong group of players that I trust, and the guys helped me all day; even that night at dinner when discussing plays and turns. With that assistance I believe my Day 2 was even better than I could have anticipated!

So I couldn't play In the 1 pm Saturday, but I came to play for the 5pm and this time I wanted to learn more about the game and asked to play something other than Dinobots, Vince form House of Random ( kindly handed me his version of Power of the Primes.

Now I'll say this much about the Primes deck, Optimus Is insane and honestly the amount of laws he's breaking in this game is also insane, but the deck itself also felt more consistent to play. I actually ended up playing Scott Landis In round one and handed him one of his few losses on the weekend, through a blowout Armor/Security Checkpoint turn that left him down three cards early on. The next few rounds I played vs Insecticons and I killed Kickback on my first attack with Optimus and the game was pretty much over form there. Then I played against Vince In round 3 and ended up giving him a loss as well. In round 4 I played vs Dinobots and was able to get rid of Snarl before he attacked, and then finished Sludge with the first attack of the 2nd turn, and left Grimlock standing having to do over 20 damage to my bots still. So there I was sitting 4-0 the only undefeated in the event on my 2nd day playing the game! But here is where the inexperience hit: I went into round 5 and played against Insecticons, lost the roll to go first and honestly from the very first turn I messed up the game. My opponent did draw 2 I Still Functions, but that wasn't the reason I lost; I wish I could remember that exact set of actions that had occurred but what I can tell you is that Scott landis sat and watched the entire match and from the moment Nemesis was KO’d was telling me what I had done wrong (and It was a lot, and no I do not mind his constructive feedback at all, anytime) so I ended up 4-1 and missed the 5-0 which was unfortunate but still a good day (Editor’s Note: this event had no 5-0s, Dan was paired down in the last round, so this is a shared Tournament Win in his third event!)

Playing Primes was much different then Dinobots, not because one was better than the other but because the deck felt more consistently built since you only had two characters each card was immediately impactful. For me playing any game, I want to be as consistent as possible and Optimus allows you to make plays that maximize your odds of getting exactly what you want / need. Data Pad on Optimus was incredibly strong and always allowed me to do extra damage, or even play a well-timed Security Checkpoint to cripple the potential for large counterattack. So many interactions in the deck were there to give you the best percentage chance to do what you felt you needed to in a given turn, normally getting to 10 plus damage. However day 3 came and I wanted to go back to Dinobots!



Day one I felt that I was missing direct damage in Dinobots. I felt the Insecticons matchup was legitimately over If I did not win the die roll without any direct damage as Shrapnel flipping and eating up 3 attacks was just death for the deck (Editor’s Note: though this can also be overcome with a large Grimlock Breakthrough) and we made three cuts for three One Shall Stand One Shall Fall (OSSOSF). 

-1 Drill Arms - 1 Flamethrower - 1 New Designs; +3 OSSOSF

Sunday was a weird day for me, although I played against a few decks I hadn't seen yet (also against new players) I ended up 3-2 again, as I lost to a Tanks deck that I honestly just couldn't even do damage to at all, and then another odd loss to a unique trio of ‘Bots.

All in all Dinobots on the weekend was 8-7 which is not great by any standpoint, however I learned so much about the game through playing the deck. I feel the deck has to take very specific lines and if you miss them along the way you truly punish yourself.  I think after it is all said and done I may go for even more direct damage in the deck, whether it be pipped with Zaps or blank with Plasma Burst or even Photon Bomb. The the best part of Grimlock is when you can do the overflow damage you want to put your opponent into a position that he must lose a second character. Splashing 2 damage on to every character could help you get to that point. But If you’re looking to help you Dinobot strategy I would check In with Scotts article on them ( I think the list may be dated but I'm sure contacting him he will be able to help get the deck in the right place with the new and developing meta we are starting to see after Pax Unplugged. 


My first weekend playing Transformer TCG was way better than expected. Last year at Pax I only spent one day playing in any events and the rest of it just walking the Expo Hall learning random board games. The Transformers TCG kept me coming back each day. I enjoyed the game a lot, so much to the point that I'm very much looking forward to playing again in any upcoming events in our area, and maybe even travel again with a crew to future destination type events out of the area! I don’t know what the next decks I will dabble In will be, but because of the time I had at Pax I'll be very much invested moving forward, and I'll be sure to be back to tell you about whatever my next option may be. Until next time.

Editor’s Note: This was our updated version of Dinobots built to improve the Insecticons matchup. Changes would have to be made to compete with Primes (where I believe it is even better positioned) so do not take this decklist as a final product by any means. I believe Dinos have the ability to play both sides of the game, offense and defense, it is just a matter of getting them slanted each way they need to be for each matchup..Grimlock remains one of the characters who breaks the rules of the game, and actively WANTS you to overkill characters as opposed to wasting big attacks, so something remains there as a viable option. Dan’s suggestion of Photon Bomb, especially in concert with Sludge to soak damage is an interesting avenue to explore-Scott

“Autobots Roll out!”


'Till all are one

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“Till All Are One!”