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I can’t exactly remember the day Major Shockwave was Spoiled, but I do remember the reactions of Team VectorSigma.info: Excitement, pure Excitement! It may surprise you, but I’m not one for spoiler season. I honestly try to cast them away until they are legal for play. Shockwave, however, was a Ground Zero Character for us: someone who we felt was going to format warping, so we spent an unimageable amount of time on Shockwave leading up to Gen Con.
The problem at first glance (and still remains) is that fourteen stars is a huge investment and finding a team for him became so very tough from day one of testing. I would like to give you a peak Behind the Curtain from decks in our early gauntlet for the Major player going into Gen Con:
(D is a Decepticon Card, SA is Secret Action, key for the Shockwave “off the top” bot ability)
Like many we started With a “2-Tall” list, allowing a solid secondary character despite the inherent weaknesses that two tall lists bring to the table. We were doing our best “The Touch” impression. Everyone seemed to be looking at Major Shockwave as just a giant body and were much busier trying to make his Wave One counterpart work as the focal point of the build. Decepticon Shockwave has a truly unique ability that works with the Specialist cards quite well, however that ability just folds In comparison to what Major Shockwave has to offer. So we took the two tall list in a very different direction form day one: focus on the fact that he is a 6/11/3 Specialist that does not need to flip to allow the Major to flip each turn. No System Reboot to be found in the deck that was solely based on flipping Major Shockwave to reduce our opponents options to hopefully zero cards by our complete first turn (able to play and action and upgrade). Options to do so were (and remain in most of our builds) Unconventional Flying Object and LV- Gamma Blaster,plus flip, or a Field Communicator into the Gamma, etc. The goal was to strip the opponent down to nothing before their better characters were able to attack and to create less optimal turns moving through the rest of the game. The other key was denying your opponent access to silver bullet Green cards (especially the obviously problematic Press the Advantage).
In early testing we learned a few things quickly: the two tall list couldn’t stand up to Insecticons much at all, and was struggling with other decks more then we had liked so we had to look for a change if we were going to make this new character a force to be reckoned with, so we moved to three wide options.
Aside: Let’s compare Major Shockwave and Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend. A one star difference in cost, three health, and quite the different text boxes. Now we have all come to see the dominance that Optimus Prime BFL has had in the past, with his ability to play off the top when attacking and to recur actions from the scrap pile forming a package of the most powerful things a character can do in this game. Major Shockwave had a similar effect on one side but different enough and honestly slightly more powerful at times. Being able to not only see the top card of your deck, but also play a certain type of battle card (Decepticon or Secret action) on any turn, and not just when he attacks, is quite a large change from what Optimus has to offer. The flips to alt mode also quite different, one recurring an action from your scrap, the other forcing your opponent to scrap a card and you to draw one, which plays into the theme of Major Shockwave quite well. Major Shockwave is the current best card advantage character in the game, just his flip created that, and his package of cards allow you to abuse his ability even more. OPBL also brings the Ranged tag on one side, which is currently very important for control builds.
The bottom line is that OPBL allows for more targeted answers to problems, with the caveat being you need to run more silver bullets in your lists, and his cheaper cost allows for more varied partners, but Shockwave can take a singular focus to the game (hand control) and win through more traditional advantage based methods.
The move to traditional three wide meant an update to our Gen Con Gauntlet list, but let’s identify the reasons that not a single member or patron decided to play the deck at Gen Con.
(You can tell this is a Scott built deck, notice the Hovercrafts and Marksmanships..)
After weeks of testing we had landed on Major Shockwave – Autobot Hotrod – Storm Cloud.
The Battle deck would go through minor tweaks over the following two weeks: upping the number of Armed Hovercrafts, (Editor’s Note: I know you’re surprised by this), Reducing Laser Cutlass’, adding two Underhanded Tactics, upping the Infiltrate count, reducing the TBTA count, etc. but had the same basic shell. This list of a 14/7/4 easily handled Insecticons as a three wide control deck (see Spheres), and yes when piloted correctly you were able to create the disadvantages you need to be able to win with Major Shockwave. This list was also quite dominant against other blue control decks in its “Sphere,” however we quickly learned that like other three wide blue control decks it had a rough matchup against the three wide orange decks. It also continued to have problems, despite MANY main deck answers, with decks that ran a little card called Press the Advantage.
Even with main deck Infiltrates and the ability to strip your opponent down to an empty hand, a card like PTA off the top simply end the game quicker than you can. One good wheel turn for an orange deck was all it took, and because of that we felt like we didn’t want to waste anymore time going into Gen Con on a deck we felt needed more work to battle a large portion of the perceived metagame (which was correct). Quite frankly without knowing the exact meta it was impossible to build the best version of this control deck: too many variables of unknown that we couldn’t account for and didn’t want to take the risk doing so.
However, post Gen Con was a very different story, as we have had the time to dedicate more resources into Major Shockwave (some of which you have seen already in videos on our channel and on SDotAkumas channel as well) so let’s reflect on what Gen Con brought and how all of us on the team have tried to adapt to it.
The first event post Gen Con (non-EIQ) was a small turnout for us, and my teammate Jon Palmer and I both played Ranged Shockwave decks. I played a modified version of our gauntlet list with Storm Cloud and Autobot Hotrod, and he played a list with Red Alert and Fireflight. My biggest takeaways from the small portion of games I played and observed were that Fireflightwas much better in the mirror, protecting Shockwave very well throughout the event. Post event I told Scott I like Palmer’s lineup better for the Ranged package of cards with Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship, however I left that day with new thoughts about Major Shockwave. I wanted to move past the ranged package and back into the Specialist realm.
My first thought was to with Skydive and Alpha Bravo from the Aerialbotswhich gave me a star Card in Bolt of lightning, since I was leaving some direct damage battle cards behind without the ranged package. Although this list was testing “fine,” it still had the same issues with all the other list for me: the ability to control the entire game but not close it out in a timely manner. At this point I was willing to make a big shift from the control blue version and start to create an idea that was quite different then all the list we had been working on before, and went back to all the lists we worked on up to this point and wanted to bring one back from the original two-tall list: Scrounge.
Scrounge was something very unexpected for me, but the more I thought about it, the more it just made so much sense. A lot of your deck is filled with actions that are meant to disrupt your opponent early, however in the late game they are mostly unplayable. Scroungecreated a Green in the deck to discard redundant or underpowered cards for, and helps us accelerate our Shockwave (and when needed the other characters) to be able to hit harder (get out multiple LV Gamma Disruptors) or be set up better to defend with a Sturdy Armor, Gyro Blaster, or an Energy Pack on the same turn as playing a weapon.
My biggest issue again was while you were able to take away your opponent’s optimal turns, you would be unable to one shot a character to get it off the board like Optimus Prime: BL was capable of doing. Of course he is also able to recur multiple direct damage actions to help you finish off your opposing characters easier, and not have to waste attacks (through the OPBL Recursion). This new idea with Field Communicator and Scrounge created more ways to “Combiner” (cough:Voltron-up:cough) your Shockwave, settinghim up for the end game quite well. While that felt like a good way to get Shockwavegoing, I wanted to also add in a way to protect him with the same idea as Scroungeto be able to use our Shockwaves ability to play off the top and be an action that can represent something at all points in the game. Insert Bolster:
Bolster like Scrounge was an action that can help up suit up our characters and “play” two upgrades in a turn, which helps our main goal: shred the hand of our opponent and create a bigger board state for Major Shockwave finish the game. Now if you can Bolsterand hit the Forcefield, then great, you likely just soaked a giant attack meaning you likely took a card or two from them while on defense. This meant you could render their ability and upgrade phases virtually worthless, a contrast to Infiltrate only stopping one of them. Yes, it is an orange card, but the amount of card draw in the deck and the Shockwave ability allows this to be mitigated through more opportunities to actually play the card itself. The best part about Bolster, is if they don’t over commit, holding cards in their hand assuming it IS an Infiltrate, you likely can spend the next turn forcing them to scrap those cards through other means. It creates a true “Damned if you do Damned if you don’t” type moment for them. Honestly you don’t need to have the Forcefieldfor this to feel good enough, getting in a Sturdy Armor is just fine. If your able to play a Multi-Mission Gearyou can potentially set up plays your opponent wasn’t expecting. For example, say they played a Reckless Charge, assuming their character will live post combat, but you can play direct damage to ensure they will die at the end of combat. Even better if your opponent has Static Laser of Ironhide attached, and deals two damage thinking their character is safe, you can burn and kill it immediately and stop the entire attack all together. Yes these seem like very situational type plays, but this is assuming they aren’t just attacking with a character low on HP to begin with where you can just auto-kill them with said direct damage actions. This deck is a tight 40 cards and making the final cuts were tough but necessary and honestly mostly trickled over to the sideboard.
We chose Arcee as the sideboard character for the recent EIQ, because with little testing of this version I wasn’t sure how much the Blue match-ups would be affected and wanted a character that could ensure four or five damage out of an attack, and act as a distraction from the true end game that is a Major Shockwave. Any wasted precious resources on Arcee plays into your late game hands. As for the battle cards it was mostly set up with cards to smooth out matchups. The third Infiltrateand Bolster pending which felt more needed in the matchup, Hiding Spot for added protection when Infiltratewasn’t good enough, and just added pieces for the remainder. If you felt like you needed a second Energy Pack it was there, or a second Gyro-Blaster was there, as I said the deck was highly untested and mostly built on theory and I wanted to cover all the bases for its first event being thrown into the wolves.
This deck was able to take Bryan Klien to the finals of a 31 person EIQ, the largest on record, qualifying him for the Energon Invitational in December. Bryan is a long time friend and early in the year struggled to find his niche in this game, but Shockwave is a character match made in heaven for him, playing into his preferred playstyle from other games. This deck has some reach from a lot of different points, and I’ll be interested to see what changes will be seen from others playing it. Scott also ran a Shockwave variant on the day, playing a “more traditional Ranged version” (at least traditional in our testing, still seems novel in other lists I have seen..) For Bryan and Scott Top 8 deck lists see (https://vectorsigma.info/decklists)
The road to Shockwave’s playability was longer for the team to feel comfortable with, but I feel these lists are close enough to allow some latitude that play to his strengths. The key going forward is finding ways to shore up his weaknesses and getting comfortable with playing the long game to victory.
Good luck to all those still trying to get your Qualification, and congrats to anyone who recently achieved theirs! It was awesome for me to watch Bryan navigate his way to the finals, so get out there and cheer on your friends also! There is still a ton of Wave 3 meta left to be discovered, and plenty of Weekend Filled Qualifiers to come!
Until next time “Auto-Bots Roll-Out!”
Dan Arnold – YouTube Lead for VectorSigma.info, Top 16 Gen Con Open, 2nd Place Origins Open.
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