Welcome back faithful readers to our third Wave 2: Rise of the Combiners preview card. Thanks again to the Wizards of the Coast Transformers TCG team for this opportunity to preview an upcoming card.
Today’s preview card is a bit different from other cards we have seen in the game thus far, one that performs double duty for certain deck archetypes, and is well-designed to allow you to use it in that intended manner. With that ominous pre-statement I present to you, Inverted!:
Inverted is such a simply designed Utility and an ability on a card that seems like a rather obvious one that should exist in the game. That does not mean it is simple to evaulate because while this ability may be more useful as a static ability on a Character, since you would be able to truly build your deck to maximize a character abiity you would see more often, Inverted has to drawn and played on a charcter first. Luckily, this card sports the new Green Pip to help in that regard, as Green turns you combat pile draws into extensions of your hand.
An article on the main Wizards Transformers Trading Card Game Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, written by game design team member Scott Van Essen, (found here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/transformers-trading-card-game/what-are-green-battle-icons-and-how-do-they-work-designers-cut/1968546203267195/ ) talked at length about the design decisions and purpose of the Green Pip. Those familiar with my writing know I always like to include some heavy math sections to back up my game theory, and I was so excited when Scott included so much important math in the article:
“…The green battle icon technology was nearly perfect for the Enigmas. If you are running 3, by turn 5 you have a ~90% chance of seeing at least one of them. It’s ~80% on turn 4 if you played a Rapid Conversion effect, and ~60% on turn 3 if you were lucky enough to find two.”
Now, most of the article and math was based on getting a Combiner Enigma in time to combine your team, but if you look at a card like Inverted and apply it to three character teams, you can mirror that 60-80% chance if you run a play set of them, in order to get it “live” for the character to use before its first attack. So the Green Pip really shores up the first problem: how often can we reliably draw this card that has such a game-changing effect on the upgraded character.
Now we have to ask the important questions: how good is Inverted when we do play it? How much does the game state change for the character in question? What deck would even want to use this ability? Let’s take them one at a time:
How good is Inverted once it is in play? Well, the main issue working against Inverted is that normally you build your battle deck and character lineups to compliment one another. In other words you are not running a team of aggressive statistically based characters with a defensive based battle deck, normally. You want your entire deck to act as a cohesive unit, and Inverted flips that plan on its head, as the artwork has Perceptor doing with his Wrecker companions. See, it would be one thing if the card simply made one color into the other, because then no matter which color was flipped during combat the character would gain the bonus they want, but changing both means the pip cohesion of the battle deck changes completely for that character. In other words, if your deck is slanted orange, the upgraded character suddenly attacks worse and defends better; if your deck is blue slanted they attack for more damage on average and defend worse. Double pip cards like Roll-Out and the Matrix are not affected at all, keep that in mind.
So, this is not a card that a character can use lightly, because suddenly the battle deck is “working against them” as it was originally intended. You cannot simply make the battle deck the “opposite way” because ultimately you cannot rely on drawing an Inverted for all of your characters, even with search mechanisms such as Treasure Hunt to compliment the green pip on the card, so when would you want to play this on a character to begin with? Which battle deck archetype wants to use this card?
Think of it this way: for most characters this will read (in Blue based decks) “Utility: Upgraded Character gains +2-3 attack, -2-3 Defense during combat” or (in Orange based decks) “Utility: Upgraded Character gains -2-3 Attack, +2-3 Defense during combat” (assuming all flips were normal in this situation). That is not irrelevant numbers out of the Utility slot, you just have to make sure the right character can adequately react to those conditions.
Well, I think the easiest comparison for this card is Thermal Weaponry in use, though not in ability, per se. Recently you have seen many players find success with Thermal Weaponry in blue-based decks, but with characters that have a lot of in-born Bold to flip more blues to gain higher levels of Pierce, with the goal to get their entire attack power as guaranteed damage. Inverted will have a similar effect from the utility slot, although the character in question will not also gain the defensive bump that the blue based battle deck will provide. I wanted to do a full comparison to Thermal Weaponry vs. Inverted for attacking purposes only. See below for the charts in question, which I can change the total attack power on for more practical examples. The numbers vertically represent the number of blues flipped (Pierce added in the case of Thermal Weaponry, extra attack for Inverted) and the top line horizontally shows the defender’s defense amount:
The conclusions are rather obvious, but I wanted to leave no stones unturned: Inverted will do a tremendous amount more damage against low defense based defenders and Thermal Weaponry is a safer and better solution against higher defense based defenders. As you cannot have higher Pierce than your attack power, this means that Thermal Weaponry in most situations has a ceiling on the final damage you deal the opponent of the attack power. Inverted technically has a limit of the blues you flip plus the attack power (minus the defense of course) but this number well exceeds Thermal in the case of lower defense opponents.
Thermal Weaponry is oftentimes used to shift a defensive based attacker into offense mode, but the nature of the weapon makes it awkward for many characters to effectively use: you need to be able to flip enough blue pips to do more pierce than increasing your attack to higher levels justifies. It also does not have a lot of synergy with cards like Leap into Battle, because either some portion of the “extra attack” or the “Pierce will be wasted.” For example, you attach a Thermal Weaponry on Wheeljack: going from 5 attack to 6 base, and play Leap into Battle for 9 total attack. You flip at least five battle cards during your attack with his Bold 3, let’s assume an average of just over one blue per card so you flip 6 blues. You are now a nine attack, pierce six. Is that any better than being a six attack, pierce six? Likely not: the attack power you needed to deal (in this case the total base attack power) was covered by the Pierce flip, the Leap into Battle was superfluous. If your opponent has more than three defense, your high Pierce amount allowed for extra damage. If they have a low defense amount, the Pierce itself was “wasted.”
(Side note; this is exactly why “The Bigger they Are..” is so powerful: you get a relatively small attack bump in +2, but a MASSIVE Pierce 4, oftentimes making these numbers equal)
Let’s look at the situation if you used Inverted instead. Here, our Wheeljack starts at the nine power from Leap, you flip 6 blue, you are now attacking for FIFTEEN. So as long as your opponent does not defend more than NINE, the damage bump from Inverted in this case is a better deal: with the caveat that likely your deck will not allow Wheeljack to defend as easily.
So these cards are similar to one another in usage, but quite different in the deck composition and plays that want to include them.
One main use of Inverted is thus to be a finisher in a control deck: you are leaving the character much more vulnerable to a return attack, as stated earlier, but gaining a minimum of +2 attack normally before that attack, again in the Utility slot. The real defensive deck that wants to use Inverted contains similar lineups to ones that want Thermal Weaponry now: inborn Bold in at least one mode with decent defense built in. So we are looking at control lists that feature characters such as: Wheeljack, Barrage, Starter or common Optimus Prime, Jetfire, Starscream (either one), or Prowl given our current known characters. In these cases, assuming a 1-1 ratio of “cards flipped to blue pips” you can colloquially look at Inverted as : “upgraded character gains 2 plus their Bold stat, loses 2 defense” (flip as normal). That’s a pretty solid combat effect out of the Utility slot that comes with a Green and White pip attached!
There are few Wave 2: Rise of the Combiners characters and keywords that will make use of this card as well. Motormaster will love to be Inverted, as the downside of defending less adequately can be mitigated by redirecting the attacks to another Stunticon (assuming the deck is defensive as it seems it will be). Windblade will get to play this for “free” off of her ability, though it competes with the utility slot with The Matrix and Field Communicator. I see this as a finisher in decks with her. Though not in Wave 2, her rival in Slipstream will obviously love the pips alone on this card and you can make it very playable with her. Although we have only seen one character with Brave, if the ability winds up being more prevalent the “non-Brave” characters on the team will be able to make use of Inverted, assuming the Brave character can survive a few attacks in return. Stealth (although as of this writing we have not seen use of the keyword…) should be another huge use of Inverted. If the bot with Inverted on him cannot be attacked, in a blue based deck, the “downside” would be mitigated through correct sequencing.
The last initial use for Inverted that came to mind is the “one of these things is not like the other strategy for control decks.” What do I mean by this? Well right now your entire team is focused on the same direction on the Battle deck, as stated earlier, but certain support characters slant a certain way that a card like Inverted could help. For example, Arcee wants to use a lot of Oranges, but this hurts her survivability. Current control decks are not typically using her because her Pierce damage is limited. They are typically using Flamewar to enhance the team’s survivability. An Inverted on Arcee in a control deck would turn her back into the sniping machine she is, while at the same time increasing her early game survivability (think turn one or any zero turn without it attached).
Other potential uses for this type of strategy are:
· Kickback in a control Insecticon Shell (see my Venin reveal article for uses of him: https://vectorsigma.info/venin-preview
· SR Bumblebee/Razorclaw in an otherwise control build, increasing their initial survivability while allowing you to turn their abilities from an early game enabler to late game finisher
· Thundercracker in a control shell, since he typically wants to operate with Specialist cards/Brainstorm, you may have a control slant. Inverted will give him the best of both worlds
· Grimlock (Wave 1) in a control shell. His stats alone are solid as a ten drop in any build and although his ability wants you to go as big as possible, Inverted would allow you to play him in a control shell and do an about-face for the late game victory.
So that’s my initial takes on Inverted. I have to admit I was not as big of the fan of this card at first glance, but after really diving into it I am a much bigger fan of it. The key to remember is that only one of your teammates needs to change the way they interact with the Battle Deck, not your entire team, and you control WHEN that even occurs. This allows an easy (through the Green Pip) and powerful ability to shift focus for that character in the late game, or an immediate shift if you so chose for some characters who can redirect combat.
Stay tuned for more exclusive Wave 2: Rise of the Combiner previews, and all the great written and multi-media content from the VectorSigma.info team!
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