Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, ‘bots and cons! It’s the lesser half of your weekly “Tech Talk podcast” to ramble a bit now that we have had the chance to see the entirety of Wave 2! It’s funny because in the interest of full disclosure I am not generally a fan of unknown metagames. Don’t get me wrong, I tend to think of myself as the creative type; a mad scientist to some extent because my mind tends to jump and flit from idea to idea: Most of them end up on the laboratory floor, stuffed into jars, and some never even manage to spring off the blackboard. Every once in a blue moon I’ll manage to concoct something reasonable. However my hesitation with unknown metas is that there are just so many possibilities that it can be difficult early on with all the variables and moving targets. In the end the answer is to try and pin something down to act as a cornerstone with which to help make more informed decisions going forward.
The logical choice is to establish the best aggro deck, or at least “the best” within the confines of
“everything still being a mushy amorphous blob” of a metagame. This confers several advantages. One of which is that you know what the pivotal turns are. Pivotal turns being where you need to be able to do X by before you are just dead to the onslaught from the other side of the board. It allows you to make more informed decisions and start to cut corners. If you know that X damage is the highest output with Y cards on turn Z then you can start building around those axioms and take reasonable risks both in deckbuilding and in lines of play. Essentially you are able to baseline a lot of things by creating the “you must be THIS TALL to ride this ride” marker.
Naturally we aren’t going to start there. Like I said, my brain is kinda weird.
One of the cards I was most excited for from the spoilers was Steamroll. Null pips on the whole have been pretty hit-and-miss. You have the highs such as One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall or I Still Function!, and then you have lows like Salvage for Parts and Medic. Right now I am feeling pretty good about Steamroll. There’s still some time before the set officially releases so it is entirely possible that I am completely off base, but let’s see if I can convince you dear reader.
What makes Steamroll so special? Well up to this point we have only seen this effect on one other card and that is the Dinobot leader, the king himself, Grimlock! The big space t-rex has Dino-Chomped his way to many victories but a big reason for that is that he takes full, or at least better, advantage of obscene Bold/Attack numbers than other ‘bots. Several Vector Sigma team members have spoken about “wasting” damage, or overkilling enemy characters: If your opponent has a ‘bot with only a single health remaining it seems like a waste to just slam Grenade Launcher and Supercharge when you could sneeze and probably remove the target instead.
This limitation rears its head in multiple scenarios and probably has won or lost you games that you may not have realized. One of your goals should be to get in for “exactsies” and finish off opponents with precise amounts of damage. Well except when you have Steamroll that is.
This card eases some of those restraints. Feel free to go nuts and make your giant transformer have 9 billion attack if you want. It might be a little difficult to get that high of a damage output, but the point is now that you are not going to be throwing away damage by attempting to get the high score, and you aren’t even forced to use Wheeljack’s creations!
Another positive that Steamroll brings to the table is helping prop up “go tall” decks. It’s a term borrowed from other games but “go wide” and “go tall” are concepts describing whether you are loading up a single ‘bot to gigantic proportions through upgrades (or creature, ally, minion, whatever) or instead getting an entire legion of them. For example, as you’d surmise from the previous section trying to go all in on say, rare Megatron in Wave 1 was a risky prospect. Sure you might be one shotting things, which isn’t guaranteed of course, but you’re painting a gigantic target on that specific character. That ‘bot is Atlas, your deck is the world, and the entire thing is on their shoulders.
Additionally you can fall behind in trying to race your opponent. If your other couple of lieutenants can’t carry enough of the burden, your heavyweight may just end up getting picked apart because there aren’t enough turns left to squish the opposing side. If you’ve tried loading up Living Weapon or any other Big Bot and had the misfortune of staring down 3 or 4 slightly damaged but still angry Insecticons you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Now your finisher can come out of the gates slinging haymakers and make them count! You pulverize whatever target is available and then the extra splashes onto another enemy allowing you to close the gap either by crippling a second transformer or ideally getting a 2-for-1. Any Dinobot player will happily regale you with times where Grimlock rampaged through with tooth, claw, and flame breath screaming “ME GRIMLOCK KICK BUTT” and cleaving the opposition, regardless of any armor they were wearing or reduction in damage you would deal them directly, leaving only pieces in his wake. Guess what? Now other ‘bots can play that game plan as well.
Like those levels from Super Mario Bros. the list I am presenting aims to release an angry angry sun out of the sky. I must confess borrowing notes from the Wave 2 Bombshell preview article here on Vector Sigma (https://vectorsigma.info/bombshell) because this deck did actually start as a Bombshell list. I had an edge on Scott’s preview article, though, since there are a number of cards present here that we only learned about when the full spoiler was made available by WotC.
Most of the plays should be readily apparent, but feel free to reference back to the Bombshell preview to elaborate on some of the sequences. The deck moved away from the Wave 2 “reissue” Insecticon for a few reasons. The first is that I was having difficulty mapping out plays where it could keep up with aggressive Insecticon lists. Remember how I said early on that establishing the aggro would be important? It’s coming back around to that now. Despite the fact that you obviously don’t need to feed Bombshell nearly as many cards to pop bugs, you are still going to be trading at best 1-for-1. Plus even if you build heavy for blue the 1 defense makes him more of a raw than hardboiled egg despite the 15 health. A tough proposition for an 11 cost character.
That’s when I started thinking about Wave 1 cards that I wanted to revisit. Sunstorm provides a strong 3 defense in alt mode, a mode that he is likely to stay in until it is time to start cranking out home runs. Plus since he cares about attacking in a different way than Bombshell, cards such as Energon Axe actually mean something to him. While they aren’t currently in the decklist this does present additional options such as Leap into Battle, The Bigger They Are, and Heavy-Handed. Each are defensive pips but aggressive when played. Since you should have a steady stream of cards coming in you can hopefully always be able to buff your ‘bots in one way or another to keep the pressure up.
One quick callout to one of my favorite cards in the set (aside from Steamroll of course): Marksmanship. Sunstorm is the centerpiece of the deck and as such you will always have access to a Ranged character. That means you get to play with the “better Plasma Burst,” specifically one with a pip. Yes, your opponent may be able to be kind of annoying by transforming in and out of ‘bot mode on key targets to protect them. However given the focus on Steamroll landing the damage anywhere will still prove useful. It just makes the splash damage KO more likely down the line even if your sniper didn’t hit the correct target the first time. With all the card draw you should hopefully be able to find a copy of the centerpiece action and Steamroll the opposition.
Keep in mind Steamroll isn’t just effective on Sunstorm. Wheeljack is no slouch when it comes to wielding that wrench. There are a not insignificant amount of orange pips in this deck and he can knock some heads just as well. An Energon Axe here, Field Communicator or Matrix there and suddenly the Autobot scientist is doing his best Devastator impression. All in the name of science of course.
This isn’t the only iteration of the deck in my ever-growing spreadsheet. One card that I have been messing around with is Universal Network Access. The synergy is obvious for both Bombshell as well as Sunstorm. However it means that you have to let Wheeljack ride the pine. The replacements get a little weird. Starter Optimus comes in at 7 stars and as has been seen in recent results with All Hail Optimus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbb6DNTbk-U). He can carry some weight. Since he provides a flip that also draws cards we can even stay on theme. Flip turn 1, flip turn 2 and already prepared to have Sunstorm online for turn 3 without any issues. Drag Strip is incredibly cooperative in that respect never demanding a flip for himself. Optimus even provides a better in play target for Matrix if that event arises. Alternatively you could pair Sunstorm and Optimus with Flamewar to add a little more to the defensive end of things while still including a double helping of Universal Network Access. Just be careful of tags, you need a specialist to ensure that Field Communicator and Multi-Tool aren’t mostly dead.
There’s still a lot to explore, after all the set hasn’t even released yet! The deck still needs work though. You have a gameplan against bugs or other aggressive builds but you still need to execute it. Additionally where Sunstorm may have a wing up on Bombshell when it comes to fighting the plague of Insecticons, the mind controlling Decepticon might have the upper claw when it comes to fighting larger controlling prey such as Optimus Prime. Getting to preposterously high hand sizes with Sunstorm is possible but you need to get there and stay there. Drag Strip is unlikely to contribute much on offense against defensive decks so you’re stuck kinda playing 2 vs 2 with lower statted characters.
A work in progress, but something to consider as we start to put Wave 2 under the microscope. Although the set’s tagline is “Rise of the Combiners” keep in mind that there are plenty of battle cards and ‘bots that just needed a nudge in Wave 1 to be playable. Maybe something there’s something lurking in this new set to flesh those ideas out. Thanks for reading and check in next time for more Junkion Jank!
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