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by Mark Kinney

Sometimes it's good to be king! The Decepticon King to be more precise. His coronation will be flashy and exciting (and hopefully result in a longer reign than the 1986 movie) and show everyone a new way of approaching deck building. 


Starscream is the King and he must be treated as such. The deck is constructed with one goal in mind: make him incredibly powerful and as close to impenetrable as possible at all times. The entire strategy relies on how consistently we can find Decepticon Crown and abuse it while attacking and defending

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(Editor's Note: If you understand this reference, you are old)

What is the power of Decepticon Crown? With Starscream, Decepticon Crown is essentially a Leap into Battle that you do not have to play from your hand. On offense it is a card with green/white/orang/orange/orange pips and when you put back into your hand to use again on defense, it magically becomes a green/white/blue/blue/blue that can change back again on offense. So while you need to build a deck around getting the Crown to the top of your deck each combat, in reality all that matter is you flip this somehow, intentionally or not. Any ability to Plan during battle will automatically put a Crown on top, Bold and Tough will help you find them during combat, and the Green pip on it will keep it coming back.


Oh did I mention that they stack if you flip more than one during combat? Or that if you flip one on defense the +3 Defense lasts the rest of the turn?

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Editor's Note: A more modern reference

We started with multiple versions of the deck on day 1: Heavy blue, heavy orange, and heavy white. 


All three versions felt like they were each missing something. We also were building him like a new version of Optimus Prime: Battlefield Legend and it just was not playing out the way we had intended. We needed a five star character that was ranged. The Godfather (Editor’s Note: Scott Landis/Me) suggested Dragstrip and we were off to the races. The need to contort the pips to help trigger Dragstrip lead us down what may seem like an odd path but it’s definitely worth the effort.


It is possible that my love of Treasure Hunt gets the best of me, and that should be apparent as in all of my lists it is normally a 2-3 of. Initially we played a bunch of playsets of cards, as well as a flurry of direct damage and Steamrolls. However, Starscream doesn't need to play like Optimus, nor should he be built in a similar fashion. He is not an “action advantage machine” that also happens to have some “+3/+3” cards, he is a complete build around that requires you to solely focus on his synergy.


With that in mind, here is my latest list: 

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There is a lot going on here before we even get to any game play. Throughout the entire Wave One metagame all the decks were polarized into either orange or blue. Whichever camp you found yourself in, you were forced into playing six on-color double pips. Granted that was mostly due to the limited card pool, but we must evolve in our deck construction methodology as well as support a larger pool. There is no longer a necessity to pigeonhole yourself into six specific cards due to your deck's nature. 


We also need to reevaluate how to look at both the Bold and Tough keywords: Instead of using them strictly to amass a high density of colored pips, we can use them to help search for specific threats and solutions through the use of Green pips.


Remember, the Starscream strategy is all about setting up each of his battles to be amazing, floating a Decepticon Crown to the top of the deck: Mining Pick for massive damage potential and Security Console to bolster defense. Everything in the deck is focused on assembling these pieces together. The core of the deck is all about these upgrades and not up for debate.


The high density of whites may also seem odd. But once again, we are trying to flip at least 4 cards during every battle. 

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Get on with the ceremony!

Starscream derives his power directly from Decepticon Crown, so we need to find it as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are digging with the obvious cards like Treasure Hunt and Swindled, but Crown has a new and unique quirk. It has a Green pip. Now when it is flipped during any battle, we gain access to it if we want it. Spoiler Alert: We want it. 


This is one reason why you see this deck as three characters with one focal point and two whose sole “jobs” are to facilitate the master plan. Two character lists went out of favor with us during the end of the Wave One metagame, as it was more difficult to protect the main character and you simply drew more cards and had more action phases throughout the turn cycle. This deck is no different in those regards.


Barrage is simply the best option in the seven slot, and his oft-enabled Bold 2 is perfect for what we are trying to achieve with the use of Green pips in this deck. Drag Strip requires some complicated deck building to maximize his card draw ability, but obviously the ability to draw two cards during combat (facilitated by the deck containing so many white pips) is impossible to replicate on a five star character who does not even need to flip. 


A lot of Battle cards facilitate this use of “Bold and Tough are card sifting” as well. Cards like Supercharge have historically been used to pile on more damage by flipping more orange pips. While that is still the case, it now also serves to search deeper for the Crown (as well as all the other green pips). Bold also gives us a higher chance to enable Dragstrip’s ability to draw more cards. Even after finding the Crown, granting Starscream Bold also gives him the ability to find even more damage by flipping additional copies. We are trying to use both Bold and Tough not just as pip density, but moreso as a filtering mechanism that also boosts attack and defense. 

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Consistency is the name of the game in TCGs.


The entire core of the deck centers around 1 thing: PLAN. Each key piece of the “combination” has the ability to Plan and stack your deck before any battles involving the King. Conveniently, his flip into Alt mode also allows us to get back any piece of the core that was flipped into the scrap pile. Since the pieces are integral to his success, we need to have multiple ways to get multiple flips per turn: the flip into alt ensures us having the right upgrades when we need to attack in bot mode. We only need to flip him into alt mode so both Roll Out and Escape Plan fit the bill here. Every game your initial flip should be Starscream into bot mode so he can retrieve any piece necessary on the second turn. This also sets up for a flip into bot mode while suited up   

when he is scheduled to attack. 

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The other battle cards may seem random but they all have very important functions.

Armed hovercraft and Grenade launcher may seem odd at first glance. Upgrading Barrage (bot mode) with Hovercraft immediately damages all enemies for a meager one damage, but turns on his Bold 2 to continue digging. Grenade Launcher is just unapologetically brutal and beefs up Dragstrip most of the time. We are trying to kill our opponents after all, and Grenade Launcher is the best option for a massive damage output.


Bashing Shield is a necessity to get rid of pesky Force Fields that are trying to dampen the King's fun. Being green makes it an automatic inclusion for such a strong effect. Sparring Gear is mostly in to protect Starscream: not only does it increase the probability of flipping blues on defense, but it also digs deeper for defensive Crowns. Granted, it will most likely be destroyed by opposing Bashing Shields but that's just unavoidable.


There's also a few cards that ensure we have more ways to offensively abuse Crown. Incoming Transmissions and Secret Dealings are an easy way to guarantee three additional damage if you happen to find yourself Pick-less. Secret Dealings also grants us the ability to get an action with Starscream’s flip which comes up quite a bit.

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Disruption is Key

  

Everyone is familiar with Ramming Speed and the utility it has provided throughout the entirety of Wave One. There is also Vaporize as a blue variant. The split is specifically to have a higher number of blues to aide Dragstrip while attacking while still having two virtual copies of the same ability. 


Marksmanship gets the nod over Plasma Burst for the same helpfulness. All of the characters are ranged in at least one mode. Despite it being awkward at times, the colored pip is necessary.


Espionage: What is there to say about this incredibly powerful card? It is imperative to have it in certain matches, used mainly to tag Security Checkpoints, but also Enigmas or anything else that may worry you. Its green pip simply helps the consistency of this powerful card.

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The Enigma of Combination

After doing all this work to find all these specific upgrades, how exactly are we supposed to use them? Mining pick is Starscream's default weapon, and the strongest in his hands. Most other decks can only hope to put double oranges on top for an additional two attack. Crown grants three additional attack..each..on top of the other pips flipped. Since the Crown is white, the minimum amount of cards seen from any Crown Planned is four. Planning double Crowns will grant Starscream 15 attack minimum, and two additional flips (Potential total of 17): three damage from each Crown, Pick goes to three, and his base six attack. Impressive. After the attack, you also are guaranteed to have at least one Crown back in your hand because it’s green. 


Then there's defensive Crowns from Security Console. As soon as Starscream is attacked you get to draw a card and most likely stack a Crown to boost his defense up to 4. When he is facing down multiple attacks within the same turn, the Crown defensive boost carries forward. Flip the first Crown to go to four defense, you can then swap a card to get it back and restack it via Security Console for the second attacker, and now he will boost his defense to seven! The Crown bonus stays until the end of the turn and makes multiple attacks on him close to irrelevant as long as you have one Crown to start the party.

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Know Thy Enemy

Sometimes it's not possible to set up the full lock. There is either too much pressure from aggressive decks or your damage output is not high enough against defensive decks. There are many times where it is correct to only stack a single Crown with Pick (that's still a minimum of 11 damage). 


You also need to be able to properly access your role in every game. If you do not draw either Pick or Console, you can flip Starscream to get one you may flip during a combat. You just need to determine which one is correct for the given matchup. Other times you will not get to make a choice. 


Do not be afraid to keep Barrage unflipped so you can reclaim an upgrade on turn two with Starscream, allowing him to be fully operational going into his turn three attack: Against the aggressive decks, he should still be able to deal a decent amount of damage while staying as defensive as possible. Dragstrip generally never flips into bot mode unless he is forced to as the last character or you need to guarantee a single pierce damage. He is there to soak up attacks and hopefully draw 2 cards. 


Don't underestimate Barrage either. He still has the ability to put a hurtin on some characters by virtue of gaining Bold 2, there are more weapons than characters in the deck, so your others are allowed to get in on the fun! 


There are a few things you need to worry about but there's plenty of solutions. 

Opposing Consoles can hamper your attack so try and save Ramming Speed and Vaporize for them if you draw either. And you need to save it for you large attack turn, not before. 

Security Checkpoint sets you back incredibly far. Since Crown is the strongest while in your hand, Checkpoint is able to strip them all away with single action. It is also able to get both Pick and Console, so make sure to play them. While this does leave them more vulnerable to opposing Ramming Speeds/Vaporizes, it is miles better than losing multiple upgrades that you worked so diligently to find.


Espionage works much in the same vein as Checkpoint, but the timing of your opponent's hand does not matter. It is possible to Espionage a Crown before you defend as well as being able to preemptively take you own Espionage in order to protect a Checkpoint.



This deck has a lot of resilience and consistency in order to power Starscream into becoming of the strongest characters we have seen so far. The deck is very single minded, but all you need to do is assemble the pieces and make your opponents regret messing with the King!

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'Till all are one

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“Till All Are One!”