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Welcome back everyone! Since we are rapidly approaching our local block event I wanted to get some words written discussing the overall idea and some initial thoughts about tackling the format. One may initially think “why bother with block?”, well the intent for this article is to get you past that hurdle and dive into what potentially could be a really fun format. Up to this point it never received first-party support as a constructed format, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t give it a shot!
Block in general is an interesting beast. For those of you out there who are unfamiliar with the concept it originates in Magic: the Gathering (shocker!) where sets were divided into Large-Small-Small. This regimen was changed over the years but let’s keep things simple for now. Essentially a large set would be released introducing the block, generally in the Fall. Then there would be two supplemental sets expanding on the themes introduced in the first set and sometimes introducing their own. Since the sets were interwoven, after all three were available it was not uncommon to have PTQ (think EI qualifiers) and other constructed events utilizing only those sets. It often allowed for archetypes and cards that otherwise just weren’t quite up to the power level of “regular” constructed to shine. Additionally, it allowed for creative deckbuilding to get the spotlight once again and in general it was often very fun.
We don’t quite have the setup here in the Transformers TCG, but we also are not playing Magic. So naturally some of the old rules need to bend. Here the idea is to utilize both Siege 1 and Siege 2 in conjunction with the new (no reprints) cards from Blaster vs. Soundwave. It’s a tighter cardpool than the M:tG analogy, but it does present some exciting options.
One of the more interesting facts about this format is that the auto-includes of Improvised Shield, Handheld Blaster, Peace Through Tyranny, and Security Checkpoint are watching from the stands! How many of you out there start off every blue list with six slots already spoken for? It’s ok don’t be shy. I’m confident all my pals on the orange side of the fence were jamming six double oranges as soon as they could get the cards into sleeves. The simple fact that these cards aren’t available means that the world shifts from the word go. The math for combat changes in huge ways and you need to flex those creative muscles to find the appropriate cards to fill out on that decklist. Believe me when you look at the cardpool you are certainly going to need to be creative. Tossing the crutch of double-pips aside is not to be taken lightly.
Another fascinating thing within the context of this block is the prevalence of black pips. Even before you consider the loss of the double-pips you are left with a surprisingly short list of “playable” cards that only feature a single standard pip (blue/orange). We’ll touch on that later.
What if I told you aggro may not be orange and instead be black-pip focused? It sounds a little crazy but there are a huge number of strong cards, at least within the context of block constructed, that feature or care about black pips. It is really a two-part story. The first is that orange cards…well they took a bit of a beating in the power department during the Siege block. This isn’t to say there are no orange cards worth looking at or that orange aggressive decks are impossible to build. It simply means you are taking the road less traveled within the confines of this format. The days of Grenade Launch into Reckless Charge into a couple double oranges are behind us (technically ahead of us as well with Wave Five but forget that for now) and instead we are playing blank pip +3 weapons or relying on Fight for Position when previously we had Supercharge.
The bar has been adjusted just a little. Although Blaster is legal for the format, I can tell you that the decklist is almost certainly going to look different than what may have appeared at your local tables recently. Due to the situation orange decks find themselves in black pip focused lists can step in and potentially perform very well. Damage totals may be lower but you are more assured of the damage you’ll actually do. Bold as an enabler still possibly has a place because it means that you are punching through for more damage even if you aren’t flipping over orange pips.
The opportunity for these decks is two-fold. Obviously with decreased power in the orange sector we also must account for the fact that some of the biggest players on the blue team are still available. Galaxy Prime, Shockwave, and Jetfire all still exist and all still set up pretty well despite their reduced options. Threats have scaled back on their high-score goals and while control decks do also lose tools many of the powerful ones remain. This is a great opportunity for black pips to establish a foothold, after all they punch through three instances of Tough One as well as a ton of blue flips. I anticipate that many decks are going to leverage this fact to great effect.
Something that may be overlooked approaching this new format is the idea of carrying the knowledge forward. Maybe this idea is hiding in plain sight, but it is very easy to lose diamonds in the rough. It’s a cliché for a reason. Often we all gravitate to the obviously powerful cards and then it takes a random draft night, or say a block event, to push you to try interactions between some cards. This thrill of experimentation isn’t just funsies, although it is fun, it also is research. Titan Masters Attack is just across the horizon but that doesn’t mean that everything with Siege Two has been explored! Diving into formats such as block allow you to look at cards with somewhat of a clean slate. Don’t get me wrong I certainly grimaced as I included some cards in decklists and held my nose as I pushed others from the “never play” pile into sleeves, but this affords me the opportunity to double-check my presumptions from before as well as maybe appreciate the capabilities of cards that otherwise would’ve set in boxes collecting dust.
Here’s the thing, those cards may just go back into said boxes. I’m not going to tell you “well at least you tried!”, the point here is that because of the attempts you hopefully gain some knowledge that will help you both evaluate spoiled cards for Wave Five. On top of that it will also illuminate scenarios where X card may actually be something presentable. It’s happened plenty of times in other games where a seemingly garbage card suddenly skyrockets because the situation changes. Block is an opportunity to do some homework in preparation with the new set being released.
An example of one of these concepts is the Mercenary line. While Octone has made some minor waves, overall the mercenaries have had minimal impact within the realm of regular constructed. As with several other ideas this is an opportunity for them to once again walk up to the plate and try to knock it out of the park. As mentioned above this gives the community another chance to take a stab at what interactions or type of interactions are necessary for their success as we lead into the next set.
Hopefully after reading this if you weren’t enthused about the block format before you are now. If nothing else it gives you another option in your repertoire when thinking of events to run. Ideally in the future WotC will also formally support the format but you don’t need official backing to play the game. Let us know what your thoughts on block are and what you think will rise to the top of the format!
Stay tuned for more coverage of this format in the weeks to come!
Until next time, Decepticons transform and rise up!
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“Till All Are One!”
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