If you thought only a handful of mistakes were made during the playtesting and initial tournament play with Rise of the Combiners occurred with team VectorSigma.info, you were mistaken! There were plenty more mistakes to make, so strap in for another round!
Another mistake? Cheating the number of things you could do in a turn would be paramount to success. I wrote an entire article (https://vectorsigma.info/paradigm-shift) when RotC first dropped talking about numerous ways to cheat the number of action phases you would have in a turn. Of all the ways I mentioned, only a few have risen to prominence in the metagame, and I believe it is because of seemingly minor factors that turned out to be major ones once you looked under the hood of deckbuilding.
When RotC first dropped, I was trying to jam in Confidence and Swindled into every deck, and warped my builds around them. The problem is at the end of the day these cards are still “orange,” and a lot of my builds wanted to use them in Blue shells. I still believe the inherent “card disadvantage” of these is not their limiting factor, but more the fact that they are Orange means you want them primarily in aggressive decks, and those decks do not simply have the need to play them as often. I find myself slotting them in as “Treasure Hunt #4” more often than “Brainstorm light.”
Leap of Faith has been another underwhelming action, outside of Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend’s ability to recur it from the Scrap Pile. The One-Star Battle Cards that you are playing to actually “play” instead of just using for their pips present an interesting challenge: you have to actually draw them to make them effective (again, see OPBL interactions aside). This means that while Leap is powerful, it requires extra hoops to jump through to make it effective. For me right now, it is the Brainstorm of the set: if you live in Magical Christmas Land, you love it. If you live in cynical cold logic land, you need to work hard to make it effective.
The other simple fact is that sometimes having an extra action phase of one type or another either requires too much set up, too much pressure on your hand, or simply does not really advance your board state all that impressively. For example, Windblade flipping to alt mode to get a “free” Noble’s Blaster on her, that you set up through Incoming Transmission or Secret Dealings, is a lot of work for +1 attack and sometimes Pierce 2. Honestly, “Windblade” may be its own category of mistake considering how highly I touted her pre-release, but I think her time in the sun will be later on.
The exception to this rule is Field Communicator, which is certainly “good enough.” I would argue it is undervalued considering its power level. At worst you are getting a “bad weapon” and at best a powerful free play with no hand pressure. The fact that it has a white pip means it can go in any deck, but you have to be careful you are not oversaturating the deck with white pips (a shockingly true concern in a lot of recent builds I am working on).
The bottom line is that the game was not built on a paradigm of playing more than one action phase each turn, and by doing so either requires too many hoops to be jumped through, you find yourself in a “too much of a good thing” situation (oftentimes and overkill one for example), and/or you put too much strain on your available resources (normally cards in hand).
I have a couple more mistakes I noticed in RotC Testing/Tournament play: I may have misread my local Metagame. As a team we had pinpointed what we thought would be the likely played decks, and as such this may have led to inbred testing to truly predict what our meta would be, because we were very very far off. Play skill and overall solid deck composition may have still allowed for some success, but it is very important to know your meta as best as possible to properly build your decks accordingly, especially if you plan to run an “answer” deck versus a “question” one. The main reason I had problems building Optimus was because I could not pinpoint our meta (and was trying too many new things), seeing as Jon Palmer kept it simple and had a great showing last weekend with an updated “The Touch” List.
Lastly my biggest mistake was likely spending too much times on a specific thing. We (Mark and I) spent a ton of time on Starscream, and while I love how the deck keeps evolving I think we simply spent to much time on it. For me personally, I also spent a lot of time trying to update Optimus Prime BFL (I have probably changed my mind on his deck list more times then I can possibly imagine)… and since I spent so much time on those decks I didn’t get to spend any real time testing Combiners. I’ve said this before that the Combiners were never really on my radar, but I should have at least given them a true test to develop my own opinions on them.
There's naturally going to be missteps with card evaluation one way or the other. Possibly my largest mistake was not heeding the lessons of the past. For example I really tried to make
Blitzwing/Darkmount/X work. Maybe there's something there but you just struggle to do damage, which is something tanks (and other decks) struggled with in Wave One. There are new battle cards to help but it doesn't quite cut it at the end of the day. The key takeaway is that while new sets change “everything”, that doesn't necessarily mean they change everything.
The environment will be slow enough to get off three uses of new Grimlock and set up the “Wave One” Sludge trick for Volcanicus: There are definitely decks out there where this is the case, but there are far too many fast orange or big-hitting blue decks that simply don't give Dinobots the time to get the three Grimlock uses they need to combine and heal for general use.
Combiners are “Unplayable”
I've said it on multiple occasions that combiners were unplayable at a competitive level. Over half of all tournament fields I participated in over the last month were Combiner teams. Not all of them were good; some didn't even prioritize using their Enigma, but the one that actually surprised me the most was Aerialbots.
Their characters do not have exciting textboxes, and their stats leave much to be desired. My mistake was trying to evaluate then within the same confines as characters like Flamewar. The individual Aerialbots are much weaker than Flamewar, but as a team they are demoralizing to play against. The come together to be more controlling that last season’s Three Wide Optimus Prime decks. Being able to control the pace of attacks and direct where opponents have to attack is extremely strong. While being a heavy blue deck that can stifle most attacks, it’s win condition is actually forming Superion. That guy is no joke. The deck is full of blue, burn and the best team to control the board are create bad attacks for your opponents. I should not have underestimated these guys, at least in the forms I’ve seen.
As new sets are released, (Wave 3 in June!!!) be sure to take your time in card evaluations, playtest games, and learn be aware of everything that is on the table: a Characters flip is public knowledge to game state so do not feel bad if you need to pick up and read Characters again if you have to. Make sure you make time to form your own opinions for cards and decks based on playing them and trying them out. In other words, do not judge a book by its perceived cover by others, unless you can really trust their results with that type of deck. Certain players excel at aggressive strategies or control ones, so seek out their advice if you want to get their opinions. Specialization in one type of deck or another may limit you as an overall player, but not as a resource for others. Make sure you don’t spend to much time on just one thing because your never know what your missing out on with the rest of the set!
Keep your eyes on the fan Facebook groups and/or our Facebook Page and Reddit when our next content goes live, and please hit me up with any comments on Facebook, email, Discord (AUStarwars#1576), or Line (austarwars).
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Reach out with any questions on the event or anything to do with VectorSigma..and look for more exciting content this week and beyond!
“Till All Are One!”
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