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Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, ‘bots and ‘cons! It’s that time of year again. It’s spoiler season! I know, I know, we kind of have been in it for a little while now, thanks to the Trypticon announcement Siege 2 has been hanging around for a bit at this point. However, for most players the focus to this point has justifiably been on the Energon Invitational Qualifier season. With that winding down very soon, we are all going to be turning our eyes to the next wave as we all wait in eager anticipation of the new set. Well have we got a treat for you because allow me to present one of several spoilers the team here at VectorSigma has to offer:
I want to put a huge thank you out there to the Wizards of the Coast team. It is a great honor and quite frankly just plain awesome to be doing previews. So to all those at the WotC team who made this possible, thanks! Also thanks to Scott who orchestrates so many parts of this. I’m truly excited to be talking about this card. Now aside from general excitement about the concept of talking about yet-to-be-released cards, what is so exciting about this particular Autobot that we have to discuss today.
Here’s the thing about this portion of spoiler season, it’s kind of like being a kid and waking up on Christmas morning. You run in, look under the tree and there they are. A bunch of gifts that could be just about anything. We’re very much in that phase, at this stage we have an inkling of what to expect, a tiny clue as to what the set will bring. Certainly, we have information about the previous metagame, the prior top tier, and a wishlist in hand of what we want out of the next set. A good portion of the fun is to be had right now, the moments before you tear the box open to see what’s inside. It’s the anticipation and excitement of the unknown, or mostly unknown. Let’s talk possibilities; Let’s dive into Private Sidetrack.
First off, we have a new member of a relatively new tribe: the Battle Patrol. He joins Private Top Shot and Private Flak as part of a set of low cost tanks. As we have already seen in recent official previews (see: Private Powertrain) the new tribes are hoping to get some additional support in the form of their very own “lords” or leaders that pump their team. We don’t know yet whether Private Powertrain is an anomaly or the sign of a cycle but we can keep our fingers crossed that there are some additional boosts for the Battle Patrol. Who doesn’t love extra toys?
Speaking of tribes, aside from being a tank he also sports alternate ranged/melee tags. Well, at a mere 4 stars he has the potential to fit into a variety of builds. Bringing the variety of traits means that you do have access to a wide range of accessories whether you want to go into the burn package of featuring Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship, or stick to melee and instead opt for say Energon Slingshot.
Both of those cards have something in common and it isn’t that they are blue pips. Well, they do both have blue pips but that’s not the point I’m going for. Instead I want to draw your attention to the card type: they are both upgrades. The reality is if you are sleeving this Transformer up, I am going to go out on a limb and assume you really want to ensure that you can play an on-demand Treasure Hunt in 100% of your games.
Bringing it back to the gift analogy, what good are your toys if you can’t find them? Treasure Hunt has proven almost from the get-go that it is one of the most pivotal cards in the game. In fact it is one of the few “off-color” cards that often appears in Blue based builds. That’s how powerful it can be to ensure you find an upgrade on a key turn, and often on future ones. It smooths draws, it digs for crucial upgrades, it draws multiple cards, it feeds huge Firedrive turns, it helps power up your Nemesis Prime or Cosmos, it finds Forcefields for Ramhorn, it slices, it dices, cuts clean through tin cans and can still cut a tomato!
But wait….there’s more!
What if I told that you don’t need to try and roll the bones taking a chance to draw the important action? What if you could start with it every game? Well now you can! Order now and we’ll throw in these Erratic Lightnings, Grenade Launchers, and other goodies that will make the Autobots or Decepticons in your life very happy (and your opponent’s very unhappy)!
This is the reason you are going to want this ‘bot on your team.
Don’t worry, I hear you. Treasure Hunt could just be part of your initial 40. Including our new Micromaster instead allows you to free up deck slots by turning redundant cards into Treasure Hunts. Additionally, it affords you consistency. Card games are ones of mitigating variance. Here’s the thing, you shouldn’t be thinking of this as “well I Treasure Hunt and then he gets KO’d”, instead allow me to pitch a scenario; What if I told you that every time you plan to attack with your heavyweight, you could play Treasure Hunt, dig for your best upgrade, and then on top of it still get to play an action to continue buffing that ‘bot?
The Transformers TCG is a very precise one. There are many ways in which a game can get away from you, even incredibly subtle ones. One of the less subtle ones is simply not playing two cards on an important turn. Of course you’d prefer to play two cards on every turn given the option. We can’t always get what we want, sometimes those presents are socks and not MP-44.
See, with Micromasters we need to look at their Star costs as the price you are paying for two things: an action card ability and a Forcefield when they absorb an attack. Remember, there are only two “action phases” in a traditional turn, but Micromasters enhance the turn sequence to allow for a tapping effect, so your more traditionally powerful attackers can be fully armed and operational when it is their turn to act.
Speaking of Sidetrack[ed]…
Our preview here gives you the chance to write that Christmas list. Now you just need to assemble the other half of the powerhouse turn by finding an appropriate action to pair with your newly found upgrades. Taking these sorts of steps to ensure your most important bot is ready for battle gives you more than simply peace of mind. Since you always have a Treasure Hunt “in hand” some doors open that might not have been there, or more appropriately some sleeves open. I’d have to leave it to our numbers guy to figure out exactly how many upgrades you can potentially cut since you will be able to go adventuring for them every single game thanks to the Stealth keyword. The perks of being a Micromaster.
Now it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sidetrack does have some downsides, the most glaring of course is the miniscule health total. As major proponents of One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall in virtually all decks built, seeing that number three living in the middle of the stat block definitely caused a sharp intake of breath when I first saw Sidetrack. Consistency is the thing though: yes your opponent can just pop this guy from afar, even through his Stealth. Luckily, it is a bit tougher to dig for actions, they are going to probably need to do it the old-fashioned way and rip it off the top. You have something sleeker and more efficient allowing you to do your best Indiana Jones impression. It is something to take into account as you map out your deck’s strategy. Further you are going to need to assume that whether you are a Blue, Orange, or a mixed pip deck that in all likelihood Private Sidetrack is not long for the world once you activate him. Despite the three defense he is still going to push up mechanical daisies if there is so much as a stiff breeze out of hand barring some miracle.
The key to understand is that not all players actually PLAY direct damage out of hand, and if they are not then the three on the right side is going to shine more than the three in the middle. This reminds me of playing Metroplex and deploying Slammer, the games they are unable to deal with him out of hand are games you are well ahead. Even those that they were able to save three damage from the juicier target (in that case Metroplex himself) so you are still ahead.
There are two main keys here in favor of Sidetrack. First, the Treasure Hunt effect is extremely powerful, honestly the most powerful Micromaster effect we have seen thus far in terms of ubiquitous use in deck construction. Secondly, we are still missing the virtual Battle Patrol “Lord” who may help anything from the survivability on Sidetrack, to comboing with the Treasure Hunt ability. We already have Flak on the team who allows you to New Designs one of the upgrades, and Top Shot who makes use of the Improvised Shields you draw off of Sidetrack, so follow up turns to Sidetrack are already going to be improved through playing him. We just need to see the missing five drop on the team and how this all may benefit him..or the seven drop of choice to match up with this Patrol.
Since we are still early in the spoiler season the air is thick with possibilities. There are a lot of upgrades we haven’t seen and maybe we want all the Treasure Hunts we can get our hands on. We have already seen a shiny new Optimus who would love to see more utilities in your hand, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get even more characters who are happy with a full hand of upgrades (think Firedrive style discard effects) or maybe just go find very specific silver bullets that happen to be upgrades. I’m really excited to see what is in store with the remainder of Siege 2, and especially excited to see where Private Sidetrack fits into the metagame.
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“Till All Are One!”
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