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Private Flak: Micro master

by Scott Landis

  

  

Welcome back True Believers for another continuation of the VectorSigma.info spoiler season! Once again we were lucky enough to be graced with three spoiler cards from the Wizards of the Coast team, and today we bring you our first from the Siege: War for Cybertron set (street date June 28): the Micro Master, Private Flak.

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Heavy Artillery!

Lore wise, I fully admit I had no idea who Flak even was…so I checked my favorite source of Transformers Lore when I know nothing (no, I do not just call Vince!) : TFwiki.net who said: 


“Flak is the deep thinker of the Autobot Battle Patrol. A tactical expert, he has single-handedly crafted an enormous "playbook" of maneuvers and scenarios for the Patrol to use whenever in the field and, at Big Shot's discretion, instituted a rigorous training schedule to make sure the entire team is constantly up to date on all his latest plans. Flak is meticulous, some would say downright anal, in his planning, but only because he feels he has to be. Flak respects Big Shot's authority and decisiveness under fire, but recognizes that his commander's lack of lateral thinking can potentially get their Patrol into trouble. Because of this, Flak has taken on the burden of responsibility in making sure Big Shot's military precision always has a military strategy to back it up.”


I mean this guy sounds right up my alley! Deep Thinker?! Check. Tactical Expert?! Check. Developed enormous playbook?! I mean that’s what VectorSigma.info is right?! Meticulous?! Sure..downright anal? You might have to ask the rest of the team but I am going to assume that’s another “Check!” 

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Private Flak is another low cost, low sized character who shares similar abilities with his Micro Master brethren. His alt mode is a mobile rocket system, which is classified as “Tank” here, which should help with some synergy for the little guy. He is a five star common, with Stealth while untapped, which allows you to guarantee that you will be getting his Tap ability off at least once. 


Let’s have an aside about Micro Masters in general, with what seems to be their theme: Small stats, Stealth when untapped in alt mode, that can flip into bot mode to use their tap/discard abilities. So far each Micro Master previewed has an ability such as this, some more powerful than others. In our conversation with Drew (found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epvdspVyUZk) I specifically asked about Micro Masters and we discussed the star cost mechanic of the Transformers TCG. The Wizard (pun intended) revealed some really great “behind the curtain” insight about the design of the game, including the fact that star costs on characters are not a resource cost, they are a build costs. 


In layman’s terms this means that you cannot really compare character’s star costs to one another, as the synergy they have as characters with abilities, traits, etc. are often more vital than just saying “Flamewar is the best “five drop,” we must compare all other five “drops” to her.” This is because the star cost is not a “drop” as it is in other games, you do not need five of a resource in play to put a five drop into play. This was a key mistake a lot of us made when evaluating Combiner pieces: looking at star cost comparisons to Wave One counterparts. I feel that Micro Masters will be similar in this S: WfC preseason: undervalued before we really understand how powerful it is to have access to tap abilities starting as early as your first turn.


The key to these tap abilities is they should fall in three different categories: one’s you want to use right away on your first turn, ones you want to have access to “twice in a row” at the end of the round if you are able (with them all being low cost characters, you should have the same or more characters to start than your opponent, making it likely you will go last in the round, and then they will also be available if they survive the turn zero, and if not, your opponent used a full turn’s attack on a Micro Master..), or one you can use at any time. I guess there may be a situation where you do not want to use the abilities at all, but I doubt it..


So you have to remember that access to these characters break one of the fundamental rules of the game through the first two sets: the number of action phases you have in a turn. Formerly you could flip a character, play an action, play an upgrade. Now you can also use a character’s tap ability, which so far mirror a wide variety of playable action cards. It is not simply that the character “discards and taps to do the action card ability,” they are able to do this IN ADDITION to the other phases of the turn. Yes, it ultimately costs you an attack, a draw phase, and a set of action phases, but they allow you to cheat the resource curve on the turns that matter: and in the Transformers TCG timing is everything. You want to have the most efficient turns with the biggest upside, not simply have more cards in hand or more attacks: sometimes less can be more!

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Theme: Recap

So all that being said, let’s get back to Flak!


His stats are pretty weak, but in line with most Micro Masters as a 2/7/2 in alt mode and 3/7/1 in bot mode. I think his alt mode stats will actually be more relevant than other Micro Master’s since the ability to use Hunker Down with him will not be a wasted flip at some point during the turn cycle. He is also ranged, which has a lot powerful uses nowadays (Armed Hovercraft, Marksmanship).

The most important part of Flak is his tap ability, which allows you to discard a card featuring an orange pip to play an upgrade. This means you can essentially turn any orange card in your hand into a New Designs as early as turn one. This means if you are the first player, you can actually upgrade your character right away. Think about that for a minute: you are allowed to discard a card to upgrade a character on turn one, going first. This means none of your opponent’s characters are safe as any of them can be attacked, and now you can bring to bear your favorite Grenade Launchers, Erratic Lightnings, etc. on your first turn, for little cost! 


If you go second, your opponent has to make a real decision about who they are attacking with, since your attacker can be pumped by a 3-4 attack margin beyond where they were originally assuming they were safe. Now you can play a combat enhancing action card AND an upgrade on the second turn of the game (or two upgrades, but this is likely less dangerous as the attacker). 

This ability is a huge Tempo play in the Transformers TCG: you are controlling the pace at which you are presenting a threat to the board. The key to remember with this ability is that Flak has to flip and use his ability, so your attacker will not be able to flip as well on turn 1 (sorry no Optimus Prime: Battle Field Legend in bot mode shenanigans on turn 1) so you need to pair him with characters who would rather attack in alt mode. I just wish there were some of them around..oh wait a large majority of the Rise of the Combiners set does just that (for more on this topic, see my article on Flip Density here: https://vectorsigma.info/flip-density-1 )


So Flak can see play for a deck slanted to either side: an orange deck will have more discard outlets for his ability and likely add a more consistent threat from a weapon perspective. I do not think you want to go to the trouble of adding extra attack to someone to then flip a bunch of blue cards that do not help your combat math on attack. This means that his tank synergy with Hunker Down may not see as much play, but that will depend if you want to use him for this powerful ability or a more utilitarian role throughout the turn cycle. 

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Partner in Waiting?

Let’s continue our focus on the aggro side: playing an upgrade right away ahead of schedule. Who should you pair Flak with in this situation? Looking at powerful attackers who prefer attacking in alt mode we currently have (alphabetical, the official App helps lol):


Autobot Hod Rod


Autobot Springer (who can essentially start as a 4/14/2 Tough 2 by putting an armor on him through Flak)


Blackwing


Blitzwing (who would bring some Tank synergy if the deck is slanted Blue)


Blurr (you would want to be going second to take advantage of his ability)


Drag Strip


Decepticon Shockwave (flipping when you need his bot ability, but prefers attacking in alt)


Dreadwind


Ironhide, Steadfast Brawler


Jetfire


Optimus Prime, Autobot Leader


Prowl, Strategic Mastermind


Skydive


Siege I also gives us the Battle Masters, who do not need to flip at all, so there is powerful synergy there. Major Ultra Magnus seems better suited to hang out in Alt mode, and you can afford his armor when one of your companion bots is only five stars.


It is too early for decklists, but I will give some potential shells of how I would play with Flak given the current known card pool.

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A key partner for the early beats!

If you want to use him in an Orange slanted deck, you should be maximizing your powerful orange weapons: Grenade Launcher, Erratic Lightning, Static Laser of Ironhide, Power Punch, etc. You will want Treasure Hunt to refill your hand after the powerful early turns as well.


Potential teams for Flak in Orange based builds could be: 


· Prowl (Strategic Mastermind), Wheeljack (Weapons Inventor), and REDACTED or Prowl/Prowl/Ironhide – if you run Ironhide’s Blaster, you can run Ironhide (Steadfast Brawler) in either list also. Prowl on turn 1 with a +3 weapon will be an 8/Bold 1 attacker, for an expected output of 11 damage. That’s a magic attack number that takes out a lot of opposing characters, especially in aggressive mirrors. Even if a defensive deck manages to survive, you can likely find ways to do the last few hit points out of combat (see Ranged Synergy above)


· Blurr, Prowl (Military Strategist), and two Mounted Missiles – if you go second you could potentially suit up a Blurr with a Missiles and a +3 weapon for a base eight attack pre flips, or play an action like Reckless Charge or Supercharge plus the +3 weapon for a pre-flip “approximately 10” attack. 


· Grimlock (Dinobot Leader), Ironhide (SB), three Mounted Missiles – the plan here would be to tap Flak the turn BEFORE Grimlock’s attack to get both extra upgrades on him so he is not limited by the “one upgrade per turn” limitation. You will not care about Flak getting KO’d here, you just want to maximize Grimlock’s breakthrough damage.

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More Upgrades you say?

On a Blue slanted deck, you will need to include cards like Treasure Hunt, Confidence, Enforcement Batons, Bashing Shield, Matrix of Leadership, Press the Advantage, or Sparring Gear in small numbers in your build to ensure the ability to have access to Flak’s ability early on. This would allow you to play an armor or utility early on also, increasing the potential survivability of your characters because the blue weapon mainstay of Energon Axe will be impossible to play on the first turn. 


Potential teams using Flak in Blue based builds could be:


· Autobot Hod Rod, Optimus Prime: BL – you ensure that Optimus is fully suited up and Hot Rod can lay an early beating on with a Hovercraft or Noble’s Blaster


· Blitzwing, Wheeljack – This can be a coveted “Thermal Weaponry” type build that gains synergy with Hunker Down and Flak 


· Major Ultra Magnus, Flamewar, 1 star card – if you are running the armor, Ultra Magnus can get to an 8-9 base by including a 1-2 power (Hovercraft, Noble’s again) weapon right away


· Major Shockwave, Raider Nightstick – I wish we had one more star for Aimless, but this “all in Shockwave” build would increase his early survivability


· Raider Aimless, Megatron: Living Weapon - Megatron, Living Weapon is the one character who made the best use of New Designs through the first two sets. You again gain Tank synergy, and now pair him with an in-play powerful weapon



So that’s a lot of words on a little guy! I simply feel that the ability to control the tempo of the field through his tap ability can be very powerful, especially on turn one in an orange deck where you may simply immediately take out their biggest threat.   The key is understanding that these tap abilities add a powerful strategic dimension to the game!


Thanks again to WotC for the ability to preview Flak. Articles will be slower the next couple of weeks as I take a much needed vacation, but look for more preview articles when I return in May!

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'Till all are one

 

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“Till All Are One!”