Welcome back to the final VectorSigma.info preview card for Siege: War for Cybertron. Sorry for the delay but you know I like to really dive into these previews and its been a LITTLE busy with things here at VS.info..
Thanks again to WotC for this opportunity to preview a card from the new Siege: War for Cybertron set (hitting the street on June 28).
I present to you Private Top Shot! Here is another character I am not familiar with, so time to consult the good old Transformers Wiki! First Search unsuccessful...hrm..lets try “Battle Patrol”…ah one word name, that’s the problem!
[Top Shot, who had a name change]is the leader of the Battle Patrol, and he likes to think inside the box. A dutiful soldier, he will follow every order to the letter, and makes sure his patrol gives their all for the cause. Beyond that, however, he refuses to carry any operation a step further than he was authorized to by a commanding officer. This makes him efficient and reliable, but since it seems like every other Micromaster is a hothead who doesn't play by the rules, it also makes him a bit of an outsider. Luckily, he comes equipped with a gun as long as his entire superstructure. Takes the edge off.
Also from the UK comics (which I wish I still had from my youth, those things were hard to find at the US comic stores!): The Battle Patrol were created on Cybertron in the 20th century using the Micromaster process, under the oversight of Emirate Xaaron. Because the Micromaster process was so revolutionary, each Autobot Micromaster was outfitted with a self-destruct button in case they were captured, to prevent the Decepticons from acquiring the technology.
Big Shot led his team on a mission deep inside Decepticon territory, only to learn that they had been lured there by Thunderwing, in order to get ahold of the Micromasters for examination. Big Shot momentarily considered using the self-destructs in his team, as he had been ordered to do, but ultimately the "Never say die!" Autobot fighting spirit won out, and the Battle Patrol resolved to go down fighting. Well, they did. Thunderwing captured the Battle Patrol and used their circuitry to reverse engineer the process, creating the first Decepticon Micromasters. Roadhandler and a team of Autobot Micros managed to retrieve the Battle Patrol before they were finally disposed of, though. A Small War!
Stepped on by Bruticus...that just sounds hilarious! Anyway…enough about this guy’s lore and let’s look at his card text.
The first thing that jumps out at me about Top Shot is that he only cost FOUR stars…FOUR STARS!
Yes, you do not get an impressive body to go with that four stars, but what you do get is a few interesting traits and interactions. First of all, he is an Autobot Leader and a Tank. This means that he can conveniently carry the Matrix of Leadership on a FOUR COST BODY to buff your other characters as early as the second turn. The Matrix has not seen a lot of play in the Rise of the Combiners metagame, outside of occasionally showing up in Dinobots or Sentinels’ lists as a backup upgrade, because frankly the number of playable Utilities has skyrocketed in this set. Now, defensive Autobot decks can no longer afford to just run it as a minor buff. They should be playing Security Console. Most tribal strategies have their own very key Utilities to run (Jaws of Steel, Combat Commands, etc.). Heck, one of the most played Autobot teams in Aerialbots does not even have a leader that can use the Matrix!
Top Shot will change that. His inborn Stealth in vehicle mode, shared by all his Micromaster brethren, means the Matrix is likely to stick around a lot longer than compared to other options. Honestly he would not be that juicy of a target even with it on him. I would rather my opponents’ waste an attack on Top Shot (showing that dutiful soldier mentality), even with a Matrix on him, as virtual protection for my other characters anyway! This is a key point that I feel all Micromasters will bring to the table, but one where Top Shot will shine. Given his ability to assist combat on multiple fronts that are not directly attacking, it makes him a spicy target. He may not seem like much, kid, but he’s got it where it counts!
The next interesting thing about Top Shot is that he is a four cost Tank, sharing that trait with the always exciting Metroplex Drone in Slammer. Here his five health and 2/1 defense help out in the Slammer comparison, as he is not simply immediately KO’d by various three point direct damage hits (One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall/Inferno Breath/Lightning Bolt/etc.) As a tank he will have immediate synergy with Hunker Down, although his tap ability wants you to be playing Orange cards, and more importantly the newly shown Two-Pronged Attack.
Playing Top Shot with Hunker Down likely means a Blue pip shell with multiple Tank characters to take advantage of the Hunker Down/Superior Plating play (among others). Which means you could see Top Shot see play alongside various incarnations of Megatron, including the new General Megatron. As a four cost character who has Stealth in one mode, it should be easy to wield a weapon that will stay in play for Megatron’s flip ability.
Even running out of a Blue shell, again to take advantage of Hunker Down/Armor synergies, you can still run “off pip” cards such as Treasure Hunt, Two Pronged Attack, Bashing Shield/Enforcement Batons, Sparring Gear, or Rapid Ascent. You can also have dual pip cards such as the aforementioned Matrix of Leadership and even Roll Out (as you want to be back in Tank mode to get the tap ability again). His tap ability may not shine in this type of build (as a clone of Incoming Transmission will not have as much offensive punch in a mostly Blue shell), but it will not be unused. Card sifting remains very important in the Transformers TCG.
I think his synergy with Two Pronged Attack in a defensive shell is what will really propel Top Shot to competitive play. Two Pronged Attack (TPA) is absolutely devastating on the first few turns of the game (especially out of Blue shells that can afford to run it off-color) and has diminishing returns as the game goes on. See, your opponent is likely to be “playing off the top” with an empty hand in the mid to late game. Well, Top Shot gives you an out to still use a later drawn TPA to try and find a more playable Action/Upgrade card later on…remember, the tap ability may cost you the card but not your Action/Upgrade phases for the turn. So you can use the cards “found” through Top Shot’s ability later in the same turn. In a Blue shell he may not be as efficient as his Micromaster cousin “Raider Detour” because you may not have an Orange/White/Dual Pip to put on top with the ability, but the Tank battle card synergy and ability to wield the Matrix of Leadership may make up for that fact.
Many control shells, mostly Blue Based, can also be built around Specialists, and Top Shot solves multiple issues at once on that front. He has immediate synergy with Field Communicator (and Windblade for that matter..) which becomes much less of a blind draw in the mid to late game. Using the drawn Orange into Top Shot, into Field Communicator, means that Top Shot will allow you to operate like a virtual New Designs you have some control over.
This is where his ability will truly shine. See, while Incoming Transmission had been a staple in Orange decks since Day One, it has fallen off recently in favor of better options. If you had that ability built into a character you start with in play you will have the ability to use it on a key attack turn, virtually guaranteed. The only thing you lose from Incoming Transmission is its ability to be a “safe play” in the very early game: to set up later turns, as you do not want to unnecessarily expose Top Shot to being attacked early (or “waste the ability”) on a non-key turn.
So how good is this ability for an aggressive deck? VERY! See, using an Incoming Transmission to set up a “guaranteed” double Orange on top of your deck, pre-combat, means that you are already doing above average damage (or at least on parity if the second card is Blue/Blank). Most importantly this ability fres up your Action Phase for the turn.
So now for that giant Grimlock attack you can use Top Shot, get an upgrade, put a double Orange on top, play an upgrade, and then play a Dino Chomp! all in the same turn! This will truly help on the big turns you do NOT have access to all of these cards ready to go, or your hand is shredded by other means (pesky Sentinels with their Mirage and Espionage plays for example).
I also believe that Top Shot alone could open up another flavor of Aggro-Control based around discard, due to his synergy with Two Pronged Attack and Rapid Ascent. Pairing him in an Orange based deck with Demolisher gives Hunker Down into Rapid Ascent some real play. You can also get back random Bashing Shields or Scrapper Gauntlets, whose Orange pips can be deterrents in control shells but would shine here. You could use Hunker Down as the “Start Your Engines in Orange Car decks,” a powerful effect that is worth the off-pip investment.
Obviously Top Shot also has synergy with a certain Autobot Leader who likes to play cards off the top of the deck while attacking, or his soon to be released mentor in Alpha Trion (for the Blue ones). He also combos with the newly revealed Anticipation Engine weapon for putting an action card on top of the deck, again giving you access to both of Top Shot’s draws in the same turn.
All of these uses are likely just the tip of the iceberg at looking at the potential of Top Shot, as there are many more Battle Cards (and a few Characters) still to be revealed in the set. The fact that he is a four cost Ranged, Tank, Autobot Leader that can positively affect combat indirectly through his abilities. He allows easy deck manipulation and digs you to viable card plays in the same turn, without costing you the typical Action/Upgrade Phases on the key turns.
I may not have been familiar with Top Shot before, but chances are he and I will be close friends in the near future!
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