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By now, we all know about the boogeyman of the TMA Constructed metagame, Quake, and how the sheer amount of power the character possesses is game warping. What happens, though, when you take away Quake’s traditional line up in an innovative way by crafting specific format restrictions?
The Alpha Trion series format Titan One was originally crafted with the idea of asking players how would you build decks for a world in which you only get one Titan Master per team?
People and players largely stayed away from Quake in Titan One testing events as far as I had seen, and I began to wonder at the reason people hadn’t taken on the challenge of adapting Quake to this restriction before? I came into the January Titan One event to find out the answers to these questions.
Before I jump into that, however, we need to figure out the impact that the most recent set from the Alpha Trion Protocols (ATP-2) has had on this format going into this recent event to know what exactly it is we’re trying to compete against.
When ATP-2 was first shown off, there was one character that stood out to me as incredibly special. “Special” in the sense that there were very few, if any, characters that played similarly to them at all. Who, you ask?
That character was Soundwave, Intelligence Coordinator. Soundwave’s design followed a lot of themes that seemed present going into this newest set by seeking to provide card advantage and versatility.
Both the improved Menasor and Soundwave were major players coming out of the recent set and going into this event. Much of their popularity is due to the raw number of cards they draw and, thus, see during each given game.
This means that, by playing these characters, you can functionally see specific cards more often to follow a more specific, dedicated game plan with greater consistency than a lot of decks not including such powerful draw engines.
Observing this, I knew going into the event that both card advantage and disruption were going to be important to attack these strategies. Soundwave, in particular, puts his Spypatrols and/or Mini-cassettes into the KO area giving access to virtually three or so battle card-type abilities to choose from every other turn thanks to his own flip-to-alt-mode ability and the Spy Patrol’s Revenge abilities--that is, IF you have a card in hand you can afford to ditch to do so.
The question this then ends up asking the deck builder becomes: how do you capitalize on this pretty unique and incredibly versatile ability? Well, I think it is time we dig into the deck I brought and piloted to a very solid 4-2 finish.
The deck I brought to the event was, at its heart, a control deck featuring a few mini-combos around the KO area and cycling characters into and out of it. This way, we can look to add an additional axis of value to Soundwave’s already-great ability to put characters into the KO by pairing it with the all-too-long-disregarded Quake (at least in Titan One, that is).
I originally set out to build a deck around the aforementioned Quake, but ATP-2’s Soundwave really kind of demands to be your centerpiece if you’re going to play the character. It ended up being that Quake was my ideal partner for my now-Soundwave-centric lineup--primarily for two reasons.
The first reason being that it gave the deck a legitimate reason to play a playset of a card that has for some reason fallen out of favor in I Still Function! (a.k.a. ISF) and push what Soundwave already brings to the table along an additional axis of power.
The second reason being a bit more traditional in that Quake’s “last man standing” ability in alt mode made him a legitimate backup finisher in case Soundwave was focused hard enough early to be KO’ed. This is honestly a very common occurrence due to the dual nature of Soundwave posing such a threat in the long game and forcing you to attack with him to actually fill up your KO area with fodder.
With those 2 locked in, the final character I chose to round out my lineup is the disruptive battlemaster, Raider Caliburst. Caliburst was the third character that I found fit because it didn’t cost me any flips, compounded Quake’s incremental ping damage with his own to make it easier to finish off characters as the game went on (Soundwave mirrors, for example), and was a reasonable lead attacker due to the fact that you got added value out of his being KO’ed.
All of this put together meant Caliburst seemed exactly what I was looking for. Speaking of value from KO’d characters, I Still Function! is the whole reason to play this deck.
What might not be obvious at first glance is that, in addition to that card’s written text, it represents one-half of a Photon Bomb (because of Quake) AND essentially your choice between Pep Talk, Plasma Burst, Espionage, or Take by Surprise since Soundwave fills your KO area over time. You just cannot beat that amount of versatility in a single card--well over the bar of worth playing a card with no pips.
One of the extra secret special modes of ISF is that it can even be a massive Soundwave attack and go card neutral in the late game if your opponent has KO’ed your Soundwave already thanks to him being within the 12-star limit to return!
The rest of the deck is pretty much a stock control deck with a slightly lower number of Weapons than average in it thanks to Caliburst, as a Battle Master, always supplying you with at least one.
In the deck, you have 6 combat pumps to ensure you get consistent damage, main deck copies of both Belligerence and End Hostilities to help deal and mitigate damage, Sabotaged Armaments and Hold the Line to diversify your Secret Actions enough to keep your opponents off-balance, and then, of course, Magnetic Dysfunction Ray and Callous Leadership because we are an all-Decepticon lineup and Soundwave is a leader that has to make himself more vulnerable than we maybe like.
We get a lot of valuable damage and survivability out of those cards. As for Upgrades, there are very few in this version deck--only 13 that you really want to play since three of them are copies of the all-too-often-drawn Handheld Blaster. To make up for this low number, half of our playable weapons have green icons as well as three of the four armors also having green icons. Realistically, it isn’t that hard to find an Upgrade and an Action to play as needed between the incidental card draw and green pips since, as was stated in the benefits of Soundwave earlier, you just get to see so many cards.
1. By combining I Still Function! with Raider Overkill’s bot mode Revenge ability, you lock out an opponent’s next draw for the turn by forcing them to draw an upgrade that they already had in play instead of a new card.
2. If you have I Still Function! in hand it is often correct to attack with Soundwave second especially if the opponent is going to be tapped out going into your third attack letting you get double usage out of a Revenge ability and a Quake trigger on that turn thanks to ISF and Soundwave’s Flip ability. This usually means getting to take 2 cards from the opponent’s hand and dealing a damage to the board or dealing 5(!!) out-of-combat damage to a single character and 1 to everyone else. Either of those momentum swings on its own can be game-winning.
3. When Soundwave is upgraded with Caliburst in weapon form and attacks, order the Caliburst weapon trigger to resolve first. This allows you to, potentially, draw 2 cards and forces your opponent to scrap a card if you attacked with less cards in hand than the opponent.
4. Do not be afraid to use Callous Leadership to KO your own Kreb when it's down to Soundwave and Kreb left, you will get more mileage out of a healthy Soundwave than you ever will with Kreb.
5. I tend to put Ravage from the Blaster vs Soundwave set into the KO third or 4th due to him being a relevant attacker to bring back with I Still Function! to help finish off characters if needed in the late game--shoutout to having Pierce 2 on that bot!
After playing the event, it really opened my eyes, and I’m sure those of many others, that Quake is definitely something to have in the back of your mind going into future Titan One events.
Soundwave also is a character that is here to stay as an incredibly versatile character seeing success in many different forms, such as Ogar with Pure Aggro, Mr Junk Jon getting Top 4 with a pure control build, and myself with the combo build I just spent this whole article going over--just to name a few.
Since the conclusion of the Swiss rounds of this event, I’ve seen at least two more Titan One-legal variants start to pop up. They include such setups as Quake with the two 7-star Coneheads and Quake with an all-Tanks character set both putting up some numbers in the amazing VectorSigma Discord league system.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to go into events playing decks that are innovative. A well-designed brew that can fight with the best of the best decks is just as effective as playing the best decks and sometimes can even give you an edge if the opponents are unprepared, especially going into a big event like the Season 2 Invitational coming up.
Thanks for reading!
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