Hello faithful readers and welcome to our first exclusive spoiler for Wave 2 of the Transformers TCG: Rise of the Combiners. Thank you to Wizards of the Coast Transformers Trading Card team for this opportunity. Our first spoiler is one of the “Non-Combiner” characters in the set, and is part of an already established Tribal team: the Insecticons. I assume this Insecticon at one point went through a name change, as to not interfere with a copyright issue on a certain often poorly represented in media Symbiote from another franchise, because when I was younger this toy and character had a different name. That aside, let me introduce you to the official leader of the Insecticons: Venin.
See as a kid, I never really liked the Insecticons; I think it was flashbacks to the bug scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” honestly. I only ever owned Kickback as a kid, and I know Venin was part of the second wave of Insecticons that looked even MORE bug like in their alt modes.
According to the Transformers Wiki: [Venin] is the official leader of the Insecticons, but he's so paranoid about one of the others trying to usurp his position that he does more damage to his own standing among them than most of the plots they might hatch against him. He trusts none of them and suspects everyone of being after his place. He won't hesitate to utilize his manipulative and destructive psychological warfare techniques on those under him to stay in power: his self-esteem is based solely around his job!
Let’s look at Venin as a character in the TCG. The first thing that jumps out to me is his nine star cost, which means you are not using this Insecticon in the “traditional” aggressive Insecticon deck very easily. So right off the bat, without considering any other Insecticons that may be revealed in this set, the traditional aggressive route with four Insecticons does not seem to be Venin’s foray, simply due to cost alone. So we need to then evaluate him for his own unique take on the Insecticon lineup instead of a simple upgrade to the existing archetype.
(Aside: this is how I typically evaluate new cards: I find where they seem to fit into existing archetypes first as pure upgrades before seeing where they can create or slot into new ones, just because that kinda mirrors how the brain works: find patterns and recognition in new ideas to relate to old ones..plus I tend to speak in analogies and pop-culture references so..)
Looking at the rest of Venin’s stat line, you see that his 12 health stands out as “large” for an Insecticon; the largest we have seen so far. Paired with a base two defense in alt mode, we continue down the journey of using Venin in a different Insecticon based build. His four attack in alt mode is “fine” and similar to his underlings in Bombshell and Barrage, his form is much more aggressive in Bot Mode. His six base attack in bot mode is solid, tied for the highest base attack in the game at that slot with Slug currently, but I do not believe he will spend much time in that mode given the nature of where his star cost seems to be pushing the deck archetype.
Now his abilities. The first thing to notice is that his alt ability is extremely powerful. The ability to discard TWO cards out of an opponent’s hand is above the curve compared to similar options, outside of a well-timed Security Checkpoint. The fact that he is ranged means he can equip Rapid Ascent to continue the discard sub theme, on that has not been truly explored as a full on theme outside of attempts to abuse Shockwave, that seem to meet with mixed success. Leaning heavily on Discard is going to be needed to enable his Bot mode ability, which is very powerful in the discard/control based shell we seem to be leaning on with Venin. All of your Insecticons gaining Pierce 3, conveniently matching the base attack on Bombshell, will help you close out games for what seems to be our control build.
I love that Venin is a perfect complement to Bombshell from Wave One who I feel was criminally under-represented in competitive play. I remember playing against a deck that used Bombshell/Nemesis Prime/Flamewar with my original Cars deck, and he was close to IMPOSSIBLE to get through as a giant wall. Now that he will have an in-tribe partner to use will allow use of one of the cooler “minor characters” in the TF media I have been recently ingesting (he had a key role in the IDW stories “All Hail Megatron,” which coincidently is where a lot of the Battle Card art in the TCG comes from).
So let’s see the deck I would use for Venin:
(Note: of course this is being made without full access to Set 2)
The third member of the team is up for debate, simply because we need to see additional “One Star Battle Cards” to see if anything fits the theme we are trying to push. Barrage remains the best seven cost “on-Tribe” option but only leaves you one remaining star, whereas the other two will allow for more (Kickback allows for a full playset of one-star Battle cards). I believe the flip ability on Barrage to give Pierce 2 will help close out the long game and he has the most useful “Combat styles” being both Ranged and Melee depending on how you use him.
I really like where Swarm is positioned in this deck, using it mostly for its healing ability as opposed to its usual damage dealing role. There are obviously a few slots that can be improved and changed later on: The current four blanks, the Armed Hovercrafts, the Data Pads, and some of the actions. We are super heavy on actions in the deck, with a 22/18 split in favor of Actions, so we want to get that closer to 20/20 to smooth out our turns. The only non-negotiables to cut are the Pierce enablers (Energon Axe and The Bigger they Are..), most of the Discard (Rapid Ascent and Collateral Damage being the best) along with of course the double Blue cards. The Tough armor is very good in this current build given the following defensive curve:
So your Bombshell should be defending almost six per attack, which rockets to almost NINE with a body armor on him. Venin will defend four, with 12 hit points, so should survive multiple hits, even before an armor comes down on him.
Time will tell how dependent you will be on the Venin Bot Mode ability to close out game. That is why I included the I Still Functions in case you need to bring him back to finish out the late game. The other key combination with I Still Function is using it on the other two characters because at the end of the turn they will be killed again, so you will proc the Venin ability to make them discard two. I know I Still Function does not need MORE reasons to see play, but adding a Discard 2 effect on the back end puts the power level to mega levels.
Hopefully we are only scratching the surface of the Insection leader and he will have additional support throughout Rise of the Combiners. I am really looking forward to additional synergy he will gain with the set, and I feel both of his abilities allow both the Insecticon Tribe, and honestly any deck design in general, to explore a new angle of Discard/Control.
Tune in later this week as we continue to bring you EXCLUSIVE Spoiler cards from Rise of the Combiners.
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).
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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