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by Vince DeGulis

 

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, ‘bots and ‘cons! That greeting probably seems familiar, it’s the Vin half (or quarter if you count the puppies) of Tech Talk! I wanted to jot down some initial hot takes on the recent spoilers from the upcoming set Rise of the Combiners for the Transformers TCG.


Let me preface this with saying that I have been playing card games for a long time. Like a loooooong time. In general I strongly dislike spoiler season. The simplest way to put it is that I find it tedious. There are a number of factors that impact that feeling but it has remained with me for many years and I am always just anxious for the entire spoiler. Why do I bring this up? Well there are 2 primary reasons. First of all that feeling is gone here. I am super excited for Wave 2. Wizards has already shown us with Wave 1 and it’s supplements that they are making every effort to carefully curate the game. My “faith in WotC” jar is overflowing at this stage so that is certainly playing into my optimism and excitement for these spoilers. 


Aside from the change in general disposition, I bring up my personal history with spoilers because we all do need to temper excitement. We (at the time of writing this) only have barely couple handfuls of cards to go on and a few notes relating to the rules changes/additions. As I started out with this are fresh hot takes. What’s that mean outside of meme world? Well they are just initial thoughts that are 100% going to change because we are going to be receiving a lot of new information in between now and when the set officially releases. Please keep that in mind. It is a lot of fun to speculate and guess, but in reality you aren’t going to break the meta right now so let’s just revel in the potential and allow the excitement to wash over everyone. 


Keep in mind you can view the spoilers right here on VectorSigma just by following along with the class: https://vectorsigma.info/wave-2-spoilers

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Windblade


I mentioned on the recent Tech Talk [link] that I am excited for Windblade. That excitement has not abated and only grown. This isn’t just me hoping planes will be A Thing. Although that is certainly a part of it because I really want to play Bombing Run. However she introduces the option for new archtypes. How? Well we currently typically see orange decks (think bugs https://vectorsigma.info/article-bugs2) and blue decks (such as The Touch https://vectorsigma.info/article-the-touch-1) , but in general you aren’t seeing too many competitively successful assorted pip decks. Metroplex would fall into this category, and you could make an argument for cars or dinobots but the latter in order to be the most successful (in my opinion of course) is to lean one way or the other so you can make reasonable guesses during games that your deck will do a specific thing. 


Windblade changes that because like the promo Slipstream she wants to see different pips. Obviously the inclination is to run a lot of XY cards like The Matrix or Roll Out! and depending on what the green pip cards actually do, I think we can make a reasonable assumption that the damage output and damage mitigation will be lower for these decks. That is made up for by the fact that Windblade allows you to break some rules by playing 3 cards a turn or by Slipstream “converting” different pips into orange ones. 


Slipstream also comes with a decent stat line. If you take the leap and believe we will see the Aerialbots (https://tfwiki.net/wiki/Aerialbot_(G1)), I don’t think it is ridiculous to buy the idea that we will receive a 5 cost plane. Therefore you could run Windblade/Slipstream/X, the other thought is with Thundercracker since Slipstream is a specialist meaning you could include 6 “Brainstorms” by including Multi-Mission Gear. 


Bottom line is I see a lot of potential in Slipstream whether she pushes a team of planes, she leads a team with an almost Battlefield Legend like ability, or she crushes the namesake mechanic of the set: combiners. 


Enigmas


At this stage we have learned what the green pips do. If you want to learn more check out the WTF@TFW interview with Drew Nolosco (http://wtf.tfw2005.com/2019/01/11/wtf-tcg-rise-of-the-spoilers-of-the-combiners-of-wave-2-december-20-2018-2778) , but the basic idea is that if a green pip is revealed in combat at the end of that combat you may discard a card from your hand. If you do, put the green pip card into your hand. The entire concept mitigates one of my initial fears for combiners requiring Enigmas to combine (and they do require it), that is the inconsistency of seeing and therefore being able to fulfill their destiny of turning into the mechanical Frankenstein’s monster that are gestalts. 


Let me break this into a few parts because there isn’t much to say about this specific Enigma other than “well you play it in Predacons”. The first part is obviously this is very thematic for Predaking given his 5 weapon slots. I hope we get named weapons for the combiners that do X on normal bots but YYYY when on the combined mode. Beyond that I do appreciate the rules change for transforming, that is allowing you to use your transform per turn on the KO pile. As well as the allowing combination from the KO pile. I brought it up on Tech Talk #12 when we discussed the reveals but when I saw it I literally thought “well obviously that’s how it works” it’s an elegant solution that also fits existing lore since there have been times where combiners have merged with injured or dead team members. Without having played with the cards, I am impressed so far. 


Moving from there I think green pips in general are great. We had speculated that it would be a heal since we saw the “no repair” clause on the individual predacons. Green in a lot of games is also associated with healing so I think that colored our prediction. However the ACTUAL mechanic adds a colossal amount of depth because of the decisions surrounding it. Yes, in combiner teams you are probably going to ditch a card (if able) to recur whatever Enigma you see. However assuming we see other cards with green pips, which is likely a safe assumption, and they are playable this adds another layer. You get much more consistent non-combat effects at the expense of your combat. Previously as mentioned in the Windblade portion thnigs have focused heavily on the orange and blue pips to further the particular strategy. Null pips due to their power level (looking at your One Shall Stand) were included despite not impacting combat. This is another set of “null pips” because they will not impact combat so they need to be powerful enough to justify their inclusion. 

In general the Enigma concept probably because of the green pips has me looking forward to seeing more of them.

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The Enigma of Combination

Predacons


I’m going to lump these ‘cons together. I’m also going to ignore the obvious play of “play them all together and get to Predaking” with the exception of this: I feel similarly to how I felt about Metroplex prior to release. I have virtually no idea how this will play out and that’s awesome. I say virtually because we can logic out a few things. You can probably count on at least 2 Predacons taking a dirt nap prior to combination. It is likely that you are going to want to run as many transform effects as possible to get them into bot mode asap. It is also reasonable that this team is going to skew blue. Headstrong allows you to really lean on blues and buy time for natural transforms, and being heavy blue means that you will be able stretch your team just a little bit further to minimize damage on Predaking. It’s tough to imagine that they will be orange based or even more of a mixed bag when it comes to combat pips. You are just squandering you ultimate play if Predaking comes in with like 25 damage on him. 


What does that tell us about the other teams? Well it will depend on their stats and star breakdowns. Let’s say that instead of 5x5 you have 1-3-3-3-15 for stars. Completely hypothetical but let’s follow this through. You’d think on the surface that the star breakdown would be awful, but much like Metroplex dumping the turn sequence on its head by INCREASING your character count during the game combiners do something similar because remember Transformers are KO’d not killed. This means that if you had a 1 health character they are still eating an attack (or burn spell) and when combined they would only transfer a single damage to the combined form. 


If you assume 5 turns to transform with no help ala Rapid Conversion, then it’s your opening hand of 3 cards, 5 draw steps, plus a bunch of combat steps. You are likely to see an Enigma one way or another so it’s a matter of trying to minimize incoming damage to ensure that combining truly is a win condition. It’s going to be fun testing all this out.

Where do they fit within other teams though, that is maybe the bigger question. On that front my first reaction is only Headstrong is going to make a major splash. That isn’t to claim you’ll never see Predacons elsewhere, they are small enough that maybe Torox (Tantrum) will show up as a counter or Razorclaw because the flip ability is pretty nuts. For me Headstrong has the most potential, or maybe more accurately the most obvious potential. He clearly is a wall to protect other vulnerable characters even on turn 0 which is an issue for some compositions. Arcee frequently comes up in various discussions and let’s face it when you get 1 shot by Optimus just as easily as Kickback you’re in a bad spot. Now that we are seeing the ability Brave, it opens up options on this front. Headstrong can exist in blue builds alongside “focal” characters. Those are ones that quite clearly start the game with a combiner sized bullseye on them such as say Shockwave. You run him out their your opponent is going to assume shenanigans and try to target him down given the appropriate opportunity. Headstrong allows you to not just manipulate combat with your attacks but also protect them from the very start of the game. 


Turn 1 they have to attack him if they go first, then you swing in with something other than Headstrong or the key character and now you’ve spread damage and more importantly spread it in a way that preserves that key component. I expect to see him a lot. 

As for the other team members I think Razorclaw is the 2nd place finisher. The super rare Bumblebee effect is really strong and if you can reasonably get him to decent attack levels then you’re in business, however that will be contingent on the meta as a whole and of course further reveals. If we continue to see a sea of blue decks it may be tough for him to make a splash. 


Divebomb I need to try. I say that because if you assume that he doesn’t die in a single attack, and you transform him, and he hits a card he is a 5 cost character that ate 1-2 attacks and a card from their hand. That sounds pretty decent but I don’t know how often that will line up until I can put together a list to use him. 


It isn’t clear to me that rampage will even trigger in bot mode. The pierce is fine in the obvious situations but I feel kinda meh about him. Torox/Tantrum is one that I almost have to punt on. The Plan keyword is really cool, I just have no idea about the alt mode power. It seems worthless right now but I imagine we will see more healing. 

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Bolt of Lightning


Conceptually I love this card. The idea of “did they intentionally short their stars?” is cool to me. Additionally there may be ways to reconfigure the primes decklists and the math works so that you aren’t eating damage from One Shall Stand. The self damaging aspect is not irrelevant although quite clearly the wave 1 card is super strong. This is something to keep an eye and I’m looking forward to seeing what other effects have these sort of restrictions. Maybe they will end up just being a “4th” OSS-OSF when you are at 24 stars or maybe character selection now involves trying to get down to 22 stars to ensure you can squeeze in 3 copies. 


Bottom line is that burn abilities have already proven that they are stunningly powerful in this game. You must at least consider this card because of that factor. 


Bluestreak


Another car, let’s move on. 


Well maybe not. This bot, like Windblade encourages different deck building decisions. Sure you will likely run complements of OB pip cards. Compared to Windblade our 4 wheeled friend here requires OBW like a smaller Metroplex. In general I am of 2 minds for this guy. Aside from the good stuff about pushing more diverse battle decks, it also can be pretty strong a 6*/4 (attack/def) is pretty solid. 6 attack because you’re flipping at least 1 orange on attack, then if you take another step into Christmasland and presume a blue on defense that’s soaking 5 damage which is significant.

That’s where it starts to unravel. 


With a mere 9 health it is tough to say he will survive more than 2 attacks in general and almost assuredly will not survive 2 attacks and a burn spell. For an 8 cost character maybe that is fine. I’m honestly not sure at this stage since we know so little about the remainder of the set. Maybe he is one of the partners that Slipstream has been waiting for since they both encourage having many different pips, but then you may miss out of using green pips since those will end up hurting Bluestreak.


Not to be a broken record but he is interesting enough to justify further investigation. It’s easy to say that about all the cards because any new reveal could surprise everyone and turn something from scrap to treasure. I’ll definitely expecting to be experimenting with decks containing Bluestreak at this point.



EDIT:

Well folks we had some additional reveals and it only makes sense to add in some additional random thoughts about the new cards. Just as an aside I am writing all these new ones and the previous independent of the rest of Vector Sigma so I apologize if there is overlap!

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When you Charge of course!

 

Acid Storm


This guy is in a weird spot for me. I really want to like him because he is a 6 star plane meaning that you have options other than Skywarp in that slot, and variety is good right? However his statline is appalling. However given his ability to disable bold it isn’t unreasonable to live through an attack. In a way you can look at him giving your team Tough X, where X is your opponent’s bold and that seems good? I don’t expect his alt transform effect to come into play very often, even with the introduction of additional OO cards. If you treat this as “Tough” in a blue deck to really try and crush orange pip decks then maybe it will matter because you could hypothetically go from eating 2 attacks to eating 3 all the while demoting their bold effects. I’m not a fan of this type of card though. No I don’t mean characters I mean these silver bullet effects that are so all-or-nothing. Still he might find a home depending how the meta shapes up. 


Mounted Missiles


In the interest of full disclosure I haven’t determined how I am going to judge battle cards with stars. However I am fairly certain this one has to be strong enough to see play. One of the first builds I want to try is obviously 9xOO pips nad see if I can make a 22 star build work. It is going to hinge on whether there are enough relevant characters to fill up the team though. 8/7/7 sounds good until you realize that your options are incredibly limited. 9/7/6 gives you Wheeljack - awesome, Barrage - awesome, Demolisher - ehhhhhhhh. 

Outside of ALLTHEORANGEDOTDECK, the fact that this card can be dropped right into any slot is astonishing. Maybe time will show that it needs that flexibility or it won’t be good enough, but this weapon provides so much power it is incredible. I struggle to envision a world where this doesn’t see some playtime.


Reckless Charge


I kinda like this thing. No it is not as good as Grenade Launcher, it probably isn’t even as good as super charge but it provides redundancy for those sort of effects and the self-damage effect can be used to good effect. For example Slipstream is likely very happy about this card. It allows her effect to kick in starting turn 1 (going second) without being forced to expose the bot that your opponent smashed into if you don’t want to. If we see more Ransack like bots then this card clearly has some friends with the self-damage theme. To bring it back to the redundancy point: going for the high-score on someone like Grimlock who can sustain the hit, heal some of it (with help from his pal Sludge) and eliminate the overkill risk is also another route to take this card. Coincidentally it also is static attack in the event that matters (sorry Acid Storm!).


Bad Attitude


I don’t really like this card. I don’t know what’s going on with the artwork either. Obviously it will be inconsistent on the damage side but I am not sure I want to play 6 Repair Bays when 3 of them don’t have a combat pip. Maybe I’m missing something but it doesn’t seem to do enough. That being said we are encountering a number of cards now that include repairing so maybe we will see something that gets buffed off of that in which case this analysis needs to be revised. 


Enemy Combat Analysis


Inconsistent. It is common among card players to say something along the lines of “I want my cards to always work” or “I want my cards to be effective/live all the time” this card doesn’t do that. In the combiner wars where you are facing down identical teams it can break matchups though I think. Assuming we are going to get a lot of 5 star characters, then this card means you are more likely to combine with less damage than your opponent. At the very least you can eat one of their guys and try to pressure them. Being a green pip means you can also tech it for the scenarios where you want it but can only spare enough deck space to sleeve up one or two copies. This way if you flip it then you can retrieve it, but if you don’t want it then you won’t be screwing up a bunch of your combats.

 

Evasive Maneuvers


I uh...don’t know what to say about this card. If we see more stuff like Hunker Down then maybe. Blast Shield didn’t feel awful as a 1 or 2 of in tanks so this should slot into a blue tank shell just fine. However this isn’t really what tanks wanted so I am not sure what deck wants this yet. It could potentially be treated as a blue-pip Forcefield though. Assuming your battle deck is blue enough this is going to prevent 3. Whether that is better than Forcefield will come down to the math but I could see it fulfilling that role. It sounds silly when we have probably all had games were Forcefield soaked an absurd amount of damage, but think about how many games you’ve played where Forcefield did literally nothing because you were getting hit for exactly 4 each time, or you only had 4 health left and drew a Forcefield, or needed just one more blue on defense and flipped Forcefield as your 4th card. Maybe this is the 4th - 6th Body Armor that “The Touch” wants.  (Editors Note: it is not..)


Field Communicator


Let’s go out on a limb and assume you are only putting good cards in your deck. Would you like to play more of them? This is one to keep an eye of as we see more cards with the keyword plan. It also provides an attack buff from the utility slot which is great. It frees you up to drop that weapon you just revealed onto the same bot and just get in there. You also have the potential to chain these or other cards if you hit certain things. Just be careful not to dream TOO big. Those times you are able to “go off” will feel great but you might not remember the times you flipped the top card and it is effectively a blank in the current scenario. 


Focus Fire


Being double pips (OG) is probably the most exciting thing about this to me. With enough bold from other cards you can churn through your deck to find these and then try to burn down whatever big target your opponent presents. Slipstream, Windblade, and Thundercracker all are salivating at the thought of this card albeit for different reasons. The first loves the pips for combat, the second also loves the pips for the possible wombo, and the third would love to see all 3 of these get played for +3 attack and bold 6. As an aside Data Bank is one of my pet cards from wave 1. You can be sure I am going to be reevaluating all the card draw effects in light of green pips. This card is not an exception. 

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Pre-Wave 2 Paint Job Thrust

 

Thrust


What happened to Thrust? His color scheme does not look right. It reminds me more of Victorion than traditional Thrust. Artwork aside this guy feel overcosted star wise, that being said he introduces some interesting ideas. I doubt you are ever going to transform him outside of edge case scenarios. He does seem to fit as an anti-blue meta pick. The reason I say that is that many small attacks, or even some medium attacks are generally fruitless against a defense focused battle deck. You can hit for 5-7 all you want, you’re pushing like 3 damage total across your entire team. However outside of pierce the way to puncture those defense is to go BIG. He has a low attack which means he will accomplish little to nothing, but handing his attack over to another bot may mean you can breach their defenses! He also allows you to manipulate combat like an untap effect...just the other way. That last part may not be so hot but it is something to keep in mind that if you really want wheel turns for some reason and don’t want to be cars maybe Thrust is your bot, er con. Also of note is the 3 defense so he is relatively sturdy. One last point, maybe Battle Ready or more accurately those sort of effects (buffing the whole team) will have a chance to shine with Thrust since you can just condense the benefits onto a single transformer if you wish. 


Venin


This one got debuted right here on Vector Sigma. I have to go read the article because I haven’t had the chance to at the time of writing this. Insecticons have had this discard related subtheme during the entire lifespan of the game. I can see him possibly finding a home with other bots outside of his multi-legged brethren because his stats are pretty decent. There are some hilarious plays to be made with Skrapnel and I Still Function with or without other Insecticons. There is the chance to squeeze him on a team with Shockwave and Kickback. That just has me hoping for for a different 5 star insecticon though. 


Megatron


OK another confession moment. I didn’t like this guy at first and I caught a lot of flak for it. (Editor's Note: Mostly from me, see my opinions on how good this Megatron is in my hot takes, and a further discussion live on Tech Talk, on Thursday) There are a few reasons that I wasn’t immediately overjoyed at seeing this guy, but in the end though I think they are all being allayed by the introduction of more cards. The economy in this game is based around actions and having the opportunity to transform one action into another seems too powerful to not experiment with. I spent a long time trying to get Jetfire centric decks to work, Megatron provides some similar tools along a different axis. He synergizes with a number of existing cards as well such as Hunker Down, and provides something that his nemesis Optimus does: card draw without expending an action. Optimus requires you flip an appropriate battle card whereas Megatron just demands fodder to be destroyed to fulfill his whims. This version of the Decepticon leader is a pretty neat package and I’m interested in seeing where he lands. 



Overall this has been a really strong start to spoiler season for me. I’m truly looking forward to each reveal and on multiple levels. Keep checking back here on Vector Sigma as I know Scott is planning to keep compiling spoilers from all the various sources and we are going to keep putting thoughts out there as the spoilers come in.So check in next time for more Random(‘s) Thoughts!

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'Till all are one

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!”