In Wave 1, one of my favorite “for funsies” decks to take to a tournament was Cliffjumper/Mirage/Thundercracker. I struggled to come up with a good name for it, but one of our viewers suggested “Thundercars” and it seemed as good an idea as any.
It’s no secret that Thundercracker is one of my favorite characters to play in TFTCG. His robot mode mode ability encourages you to chain as many actions together as possible to pump his attack value. It’s not especially difficult to chain Brainstorms, Leap into Battle’s, and The Bigger They Are’s to push his attack value into the 17-20 range (assuming you also have a good weapon equipped). At PAX Unplugged last winter, I threw together a quick Flamewar/Shockwave/Thundercracker deck and folks were surprised when I was able to kill OPBL by the end of the first round of activations.
The downsides to this plan in Wave 1 were that you needed to be able to draw a lot of cards, you needed to keep Thundercracker protected, and you either needed to ensure Thundercracker obliterated their scariest target OR that you had a way to quickly refill your hand after blowing it on a big Brainstorm-chained attack.
My “fun” solution to these problems was to pair TC with Cliffjumper and Mirage. Cliffjumper was a decent damage soak AND allowed me to draw cards while flipping Mirage. This paired well with Mirage, since I wanted to keep flipping him in order to cheat out additional actions to power up Thundercracker. If you’re facing a team with melee characters, it was also useful to flip Thundercracker back and forth to ping out additional damage, so it helped that Cliffjumper never had to transform. Check out Scott’s article about why this is extremely helpful.
A major downside to this list was that it had to have a diverse list of cards to function well. I needed orange pipped cards like Grenade Launcer, Turbo Boosters, and Ramming Speed to accomplish my win conditions (spike big damage, get rid of Force Fields/Reinforced Plating, protect Thundercracker and draw additional cards by creating extra turns with the cars). It was fun, but it wasn’t going to do well against some of the boogie-men lists out there, since smart players knew that the key to beating it was to take out Thundercracker ASAP, which isn’t a difficult task.
Enter Wave 2. After scratching some of the Combiner itch by playing a bunch of Aerialbots and Predacons, I toyed with a few ideas for Thundercracker. The first iteration of Team Dartboard involved Headstrong (keep damage off Thundercracker), Shrapnel (serve as an additional blocker), Arcee (have another scary attacker), and Thundercracker. The goal was to try to build up a complete set of Focus Fire and swing for crazy amount with Thundercracker.
The concept didn’t work because there were too many moving pieces. I eventually tweaked it by swapping Thundercracker out and Barrage in. Focus Fire also came out, simply because an orange deck has so many better Action cards when it comes to attack buffing.
The second attempt to utilize Thundercracker in Wave 2 was to revamp the Flamewar/Shockwave/Thundercracker deck. The dream is to be able to chain Brainstorms with either attack buffs (Leap into Battle, The Bigger They Are, Heavy-Handed) or chain Brainstorms with discard cards (System Reboots, preferably) while Shockwave is in bot mode. I’ve played it a bit, but I’ve found that it’s too hard to get the cards I want into my hand. On top of that, I never had Shockwave in bot mode at the right times.
I started to reexamine the old Thundercars concept. Mirage was there to “cheat” in extra actions via his flip to alt mode ability. His robot mode ability may as well have been blank, since too many white pips would have nullified two of the main goals of the deck (protect TC, facilitate big hits with TC). Luckily, in Wave 2, we have a new car that performs both of those goals better AND helps us with our other goal (drawing additional cards).
Even though he comes in at 10 stars as opposed to Mirage’s 9 stars, New Bee is significantly better all around. Let’s explore the ways:
- Higher ATK value on both sides
- 2 additional health
- Useful abilities in both modes
- Ability to see more cards early in the game (flip to bot mode, scrap an action on first attack)
- Another character with the RANGED keyword
- Access to the LEADER trait
The 1 DEF in bot mode is a bummer, but we can deal with it.
On top of new Bee, we also got a card that made me start salivating the moment I saw it.
This meant that I wanted to try to keep a few stars open in my team. Thundercracker and New Bee comes in at 18 stars, leaving us 7 to play with. I didn’t want to slot in any of the 4 star Metroplex bots or Constructicons, as they didn’t really help us achieve any of our 3 goals (pump attacks, protect TC, draw cards). For 5 stars, Flamewar is always an attractive option for blue decks, but, to be honest, I’m tired of running her.
I started thinking Brave characters, which meant that my options were Headstrong or Fireflight. I like Headstrong’s native 3 DEF, but Fireflight’s higher health and access to the RANGED keyword took him over the edge.
With our line-up set, it was time to build the deck. I played a couple of games with the initial build against Joe, but here’s my current iteration.
Fireflight (Sky High Recon) – 5
Thundercracker (Mach Warrior) – 8
Bumblebee (Trusted Lieutenant) – 10
- 3x Reinforced Plating (B)
- 2x Sparring Gear (OG)
- 2x Armed Hovercraft (B)
- 2x Energon Axe (B)
- 3x Drill Arms (B)
- 2x Noble’s Blaster (BG)
- 1x Scoundrel’s Blaster (BG)
- 1x Matrix of Leadership (OB)
- 3x Brainstorm (B)
- 2x *Leap of Faith
- 3x Leap into Battle (B)
- 3x The Bigger They Are (B)
- 3x Heavy-Handed (B)
- 3x Marksmanship (B)
- 3x Pep Talk (B)
- 2x Work Overtime
- 2x Roll Out! (OB)
In terms of Upgrades, nothing there is really a surprise. Fireflight and Thundercracker are RANGED in both modes (as is Bee in bot mode), so Armed Hovercraft can serve as a finisher if an opposing character is hanging on with 1 HP. Drill Arms can also serve as a draw card in a pinch, or to knock off armor.
Actions are divided into two main categories: ATK boosters or drawing cards. Some additional thoughts:
- Much like Armed Hovercraft, the prevalence of RANGED characters in our line-up makes Marksmanship a strong card.
- Bee and Thundercracker have potentially strong flip-to-alt mode abilities, so Roll Out can give you some tricky plays.
- Brainstorm-ing into either Pep Talk or Work Overtime opens up options if you don’t have a good one immediately in your hand.
- Our character line-up (5, 8, 10 stars) makes both The Bigger They Are and Heavy-Handed good options. Thundercracker especially is well-suited for both, as there aren’t a lot of frequently played characters at the 8 star level.
- In addition to being able to spike into high ATK values, we can also very quickly rack up high PIERCE values (Bigger They Are, Heavy-Handed, Axe, Noble/Scoundrel Blasters). This will surprise some of the heavy blue turtling decks out there, but they’ll catch on to this quickly. Make it count the first time you get to activate it to its full potential.
- Leap of Faith will almost always give us playable cards. I’ve been burned with Field Communicator-ing into a Handheld Blaster in heavy blue Specialist decks, so one of my goals was to try to ensure that any card we flip is going to be useful. The only exceptions would be Roll Out! if all characters are already in alt mode, Matrix if Thundercracker is the lone remaining character, Axe if all my characters are undamaged (not likely), or Marksmanship if all the opposing characters are in alt mode.
- Espionage (good all-around)
- Inferno Breath (can make Fireflight actually do damage without having to waste upgrades/attack actions on him)
- Press the Advantage (good for Fireflight Bee, also good if there’s a turn where your opponent is tapped out and you need to attack with both an Autobot AND Thundercracker)
- Reckless Charge (another ATK booster, but I’m weary of self-damaging either Bee or TC, especially since armor removal is prevalent)
- Vaporize (armor/weapon removal)
- Backup Plan (another way to refill your hand)
- Force Field (it’s likely that we will be taking 4+ damage on attacks)
- Grenade Launcher (additional way to spike damage)
- Treasure Hunt (we’re definitely heavily tilted toward Actions)
- Start Your Engines/Turbo Boosters (getting to untap Bee is attractive, I definitely wish we had a car with native BRAVE)
If your opponent goes first, they’re forced to go after Fireflight. On your turn:
- Flip Bee to bot mode.
- Try to play a weapon or armor onto Bee. If you can’t, try to play a draw card. If you can’t do this, play a card to boost Bee’s ATK.
- When you attack, scrap a less useful Action card to draw more cards.
- On your next turn, attack with Fireflight to take the heat off of Bee.
If you go first, do the above steps (minus being able to play an action or upgrade). On your next turn, dangle out Fireflight to keep the heat off of Bee.
By the time you get to Thundercracker, the hope is that you have a way to perform multiple actions (Brainstorm and/or flipping Bee to alt mode). Hopefully, you also have a weapon in hand and at least one attack boosting action card.
PLEASE NOTE: This deck is a lot of fun, and has some really interesting decision points. It is NOT something you should take to a tournament where you expect people to be playing a lot of the established “meta” decks, as it will almost certainly struggle against Bugs and probably Aerialbots. Bust this out at the kitchen table or at a casual weeknight event.
Or throw caution to the wind and do it anyway.