“I’m a scientist, not an executioner!”-Skyfire, “Fire in the Sky”
Back in Wave 1, one of the ideas that really intrigued me was running a 10 star character, backed up by three cheaper characters. For a while, I theorized on the possibility of an orange-based deck with Grimlock, Arcee, Flamewar, and Kickback. Clearly, in this list, Kickback and Flamewar would basically exist as meatshields to keep Grimlock and Arcee alive. The idea percolated for a while, but I never followed through on it.
With a giant influx of 5-star characters, this idea greatly opened up in Wave 2.
One of my favorite teams as of about a month ago was Team Dartboard, which consisted of Headstrong, Shrapnel, Arcee, and Barrage. The basic idea was that Headstrong and Shrapnel would serve as blockers. Shrapnel could also punch through some damage to set up a big Barrage attack. Then, ideally, I’d have Reckless Charge and either Grenade Launcher or Erratic Lightning to try to get Arcee to one-shot a character as well.
The team functioned well in practice, but when I took it to an event, I found myself getting clobbered by Dinobots in two out of my five rounds, even though I used Shrapnel’s flip ability to tap down Grimlock and kill him. Unfortunately, my opponents were able to draw ISF in each of our games. I also had a tough time against five-wide teams. Above all, I kept on getting my hand choked with Improvised Shields and Peace Through Tyranny, so my ability to actually play cards on my turns were limited.
I’ve been intrigued by taking a similar idea and swapping the characters a bit, probably going with Grimlock, Arcee, (Fireflight OR Headstrong), and (Silverbolt OR Razorclaw). I still feel like there’s a decent amount of potential there, but y’all know I like to play around with the weird stuff. So I started looking at this line-up and figuring out what other 10-star character we could slot in.
Jetfire was one of those characters from Wave 1 that always seemed to have potential, but I couldn’t quite make him work. I tried a few variations, most of them focused on using Swap Parts (RIP) to pass around upgrades between characters. Jimmy of Transformers TCG Deck Techs used him in one of his first videos, which put him back on my radar. On top of that, Jetfire is going to be getting an incredible looking update in the Siege toyline, so he’s been on my mind a bit.
At our local store, we set challenges for our weekly Wednesday night tournaments. One of the recent challenges was to take ONLY Commons and Uncommons (both for character cards and battle cards). I thought this would be a good time to field test this basic idea. I couldn’t use Arcee, since she’s a Rare, so I swapped in Razorclaw in her place. Overall, I was happy with how it performed, but I knew it was hamstrung by the inability to use Rare cards.
Over the past week, I’ve managed to get in about a dozen games with this team. It is still a work in progress, but here’s the current iteration.
DISCLAIMER: This isn’t something you take to a case tournament or something similar. This is something you take to a casual weekly tournament to try something different.
Jetfire is… weird. He’s one of the relatively few characters out there who want to attack while in alt mode, since he has 5 base ATK backed up by Bold 1. The timing is a bit tricky, however, since you’ll probably want to flip him to bot mode, then back to alt mode again before attacking with him. He also PROBABLY wants to be in an orange focused deck, which was tricky to do effectively in Wave 1, at least when it came to finding viable characters to pair him up with.
His weirdness continues in bot mode. In Wave 1, he was the ONLY character that had an ability that triggered when he flipped into bot mode. This became a lot more commonplace in Wave 2, but it definitely made him feel “different” to play in the Wave 1 days.
Stat-wise, Jetfire is fairly comparable to most of the other Wave 1 10-star characters. In fact, stat-wise, he’s essentially equivalent to SR Bee. Some additional thoughts on the other 10-star characters from Wave 1:
- Grimlock is an offensive powerhouse that wants to trample over his enemies.
- SR Bee has the ability to threaten characters that would otherwise be untouchable.
- Common Megatron seems designed to attempt to focus on blue and stack Pierce to outlast your opponent.
- Common Starscream and Ramjet seem tailor made for Sealed formats.
So, what’s Jetfire’s niche? I’d argue that Jetfire, at least in Wave 2, offers you a toolbox. With his ability to hit hard in alt mode and grab/equip an armor or utility in bot mode, he can fulfill multiple roles and allow you to perform multiple tasks at once. We’ll explore what we can throw into this toolbox a bit later.
In these “dartboard” style orange-focused teams, Arcee is an attractive option for only 5 stars. Once it was confirmed and clarified that Arcee basically grants infinite Pierce in bot mode, everyone was absolutely certain that she’d be broken and would show up EVERYWHERE. As the Wave 1 meta evolved, however, she rarely made a splash, mostly because chances were pretty good that she could be killed before even being able to make a single attack.
With the advent of BRAVE as a trait in Wave 2, we’re able to protect Arcee if our opponent goes first AND we’re able to delay activating her until we have a good combination of ATK-boosting upgrades and actions. There are also some rare occasions where her flip into alt mode ability can be impactful (ie. keeping Fireflight on the board a bit longer, making Force Field relevant again for characters with only 4 health remaining, “undoing” the effects of an Armed Hovercraft, etc.).
This spot could potentially be filled by Razorclaw, but we’re going to use Silverbolt because of his RANGED keyword and because he’s an Autobot. In addition to that, we’re going to be running some blue pips with our traditional orange/white pips, so we have the potential to trigger his bot mode ability without needing the flip (especially if we can get a Power Punch onto him before he swings).
Fireflight, quite simply, exists in this list to (hopefully) die first. We’ll also ideally get some utility with RANGED, as he’s probably the best target to throw an Armed Hovercraft onto. With that said, Fireflight equipped with a Grenade Launcher and boosted with Reckless Charge can get him up to 10+ ATK, which your opponent may not be expecting.
Quick notes on the team:
- 3 out of 4 of our characters are RANGED in both modes, so Armed Hovercraft and Marksmanship are strong cards.
- We have a decent chance of being able to attack with at least two PIERCE 6 or higher attacks on our first round of activations.
- We also have multiple ways to ping out direct damage (Silverbolt flip, Armed Hovercraft, Marksmanship).
From a general tactics standpoint, we probably want to throw Silverbolt out there as our first attacker if we’re first player (we also usually want to do this if we’re the second player). If your target has low defense and you don’t think they have much blue, you can take your chances and keep him in alt mode for the attack and hope you hit the orange/blue/white trigger. In this case, you probably want to flip Arcee to potentially be able to use her flip back to alt mode healing ability. If you think your opponent will be able to block all the damage from a Silverbolt attack, it might not hurt to flip him to bot mode to ping out for one damage.
Depending on your hand, your opponent’s character line-up, and what’s in your scrap, you may want to either send out Fireflight or Jetfire as your next attacker. In general, you want to time it so that Fireflight or Silverbolt eat the attack from their most dangerous character, leaving Arcee and/or Jetfire to counterattack.
It is imperative that you have killed their most dangerous character once the first round of activations completes and everyone untaps their characters. This does make fighting against Combiners tricky, as they will likely to be able to combine before you you wipe out all the smaller characters.
- 3x Grenade Launcher (O)
- 3x Erratic Lightning (O)
- 2x Power Punch (O)
- 3x Armed Hovercraft (B)
- 1x Noble’s Blaster (B/G)
- 3x Force Field ( W )
- 2x Bashing Shield (O/G)
- 2x Debilitating Crystal ( W )
- 1x Superior Jetpack ( W )
- 3x Reckless Charge (O)
- 3x Supercharge (O)
- 3x Leap Into Battle (B)
- 3x Press the Advantage (O/G)
- 3x Marksmanship (B)
- 2x Treasure Hunt (O)
- 2x Work Overtime ( W )
- 1x Steamroll (BLANK)
As mentioned above, I feel that Jetfire’s strength is that you can grab something you need. Here’s what our possibilities are:
- Force Field: If we know Jetfire is going to get counterattacked (or perhaps if we want to lure them into attacking a different target), we can pull in Force Field to limit incoming damage. However, we need to be wary of…
- Bashing Shield: Grabbing a Bashing Shield on an attack or defense flip is usually a big flashing warning light to your opponent that playing armor might be a waste of time. Being able to play it from your scrap pile might give you some surprise plays.
- Debilitating Crystal: This is another way to get on-demand armor-removal, but also allows you to smack away scary weapons or annoying utilities. It should be noted that the effect IS NOT optional, so keep in mind that you MUST knock one of the target character’s upgrades back to your opponent’s hand.
- Superior Jetpack: For anyone wondering, WotC has already clarified that Jetfire’s bot mode ability gets around the Tech Research requirement. Pulling the Jetpack onto Jetfire means that his entire 4 ATK value in bot mode WILL be going through as damage. Being able to USUALLY get this on demand means we can be absolutely sure that we can finish off a damaged character. It should also be noted that Jetfire with Noble’s Blaster and Superior Jetpack will be hitting for 6 guaranteed damage against Decepticon characters.
Other Armor or Utility cards worth considering:
- Datapad: Card draw + the ability to KNOW you’ll flip an orange (or white) card isn’t shabby, but I’m not taking it for now.
- Databank: Now that I’m thinking about it more, Databank would be a really good card to flip early on attack or defense and pull onto Jetfire in order to draw cards on every activation.
- Rapid Ascent: The ability to limit your opponent’s hand, especially mid- or late-game when their hand is often at least somewhat depleted is intriguing.
- Shock Absorbers: Just kidding. Checking to see if you’re still awake.
- Enemy Combat Analysis: Might be worth considering if Grimlock is a frequently played character in your area, as you should be able to reliably one-shot him with a combo of a good weapon, good ATK boost action, and the +2 from ECA.
- Stealthiness: Jetfire is our best finisher, so the ability to force your opponent to go after Silverbolt instead could be a good move.
- (Wave 3) Erratic Energy Grenade: If you KNOW Jetfire is about to get killed and you have another character on the field, this could be a powerful play.
- (Wave 3) Ultra Magnus Armor: We definitely can’t fit this in our list, but Jetfire is one of the very few reliable ways to retrieve AND keep recurring Magnus Armor. +2ATK/+2DEF ain’t shabby.
This deck is a fun change of pace and has some fun twists compared to the other orange decks out there. On top of that, we’ll also be using it as the basis for a totally different Wave 3 Plane list using another Wave 1 character that never really had a chance to shine…