[Guest Article] Secret Sentinels by Carl Endres AKA Technomagus

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting Carl Endres AKA Technomagus (his handle on Discord and Youtube) at multiple events at our home store (The Comic Book Store in Glassboro, NJ) and around the Maryland area, where Carl has a great group of excellent players, especially at his home store (Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, MD, which is probably the nicest tabletop gaming store I’ve ever seen).

In this article, Carl breaks down the deck that he played through EIQ season, and which he refined and took to the Energon Invitation this past weekend at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia.

Decklist

Characters

  • General Optimus Prime, Infantry – Leader (11)
  • Ironhide, Steadfast Brawler (7)
  • Prowl, Strategic Mastermind (7)

Actions

  • 3x Bolster
  • 1x Sabotaged Armaments
  • 3x Ancient Wisdom
  • 2x Fog of War
  • 3x Head-On Collision
  • 3x Peace Through Tyranny
  • 2x Ramming Speed
  • 3x Security Checkpoint
  • 2x Tackle
  • 1x Unleashed Potential
  • 3x Zap

Upgrades

  • 2x Backup Beam
  • 3x Grenade Launcher
  • 3x Bashing Shield
  • 2x Force Field
  • 1x Basic Combat Protocol
  • 3x Matrix of Leadership

Sideboard

  • Optimus Prime, Gleaming Commander (+ Sentinels)
  • 1x Bolt of Lightning
  • 1x Heroic Resolve
  • 2x Espionage
  • 2x Sentinel Enigma
  • 1x Supercharge
  • 3x Combat Commands

Introduction

Secret Sentinels is an aggro/midrange mixed deck that leverages General Optimus Prime’s ability to grant your other bots an additional Bold 1 and Tough 1 to both increase their survivability and allow them to hit harder than their stars and stats would normally allow.  And in the matchups where you can’t break through with just aggro, you can morph into a full aggro/control Sentinels list by swapping your Optimus Prime. This whole deck only exists thanks to a certain ruling in the 7/29 Rules Roundup:

Card Choices

You may notice some interesting card choices in the list that are a far cry from tournament staples.  A kind of “secret achievement” I’ve been having with this deck is to try and make unplayable Wave 2 rares into potential tournament staples.

Ancient Wisdom/Unleashed Potential

The Meme Dream of Wave 2, I started with using Ancient Wisdom as a draw card and a fun-of Unleashed Potential with a set of Star Cards and managed to take down an Energon Invitational Qualifier with it, while also top-8ing the EIQ at Wreck ‘n’ Rule’s home store in Glassboro, NJ the previous week.  You can see the deck tech SDotAkuma had with me that weekend here, with one of the earliest versions of the deck.  Ancient Wisdom is a unique draw Action that always digs two cards deep and always replaces itself.  Occasionally, it gets two cards instead of one, and every so often, you get to Unleashed Potential with it, grabbing one of your Star Cards from outside the game.  Originally, the Star Cards fetched by Unleashed Potential were not part of the decklist at all, letting us get whatever we wanted with it. However, with the new Sideboard rules introduced on 11/22, you can no longer have a completely separate “Wishboard” of star cards to fetch, and must instead include your targets in your sideboard.  Because of this, we dropped the Star Cards to the two most important ones: Bolt of Lightning and Heroic Resolve. Bolt allows us to finish off a pesky enemy at low health, while Resolve keeps one of our characters alive for one last turn, or forces a second attack into a weakened character, wasting the opponent’s turn. In case we don’t need the survival aspect of Resolve, we can also toss it back into the deck via fetching a Green pip and add one more Double-Blue to the mix for stymying opposing attacks.

Tackle

One of my biggest problems with the deck was facing against Blaster with it.  At the Glassboro EIQ, I managed to beat a Blaster deck during the swiss rounds thanks to my opponent sideboarding incorrectly, but was demolished by a different one in the Top 8, losing in the first round of elimination.  It wasn’t even a contest. Then I had an epiphany: All three of my characters were Melee in their Alt Modes, and Blaster is 10 stars, while General Prime is 11. If I use General Prime to Tackle Blaster, Prowl and Ironhide can just hammer the crap out of him before he gets a chance to deploy his second cassette, meaning only Firedrive and Ramhorn or Steeljaw are left to face down three heavy-hitters.  Tackle also has additional utility by allowing Ironhide or Prowl to tap down a smaller character that your opponent is trying to protect, such as Flamewar or a Micromaster (*cough*cough*Red Heat*cough*cough*). This also allows you to disrupt the flow of flips of your opponent’s team, by effectively denying them a turn and flip before their next untap, while you are relatively unaffected, since most of your flips are spent on Optimus, and only on turns he attacks.

Fog of War

Admittedly, this choice is a little looser and currently untested.  With the boogeyman of the Daring Escape decks looming, I chose this card as a way to try and disrupt them as much as possible.  Since this deck burns through cards rather quickly, it can be used as a cantrip or draw-two, while simultaneously stripping the opponent down to just two cards in hand, effectively stymying any opposing strategy that relies on having a large handsize, such as Firedrive, Daring Escape, or Shockwave. 

How to Play

Turn 1

Generally speaking, you’re going to start the game by sending in Prowl for a meaty hit, thanks to his Bold 1 (Bold 2 from General Prime!) and 5 attack.  If this doesn’t immediately kill something, it will definitely soften them up nicely for a followup strike by Ironhide for the KO. If you’re going second, they’ll likely have attacked Prowl first instead, due to his low defense.  In that case, send Ironhide, preferably with a Grenade Launcher or Backup Beam, to return the favor. Thanks to General Prime’s Tough 1 granting, there’s a high chance that whoever you send in will survive the backswing.

Turn 2

Now that we’re on the normal flow of play, you’ll want to send in whichever Sentinel that didn’t attack on turn 1.  Of course, make sure you kit them out with an upgrade, and maybe a Head-On Collision to really push through the damage.  There’s a high possibility that Prowl is going to be KOed on the return hit, but that’s fine. We want him out as his KO ability is very useful for maintaining the advantage.

Turn 3+

At this point, it’s time to send in the head honcho himself.  Flip Prime, load him up, and send him in at the highest-priority target that’s available.  Prime’s Focus and built-in Bold 1 will let you clear or heavily damage nearly anything but a dedicated Blue deck.  Basically, you want to Focus away anything that’s not a Peace Through Tyranny, especially if Prime has a Backup Beam on him.  While defending, you’ll want to toss anything that’s not a Blue pip, to try and get that extra bit of defense. While Prime is a meaty attacker, his 14 health can and will go down quickly to dedicated assaults.  Once you untap, flip Prime back into Truck mode to beef up Ironhide and/or Prowl, assuming they’ve survived, and keep sending the Sentinels back in until Prime is your last man standing. Once Prowl and Ironhide are KOed, Prime should remain in Bot mode while you spend your flips on your Sentinels, taking advantage of Prowl’s ability to scrap weapons.  Ironhide’s Pierce 2 isn’t as useful for an aggressive deck like this, but occasionally you’ll need to to guarantee that last hit against an exceptionally defensive foe.

Tricks and Shenanigans

Despite being an aggressively oriented deck, Sentinels isn’t without interaction to try and disrupt your opponent.  One of your biggest tools is Tackle, as described before. You also have Bolster and Sabotaged Armaments as your secrets, to surprise your opponent and take significantly less damage than they were expecting by throwing out a Force Field off Bolster, or using Armaments to break their weapons.  You can even set up a kill swing with Bolster by using Bashing Shield to break a Force Field or other Armor on another vulnerable character. Speaking of breaking upgrades, the deck also runs Ramming Speed in the main as additional upgrade interaction, since the entire sideboard is devoted to the Combiner plan.  Because you rarely transform your characters except for Prime, Head-On Collision and Basic Combat Protocol let you jam super hard with Prowl and Ironhide, as well, and avoid opposing Sabotages. Finally, you have Fog of War and Security Checkpoint as hand interaction to disrupt heavy draw decks like Daring Escape, Firedrive, Jetfire, and Shockwave.  Fog also helps you to counter Shockwave’s own hand disruption by getting you a few cards back, as well.

Weaknesses

Being an aggro deck that runs Blue-pipped cards, the greatest weakness of the deck is its own flips.  Sometimes, you’ll have the amazing turn where Prowl OHKOs Skrapnel on turn 1, completely destroying your opponent’s strategy.  Other times, you’ll flip all your Security Checkpoints on your first attack, and then Prowl jobs in a single blow to the revenge swing and you’re scrambling to stabilize.

All-in Aggro like Bugs and Blaster can be problematic thanks to how hard they can hit, and because your swings can occasionally get stuffed up by the aforementioned Blue cards.  Ultimately, those matchups come down to whoever can hit harder faster. While the Blue pips are the bane of your attacks, they’ll also have the same habit of showing up with perfect timing to mess up your opponent’s attack, getting you one last turn to try and drive for the win.  Ironhide is distressingly durable in these matchups. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to solo two-to-three Bugs with him.

This deck lives and dies by what it draws off the top, so hand disruption like Major Shockwave can be annoying, but isn’t backbreaking.  The more difficult aspect of the Shockwave matchup is his meaty 6 or 7 attack. Using Head-On Collision and Grenade Launcher here to pump your attack as high as possible is good, though you need to be aware of his secrets as well, which can make it difficult to punch through.

Sideboard

Frequently, there will be matchups where the boost General Optimus gives just doesn’t quite make it work.  In that case, it’s time to call in backup. Thanks to the Roundup Question shown at the beginning of this article, if we swap General Optimus Prime for Optimus Prime, Gleaming Commander; both of which conveniently are 11 stars; Gleaming Commander brings along the other three Sentinels: Hot Rod, Mirage, and Sunstreaker.  This allows us to shift gears in the deck, transitioning from heavy aggression to a more methodical control that still likes to punch people in the face. When shifting to Full Sentinels, you bring in the Combat Commands, Enigmas, Supercharge, and some number of Espionage depending on what you’re facing. Basic Combat Protocol, Zap, and Fog of War are the first cuts.  If you need the second Espionage, then you can start trimming Head-On Collisions for them, but you want to be careful about overloading on White pips. The idea is to keep enough to trigger Optimus on the attack, but not so much that you flip nothing else.

The basic strategy of the deck does not change that much from the General Prime version, however, you now have access to one of three “free” actions each turn by transforming your new allies that Sentinel Optimus brings.  Mirage plays Disruptive Entrance, allowing you to steal a key Action from the opponent’s hand, and giving critical information for an Espionage or Security Checkpoint. Hot Rod plays Zap, softening up a big target, or finishing off a weakened one.  And Sunstreaker basically plays half a Pep Talk, digging you one card deeper into your deck to get that vital Action or Upgrade. Generally speaking, you’ll want to flip Sunstreaker first for the extra card, or Hot Rod if you absolutely need to make sure your first hit is fatal and/or crippling.  Mirage is more for surgical strikes, when you know your opponent has a key action in hand, or when you’re paving the way for a devastating Espionage or Checkpoint. The most important cards to find at this point are Combat Commands for Prowl and Ironhide, letting you double-activate your KOed Sentinels, and Backup Beam and Supercharge, for the turn Prime himself attacks so that you have a better chance of hitting his attack trigger for the free KO flip.  Don’t be afraid to preload Prime with a Backup Beam or Matrix before turn three, though he should not transform unless you have at least one Bold enabler. Feel free to grab an Enigma while you’re at it, too.

Once everyone’s in Bot mode, and there are only one or two enemies left, it’s time to engage “Plan Kaiju”!  Play your Enigma, combine, and Squish Them Like Bugs! With the highest natural attack in the game at 9, and the ability to stack the deck every combat (note:  “when this battles”, not “when this attacks”), Optimus Maximus will bring the game to an end in very short order. Just be aware that by shrinking your team to only one giant behemoth, if your opponent still has multiple characters available, Maximus may still fall in battle.  Be sure to stockpile those Checkpoints to Plan each combat if you do end up combining. But, when in doubt, summon the Kaiju.

Energon Invitational Report

Round 1 (Trexler – Aerialbots)

I was rather surprised to see a combiner team at the Invitational, but he had a solid list.  He wins the die roll and takes game one thanks to an unanswered Laser Cutlass before combining.  I quickly fall to Pierce 6+. Game 2 I combine into Optimus Maximus and quickly stomp Superion in two attacks, being able to disrupt his combination just long enough to get more damage on the team before they merge.  Game 3 goes similarly, but he gets another Cutlass that I can’t answer, and after we both combine, I just can’t punch enough damage through before Maximus falls.

I lose, 1-2.  Overall record:  0-1.

Round 2 (Kevin – Octone/Nova Storm/Flamewar)

I win the die roll, and quickly take game 1.  Game 2 I swap into full Sentinels, while he changes Aimless for Nova Storm.  Games 2 and 3 go similarly, where I come just a few scant damage short of finishing Octone and then losing on the next turn.  Game 3 I make a very risky misplay by sending a 2-health Optimus into Octone, declining to combine, and he sends Aimless for exactly enough Pierce to KO Prime, and making me unable to KO both Aimless and Octone before Octone can finish the job.

I lose, 1-2.  Overall record:  0-2.

Sealed Deck

I open a pretty nice pool overall, with Captain Jetfire, Captain Starscream, and Captain Elita-1 for rare characters.  I end up focusing on Jetfire, playing 18 upgrades with only 7 actions. Getting Double Erratic Cannon with a Personal Targeting Drone and Acute Reflexes allowed me to take good advantage of Jetfire’s Bot Mode ability.  I will say, however, that my pool was not the craziest for the pod I was in. One of the players to my left opened Major Shockwave, while the other had Lord Megatron. No idea how they did, however.

Round 3 (Zach – Captain Astrotrain, Raider Sights, Raider Nightstick)

I win the Die roll and immediately focus on Astrotrain as much as possible.  He does manage to get Astrotrain fully loaded a few times, but thanks to my Reprocess and some prudent applications of Dismantling Claw and Reactive Armor, I manage to break his defenses enough to take down the Train.  Once Astrotrain goes down, the Battle Masters fall shortly afterwards. For Game 2, he swaps out the Battle Masters for Private Top Shot, Private Stakeout, and Raider Tailwind. This gives him a lot more control over the flow of attacks, and allows him to protect Astrotrain long enough to try and get him suited up, but then Jetfire deletes Stakeout on turn one and that plan quickly goes downhill.

I win, 2-0.  Overall record:  1-2.

Round 4 (Tyler – Captain Jetfire, Private Seawatch, Private Stakeout)

Oh no.  The Mirror.  He wins the die roll, and I lose game one after a grueling 35 minutes of back and forth.  At this point, I’m suffering pretty heavily from con funk or dehydration and getting less fairly snippy.  It didn’t help that my opponent constantly did not reveal the upgrade he was putting back with his Jetfire trigger.  This culminated in me calling a Judge on myself because I accidentally grabbed three cards off the top of my deck when flipping the last card on an attack.  Finally, when it was all said and done, the second game ended after time with his Jetfire at 1 health while I had my Jetfire and Hyperdrive still nice and healthy.  Because of the change to the tiebreaker rules the night before, I lose the match, despite having a decisive win if I had one more turn, and then would have won on tiebreakers overall, since my team’s health total was one more than his.

I lose, 0-1.  Overall record: 1-3.

Round 5 (Matt – Omega Supreme [Base], Specialist Flamewar, Raider Laserbeak, Raider Blowpipe)

I win the die roll and dump a bunch of damage on Laserbeak right away.  Thanks to Omega Base, however, I have to tread carefully, as its trigger lets him shove damage around awkwardly.  Eventually, he is left with Flamewar equipped with Blowpipe’s weapon mode. Both of my Micromasters fall shortly afterwards, and then Jetfire takes down Flamewar.  Game 2, he swaps the Base and Blowpipe for Sergeant Springer. The match went a bit better for him, since I got Hyperdrive and Blackjack mixed up and lost Blackjack a lot earlier than I expected, but I still take the game and match.

I win, 2-0.  Overall record:  2-3.

Round 6 – (Alberto – Octone and Nemesis Prime)

Back to Constructed.  I admit I did a double-take when I saw the team across from me.  He wins the die roll, but elects for me to go first. I take the opportunity to plaster as much damage as possible on Octone before he gets a chance to send in the Merc.  Nemesis rumbles back, but since he’s a Blue deck, he doesn’t get to KO Prowl. Ironhide puts a return hit on Nemesis, then Prime takes down Octone and the game ends shortly afterwards.  Game 2, he elects for me to go first again, and I essentially repeat the previous game. This time however, Octone and Nemesis manage to put a bit more damage on the team before I combine, since I went to full Sentinels and don’t have the General’s Tough granting, and Nemesis manages to flip just enough to trigger a reshuffle and take down Maximus for exact damage.  Game three, however, has both a monumental blunder, and an absurd topdeck immediately following. I, not paying attention, choose to PTT my untapped Alt Mode Ironhide, not realizing that Prowl is also still in Alt mode, transform another Sentinel, then attack into Nemesis with my Prime and fail to trigger his ability. Meanwhile, Octone is sitting at one health and ready to murder Prime back for my blunder.  Then I rip a Zap off the top, KO Octone, and pass the turn back. Nemesis hits in for a number less than Prime’s remaining health, I combine, and Nemesis goes down shortly afterwards.

I win, 2-1.  Overall Record:  3-3.

Round 7 (Chuck – Octone, Raider Sights, Flamewar)

I win the die roll and Prowl smashes into Flamewar, allowing me to take her out quickly.  Sights goes down next, and then it’s just Octone getting pounded by Prime and Ironhide. Game 2, I switch into full Sentinels and again take out Flamewar fairly quick, followed by combining into Maximus, but an Energon axe and an unlucky flip on my end allows Octone to exact KO Maximus, putting us into Game 3.  Game 3, however, goes incredibly poorly for him as a Supercharge on Optimus smashes past Octone’s defenses and allows me to sweep the remaining two decepticons after combining.

I win, 2-1.  Overall record:  4-3.

Round 8 (Joel – Lord Megatron, Captain Impactor, Demolisher)

I win the die roll and send Prowl into Demolisher, putting him to 5 damage.  Impactor then one-shots Prowl on the return swing, and Prime returns the favor, instantly deleting Impactor thanks to a Grenade Launcher.  Demolisher puts some damage on Prime before falling to Ironhide, and then we go back and forth a bit before Megatron manages to KO prime while having 16 damage on him.  All I need is to push through 1 more damage, and I flip Checkpoint, Checkpoint, Sabotaged Armaments with Ironhide. This is the worst timeline. Game 2 I side into full Sentinels and the game goes mostly similarly, with it ending up being my undamaged Optimus vs his undamaged Lord Megatron.  I’m still two transforms from combining, and then he plays Heat of Battle and attacks with Megatron. For the second time today, I am on the wrong side of a recent rules change, as I am forced to reshuffle my deck while his Megatron has 6 Orange pips showing on battle flips, so Optimus gets to take 10 damage before I even look at my defense, which was only 4.  I fail to combine for the first time.

I lose, 0-2.  Overall record:  4-4.

Round 9 (Derek – Major Shockwave, Raider Ratbat, Ravage [Mini-cassette])

This was unexpected.  This is actually the first time I’ve ever played against a Major Shockwave deck, so this was a good experience.  He wins the die roll and sends in Shockwave. I slam back pretty hard, removing Ravage shortly afterwards, and he spends his Ratbat turn healing Shockwave instead of attacking.  Shockwave goes down pretty quickly leaving only Ratbat, and he packs it in for Game 2. I side into full Sentinels again, and take down Ravage quickly, with Ratbat shortly afterwards, but then Prime falls and I keep flipping past my Enigmas, so I can’t combine.  However, I manage to keep Combat Commands on Ironhide and slowly chip down Shockwave by constantly toggling Hot Rod. Both games I managed to get the Ancient Wisdom/Unleashed Potential combo off, with it happening on turn 1 of Game 2. Both times I fetched Bolt of Lightning, which made him panic since it allowed me to snipe off Ravage both games with little effort.

I win, 2-0.  Overall record:  5-4.

Final thoughts

I ended the day at 5-4, making 68th place out of at least 144 players.  While not good enough to qualify for prize, I’ll take the top 50% of the tournament anyday.  Throughout the day I was suffering pretty badly from dehydration or “con funk” so I definitely was not at my best, though I don’t know if that would have actually mattered gameplay wise, but it would have definitely improved my disposition and prevented that rather embarrassing Round 4 snafu.  Losing two matches due to being on the wrong side of recent rules changes is never a good feeling, especially with how volatile the rules have been, but overall I was happy with how the deck performed. Fog of War never had a chance to really shine, since I never faced against the hyper card draw decks other than Shockwave, and I was able to keep his hand low for the majority of the game.  I’m not entirely sure how I might change the deck for the future, though it can easily shift into a much more aggressive shell with Power Punch and Supercharge, taking out the Checkpoints for a more offensive push. One thing I like about the deck is how versatile it can be. You can just as easily shift to a more defensive build, having Hot Rod and Sunstreaker instead of Ironhide and Prowl, leaning more heavily on Blue direct damage actions and weapons like Energon Axe and Laser Cutlass, as well.  This would give the deck a much higher survivability, though the opposing Blue matchups might be a bit worse in exchange.


Once again, Carl deserves ALL credit for coming up with this deck, taking it through its paces, and writing up this article. If you’re not already paying close attention to his posts in the Transformers TCG communities, you definitely should be!

One thought on “[Guest Article] Secret Sentinels by Carl Endres AKA Technomagus

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