[GUEST ARTICLE] MORE LOVE FOR COMBINERS BY CARL ENDRES AKA TECHNOMAGUS

The Enigma Combiners from Wave 2 were what got me into this game.  I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for them, and they were some of my first decks I built for this game.  After direct support for them fell off after Wave 2, though, I always wanted to see some new toys for some of the less played teams.  With the game’s official support ended after Wave 5, a perfect opportunity for me to make my own support cards arose thanks to the Ark.

The Predacons were the second deck I ever built, to face off against a Sentinels deck I hastily built out of the contents of two boxes of Wave 2.  With such a small card pool, and no idea what I was doing, neither deck was very good, both being mixed, ungainly messes, but they still held a place in my heart.  Once I started acquiring cards and building decks, my next deck built was Blue Aerialbots, which was somewhat bog standard at the time.  I got bored of it relatively quickly, though, and decided to turn it into a Blue Predacons deck instead.  It was fun while it lasted, though I can’t tell you the number of times I had multiple Energon Axes stuck in my hand because my opponent just couldn’t put damage on my Predacons.

Anyway, now that that long segue is done, let’s get into why you’re reading this mindless drivel of mine:  new cards!

As one of my first decks, Predacons always had a place in my heart, though I never really got an opportunity to build a new deck for them, even though they still got a few toys in the newer waves.  With the arrival of the “Beast” trait in Waves 4 and 5, I was hoping our feral friends would get some new support cards along with their beastly brethren.  That, of course, didn’t happen.  Even the Beasts of Wave 5 didn’t get anything to work with.  So, I decided to make a support card of my own.

Of course, being an Armor, the card needs some reason to see play, especially in a world of Bashing Shield and Reprocess, so I gave it an immediate impact beyond just the +1 defense.

What happens when you poke the beast?  It gets angrier and hits harder.  That was the thought process behind this card.  Every time your Beast or Predacon gets poked, you put a counter on this Armor, which then increases the attack of that character the next time they attack.  Of course, Beasts are fickle animals, and are quick to forget their anger at the end of your turn, when this clears its counters.  The main purpose of this was to lessen the bookkeeping required for the card, and to give it a real “use it or lose it” feel, so that the attack boost doesn’t just keep growing forever.  That could definitely get problematic on a character like Horri-Bull, who has a built-in self-damage ability, and this is also the reason it clears at end of turn instead of after the attack, to prevent it from building too high.  Of course, in order to get good effect out of this Armor on Horri-Bull, you need to have him in alt mode first to play it, then flip him to body mode to start the pings.  There’s always the dream of playing this, flipping Horri-Bull, then using Camien Crash to deal 3 damage to an enemy, and attack with Horri-Bull at a base 6 before battle flips.  Of course, Horri-Bull is not likely to survive the crackback, much less last the necessary turns to untap.

Of course, what would be a preview card without a decklist to accompany it?  Let’s update that old Blue-focused Predacons deck I mentioned from before with some new toys:

Characters
Razorclaw, Predacon Leader
Divebomb, Aerial Assault
Predacon Rampage, Savage Hunter
Predacon Headstrong, Ground Assault
Torox, Fueler
Actions
3x Belligerence
3x Camien Crash
3x Equipment Enthusiast
3x Treasure Hunt
3x Resilience*
2x Predacon Enigma
3x Security Checkpoint
Weapons
3x Attack Drone
3x Crude Club
3x Grenade Launcher
3x Handheld Blaster
Armors
3x Extra Padding
3x Feral Tenacity*
Utilities
2x Pocket Processor
* Cards from The Ark Wave 1

Already, as you can see, this is a heavily defense-focused Blue deck designed to survive until you combine with a nice, healthy Predaking to smash your opponents with.  Feral Tenacity here if for the wheel turn, especially when you put it on a meat shield like Headstrong, or for after you combine, so that you can turn those hits from your opponent’s all-out-attacks into big Predaking swings.  What is Resilience, you might ask, well I hinted at it back in the Countdown reveal article, but you’ll need to read a bit further in to see that one.

After running a few games with my old Blue Predacons deck, I decided to branch out to another combiner team.  One that’s gotten even less love in recent sets:  The Stunticons.  They, along with the Sentinels, have been pet decks of mine during my entire time playing the game.  I’ve always had a habit of building heavy-blue decks, and the Stunticons were no different.  Especially with Breakdown’s trigger requiring double-blue on the attack, and the fact that almost all the good card draw effects were in Blue, building Stunticons Blue seemed like a no-brainer.  The Bigger They Are… and Heavy Handed also being quite powerful Blue Actions, along with Menasor’s built-in Brainstorm definitely encouraged this kind of playstyle, as well.  At least, as long as you ignore the fact that the team couldn’t beat OPBL at any point in time.  But then I started seeing nifty ruminations of a Overwhelming Advantage based Stunticons doing well locally.  I never ventured into that territory myself, instead building an OA version of Springer combo based on the old Powered by Primus list (which was based off of Blaine Bublitz’s “Swoop There it Is” Daring Escape deck, that was in turn based off of my Springer/Chromia/Red Heat Daring Escape list and we’ve come full circle), but if I was going to give Stunticons a card, I’d want it to be something that can be used for either playstyle:  Full Blue, or Mixed OA.  So, it’s time to give your Stunticons some Racing Stripes:

So the first, obvious question is “What does it do?”  The idea behind it is a reverse Master of Metallikato.  You get a bonus to your defense equal to half the number of colors you flip during the battle, and you also get to do that much damage to the attacker before they can hit you.

To break it down more simply:

  • Flip one or two colors:  Get +1 defense and do 1 damage to the attacker
  • Flip three or four colors:  Get +2 defense and do 2 damage to the attacker
  • Flip five colors:  Get +3 defense and do 3 damage to the attacker

I gave this to Stunticons, Sentinels, and Motorcycles for a few reasons:  The first is that Motorcycles could use some love.  Second, Stunticons and Sentinels were both the kinds of characters I could see doing the kind of reckless counterattack stuff that this card implies.

For the longest time, I couldn’t actually figure out a good name for this card, I only had the base mechanic hashed out.  Originally, the card rounded down the bonus and damage, but we decided to round up instead to reward players who do decide to use this with an OA deck.  The card also originally modified the attack damage the character received, rather than just giving a flat defensive bonus.  This made it stronger against Pierce, but potentially created some odd “double-KO” situations, so it was changed to activate immediately on battle flips instead.  This wording is also meant to ensure it unambiguously works with Bolster as a surprise.  With that being said, let’s get another decklist ready.  If I were to build an OA Stunticons list today, it’d probably look a little something like this:

Characters
Motormaster, Stunticon Leader
Dead End, Doomed Loner
Breakdown, Paranoid Scout
Decepticon Drag Strip, Cutthroat Warrior
Off-Road, All-Terrain Soldier
Actions
3x Brainstorm
3x Equipment Enthusiast
3x Master of Metallikato
3x Overwhelming Advantage
3x Pep Talk
1x Reclaim
3x Resilience*
3x Stunticon Enigma
3x Wedge Formation
Weapons
2x Backup Beam
3x Combat Dagger
Armors
3x Racing Stripes*
2x Terrifying Resilience
Utilities
3x Decepticon Crown
1x Staggering Might
1x Stunticon Swagger
* Cards from The Ark Wave 1

So now, you have two different combinations of Upgrades for your Overwhelming Advantage activation:  Backup Beam + Terrifying Resilience + Decepticon Crown/Staggering Might or Combat Dagger + Racing Stripes + Decepticon Crown.  Obviously, this is merely a starting point.  There probably aren’t enough White icons to reliably activate OA, and probably some unnecessary inclusions, but I hope it gives you some ideas.

“But wait!” you say, “What’s that ‘Resilience’ card you put in these two deck lists?”  I’m both glad you asked, and cursing your sharp memory for making me extend this article further.

As I alluded to in my Countdown preview article, Resilience is a card Nick created to help the larger characters, by granting a one-time mega heal to keep your big guys up longer while you weather the repeated all-out attacks from your opponent.  Originally, it only worked on characters in Combiner mode, and only if they had 24 or more stars (so that Bruticus could use it), and it repaired for 7 instead of 5.  We removed the Combiner-only restriction and reduced the star limit to 19 stars so that Omega Supreme and the Titans could also get some more longevity.  The repair effect was also toned down to 5 instead of 7, because of the wider range of targets, as well.

Resilience has a Green Icon to ensure that you are able to have it when you need it, after combining, but also so that you could toss it away early to other Green cards without worrying about it clogging your hand.  Of course, being such a big heal, there’s potential abuse of playing it over and over, so it KOs itself on use, like with Recover Cassette or Even the Score.  You’ll only ever get 15 health back from this card, but that 15 health can be the difference between victory and defeat, depending on the matchup.

I look forward to seeing the kinds of decks you all can build with these new cards.  I know I already have a few in mind, myself.

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