Firecons Stratagem Reveal
Alpha Trion Protocols
Aggressive attacking decks are one of the great extremes of the TF:TCG world. In Wave 1 we had both the Dinobots and the Insecticons, both of them all about flipping large numbers of Orange icon'd battle cards. The classic Cars decks have also been about big attacks, hello Wave 1 Wheeljack, Wave 4 gave us the Air Strike Patrol, and Wave 5 gave us the genre crushing Sky Shadow. Wave 3 however, gave us the Firecons. The Firecons were... well... they left a lot to be desired.
As with the Dinobots, and the Insecticons, the Firecons were a tribal Trait that sought to create a crushing amount of attack. Whereas the Dinobots (3 of 5 wave 1 classics) and Insecticons (typically 4 of 5 classics) had multiple lineup options, the Firecons had only the three characters. In an act of potential foresight, the Firecons added up to only 24 stars, leaving a star free for a Stratagem. Personally, I feel a Firecon stratagem would have been a likely WotC Wave 6 Rare.
All three of these tribal-trait decks are ll about Bold, but each has their own flavor. The Dinobots have Grimlock's native Steamroll and Sludge's game-changing flip to heal all other Dinobots. The Insecticons had Skrapnel's pre-Wave-5 powerful damage-reduction, along with Ransack's growing in power and Kickback's native Bold 6. The Firecons on the other hand were far more of a control deck in how their characters' abilities operated. Cindersaur can can drop 2 damage on an enemy and lets you play an extra Orange action, Flamefeather can get up to 6 base defense and give his comrades an extra Bold, and Sparkstalker gives you a 2-card draw and a Bashing Shield. Unlike the Dinobots and Insecticons who were all about attack, the Firecons were trying to mess with their opponent.
Unfortunately, while the Firecons had some great natural abilities, their stats were weaker, far weaker.
- The classic Dinobots team (Grimlock, Sludge, Swoop) had a combined 34 HP, a combined base attack of 14-16, and a defense of 6 (focusing on the modes they were likely to attack/defend in). They also had a Bold-3 flip, a Bold-2 Utility and a Bold-5 action. Plus Sludge and Grimlocks superpowers.
- The classic Insecticons (Barrage, Kickback, Ransack/Chop Shop, and Skrapbel) had a combined 35/36 HP. They had a combined base attack of 14, with a Bold 8, a defense of 5, and both the nuisance of the Swarm! card and Skrapnel as an interesting alternative to Chop Shop. Being 4-wide was also very valuable.
- The Firecons on the other hand, had 33 HP, a measly attack of 10, a defense of 4, and only the one battle card, Firecon Flame, a Bold-1 utility that, if you can play three of, gives you the effect of one Supercharge Bold 3 for an attack. Yes they had some wonderful other abilities, but that lower defense, lower health, and limited natural attack meant they were struggling to stay alive and to do quite as much damage as their tribal peers. In an evolving game in which even the Dinobots, and then the Insecticons, were having to work harder, the Firecons never quite found a place.
However, let's go back to Sparkstalker. Sparkstalker is quite interesting because, unlike their colleagues, Sparkstalker is Common. With a native attack that draws 2 cards, and a flip that removes an armor, Sparkstalker has a lot of potential for the Common-only Junkion format. In ATP-2, two new stratagems were released for Private Arcee and Sergeant Barricade, both with a focus on helping to boost them a little for Junkion. With ATP-3, the focus shifts to Sergeant Sparkstalker.
ATP-3 introduces Sparkstalker's stratagem - Fire and Fury.
The stratagem starts by upping Sparkstalker's health. Of the three Firecons, its natural 10 health is the lowest. Sure it has a natural defense of 2 compared to the other Firecons' 1, but in Junkion that is unlikely to move from taking two hits to be KO'd to taking three. Giving Sparkstalker an extra 3 health makes it a solid 9 star, where characters generally have between 12 and 14 health.
The Stratagem also gives Sparkstalker an extra Bold 1 and Tough 1. The Bold 1 helps it hit its attack ability to draw 2 cards, something which, outside of Mission Briefing, often takes effort in Junkion. The Tough 1 is less critical in a classic Bold deck, but this Sparkstalker can also shine in a mixed deck, and that Tough 1 could be the difference between getting another attack in or not.
That's not all. With the ATP-Junkion format, Common star cards have been introduced, and as with the Private Arcee and Sergeant Barricade stratagems, Fire and Fury encourages players to incorporate these cards by providing an extra star for a battle card. ATP-2 provided 3 new star cards, and as Steffon has revealed, ATP-3 provides us one more (see Steffon's Youtube for details).
Unlike the ATP-2 Junkion Stratagems, ATP-3's Fire and Fury guides us towards an option for the Constructed and Titan One formats. As you'll have noticed, I was sloppy in my earlier description - Sparkstalker doesn't get Bold 1 and Tough 1, Firecons do. This Junkion Stratagem doubles as a Firecon Tribal Stratagem.
Fire and Fury raises the Firecons' combined health to 36 HP. That's an improvement. The natural Bold 1 is a goodness for attacking, but more importantly it practically guarantees an aggro deck achieves Cindersaur's four Oranges to do 2 damage to an enemy. It can assist a mixed deck achieving Sparkstalker's two Oranges to draw two - then being able to use that card draw to give Cindersaur oodles of Bold for its effect. Lastly that Tough 1 now becomes huge for Flamefeather, shooting its defense numbers up. Of course, that Tough 1 will also be attractive for a mixed deck.
I expect to see a lot of Sparkstalker in Junkion. With this stratagem it joins only four other Junkion 9 stars (Sergeant Hound, Sergeant Skrapnel, Bumblebee Courageous Scout, and Wave 1 Slug - though Private Arcee and Wingspan are both 8 stars with a stratagem), and its versatility of card draw and armor scrap makes it more valuable than any of its peers. As a team, the Firecons become interesting again, and maybe there's a rogue deck out there in which two Firecons are joined by another character to cause a surprise.
As always, thank you for reading.