"Dinobots are my kind of mechanoid, yes? Single-minded, powerful, yet very easy to hunt down. "
Dinobots are back with an unexpected team member
The Dinobots are the classic rebels of the Transformer universe. They first appeared in issue #8 of the G1 comic (issue #27 in the UK), and in episodes 8 and 10 of the G1 cartoon, and while on paper they were Autobots, they were never very happy about being noble heroes.
It was only apt that the Dinobots would be one of the core teams in Wave 1 of the TCG, alongside the Insecticons, and that they would take the initial lead as an aggressive orange-pip based (Aggro) meta deck. Their leader, Grimlock, was a Rare card but boasted a powerful inbuilt Steamroll effect (KO one bot? Not me, I like to send extra damage into another bot). Slug, while a vanilla card with no text, boasted some very powerful stats. Sludge remains the only way to transfer infinite damage onto a character, while both Swoop and Snarl are decent characters; Swoop is one of the more solid 6-stars and still shows in various decks, while Snarl provides card drawing ability, a nice balance for the Dino-Chomp battle card's habit of scrapping your hand. Their costs suggested options of two teams: Grimlock, Sludge and Snarl; or Grimlock, Slug and Swoop.
The Dinobots came, by the end of Wave 2, with three battle cards. The excellent Jaws of Steel utility added Bold 2. The intriguing Dino Chomp added Bold 5 at the cost of scrapping your hand. The Energy Horns armor were okay; giving 1 defence in favour of a point of damage back to the attacker in most cases. These cards didn't define the Dinobots however; it was Grimlock's flip ability to give a buddy Bold 3, and Sludge's ability to heal everyone else on your team and rob your opponent of a chunk of damage done.
Unfortunately, the Dinobots were limited to 3-wide decks. Not like those pesky Insecticons and their 4-wide format. They also needed a bit more work to hit the big attacks than those, still very pesky, Insecticons. They fell from the meta and were only heard of sporadically, much like their comic characters, flitting in and out of the conversation. Wave 3 gave us everyone's favourite Bold Battlemaster, Private Lionizer, but before the Dinobots could lay claim to him, Blaster and his cassettes showed up to define the new Autobot Aggro.
It is worth noting that Wave 2 did give us alternative versions of the Dinobots, combining five new versions of the bots into their combiner Volcanicus, but apart from the nifty trick of healing Volcanicus with the Wave 1 Sludge and having a bot with 56 health, Volcanicus has underwhelmed repeatedly.
Does 2020 and Wave 5 offer more for the Dinobots?
There was an announcement of a Stratagem for Volcanicus that makes for some silly attacking value, however community excitement has been muted. There was also the spoiling of a new Titan Master Head - Clobber. Clobber is itself a Dinobot, but oddly, for many of us, there was no Grimlock body. Perhaps he's sulking at falling out of the meta? That would be a very Grimlock thing to do, and in some of the comics the Dinobots do have to go on without Grimlock.
Instead of a Grimlock body, we got a Stratagem that turns any Body Clobber is attached to into a Dinobot. There is an explanation for this. In the Titan Returns toyline Clobber wasn't Grimlock's head, instead he turned into a head that looked very much like Grimlock's head, and came with an unamed(?) dinosaur body. One reason for this was, allegedly, to avoid confusing us customers with the Revenge of the Fallen movie version that was available at the same time.
Could Clobber's loneliness at the lack of a Grimlock body be the return of the Dinobots?
At first glance the answer is no. Clobber costs a whopping 4 stars. The stratagem costs another 1. Kup, the cheapest Autobot body, is 7 stars. That's 12 combined stars, which leaves room for Swoop and either combiner Swoop, or one of the two Snarls; losing you the best the Dinobots have to offer. You could go two-wide; but a Grimlock two-wide partnership would rule out the bigger bodies, and there seems little point having two Titan Masters where one of them is a Dinobot. Sludge and Grimlock are the characters who make the Dinobots. The Dinobot battle cards are nice, but they don't a team make. Putting Clobber on Prime would be interesting, however once you've added the Me Grimlock stratagem and Sludge you've run out of room for Prime's 2-star stratagem.
Let's look again though; Autobots aren't the only Titan Masters. Running a star cheaper than Kup are Fangry and Horri-Bull. Horri-Bull is a cute damage thrower, a lot of fun but probably not a Dinobot buddy. Fangry on the other hand sends a very nice Bold 2 into anyone larger than he is star-wise. Plop Clobber on Fangry and he's rocking Bold 5 against the stronger opponents who are 11 stars or higher. Yes Kickback, powerhouse of the Insecticons, has more Bold. He gets Bold 6 on a typical Insecticon team, but he's gifted with a flat 0 of attack. Fangry starts with 4. It comes at a price though. Fangry, plus Clobber, plus Stratagem will set you back a full 11 stars. That's a star more than Grimlock. But... it is low enough to build a proper Dinobot team. For those remaining 14 stars you can put Wave 1's Sludge and Swoop on the team.
It sounds odd to believe that little Fangry can chomp Grimlock off the team. Grimlock, hits for 6 with Steamroll and gives Bold 3 to his buddies in his other mode. Fangry, hits only for 4. But with Clobber he has that Bold 5 against big enemies. Bold 5 can be big. Grimlock needs time to get a Bold on him to ensure he gets a white pip and can roll up his damage. His attack is likely to start around 8 to 11. Fangry starts with the level of Bold Grimlock is hoping for, and can add all the Bold Grimlock hopes to add as Actions and Upgrades show up. As long as the opponent is larger than him, he can be hitting in the lower teens on your first attack, or if you go second in the higher teens. Also, unlike Grimlock, he's not a flipper, letting Sludge and Swoop do their flipping to move damage around.
So is that it? Are we trading Grimlock for a slightly (f)angrier Grimlock? Not so fast. We're talking Titan Masters here, so we're talking hidden width. When you lose Fangry, Clobber arrives. He's a decent head stats wise; which is good because he cost you 4 stars. His attack of 2 is typical, but the increased cost has earned you a whopping 4 health. He also has his innate Bold 3. In an Aggro deck, that's nothing to ignore. Assuming you can pop some kind of card on him giving him a couple of extra points of attack damage, he has a fair chance of reaching 10 with his hit. Sure he's likely to die when he's attacked, but you get an extra attack, and if either Sludge or Swoop are still in the game, that's a defence they didn't have to make.
Canon-wise, it is odd to have Fangry joining the Dinobots. He despised them. He was a rebellious Decepticon outcast, disliked by other Decepticons. He was very much the Decepticon version of a Dinobot, but unfortunately Grimlock had a habit of punching his fist through Fangry's chest. That said, maybe the other Dinobots have taken pity on him? Harnassing his special rage into a Dinobot secret weapon.
Is this enough to bring the Dinobots back as a force to reckon with? That's probably a stretch. Is it an improvement over the classic Dinobot team? I believe so. So next time you're casually laying out your deck and you see a hangry vampire bat wearing a t-rex outfit; you'd better have a lot of blue pips ready.
If you're interested in trying out Fangry, Justified Dinobot, try out "To Dinobot Or Not To Dinobot" over at FortressMaximus.io.