"Autobot Trucks always overrated, yes? I enjoy the chase before hauling them in for peace keeping compensation."
Micromasters (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this article we covered the Transformers TCG (TTCG) Wave 3 and Wave 4 Micromasters in general, introducing terms like patrol feature, patrol partner, and effective patrol leader, as well as diving a little into the Sports Car Patrol. We’ll keep using those terms, so feel free to take a quick peek at Part 1 for a reminder before we continue on with some more of the patrols.
Off-Road (Black) Patrol
The Off-Road Patrol builds itself around the black pip that is used to indicate Pierce damage when calculating the result of an attack. Black pips were introduced in Wave 3, but Wave 4 is where they really appear to be taking off. There are a lot of black pips available in Wave 4, and a lot of bots who relate to black pips, which could lead to some exciting new deck designs. All these black pips in Wave 4 mean that there are a world of exciting new options to build an Off-Road Patrol deck.
In Wave 4, existing patrol members Private Mudslinger and Private Tote are joined by Private Highjump and patrol leader Private Powertrain. All are Trucks and Melee.
- Private Powertrain [5-star]: The Leader of the team. In alt-mode he provides a patrol feature to each member of Bold 1.
- Private Highjump [4-star]: Scrap a black pip and another card; draw 2 cards.
- Private Mudslinger [5-star]: Scrap a black pip; move 1 damage counter from one of your bots to an enemy.
- Private Tote [4-star]: Scrap a black pip; untap one of your 6-star or less bots.
Powertrain’s patrol feature, while seemingly average, is perfect for a black pip team. More cards means more Pierce damage. Powertrain also has good stats, his 2-defence in both modes is the best of the Micromasters, and he manages a 3-attack in his alt mode. As with the other effective patrol leaders, he has a whopping (for a Micromaster) 8-health.
Highjump initially feels like the runt of this litter. While Mudslinger affects a heal-1/damage-1, and Tote earns another attack from whichever of your bots is loaded with nice upgrades, Highjump’s tap ability lets you replace two cards in your hand, provided one is a black pip. One possible saving grace for Highjump is that someone needs to hold those nice upgrades (Laser Cutlass/Energon Axe anyone?) that Tote is going to untap for a second attack. It won’t be Powertrain; he’s hanging back to mastermind this battle and wreak his final 5/5 vengeance. It won’t be the weak Tote (2-attack, 5-health, 1-defence), he’s in charge of untapping. Will it be Highjump with his 3-attack in both modes?
I’ve gone back and forth on this; leading to much article editing. I think it ends up depending on the partner you want to bring to the 4-wide. If you’re looking at an 11-star partner (and more later on who that should be), then Mudslinger’s extra 1-health, and his occasionally tactical fling-damage tap ability, noses him ahead of Highjump’s 3-attack in both modes and a star-card. However, most of the partners for a 4-wide Off-Road Patrol team cost 12-stars, so Mudslinger is easily runted by the math. Sorry, Mudslinger.
In a 5-wide, Mudslinger and Highjump will do double duty as your upgrade carriers, piercing away with Powertrain and Tote to provide the support. This is nice as it allows you to adapt to the situation to expose one for damage and let the other be your team’s pierce-punch.
Orange or Blue?
Wave 4 brings us lots more black-pippage; but it’s unlikely you’ll build a deck of black pips alone. Will the Off-Road Patrol prefer an orange/black pip deck, a blue/black pip deck, or a balance of the two?
Wave 3 (ignoring the Soundwave/Blaster set) provided the following breakdown of black pips:
- Black pips (including Black/Green): 13
- Orange/Black pips: 2
- Blue/Black pips: 2
Thus far Wave 4 provides:
- Black pips (including Black/Green): 17, six of which are double black pip and one of which is a triple black pip star card.
- Orange/Black pips: 5, including 1 Orange/Black/Green pip.
- Blue/Black pips: 2
- White/Black pip: 1
There are more battle cards to discover in Wave 4, but we’ve already increased from 17 black pip options in Wave 3 to a total of 42 . More importantly, with three of each card available for a deck, our pool of black pips is now three times as large as a minimum 40-deck, whereas previously it was barely above. The new Wave 4 white/black-pipped Swerve secret action is going to be required decking for the Off-Road Patrol. Not only does it provide an elusive white/black pip, but it also means your patrol members will be put back into their stealth modes after they’re attacked. Nice, assuming they survive of course!
The limit of blue/black pips at the moment, the general premise that you’ll want to be laden down with black pips, and needing all the pierce to be backed up with actual attack damage to get the pierce to your opponent, I lean to an orange/black deck, with a hint of white and natural orange — cards that provide Bold would be good. I would include Steady Shot with its +2-attack, but the other three blue/black pips have less playing value for this deck. I am hoping to see more white/black pip battle cards announced in Wave 4.
One other card to call out is the double-black pip 1-star card Indestructible Sword. This is a great card for the Off-Road Patrol. A 5-wide team is going to want a 6-star partner and not a 7-star partner so that Tote’s tap ability can apply to them, and that extra star can be spent on the +2 attack and non-scrappability of Indestructible Sword.
[EDIT: Reviewing other new battle cards, the new Wave 4 Truck-focused 4-Wheel Drive battle card is a must for the Off-Road Patrol, boosting their base attacks to 7-attack!]
Off-Road Patrol Partners
So who do we partner with the Off-Road Patrol?
There are many Autobot Trucks, few of whom feel like they’ve built a top reputation thus far (and there names are all Prime?). Once you weed out the 8/9/10-star bots, and the Ranged bots, and the Specialists, the stand-out partner for the Off-Road Patrol is Ironhide Steadfast Brawler (the Sentinel combiner one). He matches the Off-Road Patrol’s type perfectly [Autobot/Truck/Melee], he comes with his own Bold-1 and once in the K.O. area he can keep helping with a flip to Pierce-2 for each of the patrol members. His 10-health is average for a 7-star, and his 4-attack and 2-defence fit in nicely. To top it off, his alt-mode picture is clearly driving off-road.
[EDIT: If Sentinel Ironhide’s 7-star is too much because you want to take advantage of Tote’s untapping powers, then Wave 1’s 6-star Ironhide is an attractive alternative]
For a 4-wide team, Wave 3’s General Optimus Prime is the 11-star of choice if you’re dropping Highjump (by virtue of being the only 11-star Truck). Despite his victory by process of elimination, the General is a very good partner to a Highjump-less patrol. He gives them another Bold-1 for those yummy black pips, and is a decent battler in his own right. Dropping Mudslinger however gives you a lot more choice. Novastar and Inferno are solid battlers, and of course there’s Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime Freedom Fighter. I think Optimus is our pick here. He comes with his own black pip loving Bold-2, and he can heal the whole team on a flip.
So does that make Optimus our sideboard, replacing Ironhide and Mudslinger? Maybe not. There’s always oddball Nemesis Prime; perhaps he’d enjoy Highjump’s card drawing and the Off-Road Patrol taking hits for him? Or perhaps Wave 4 has the answer.
Surprisingly, there are no black pip focused Autobots, be it Wave 3 or Wave 4. Thus far in Wave 4 it’s been the domain of Thundercracker, whose 8-star cost is awkward for a Micromaster patrol, or the mercenary Detritus, whose 11-star cost makes him a great candidate for a Highjump-less team.
Detritus loves a deck of black-pipped actions, and he takes care of his own healing with his Bounty action. The new Opportune Repairs battle card also becomes an immediate shoe-in to your deck, allowing Detritus to +3-heal the Off-Road Patrol. What’s more, it’s an orange/black pip!
If Wave 4 Thundercracker is too expensive to be our 5-wide Decepticon of choice, who would be the lucky ‘con?
While Insecticon Skrapnel is always a fun 7-star (or a pain if he’s on the other player’s team), his fellow 7-star Insecticon Barrage feels like a good, if unusual, fit with the Off-Road Patrol. Barrage gets Bold-2 when attacking a damaged enemy, and with a flip he can give someone +2-Pierce. These are both words the Off-Road Patrol adore.
Lastly, who would be the natural Battlemaster partner?
Wave 3’s Raider Nightstick jumps quickly to mind as the Battlemaster to choose. Nightstick’s weapon mode loves flipping black pips to force opponent hand scraps, and his +2/+1 stats are a decent add to one of the Off-Road Patrol. He’s a Decepticon though, which will limit the value of a few of the Autobot focused battle cards. His 6-star cost allows for a star card inclusion of course.
Perhaps Nightstick is a bit too easy a suggestion.
Wave 4 brings us a slightly different Battlemaster candidate.
Private Vanguard is an Autobot Battlemaster armor. Vanguard’s bot-mode ability acts as a ≤5 damage force field when a white is flipped in defence by one of your patrol members. Assuming your opponent didn’t one-shot Vanguard on turn one (and that is a bit of an assumption as it would only need a hit of 6 or 7), that ≤5 damage protection for each of your patrol members should earn you a few more turns of piercing. Vanguard’s 5-star cost also means you can add a second Indestructible Sword to your deck; it’s all win!
A sidenote of gloom
We interrupt these proceedings to note that unfortunately it’s not all sweetness and light for the Off-Road Pierce Patrol. Point-Defense System (PDS) is the fly in their ointment.
Reducing the Off-Road Patrol’s damage by 2 each time will hurt them. Should they successfully win some battles, expect to add PDS to your sideboard (if your local scene isn’t already full of blue-pipped piercing decks already!).
Will Powertrain be triumphant in December?
Those making the finals of the Energon Invitational will have to battle some of the matches with blind Wave 3 and Wave 4 packs. This should mean a lot of black pip battle cards. The odds of picking up a couple of Off-Road Patrol members (and someone with a little synergy for that piercing deck) feels possible (or at least more possible than other desirable options).
Will we see a triumphant Powertrain leading his team to victory?
[Continue reading in Part 3]