Overview | Energon Invitational Recap
Ba Weep Gran Na Weep Ninny Bong! I'd like to share my experience at the Energon Invitational, from the matches I've faced, to the sealed deck construction, to the event overall and suggestions for improvements etc.
Please bear with me as this may be a rather lengthy and non-visually appealing article, because unfortunately, I completely forgot to capture photos at the event since I was in the zone of trying to mentally prepare myself for the event. Feel free to scroll to the section you are here for based on the section title.
Final Thoughts and Suggestions
Lionizer, Ground Command <> Artillery
Demolisher, Devoted Decepticon
Razorclaw, Predacon Leader
Skrapnel, Insecticon Leader
3x Reckless Charge
3x Peace Through Tyranny
2x Incoming Transmission
2x Ramming Speed
2x Treasure Hunt
2x Heat of Battle
2x One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall
1x Energy Transfer
3x Improvised Shield
3x Power Punch
3x Grenade Launcher
3x Erratic Lightning
3x Force Field
2x Bashing Shield
1x Enforcement Batons
Octone, Capricious Agitator
3x Conversion Engine
2x Crushing Size
1x Soldier's Blaster
1x Energy Transfer
I got this line-up inspiration watching one of the Malaysian players, Lim Ming Jian, play during the Lvl Up tournament held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in November. I was especially drawn to the usage of Razorclaw in this deck, where if I met any aggro deck, I could potentially remove a ready character off the field before they attacked. This deck (including sideboarding) was tested to be good against cars, 3-wide aggro decks, and Shockwave variants. It was decent in terms of 50-50 odds against bugs and Galaxy Prime, with some variance dependent on die roll. It would struggle against Aerialbots and decks that can efficiently flip 5-6 blue cards on defense, but nothing majorly detrimental.
From here, the team and I tuned this deck to maximise the orange cards best as we thought right. We were expecting a mixed and aggro meta going into the Energon Invitational. We did initially consider having some blue pip options, but ultimately cut that out due to two reasons - First being that the characters are so low in health that blocking 1-2 damage really wouldn't have mattered, and that it is very situational to find myself needing that little bit on defense. Second, mixed pip variance and me do not go together well. I have attempted mixed pip decks and they absolutely do not work for my levels of luck. With so much bold and flips required in this deck, the blue pips will not be welcomed during attacks.
The deck overall doesn't really need much explanation apart from the sideboard choice. Energy Transfer was a last minute addition. This card is amazing with Skrapnel for you to soak some damage, and shift those away to another character. Skrapnel only takes 3 damage an attack, and if your opponent does not have burn, then every 3 damage shifted away from Skrapnel is an additional attack he tanks for you.
We tested this deck against Kent Summerour's version of Daring Escape and it was a race to see who drew their key card first by turn 2. Did it draw Heroism/Bravery or do I have my Peace Through Tyranny first. Skrapnel is amazing to stop the combo character by being able to tap it down. This same strategy can be employed by bugs against it, though they lose flip efficiency on their characters, and will be attacking for lesser than optimal.
Now, as of the release of this article, Blaine Bublitz has released his version of the Daring Escape deck that went undefeated in constructed during the Energon Invitational. I believe this deck is able to handle it. Considering Daring Escape wants to go second, this deck definitely wants to go first. First turn flip Skrapnel, attack Springer. Second turn flip back Skrapnel, tap Springer and attack with Lionizer. Third turn finish Springer off if not already dead just before the combo can take into effect. If we go second, it may be slower and more dependent on combat pumps drawn. Skrapnel flips on my turn 1 and attack Firedrive, next turn Skrapnel flips back to tap Springer down for any character to attack.
The sideboard option was to bring in Octone (with Lionizer and Razorclaw) against other Octone, Shockwave and Galaxy Prime decks. By bringing Octone in, I reduce the opponent's Octone's efficiency by 3 damage each attack. As an aggro deck, my Octone would likely be hitting harder than the opponent's Octone. In testing, Shockwave would usually survive 2 hits from Octone and 1 hit from Razorclaw. Once Shockwave goes down, his 2 small buddies would be easy to handle.
Soldier's Blaster should come in when Octone is boarded in. You have 3 factions in the line-up then so this would be most versatile. Conversion Engine really helps against mixed faction decks, where Octone does so much free damage across their board during the course of the game. Crushing Size is for Galaxy Prime and Shockwave, mostly to remove Energy Pack, but also Matrix if it allows small guys to gain more value. Espionage is in there on the off chance there was a Daring Escape deck to call out a Leap of Faith, Brainstorm etc, or any other deck that required specific cards to trigger off their combinations. The additional copy of Energy Transfer is for the bugs mirror. Cornered! is for the Skrapnel mirror and to hopefully slow Aerialbots down.
So there we have it. A somewhat standard aggro deck, with some old tricks re-explored, and with the introduction of Octone to help manage other Octones and big characters.
Rounds 1 and 2 were Constructed format. Rounds 3 to 5 were Sealed format. Rounds 6 to 9 were back to Constructed format.
I'm so sorry I forgot to note down your name. Please get in touch with me and I will make the edit and put it in proper. Opponent was playing Soundwave, Buzzsaw, Ravage and Nightbird.
I won the die roll here. I made the mistake of trying to out aggro the Soundwave instead of taking out Nightbird in the first game. I tried to burn down Soundwave before he could bring out his second cassette, but my opponent played Escape Route to get it out by his second turn. Also, the stray damage from Nightbird was painful and cost me the first game.
Subsequent games were easier as I was able to take out Nightbird early on, and then manage to kill his characters one at a time. My memory of this match up is sketchy, so I can't remember if I sideboarded in Octone for this, though it seems like it would have made a better choice to do so.
Match Score 2 - 1
Jonathan Clifton, Insects (Raider Kickback variant)
This was a surprise to me seeing someone play insects with Raider Kickback mainboard. The deck itself is not completely new to me as we had tested it prior, but what surprised me was the inclusion of Sturdy Javelin in the mainboard that caught me offguard and cost me the first game. I received 4 damage from Swarm and decided to spread my damage between Lionizer and Razorclaw, leaving Razorclaw with 2 hp. This proved to be my undoing as the Sturdy Javelin was equipped right after and thrown over, causing the simultaneous deaths of two bots on my side, and subsequently the first game.
I managed to win the second game by playing around Sturdy Javelin this time. In the third game, I went second. I remember two critical points of this game. The first was when I had Reckless Charge and Grenade Launcher on Razorclaw, and I was pondering if I should attack his Barrage or Kickback. Both to me would have done significant damage, though Barrage is more annoying later on if I failed to draw into more combat pumps. I was guessing that there won't be more than 2 flips on defense, but what was biting at me was if a blue would be flipped to prevent a one-hit KO on Barrage. I went on Kickback in the end and he didn't flip a blue.
The second critical point of the game was when this came back to bite me. I had Razorclaw and Skrapnel left. My Skrapnel had 3 damage on him, and we were facing down Skrapnel (with 3 damage on him too), Raider Kickback and Barrage (with damage on too). I needed to kill Raider Kickback in one hit to have a fighting chance, but a blue was flipped on defense leaving him at 1 hp. I lost by one attack from there. Did not draw my Energy Transfer or Zap this time to salvage the game.
Match Score 1 - 2
*The next 3 rounds are sealed and I will discuss my deck and choices further down.
Michael Walter, Galaxy Prime
I saw Granddaddy Galaxy Prime across from me and I was worried since I wasn't sure if I could beat through that. Lucky for me, I got my weapons and combat pumps that I needed to get the victory in both games.
Having Galaxy Prime is good if you have the pips and cards to make him work. I personally feel he is very dependent on his supporting cast due to his star count. In a sealed format, the characters you get may not be suited to be partnered with Galaxy Prime, and may not be able to churn out the damage if you don't have sufficient black pips to make them work. That being said, Michael did make the best of what he had and he managed to go on to win the next 2 games after.
Match Score 2 - 0
Brian Alan, Detritus and other bots I can't remember (sorry!)
By far the most chill game I've had thanks to the personality of my opponent. Brian was a great pleasure to play with and made the game very relaxed and enjoyable. It absolutely did not feel like a tense competition setting during the games we had. I almost feel sorry for having such a brutal massacre of Brian's board with what I had... almost. (Sorry, Brian! =P)
Match Score 2 - 0
Richard Wyatt, Ion Storm and General Optimus Prime (wave 3)
This was a hell of a match with super clutch games! I was so amazed at the sheer amount of blue pips in Richard's deck. I think he had like 11 or 12 blue pips, which included Sabotage Armaments and Hidden Fortification. Absolutely insane! My deck hits hard consistently and he still managed to block most of the damage, and punish me really painfully after.
The first game came down to whether he would be able to flip into two black pips to take the game, which he did and flipped into three via Plunder. I did manage to actually use my Backfire on his Ion Storm for 2 damage which made me happy since I've never had the pleasure of triggering it before. The second game was also really close and dependent on him flipping orange pips during his last attack, and he managed to flip his only double orange pip and another single orange pip, that put him two damage above what I could block.
Even though I lost, this was definitely one of the very best sealed games I've ever played. Absolutely enjoyed this match. There's a saying that a good player has the power of luck on his side on top of his own skill level, so well done Richard for being the better player this match!
Match Score 0 - 2
*Back to constructed!
Daniel MacKnowski, 3 Cars w/ Arcee
This was a favourable match-up to me. The plan is straightforward to me - take out Cliffjumper as soon as possible to stop the draw engine, and then one shot all the cars so no readying can be done.
I won the die-roll and went first. Lionizer goes into Cliffjumper and Razorclaw followed after that for the kill. Arcee is preferred to be left for last because she can't do much damage on her own without pumps. I took the first game after Demolisher and Skrapnel managed to one shot the remaining cars. Daniel chose to go first in the second match, and I have to apologise to Daniel for my being lucky to one shot Red Alert on the beat back on my first turn by exactly 10 damage. I had an Erratic Lightning on my Lionizer and flipped 7 orange pips in the 6 cards flipped, and he didn't manage to flip into any of his blue pips. That swung the game in my favour since he didn't have a character to ready from there.
Match Score 2 - 0
Trent Strain, 3 Cars w/ Arcee
Now this was unfortunate. Trent was someone I met at Las Vegas in September when I was there for work and managed to pop by a store for some games as warm-up to the European Energon Open. It really sucks having to face a friend, but this was the way of the RNG in pairings.
I won the die roll and initiative, but somehow failed to draw into my combat pumps to successfully kill the cars before the ready effects kicked in. Ended up being battered up in this game but salvaged things in the second game by surgically taking apart Cliffjumper for spare parts. Trent went first in the third game and opened with Red Alert into my Skrapnel to put 4 damage on him. This was not good for me, and I was trying to get into my Energy Transfer to save the game. 'Lo and Behold! Choosing to play an Incoming Transmission over a Supercharge on one turn found me the Energy Transfer I was desperately in need of! This proved to be the turning point in the game as I managed to transfer damage to Razorclaw, and Skrapnel was now able to take a full three hits again instead of just one.
Match Score 2 - 1
Jonathan Palmer, Captain Jetfire w/ Tailwind and Nightflight
Ok, this was interesting. I've never played against Captain Jetfire in any iteration leading up to this. We discounted this during testing, thinking it wouldn't be played since people would opt to choose to play Galaxy Prime instead, but here it was in front of me.
Jon won the die roll and went second. This game did not go well in my favour, but it allowed me to see what the deck had. There was Improvised Shield for Jetfire to use on the attacks by stacking it on the top of the deck, Sabotaged Armaments and Hidden Fortifications which I had to play around, Escape Route for Jetfire to flip efficiently to get upgrade to place on top deck, stay on bot mode, plus bonus attack for the Air Strike Patrol, and copies of Energon Axe which allowed the small planes to hit harder.
For the second game, I had to sideboard in Octone. I brought in the Soldier's Blaster and all three copies of Conversion Engine in exchange for two Heat of Battle, one Force Field, and a Zap. I was seriously considering boarding in Cornered! but I felt like Octone would have been able to deal with the extra pips flipped from Jetfire rather than have those cards in hand.
I chose to go second in this match-up since I wanted to play a card on my first attack to push for damage, and for the Jetfire to be exposed first for Octone to smash. I managed to get a Conversion Engine early and it did so much work during the game. Every turn I would be dealing one damage to one of the small planes and one on Jetfire. This helped with me being able to take them out easier and win the second game.
Final game. Jon chose to go second. I had some trouble this game since Jon had access to both Sabotage Armaments and Hidden Fortifications during this game. One attack from me was blocked due to Hidden Fortifications doing so much to save Jetfire. That set me back quite a bit, though it was still neck and neck. I did not draw into my Conversion Engine this time which proved to be a huge detriment in this match-up. I was able to clear off Nightflight and Captain Jetfire but was left with a badly beaten Octone that had 3 hp left. Jon attacked with Tailwind (which had an Armed Hovercraft on him), and managed to flip an Escape Route that gave him 6 attack total for the match.
I felt this was a close match overall, and it's very dependent on who draws and flips better to edge out. I'm honestly not sure if I could have played better at any point in the match to have had a better chance in winning this, but to my knowledge so far, I think I made the best play at the point in time.
Match Score 1 - 2
George Machado, Granddaddy Galaxy Prime w/ Flamewar and Skydive
This was the last match of the day, and boy was I drained by this time, having jetlag and the sheer long day of gaming.
George won the die roll and went first. My 4-wide didn't do well in the first game against a heavily blue Galaxy Prime and I had to depend on sideboarding in Octone to stay in the running. This time for the sideboard, I took out one Force Field, two Heat of Battle, one Incoming Transmission, and one Zap in exchange for a Soldier's Blaster, two Conversion Engine, and two Crushing Size.
I opted to go second, though this was one of my first mistakes. Against this version of Galaxy Prime, my deck wants to go first as I needed to clear the board of Flamewar. I needed to send Lionizer into Flamewar, and use Razorclaw to finish her off. That way, Octone can smash straight into Skydive, leaving Galaxy Prime lesser turns to set-up. The average number to one hit KO Skydive is 13. This accounts for his innate Tough 2 with 1 defense and 8 health. The average flips would be all four flips to be single blue pips, accounting for some variance of having orange or blanks. Octone would be able to easily hit that with a weapon. This was what we tested out to be the better play, yet for some reason, I chose to go second and almost immediately regretted my decision when I drew my hand.
Now saying that, going second is not a definite loss, but it wouldn't have had as good of odds to survive. Going second means I'd be forced to send Lionizer into Skydive and that I would have to really draw and flip well to get Flamewar off the board. This was where I feel that I made a bad play, though I'm not quite sure since I can't recall the entire match clearly. I feel like I should have equipped a Conversion Engine on Octone instead of going with an Erratic Lightning on Razorclaw to swing into Flamewar. I knew Razorclaw wouldn't have killed Flamewar because I didn't draw into my Actions, and he only did 4 damage to her after she blocked 4, so having the Conversion Engine would have done more damage to the board overall since Galaxy Prime had already taken a lot of damage, and this would have allowed Octone to kill him easier.
George got an Energon Axe on Flamewar and I had no way of removing it as I had previously used Enforcement Batons to remove Prime's Ion Blaster. Turns out it cost me the match as Galaxy Prime had a Matrix of Leadership on him, putting Flamewar's total attack to 7 attack, which was just nice to pop my Force Field on Octone, allowing Galaxy Prime to swing in for the win.
This is the match that I've regretted the most due to my own bad plays and mistakes made, since going first would have given me a better chance at bringing the match to a third game, yet hindsight is 10/10 and George did play well and deserved the win. Losing this match meant I was out of the Top 32 placing which is a huge disappointment, but congratulations to George for making the cut!
Match Score 0 - 2
Overall : 5 wins - 4 losses, 44th Placing
Let's take a look at my sealed pool and I will explain my choice options.
Character options (Bold was what I picked for my deck):
Private Arcee, Special Ops <> Warrior
Sergeant Barricade, Infantry <> Enforcer
Raider Runamuck, Infantry <> Soldier
Sergeant Crosshairs, Artillery <> Weapons Supervisor
Private Smokescreen, Special Ops <> Soldier
Private Sideswipe, Infantry <> Soldier
Raide Storm Cloud, Infantry <> Electronic Warfare
Private Flak, Artillery <> Tactics
Private Pteraxadon, Air Command <> Artillery
Raider Caliburst, Air Force <> Weapons
Raider Nightflight, Air Strike Patrol <> Spy
Raider Ratbat, Spy Patrol <> Fuel Scout
Characters chosen were based on sheer stats. 36 total hp would be difficult for opponents to pierce through even with the number of black pips available.
Barricade would help me get my EM24 weapon if I didn't manage to draw it. Runamuck is an amazing card draw for this format, considering my characters are relatively flip efficient. Arcee is there for a filler spot. I don't have enough orange or blue pips to warrant flipping Arcee once she has a weapon equipped, and the inbuilt Focus on alt mode did sufficient work for me.
I was considering going with the battlemasters and Crosshairs, but neither of them turned into armour. If this was Spinister instead of Crosshairs, I would definitely have gone this route instead. I also considered replacing Arcee with Pteraxadon and two star cards, but I already had so many weapons that I felt it wasn't worth fighting for spots.
Battle cards options (Bold was what I picked for my deck):
2x EM24 IR Laser Launcher
1x Combat Dagger
1x Soldier's Blaster
1x Kinetic Intensifier Whip
1x Unflinching Courage
1x Dismantling Claw
2x Guarded Posture
1x Sturdy Armor
1x Terrifying Resilience
1x Point-Defense System
1x Metal Detector
1x Personal Targeting Drone
1x Acute Reflexes
1x Calculated Strike
2x Contract Contingency
1x Battlefield Report
1x War of Attrition
1x Energy Transfer
1x Spinner Rims
1x Battering Ram
1x Anticipation Engine
1x Conversion Engine
1x Emergency Defense Field
1x Heroic Resolve
1x EMP Wave
1x New Orders
1x Special Ops Mission
I opened a pretty good pool of cards, with many weapons and combat pumps so definitely nothing to complain there. Battle cards selection was pretty straightforward. We needed to cut to a 25 cards deck, so removing the 11 cards that did the least was the first step.
Spinner Rims - removed as I'm not a fan of the effect, and I don't have a lot of white pips
Battering Ram - no trucks
Anticipation Engine - not enough actions for value
Conversion Engine - no triple changers
Emergency Defense Field - pipless that yield situational effect. I want immediate value.
Toolbox - no useful pip, and not enough repair to utilise ability well
Heroic Resolve - no suitable Autobot target, and no star slot
EMP Wave - no star slot
New Orders - not playing small guys
Diagnosis - not worth the one repair
Special Ops Mission - only two secrets in my deck, so this isn't value
Do let me know your thoughts as to how you would have improved this build given the pool of cards available.
Final Thoughts and Suggestions
Overall the event was a great experience. For someone who hasn't played in such a tournament setting in over 15 years, it was refreshing, nerve-wrecking and exciting all rolled into one. It was indeed a long day of almost 12 hours, but for a first event on such a scale for this game, this was a pretty good job. As a professional events organiser in my day job, I do have some thoughts and suggestions for improvements. All these are of course just what comes through my head, with budget playing a huge role for all events.
Location of F&B (Food and Beverage)
The convention centre was next to Reading Terminal Market which has a lot of nice food, however as a competitor, this was not enjoyable as it took too much time for us to head out of the centre to the market, queue for food, eat, and come back in through security checks again. The PAX convention itself did have some F&B stalls but they were located at the other end of the convention, which was almost as long a walk as to the market. This was not the fault of the tournament organiser, but may be a point for future discussion with the convention organiser to have some options situated nearer to the tournament zones.
This unfortunately can't be avoided due to the nature of the game. Knowing that it is 50 minutes a game, with a chance of overtime (this being longer now that the rules are to continue until all bots are tapped), this alone will take an hour a round. 8 rounds will be 8 hours as it is. Unless games kick off really early, there won't likely be time for a lunch break. This is the competitive scene. This should be the differentiating factor between you and your opponent - an absolute test of physical and mental endurance. Come prepared by bringing extra food to ration out throughout the day. Drink lots of water, coffee, energy drinks etc whatever helps you. At this level, unfortunately it won't be the friendliest environment for welfare. This is the big leagues and unpopular as this opinion may be, this should be the way.
I know many people have issues with sealed in a competitive format and I have my reservations about it too. I personally love sealed but I don't think it should be mixed with constructed. A draft is a better way to input skill in a random setting. My opinion on this if skill level was something that was considered overall that this should be the format to go:
2 days event
1st day to be only constructed. 8 or 9 rounds depending on players and what is necessary to cut to Top 32
2nd day to be a draft event for the Top 32 to detemine the Top 8. Based on the booster packs having 6 battle cards, players would be split into pods of 4 pax to form 8 pods. Drafts will be done based on ranks, i.e. players who ended day 1 at positions 1, 2, 31 and 32 will draft in a pod. After the drafts, players are paired based on their win/loss ratio as per day 1. *Hopefully official draft rules are implemented by wotc some time soon.
Sealed can be a completely separate event. This can be done on Day 2 for all players who did not make the Top 32 cut, or if someone in the Top 32 would like to drop.
Regarding sealed during the Energon Invitational itself, I felt it was very disruptive to have it in round 3. It should have been the first thing to have kicked off the event. Players were already assigned seats for the briefing. We could have saved time by being allocated the packs then and given instructions on registration etc. From there we could then be paired like we were in round 1. After 3 rounds of sealed, players could then focus straight on their constructed portion all the way through.
The tournament zone was really big and the instructions by the floor judges were hard to hear. The sound system over by the tournament organiser's desk helped a little, but I feel it could be much better done in future. Having a speaker at each corner of the tournament zone would have helped box the soundwaves inward, and enable everyone to hear the instructions/announcements clearly the first time. We would not run into a situation where everyone is looking left and right trying to figure out what to do based on what others were doing.
*Photos taken from Vivae Board Games' social media pages.
Yes, Transformers TCG is a card game. It belongs in the realm of board games. Having it held at PAX is technically suitable, but this is where I feel that the tournaments in Malaysia were much better. They had the one thing all of us grew up with - Transformers Toys. There were toy displays and stores selling those toys within close vicinity of the gaming area. This was a good break with strong relevance to the game for players who ended their matches early. It was a good change of scenery yet bringing talking points to players who were also toy collectors.
I must say that the community as a whole was wonderful. People were friendly and approchable. I was honestly surprised at how everyone could be so nice despite hearing all the horror stories from other games with money tournaments. I won't doubt that these toxic folks will one day come over to this game should the prize money be higher and more lucrative for them, but until then, this was a fantastic experience with the folks. Thank you to Scott Landis of Vector Sigma for inviting me to your afterparty, and to Joe and Frenchie of Wreck and Rule for inviting me to dinner as well. Unfortunately I had other interviews to conduct and by the time I was done, I was really tired and burned out so I just met Wayne and his wife nearby (Thank you for not leaving me to dine alone) the convention centre for a simple dinner before heading back to pack for my flight home.
Apology to Home
I would finally like to apologise to everyone back home in Singapore, and in the other Southeast Asian countries, for my poor showing and not being able to strongly represent us during the event. Hopefully I'll be able to do better in future.
Thank you for reading until the very end of this long article. Congratulations once against to Dan Arnold of Vector Sigma for being crowned our first World Champion! I will release our interview videos over the next few weeks. 'Til All Are One! Tim, out!