Building Elita-1: I’m In Love With My Car (Part 2)

No points for originality with this video.

Part 1:

When I last left my Elita-1 deck, she was accompanied by Hot Rod and Red Alert, and they were just about dealing with bugs in a test environment; I rated it as having a 60% chance of taking on a bugs list. Not great odds, but not terrible. It was able to do this by having a degree of survivability through blue flips and damage transference – success or failure would come down to hands, flips, and I’d imagine in a live environment good play. However, the team crumbled in the face of blue lists, having been tested and played against Superion, three-wide Nemesis and Runabout/Runamuck. A small amount of Pierce and some direct damage just isn’t enough to take on these set-ups when your base damage is regularly outclassed by their defense.

If I’m honest with myself, this is a limitation of trying to build Blue decks. A Blue deck needs to have something about it that makes up for the fact it can’t flip tonnes of Orange pips on attack. Nemesis has his powering up, Optimus Prime Battlefield Leader has his action flips on attack, Superion has Pierce, even someone like Shockwave has large amounts of direct damage. Elita-1 doesn’t have that inherent advantage; her core mechanic favours keeping her team-mates alive by absorbing damage, and then rewarding this play by giving a random chance of additional extra card plays if she then dies. That’s not really enough to warrant a Blue deck, it just can’t get the damage output out.

Does a nice cup of coke warrant a Blue deck?

I’m going to struggle through though and see if we can’t get the most out of a Blue Autobot Cars deck centred on Elita-1. Perhaps we need to go over our current line-up again though, and see if we can’t improve it; at the very least, we can think about sideboard options if we want to try and go 2-wide instead of 3-wide for some matchups.

So what are our options? Let’s list every Autobot Car in the game, separated by star cost, and see what we got:

4 stars
Scamper City Patrol
Private Stakeout

6 stars
Bumblebee Brave Warrior
Jazz Special Ops
Prowl Military Strategist
Red Alert Security Chief

7 stars
Hot Rod Impulsive Fighter
Mirage Counterintelligence
Prowl Strategic Mastermind
Sunstreaker Bold Warrior
Bumblebee Least Likely, Most Dangerous
Sergeant Chromia

8 stars
Bluestreak Reluctant Soldier
Private Arcee
Private Sideswipe

9 stars
Bumblebee Courageous Scout
Mirage Lone Wolf
Wheeljack Weapons Inventor
Captain Wheeljack

10 stars
Bumblebee Legendary Warrior
Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant
Major Prowl

12 stars
Blurr Fastest Bot in the Galaxy
Novastar Search and Rescue

(There are no autobot cards that cost 5 stars, 11 stars or 13 stars or more)

Which one of these fine lads will be let on the team?

Let’s shake down that list a bit. For the purposes of this deck so far, we don’t want to consider non-Autobots or non-Cars, at least not yet. That rules out a 4-wide list (we only have 2 cards of 5 stars or less available). Neither Scamper nor Stakeout are very interesting, they are both low health bots that can serve as blockers for other lists, and little else. I don’t think Elita-1 really needs a low health blocker; she’d make use of a moderate health blocker that can defend so she can absorb their damage afterwards, but not a low health one as they are likely to be one-shotted. That knocks out both of our 4 star bots, so unless I want to use a two wide list with 4+ stars in battle cards, we can exclude the 8 star bots and 9 star bots too.

We can also exclude Jazz; with Pierce being omnipresent thanks to black pips, Jazz isn’t even worth considering and Red Alert is better statted for a 6 star card. Both Prowls can be excluded too – they’re the picks of choice if I want to look at an Orange or even a Black deck, but for a Blue deck they’re Bold bonuses will go unused, making them less desirable. Same for Wave 2 Starter Bumblebee (not that he was ever really being considered). We can also take out Sunstreaker – his stats are weaker than Hot Rod‘s, and so is his KO ability.

That leaves us with the following for three wide:
Bumblebee Brave Warrior
Red Alert Security Chief
Hot Rod Impulsive Fighter
Mirage Counter-intelligence
Sergeant Chromia

… and these for two wide …

Bumblebee Legendary Warrior
Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant
Major Prowl
Blurr Fastest Bot in the Galaxy
Novastar Search and Rescue

As it happens I had already considered two of the options for three wide in my last entry on Elita-1Bumblebee Brave Warrior and Sergeant Chromia. Again, Chromia just isn’t fitting the play style; she wants to be flipped, her defense is weak, and she just let’s you play armours which aren’t even in the deck right now. Bumblebee Brave Warrior is okay, but adding Tough 1 in Bot Mode means he wants to be flipped too, and Red Alert has more health AND is Ranged. Neither of these should be considered any further.

… but Mirage is interesting. He’s Specialist, which is actually something I’m less interested in than Hot Rod’s Ranged, but he has Pierce 2. Given that our main problem is getting damage out, Mirage attacking with a Noble’s Blaster or Energon Axe might be worthwhile. I can also repeat these attacks using Turbo Boosters / Start Your Engines, and absorb the damage Mirage is taking in response with Elita-1. If I wanted my sideboard to stay three-wide throughout, Mirage isn’t only an interesting option; he is the only option, at least if I want to lock myself into Autobot Cars. Honestly, replacing Hot Rod with Mirage in the main deck sounds good to me.

As for the 2-tall options, I think we can take Major Prowl out of the running. He’s fun in Sealed, but otherwise he isn’t consistently doing damage and his stats aren’t as good as the Bumblebees at this star cost. His ability also isn’t anywhere close to being as good as the Bees.

Both Bees are really interesting. I think most everyone realises how powerful Trusted Lieutenant is by now; the extra card draw would mean I have a better chance of getting a Start Your Engines in hand, and his car flip ability means that I could potentially play another card straight after that. Unfortunately, one of the cards I can’t play when he does that is Marksmanship – Bee is only Ranged in his bot mode.

Legendary Warrior is also interesting; Elita-1’s schtick is to absorb damage, and is meant to die first in a list; meanwhile, Legendary Warrior is buffed if he is the only one on the battlefield. It’s an interesting synergy – unfortunately, he is Melee on both sides so no Ranged cards at all. At 15 HP, Legendary Warrior would provide the highest amount of collective health of any two wide car team at 32 HP.

Both Bees would offer three star cards if I use them; Leap of Faith, Bolt of Lightning or one of the double-blue pip cards could be considered if that’s a direction to go in. Bolts of Lightning might make a suitable swap for Marksmanship, and Energon Slingshot for Armed Hovercraft. Worth thinking about.

That leaves the 12 star characters. Blurr is really powerful, but fragile as hell for his start cost, and would need some serious Pierce to get work out of him in a blue deck. He is Melee. Interesting, but probably not a good fit.

That leaves Novastar. Novastar is beefy, with impressive defense in her car mode. She hits hard, especially in her bot mode. She’s only Ranged in her bot mode, but there’s no pressure for her to be in her card mode except for Turbo Boosters. Her health is okay, 2 short of Legendary Warrior, but made up for by the fact she can deliver comparable stats even when Elita-1 is alive. She’s arguably the best choice.

Oh no! We didn’t even bother asking Prime if he wanted to join Elita-1. It’s okay Prime, everyone will play you with Elita-1 anyhow…

I think Novastar is our woman for the sideboard; the Bees are interesting and worth toying with when I get a free moment to tinker with the deck, but Novastar seems like the least complicated. I think Mirage is better for the main deck than Hot Rod; Tough 1 doesn’t serve me as well as Pierce 2. It’s been fun Hot Rod, we’ll see each other again I’m sure. Red Alert isn’t offering much but he is the right bot for the slot, so he gets to stay too.

This being said, I think limiting Elita-1 to cars and indeed Autobots isn’t really working out. I think much more options and possibilities could be opened up if the line-up could consider a 5-star card like Flamewar, for example, at which point I can consider 8 star cards that might give high amounts of Pierce (Triggerhappy, I’m looking at you, let’s make some Autobots molten metal eh?).

In the next part of looking at this character the doors will be opened a lot more. That can probably start with looking at Elita-1 as less the lead character, and more as a support in a two-wide deck, with someone like Optimus Prime Battlefield Legend, Megatron Living Weapon or, god forbid, Starscream Decepticon King. It could also mean looking at non-cars as suggested above, or it might simply be taking another look at Elita-1 in an Orange setup.

Next up is tournament weekend where we’ll get to see how Elita-1 really does; I’m expecting a low result, if I’m honest, but we’ll see what happens.

(Note: There’s no deck list this post; I was going to write about a sideboard but honestly it isn’t ready yet, and this post went on quite long anyhow. Expect to see what I play this weekend with this lineup in my next post)

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