Building Targetmasters: Spinisters and Spinsters

Now, listen to an old Spinister’s tale… of a time, long ago, when he and Autobot were out in the gardens of Seaford, fleeing away from the frightening brown cardboard boxes… what tiny menaces would they find?

In the first part of this project, I set out a plan for developing deck(s) for both Spinister and Crosshairs, two characters defined by their multiple upgrade slots, synergy with battlemasters and their less-than-average stat-lines. Whilst we went into some cards that we could play with them – mostly for cheating more upgrade plays in a turn – we didn’t go into the meat of this project; a discussion about what battlemasters to play with them.

That’s what this article is about; battlemasters, and what kinds of synergy they could have with Spinister and Crosshairs.

I don’t actually know what direction to take a build with either Spinister or Crosshairs, such as they are. They aren’t clear characters and will require testing. However, battlemasters tend to fit particular deck styles, e.g. Aimless suits a Blue deck, Firedrive suits a deck with draw, Lionizer an Orange deck, etc. Identifying a battlemaster that would work particularly well with either of these characters will ultimately help define the direction of the project as a whole.

With each battlemaster then I want to loosely discuss the following:

  • How the battlemaster works generally.
  • How I think the battlemaster will benefit the targetmasters.
  • Characters and cards I think might fit well with the deck.

I think that’s enough pre-amble. Let’s talk about little bots that turn into gadgets for bigger bots!

(Note: I’ve not included pictures of the cards for a variety of silly reasons, so if you need refreshing, they are on pojo.

“Nothing to see here, we’re not killing any invading big robots, move along.”

Smashdown and Blowpipe
Let’s start with two characters that have similar schticks, and have the same star cost. Both of these characters benefit from decks with a varied spread of pips; a ‘rainbow’ deck as the cool kids call them. Computron’s Lab actually had a very in depth look at Blowpipe and how to get the most of him (although it’s a bit of a heavy read). Smashdown is easier and softer but potentially less powerful version.

Neither of these characters see much play, mostly because they both require non-intuitive deck builds, and don’t come with any extra abilities beyond damage boosting. The builds we’d have to make using these characters would mean we’d have to rely on static stat buffs in our upgrades; we can’t just aggro enemies quickly, or rely on Tough, we’d have to stack +armour upgrades and +attack weapons. That’s probably not too much of a problem for offense; but we might struggle defensively. We also can’t make use Peace Through Tyranny with these characters, as they are 5 star, we’d have to use other methods of forcing the battlemaster into our guy’s hands.

On the plus side, the low star costs of both characters mean we have a lot of options with partners, so Crosshairs can be coupled with Wave 2 Megatron, we can bring in someone like Triggerhappy to load up weapons, or even Needlenose or Chromia to pull star cards or white pips into our hand.

Finally, a rainbow deck means we have very few limitations when it comes to what cards we use. These two provide interesting options.

“Argh! Autobot! Help! They are going for my circuits!”

Pteraxadon and Vanguard
We’ll keep these two fairly brief, since I’ve already made up my mind about whether I want to play with them or not. Pteraxadon and Vanguard are two really interesting battlemasters that are tied to White pips to trigger their abilities. That’s not necessarily difficult for us to build around – we can try and build a White deck using either of our targetmasters, and we’d still have star space for someone else (though we couldn’t fit Wave 1 Mirage in with Pteraxadon and Spinister, only Vanguard).

There’s some synergy there – we could have our battlemaster go first, then let Mirage do his attack and untap thing, forcing our opponent to kill our battlemaster. It might struggle for flip intensity on Crosshairs though, and Vanguard wouldn’t survive more than two hits from even a low-attack opponent let alone an aggro list.

There’s a few really cool and interesting White decks online that use these battlemasters. For this project though? It’s a pass. A White deck wants all its characters to benefit from White pips.

“Erm, so how do I know you’re Dazzlestrike?”
“Grrrr, meow meow, grrrrr.”
“… okay.”

Caliburst and Dazzlestrike
Two more I’m coupling together, these two are 6 star battlemasters that both give +3 Attack, and give some benefits both when they are in bot mode and when used as an upgrade.

It has been my experience when playing against Dazzlestrike that she is more of a liability than a benefit. Her anti-Brave has never come into play – maybe because I’ve not been running that much Brave lately, instead leaning towards Stealth – and the fact she causes 3 damage to her wielder when she’s scrapped results in her being a hindrance. It should feel like a temp HP buff but that’s not how she works at all; I think she would have been better if she behaved like Increased Durability, even with the presence of abilities like Safeguard.

Caliburst is much better. He’s ability to do indirect damage whenever an opponent draws an additional card is not only something we can abuse by using cards and abilities to make our opponent draw cards, but also will come up in a lot of match-ups organically. His upgrade ability – drawing a card and making an opponent scrap a card if they have more cards – is also useful, albeit to a much lesser degree.

Both of these are conveniently costed, and would give us some build freedom. Even with Spinister, we could cheerfully run with an 8 star character as our third and that’s our team. Caliburst is almost always going to be our guy out of these two.

Neither inform or much on how to build the deck, though. I don’t know if they feel exciting enough to build a deck with. But if we have a Crosshairs build that uses a 7 star, and we want to try it with Spinister, we can bring in Caliburst.

“Okay fellas, get the ropes out now, and then start the fires, we’re having big bot barbeque!”

The first of ‘the big three’, Aimless needs very little introduction as he has featured in quite a few builds over the last two waves. He makes for an excellent blocker, and does plenty of damage with his +3 attack and situational 3 direct damage when in upgrade mode. Normally his issue is that he often outlasts more key characters in a team, since his Tough 3 makes him a hard target to beat.

A battlemaster that lasts quite long actually suits Crosshairs very well, since Crosshairs can bounce damage to Aimless (and thus increase the chance of getting Aimless into upgrade mode for Crosshairs to use). Aimless’s Tough would synergize well with Crosshairs too, since Crosshairs would benefit from a Tough-focused build that warranted applying lots of armour. We can then add some Pierce resistance, either with additional armours (and Crosshairs can have a Point-Defense System AND a Sparring Gear at the same time), or by using the Secret Action Stable Cover. We’d then have 8 stars to play with; possibly looking for an ally which can increase our damage output. Triggerhappy sounds like a good pairing here.

We would need to drop a star for Spinister, so instead of Triggerhappy we could potentially use Dreadwind; though that makes us very, very low on flip intensity.

“… I still don’t know if you’re Lionizer or Dazzlestrike”

Do you remember that point in Wave 3 when Lionizer was basically everything, and showed up next to a whole plethora of bots? Seems so long ago now.

Lionizer wants a full on aggro-list, and in my opinion a three-wide list doesn’t really suit the aggro playstyle very well. The game is mature enough now that we’ve seen the rise of the four-wide aggro list – from the likes of Bugs and Blaster, through to bold factory lists, four-wide cars, Off-Road Patrol lists; even my own Alpha Trion and Skytread lists can be used as a examples of four-wide the way to go for aggro. I no doubt will be proven wrong here; I can already think of decent three-wide aggro decks in Wave 4 (Lord Megatron lists are pretty fun), but here I don’t think I see it. We can certainly experiment and see how such a set up performs, but it is incredibly unlikely we’d get mileage out of it.

There’s no shortage of good 7 or 8 star characters to match for either targetmaster; Impactor and Barrage are two that stand out the most.

“All this carnage… was our revolution worth it?… I mean yes, yes it was. I hated being turned into a tool for those morons. Viva la revolution!”

Finally the king of the hill, the default choice for most lists that want to use a battlemaster – Firedrive.

Firedrive really doesn’t need much in the way of building around; by default he draws extra cards when he attacks anyhow, and by the time he is in upgrade mode, the player has no doubt got a few cards in hand. Even poor decks make good use of Firedrive.

There is an extra synergy with Firedrive in our plans for this deck and that’s the extra amount of upgrade slots and desire for extra upgrade plays; and thus requirement for more cards in hand. Firedrive and our targetmasters are asking and answering similar questions; so whilst Firedrive is a battlemaster we’re all fairly tired of seeing on the table at this point… he’s still probably the go-to guy. I think we can still squeeze some fun out of him using a card like Equipment Enthusiast, assuming that card doesn’t get banned in the next few weeks.

As for companions, Equipment Enthusiast in the deck begs for the original Chromia; who can also bring in cards like Multi-Tool and Field Communicator; playing these cards also works well with Equipment Enthusiast.

Turboboard, Nightstick, Sights, Needler
Finally very quick notes on these four battlemasters…

Turboboard: Perfectly fine, but mostly a sideboard card, I think we wouldn’t get the most out of him in this deck.
Nightstick: Really wants a heavy-Black build and that’s just not what we’re going for. I did Black already this wave.
Sights: Perfectly fine, just not very exciting from a build perspective.
Needler: I don’t think Repair is really that much of a problem.

Group shot of the Battlemaster Revolution 2020.

Initial Deck Ideas
Now that we’ve looked through the battlemasters, some line-ups and deck ideas are starting to form in my head, so let’s jot down some general concepts:

Crosshairs / Megatron Arrogant Ruler / Blowpipe OR Smashdown
I’m not sure which of the battlemasters might be most appropriate, but otherwise this is double tanks and a gun. We’d be looking at a varied pip deck, or perhaps more appropriately a deck that uses lots of cards with multiple pips.

In particular, this deck would want to use cards like Hunker Down and Roll Out to maximise the flips and upgrade plays. We could also use a card like Escape Route here.

When we get to looking at pip distribution, we can work out what kinds of Armour would be best suited for the group, as Crosshairs in particular will be looking to utilise more than one kind.

Spinister / Needlenose / Blowpipe OR Smashdown
Whoever doesn’t get chosen for the Crosshairs / Megatron list, can go in this list. I would really like to try out Needlenose and this would seem to be as good a time as any; a rare opportunity to see two Decepticon targetmasters from the same era together.

Star card would probably be Leap of Faith or Full Loadout. This would work similar to the above list but without the character flip cards in play, so a very bland list in comparison. We’re getting to see Needlenose in play though, which I find exciting.

Crosshairs / Chromia / Firedrive
This list is all about building up as many cards as possible, throwing upgrades out quickly, and building towards huge Crosshairs attacks. A lot of the mechanics have been described in my thoughts on Firedrive already. We could trade Crosshairs and Chromia for Spinister and Sergeant Mirage, too.

Crosshairs / Triggerhappy / Aimless
I don’t know if Triggerhappy is as good a combination with Crosshairs as Spinister would have been, but I think this is the line-up I’d like to try out with Aimless. This would be a very heavy Blue build, with maybe some room for some Sparring Gear. The task here would be to make sure we can still get enough damage out – we’d want to use Pierce on Triggerhappy for the most part, and damage buffs on Crosshairs.

We can trade out Crosshairs and Aimless for Spinister and Caliburst.

Spinister / Impactor / Lionizer
More of a ‘if I have time list’, this would be a straight aggro list and more to see how well it performs in comparison to the above.

All of these ideas are just that, ideas. I may find in development that these aren’t particularly good ideas, and they get scrapped quite quickly.

What Next?
Now we got some ideas for decks, it’s time to build some decks and then try them out. I’m still in the process of moving – in fact, I’m moving in three days. Between this and a fairly significant tournament in Northampton (tickets!), I’m not going to have much time to write the next article. As such I have a couple of weeks to work on decks, before trying them out in time for Part 3 of this series in three weeks time.

At that point, we’ll see how well any of these concepts actually pan out.

Until next time.

Featured art by Natephoenix, check him out on Twitter, Facebook, DeviantArt, Instagram and Patreon.

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