An Exhaustive Guide to Mission Prime

An Exhaustive Guide to Mission Prime

They say to write what you know. Who am I to disagree with them? I’ve been playing Mission Prime and variations of the deck for the last six months. While I’ve made sure to pick up and play pretty much every other deck in the metagame, Mission Prime is the one I always come back to, and certainly the deck I feel the most comfortable with at the moment. There’s a lot of decisions to be made with the deck, and I’ll be highlighting the most important ones, and how to get the best value out of each of the cards in the deck.

Part 1: The Attacks

You have two options for your first attack: flip Optimus Prime and attack with him, or flip Flamewar and attack with Hot Rod. Flipping Prime and attacking is the more aggressive route, and there’s a couple reasons you would do this. The first of these is you want to K.O. a bot immediately. Insecticons is a good example of a match where you want to K.O. Kickback before they even get a turn. Since Kickback has ten effective health (9 health + 1 defense=10), there are a total of nine actions in the deck that will immediately K.O. him, and another six that are very strong to hit, giving a total of 15 actions that yield a very strong result on this attack. The actions that K.O. a ten health character are Leap Into Battle, The Bigger They Are…, and One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall. If you don’t hit any of these, a Swap Missions or Brainstorm(in most cases) is still a great hit. The other reason you want to attack with Prime first is that the opposing deck can’t pressure your Prime back. Aerialbots is a good example of a deck that can’t really pressure your Prime early on outside of The Bigger They Are…

Attacking with Prime first is often the riskiest attack. It can yield very strong results, but it potentially exposes your Prime to far too much damage. At this point in the game, Flamewar is still in Alt mode and you likely have no equipment on Prime, meaning he has only two defense and no tough flips. Anytime I feel like attacking with Prime first is too dangerous, then I will flip Flamewar and attack with Hot Rod. This is the defensive setup, as you will do a small amount of damage with Hot Rod, but you now force your opponent to have to attack your baseline tough 2 character. If you’re going second, I often look to play a pump spell like Leap into Battle on the Hot Rod attack just to get some extra damage in, especially if I think the attack damage will put the defending character in One Shall Stand range.

Here is a list of the known matchups in the format, and when you want to attack with Optimus Prime or Hot Rod first:

Optimus Prime first:

Insecticons (On the Play)
Aerialbots
Tanks (Wave 2 Megatron)
Three Wide Non-Optimus Blue decks (Shockwave, Nemesis)
Most split pip decks

Hot Rod first:

Insecticons (On the Draw)
Sentinels
Dinobots
Hot Wheels
Double Grimlock
Tanks (Wave 1 Megatron)
Metroplex
Starscream
Double Primes
Any matchup you are unsure about

The second attack is also important. If you attacked with your Prime and have a Swap Missions, you have two options: you can Swap Missions with Hot Rod, flip Flamewar and attack again with Prime, or you can Swap Missions with Flamewar and hide your Prime for a turn by attacking with Hot Rod. You will generally take the second attack with Prime if you feel like your Prime is still going to be safe. You will take the second attack with Hot Rod after untapping Prime if your Prime ended up taking a big hit, or if you think the last attacks in the attack cycle from your opponent will be dangerous.

If you attacked with Hot Rod on your first attack, you now have two options for your second attack: attack with Flamewar or attack with Prime. If you have a Data Pad plus a Swap Missions, you will pretty much always attack with Prime, as you can Data Pad the Swap Missions on top of the deck and still have your Prime untapped and ready for another attack. If you don’t have these two particular cards in your hand, you now have to make another choice. If you’re still worried about exposing Prime, you attack with Flamewar. Attacking with Flamewar is even more appealing if you can actually do some relevant damage with her: The Bigger They Are… against a high defense non-Aerialbots deck or getting three damage on Skrapnel for example. If I have just a Swap Missions, but no Data Pad in hand, and I think Prime can take one attack, then I often like to attack with him instead.

At this point the game should have narrowed down to a few characters, and sequencing your attacks usually becomes easier than the first few turns. Generally at this point, if your Prime is at a relatively high health, you are going for high damage attacks and K.O.s whenever you can.

Part 2: Optimus Prime’s Flip

One of the most powerful and underrated things about Optimus Prime is his alt mode ability to return any action to your hand. This incredible amount of selection can allow you to position yourself favorably in any given game, and I always keep in mind that I can plan on the actions in my scrap pile when I need them. Of course, figuring out which actions you need in any given game requires a strong understanding of how to leverage the different actions in the deck.

Part 3: Actions

The meat of the deck lies in the actions. From playing them for free off of Prime attacks and being able to have access to any one in your scrap pile thanks to Prime’s alt mode, it’s important to understand all the things you can do with the actions present in the deck.

Pump Actions: Leap into Battle and The Bigger They Are… provide a lot of the damage in the deck. Coupled with Prime’s high base attack, you often one shot bots with a single attack from Prime. The Bigger They Are… in particular is important to the deck, as this allows you to get guaranteed damage in with Flamewar and Hot Rod. Remember that if a bot with six or more stars has only four hp left, you can always return The Bigger They Are… and use it with Flamewar to guarantee a K.O. These pump actions are also of particular importance when you are attacking with Prime on your first turn, especially on the play, as they help provide a critical density of actions that give you a one shot K.O.

One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall: This is similar to Leap into Battle in many circumstances, often just providing an extra three damage on a Prime attack. However, the flexibility is what really pushes a burn action over the top. Remember that even if you won’t K.O. a bot with an attack, this card is usually available from your scrap pile to let you finish off a low health character. I will often try to figure out if I can get an opponent’s character in K.O. range from a One Shall Stand on a later turn with an attack on that turn. Your opponent often has to make suboptimal attacks because of it’s constant presence once one is in your scrap pile. One Shall Stand can often be worse than a Leap into Battle in certain spots though, as the three damage you have to put on a character can be too high of a price. As a general rule, I put the three damage on Flamewar when I have the option to. Other times you have to determine the best place to put your damage from the card. Remember that if Hot Rod is in the K.O. zone, you can flip him for an extra damage as well, so you can K.O. Hot Rod with the burn spell if you need four damage and not three.

Inspiring Leadership: You need some sort of card drawing, mostly to improve the quality of your hands and give you access to more upgrades throughout a game. You have three legitimate options for this: Pep Talk, Team Up Tactics and Inspiring Leadership. The deck is less concerned with raw card advantage and more with setting up strong turns, meaning you simply want to see more cards. The presence of Handheld Blaster and situational cards like Vaporize mean that you’re often perfectly content to pitch cards to the scrap pile.

Swap Missions: This card helped push this deck to it’s current power level. Swap Missions is incredibly powerful with Optimus Prime, as multiple attacks with Battlefield Legend lead to plenty of wins. The key to remember with this card is that you don’t need to do it every turn. You can play like a conventional deck when you don’t draw one or if the matchup dictates it. If you have a Data Pad and a Swap, you can obviously get a “free” attack in, since you immediately untap your Prime after playing the Swap from the attack. Swap Missions is the card that really helps push this deck over the top, as it allows you to play incredibly aggressively with Prime when you need to in certain matchups.

Security Checkpoint: I think this card is still underrated. Sure, its double blue pips is great for when you are defending, but the actual action itself can be absolutely backbreaking when utilized properly. Sometimes you only need to play this once to get ahead (and get information about actions in your opponent’s hand), but remember that you can rebuy this when needed. I always push to get a Checkpoint turn setup if I have the chance to. It’s quite good after your opponent plays a Treasure Hunt, and is singlehandely able to keep a Starscream deck completely in check.

Brainstorm: I’ve heard an entire range of opinions on Brainstorm from “absolutely busted” to “completely unplayable.” The truth, as with everything, lies somewhere in the middle. There are certainly a fair share of blue decks I don’t want to play Brainstorm in, but here the card synergizes well with both Optimus attacks and Optimus flips. Prime’s flip in particular allows you to set up strong Brainstorm turns, where other decks have to just work with what’s in their hand. Don’t be afraid to pitch the card to green pips and Inspiring Leadership if you have too many Brainstorms in your hand or if it’s not doing much to improve your hand.

Vaporize: Scrapping upgrades is good and Vaporize does that. In all seriousness, I’ve actually waffled a bit on whether you want Vaporize in the deck. The upgrades you’re generally worried about the most are weapons and Bashing Shield, and these usually have done all their damage the turn they are played, so scrapping them from play doesn’t actually advance your position (or deny your opponent’s position) in any meaningful way. However, there are situations where Vaporize can be leveraged to inhibit your opponent: in the final game of the Omega Event for example, Chris Marple had a Kickback with an Erratic Lightning already equipped and a known Bashing Shield in his hand as an answer to my Reinforced Plating. By Vaporizing the Lightning before Kickback’s attack, I actually deny my opponent the option to have both a weapon equipped and to play Bashing Shield. Vaporize, while not necessary in other heavy blue matchups (One Shall Stand, Energon Axe, and The Bigger They Are… can be leveraged there to get a lot of unpreventable damage), the action can still help out in certain spots where you can Vaporize a crucial armor to get a big hit with Prime in.

Work Overtime: This is basically present as a one of to let you gas back up if the game has gone on long enough where you’re running low on resources and expect a few more turns. This also combos up quite nicely with Brainstorm.

Espionage: I think this card is a little overrated at the minute. For one, I’ve found information to be a little less important in this game than other games. Even with perfect information, the top of your opponent’s deck is so important that a single card can completely warp how you expect the next few turns to play out. The next problem with the card is that you often play this early and your opponent has so much redundancy in their hand that you’ve simply skipped your action play for virtually no benefit. The other particular area this card is supposed to help with is against combiner teams by forcing your opponent to discard an Engima in their hand. The problem here is that as long as your opponent has any card in their hand, they can either set up their hand to have two Engimas, and if they haven’t seen the second one yet, they usually get to it soon enough by flipping through their deck. You’ll also feel particularly misled when they flip an Enigma on defense and just combine their team with ease as you’re staring at an Espionage in your hand. With all that said, I still think there’s spots this card is good at sufficiently disrupting your opponent. This is more often in the middle to later turns of the game where your opponent is down to one or two cards in hand, and those resources are often crucial for them to try to push through to win the game. On top of that, the mere presence of even one Espionage in your scrap pile can force your opponent into play patterns(such as holding two Engimas in hand) that are quite weak against what you actually have.

Part 4: Upgrades

While Mission Prime is centered around Optimus Prime and how powerful he is with actions, the upgrades in this deck are also incredibly important. Not only that, there’s a certain order to playing your upgrades on Prime: Utility (Data Pad)>Weapon (Ion Blaster>Energon Axe>Noble’s Blaster)>Armor(Sparring Gear>Reinforced Plating). This is not a hard and fast system, but in general a good guideline to keep in mind if you have choices of a particular upgrade to play with different ones in hand and are unsure as to which one to play first.

Utilities: The reason for the upgrade order I laid out is as follows: you want to play Data Pad first, especially if you have a Swap Missions in hand so as to protect Prime from attacks. You also want to play Data Pad first even if you aren’t attacking with Prime yet as it is the least likely upgrade to be scrapped when it’s in play. Bashing Shield is incredibly popular in the metagame at the moment, and Prowl is another popular character to keep in mind as well. Neither of these can scrap utilities, and with most decks relying on Bashing Shield, Data Pad is usually quite safe sitting on your Prime.

Weapons: You want to play a weapon second, but you will play one before Data Pad if you are attacking with Prime that turn in order to get more damage on the attack. Again, Bashing Shield can’t kill your weapon, so the upgrade is often safe. You also have more weapons in your deck than any other upgrade type, so even if your opponent does scrap your weapon, odds are better you find another weapon before the other upgrade types. You generally want to equip Prime with Ion Blaster first if you have the choice. There’s two reasons for this: the first and obvious reason is that it gives Prime an extra defense. The second reason is that your other characters can use Energon Axe and Noble’s Blaster, and there are plenty of games where you need Flamewar and Hot Rod to actually get in and do some damage. Also, NEVER equip Handheld Blaster. This is much better in your hand since you can pitch it to flipped green pip cards or scrap it to future Inspiring Leaderships. The only time you should equip a Handheld Blaster is if you are in a do or die situation, where you ABSOLUTELY have to hit a particular action off your Prime to win the game, and if you don’t, your opponent will win on the following turn. But 99% of the time, just leave the Blaster in your hand.

Armor: Let’s talk about armor for a minute. Bashing Shield killed armor right? And I don’t just mean in the game, I mean the card contextually destroyed armor in the metagame. Right? On the face of it, this seems to be true. Bashing Shield was a massive upgrade for aggressive decks over Ramming Speed for several reasons: Bashing Shield is nearly always available to aggressive decks, since you only need to flip it at some point from combat in order to have access to it. This easy accessibility let aggressive decks trim the number of upgrade removal they needed to run, allowing them to fit in more cards that actually help push raw damage. On top of all that, Bashing Shield as an upgrade means that it can also be hit off Treasure Hunt, another card that pops up in various aggressive lists.

There are two ways to counter play against Bashing Shield with armor: First, play as if your armor is terminal. It is very likely that the turn after you play an armor, your opponent will have a Bashing Shield to scrap whatever armor you played that turn. Even if they don’t have the Bashing Shield in hand that turn, the nature of combat in Transformers means that they will see so many cards with each successive combat that it is simply a matter of time before they find a Bashing Shield.

So if your armor is just going to be scrapped, why play it all? In a word, tempo. Your opponent can only play one upgrade a turn. What this means is that players usually simply play a weapon on the character they intend to attack with on that turn. By holding onto an armor in your hand and playing it on the turn you attack with Prime and commit him to being counterattacked by your opponent, their attacker likely doesn’t have a weapon equipped. At this point, even if your opponent has a Bashing Shield in hand, they must now make a choice: they can either play a weapon (which is generally more upfront damage than blowing up a Reinforced Plating) or they can play the Bashing Shield. If they play the Shield, then you have denied them their weapon play for the turn. If they play the weapon, then you still have the extra Tough 2 from your armor, which will help mitigate the damage from the upgraded attack.

The second way you can counter play Bashing Shield is by capitalizing on Bashing Shield’s card type. If you have an armor plus a Security Checkpoint in hand and know your opponent has a Bashing Shield in hand, you can play your armor first, then play Checkpoint to force them to discard the Shield (plus any other upgrades they have) to protect your freshly played armor.

Conclusion

  • Plan out your attacks and understand how to protect Optimus Prime
  • Make sure to maximize Prime’s flip to alt mode to have access to the best action every turn
  • Understand the various actions in the deck and what they accomplish every turn
  • Try to sequence your upgrades in a certain order to protect them from being scrapped at the wrong time
  • Even when your opponent has a Bashing Shield, you still have options available for counterplay with your armor

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