Strategy Spotlight: The Fundamental Turn

Strategy Spotlight: The Fundamental Turn

Rise of the Combiners has easily illustrated a core TCG concept through the Combiner teams themselves: the Fundamental Turn.  Magic: the Gathering Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz helped define and establish the concept of the Fundamental Turn in his Dojo article, Clear the Land and the Fundamental Turn.  Essentially the Fundamental Turn is the turn in which any given deck wins the game.  Note that there is a difference between winning the game and ending the game. A controlling deck can have effectively won the game early on, but may take many turns to actually end the game.

What Rise of the Combiners has likely put in the mind of most Transformers TCG players is just how important the fundamental turn is for many new decks that have arisen thanks to the new set.  All of these teams (outside of a few exceptions such as Dreadwing and the Sentinel decks that don’t ever combine) have a fundamental turn of five or six, depending on the particular team. While it’s true that any of these given teams doesn’t necessarily still win the game even when they successfully combine, it is still the fundamental turn for these decks, as they all aim to turn the corner and swing what was likely a disadvantaged position into a win by combining into one powerful bot.

Do standard, non-Combiner decks have a fundamental turn?  Absolutely. Every deck has a fundamental turn, it’s just that Combiners have a much more obvious fundamental turn.  What Zvi posited about the deck you are playing is that you want to do one of two things: have a faster fundamental turn than your opponent’s deck, or be able to slow your opponent’s own fundamental turn down enough using disruption to make their fundamental turn slower than yours.

We can apply this concept in practice to well-known decks.  We’ll start with one the most straightforward decks that has been around since the beginning: Insecticons.  Outside of a few Bashing Shields or Ramming Speeds, Insecticons does not mess around with disruption. It aims to win through pure aggression, gunning down enemy bots with very high attacks and cards that boost those attacks.  Insecticons has a fundamental turn somewhere between four and five. While the first attack of the game often doesn’t K.O. a bot since the attack is completely unaided, you will often be looking to K.O. a bot every turn after if possible.  If your deck has a slower fundamental turn than Insecticons or can’t adequately disrupt the aggressive Decepticons, then you won’t be winning the game.

Blue-based defensive decks have struggled to keep up with most of the aggressive, orange-based decks’ fundamental turn with two notable exceptions: Optimus Prime, Battlefield Legend and Aerialbots.  As pointed out before, Aerialbots as a Combiner team have an immediately recognizable fundamental turn of five, as that is the turn they will combine into Superion. Even if they do not win the game on the spot with the free three damage and big attack, odds are the game is still over as the opponent’s deck is likely nearly exhausted of resources and will be unable to finish off the high defense Superion before succumbing to subsequent attacks.

Optimus Prime decks, while still blue-based, play out quite a bit differently than Aerialbots.  Aerialbots is often doing everything it can to delay the game to turn 5 while getting chip shots in with it’s five-star bots, then combine into Superion.  Optimus Prime decks immediately pressure opposing decks with high base attacks aided through static pumps like Leap into Battle and Energon Axe. The fundamental turn for these decks is also still somewhere around four or five, as you often need at least two strong attacks with Optimus to end the game.

How can we slow down our opponent’s fundamental turn in Transformers?  There are a few ways to do so, the first of these is through targeted discard.  The new card Espionage has proven it’s worth by playing a role in a wide variety of strategies.  The most obvious use for Espionage is to force your opponent to discard the Enigma they picked up for their particular Combiner team one turn before they are about to assemble.  Another card that can throw a wrench in certain decks gameplans is Security Checkpoint. A well-timed Checkpoint can absolutely decimate your opponent, and is particularly strong against certain decks, namely the Starscream, Decepticon King decks.  Their reliance on having multiple Decepticon Crowns for their key attack turn means that if you can Checkpoint them the turn before he attacks, you cripple their gameplan.

Key discard effects are one way you can disrupt your opponent, another is through timing your attacks to protect your key or vulnerable bots in such a manner that you force your opponent to need more attacks to K.O. your bots.  Skrapnel is a great example of a character capable of slowing down your opponent’s attacks, often by virtue of being the only bot your opponent can attack. Particular defensive cards can also serve as a means to disrupt attacks as well.  Force Field is an effective armor that can prevent your opponent from getting a key K.O. when timed correctly. Tough armor from blue-based strategies also serve as a way to delay your opponent’s fundamental turn. Every deck has a fundamental turn, but decks are not merely ships passing in the night simply trying to outrace one another.  Interaction with your opponent happens whenever you attack their bot or try to set up some sort of defense to mitigate opposing attacks.

One other thing to keep in mind is that everytime a bot is knocked out, while you have not actually reduced your opponent’s number of upcoming turns, you have weakened the turns in which you will now get extra attacks because of a discrepancy in your total number of bots and their total number.  Weakening their lineup by their bots does begin to tip the scales in your favor, reducing the total damage your opponent will be doing and increasing the damage you will be doing in future turns.

The takeaway from this is that if your deck is struggling to win, you want to do one of two things: speed up your fundamental turn or identify ways in which you can slow down the other deck’s fundamental turn.  When you play any given card, you should ask yourself the question: Is this winning the game faster for me or slowing my opponent down? Cards like Leap into Battle and Grenade Launcher are boring, yet brutally effective at speeding up the game.  There’s a reason the top decks play these cards, and it’s because they give them earlier fundamental turns than most decks.  Winning the game isn’t always necessarily about being the fastest deck; it’s about being just fast enough to beat your opponent.


2 Replies to “Strategy Spotlight: The Fundamental Turn”

  1. Why do I not see anyone using rapid conversion in aerialbots? Seems worthwhile to trade an action phase to get that fundamental turn one turn sooner. Maybe because it is dead after combining? But then so is inferno breath and most of your upgrades.

    1. I don’t think it has to do with being dead after combining (as you pointed out, many cards are), but rather that the card is so low impact other than trying to combine a turn early. You are basically committing both a card and an action play for a turn to not impact the board in any significant way. Inferno Breath on the other hand, can allow you to K.O. a low hp bot, thus slowing your opponent down enough to get you that crucial Superion combine.

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