Grapple

"Beauty is in everything except war."


—Grapple's motto, 1986 toy box

Latest Update: May 1, 2020 | First write-up: Oct 1, 2019

Let's begin with the foundation −as formalized by Grapple himself− in his principles of structural stability.

Grapple's 2nd Principle of Structural Stability: The most efficient way of matching a color pattern is by reducing the minimum number of cards we need to flip together.


Nova Cronum Encyclopedia of Architecture, Vol. 1
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This is the guideline we'll follow in these notes to identify an ideal deck composition for Grapple's bot mode ability. We'll then review the cards this composition prefers, and suggest two possible decklists. The first one will only feature cards currently available. The second list will also include cards coming in the next set, Titan Masters Attack.

The main constraint is that Grapple wants us to flip icons of exactly four different colors. No card features icons of more than three colors. Therefore, that minimum number of cards is two.

We also want one of our colors to be white, because white cards naturally increase our flips, and improve our chances of flipping the two cards we need. If we had about 20 ★-free cards with the same combination of three colors, we could build our deck with just them and white cards. But we don't. As of Wave 5, white and green, 🅆🄶, is the most frequent combination which includes white. Therefore, the first kind of cards will be 🅆🄶, the second kind will feature the two other colors we need.

We have three possibilities: 🄾🄱 (orange and blue), 🄺🄾 (black and orange), or 🄺🄱 (black and blue). 🄾🄱 cards have been accompanied by a ★-cost since wave 2. But we've received both 🄺🄾 and 🄺🄱 ★-free cards since their debut in Siege. As of wave 5, there are 12 different 🄺🄾 cards and 7 different 🄺🄱 cards. (Master of Metallikato is not an option, as it introduces a fifth color, that we don't want to flip.) We will prefer 🄺🄱 cards, because they have better synergy with Grapple.

Therefore, our first task consists in evaluating our chances of activating Grapple's bot mode ability using an ideal deck with only 🅆🄶 and 🄺🄱 cards.

The Four Colors Deck

With only 🅆🄶 and 🄺🄱 cards, we fail to activate Grapple's ability only when we flip all 🄺🄱 or all 🅆🄶 cards. Therefore, our rate of success is extremely simple to calculate, and a very accurate approximation can be expressed in even simpler terms:

P ≈ 1 − PWG4+Bold/Tough − PKB2+Bold/Tough .

The exact formula is not much more complicated, but it requires some additional notation. Therefore, it's omitted. PWG and PKB are our probabilities of flipping a 🅆🄶 or a 🄺🄱 card, respectively, and can be both expressed in terms of the number nWG of 🅆🄶 cards in our deck. Therefore, our rate of success can be shown in Figure 1 as a function of nWG only. This plot shows the probability with no Bold/Tough, as well as with Bold/Tough equal to 1 (e.g. Smoke Cloak) or 2 (e.g. Unflinching Courage). Dashed lines show our approximated probabilities, and how accurate our approximation actually is.

The main result shown in Figure 1 is that, in a 40-card deck, we maximize our chances with about 14-20 🄺🄱 cards. Even without Bold or Tough this number is as high as about 70%, and it can easily approach 90% with low values of Bold/Tough.

Figure 1: Grapple's bot mode ability.

As a word of caution, until the release of Wave 5, this build would require almost every 🅆🄶 card currently available. Therefore, these notes are not intended as a recipe for tournament competitive decks. With time, and an increased number of 🅆🄶 cards, we will keep reconsidering this deck from a qualitative perspective, and try to keep these chances while improving our card selection. As of now, our selection is still fairly limited. Nonetheless, we already have some characters and battle cards that interact well with Grapple. The next three sections are devoted to them.

Teammates

These are characters that either take advantage from the high number of colors we flip, or, like Raider ChopShop, from the fact that more than half our cards are green.

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In a deck where almost any card features icons of two different colors, Ratbat's Bot Mode ability seems particularly good. Ratbat will be featured in both decklists attached to these notes.

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Both Blowpipe and Smashdown turn into powerful weapons in this deck. Blowpipe is the more reliable of the two. While Smashdown often grants a +4 bonus, he will have this number reduced to just 2 whenever our opponent flips four or five colors themselves.

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This is a possibility we shouldn't dismiss, given how advisable it is now to splash multiple colors even in primarily aggressive or defensive decks.

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We only need to flip Slipstream once to turn her into a 6 attack, 13 health, and 1 defense character. These are very respectful stats for 8★.

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We can almost always count on both having a green card in hand, and flipping a green card on attack. Together with Ratbat, Chop Shop completes a possible 25★ team. He will be our remaining character in our wave 4 list.

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Brawn is an extremely versatile character. Regardless of how aggressive or defensive our opponent's team is, there's always a mode in which Brawn shines. He either attacks bigger enemies for full pierce damage, or opposes a total defense of about 6. He is the character we will replace Chop Shop with in our wave 5 list.

Black & Blue Cards

There are only seven different 🄺🄱 cards, so we can quickly go through all of them. Unflinching Courage, Smoke Cloak, and Point Position all have great synergy with Grapple, and the highly versatile Scouting Mission allows us to draw cards, while staying "on-pattern."

Unflinching Courage is the ideal addition to the deck. We've seen that Bold 2 can reduce our chances of failure in activating Grapple's ability to less than 10%.

Tough 1 and about 15 🄺🄱 cards correspond to a rate of success of almost 90%. With Smoke Cloak we can consistently count on a defense bonus of at least 5.

Grapple's ability lasts until end of turn, and its effect is cumulative with its previous activations. With Point Position we can divert all attacks we're receiving on the wheel turn to Grapple, for no real (non-piercing) damage after the first attack.

With Grapple's alt mode ability emptying our hand, and most cards with draw effects featuring just a blue or a white icon, the 🄺🄱 Point Position represents a nice addition to the deck coming in wave 5. In the repairing versions of the deck (see decklists below), this card is a strictly better Pep Talk.

Even if not our best option, the static bonus provided by Steady Shot is still needed in a blue deck.

Scout Armor is far from ideal. But, at least, we can put it on Grapple. Given the limited number of 🄺🄱 options, we might need to include it.

Unfortunately, the most powerful 🄺🄱 card, Opportune Offensive, is likely to be a dead draw in this deck, as it would require to pair Grapple with both a Mercenary and a Decepticon. None of the curent Mercenaries has relevant synergies with Grapple.

White & Green Cards

Let's first review the 🅆🄶 with the more relevant effects in a Grapple deck.

A staple in many decks with powerful flip abilities, and characters that strongly prefer to battle in a specific mode, Escape Route is one of our best 🅆🄶 cards in this deck. It allows us to use Grapple's alt mode ability, and turn him back to bot mode.

Even if less versatile than Scouting Mission, the forthcoming, and on pattern, Mission Briefing has the potential to draw us more cards, as we're likely to keep Grapple in bot mode for most of the match. With its green icon, Briefing is a great way to refill our hand.

Hold the Line is particularly good in the repairing versions of the deck (see decklists below).

In such a constrained decklist, Espionage has the role of partially replacing the specific answers we couldn't include.

Given the high amount of suboptimal 🅆🄶 cards we need, we'll often have cards in our hand that we don't need to play. Attack Drone is a good way to turn them into useful upgrades.

Once Point Position is on Grapple, Inverted! isn't bad on the other members of our team, especially Brawn in alt mode.

Ratbat, Blowpipe, and Slipstream are Ranged characters, and add value to Paralyzo Box.

Unfortunately, Spare Parts doesn't protect Point Position, probably the upgrade we care most about.

The remaining 🅆🄶 cards (Backup Bag, Decepticon Crown, Personal Targeting Drone, Secret Dealings, and Speed Trap) all seem to have suboptimal effects in a Grapple deck. Nonetheless, we might need to play a certain number of them just to reach the amount we need. This is worsening our deck less than it seems. Remember that playing so many green cards also means that they're all interchangeable, and that we can sculpt our hand whenever we attack or defend.

Sample Decklist (Wave 4)

For our wave 4 decklist, we've chosen Ratbat and Chop Shop, and a soft-lock strategy aimed at repairing Grapple while forcing multiple attacks into him. Remember that Grapple's bot mode ability lasts until end of turn. We might easily defend for 5 against the first attack, and for 9 against the second (Figure 4). Therefore, our most important card is Point Position. Our game doesn't really start until we put it on Grapple. That's when we turn into a pseudo 2-tall team using Ratbat's tap ability. This way, we're often tapped out on our opponent's wheel turn, and the first player to attack after the wheel. This circumvents Point Position's limitation of giving Brave only to a tapped character.

Unflinching Courage and Smoke Cloak are for Grapple, while Attack Drone and Inverted! usually end up on Chop Shop. Ratbat is the safest holder of the Pocket Processor, as we never attack with him, and, as long as our plan is working, our opponent is not attacking him either. If Ratbat starts receiving attacks, losing the processor is no longer our main concern!

Until the release of Titan Masters Attack, the deck will have to include many suboptimal cards, like Secret Dealings, Decepticon Crown, Personal Targeting Drone, or even Opportune Offensive that we can't even use. Remember though that they won't worsen our hand for long, as we can swap them with better cards whenever we battle. Besides, our strongest effects are on our character cards, and we're are trading battle card quality for the consistency of their activation.

Whether our first attack is with Grapple or Chop Shop depends on our opponent's team, and on whether we're going first or second. But, after Grapple and Ratbat are in bot mode −and, unless we're using Grapple direct damage ability− we won't need to flip them anymore. Our remaining flips are for Chop Shop, to repair an additional point of damage from our entire team, and, sometimes, 2 points, thanks to a Reprocess.

Don't be surprised that we're not providing a sideboard. This deck is not meant for competitive play. This deck is for less elementary needs ツ

Figure 2: Deck composition. Replacing a 🅆🄶 card and a 🄺🄱 card with 2 🄶 cards (Pocket Processor and Reprocess) reduces our chances of flipping four colors (with no Bold/Tough) from 73% to 69%. The intrinsic value of the two cards, and Chop Shop's Alt Mode ability, more than compensate for this loss.
Figure 3: Grapple's attack bonus. Even without Bold, we're attacking for a total of 8 with Grapple in Bot Mode about 70% of times.
Figure 4: Grapple's defense bonus. The lighter bars depict a scenaion in which we're defending again in a turn when we've activated Grapple's ability already once.

Sample Decklist (Wave 5)

Scouting Mission, Mission Briefing, and Hold the Line are the best additions to the deck coming in wave 5. They allow us to keep the same color composition while getting a better card type distribution, e.g. without the 15 upgrades we had in our wave 4 list! Chop Shop is now replaced with Brawn, because Brawn is everything we wanted him to be! The current deck only has 24★, so keep it in mind while doing your own customization. The main strategy is unchanged, but our draw power is drastically improved by the new cards, making the task of finding Point Position much easier to achieve.

Don't expect this deck to be competitive. It's not. But it creates some memorable moments. The best one so far happened during some early playtesting, when this lineup ended up facing Metroplex! By the time Grapple got KO'd, Metroplex's little helpers were all gone, but the titan himself was only less than half-damaged. Ratbat and Brawn slowly took him down until Brawn, alone on the battlefield, eventually won!

Building Grapple is a slow and steady process, as we'll probably get two or three useful cards per wave at most. At this rate, we'll reach the 40th card in a couple years! It's a very long time, and that's good. It's something more to look forward to whenever a new set gets released.

We really hope you enjoyed this. If you did, don't forget to come back and check our progress in wave 6.

Figure 5: Deck composition.
Figure 6: Brawn's bot mode defense total. This chart assumes an enemy with more than 5★ and no Bold.
Figure 7: Brawn's alt mode pierce total. This chart assumes an enemy with more than 5★.