“Metroplex is my kind of town!”
—Blaster on Metroplex,Five Faces of Darkness, Part 5
Released in November 2018, as the ancillary deck in the first wave of cards, the Metroplex Deck adds a unique archetype to the Transformers TCG. With his 25 Star cost, Metroplex is our only character in play at the start of the game. Very often, he's our last character standing. Whenever he's our only character, he drastically reduces both the number of cards per attack our opponent can play, and the number of characters they can flip. Mastering the unusual rate at which this new kind of game flows is both challenging and rewarding. Our opponents is suddenly forced to suboptimal plays, attacking with characters in their weaker mode, and with limited card support. The price this advantage comes at is the number of consecutive attacks Metroplex can receive. Misjudging the damage our opponent's team can deal in one single turn can make Metroplex's 35 health start looking surprisingly low.
Different versions of the deck can be built. Orange decks relying on Bold, and blue decks heavy on direct damage effects look like two straightforward possibilities. We'll opt for a more straightforward approach in these notes, and assume that Metroplex's bot ability −probably the most powerful effect printed on a character card so far− is the key to the right functioning of the deck. All our considerations will be made with this assumption in mind, and cards will always be evaluated not only in terms of their intrinsic value, but also in the light of how much they increase or decrease our chances of activating the tapping ability. Our most difficult task will be assessing how much we can afford to reduce those chances, in order to improve our gameplay and the versatility of our deck.
When the Metroplex Deck got released, many people were caught by surprise by the unprecedented number of white cards the decklist was including. 16 white cards felt like too many, and the first update many people made to their decklists was to reduce their number. The most common of these updates was the removal of Combat Training -usually perceived as the weakest card in the deck- sometimes in favor of a third copy of Data Pad -almost unanimously considered the best white card the list was featuring.
Those 16 white cards acquire more meaning when the total numbers of white, orange and blue icons present in the deck are compared: 15 orange, 15 blue, and 16 white icons. The initial decklist is built to fulfill the requirement of keeping the total numbers of icons balanced. And this makes perfect sense when we look at the way Metroplex's tapping ability is phrased.
In order to tap our opponent's team we need to flip at least two white, two orange, and two blue battle icons. As white cards naturally let us flip more cards, one could simplistically assume that we can afford to play a lower amount of them, and this point of view is easy to share when we can rely on high values of Bold. When remembering that we still need to flip an additional white card, and not just the one which grants us the two additional flips, our point of view changes. This being especially true when our Bold count is low.
The role played by the total number of white cards, and its interplay with our value of Bold, will be one of the main subject of these notes. But let us first consider an alternative build: The leveled-up decklist the developers proposed after the release of the second wave of cards.
Leveled Up Decklist
This is the updated list of the Metroplex deck shared by Design Lead, Ken Nagle after the release of the second wave of cards.
With only 15 cards from the initial list retained, the two decks could hardly be more different . This version of the deck doesn't really try to protect the minions anymore. The power of the green icon mechanics is fully showcased by five singleton, green-icon cards, that we will find nonetheless, because of how many cards we flip while attacking. There are three more upgrades providing Bold. And the six action cards that give Bold are easier to find now, because Confidence will find one of them about 29% of the times. Therefore, if we are willing to pay an additional card for it, three copies of Confidence are almost equivalent to a seventh copy of Supercharge/Height Advantage, increasing the number of Bold cards to "almost" four more than the initial decklist.
The surprising aspect of this list is that it doesn't try to keep the battle icon colors balanced. There are now only 9 white, as many as 23 orange, and 17 blue icons in the deck. If our intuition is correct, this must translate to a lower success rate of activating the tapping ability. This is actually the case, and the difference, as big as about 10% for Bold 3+, is shown in the following chart. Therefore, this decklist is trading consistency in the our success rate for versatility. What to prioritize is ultimately your decision. And, if this is your game style, this list represent a solid starting point.
In the following section we will follow a different approach though, and determine the deck compositions that maximize our success rate of tapping our opponent's team. Once in possess of that piece of information, we will have a quantitative criterion to evaluate the cost of deviating from that maximum to increase the versatility of our deck.
Initial decklist: 3 🄾🄾, 3 🄱🄱, 9 🄾, 9 🄱, 16 🅆
Leveled up decklist: +3 🄾🄱, +5 🄾, −1 🄱, −7 🅆 (green/black not shown)
Technical note: This, and all the following plots are generated by flipping from the top of 100'000 simulations of their corresponding 40-card decks. All the numbers listed in what follows as "probabilities" or "rates" are actually normalized occurrence numbers.
In this section we want to quantify our chances of activating Metroplex's tapping ability. Of course our chances depend on both our decklist and our value of Bold. Our deck affects those chances through the following parameters:
number of 🄾🄾 cards
number of 🄾🄱 cards
number of 🄱🄱 cards
number of 🄾 cards
number of 🄱 cards
number of 🅆 cards
number of blank cards
Even for fixed deck sizes, exploring the whole spectrum of possibilities (i.e. any possible deck of that size) would be very cumbersome. Therefore, we will first restrict the number of parameters. As blue and orange cards play a symmetric role, we will start from the following simplification, and set
number of 🄾🄾 cards = number of 🄾🄱 cards = number of 🄱🄱 cards,
number of 🄾 cards = number of 🄱 cards (they can include green and/or black icons, but we don't need to keep track of them),
no blank cards (which means cards with neither orange/blue, nor white icons).
deck size = 40 cards.
Under these restrictions, our deck composition depends on just two parameters, the common number of 🄾🄾, 🄾🄱, and 🄱🄱 cards, that we will call X, and the common number Y of 🄾 and 🄱 cards. Just to make these definition more explicit, X = 1 means that the only double-icon cards that we have in our deck are exactly 1 copy of an 🄾🄾 card, 1 copy of an 🄾🄱, and 1 copy of a 🄱🄱 card. Therefore, X = 1 corresponds to 3 of our 40 cards, X = 2 corresponds to 6 cards, etc. Analogously, Y = 1 means that we're only playing 1 🄾 and 1 🄱 card. Therefore, Y = 1 corresponds to 2 cards, etc. As we are not playing blank cards, the number of 🅆 cards is just the number of the remaining cards, equal to 40 − 3X − 2Y.
For each combination of parameters X and Y (compatible with a 40 card deck) and each value of Bold, we can evaluate our chances of activating Metroplex's tapping ability. We can then sort these numbers into grids, like in figure 2, each grid corresponding do a different value of Bold. Click on the figure to change this value.
Each cell shows our probability of success, given the parameters X (horizontal axis) and Y (vertical axis) characterizing our deck composition. Darker cells correspond to higher probabilities. Yellow bordered cells correspond to decks with approximately even representation of white, orange, and blue. More specifically, yellow cells represent deck configuration with a difference between the common total numbers of orange or blue icons (3X + Y) and the total number of white icons (40 − 3X − 2Y) of at most 2. Decks with more orange or blue than white icons are above the yellow cells. Below them are decks with more white icons than orange or blue.
With good approximation, the darkest cells (highest probabilities) are aligned with the yellow-bordered cells (even color distribution), confirming our initial intuition that an even representation of the three colors maximizes our chances of activating Metroplex's ability.
These charts are also showing something else. While keeping an even distribution of colors, we can further increase our rate of success by increasing the number of double-icon cards in our deck. That's possible only if we reduce the number of single orange or blue cards at the same time, as we need to keep enough room for our white cards. As single orange/blue cards are our main source of Bold, balancing the numbers of single and double-icon cards is the main problem we face in building a Metroplex deck.
As of Wave 3, there are six double-icon cards without a star cost:
Improvised Shield, Roll Out! and Handheld Blaster all seem to be reasonable inclusions, with Roll Out! helping us deploying, and Handheld Blaster providing a little source of Bold. Even if it's the least impactful of the three, Improvised Shield can still prove itself of some use in a deck with balanced orange and blue cards.
On the contrary, Peace through Tyranny, Matrix of Leadership, and Security Checkpoint are cards we would only include because of their two icons. And, while Security Checkpoint might be still useful in the right situation, and the +1 Attack provided by the Matrix of Leadership is still better than not playing an upgrade for that turn, the 6+ Star clause on Peace through Tyranny makes it a dead card almost every time we draw it.
Then the question arises of whether it's worth playing every possible double-icon card. To find a quantitative answer, let's consider two different lists, both trying to optimize our rate of success with the tapping ability. In the first one we include all six double-icon cards (X = 6), while in the second one we include only the three "good" ones (X = 3). The previous charts suggest Y close to 2 when X = 6, and Y close to 8 when X = 3. The following bar chart shows our rates of success with both these lists and the initial decklist (sealed deck). As we can see, the improvement can be as big as 20÷30% at intermediate values of Bold, when the initial decklist is compared to the X = 6, Y = 2 case.
Is this X = 6, Y = 2 list really better than the X = 3, Y = 8 one? Not necessarily, and the reason is that with only two 🄾 and two 🄱 cards we can only play at most 4 cards which actually give us Bold 2+, i.e. Backup Beam, Supercharge, Height Advantage, etc. (Unless we plan on playing the white Heat of Battle in our main deck. See Actions.) Playing the color balanced list with X = 6 our most common value of Bold will be either zero or 1, and our resulting rate of success will only rarely exceed 25%. On the contrary, Y = 6, means that we can play up to 12 Bold 2+ cards. We will often reach Bold 4+, and a rate of success of 65% or higher.
The previous discussion shows that building a Metroplex deck is not a simple problem in numerical optimization. We want our probability of matching the right color pattern to be high. But we also want our probability of having a high probability to be high! Knowing how much our deck-building choices affect our rate of success is certainly useful. But our optimal deck composition will eventually have to take into account the usefulness of single-icon cards, and our local metagame.
Therefore, in the future updates of these notes we will discuss the effect of deviating from these optimized deck compositions, as we might need to make this decision in order to fix a particularly difficult matchup, or to adapt to a faster or slower metagame.
A well built deck needs to be versatile enough to face diverse opposing teams, and Metroplex is no exception. Regardless of how focused our strategy will be on activating the tapping ability, and deploying our characters, we will need to space for card-drawing, and upgrade-removal effects.
That said, we will mainly focus here on Metroplex's specific strategies, and consider actions which either help up tapping down our opponents, or deploying our characters. As Bold is a way more efficient way than Plan for achieving the first goal (see Tapping Ability: Data Pad vs. Combat Training below), we will only consider actions that grant us Bold. The four that we can play in a Metroplex deck are Focus Fire, Heat of Battle, Height Advantage, and Supercharge.
Focus Fire is better than Supercharge and Height Advantage only when we can play three copies in a turn. Even in that case, it still comes at the cost of three cards. It's as effective as Supercharge, and still worse than Height Advantage, when it costs two cards. It's much worse than both when we only play one copy. Regardless of how often we see our green cards in a deck focused on Bold, Focus Fire just seems to be too weak to make the cut in a Metroplex deck.
[Note: Discuss Heat of Battle in the next update.]
All three cards which allow us to flip our characters, Escape Route, Rapid Conversion, and Roll Out! are extremely useful. Besides, none of them is strictly better then the other two. Escape Route has both a white and a green icon, and it's, by far, the one we will play more often. Roll Out! is an orange and blue card, and we would probably include it even if it didn't have a playable effect. Rapid Conversion is just a white card, but also the only one that allows us to flip from alt to bot mode. The usefulness of Rapid Conversion mainly depends on our minions' likelihood to survive, as that's the card we would use on a turn when we want to flip Metroplex, and also use a minion's bot ability. All three cards are very likely to be present in our deck, with very little doubt about Escape Route and Roll Out!.
As big as he is, Metroplex still comes with just one utility slot of each kind. Therefore, in the next installments of these notes, we will review the most natural inclusions, and compare their effectiveness -first in the light of Metroplex's tapping ability, and then in combat scenarios- in order to decide which ones are worth playing.
Let's start with weapons.
As of wave 3, Basic Combat Protocol, Combat Training, Data Pad, and Spinner Rims are our options to boost the success rate of our tapping ability. We will start with the comparison between Data Pad and Combat Training, the early utilities included in the starter deck, before considering Spinner Rims and Basic Combat Protocol, the more recent options we got in Wave 3.
Tapping Ability: Data Pad vs. Combat Training
Data Pad is a difficult card to evaluate, because of the variety of situations it generates, and the useful card it occasionally lets us keep. It is considered here only in terms of the boost it gives to our chances of activating Metroplex. On the contrary, Combat Training is a less versatile card, as it only provides Bold (and/or Tough). It relies on having a weapon already attached, while Data Pad relies on having the right card in hand.
To compare the two, we need to look at them in comparable scenarios, and with respect to the same benchmark case. Our benchmark case will assume that we already have Bold 2, and that neither Combat Training nor Data Pad are attached. In this case our rate of success is 37.7% in a a deck with the following color pattern: 3 🄾🄾, 3 🄱🄱, and 6 🄾🄱 cards, 7 🄾, 7 🄱, 14 🅆 cards, and no blank card. We are assuming here that we're drawing from the top of the this deck after a [W] card and either an 🄾 or a 🄱 card have been removed. This way we are using the same deck we will use in the next two cases.
Let's consider Combat Training first, under the assumption of having Bold 2 because of either a Backup Beam or a Flamethrower upgrading Metroplex. Combat Training increases our value of Bold to 3, and our rate of success to 57.2%. It provides a +19.4% improvement with respect to the benchmark scenario.
Let's now consider the effect of Data Pad when we already have Bold 2. Placing a 🅆 card on top of the deck raises our rate of success to 44.8%, i.e. +7.1% with respect to the benchmark case. Placing an 🄾🄱 card on top of the deck would provide a lower boost of +5.2%. And, as counterintuitive as it seems, preferring an 🄾🄾 or 🄱🄱 card would actually represent a forgivable mistake, accounting for a −2.0%. (The reason is that we are asking for uneven colors in our next flips in a deck with approximately even colors.)
This example shows that Combat Training is way more efficient than Data Pad (by a factor of 3) in enabling Metroplex's ability. Different benchmark scenarios could be considered, and these numbers would change accordingly. But, given that at higher values of Bold our rate of success is high anyway, low Bold seems to be the most interesting case for this comparison.
As a byproduct of the previous analysis of Data Pad, we can also evaluate the effect that Incoming Transmission (or Plan 1 cards) would have in increasing our success rate. Given the numbers that we find, the fact that it is an action (i.e. it would interfere with the timing of Hight Advantage, Supercharge, etc.), and because it is a single orange card, Incoming Transmission doesn't seem to have a place in the deck.
Tapping Ability: Basic Combat Protocol
We've learned from the comparison between Combat Training and Data Pad that Bold 1 is more efficient than Plan 1 at helping us activate Metroplex. Therefore, Basic Combat Protocol would have been an automatic inclusion if it had had a white icon. Instead it comes with an orange one, which makes it compete with Supercharge, Flamethrower, and Power Punch. Even taking into account that it is a utility, the card still fells suboptimal, because of the tight constraints posed by the even-color pattern of our deck. If the heavy-orange and the heavy-blue versions of the deck were given a second chance, both Basic Combat Protocol and its blue version, Urban Camo, would have to be reconsidered.
Another deck-building option offered by the inclusion of sideboards, is the possibility of switching between our more canonical built, and these almost mono-color versions, to better face difficult matchups (i.e. Blue Primes). In that case, Basic Combat Protocol and Urban Camo, might be considered as viable sideboard options. Transformational sideboards for the Metroplex deck seem to be worth exploring, and might be covered in future installations of these notes.
Tapping Ability: Spinner Rims vs. Combat Training
Spinner Rims demands a closer look. It comes with a white icon, and its effect relies on playing a significant number of white cards. These features would make it look like a perfect fit for Metroplex. It's fairly obvious that the rims can't be very impactful in combat scenarios. Therefore, we can focus here on their effect on boosting our success rate with the tapping ability. Spinner Rims is part of cycle of three cards, together with the orange Basic Combat Protocol and the blue Urban Camo, which provide Bold and/or Tough through the utility slot. Being more precise, Spinner Rims doesn't provide any of the two, but it's equivalent to both whenever we flip a white icon while battling. In a Metroplex deck, we're not unlikely to play between 12 and 16 white cards, meaning that Spinner Rims would simulate the effect of having Bold 1 or Tough 1 in about 50-60% of our attacks and our defense flips (see White Icons & Abilities). A relevant difference between Rims and its orange/blue counterparts is that it bypasses effects that inhibit Bold and Tough. This is a difference worth keeping in mind because, other than for this aspect, Spinner Rims doesn't seem to be better than Combat Training, which instead provides Bold 1 whenever we have a weapon. If we don't expect to have a weapon at least half the times we attack with Metroplex, then Spinner Rims is actually better than Combat Training. But we're usually forced to defend multiple times in a row during our initial turns. The upside of that being that we're also very likely to find a Backup Beam early in our match.
Before we conclude this section, let's quantify the boost provided by Spinner Rims. As we already know that its effect is less relevant than Bold 1, we don't really need to perform a full scan like in figure 2, and a few example will be enough. The next three scenarios compare the effect of rims for different amounts of white cards in our deck: less than balanced, balanced, more than balanced. In all three cases we assume to have 4 cards in each combination of two icons (X = 4), for example full playsets of Improvised Shield, Roll Out! and Handheld Blaster, and singleton copies of Peace through Tyranny, Matrix of Leadership, and Security Checkpoint. As expected, when we increase the number of white cards, and push them off balance, the effect of the rims become more and more similar to Bold 1. Unfortunately, the excess of white also reduces our rate of success.
4 🄾🄾 (double-orange)
4 🄱🄱 (double-blue)
4 🄾🄱 (orange-blue)
9 🄾 (single-orange)
9 🄱 (single-blue)
10 🅆 (white,9 remaining in the deck)
4 🄾🄾 (double-orange)
4 🄱🄱 (double-blue)
4 🄾🄱 (orange-blue)
6 🄾 (single-orange)
6 🄱 (single-blue)
16 🅆 (white, 15 remaining in the deck)
4 🄾🄾 (double-orange)
4 🄱🄱 (double-blue)
4 🄾🄱 (orange-blue)
3 🄾 (single-orange)
3 🄱 (single-blue)
18 🅆 (white, 17 remaining in the deck)
As a byproduct of this analysis, let's notice an expected feature of decklists with excess of white. Playing more white than what needed to balance the colors, actually corresponds to a higher rate of success at low Bold. This effect is already visible in the comprehensive scans in figure 2, and corresponds to the higher chance of flipping more cards when they are most needed. On the contrary, whenever we can actually rely on high Bold counts, the excess of white, on top of worsening our flips in battle, also reduces our chances to activate Metroplex. Whenever the choice has to be made on whether playing a little excess, or little deficit of white, the deficit is preferable, as our rate of success naturally increases with Bold anyway.
The Future of the Deck
Double-icon cards add consistency to the deck. Does it mean Metroplex would get better and better if more star-cost-free 🄾🄾, 🄾🄱, 🄱🄱 cards were printed? Short answer is no. We’re already very close to the upper limit, as shown by the numbers to the right of the vertical dashed line in figure 2. This, of course, is assuming that we'll never get star-cost-free cards with any combination of two or more 🄾, 🄱, and 🅆 than the ones considered here, e.g. 🅆🄾🄱, 🅆🄾, etc.
For example, full playsets of four different cards for each combination of two orange and blue icons, would take 36 slots in our deck. This way we would have 36 orange and 36 blue icons, but only 4 cards left in the deck to balance the amount of white.
Some additional double-icon cards (especially 🄾🄱) might still help, like 7x or 8x (check figure 2 for extremely small numbers of [O] and 🄱 cards), but not more than that. Besides, that level of "optimization" would force us to cut single-icon cards that actually give us Bold! I.e. our flips would be excellent, if you were playing Supercharge or Backup Beam!
This doesn’t mean the deck wouldn't benefit from more of those cards, as we would be allowed to replace suboptimal cards (e.g. Security Checkpoint) with more synergetic cards. (Roll Out! and Handheld Blaster are already great examples of good Metroplex cards.) But the main benefit the deck would receive, would be in battling scenario, and just like any other deck, more than in terms of an increased success rate of activating Metroplex. As this would reduce the variance of combat scenarios below what players might consider enjoyable, it's extremely unlikely to happen in a non-rotating format. You can check Scott Van Essen's article for a very insightful take on this subject.
The bottom line is that we can already build decks which are close to the optimal color pattern. Future deck changes will be at the level of card selection while trying to keep the pattern unchanged.
Hasbro (official webpage) − Metroplex Deck
Ken Nagle − Leveling Up Metroplex
Scott Van Essen − Coming Into Focus (Spoilers)