Back of the Binder Challange #2
Mar 25, 2020
In another parallel dimension, I've already covered Sideswipe. In fact, he'd have been the first character I'd have covered for Flip Flip Bang Bang – talking about how to make the most of his quirky little abilities instead of going for a completely different Autobot car, Elita-1. In that reality who knows what might have been different – no Brexit, President [insert favourite candidate here], Cyberverse would get a 4th season and we'd probably still be in the middle of a pandemic. I might have also posted the article for a completely different website instead of my own, fancy that?
In this article we're going into that parallel dimension to cover Sideswipe; can we do something interesting with him? Where can he fit? Is he someone you should play yourself? All this and more.
This article is part of the Transformers TCG Facebook Group Back of the Binder challenge. If you enjoy this article go vote for it when the voting is up.
Or don't. I ain't the boss of you.
There's not much to say about Sideswipe the character, or at least not much to say about my own involvement with the character. He was in the original TV show but didn't exactly do much; I think as a kid I mostly remember that he had a jetpack so he could fly (sometimes Autobots could fly, sometimes they couldn't). I always thought he was a Ferrari Testarossa because he was red; turns out he's a Lambourgini Countach along with Red Alert and Sunstreaker. In fact, by the time the toy and show were out, Ferrari Testarossa were only just coming on the market. Kids are stupid, right?
He got a few key moments in John Barber's Robots in Disguise comic published by IDW. He's kind of a snot-nosed ruffian with way too much bravado; and that really suits the character card that we are discussing today.
Private Sideswipe is an 8★ Autobot Car; that puts him in the unenviable position of being compared to Cliffjumper. Back when Sideswipe was introduced in Wave 3, Cliffjumper was beginning to emerge as an absolute powerhouse character, having gone from a maligned nobody to the source of much contention in most Transformers TCG circles.
Just from a stat perspective, Sideswipe does not stack up at all – Cliffjumper's 5 / 12 / 2 on both sides trumps the pitiful 2 / 11 / 1 in Sideswipe's alt mode, and 4 / 11 / 1 in bot mode. Sideswipe from a stat point of view is below most 7 star characters, even; compare with Barrage, Impactor, or even fellow Wave 3 Autobot Car Private Red Alert. Sideswipe is a dud in the stat compartment.
That doesn't mean it's an entire wipe-out for ol' Sidey, a character's abilities can make all the difference. Sideswipe's abilities are both tied to your allies being in the KO pile – when in bot mode, having a team-mate be KO'd by an opponent's cards will untap Sideswipe; meanwhile when he flips into alt mode, he gets +2 for every ally that is in the KO pile.
Sideswipe's abilities are a little tricky, but they ask two questions that we can try to solve to varying degrees:
Sideswipe wants us to be able to have Sideswipe tapped at the same time as an ally, and yet be in a position to either avoid the next attack (through Brave, Stealth or other) OR be able to blunt the incoming attack and thus become less desirable as a result. The first of these is fairly easy to pull off – Stealthiness, Bravery, Hiding Spot, etc. all offer a myriad of solutions for this, and that's without going into characters like Fireflight with native Brave. The second is a bit more tricky; but preferred methods could include humble Forcefields, or even boosting the health of Sideswipe through cards like Increased Durability. Either way, in order to invoke this ability, we probably want to look at deploying some sort of upgrade or secret action.
Sideswipe wants to see a circumstance where he has many of his allies in the KO pile, and then flips to alt mode. If at all possible, he wants to flip to his alt mode multiple times in a turn. A card like Showing Off, or well set up uses of Anticipation Engine and two Start Your Engines / Escape Routes can do the job here.
It's really important to note that Sideswipe doesn't untap when one of your own cards KO's an ally – so the KO caused by I Still Function or Peace Through Tyranny does nothing to help Sideswipe, other than the advantages those cards give to him anyhow.
Get a load of these rejects.
There's a number of different approaches we could take when setting up a team for Sideswipe. A popular one when he first appeared was using Wave 2 Grimlock to constantly summon dinobots into the KO pile with his Volcanicus abilities; but that's a playstyle that's been covered by other creators elsewhere, so we'll see what else we can do.
Patrols give us lots of options. I think we're all fairly tired of Air Strike Patrol, mind – though I don't think they'd quite fit, since we'd need a third 4 star character and I don't think there's many obvious choices.
Off Road Patrol is actually a good option; we could partner Sideswipe with Powertrain, Highjump and Tote; and then bring in Fixit as a 4 star Truck on the side. We could then use cards like Head-On Collision and 4 Wheel Drive to maximize the punch of the Trucks before getting to Sideswipe himself.
That's not a bad deck idea from a power perspective; the problem is, it's also kind of a boring deck idea. It wouldn't do much apart from attack for predictable numbers so long as I had the cards, and there wouldn't be much variation in attack patterns or play styles. This is kind of the trouble with Micromaster patrols as a design; they are uninteresting characters to play, it's upgrade, action, tap and flip. I made one of those decks at the beginning of Wave 4 and realised I didn't really like playing it, so let's avoid making another deck like that.
I think a novel idea I had was actually partnering Sideswipe up with the Constructicons – I don't know exactly which ones, probably Scrapper, Long Haul, Hook and one more. You could do novel things like do Heavy Landing for 3 points of damage instead of the usual 1. That, however, is the entire extent of the novelty and an idea that can be shelved.
No, in the end the team I settled on was one that might look dreadfully familiar...
… okay, so that's not a figure of Dead End, that's a figure of Sideswipe, again. Did you see Cyberverse? I could have sworn the Dead End in Cyberverse is just Sideswipe but a Decepticon.
This is mostly a variation on the four-wide Cars team made famous by Kevin Allen when he won at the Energon Open at Gencon 2019. I've replaced Arcee with Dead End (something my friend Michael would normally do, possibly because he really hates that Arcee card), and naturally I've subbed out Cliffjumper for Sideswipe.
This doesn't maximize either of Sideswipe's abilities... but here's the thing, I don't think we need to maximize either of them, just get enough playability out of both of them that we feel like Sideswipe is actually paying for the 8★ he costs.
Otherwise in this deck I think most readers will know the drill – try and keep vulnerable cars untapped, and attempt to outnumber your opponent before the wheel turn by simply having more untapped cars than he does.
Normally in these articles I might go into what cards I can take and pick out my favourites; I might go through a testing process where I try out the varying cards and work out what fits the best. However, as this is intended to be a shorter, and slightly nostalgic article about an old character, let's just cut to something I tried out on casual gaming night, and realised I had fun with.
The approach I took was a standard Orange Aggro Cars deck. There's an argument for Blue, and Sideswipe does have the capacity to hit high numbers if you have enough in the KO pile; but I can tell you from my experiences with Elita-1 and from talking to others; guys, Blue Cars just isn't going to happen. It'd need an extremely high amount of native Pierce to get such a concept working, and a deck centred on Sideswipe just isn't the place.
Orange/Black would have worked quite nicely though, but in the end I just fancied something that had a bit of a nostalgia to it; from a simpler time before Black pips, 15★ central figures and full-on Patrols; when the meta was genuinely quite unpredictable, and a plucky four-wide Cars deck just beat everything in sight... and somehow it did it with Red Alert. I'm never getting over there.
The main area I've differed from the classic 4-wide Cars deck is my inclusion of Showing Off and Kinetic Intensifier Whip. The Whip isn't a card that sees much play but always seems quite fun in theorycrafting; on Sideswipe, and combined with a Showing Off whilst multiple bots are in the KO pile, it should result in Sideswipe hitting for some high damage plus Bold. In practice I've easily managed to swing for Attack 10 Bold 6 (and then flip all my white pips and remaining blanks, because that's how Bold works).
I've played the deck a few times now; it's pretty good, far from a perfect deck and far from Cliffjumper's power level, but one I enjoyed playing.
… and honestly? I think that's about as much as I could hope for in a deck, because if it's not fun to play, why play it?
Luxury Space Italians.
I hope you enjoyed this little sidetrack through Sideswipe; I kind of wish I had spent a bit more time with him back in Wave 3, or in fact any time with him. He is certainly not the strongest character card in the game, but he asks some interesting questions from a deck design point of view and that makes him a fun character to play.
That's a wrap I think!