Today we are talking about factions. We just introduced a third faction – the Mercenaries, in addition to the Autobots and Decepticons. However, it doesn’t truly address what’s on our community’s mind.
Why does the design team favor Autobots so much?
We don’t favor one faction or the other. In a fictional universe, you can’t have a good team without a bad team. They need each to create conflict. Conflict allows stories to be told, and those stories can play out game after game. It’s fun.
When Transformers TCG launched, we “blended” the factions by allowing players to play the factions together. This vastly increases the number of possible teams and lowers the barrier to entry, but also blurs faction definition and is harder to balance. Still, there were a handful of reasons to play “only Autobots” or “only Decepticons”, such as the Matrix of Leadership. Matrix of Leadership is generous on purpose with its orange-blue icons because both it and Roll Out! are "brand-definingly" important, but we learned while playtesting Wave 2 onward that the game simply can’t handle more orange-blue icon cards because all the variance disappears across battles. Decepticon Crown (the mirror of Matrix of Leadership) intentionally doesn’t make its wearer better because it’s just a silly ornament, and its variance reduction uses Plan instead of battle icons. Still, Matrix of Leadership and Decepticon Crown illustrate that we are committing to making the faction-based cards different by making their rewards different.
In Wave 2, Rise of the Combiners, we wanted to fix one of the biggest flaws of Wave 1 – not having enough faction-based rewards:
- Confidence and Swindled
- Noble’s Blaster and Scoundrel’s Blaster
- Press the Advantage and Bad Attitude
These are “mirrored pairs” as we call them in design – common, uncommon, and rare incentives that make it matter if your team has Autobots or Decepticons.
Press the Advantage and Bad Attitude are very different cards that reward playing one faction while simultaneously punishing the opposite faction. We could make every faction card mirrored (like Noble’s/Scoundrel’s Blaster) to be safe, but that never makes the factions any different at all. This is why Press the Advantage is so generous; Wave 2 was trying to make more and better faction-based incentives while also introducing the green battle icon, and both of those overlap on Press the Advantage.
In testing, Bad Attitude proved very difficult to play against, so I gave it no icons. At Origins, I watched a Predacon player sideboard it in against an Aerialbot player, which is the best-case scenario and how the design team “drew it up on the whiteboard”. If you can predict what your opponents will be playing, you can sideboard accordingly, called “metagaming” – a game within the game.
The maindeckable nature of Press the Advantage has an adverse effect on the metagame where simply being a Decepticon can double the effectiveness of your opponent’s Press the Advantages. This has slowly but surely created an uphill battle for Decepticon-based teams.
Okay, so it’s a problem. What were the possible solutions?
- Restrict it.We considered restricting Press the Advantage to only one copy in your deck as an alternative to a full ban. However, the green icon means that this action would only minimally decrease your chance of seeing your one copy in a game.
- Design a Decepticon version.We considered printing an equivalently generous Decepticon Battle card (something that players have asked for). Something like:
Brunt the Assault
(artwork of Brunt unscathed by incoming blasts)
Blue-Green battle icons
Decepticon Secret Action
Reveal When -> One of your Decepticons defends.
When Revealed -> Repair 2 damage from the defender. If the attacker is an Autobot, do 2 damage to it.
The problem is this is just an endless arms race with battle cards that are about twice the rate above the curve. We don’t make battle cards that repair 2 damage AND have great icons AND can do 2 damage, unless we want to power creep so players to only play these new cards and disregard the cards they already own. That’s not how I prefer to design games.
- Power level errata. On the Transformers TCG team, we believe it is important for cards to do what they say. We do not use power level errata as part of our toolbox when dealing with a problematic card.
- Do nothing.We have a new faction coming out that should make Press the Advantage less impactful than it currently is, but we believe that even the introduction of Mercenaries will not remove the chilling effect that Press the Advantage has on Decepticon deckbuilding.
- Ban it.We do not take ban decisions lightly. In my previous ban announcement, I detailed how Swap Parts could win the game on the first turn, and often easily won on the second turn. Press the Advantage is far less egregious – its crime is being a maindeck card that was intended as a sideboard card. But it’s causing Decepticons to stop being maindeckable and their options against Autobots aren’t carrying their weight. This is a huge problem since a large number of our cards are designed with the assumption that both Decepticons and Autobots are playable at a competitive level.
Based on the title of this article, you might have guessed which action we chose to take. No matter what we do, there will always be a best card, best character, and best faction because we aren’t making a perfectly mirrored, symmetrical game like Chess. It’s more important the game is fun, dynamic, and full of surprises and exploration. If Press the Advantage was merely giving +4 attack as the best attack boost in the game (like Grenade Launcher), we would not be taking action.
We strive to be as transparent and communicative with our community as possible, especially regarding big decisions like this. We hope that we’ve made the reasoning behind this clear and that this change helps further our mission of keeping the game as healthy as we can.
We feel Press the Advantage is pushing Decepticons out of the game, both by being too strong on its own, and worse, because it discourages players from even sleeving up Decepticon decks. It's the combination of its power, consistency, prevalence, and format pressure that brought us to this point.
Press the Advantage is banned from constructed organized play, effective with the release of War for Cybertron: Siege II on November 8th, 2019.
Evil lives again!
We salute you, Press the Advantage. You’ve served honorably and deserve to enjoy a fruitful retirement.
If you’re an Autobot fan and find this decision hard to swallow, here’s a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down: