I’m cheating today, like a dirty rat! As an aside, no matter what, whenever I hear the word “Stratagem,” I want to break out in song as from “The Great Mouse Detective” and “Ratigan”…”TO STRATAGEMS (TO STRATAGEMS!)! OH STRATAGEMS!”
With the custom cards folks are designing, Stratagems, which debuted in Wave 5 “Titan Masters Attack,” are getting a lot of attention. For typically 1 Star, you get a boost to an existing card or for making a deck design choice. Custom Stratagems have been turning up, including here at Edge of Iacon, with no star cost to them which adjust minor aspects of the card.Today, I want to talk not just about Stratagem design, but I have the opportunity to spoil one of the fantastic Alpha Trion Protocol Stratagems as well!
Rather than rewrite the rules, I figured I would snag the text straight from the horse’s mouth! When announcing the Stratagems (and Titan Masters), designer Ken Nagle gave us some insight into the hows and whys the various pieces were made. This helps us would-be designers draft Stratagems well in-line with WotC’s own goals as well.
Stratagems are a new card type in Titan Masters Attack! For a while now, the team has wanted a way to modify the game from turn 1 at a level smaller than a full character. Stratagems are the card type for this.
- Stratagems cost 1 or more stars and begin the game on the battlefield.
- You can only have at most 1 of each stratagem. They are ‘unique’. You can play multiple different stratagems.
Stratagems can change the deckbuilding rules of the game, add traits to characters, or trigger on a difficult condition during gameplay.
- Many Stratagems have a bonus that can only be used ‘once’ – they usually say to flip the card over, signaling that it’s not active anymore.
- Stratagems are NOT ‘battle cards’ – they don’t go in your battle deck and they don’t have a battle card back. You can’t find them with effects like Valuable Contract that finds “a battle card you own with 1 star”.
- There’s 10 common, 10 uncommon, and 10 rare Stratagems in Titan Masters Attack!
- Each common Stratagem helps a named character card in Titan Masters Attack.
- An uncommon Stratagem is likely to help a specific team.
- A rare Stratagem is likely to help a character that is NOT in Titan Masters Attack! … If you have a favorite character in the game that you’ve always hoped would get their own signature card, these cards are meant to please you by breathing life back into these potentially forgotten characters from previous expansions.
Today, we have the pleasure of guest Henri Yandell from the Alpha Trion Protocols team helping reveal one of ATP’s exciting new Stratagems as we discuss the MSE Template and changes made to the classic Stratagem to incorporate some exciting new design ideas the ATP team brings to the table!
[Henri Yandell]: Hi everyone, Henri Yandell here. As we, over at Alpha Trion Protocols, got close to being ready to start putting together our final versions of our stratagems, Nate announced that he was close to releasing his MSE Template. His work looked great, so we reached out and asked if we could help him test, and in the process get some solid work done towards our own. We’re very fortunate that Nate agreed for us to each help each other out. He fixes issues quickly and we love what his template does.
[Nate Petersen]: So for our first look today, we’re going to take a look back at something I’ve spoiled before on EoI. “Fire In The Sky” was inspired by the character Jetfire’s original cartoon appearance, putting him on the side of the Decepticons. In subsequent waves, all Jetfire releases have been Autobot while numerous effects have been added that track team affiliation, if a whole team is one faction or another, etc. so I thought “Why not mess with that a bit?”
The “Fire In The Sky” Stratagem was one of the first concepts I had for a new card, and an easy test case for the MSE Template. It’s a fairly simple card, using the Decepticon “skin” of sorts; the purple tags and background, the Decepticon watermark, etc. And the text effect is fairly straightforward; Jetfire, any Jetfire, is a Decepticon as long as you have a character named Starscream (his Decepticon pal) on the board.
This is the general layout of the Wave 5 Stratagems. We even keep with the typical Stratagem rule of artwork sourcing (talked about here) and because this Jetfire card affects several characters it provides its own illustration; this one a Decepticon-themed variation on his first toy model back from Gen1!
Now for me, in programming the MSE Template, a part of the fun has been seeing just what we can bring to the game with some simple, subtle, tweaks. The ATP team is well ahead of me on that front and their design concepts for the mechanical effects encouraged me to make some updates and options available I had never considered! For that reason, our showcase card for EoI today looks at one of their Stratagems, also for Jetfire, but showcasing even more interesting options!
[NP]: The ATP folk included Attack, Defense, and Health upgrades to their Stratagems and seeing some early mock-ups for their cards I saw they were using the Upgrade fields. This was a brilliant and totally easy to add feature, but they were also adding the Health via text; bleh. As a programmer I like keeping things grouped in like families, so for me? All stats needed to be handled the same; enter the Health box! With a couple tweaks, I expanded the ATP’s concept and rounded out the card design, making the upgrades to the stats clear and obvious while preserving the bulk of the Stratagem concept and layout.
Additionally, as this is coming from a proper set and not just me dinking around, you can see the card is more fully rounded out. The template allows you to include your typical collector’s information, which the ATP team has filled out; you can see its star-cost of course, but also rarity, its place in the set (this is #4 of 11 Stratagems!), their unique icon of Alpha Trion, and the “ATP” set designation.
Since design, as in layout, is more my thing and my contribution here, I’ll turn it over to Henri from ATP for the color commentary on the mechanical design! I love that the ATP’s primary goal here is rejuvenating older character cards, and the extra insight here is awesome!
[HY]: I love the Jetfire card. The way he pulls in Superior Plating and Superior Jetpack is brilliant, and I was so very sad to lose Swap Parts. Quartermaster just wasn’t the same. So I was totally overjoyed when one of the other ATP members chose to work on Jetfire, and I love where the card ended up.
The notion of passing Upgrades around was there right from the beginning. It does a great job of speeding up Jetfire, removing that reliance on lucking into a Quartermaster, or the now gone Swap Parts. Early versions didn’t have the Upgrade protection however, instead they worked on early-game card draw/card scrap to help kickstart Jetfire’s Upgrades. That card draw was a strong worry for turning into finding Peace Through Tyranny for 15-star character (like Sky Shadow), so a 1-star cost was quickly identified as required for a Jetfire stratagem.
As development discussions continued, the card draw was morphed into an “Autobot starting team” feature and we started to move towards Jetfire being encouraged to be on an Autobot team. It was at this point that deck designs were tried, and nothing really stuck. It was time to tear things up and rebuild the idea from scratch. This is when the modern version of the card came together. With the exception of the extra health, version two of the card was as it is shown today.
Having Autobots in only one of his features is very canonically intentional. The notion is that Jetfire has great loyalty to protect his Autobot allies, but he is a little weaker at worrying whose hands his inventions are getting into. Version two of the card wasn’t the end of things however; we had a lot of discussions of various ideas for to take the card in different directions, which did lead to adding that +1 health, but in the end we kept coming back to speeding up Jetfire’s bot-mode flip.
[NP]: With that then, we’re about done with our spoilers today (well, here at any rate). We’ve seen two different stratagems for Jetfire today, and your first instinct might be to play both of them! But remember that all Stratagems, with or without the reminder text, work in such a way that only one can modify a given character, card, or group by name. You cannot have two cards which modify Decepticons, for instance, or “The Matrix of Leadership,” and you cannot have two cards which modify “Jetfire” so you can’t use the pair in conjunction with one another. Today’s Alpha Trion Protocol Stratagem in particular applies to “Jetfire, Air Guardian,” as the card is called out by its full name, whereas “Fire In The Sky” would apply to any character named Jetfire in the same way “Ion Blaster of Optimus Prime” can attach to any Optimus Prime, regardless of other designations..
You can see the rest of the new ATP Stratagems on the Alpha Trion Protocols Facebook page and you will be able to find a link there to listen in on Thursday for a Q&A stream to hear more about the development process for this first batch of releases from the Alpha Trion Protocols.