A Bright Future for Mechanologists under Bright Lights
In both draft and sealed, I was forced to answer a question that Flesh and Blood had never posed to me previously: Which hero and which weapon do you want to play? Normally FaB asks you which class you want to play. In my few forays into Bright Lights, I found myself largely limited to choosing between Teklovossen and Maxx as I was without significantly powerful items in both sealed and draft. Even after deciding on the vast majority of my forty cards, I didn’t know who to play. In all previous FaB experiences, I normally knew which hero I would be playing after choosing less than 20% of my card pool. Under Bright Lights, I was stuck wondering if I should play Maxx to pressure my opponents with Banksy and some potent Boost cards, or if I should play Teklovossen and take the game slow while upgrading Teklo Leveler. Ultimately, I think the correct answer for me in one scenario was to actually play Maxx with a Teklo Leveler and a couple of instant-speed Evos to get it online. That wasn’t what I did (I played using Banksy) but the fact that it was a meaningful option was something that I loved as a new experience. I have been told by avid drafters of other card games that Bright Lights is the first set that feels like it has the flexibility of other draft-oriented games. Seeing that through a FaB lens was a great initial experience, and if you have not drafted or cracked a sealed pool for this set, I highly recommend it.
Moving onto the constructed side of the game, I think that there are a lot of new tools for old and new Mechanologists to use. Previously, the class had been about balancing Boost cards against items. However, this mostly happened in sideboarding and in deck list decisions rather than in-game decisions. Now with the advent of new heroes and the new Evo card type, there are more axes for Mechanologists to rotate around. With a new set of options comes new deckbuilding choices to make, including which hero to use. Never before have we had this deep of a pool of heroes within a single class. While each hero has their own preference of cards, their sideboard options are extremely wide. This is because the Mech class has a massive breadth of options. They can add more Boost cards to become some of the most aggressive heroes in the game. They can add items that allow them to do everything from building the best late-game in FaB (Induction Chamber and Plasma Purifier) to shutting down specific strategies (Signal Jammer).
They can now add Evos to bolster their armor and unlock uniquely powerful attacks like War Machine, Terminator Tank, or Annihilator Engine. Most importantly, they can mix all of these strategies together and move from one to the other within the same deck list. No other class in this game can move from pure aggression to a control deck (while maintaining high block values) as easily as Mechanologists can.
Before we talk about the shiny new heroes, I want to polish some of the old brass cogs. A lot of these new cards can go into old Mechanologist decks. Classic Dash will still be very strong, as her ability is always going to allow her to start with the best item in her deck on the board, which should always represent a minimum of six points of value (see: Teklo Pounder). There are some interesting sideboard options for her, with cards like Boom Grenade allowing her alternative avenues to set up for big blowout turns, like she used to do with Teklo Core.
Data Doll is loving all the new zero- and one-cost boost cards like Expedite and MetEx to help play out items, but still significantly struggles against anyone with armour or disruptive effects. It’s an absolute shame that Data Doll can’t use Symbiosis Shot, as I think that would really help with the problems of only having three intellect. The main thing that interests me is that there may now be enough cards to run a redline engine for any Mech hero. We can really push the motor to its breaking point by running exclusively zero- and one-cost boost cards, Maximum Velocity, Bios Update, and the best-of-the-best items (Teklo Pounder and Teklo Core). The deck will absolutely be susceptible to fatigue strategies, but I think it has significant potential to catch people off guard. Having enough set-up items, and High Octane or Hanabi Blaster shenanigans should allow the deck to punch through people trying to improvise a fatigue strategy against it, while still being able to race more aggressive decks. I doubt this will be the premier Mech deck in the format, but it certainly looks like a fun series of options to play around with.
Looking at the newest and shiniest toys, I want to talk about the man who started it all in Metrix. Teklovossen seems to be the biggest puzzle of the new set, since he can play along any of the Mech pathways. There are currently options to build him aggressively, focusing on extracting value from Boosted Evos, or very slowly and defensively to guarantee enough time to set up on his own terms. Ultimately, I think where he ends up falling on this continuum will be decided by which other decks are strong at any given time. I’m also interested to see which weapon he ends up preferring. While Teklo Leveler is very strong, I wonder if that is what you want to be doing when you could be playing Evo upgrade cards. Terminator Tank or War Machine at their max power with a single blue are extremely efficient, and pitching a second card to shoot Teklo Leveler seems lackluster in comparison. In the early and mid game, Teklovossen often finds himself pitching five resources to activate his ability and play an Evo Sentry equipment as an instant. This gives him an opportunity to use Teklo Plasma Pistol to shoot for an extra two damage with that resource. Maybe that is more useful than a weapon that costs three resources at that same point.
Or maybe Teklovossen just becomes the next ultra-fatigue deck and runs nothing but defense reactions, Oasis Respite, Scrap cards, and high-blocking Evos. While I think that this is the least interesting of his builds, I do think it may be something that other heroes will need to have an answer for eventually. He is certainly the hero that I will be funneling most of my interest towards, and I hope that as time goes on his deck and techniques continue to be dynamic and interesting. I’m sure that the existence of Singularity also has many other people champing at the bit to test things out.
I’m also quite interested to see how Teklovossen’s deck changes in Blitz. I fear he may fall into the quagmire of most other set-up decks in the format. It becomes apparent for many decks that the lower life totals don’t provide the time necessary to upgrade your board. Maybe this is where a Boost-heavy version of the deck shines, seeking to get Evos out as quickly as possible. This would let you play Singularity (which is probably just an automatic win in Blitz) or to simply convert boosted cards to armour blocks for some incremental value.
Moving on, Dash I/O has an extremely unique ability, and the potential to have a five-card hand each turn. I think this deck is rife with potential for shenanigans and some really interesting strategies and tricks. The fact that items cannot block in Flesh and Blood (and the massive liability that provides) is probably the only reason why this deck isn’t crazy right out of the gate. I think it has the potential to get there, with some very interesting paths to explore. System Reset can be a single card that can charge up Symbiosis Shot with up to twelve points of damage.
More obvious tricks like using Boom Grenade as an attack reaction in aggressive decks will certainly see their time in the sun, but I’m really curious about the weirder items in the set. In particular, I think that the Backup Protocol cards show a lot of potential. Plume of Evergrowth was my favourite card in Tales of Aria draft because it turned your worst blue into the best card in your graveyard. Likewise, the Backup Protocols let you do something very similar.
Recycling a Pulsewave Harpoon on demand when your opponent thinks they’re safe to hit you with a set-up combo turn can be backbreaking. Regarding new Dash, I think I’ll stick to limited formats where I can play with my new favourite hero art in Dash Database, as I don’t see myself being passionate about figuring out Dash I/O in Classic Constructed. However, I think that many other people have a passion for the deck and the most interesting things from Bright Lights will come from their efforts with her.
Finally, we come to Maxx. I don’t think he has anything super unique or earth-shattering about him, other than possibly being a more efficient avenue for existing Mech strategies. He makes good use of the new Crank items, as Banksy can allow him to apply pressure with them across multiple turns. He also plays very well with all of the Hyper Driver synergy from both Bright Lights and Dynasty.
His ability to use cards like Gas Up to their fullest potential makes his aggressive potential immense as well. Gas Up is a card that looks a lot like Belittle to me. Gas up represents one resource for four damage and go again, while Belittle represents one for three. Gas Up can fetch a Hyper Driver from the banished zone, which will represent three resources across three turns while Belittle can fetch a blue Minnowism (its most common usage) to represent three resources on the same turn. While Belittle is probably better due to more flexibility in game and in deck building, it is one of the strongest cards in FaB and is banned for a reason. I would gladly take a marginally-worse Belittle in a lot of my decks.
I really do think that Hyper Drivers with Gas Up (and to a lesser extent Re-Charge!) are the main reason to play Maxx. And while you’re playing Hyper Drivers, why not have fun with one of the craziest combos in the game in the form of High Octane and Nitro Mechanoid? Nitro Mechanoid can attack more than once per turn if you have excess action points, and High Octane does exactly that. In addition to being super fun to build, it’s a great way to overcome fatigue against decks that try to just block out Boosting Mechs.
At the end of the day, and at the end of each day where I play with Bright Lights cards, I am very happy that the Mechanologist-only set has managed to capture my interest and enjoyment as a non-Mech player. I think it’s great that LSS has managed to do this and I have a renewed faith in the fun that they can provide for single-class sets in the future. I do have my qualms with the set (Majestic-rarity heroes will be discussed next week), but I’m having a lot of fun with it. My enduring question is whether or not this will change the Classic Constructed landscape at all, or if that will only have life breathed into it when old heroes like Lexi and Iyslander rotate through the Living Legend system. I know it is very early, but my initial impression is that there is a very high chance that classic Dash may get a couple of marginal upgrades but otherwise remain the dominant Mechanologist. This would leave little room for new specialists like Maxx and Teklovossen to come in with their Hyper Driver and Evo toys in a competitive manner, which would be a shame.