Microman’s Road Bison

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Many of you are no doubt aware of the Laser Cycles that were released in 1995 named Road Rocket and Road Pig. These two figures were among the new molds released toward the end of the Generation 2 toy line. The Laser Cycles feature a gimmick where small red LEDs illuminate clear plastic weaponry.

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However, you may not know that Takara released the Laser Cycle molds again in 2000 within their Microman line.  The Laser Cycles were each released in Microman in two different decoes. These new versions were sold without electronics and with retooled handlebars for the Microman figures to better grab hold to.

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This article will focus on the more common version of the Microman Road Pig mold. Given the moniker Road Bison, the main difference between this figure and his Transformers cousin Road Pig is that Bison substitutes gray plastic where Pig’s plastic is black.

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Road Bison features a red head sculpt, red forearms and hands, and upper arms consisting of black plastic. As mentioned, his electronics have been completely removed so there are no wires connected to his clear plastic weapon. This means Road Bison’s weapon can be permanently detached whereas Road Pig’s weapon is permanently connected to him.

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G2 Road Pig’s bio states that he has “no known friends among the Decepticons.” I like to think that Road Bison is his brother.

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The second recolor of this mold in Microman was released as a ToysRUs exclusive in a box set along with a recolor of the Road Rocket mold. That version was named Tornado Bison and I will feature him and his exclusive box-mate in an upcoming post.

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The world of Transformers continues to grow. I particularly enjoy when Takara includes former Transformers molds in their other lines. It especially seems fitting with Microman since the original Transformers line was an amalgamation of Diaclone and Microchange figures. Additions like Road Bison are fun for enthusiasts like myself who collect foreign recolors. Microman gives up some real oddities and I highly recommend Road Bison to anyone interested in adding him to their collection.

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Road Pig, Road Bison, and Double Face

I’ve always been a fan of the Laser Cycle molds. They are pure G2 goodness. Road Pig appeared briefly in the IDW comic book continuity when he made a cameo in the first issue of the Drift miniseries. Here is hoping that someone eventually inserts Road Bison into one of the issues as a cool Easter egg.

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Unreleased G2 Auto Rollers

I was recently fortunate enough to add the two unreleased G2 Auto Rollers to my Transformers collection. As some of you may know, the G2 Auto Rollers feature a mechanism which triggers an automatic transformation from vehicle to robot when pushed forward. Additionally, they came with spring-loaded missile launchers. Four Auto Rollers were originally designed, but only two Auto Rollers were actually released in the G2 line: Dirtbag and Roadblock. Both were released in 1995. The other two Auto Rollers were canceled before they could go into mass production.

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Not much is known about the two unreleased Auto Rollers. They were given the internal designations as Auto Roller APC (Tank) and Auto Roller FA18 (Jet).

Much of what we do know is from the estate of a former Hasbro/Kenner engineer known as the “Mackey-Florence Collection.” This collection included a shipping invoice dated November 24, 1995, where Takara shipped 12 pieces each of the APC Tank and the FA18 Jet from Tokyo, Japan to Cincinnati, Ohio.

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This invoice is significant, because it tells us that there were at least 12 test samples made for each figure. However, these are only the test samples known to be sent to North America. We can speculate that there is at least one test sample of each figure within the Takara-Tomy archives. We can assume this because Takara-Tomy displayed a test sample for both figures at their Transformers EXPO held in Japan back in 2014.

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Unless Hasbro eventually returned some of the test samples to Takara (which I suppose is not out of the realms of possibility), then we can speculate that at least 13 figures were made of both the Jet Auto Roller and the Tank Auto Roller. Even if Thailand made the same amount of test samples for both Hasbro and Takara (24 total samples of each) we’re still talking about Lucky Draw rarity.

The figures came with their projectile missiles still on their sprues. I haven’t yet had the courage to detach the missiles for the figures I acquired, but I may get around to it at some point.

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While these molds were canceled from the G2 line and were never released in North America, Takara did incorporate them (along with Dirtbag and Roadblock) as part of the Autorollers subgroup in their Beast Wars II franchise.

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All four molds were repaints and came in different colors than their G2 counterparts. For Beast Wars II, the Jet Auto Roller was repainted blue while and the Tank Auto Roller was repainted red. The only way to get these figures in their unreleased G2 paint colors is by acquiring one of the test samples on the secondary market.

I don’t know the exact number for how many of these test shots have made their way into fans hands, but my research suggests that all of the known figures available out in the wild were acquired from the Mackey-Florence Collection. This collection has also been the source of all the unreleased G2 Menasors, G2 Defensors, and G2 Gobots that have trickled out into the fandom since 2014. The scope of the importance of the Mackey-Florence estate cannot be underestimated. For example, a complete G2 Menasor originally from this collection sold on eBay in the summer of 2014 for $26,815.00; which, to my knowledge, is the highest a Transformers auction has ever gone on eBay.

In any case, I’m very pleased to add these two figures to my collection. They are historically novel both for their rarity and for their G2 connection. They can be pricey to obtain, so I can’t recommend them for everyone–yet they are fun nonetheless. I’ve placed them in my personal collection on a shelf with the six unreleased G2 Gobots that I have also acquired piecemeal from the Mackey-Florence estate. I’ve written on some of these Gobots in past posts, and I am sure I will visit the rest at some point in the future.

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Legends Trypticon Comic

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Brazilian Minibots

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I love collecting minibot variants. The figures from Brazil are especially colorful.

A company called Estrela manufactured and released these minibots in Brazil.

These figures were split into 2 series. The first series was known as “Robocar” while the second series is referred to as the “Optimus vs Malignus” series.

The first series had traditional card art and contained versions of Windcharger (Camaro), Brawn (Jipe), Cliffjumper (Carrera), Bumblebee (Volks), Gears (Pick-Up) and Bumblejumper (Sedan) in both regular and repainted color schemes. The second series, Optimus vs Malignus was divided into good and evil factions. Optimus being analogous to the Autobots while Malignus was the Brazilian version of the Decepticons. Depending on what faction a particular minibot was part of, they had a distinct faction symbol.

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Here for your viewing pleasure is the complete collection of Estrela’s famed minibots.

 

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Convobat’s figure and manga

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Hero Gangu AKA Transformers Heaven

So there is a place in Japan that is whispered about in the Transformers community. It’s often called “Transformers Heaven” by those in the know. It’s a store in Den Den Town Osaka called Hero Gangu.

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This is a massive store, and much of the second floor is dedicated to Transformers. If you get the chance to go Transformers hunting in Japan, Hero Gangu is among the best there is.

The collection of transformers at Hero Gangu is extensive and runs from vintage to new.

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To get to the store, take the Osaka Municipal Subway to the Nipponbashi station. It’s then a seven or eight block walk.

The first floor of Hero Gangu houses only new toys. On this floor you can find TakaraTomy’s newest releases.

The second floor is where the magic happens. This floor is devoted to toys from the 1960s onward. A large statue of Optimus Prime greats customers as they enter.

The Transformers section literally has everything.

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From Diaclone to G1 to Armada to CHUG and Masterpiece. Whatever you’re looking for, Hero Gangu has it.

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This store also has a very impressive collection of third party and custom Transformers. And as a special treat for its Japanese customers, the store carries American IDW Transformers comic books as well as toys from the American Botcon and Transformers Collectors Club. For a marked-up price of course.

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In addition to the comic books, the store has a nice collection of Transformers books and fanzines.

It also carries kits from Kabaya and Seven.

While Hero Gangu is Transformers heaven, it carries much more than just Transformers. The store also has large aisles dedicated to Super Sentai (like Ultra Man and Power Rangers), Hot Toys actions figures, Chogokin, Gundam, Go-Bots, and an enormous amount of vinyl figures.

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If you ever get Osaka, Hero Gangu is an absolute must visit.

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Generation 2 Rumble and Frenzy

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The Generation 2 franchise launched in 1993. It was the first ever Transformers toy revamp, and it began with simple recolors of older Transformers toys. Eventually, G2 would include entirely of new molds made for the line. Some of these new molds were older G1 characters in new forms. Two characters who were re-imagined for the line were Frenzy and Rumble.

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If you’re reading this blog, chances are better than good that you are familiar with the G1 characters of Frenzy and Rumble. Decepticon mini-cassettes who work for Soundwave and can fit into his chest compartment.

In general, Mini-Cassettes are Transformers whose alternate mode is an audio cassette. They are largely subordinate to either Soundwave (or in the case of Autobot cassettes to Blaster) and are known for their loyalty to superior.

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For Generation 2, these characters were given new forms as Go-Bots.

Released in 1995, the G2 Go-Bots are small 1:64-scale Transformers cars designed to be compatible with Hot Wheels and Matchbox brand cars.

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Three different waves of Go-Bots were released. Frenzy was included in the third and final wave. A fourth wave was planned featuring six all new molds. Rumble was designed for this wave with finished prototypes being developed, but the Generation 2 toyline ended before the Go-Bots version of Rumble was mass produced and released. As would become a familiar situation, Transformers lines get canceled and the final waves of an assortment never get made.

The toy had a tampograph that says “Rumble” written on the sides of his front bumper so we are left without doubt as to the intended identity of the car.

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Rumble & Frenzy together as they were meant to be

In 2012, 17 years after the G2 Go-Bots toys were released, The Transformers Club introduced fans to their version of Jhiaxus. In this continuity, Jhiaxus was able to create a “second generation” of Cybertronians that were clones of original G1 characters. The Go-Bots toys were retconned into these clones which allowed the Go-Bots figures to exist alongside their original counterparts. Frenzy was included with the clones.

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Fun Publications did not included Rumble or the rest of the unreleased Go-Bots in Jhiaxus’ army. Maybe that was a good thing, because according to G2 Frenzy’s club bio, clone Frenzy often believes he is the original Frenzy and tries to hop into Soundwave’s chest until the others can snap him out of it. He’s said to possess the strong will and determination of his original counterpart, and teaming him with a clone Rumble is just asking for trouble. So, of course I had to put them together in my personal collection.

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Thanks to Jhiaxus, Frenzy has “borrowed” personality components from the original Frenzy. One can assume that G2 Rumble would be created the same way.

Go-Bots Frenzy was redecoed into G2 Megatron. The unreleased G2 Rumble would eventually be released as Side Swipe in the 2001 Robots in Disguise line and again as Silverstreak in the Universe line.

Amusingly, there has been a debate through the years over what color Rumble and Frenzy are. On the original Transformers cartoon, Rumble was depicted with the colors of Frenzy’s toy (dark and medium blue rather than black and red) and vice-versa. G2 seems to address the issue by making Frenzy purple (a combination of blue and red) and by painting the Rumble prototypes with both red and blue paint (the blue is visible in robot mode).

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G2 Frenzy is still relatively cheap on the secondary market. Only a very small handful of finished samples of G2 Go-Bots Rumble have made their way onto the secondary market, however. I personally know of 6 of them, one of which I own.

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I think it’s cool how the club fiction revisited the G2 toys from years earlier, and I especially appreciate them giving the G2 Go-Bots their own individual personalities. Separating these “clones” from their original tape characters is a great way to add new cast members to the Transformers mythos.

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Gestalt Dreaming

Takara announced that it is going to release Grand Galvatron as part of its Unite Warriors line (the Japanese version of Combiner Wars) as a TakaraTomy Mall exclusive.

Cyclonus visits the grave of his former master Galvatron. In doing so, he inadvertantly gives Galvatron’s spirit the chance to take over Cyclonus’s body (probably due to their intertwined origin from being created together by Unicron). As one, the two travel to the Triple Z Point, hoping that Unicron will create a new body (Grand Galvatron) for the spirit of the former Decepticon leader to inhabit. Unicron is dubious of their scheme as he has had trouble controlling Galvatron before, so he gives one of his own. Unicron summons three malicious Transformers spirits from across the multiverse (Prime Breakdown, IDW Roller, and Armada Thrust) and gives them new bodies instead of Galvatron so that they can combine with Cyclonus to form a new Galvatron. The final limb is created from Starscream’s ghost when he shows up begging to be included as he too needs a new body. Unlike the others; however, Starscream’s new body is purposefully stuck in a half-dead form to assure his continued cooperation and loyalty.

With his new troops, Unicron sends the six to conquer Cybertron, but Galvatron again defies his old master, and the Decepticons set out to conquer Cybertron in Grand Galvatron’s name. No wonder Unicron has such trust issues.

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Takara has continually used western storylines in strange and unique ways, and I am thrilled with how they are using combiner wars molds to make new and exciting additions to the Transformers mythos.  This has got me wondering what other combiner exclusives Takara could release. As you may have noticed from my site, I’m not really a fan of the mainstream characters being used over and over again. Thankfully, Takara has already made Japanese exclusive gestalt combiners in the past. An update of any of those cool characters would be welcomed by me. A prime candidate for such an update would be Battle Gaia!

Battle Gaia was introduced in 1992 by Takara’s Operation Combination toyline and fiction. A repaint of the original Bruticus, he led the Decepticon invasion force under orders from Scrash. His character to subsequently reused by Takara in their Transformers United EX story in 2012, and he was part of the Decepticon armada that attacked Metroplex in 2013’s MetroWars comic. So Battle Gaia’s character is still relevant in the minds of Japan’s hardcore Transformers fanbase (as small as it is).

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Of course another prime candidate is Battle Gaia’s main rival Guard City.

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Guard City was also introduced in Operation Combination, and he is a recolor of Defensor.

Both Battle Gaia and Guard City are what is known as a Free-Combiner where the individual robots making up their limbs enjoy a certain level of autonomy. This allows the limbs to consciously rearrange themselves to suit specific situations.

So will Takara make updates to either of these characters, or will they make another unique combiner out of left field? Will they make any more combiners at all, since that gimmick appears to be falling to the wayside in favor of the headmaster play pattern returning? Who knows? It’s uncertain if we’ll get any more cool exclusive combiners out of Takara any time soon, but a guy can dream…

Rocket Base

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The largest Transformers toy sold by Hasbro in 1989 was the Rocket Base packaged with its pilot Countdown.

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The Japanese market released an identical version of the Rocket Base a year later, and it included the Micromaster Rescue Patrol Team with the base as an added incentive.

Hasbro released other mini Micromaster bases (referred to as stations) and divided them up equally as being aligned to the Autobots or  the Decepticons.

In Japan, all of the Micromaster stations were sold and marketed as Autobot instillations to better interact with Rocket Base. These stations also helped flesh out the Autobot colony they would portray in their fiction.

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image1 (29)In the summer of 1990, Takara released a single episode of Transformers Zone on video. Zone shows the Rocket Base headquartered in the cybertronian colony located on planet Micro. The Rocket Base is commanded by Moonradar (Countdown) but it is piloted by Rabbicrater. The two seem to share responsibility for the instillation and its inhabitants. Rabbicrater was never released by Hasbro, and was only sold by Takara along with a copy of the Zone episode. His figure is pictured in my collection: he’s the little blue Micromaster standing between the boxed Lucky Draw Black Tracks and the white Legends Class “Kids Walk” Safety  Prime. As are all Micromasters, Rabbicrater is tiny, but he can go for large sums of money due to his rarity.

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The Japanese and Italian exclusive figure Galaxy Shuttle was designed to be able to rest on the launching pad of Rocket Base in the place of Rabbicrater’s normal “galaxy rocket.”

 

 

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Takara reused the Rocket Base mold in 2000 as the final toy released for their Microman LED Powers line. This version was redecoed in black, silver, green, and gold. Oficially called the L-26 Micro Rocket Base with Shining Edison, it is fully compatible with Micromasters and other Micromaster bases.

 

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File:RabbicraterModel.jpgIn the Dreamwave G1 continuity, Countdown was one of several Autobots assigned to Operation: Containment. An Aerospace Commander, Countdown had volunteered for the prototype Micromaster process which downsized him as a means for conserving fuel. Something the Maximals would also do many years later. Countdown had dreams of creating an interplanetary force to halt the spread of Decepticon terror and to better other worlds in the galaxy. Again, poor Rabbicrater is woefully absent from Hasbro’s fiction.

It’s unlikely that Rocket Base will show up in IDW’s comic books any time soon as (spoilers!) Countdown was killed by a personality tick infestation in an issue of More Than Meets The Eye. Hey… that does leave an opening for Rabbicrater to finally get his due. Come on IDW! Put Rabbicrater in charge of the Rocket Base in your comic continuity. Do it!

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Headmasters Return This Summer

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The summer of 2016 will see the return of Headmasters to the Transformers mythos.

The 1987 range of Generation 1 Transformers saw the introduction of Headmasters and Targetmasters. They were featured in the three-part finale to the cartoon produced by Hasbro called “Rebirth” or season 4 as well as in the Marvel G1 comic books.

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The premise gave some Transformers a small partner that became their heads when transformed and attached. The heads could pilot the larger vehicle, and the vehicles were more futuristic than most of the Transformers produced in the past.

The pièce de résistance of the Headmasters line was undoubtedly Fortress Maximus. Fort Max, as he is called for short (size joke!), was the largest Transformer toy produced in the original G1 line. Standing at 22″ (or 56 cm) tall, his record would only be broken by Generations Metroplex – who stands 2″ taller – in 2013. No relaunch of Headmasters would be complete without a new Fortress Maximus, so I am thrilled that Hasbro will be producing one. image2 (9)

Fortress Maximus is so big because he is a robot that transforms into a whole city!

In transformers lore, Fortress Maximus has divergent origin stories depending on if you subscribe to the Western or Japanese fiction.

In Hasbro’s continuity, Fort Max was created by Spike and the pacifist Cerebros to battle the evil Scorponok.

In Japan, Fort Max started life as a smaller sized cybertronian who was unable to transform, but was friends with Kup. Fortress fled to a cybertronian colony and lived for some time as one of his colony’s elites. Eventually, however, He had to create a city sized transtector that could transform into the battleship to help fight the Decepticons. Fortress called this battleship Maximus.

It’s unclear what fiction will go along with Hasbro’s Headmaster relaunch. One would presume that the comics that have been so successfully produced by IDW would feature the new line since many of the Headmasters characters in the relaunch are already major players in the various comic book story lines. However, Fortress Maximus is more or less a regular sized and sentient Transformer in the comics. If there is a city sized version featured in IDW, it will be interesting to see what, if any, role Cerebros will play in IDW’s Fort Max. Cerebros has traditionally been the brains of Fortress Maximus controlling the city as a larger extension of himself. Will IDW’s Fort Max become a transector controlled by Cerebros?

 

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image1 (27) More importantly, I’m excited to see what the return of the Headmasters means for Takara. The Japanese market famously had different Headmasters than what Hasbro gave the rest of the world. The Headmaster Juniors featuring Shūta,  Cab, and Minerva are great examples of this.

I’m particularly excited for an updated Minerva. The original Minerva was a lifeless transector controlled by a young human girl; however, the transector would eventually gain life and as a living cybertronian she took the name of her former human partner as her own. She was often depicted with Perceptor and Wheeljack suggesting Minerva took a position of some importance regarding Autobot science and medical duties.

210px-Animated_minerva_charactermodelOnly one version of Minerva has ever been released outside of Japan, an Animated version that was exclusively available through Botcon’s custom class in 2011. This toy was strictly limited to 120 pieces. I am lucky enough to be among the few to have one of these figures, and she is one of the prizes of my collection. A mass release of a new Minerva figure would probably only be available in Japan, but it would go a long way in making her more readily accessible to the larger collecting community as her original G1 toy is also considered rare and goes for large sums of money.

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Goshooter and Minerva both have been featured recently in Japanese comics created for Hero-X publishing’s Generations books. This would suggest a continued interest in these characters in the Japanese market. Only time will tell.

Hasbro is creating its new Headmasters as part of their Generations toyline “trilogy.” The first part consisted of Combiner Wars. The Headmasters are part of the second installment called “Titans Return.” We do not yet know what the third part will be titled, or what gimmick the toys will feature.

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The initial waves of Hasbro’s Titans Return will consist of:

Titan Masters

Wave 1

  • Crashbash with dragon/dinosaur
  • Loudmouth with hovercar/hovertank
  • Nightbeat with jet/drill-tank
  • Terri-Bull with tank/jet

Legends Class

Wave 1

  • Rewind
  • Stripes
  • Wheelie

Wave 2

  • Rumble
  • Laserbeak

Deluxe Class

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Wave 1

  • Furos w/ Hardhead
  • Grax w/ Skullsmasher
  • Fracas w/ Scourge
  • Hyperfire /w Blurr

Wave 2

  • Stylor w/ Chromedome
  • Vorath w/ Mindwipe

Leader Class

Wave 1

  • Twin Cast w/ Autobot Blaster
  • Autobot Apex w/ Powermaster Optimus Prime

Wave 2

  • Soundblaster w/ Soundwave

Titan Class

Wave 1

  • Fortress Maximus w/ Cerebros & Emissary

Wave 2

  • Trypticon