Three Years Of Pendulums

Kelly Locke

6/30/2017 11:00:00 AM

A new Summoning mechanic has been introduced to the game every three years since 2008.

Synchros, Xyz, Pendulums, and Links have helped diversify deck types and strategies, create new ways to play, and given duelists an exciting new set of mechanics to explore. Three years ago I was especially excited for Pendulums. You can read my original preview of the at-the time–new mechanic here. As the Pendulum era comes to an end with Pendulum Evolution I decided to revisit my early impressions and finally answer the question I posed in the title:

Were Pendulums worth playing?

Hindsight Is A One & Eight Scale
Pendulums promised easy Special Summons of high Level monsters from the hand, flexibility as both monsters and spells, and an unlimited supply of monsters that would seemingly never go away. It was the ultimate negation of card advantage: what use were small plusses of card economy when you could net a +5 just by Pendulum Summoning? Free monsters were incredibly attractive. The extra Summoning power also let decks that were clogged with Normal Summons commit monsters to the field faster than ever.

Initially the biggest problem with Pendulums was the two-card investment required to build a Pendulum Scale. Duelist Alliance brought more one-card Xyz Summons with Satellarknight Altair, and one-card Fusions Summons with Shaddoll Fusion. Burning Abyss, Shaddolls, and Satellarknights dominated the competitive scene while Pendulums were relegated to casual strategies. But even then we knew stronger Pendulums were on the way.

The New Challengers introduced the game's first competitive Pendulum theme: Qliphorts. In my initial preview article I mentioned Qliphort Scout by its old fan-translation Qliphoth Tool, but the prediction I made then was much more accurate: Pendulums wouldn't be playable until NECH introduced Qliphorts. My Reasoning came down to the simple concept of a one-card Pendulum Scale. It was something we'd already seen from Ritual, Synchro, Fusion, and Xyz strategies, and it was absolutely necessary for this new Summoning mechanic to take off.

All of the major Summoning mechanics require two or more cards at their most surface level, but thanks to cards like Future Fusion, Advanced Ritual Art, Debris Dragon, and Tour Guide From the Underworld players could perform those Summons with just one card. That's exactly what was needed for those mechanics to be competitive. One-card combos increase consistency, and it's the reason why Zoodiacs are so dominant right now. They're the ultimate kings of one-card combos and one-card Xyz Summons.

Qliphort Scout helped show what Pendulums were capable of by immediately building a Scale on its own. That let you Pendulum Summon the remaining four cards in your hand, or five cards if you played second. Other Pendulum strategies had to invest twice as many cards for their Scale, and as a result they had fewer cards remaining to actually Pendulum Summon. Ultimately Qliphorts ended up being too strong for their own good, and Pendulums faded into the distance when repeated hits on the Forbidden & Limited List knocked them out of the competition. Zefras lacked a one-card Scale and, unsurprisingly, couldn't compete.

 Performapal Skullcrobat Joker
Performapal Skullcrobat Joker115959
Set OTS Tournament Pack 1
Number OP01-EN007
Level 4
Type Pendulum/Effect Monster
Monster Spellcaster
Attribute DARK 
A / D 1800 / 100
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

Pendulum Effect: You cannot Pendulum Summon monsters, except "Performapal" monsters, "Magician" Pendulum Monsters, and "Odd-Eyes" monsters. This effect cannot be negated.
Monster Effect: When this card is Normal Summoned: You can add 1 "Performapal" monster, "Magician" Pendulum Monster, or "Odd-Eyes" monster from your Deck to your hand, except "Performapal Skullcrobat Joker".

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Performapals and Performages, as well as Pendulum Magicians, started to make showings in late 2015. Performapal Skullcrobat Joker, Wisdom-Eye Magician, and Pendulum Call weren't exactly one-card Scales, but they did increase the consistency of building wide Scales. Performapals stole the show from Odd-Eyes Magicians almost immediately, and Performage Plushfire remains one of the most busted cards in the game; it was the first Forbidden Pendulum monster. The concept of destroying your own Pendulum Spells for some form of advantage was born, and a perfect line-up of cards were released in Clash of Rebellions, Dimension of Chaos, and Breakers of Shadow to do exactly that.

Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer; Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer; Wavering Eyes; and Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer finally unleashed the true combo potential of Pendulums. Breakers of Shadow opened the floodgates even further by releasing a new one-card Pendulum Scale: Performapal Monkeyboard. It was a completely unnecessary addition to an already broken strategy, and it took the Performage Performapal deck to a power level we hadn't seen since the days of Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks. After several F&L Lists and a half dozen interactions the strategy finally died off, leaving the game with no competitive Pendulum themes yet again.

The final phase of the Pendulum era began last year with Metalfoes. It was a strong contender for months and competed directly with Kozmos, ABC's, Blue-Eyes, and Paleozoics. We saw Metalfoes go head-to-head with Paleozoics in multiple YCS finals without ever dominating the format. Metalfoes remained safe from hits, but Raging Tempest initiated another major power creep that left most decks struggling to catch up. Zoodiacs trashed Pendulums and Dimensional Barrier only further restricted the game to Xyz spam.

Maximum Crisis gave Zefras one last shot, and Pendulum Magicians are in a similar position with help from the June F&L List and Pendulum Evolution. Could Pendulums be a surprise hit at the North American World Championship Qualifier? It's possible, and I certainly wouldn't count them out.

Criticisms Of Pendulums
Personally I enjoy Konami's willingness to take risks. Pendulums changed the game in a big way, and Links are poised to go even further. A fresh take is always welcome, especially after years of playing. Let's face it: the game would feel awfully stagnant if the last nine years hadn't featured four new Summoning mechanics.

There were a few things that I really liked about Pendulums in general. I loved that Pendulums were making certain high Level monsters more viable: Mist Valley Apex Avian was fun to play in Ninjas, but it was so much better in Pendulum Magicians. But Summoning big monsters never really took off the way I thought it would. Using additional Summons for smaller monsters, particularly with Armageddon Knight, was a bit more common and just as cool.

There were also plenty of flaws in the Pendulum mechanic and its implementation. Pendulum Scales were too fragile, too difficult to make, and required you to run the most inconsistent combination of cards possible. Apparently it wasn't enough for us to have two Pendulums – we also needed to have matching individual Scale ends, and often the ability to find those monsters was locked behind a Pendulum Summon. It was grossly inconsistent without one-card Scales or obscene amounts of deck searching.

There's a reason why Xyz Summoning is widely considered to be the best Summoning method available: you don't need to run suboptimal cards to make it work. Synchros need Tuners, Fusions need specific material monsters and Fusion Summon effects, Rituals need Ritual Spells and Ritual Monsters, and Pendulums need Pendulum Monsters to play the role of Pendulum Spells. One way or another you're running cards you wouldn't play otherwise, and many of them are either inconsistent or, in some cases, objectively bad.

Wavering Eyes was a major misstep. It made Pendulum versus Pendulum matches a nightmare as both players fought to resolve their copy before their opponent. The actual player interaction and elements of a normal match-up paled in comparison to the instant win button of Wavering Eyes. Recently Wavering Eyes returned to the OCG. Even if it's Limited I don't think this card is healthy for the game, and I'm looking forward to seeing it remain Forbidden for the foreseeable future.

 Solemn Strike
Solemn Strike122528
Set 2016 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP16-EN231
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

When a monster(s) would be Special Summoned, or a monster effect is activated: Pay 1500 LP; negate the Summon or activation, and if you do, destroy that card.

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Solemn Strike couldn't have arrived at a worse time. It coincided with the rampant Counter Trap abuse of Guiding Ariadne and served as one of the few ways to slow Performapals. Unfortunately when Performapals left Solemn Strike remained, and its presence greatly diminished the competitive prospects for later Pendulum themes. It erased all of the interesting debates about cards like Grand Horn of Heaven and Time-Space Trap Hole because suddenly, the only traps you needed were your four Solemns and later Dimensional Barrier.

Anti-Spell Fragrance was particularly unfair to Pendulums. It should have been Forbidden early in the Pendulum era to avoid ridiculous matches where a single floodgate can control the entire duel. As an aside, I always thought it was strange that Naturia Beast saw as little play as it did. It's also devastatingly powerful floodgate against Pendulums, but it only saw heavy use in early 2016.

Performage Performapals crushed Pendulum Magicians unfairly. The deck is only now finally making its return, but its time in the spotlight might not last much longer than when Pendulum Magicians first hit the scene. Cards like Plushfire and Monkeyboard were extremely poorly designed, and certainly shouldn't have appeared in the same theme along with Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer.

Finally, the removal of Pendulum Zones in the upcoming rule change seems like an admission from Konami that the mechanic wasn't as well thought out as it could have been. The days of ‘Pendulum five' are behind us soon, and unfortunately most Pendulum strategies relied on aggressive Pendulum Summons to be competitive.

Learning Lessons For Links
Link Monsters seem to have been inspired by Xyz more so than other Summoning methods. You don't need to play special monsters in your Main Deck to Link Summon, which immediately makes them more consistent than Pendulums, and I'm sure we'll see them take to the competitive scene much earlier as a result. However, there's a major difference with the introduction of Links. The new rules change the way Extra Deck monsters are Summoned, and if you want to continue using them you'll be forced to explore Links.

In general I think the Link mechanic does a lot of good for the game. It solves the absurd Pendulums Summons made possible by rapidly loading your Extra Deck, it mostly ends Synchro and Xyz spam, and Fusions are largely untouched as they should be. It's a major balance change that should lead to fewer blowout duels, but let's face it: it's only a matter of time until Links are capable of their own insane plays. OCG Stargrails in Code of the Duelist have some insane combos already.

I'm not sure how Pendulums recover from the Link format. They had a short and inconsistent three years of play, and I'd like to see more of the mechanic in the future. Hopefully Konami has some ideas for the next three years.

Until next time then


Kelly​​ ​​Locke​​ ​​is​​ ​​a​​ ​​West​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​gamer,​​ ​​writer,​​ ​​and​​ ​​college​​ ​​student.​​ ​​​​ ​​In​​ ​​addition​​ ​​to​​ ​​writing​​ ​​on TCGplayer,​​ ​​Kelly​​ ​​writes​​ ​​​​personal​​ ​​blog​​​​ ​​covering​​ ​​Yugioh,​​ ​​Destiny,​​ ​​and​​ ​​other​​ ​​hobbies.​​ ​​You​​ ​​can follow​​ ​​him​​ ​​on​​ ​​​​Twitter​​​​ ​​and​​ ​​check​​ ​​out​​ ​​his​​ ​​​​Youtube​​ ​​channel​​.​​ ​​​​ ​​He​​ ​​is​​ ​​currently​​ ​​studying​​ ​​marketing​​ ​​at Western​​ ​​Michigan​​ ​​University,​​ ​​and​​ ​​hopes​​ ​​to​​ ​​graduate​​ ​​before​​ ​​​​Dragon​​ ​​Ravine​​​​ ​​is​​ ​​Unlimited.

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