The Long-Shot: Pendulums At The WCQ

Kelly Locke

7/7/2017 11:00:00 AM

Pendulum Magicians are back in the competitive spotlight thanks to new support in Maximum Crisis, Pendulum Evolution, and a couple of favorable changes on the June 12th Forbidden & Limited List. There's even more support on the way in Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge, and it's releasing just in time for the North American World Championship Qualifier. That raises an interesting question: do Pendulum Magicians, or other Pendulum themes, have a shot at topping or winning the event?

A large part of the community, myself included, is predicting that a Zoodiac variant will win the WCQ. It's a reasonably safe Gamble since Zoodiacs have claimed nearly all of the Top 16 slots in earlier WCQ events in Europe and Central America. That said, there's plenty of opportunity for Pendulum Magician players to capitalize on. Duelists are loading up their Side Decks with counters to Zoodiacs and True Dracos while leaving little room for dedicated cards for Pendulum match-ups. There are fewer Main Deck answers to Pendulums this format, and even Solemn Strike and Dimensional Barrier aren't quite as common as they once were.

Furthermore, Pendulums can take advantage of a hand trap-centric format by simply avoiding them altogether, or by playing cards that let them activate effects because of their opponent's hand traps. A destruction-heavy format also plays nicely into the Pendulum mechanic's theme of recurring monsters. There are Main Deck ways to block Cosmic Cyclone, Twin Twisters, Zoodiac Drident, and Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King. It's a deck that's designed to win Game 1 and for good reason: most of the anti-Pendulum cards you'll see these days are in the Side Deck, and they're incredibly destructive to the Pendulum strategy.

Navigating The Format With Magicians
Marvin Schmidt and Tobias Altin made the Top 64 at the Europe WCQ last month with Zoodiac Pendulum Magicians. The Zoodiac part is important for reasons I'll get to shortly, but even just a Top 64 finish should make players in North America sit up and pay attention. Keep in mind that these players had just a day to test with these cards in person, while their opponents have had multiple events, including National Championships, to hammer out their builds. Zoodiacs are far more tested than Pendulum Magicians will ever be, and it shows at major events like a WCQ.

The new Pendulum Magician monsters are seriously cool. Double Iris Magician is a new searcher for the theme, grabbing the two Pendulumgraph cards – Star Pendulumgraph and Time Pendulumgraph – from the deck. Star Pendulumgraph searches another Magician Pendulum when one already on your field or in a Pendulum Zone leaves the field. That activates during either player's turn, so it combos nicely with the disruption of Time Pendulumgraph. Nearly all of the new Pendulum Magicians can destroy themselves to activate an effect so triggering Star Pendulumgraph is easy.

Other Pendulum Magicians offer two effects for lots of extra utility. Black Fang Magician can halve the ATK of opposing monsters and Special Summon Dark Spellcasters from the graveyard. Purple Poison Magician gives your monsters an ATK boost and destroys face-up cards when it's destroyed. These effects clash with Pendulum Call and the destruction immunity it grants to your Pendulums, but their synergies with the Pendulumgraphs and Astrograph Sorcerer more than make up for it.

 Timestar Magician
Timestar Magician134956
Set Pendulum Evolution
Number PEVO-EN009
Level 4
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Spellcaster
Attribute DARK 
A / D 2400 / 1200
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

2 Level 4 "Magician" Pendulum Monsters
Must first be Xyz Summoned with the above Xyz Materials. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; add to your hand, 1 DARK Spellcaster-Type monster from your Deck, Graveyard, or face-up from your Extra Deck. Once per turn, if a Pendulum Monster Card(s) in your Monster Zone or Pendulum Zone would be destroyed by battle or card effect, you can send 1 Spellcaster-Type monster from your Deck to the Graveyard instead.

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This deck adds layers of defense over the Pendulum Scale. Pendulum Call deflects all destruction effects, Timestar Magician protects Pendulums both on the field and in the Pendulum Zone, and the extra effects of the new Pendulum Magicians discourages the use of Twin Twisters, Unending Nightmare, and other forms of removal by destruction. Cosmic Cyclone can sneak in and banish a Pendulum Spell so long as Sky Iris isn't on the field. So far Sky Iris hasn't been a popular pick though. Either way, banishing a Magician Pendulum will trigger Star Pendulumgraph.

Recovering cards is fine, but eventually Pendulum players need to go on the offensive. Playing second against an established True Draco, Dinosaur, Invoked Windwitch, or Zoodiac field is difficult for most decks in the game. Pendulums have a unique challenge where at least two cards from their six-card opening hand must be dedicated to establishing a Pendulum Scales. When Pendulum Call isn't available you'll need some way to push through interrupting destruction, and that's why Marvin Schmidt played three copies of Astrograph Sorcerer in his Main Deck.

Astrograph Sorcerer capitalizes on Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, Zoodiac Drident, and other destruction effects by netting an extra Summon from the hand and a deck search. Schmidt could immediately field a sizeable monster while also replacing some monster that was destroyed that turn. That wasted his opponent's removal and gave him field presence, but it also may have served an even larger roll: baiting out Solemn Strike.

Baiting Out Backrow & Hand Traps
Solemn Strike and Solemn Warning are two of the deadliest traps for Pendulum strategies. Either trap can burn an entire turn by laying waste to a Pendulum Summon, and Pendulum themes usually can't spend all day waiting to clear out backrow before committing to a Summon. Schmidt and Altin ran light on spell and trap removal in their Main Deck, and focused instead on being able to play through hand traps. That's a common Game 1 strategy at the moment for nearly every deck in competitive play. Spell and trap removal largely lives in the Extra Deck.

Still, Game 1 traps can show up at the worst time, and baiting them out is necessary. A Zoodiac engine of just seven or fewer Main Deck cards pressures opponent's into expending resources well before a Pendulum Spell is activated. I'd go so far as to say the Zoodiac engine is mandatory for this strategy. It offers too many advantages to pass up, including easy access to Tornado Dragon. Not only is Tornado Dragon a crucial combo piece for this deck, it's also a great way to knock out a backrow card.

Zoodiac Drident and Tornado Dragon can answer floodgates like Imperial Order and Anti-Spell Fragrance. The addition of the Zoodiac engine lets the deck force its way through more robust set-ups, but it still has its limitations. Namely, it has a tough time dealing with chainable traps.

There are a few major problem cards that stand between Pendulum Magicians and another WCQ top, and how players choose to tackle them will be what decides their success, or lack thereof.

One Remaining Vulnerability
Pendulums still lose to many of the same cards that have plagued them in past formats, but they're slightly more robust these days. Dimensional Barrier is easily the strongest counter when blocking Pendulum Summons and Pendulum monster effects. It's chainable, doesn't trigger any of the new monsters or support cards, and essentially leaves your opponent defenseless heading into their next turn. Pendulum Magician builds are shockingly short on defense outside of Time Pendulumgraph, so without some way to build up a field there's not much they can do to defend themselves on the following turn.

Zoodiacs save the day yet again. Even if your Pendulums are shut off you can still Xyz Summon, which means you'll have at least some defense thanks to Zoodiac Drident. Ideally you'll use the one Zoodiac card in your hand to bait out a Dimensional Barrier, then play the rest of your Pendulum-heavy hand to freely push back against your opponent's now-empty backrow. From there it's just a matter of getting as much value from your Synchros, or even Fusions, as possible.

Dimensional Barrier's Main Deck play will likely end up catching Pendulum duelists at the worst possible moment. However, if it's largely just a Side Deck card at the WCQ there's a much greater chance that Pendulums can succeed. Some Pendulum Side Decks are loaded with hand traps to help stall out the duel despite losing a turn to Dimensional Barrier. Altin went a different route and sided his own Barriers to slow the game for his opponent. He also sided PSY-Framegear Epsilon, the trap-negating PSY-Framegear, to counter Barrier.

 Dimensional Barrier
Dimensional Barrier124795
Set Invasion: Vengeance
Number INOV-EN078
Type Normal Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Declare 1 monster card type (Ritual, Fusion, Synchro, Xyz, or Pendulum); for the rest of this turn, neither player can Special Summon monsters of the declared type, also negate the effects of all monsters of that type while they are on the field. You can only activate 1 "Dimensional Barrier" per turn.

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Invoked Windwitch decks are playing their own Dimensional Barrier: Artifact Scythe. It'll be interesting to see how those match-ups turn out in North America. On paper Pendulums should be able to win through the sheer volume of Summons they can make, but Scythe can shut the game down in an instant. Having access to six Dimensional Barriers is crazy, and Pendulum players won't be able to rely on Zoodiacs to play around Artifact Scythe.

It's super tough to predict how this essentially brand-new deck will perform at the highest level of competition outside of the World Championship. There are a handful of new Performapal and Odd-Eyes monsters in Battles of Legend: Light's Revenge that could be difference makers for builds that prioritize Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon. Vortex remains one of my favorite cards – both for its art and its unique interaction with the Extra Deck – but it's easily outed by Kaijus and much weaker today than it was a year and a half ago.

The builds that have topped so far are just two examples of a highly flexible strategy. There are so many ways to build this deck right now, and many of them look totally different than Schmidt or Atlin's builds. You can play more Performapals, prioritize Fusion Summons, or even try to Summon Supreme King Z-ARC. We have three years of Pendulum monsters and support to draw from. Don't make the Mistake of being siloed into one or two ‘conventional' builds this early in the deck's life.

The North American WCQ kicks off this weekend, July 7th. I think I speak for a sizeable number of players when I say I'm looking forward to seeing something other than Zoodiacs crack the Top 4.

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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