Do Link Rules Really Kill Pendulums?

Kelly Locke

8/1/2017 11:00:00 AM
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The Link era has radically changed how Pendulums function. Extra Deck Pendulum Summons must now follow the same rules as other types of Extra Deck Summons, and Pendulum Zones have been moved to the Spell and Trap Zones. The Pendulum Summon change fired up online discussion earlier this year because it seemingly signaled the end of the mechanic's competitive viability.

How could Pendulum strategies be expected to compete if their Extra Deck Summons were restricted?

The lead-up to Pendulum Evolution was bitter-sweet as a result. Pendulum Magicians got a massive boost from the release, but it seemed like the strategy was on its way out before it even truly arrived. At the time, I wasn't sure what would happen in the TCG when the rule change hit. Pendulums weren't being played much in the OCG, so it looked as though the rule change had struck a fatal blow.

But Pendulum Magicians are back in the OCG in new builds that play with, and around, the new Link mechanics. I think it's finally time to put the ‘Pendulums are dead' narrative to rest.

Pendulum Summoning From The Hand
Extra Deck Pendulum Summons are now restricted to the Extra Monster Zone or a Main Monster Zone pointed to by a Link Arrow. However, Pendulum Summons from the hand are unaffected. You can Summon Pendulums straight to Main Monsters Zones whenever they're not in your Extra Deck, so cards that have more value being played from the hand simply don't care about the Link rule changes.

Harmonizing Magician already cannot be Special Summoned from the Extra Deck. It's among the strongest cards in the latest batch of Pendulum Magicians, and other than being a Tuner it's mostly unconcerned with the Extra Monster Zone. To be fair most Pendulum Monsters don't have that condition. The Link rules reduce their playability by limiting their Summon after they've gone to the Extra Deck.

There's another group of monsters that are even less concerned with the changes to Pendulum Monsters: non-Pendulums that can be Pendulum Summoned. These monsters were already headed to the graveyard rather than the Extra Deck, so Extra Deck Summoning limitations are totally irrelevant to them outside of performing Xyz, Fusion, Synchro, or Link Summons with them. Pendulum themes are known for primarily playing Pendulum Monsters, but there are plenty of non-Pendulum monsters worth playing.

 Mist Valley Apex Avian
$31.46
$20.00
$13.55
Mist Valley Apex Avian81081
Set Duel Terminal 2
Number DT02-EN079
Level 7
Type Effect Monster
Monster Winged Beast
Attribute WIND 
A / D 2700 / 2000
Rarity Rare
Card Text

When an effect is activated, you can select 1 face-up "Mist Valley" card you control. Return that "Mist Valley" card to its owner's hand, negate the effect's activation, and destroy the card whose effect was activated.


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Mist Valley Apex Avian has spiked in popularity in OCG Pendulum Magician strategies. It famously began seeing play at the start of the Pendulum Magician era when Pendulum Scales were finally large enough to accommodate the Level 7 monster. Its effect returns itself to the hand to negate a monster, spell, or trap activation, which leaves it locked and loaded for a Pendulum Summon on the following turn. Avian isn't as strong as it was a couple of years ago, but it's still capable of putting on the pressure and costing your opponent at least one card to bait out its effect.

Fairy Tail - Luna acts as a substitute for the now-Forbidden Majespecter Unicorn - Kirin. Luna can bounce itself and an opposing monster with a Quick Effect, but your opponent can send another monster with the same name from their deck or Extra Deck to the graveyard to negate it. The trick is to have multiple copies of Luna on the field at once. A single Luna can bounce any one-of or Limited monster, while two Luna can bounce a monster your opponent plays two of. Three Luna can kick anything back to the hand or Extra Deck.

Since Luna itself returns to the hand it's an excellent candidate for Pendulum strategies. You can Normal Summon your first copy, search a second, then Pendulum Summon the second to get both on the field. From there you simply need to Pendulum Summon your copies of Luna every turn while bouncing your opponent's Links back to the Extra Deck. Luna's strong against Zoodiacs, but much worse against True Dracos. It's perhaps best played as an engine you'd select to side out for certain match-ups.

Mist Valley Apex Avian and Fairy Tail - Luna have nothing to fear from Dimensional Barrier. Although Barrier's still a major obstacle for Pendulums it's somewhat easier to play against when your deck has a decent number of non-Pendulums to work with. You'll still lose games to Barrier, and certainly to Solemn Strike, but you should lose fewer games overall if your build is a a bit more diversified.

Pendulums Can Summon Links Too
Mass Special Summoning from the hand is a good way to put monsters on the field for Link Summons. Blackwing - Gofu the Vague Shadow's a one-card Decode Talker with a little help from Link Spider, but outside of a one-time Gofu play many decks struggle to put a Link 3 on the field. Pendulums make that easy: just Pendulum Summon three monsters. What's more, Pendulums will go to the Extra Deck when used for a Link Summon.

There's no doubt that the restrictions on Extra Deck Pendulums Summons is due to Pendulum Monsters acting as Link Materials. Pendulums have the advantage of Summoning monsters from the hand as well as recycling those monsters later. Unfortunately there's a delay between the Link Summon and another Pendulum Summon that uses linked zones. Let's say you Pendulum Summon three Effect Monsters from your hand. You can convert those monsters to Decode Talker, but since you've already Pendulum Summoned that turn the incentive to make a Link Monster is gone.

OCG Pendulum Magicians and Performapals play Akashic Magician from Circuit Break and Missus Radiant alongside Decode Talker. Missus Radiant is a bit cheaper than Decode Talker and still offers two spaces to Pendulum Summon to. Sending two Earth monsters is a bit easier to manage than sending three effect monsters.

Pendulum Summons can enable easier Link Summons with non-Pendulum monsters too. There's an incentive to play a Pendulum Scale in decks that can abuse Agent of Creation - Venus. Venus is easily Pendulum Summoned even after being searched by Agent of Mystery - Earth. There are some crazy World Chalice combos out there that use Venus to load the field with Link Monsters, and the value of a one-card Pendulum Scale in that strategy can't be ignored. That's one of the reasons I've been against calls to return Performapal Monkeyboard to the game.

There are other ways to use Pendulum monsters in your Extra Deck other than simply Pendulum Summoning them. Oafdragon Magician, D/D Savant Thomas, Rescue Hamster, Pot of Riches, and Qlimate Change return Pendulum monsters from the Extra Deck to the hand or the deck. Something like Pot of Riches might be a bit too exclusionary, but Oafdragon Magician and other themed recovery cards seem like must-plays in this era.

 Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon
$2.00
$0.50
$0.24
Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon134977
Set Pendulum Evolution
Number PEVO-EN030
Level 7
Type Fusion/Effect Monster
Monster Dragon
Attribute WIND 
A / D 2500 / 3000
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

1 "Odd-Eyes" monster + 1 Pendulum Monster
When this card is Special Summoned: You can target 1 face-up Attack Position monster your opponent controls; return it to the hand. During either player's turn, when a Spell/Trap Card or another monster's effect is activated: You can shuffle 1 face-up Pendulum Monster from your Extra Deck into the Deck, negate the activation, and if you do, destroy that card. You can only use each effect of "Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon" once per turn.


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You can also put your Extra Deck to work by paying costs from it. Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon sends face-up Pendulums in your Extra Deck back to the Main Deck to negate your opponent's cards. Zefra Divine Strike also converts useless Extra Deck cards into negations. If you're not Pendulum Summoning your monsters because your Extra Monster slot is full you might as well find some use for them. A loaded Extra Deck is a resource pool one way or another.

Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon is another key card for OCG Pendulum Magicians and Performapal builds. It's much easier to Summon since Performpal Odd-Eyes Dissolver was released in June. Its Pendulum effect is like a once per turn Fusion Gate for a Dragon Fusion Monster, and its monster effect also allows you to Fusion Summon with Dissolver and another monster. Since Dissolver is an Odd-Eyes itself you can use any other Pendulum Monster to Fusion Summon Vortex, bounce a card, and start turning your Extra Deck cards into negations.

There are plenty of directions to explore with Pendulums. You could combine Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon with other disruption effects like Mist Valley Apex Avian and Fairy Tail - Luna. You might focus on Summoning PSY-Framelord Omega turn after turn using Harmonizing Magician and the recycling power of Oafdragon Magician. A Pendulum Scale could open the door for decks that rely a bit too heavily on their Normal Summon–allowing them to swarm the field a bit easier and make even bigger Link monsters and combos.

Don't get me wrong: Links definitely hurt Pendulums. What I want to do, and what I've been trying to do for months now, is to unearth the remaining potential in the Pendulum mechanic. It's a much more ‘fair' mechanic now, but ‘fair' usually doesn't win tournaments. It's going to take some seriously innovative deck building, and some new support, before we see Pendulums at return to a pre-Link level. Keep in mind that Zoodiacs and True Dacos had suppressed Pendulums for months before Links arrived. Their absence now, or their lack of tops in the coming months, isn't evidence of them being dead and buried due to a mechanic. I think the first new Pendulum theme will do a great job of showing players that Pendulums are still totally viable.

Until next time then

-Kelly

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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