Siding For: Pendulum Magicians

Kelly Locke

10/16/2017 11:00:00 AM

Pendulum Magicians have been a major player in TCG competition since the September Forbidden & Limited List, and they're not showing any signs of slowing down. YCS Guadalajara finished last week with Pendulum Magicians filling up much of the Top 16 , and despite the geographical distance there's still plenty of successful Pendulum Magicians topping stateside.

The question is: will that trend continue past Circuit Break, or are Pendulums on their way out when SPYRALS take over?

The post-CIBR format might be a bleak one. SPYRALS dominate competition in the OCG to such an extent that they represent the vast majority of reported tournament tops. There is exactly one deck to beat in that environment, and outside of the occasional top cut finish from Infernoids almost nothing can compete with it. SPYRALS draw comparisons to the outrageous Performage Performapals of 2016, Nekroz of 2015, and Dragon Rulers and Spellbooks from 2013. They're that good, but this is the OCG we're talking about. How will SPYRALs fair here?

It's worth noting that Pendulum Magicians are more successful here than they were in Asia. Performapal Skullcrobat Joker and Pendulum Call are Limited there, and Joker's Limit alone is a strong counter argument that discourages straight comparisons between the TCG and OCG. True Dracos and ABC's are also far less viable in the OCG with Master Peace, the True Dracoslaying King and Dragonic Diagram Forbidden, ABC-Dragon Buster Limited, and Union Hanger Semi-Limited. Invoked builds are also out of the question while Aleister the Invoker remains Limited.

There's no doubt that SPYRALS will be an amazingly strong deck this format, but I wouldn't bet on the same level of dominance as in the OCG. Again, I bring this up for two reasons: first, it's still well worth our time to side for True Dracos, ABC's, Pendulums, and a number of other rogue strategies, and two, we should still adjust our Side Decks to reflect the surge of new SPYRAL duelists. That means finding ways to make Side Decks more efficient, ideally adding utility against both Pendulums and SPYRALS simultaneously whenever possible.

Which Anti-Pendulum Cards Remain Relevant?
Pendulums have been a part of the game for over three years now and as you'd expect there are plenty of tech cards specifically dedicated to disrupting mechanic. I've always thought of Pendulums as the most fragile mechanic in the game: it requires you to commit two cards to the field that potentially offer no value outside of building a Pendulum Scale. Pendulum Summoning's a massive risk with so much Summon negation in the game, and losing your Summon to a Solemn Strike is a massive blow to your game plan.

Post-Links it's crucial that most Pendulums Summons come from the hand. You're only given one Zone to Pendulum Summon to initially, so you'll have to carefully managed that Zone or use Link Monsters to open up more space. There's a problem there: Link Summoning usually requires Pendulum Summoning first, so the ‘ideal' order of Link Summoning then Pendulum Summoning is typically done backwards. That interaction is part of the reason why much of the community – clearly prematurely, in hindsight – considered Pendulum strategies defunct after Links were announced.

Pendulum Magicians excel because they succeed under Link Rules and because they can outplay common counters like Solemn Strike; nearly all of the deck's Pendulum Monsters have a self-replacing effect that makes Summon negation a liability. As a result we've seen players forgo Solemns in favor of other traps, including Pendulum Hole. Gabriel Romo sided a copy for the mirror match in his 1st Place build from Guadalajara Mexico and used its effect to kick Pendulums back to the deck without destroying them. Pendulum Hole let him avoid the on-destruction effect of his opponent's Pendulum Magicians and prevent Star Pendulumgraph from triggering.

 Droll & Lock Bird
Droll & Lock Bird38616
Set Starstrike Blast
Number STBL-EN082
Level 1
Type Effect Monster
Monster Spellcaster
Attribute WIND 
Rarity Rare
Card Text

If your opponent adds a card(s) from their Deck to their hand, except during the Draw Phase, you can send this card from your hand to the Graveyard. For the rest of this turn, neither player can add card(s) from their Deck to their hand. (Drawing cards is also considered as "adding a card to the hand".)

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But Pendulum Hole's about as low in utility as it gets this format. It's only relevant in one match-up, and if Pendulum Magicians decline in play there's even less incentive to side it over a hand trap. Dimensional Barrier's a more popular non-destruction answer to Pendulums with much more utility, and I imagine if Romo could have sided a fourth copy of it he would have skipped Pendulum Hole entirely. It's an awesome card that's particularly strong against Pendulums, and it's only being kept out of Main Decks due to True Dracos.

Anti-Spell Fragrance is, of course, among the first must-have Side Deck picks against early Pendulum strategies. It continues to be relevant today and presents a nearly insurmountable barrier to victory for Pendulum Magician players. It's hard to win when your opponent can't play more than half their monsters in the way they were intended.

There are Main Deck solutions too, of course, like a swiftly-chained Cosmic Cyclone or Twin Twisters. Your opponent might use Time Pendulumgraph on a later turn or run into a monster with Purple Poison Magician and use its on-destruction effect to target Anti-Spell Fragrance.

Adjusting For SPYRALS
With the upcoming SPYRAL match-up, are Dimensional Barrier and Anti-Spell Fragrance still worthy Side Deck choices? As usual it depends on whether you're going first or second, but neither card is strictly bad when you're going first against SPYRALS. Dimensional Barrier stops Xyz Summons that let the SPYRAL player continue their combos and weakens their final field. It might not stop Link Summons or negate Link Monsters, but it doesn't have to. Anti-Spell Fragrance slows the deck's spells to a crawl, although it's particularly vulnerable to SPYRAL Super Agent.

I'm a huge fan of Droll & Lock Bird against Pendulums right now. I think it's incredibly underplayed and overlooked in favor of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, but in the context of Side Deck cards it's hard to imagine a better hand trap next format. Ash Blossom just isn't enough to stop good opening hands from Pendulum Magicians or SPYRALS; there are too many search effects per turn to expect a single negation to accomplish much. You can't really go wrong with Ash Blossom, but it's effectiveness pales in comparison to Droll & Lock Bird.

Other hand traps like Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit and Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries are only effective against SPYRALS, and it's really only Ghost Reaper that's worth playing. As far as monster hand traps go I think the choice here is fairly straightforward. Maxx “C” is a must and feel free to Main Deck Ash Blossom, but Droll & Lock Bird and Ghost Reaper are the two highest impact hand traps you can side this format. I think the most common Side Deck trade we'll see in the coming weeks is siding out Ash Blossoms for either Droll & Lock Bird or Ghost Reaper when going second, or Solemns, Dimensional Barrier, and Anti-Spell Fragrance when playing first.

Another huge factor to consider is the upcoming Evenly Matched trap in Circuit Break. Its effect can banish nearly all of your opponent's cards on the field if you meet the conditions to activate it from your hand. Like Gorz, the Emissary of Darkness from years ago, Evenly Matched is poised to change how we think about digging in for damage against a couple of set cards or a completely open field. It's nearly impossible for Pendulums to play due to how many cards they need to commit to the field, and it's a great way to even out their card advantage or swing the game far in your favor.

Another approach to siding for Pendulum Magicians is to simply throw match-up utility out the window and focus entirely on maximizing efficiency for this match-up in particular. Dedicating as little as one fifth of your Side Deck to a difficult and popular match-up is almost always worth the effort. Dimensional Barrier, Anti-Spell Fragrance, and even things like Pendulum Hole are totally fine so long as you have space to side against your other match-ups. After all, not every deck needs to heavily side for every other strategy.

 Dimensional Barrier
Dimensional Barrier141659
Set 2017 Mega-Tins Mega Pack
Number MP17-EN163
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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Time Pendulumgraph trips up a number of strategies that have a tough time playing through its disruptive destruction effect. Your opponent can use Time Pendulumgraph to take out up to two cards you control while they control Timestar Magician or are under the effect of Pendulum Call. In general you're going to lose two cards whenever Time Pendulumgraph's Scrap Dragon-like effect doesn't destroy two cards. The best way to deal with it is to destroy or banish it with spell and trap removal, and Cosmic Cyclone and Twin Twisters are both totally fine options.

What about Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit? Unfortunately Ghost Ogre can't destroy Time Pendulumgraph when it's initially activated, and without that utility it's hard to recommend it over Cosmic Cyclone. Typhoon can be a competitive option, although most of the time I've found that if you're going to play destruction effects you need something to destroy Star Pendulumgraph at the same time or immediately prior. Twin Twisters does that, and so does Unending Nightmare. For a few thousand Life Points you can wipe out your opponent's face-up backrow and keep both Pendulumgraph cards off the field. Between Twin Twisters, Unending Nightmare, and Cosmic Cyclone you have some excellent options for blasting away your opponent's Time Pendulumgraph and Pendulum Scale.

Circuit Break is going to make some serious changes to the competitive scene, but I don't expect Pendulums and True Dracos to vanish overnight. Next week we'll check out which True Draco Side Deck picks stay relevant after Circuit Break, and how Master Peace is prepared to throw a wrench into the SPYRAL strategy.

Until next time then


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​ ​​​gamer and writer. In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​on TCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​ personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​ ​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yugioh,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​ ​​​​​​ Twitter​​​ ​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​ Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​ . He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.

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