As I mentioned in my Judge-related tournament report here on TCGplayer, I want to earn my invite to the 2016 North American World Championship Qualifier and play in the tournament instead of judging. The easiest way to realize that goal is to earn my invite at a Regional Qualifier. As a judge, I'm often asked to judge at Regionals close to me, so playing in them only happens once in a while. I find myself playing in Philadelphia regionals most often because it's not close enough for me to easily get there when judges are expected to report in at 8am, but the three-hour drive's doable for me as a player.

For last weekend's Regional, I expected Kozmos and Performapal and Performage Pendulum decks to be the dominant strategies. I don't own and didn't pull any Kozmo Dark Destroyers or Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayers from my recent judge packs, and I'm not about to drop money just because everyone else is. Instead of breaking the bank, I crafted a deck that could beat both Kozmo and Pendulum strategies. My thoughts going into deck construction were…

- Both decks Special Summon a ton to win games.

- Both decks use Monster Effects to clear threats and make Special Summons.

- Both decks can end the game in a single Battle Phase, leaving no chance to make counter plays.

So I went into the lab intending to make a deck that could stop opponents from doing any or all three of those actions, and this is what I came out with:

DECKID= 103858The objective of this deck was to Tribute Summon Vanity's Fiend or Majesty's Fiend backed by the protection of March of the Monarchs to lock the opponent out of their key moves. With in-hand defense like Battle Fader, Ghostrick Jackfrost and Swordsman of Revealing Light, I could field a monster and guarantee myself a turn to counter, which I find preferable to the usual song-and-dance of "my opponent had game and I couldn't stop it from happening." While I'm aware that Performage Damage Juggler exists, that's only three cards. This build runs ten cards that offer better synergy for what this deck does.

Now, I'd planned on doing normal tournament report things here, but I won't waste your time because as I was playing in the tournament, I discovered a huge oversight that made my deck completely ineffective:

- March of the Monarchs is a sitting duck for Dragonpit Magician's Pendulum Effect, which means Dragonpulse Magician can follow-up and destroy the Majesty's Fiend or Vanity's Fiend with little effort. Both cards are searchable with Pendulum Call.

- Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer can use its effect to clear away a monster that I Summon on the opponent's turn, leaving me with no play on mine. Nevermind that Ignister's effect doesn't target the card it shuffles into the deck, conveniently skirting March of the Monarch's protection.

Summing it up, I made this deck to counter a metagame that had already disappeared before I realized it. I ended up 4-6 for the day, taking wins against Nekroz, Blackwings, Igknights and someone who didn't show up, while losing to Heroes; Magician / Odd-Eyes / Majespecters, which I've been told is called MOM; Chain Burn; Pendulum Magicians; Blackwings; and Gishki. I want to thank my opponents who allowed me permission to talk about the matches, but since things didn't go down very well, I opted not to do a full write-up. My apologies if you were expecting a specific mention. So instead of talking about my bad beats, I'll present to you two of the Top 8 decks from Philly, both of them Pendulum Magician builds.

DECKID=103859 I was testing my deck with Zimmerman just some days before, and he won every game we played. That should have told me there was a huge flaw in my strategy but I just couldn't see it at the time; I merely wrote it off as "wow Jay, I hope you're the only one running this build." (In hindsight, lol.) By the way, if you're the type of duelist who actually tests decks, you need to learn from that testing. In other words, don't do what I did; don't write off repeated losses by convincing yourself you won't see that deck on game day. You're doing yourself no favors. I didn't take a step back to see why I was losing against Pendulum Magicians in testing. I didn't do the proper reflections after the fact. If I did, I may have figured out that Tribute Stun was doomed to fail before I even left my apartment Saturday morning.

In case you haven't seen it yet, the objective for Pendulum Magicians is the same as the previous Performage Pendulum deck, except this strategy does it much faster. No traps in the Main Deck means more chances for a destructive Extra Deck set-up and a completed Pendulum Scale, which kicks off a stream of Special Summons that usually end with Ignister Prominence, the Dracoslayer, some Rank 4 Xyz Monsters and a wide variety of other threats swinging for game – all in one turn if possible. The deck has versatility and speed thanks in part to the newest cards from the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck, which many other players in Philadelphia took advantage of.

Certain tech choices allowed players different options, and Jake Valliere's top 8 build is almost identical with three differences.

DECKID= 103860 Valliere ran one less Performage Mirror Conductor opting instead for Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin, which bounces a monster on each side of the field back to the owner's hands as a Quick Effect. Kirin forces your opponent to prioritize it first, as overextending into a bounce effect is especially brutal. Kirin can bounce your own Pendulum monster back to your hand to simply Pendulum Summon it back next turn, but can also bounce a Performapal Skullcrobat Joker for another search, advancing the game and putting more pressure on your opponent.

In the Side Deck, Valliere used two copies of Pendulum Shift over Zimmerman's choice of Grand Horn of Heaven and Solemn Warning. While all of those cards can be sided into a mirror match, Grand Horn of Heaven and Solemn Warning are general Summon negation cards effective against a wide variety of decks while Pendulum Shift only works against Pendulums.

Granted, Pendulum Shift can change your own Scales in a pinch, but Valliere opted to side Pendulum Shift when playing against other Pendulum users for disruption. Zimmerman did mention after the event that if given the chance to make a change, he would have removed Grand Horn of Heaven and Solemn Warning in favor of two Shifts.

More Post-Event Reflections
The game right now is very, very fast, moreso than it was previously. I saw lots of duelists try to counter that speed in interesting ways; Chain Burn, alternate Pendulum strategies… one player even ran a Sky Scourge Norleras Turbo deck and did fairly well with it! He used multiple copies of Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss with the Malebranches, plus Fluffal Wings as the Light Fairy requirement, but could also do the more conventional Phantom of Chaos combo. A Turn 1 Norleras play leaves your opponent with zero cards, crippling most strategies from the word go. If I wasn't playing in the tournament I could've kept better tabs on the cool decks floating around the room, but alas.

The next Regional I play in won't be until after the new year, very likely after Breakers of Shadow drops. We know what big power cards are in the set already, but what else will be there? What mad creation will come out of the lab? I can't wait to find out!

If you have a question about tournament policy, card interactions or game mechanics, send me an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino


Joe is a Yu-Gi-Oh! judge and player from Long Island, New York. He sometimes gets deck ideas from picking up $5 secret rares. No one stops him from doing it though.