Last week we took a look at the new Pendulum mechanic and its potential impact on the game. This week we'll be checking out a deck that benefits directly from Pendulum support: Apex Ninjas. I stumbled across this strategy back in early 2012 thanks to an article by Jason Grabher-Meyer, and shortly afterwards I built the deck myself to play at local events. I never had much success with it, but it was a ton of fun to play. It's one of those strategies that end up in a page of my "not for trade" binder, and I'll put it together from time to time for casual play.

Or at least I used to, anyways. After Divine Wind of Mist Valley was Limited I decided to drop the deck entirely and traded away half the pieces. I no longer saw any potential in it, and figured it was about time I moved on to other things.

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And now? I'm back to playing Apex Ninjas. One of the comments I received on last week's article alerted me to a new take on the strategy that's finally viable with the upcoming release of Duelist Alliance: Pendulum Apex Ninjas. After discussing the deck with Pasquale Crociata and Bobby Kenny, I've come up with a build that I'm eager to show off. Let's take a look at how this strategy works, and what Pendulums – especially Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon – bring to the table.

Ninjas Hidden In The Mist Valley
Mist Valley Apex Avian is a fantastic card with an incredibly powerful effect, but unfortunately it's part of a theme that doesn't have any way to Summon it. Avian's almost completely unplayable in a 'pure' Mist Valley build, and instead shows up in hybrids with Ninja monsters. Ninjitsu Art of Transformation upgrades a Level 4 or higher Ninja into the Level 7 Winged-Beast, and Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo conveniently grabs Transformation from your deck. You can think of Hanzo as a one-card Avian Summon, putting a huge negation effect in play without taking any minuses of card economy.

Once Avian hits the field its can negate effect activations by returning Mist Valley cards on the field to the hand. Unlike Herald of Perfection or U.A. Perfect Ace from DUEA, Avian's effect doesn't require a discard. Instead, it only asks you to target a face-up Mist Valley card at activation. Each time it resolves you'll nab a +1 from destroying your opponent's card with an effect that's essentially costless. That's a stupidly good deal, but all that power comes with a few restrictions. If the targeted Mist Valley card leaves the field, Avian won't negate the card it's chained to. Additionally, Avian can only activate once per chain, which means it's a sitting duck after it activates for the first time.

A robust 2700 ATK makes Apex Avian tough to take down in battle, but its real power comes from its negation effect. Until it was Limited, Divine Wind of Mist Valley was an excellent target that would actually combo with Avian when Mist Valley Thunderbird or Falcon was on the field–pulling extra Wind monsters out of the deck whenever a card was negated. Once Divine Wind and a Falcon hit the field, it was usually game over for your opponent. That strategy isn't viable with just one Field Spell, but with Pendulums we can use Avian in an entirely different way.

DECKID=100909The Pendulum Scale created by Timegazer Magician and either Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon or Stargazer Magician includes Level 7 monsters...namely Mist Valley Apex Avian. Since Avian can target itself for its own effect, you can return it to your hand each time you negate a card, then bring it right back to the field the next time you perform a Pendulum Summon. The extra Summoning power is a big deal; Avian no longer needs another Mist Valley card to function effectively. In fact, you could get away with running just Avian. I've elected to play Falcon as well, but it's not nearly as important as it was in the past.

Avian's New Roost - Atop The Scale
The 'standard' Pendulum line-up of three Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragons alongside two copies each of Stargazer Magician and Timegazer Magician is currently the only way of Pendulum Summoning Apex Avian. Timegazer has the highest Scale of any Pendulum Monster in the TCG, but it needs either Odd-Eyes or Stargazer to use it. You don't have a whole lot of options here: if you want to Pendulum Summon Avian, these are the cards you'll have to use. Thankfully Odd-Eyes adds enough consistency to this engine to make it worthwhile.

These cards don't have much synergy with the rest of the deck, largely due to their poor typing and unnecessary effects. Timegazer and Stargazer are terrible monsters, and their Pendulum effects do nothing to protect the deck's boss monster. Odd-Eyes is a bit more helpful, and ideally you'll want to search at least one of your Pendulums with its effect. Once it resolves and loads itself into the Extra Deck, you can freely Summon it each turn. It isn't terribly exciting as a monster, but it does put a bit more pressure on your opponent. It's essentially the aggressive counterpart to Avian in this strategy, and you can use the two for Rank 7 Xyz Monsters in a pinch.

The same Scales that allow you to Pendulum Summon Odd-Eyes will also let you drop Avian from your hand, so ideally you'll want to shoot for any set-up that includes Timegazer Magician. I experimented with playing just one copy of Stargazer Magician to reduce the odds of having two non-Odd-Eyes Pendulums at any point in the duel. I ended up including two Stargazers in this build, but I still feel that it's worth deviating from this line-up in other strategies. It's always better to search a Magician with Odd-Eyes instead of drawing into it; you'll have a Pendulum ready to go as soon as your Scale is set up. Remember that the act of creating a Scale is a -2 in most cases, and it's only when you Pendulum Summon from the Extra Deck that you're recouping your loss.

Birds, Chains, And Secret Ninja Techniques
The Pendulums Monsters in this deck are a huge help, but they can't run this strategy by themselves. You still need Ninjas to grab Mist Valley Apex Avian out of the deck. Now that Reinforcement of the Army is Semi-Limited you can get away with running just Hanzo as your only Transformation target. Upstart Golden Ninja was consistently underwhelming in my testing, and I quickly dropped it after realizing that it added no real benefit to this strategy. You'll very rarely make Xyz Summons with this deck, and that's fine. Your best cards – Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon and Apex Avian – are in your Main Deck. I'd rather focus on Summoning them than playing Extra Deck cards.

Mist Valley Falcon's both an aggressive monster and a target for Apex Avian's effect. I was tempted to drop it entirely in favor of Fire and Ice Hand, or even Traptrix monsters, but I was convinced otherwise by Bobby Kenny. We agreed that playing three copies alongside Fiendish Chain would offer the best early game defense against more aggressive strategies. Fiendish is a lifesaver, keeping your Pendulums safe from Artifact Moralltach, stopping attacks, and generally being a thorn in your opponent's side. As Falcon recycles face-up Chains and continues to Block Attacks and negate effects, you can draw into the cards you need to put Apex Avian on the field.

Ideally you'll want to open the duel with Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo, one of your Pendulum Magicians, and Odd-Eyes. If all goes well, Odd-Eyes should search another Magician to complete your Scale, and Hanzo will grab Transformation to Summon Apex Avain from your deck during your opponent's turn. Of course, there's a lot that can go wrong. If your opponent chains Typhoon' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Mystical Space Typhoon">Mystical Space Typhoon to Transformation you'll lose your Ninja and your trap. Typhoon can also break your Pendulum Scale, or destroy Odd-Eyes before it can activate during the End Phase. Once Apex is Summoned the threat of Typhoon falls off noticeably; you can negate most forms of removal that target your Pendulum Monsters.

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Pot of Duality and Upstart Goblin help thin the deck and boost the odds of drawing into important cards like Reinforcement of the Army, Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon, and Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo. Hanzo and Falcon can't win the duel on their own, so getting Apex Avian onto the field as early as possible is hugely important. If you can put two Avians on the board you'll usually win shortly after, but it takes a decent starting hand to make that happen early enough to make a difference. Still, you can totally Pendulum Summon a pair of Avians on Turn 1 and shut your opponent out of the duel.

This deck can win games in a few different ways. Locking your opponent under Apex Avian's negation effect is one obvious route, but it's just as easy to swarm the field with Odd-Eyes and dish out a huge amount of damage in a single turn. You don't even have to play it as a lockdown or an OTK: slowly grinding for +1's with Avian's effect over the course of a duel will eventually run your opponent out of cards. A war of attrition strategy is viable thanks to Pendulums–something that wasn't possible in older builds. Pendulums have reshaped Apex Ninjas into a stronger, more effective strategy with better plays and more consistency. It's just one example of how Pendulums are offering new ways to play the game.

Until next time then

-Kelly