Performage Pendulums are jockeying for dominance over the new format, competing with the likes of Kozmos and Majespecter variants for the title of deck-to-beat. Keying off the level of variation we saw amongst the top decks in the previous format, all three strategies are seeing a ton of variation right now, on both tech-driven levels involving powerful single cards and experimental trap line-ups, and true variant builds that do different things in drastically different ways.

Majespecters are being played in both Pure and Performage variants. Kozmos are trending toward a single mainstream build on one hand, but we're seeing variants built around Deck Devastation Virus and Offerings to the Doomed taking tournament tops on the other, and they play like completely different beasts.

Then there's Performage Pendulums, ostensibly the TCG's answer to the Asian OCG's "EmEm" Performage Performapal deck. While many players didn't expect the strategy to take off here until we saw key cards in the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck, it's exploded in popularity with lots of logged Regional Top 8's, and offers what many consider a more sophisticated alternative to Kozmos and Majespecters.

The deck's still finding its footing: some versions closely represent the OCG progenitor, running the core line-up of Performages, Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer and Wavering Eyes, with Performapal cards like Performapal Partnaga and Performapal Lizardraw. That kind of build looks to capitalize on King of the Feral Imps by having as many as four different search options (the other two being Masked Chameleon and Jigabyte). Others key off the OCG's past Clownblade strategy, and its TCG equivalent as popularized briefly last format by Jake Mattern.

On the front end the strategy revolves around big opening combos with Performage Plushfire and Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer, bolstered by Wavering Eyes; those cards let you destroy and replace Plushfires from the Pendulum Zone, triggering their monster effects to Special Summon fodder for Rank 4's. The deck sets up early with Xyz like Abyss Dweller and King of the Feral Imps, and with help from Performage Plushfire and Performage Mirror Conductor as non-Tuner Synchro Materials coupled with Luster Pendulum or Masked Chameleon, Synchro Summons for stuff like PSY-Framelord Omega and what's arguably the deck's most deadly card, Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer.

What's intriguing is that whatever Inspiration your build draws from, you have an important decision to make, ironically built around the new Secret Rare Painful Decision. You can activate it to send the new Vector Pendulum, the Dracoverlord to your graveyard while searching one to your hand. It's a 1-for-1 that thins your deck by two cards, sets you up to Pendulum Summon or Normal Summon the non-Tuner from your hand to make Ignister Prominence, and kicks another copy of Vector Pendulum to your graveyard for recursive shenanigans. It can also make opening with PSY-Framelord Omega far easier. Here's one example of that sort of build, played to a Top 8 finish by an unknown duelist at the Winnipeg Regional last weekend.

DECKID= 103745We actually have two examples of this technique scoring Regional Top 8's in the new format: the other deck was piloted to a Top Cut by Alex Smith at the Bristol Regional, and it's worth opening in another window while we discuss the Winnipeg build. Pop that open and keep it in the background, because there's some cool stuff going on there and I think the best build of this concept rests somewhere between the two deck lists – both had some great ideas.

There's a lot going on here with Vector Pendulum, the Dracoverlord and Painful Decision, but the most important concept both decks share is the use of Vector Pendulum as a target for Masked Chameleon. If you Painful Decision for Vector Pendulum you 1-for-1 into a valuable Level 4 for Xyz Summons, a solid beatstick at 1850 ATK, or a Scale 3 Pendulum Spell. The Scale 3 stat can be pretty important: with Performage Plushfire and Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer both sitting at Scale 5, and Archfiend Eccentrick sitting above them at Scale 7, the low end of your Scale is anchored at Scale 3 by Performapal Partnaga and Performage Mirror Conductor – both of which are sort of niche, and largely played just because they're easily searched Scale 3's. Running triple Vector Pendulum got the Winnipeg duelist up to six Scale 3's to match his six Scale 5's. The common alternatives are Magical Abductor and Samurai Cavalry of Reptier; both have their virtues, but neither have the explosive synergy of Vector Pendulum.

Because again, the big point is Masked Chameleon. Yard Vector Pendulum and suddenly you're locked and loaded with a 0 DEF monster to revive with Chameleon's effect. In non-Vector variants your only Main Deck target for recursion is Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer, which can require more legwork to get into the graveyard. More than that, Luster Pendulum's a Tuner itself, so playing Chameleon into that can make a Rank 4, but leveraging the play into a Synchro Summon would need another non-Tuner. With Vector Pendulum you can go straight into a Level 8 Synchro, and since Vector Pendulum's a Pendulum Monster you can Masked Chameleon straight into Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer.

In other builds the only readily accessible way to unleash Ignister Prominence is to Summon Luster Pendulum and Tune it to another Level 4 Pendulum. That's not particularly difficult, but since you'll often win or lose on the number of Xyz and Synchro Summons you can make in a given turn – and since your Normal Summon is often under-played in this strategy – having a second way to windmill down the strategy's deadliest monster has a value that speaks for itself.

Alex Smith used Painful Decision to make his lone copy of Masked Chameleon more reliable, and layered in triple Upstart Goblin for acceleration alongside two Jigabyte and triple Performage Mirror Conductor. He teched a pair of Samurai Cavalry of Reptier as well, which I think is a great call in a deck that can easily pair it with Abyss Dweller to shut down Kozmo Dark Destroyer and Kozmo Forerunner. If it's not clear, pretty much everyone here at TCGplayer is really sold on Samurai Cavalry for its general utility as a high-ATK Level 4 Scale 3 with a valuable effect, and its potential to make combos that address some of the biggest threats from some of the biggest decks in the format.

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But the Winnipeg Duelist used his Vector Pendulums a Little Differently, actually running two Masked Chameleons to make sure he'd get the most out of his Painful Decision set-up. He maxed out on Jigabyte as well, and still ran one Performapal Partnaga; the end result is a deck that makes a lot of its biggest moves with greater ease, picking and choosing its searches with King of the Feral Imps more freely and dealing better when something stops the King's effect.

Greater access to Masked Chameleon meant more chances to maximize the value of Normal Summons, and the unknown Winnipegian carried that goal forward by also running one copy of Breaker the Magical Warrior. It's a really great niche call right now, clearing away stuff like Anti-Spell Fragrance or set cards like Time-Space Trap Hole and Grand Horn of Heaven so you can make a big Pendulum Summon. It's great for just randomly breaking your opponent's Pendulum Scale too, and however you decide to use Breaker's Spell Counter, it rolls right into a Rank 4 Xyz Summon when you're finished.

The deck list's far from perfect: again, I really like Smith's use of Samurai Cavalry of Reptier, and I think there are much better options than what I now see as Regular Old Mirror Force in the trap lineup. Time-Space Trap Hole, Storming Mirror Force, and Grand Horn of Heaven all seem like better choices. But I really like the Vector Pendulum suite with double Masked Chameleon, and while the Breaker tech might be going a step too far, it definitely has promise and a ton of flash. The real cost to the Painful Decision suite is the fact that your second Decision can often be useless, but games just aren't going long enough for that to matter right now and the odds of drawing both your copies in one game are astronomically low; literally a 1.9% chance in your opening hand of six cards going second. That's small enough to ignore the risk, even in a big tournament.

What do you think? Is Painful Decision the way to go? I think it's a great way to get an edge in what's sure to become a big mirror match, while also hitting a consistent power play that wins games in virtually all match-ups. But there's no consensus about this yet, so it makes for an interesting point of discussion. Drop your thoughts below if you've got an opinion.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer