While I always enjoyed seeing the key differences and a definite line of development in Nekroz over the months, and while I always felt that was important and interesting, it's nothing compared to the level of choice and personalization we're seeing in Pendulums and Kozmos. For a couple months now, Kozmo decks were easily divided into conventional builds and those optimized for Offerings to the Doomed. Each could be run with varying levels of emphasis on trap cards, ranging from twelve or more to literally none. Now, Artifact variants may offer a third alternative as we brace for Breakers of Shadow. What the range of options will look like once BOSH introduces new cards like Kozmojo and Kozmo Tincan, I can't even guess.
Over on the Pendulum side of things, everything's been impossible to qualify since the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck arrived. What's the formal difference between Performage Pendulums, Magician Pendulums, and Odd-Eyes Pendulums? If you can invent rules to separate the three, get ready to stick "Brilliant" on the front of each whenever the Gem-Knight Seraphinite engine appears. Some use Vector Pendulum, the Dracoverlord, and some of those use Painful Decision, while others don't. Is it Odd-Eyes Pendulums if it just runs three Odd-Eyes, but no Odd-Eyes Fusion? How about Sky Iris? Then we see stuff like Brandon Miotke's build with Pendulum Rising and Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite, just one of many veteran competitors putting their own spin on the Pendulum concept.
Frankly when I go to enter this stuff into the archive I call it "Pendulum Magicians" if it's got Magicians in it and then fudge add-ons like "Odd-Eyes" or "Brilliant" from there. It's a bad system, but it's an indicator of a surprisingly healthy deck building scene. And if you don't agree that it's a vibrant time for deck building, then maybe consider drawing the fact that Madolches, Fluffals, and Different Dimension Demons are all topping too? I don't know what to tell you.
So this week when I had to decide which decks to highlight in Competitive Corner, I ran aground on what's fast becoming a weekly problem: I didn't know which cool Pendulum variant to spotlight. And then I remembered, "Hey, didn't I just write on two Pendulum decks at once a couple weeks ago?" So I did that, because why the heck not.
Without further ado, here's the Maybe Sort Of An Odd-Eyes Pendulum Magician deck David Yao played to close out 2015, taking a Top 8 finish at the Tulsa Oklahoma Regional.DECKID= 103913This deck's not an earthshattering rebuild that's going to make you forget everything you know about Pendulum Magicians, but it's chock full of cool tech choices. While I'd generally shy away from calling a Pendulum deck an "Odd-Eyes" build without Odd-Eyes Fusion and Sky Iris, we just established a few paragraphs up that I don't think the semantics really matter as long as they make the deck sound interesting enough for you, the reader, to look at it, so I'd rather not dwell on that for very long.
Instead, check out how Yao played triple Odd-Eyes without the accompanying support cards. The lack of that support begs one question: why? Yao actually gave the answer himself post-event, stating that he valued the damage the card can deliver. Searchable as needed via Performapal Skullcrobat Joker and wielding a powerful search effect, Odd-Eyes usually hits your Extra Deck for free and becomes a 2500 ATK body from there; one that's easier to Pendulum Summon nowadays with the Scale 8 Dragonpit Magician and Skullcrobat Joker, both of which were easily searched and played here in trips. The level of focus in Yao's deck list probably didn't escape you – it's a deeper dedication to three-ofs in the monster lineup than we've ever seen from a modern Top 8 Pendulum deck.
Once Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon's swinging, it deals double damage whenever it attacks over a monster. In a conventional build that might make no real difference – you'd be more interested in blowing out your opponent in a single turn than chipping away with small increments of damage. But Yao's playing a different sort of game here. He's running a deep trap lineup that focuses on slowing down the duel and stopping expected combos between steps.
Breakthrough Skill can negate Performapal Skullcrobat Joker, stranding it on the field and bringing your opponent to a screeching halt. Dark Trap Hole' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Deep Dark Trap Hole">Deep Dark Trap Hole seems nice against Kozmos, but also turns a wealth of Pendulum OTK's and controlling set-ups with Majespecter Unicorn - Kirin into nonbos; you then pick apart the pieces on your following turn.
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Note that the higher ability to win on incremental damage in a longer game makes it easier to compensate for the Life Points you'd give your opponent with Upstart Goblin, and running more Level 7's meant easier access to Odd-Eyes Absolute Dragon and the chance to play Sacred Sword of Seven Stars. There's a lot of very measured consistency here, which contributes to the deck's controlling play style.
And man, what kind of GUTS does it take to run double Solemn Scolding in a deck with nine trap cards, plus triple Wavering Eyes? I can't even begin to imagine.
David Yao's Pendulum deck is a very different beast that's more than it might appear at first glance. It unpacks into something really special when you break it down, and it seems to have a distinct edge against a wealth of other Pendulum variants. How this type of approach will be affected by Breakers of Shadow I can't really predict, but I love how it proposes both a ton of little tech decisions and a top-down perspective we've never really seen before. Awesome stuff.
Next up, let's get crazy. Bryan Gutierrez topped the same Regional Qualifier in Tulsa Oklahoma with one of the coolest Pendulum decks ever, and one that could be strikingly ahead of its time.DECKID= 103902Behold! Brilliant Masked Performage X-Saber Star Seraph Pendulums guest starring Summoner Monk! #$%&! This format, I swear… (To be fair, Gutierrez himself named his deck "Take A Seat", which has gotta be one of the best deck names of 2015.)
While this deck's jam-packed with all sorts of engines and tech we've seen before, the standout's definitely the use of Star Seraph Scepter and Star Seraph Sovereignty. There's a lot you can do with them, but Gutierrez specifically called out the ability to make huge Turn 1 plays; if you lose the die roll and are forced to go first, you can actually wind up with an advantage instead of a handicap.
For those who need a refresher, a hand of Sovereignty and Scepter sees you Normal Summon Scepter, respond with Sovereign's effect, search another Sovereign and then Special Summon both, drawing two cards total and putting three Level 4's on the field for free. From there you have lots of options, but this deck's largely looking to make plays for Tellarknight Ptolemaeus to make Constellar Pleiades. Since the combo takes two cards and draws you two more, you get a full hand to continue your plays, and you're only down your Normal Summon. That gives you lots of room to make more plays, aiming for a set-up like Pleiades plus Naturia Beast and either Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight or Stardust Dragon.
There's no coming back from that kind of opening. Naturia Beast keeps you off Pendulum Scales and spell cards in general, while Constellar Pleiades bumps away whatever you try to shield your face and groin with. If you have some sort of slim-chance answer, Cairngorgon and Stardust spike it out of the air like a volleyball made out of your hopes and dreams. Clocking in at a minimum of 7150 ATK combined, those three monsters put you one Normal Summon away from game.
Summoner Monk's key here, delivering Star Seraph Scepter when you can't draw it naturally. The deck makes combos with Star Seraph Sovereignty much more consistently as a result. It can also grab Level 4 Tuners or non-Tuners to help you make Synchro plays and finish off your big early game set-ups, while compensating in games where you don't need Brilliant Fusion or you draw it – or Gem-Knight Garnet – at the wrong time. It effectively trades your worst spell card for huge combo power. That helps by evening out the somewhat high-risk high-reward Star Seraph suite, while adding more utility to a madman's blend of cards that won't always come together on their own.
Stellarknight Delteros can work as an alternate finish to your Star Seraph combo, using Scepter's effect to wipe away Kozmo pilots that suddenly can't chain their effects if the Kozmo player didn't see what was coming. From there, Delteros picks apart backrow. The Extra Deck's clutch, packed to the point of overflowing into the Side Deck: Gutierrez could rotate in Abyss Dweller, Steelswarm Roach, or Cairngorgon as needed.
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The deck's still clearly a work in progress: Gutierrez made comments that seemed to suggest he couldn't find a second Brilliant Fusion before the tournament, and that he was dissatisfied with Majester Paladin, the Ascending Dracoslayer. At a glance, it feels like Cairngorgon might've been better in that Extra Deck slot instead. But the deck's still a total trip, and its success in taking 3rd Place in Tulsa speaks for itself. Imagine winning a die roll, feeling good about life, and then never getting to play the bulk of your cards because your opponent made a ridiculous opening with freaking Star Seraphs.
We're likely to see a lot more Star Seraphs in a variety of decks moving forward, since they're one of the best ways to field Cyber Dragon Infinity once BOSH goes legal. Bryan Gutierrez achieved tremendous success without that card. By doing so, I think he lays down an important blueprint for what's to come.
Big congrats to both David Yao and Bryan Gutierrez this week, pushing Pendulums to new heights and taking them in two very different directions. Impressive stuff.