On one hand, Pendulum decks are kind of everywhere. But on the other, they're balanced out by lots of strategies putting in repeated Top 8's at Regionals, from the big guns like Kozmos to more fringe picks like Infernoids, Heroes, Tellarknights, and Yang Zings.
And on the other other hand, the current landscape of Pendulum variants feature a ton of different cards and themes: Magicians, Performapals, Performages, Majespecters, and Odd-Eyes cards offer lots of room for customization, so very few Pendulum decks look alike. There's no cookie cutter yet.
And then on the OTHER other other hand, there are Pendulum decks like the ones we'll look at today: crazy builds that challenge competitive norms and common knowledge in big ways, questioning ideas that few duelists even consider.DECKID=103874Yeah, I can't even. Taking third place at the Fargo Regional Qualifier in North Dakota a week and a half ago, this deck was piloted by Col Gronhovd, who referred to it as Pendulum Toolbox or Draco-Igknight-Performages, which he shortened down to "DIP." To say that we've never seen anything like this before would be an understatement. Gronhovd ran a Performage Pendulum core with a full lineup of Performages plus Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer and Masked Chameleon, as well as the Vector Pendulum, the Dracoverlord and Painful Decision engine to back the Chameleon up. We've seen that many times: the same cards were the basis for numerous winning builds before the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck arrived.
But then Gronhovd ran triple Magical Abductor with an Effect Veiler, another support engine that was played before the new Structure. He played triple Instant Fusion for Elder Entity Norden too, and he added both Doomstar Magician and Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite, two tech picks we've seen in the past, but never seen together. Then he added the biggest twist of the bunch, running six Level 4 Igknights with Reinforcement of the Army and Rose, Warrior of Revenge.
Why? It's all about search power, and creating even bigger payoffs for Pendulum Summons in new ways. The typical Performage Pendulum deck could make searches with Performage Plushfire, Performage Damage Juggler, Painful Decision, Luster Pendulum, King of the Feral Imps and Wavering Eyes. Gronhovd added more Pendulum searching with Magical Abductor's Pendulum Effect; could search Effect Veiler with Abductor's monster ability; and grabbed Igknights or Rose with Igknight effects, or Reinforcement of the Army. All of those searches combined with Upstart Goblin and Painful Decision for deck thinning, plus some random draw from Doomstar, to let Gronhovd blaze through his cards to get what he wanted.
The resulting strategy was wildly consistent in the way it assembled combos, and offered more monsters for Xyz and Synchro Summons. Gronhovd could quickly blast through a couple of Igknights to suddenly add two more Level 4's to all of his Pendulum Summons, or field more Synchro fodder for his Luster Pendulums and Masked Chameleon.
With easier access to more non-Tuner material, Rose, Warrior of Revenge was even more useful than you might assume; while you have to search Masked Chameleon with King of the Feral Imps, and Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer can be difficult to Tune with in certain situations, Gronhovd could draw into Rose, search it with ROTA, or destroy a Pendulum Scale of Igknights to get at it that way.
That made Synchro Summoning tremendously consistent, and while Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer goes back to the Extra Deck when it's used as Synchro Material, Rose acted as a second Tuner to combo with Elder Entity Norden for mid-game followups. While most Pendulum decks only ran PSY-Framelord Omega and Ignister Prominence, the Blasting Dracoslayer in the past, Gronhovd could support Stardust Dragon and Crimson Blader as well.
We've seen decks like these before – unique builds from creative competitors that manage to solve inherent challenges of the format, which usually disappear after one showing and never resurface. This deck's a hidden gem, and if you want to surprise your opponents in the run-up to Breakers of Shadow I think it's an awesome deck choice. It's wildly consistent, and lengthens the reach of the traditional Pendulum decks in clear ways. Awesome.DECKID=103868If you don't know Faisal Khan, he's 17 years old and he's been playing competitively since he was 14. Last year he topped ARG Chicago. He went on to top the Illinois Regional with Burning Abyss in January of this year, then topped YCS Columbus in May, before topping another Regional with Kozmos in September and winning a 3v3 tournament at YCS San Jose. This is actually the second time I'm writing on him in 2015 alone, after covering his success with Burning Abyss half a year ago in another Competitive Corner piece.
Last weekend Khan got his third Regional Top 8 for the year, when he took 6th in Madison Wisconsin with Brilliant Performage Pendulums – a deck he hadn't played until the day of the tournament. "I made this deck in twenty minutes," he remarked post-event. "I'm actually really surprised I did well, 'cuz I had no idea how to play this deck… I picked it up after the third round and started steamrolling." Despite not knowing the strategy as well as some of his competition, Khan wound up finding his footing with it mid-tournament and then proceeded to clean house in four Pendulum mirror matches on his way to an 8-1 record.
And if the story was just "Faisal Khan plays average Magician deck and wins despite lack of practice" that wouldn't be worth writing about. Looking at the deck list, you see the expected Magician, Performage, and Performapal monsters, as well as Gem-Knight Garnet and Brilliant Fusion. From there it's got a lot of the expected complements: Masked Chameleon, Wavering Eyes, and Instant Fusion are all accounted for. But what's missing is a card that everyone else is treating as a staple: Pendulum Call
Why didn't he run it? Good question. Khan gave his explanation post event: "I'm not playing Pendulum Call, and the main reason is… I feel like the best thing you can do with the Magician engine is thin your deck with [Wisdom-Eye Magician], and Pendulum Call limits that."
Though Call's undoubtedly useful, its last line of text restricts your Magician Pendulum Effects for the portion of the turn before you activate Call, and once you resolve it, you can't destroy Wisdom-Eye to resolve its effect. So you're making a 2-for-2 hoping to grift a +1 out of it, knowing that if you're already set up with Wisdom-Eye you're going to lose out on its soft plus and search ability for the turn. Suddenly your consistency-boosting spell card is actually costing you opportunities.
Khan expressed that he'd rather just get Performapal Skullcrobat Joker and search Wisdom-Eye that way: "It's such a stronger combo. You don't wanna draw too many Magicians; that's actually really bad. They're only good to tutor, to be honest." That might be a hotly debated statement moving forward, but the results can't really be argued with, at least in this one case. It's definite food for thought moving forward, as Pendulum players continue to try and figure out their best options. Right now there's no standard build, and weeks in, the Magician Pendulum deck still feels wildly variable.
What do you think? Does Pendulum Call need some rethinking? I'm curious to hear your opinions down in the Comments.