I've touched on this before, but Pendulum is the most nebulous and least defined strategy the game of Yu-Gi-Oh! has to offer. Referring to "a Pendulum deck" is about as descriptive as me saying "I play a Ritual Deck," but even that's a bad comparison. Why? Because there are 87 Ritual Monsters but 249 Pendulum Monsters!
As the game's evolved, so has the concept of what a Pendulum deck actually is. With Heavymetalfoes Electrumite in the game, it's safe to say that it's probably the lynchpin of all Pendulum strategies and we've seen recursive themes pop up around it ever since it was released. Electrumite's pretty much a constant. But everything else? That's where things start to get muddy.
Abyss Actor - Curtain Raiser's a good way to field Electrumite, and Supreme King Dragon Darkwurm snags a free Scale for the Pendulum player. When someone says they play a Pendulum deck you can safely guess at some cards they're probably playing, but you always need more information to make an accurate assessment.
At YCS Milan last week, Alex Moffatt piloted his Endymion Pendulum FTK to a Top 32 finish leveraging a two-pronged strategy. Thanks to Tempest Magician, burning the opponent to death was a main priority when he was going first. But the Extra Deck had enough threats to deal lethal damage in battle as well, allowing more conventional wins when the FTK couldn't go off. The backup plan is just as strong as the initial plan, making the deck really hard to deal with. Check it out!
DECKID=110312 Even though the Endymion Structure Deck Order of the Spellcastersdidn't really make a pure version of Endymion Pendulums possible, it clearly left its mark by unleashing a lot of powerful cards. Mythical Beasts didn't create their own standalone deck either, but the closer you look the more you'll see that a mashup might be the new standard, pulling parts from many different themes to create something new.
Putting The 'F' In FTK
It really grinds my gears when I hear someone describe an OTK deck as an FTK, probably because I have nothing better to get upset about because my life is perfect.
The 'F' in "FTK" stands for "first", meaning the deck's geared towards winning on the very first turn of the duel. Why interact with your opponent when you can do enough burn damage to win the duel right from the get-go? The most recent popular FTK involved Firewall Dragon, Cannon Soldier, and Grapha, Dragon Lord of the Dark World, but Moffatt's FTK revolves around just one card - Tempest Magician.
This isn't the first time we've seen Tempest Magician at the center of FTK strategies. Any time there's been an exploitable option for the friendly Spellcaster, she's managed to creep into deck lists just when you thought all was safe. Can you put sixteen Spell Counters somewhere on the field? It's not as hard as you think.
For starters, Tempest Magician gives you a free Spell Counter to start, and any extra cards in your hand turn into extra Counters. But the real magic happens when you factor in Mythical Beast Jackal King via Servant of Endymion.
It's a bit tongue in cheek to say all roads lead to Heavymetalfoes Electrumite, but since it's basically a free search for Servant of Endymion, that's not an inaccurate statement. Servant of Endymion gets Mythical Beast Jackal King from your deck and into play, and gets itself onto the field from the Pendulum Zone as well for the low cost of three spell cards. Considering how many spells Moffatt was playing – including each of his Pendulum Monsters - that piece of the puzzle is solved.
Backing up to look at the bigger picture, it's clear Moffatt crammed his deck with a bunch of ways to get to the all-powerful Electrumite consistently and quickly. Abyss Actor - Curtain Raiser, Chronograph Sorcerer, Supreme King Dragon Darkwurm, Servant of Endymion, Mythical Beast Master Cerberus… with so many ways to field Pendulum monsters, Steps 1, 2, and 3 of the combo are easily achievable. You summon Electrumite, fetch Servant of Endymion, and place Mythical Beast Jackal King on the field.
Next up you'll need Destrudo, the Lost Dragon's Frisson. Thanks to Supreme King Dragon Darkwurm and Guardragon Elpy, Destrudo fits into the deck without much friction. Keep in mind that yes, technically you can skip a lot of those steps if you open really well with Foolish Burial, Dragon Shrine, Dragon Ravine or Destrudo, but the wonders of the combo stem from easy access to Pendulums and Electrumite.
Since your goal is to field Tempest Magician, you might be able to turn Destrudo and a spare monster into Tempest right away, but Shooting Riser Dragon helps bridge the gap. Destrudo and any Level 6 or lower monster makes a Level 7, but Tempest Magician is Level 6. Say you have a Level 4 and Level 3 on the field? Turn your Level 4 and Destrudo into Shooting Riser Dragon and then turn Shooting Riser Dragon into a Level 3 for an instant Tempest Magician.
Ultimately, the goal is to get to sixteen Spell Counters to win with Tempest Magician. As we talked about before, Tempest Magician earns one Spell Counter immediately just by hitting the field, and let's say you have at least one card in hand to pitch with Magician's effect to get a second counter. Servant of Endymion, when Summoned by its effect, fields two more, leaving just twelve more needed for the FTK!
Mythical Beast Jackal King gets two every time a Spell's activated when its masquerading as a monster, but there are other ways to stack Spell Counters on the field. Magister of Endymion and Reflection of Endymion get counters when you use them as scales, and Spell Power Mastery puts three counters on Mythical Beast Jackal King by itself. And that's if you have absolutely nothing else on the field!
No Hand Traps, No Problem
Hand traps aren't always necessary, and Moffatt skipped any typical counters – along with any counters to those counters - to keep his deck well stocked with FTK cards. When you're trying to take your opponent out on Turn 1, you just don't need them. Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, and Called by the Grave don't act as combo pieces anyway.
Heck, virtually every piece of the deck that's not Electrumite fodder or Tempest Magician fuel is a draw spell. In a deck that doesn't need a Normal Summon to start any of the combos, Spellbook Magician of Prophecy fits in nicely to get extra Spell Counters on the field. Considering one Spellbook of Magician of Prophecy can turn into two activated Spells, that could mean more than half a dozen Spell Counters on the field for your Tempest Magician!
But the draw power doesn't stop there - Upstart Goblin, Pot of Desires, Allure of Darkness, Into The Void - those "blank" spells that thin your deck all allow Moffatt to run a larger deck since they're essentially break even cards. Allure of Darkness will either thin the deck and add Spell Counters to the field or draw out a negation from your opponent, which can come in handy.
And even if the FTK doesn't pan out, Moffat was still running enough powerful cards to OTK an opponent or set up a board that's difficult to thwart. Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon, Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres, Abyss Dweller, and F.A. Dawn Dragster are often enough to take the game on their own even if Tempest Magician crashes and burns.
Just remember: beat your opponents before they beat you.
Loukas Peterson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, hoping one day to run in 5th Congressional District on the platform of "Fabled Link Monsters for Everyone." You can find him on Twitter or building a bonfire in his backyard to attract the local wildlife for an audience with his ukulele. Hailed as the only person capable of cooking Minute Rice in 56 seconds, Loukas is always looking at expanding his backyard to house every dog in the world without a home. Well, and those with homes already.