Can I admit that I'm an iconoclast? Don't get me wrong; it's never as glorious or as righteous sounding as the word lends itself to being. If anything, I just find myself feeling subversive about many of the things people hold to be true. How does that apply to my Yu-Gi-Oh! life? Well, in a word: Performapals.

I've sort of been a Performapal fan since day one.

Part of me thinks that it has a lot to do with everybody's wildly entertaining reaction to the release of the theme. Most duelists were simply uninterested but some were outright offended as if Konami had assaulted their sensibilities. It's one thing to believe that a theme is bad but it's another thing entirely to be rocked in your moral foundation by playing cards. I may be writing some pretty big hyperbole there but – hey – that's what they were feeling, too.

But it's worth noting that when Performapals first hit the scene they were pretty awful. It seemed as if Konami released a bunch of cards that were expressly designed to make you lose. But business eventually picked up, and after a long period of underwhelming Performapal cards, we started getting a bunch of really good ones. At first, I figured it was just Konami doing what Konami does best: releasing a total garbage theme and then throwing it one or two platinum-coated bones and calling it a day.

But the bones just kept on coming. As I'm writing this, the best part is that they haven't even finished. The best is still on its way in the Master of Pendulum Structure Deck and Breakers of Shadow, but that doesn't mean that the deck isn't good enough to write about now – because it is. It's really good.

What first drew me to Performapals is the fact that the theme looked a lot like Wind-Ups, a group of monsters that are near and dear to my heart. What's kept me with Performapals this long is the fact that they play like Wind-Ups, too. The deck's a synergistic monstrosity that's nearly unstoppable once the ball really gets rolling. While the deck isn't as reliant on combos as Wind-Ups were, they both have that shared ideology that terrible things will happen for your opponent when two or more of them share the field.

Let me show you the deck list now before we get into the meat of the conversation, so you've got the full Performapicture…

DECKID=103889The big idea at work here is stat boosting. Early on, all of the monsters in the Performapal theme focused on altering ATK and DEF – be it your opponent's or your own – and they all did it in very inconsequential ways that didn't accomplish much.

Imagine Breaker the Magical Warrior without the whole, "removing Tokens to destroy cards" part. It's cool, but not very effective. Konami went ahead and fixed that for us. All it took to whip the deck into shape was four new cards: two Pendulums and two Effect Monsters.

Heavyweight On The Scale
It's imperative to discuss the Pendulum monsters first, so you can fully understand the value of their Effect Monsters. You're running three sets of Pendulum monsters total, and the only one that made the cut from the older releases was Performapal Lizardraw.

Lizardraw's one of the old Performapals that were totally awful due to lack of supporet, but excellent taken in the context of the new build. It has two solid effects. First, its monster effect draws you cards equal to the number of Performapal monsters you have on the field when another face-up monster you control is destroyed by your opponent's card effect or by your opponent's attack. It sounds incredible on the surface but, to quote our beloved Jason and my single most favorite line in Yugi-Journalism, "your opponent has to look at the field, nod in comprehension, and decide to make the wrong play just for you to have a chance at drawing something."

If you control just one Lizardraw that will absolutely happen every single time. The key, however, is to control two copies. That puts your opponent in an unfortunate situation that forces them to produce a field-wipe of some sort to fix the problem. While you may be having flashbacks to the Watt Lock or another of the game's hokey field shutdowns, that situation's not nearly as glass cannon-erific here. Since Lizardraw's a Pendulum monster, it's just a Pendulum Summon away the second you've successfully assembled a Scale.

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Furthermore, if your opponent manages to get both off of the field simultaneously or without destruction, you can Pendulum Summon both copies back the following turn and replicate the situation with ease. The added bonus is that getting them to the Extra Deck is effortless. Lizardraw's Pendulum effect is an excellent draw effect as well. If you control another Performapal Pendulum Monster, you can destroy Lizardraw to get a card from your deck. Because it's so easy to reuse Lizardraw later on, it's hard to be saddened by the loss to your Scale; you can rebuild it with ease.

Your last two Pendulum monsters make up your ideal Scale. Performapal Drummerilla and Performapal Silver Claw are both Clash of Rebellion standouts that do much to mold the shape of the current Performapal strategy. Part of what makes them so great is the fact that their Pendulum effects are largely the same as their monster abilities. Performapal Drummerilla boosts any monster you control by 600 ATK once per turn, which is usually more than enough to put your monsters into threatening territory. Drummerilla's monster effect is identical with the addition that if there are no monsters on the field, you can Normal Summon it without tribute. That's handy considering it's Level 5. Its Pendulum Scale is also 2, which is just right.

Performapal Silver Claw is the perfect counterfoil to Drummerilla. It's Level 4 with 1800 ATK and whenever it declares an attack all Performapal monsters you control gain 300 ATK until the end of the Battle Phase. That effect also includes Silver Claw, so it'll boost itself up to a relatively formidable 2100 ATK. Its Pendulum effect is the exact same except it doesn't require attack declaration to activate and it doesn't wear off at the end of the Battle Phase, placing a number of your monsters into beater territory without much effort. Performapal Friendonkey drops in at 1900 ATK and Performapal Salutiger hits at 2000 ATK. That added muscle can really go a long way.

Big, Bad, Beastly Beats
Getting to all of those Pendulum monsters is easy thanks to the aforementioned Performapal Salutiger. In fact, the first moment I realized something could be made of Performapals was the moment I read of this card's existence.

Salutiger has a lot of things going for it. When it destroys an opponent's monster by battle and sends it to the graveyard, you can search out any Performapal Pendulum monster from your deck. Its 1700 ATK does well to help with that, and when you add any of the boosts we just discussed, it's almost guaranteed to search you something. It's also a Level 4 Beast-Warrior, which means you can search it with Fire Formation - Tenki. Adding two copies is essentially like having five Salutigers to draw into. You get to it quickly and often play it with a base 1800 ATK.

Your big hitter in the Main Deck is probably my most controversial choice. Performapal Elephammer would utterly suck without the rest of this deck – in fact, it does utterly suck without proper support. But here? Well, it's butter. Searchable thanks to the brand new Performapal Secondonkey, Elephammer's quite the big swinger. It's Level 6 with 2600 ATK and it automatically hits a nigh unconquerable 2900 ATK with Silver Claw. When it declares an attack, Elephammer turns into a one-sided Giant Trunade against your opponent. It sounds pretty busted, right? It's tamed by some of the conditions placed on it. First off, you can't attack with it unless you control another Performapal monster. Also, being a Level 6 monster can is kind of prohibitive.

But if you control two Performapal cards, you can Normal Summon Elephammer without Tribute. Since you'll spend much of the game with an active Pendulum Scale, you can Normal Summon it without Tribute most of the time. You can easily Pendulum Summon everything else you'd have to play that turn.

My absolute favorite part of this deck, though? Horn of the Phantom Beast!

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Seventeen of the twenty-three monsters are either Beast or Beast-Warriors, so you'll almost never have to worry about Horn being a dead draw. In fact, it can often serve as an incredible bluff and eventual surprise to your opponent when you finally activate it, and its brutal when you pair it with Performapal Salutiger. When you resolve the effects of both successfully in battle, the card exchange becomes a +3 in your favor: your opponent loses a monster, you search a Pendulum monster with Salutiger, and you draw with Horn. It's enough to swing the game.

Horn of the Phantom Beast has always been a great card, but the number of decks that can put it to good use has always been slim, and therefore it tends to fly under the radar. As far as I'm concerned, this is a good deck that puts it to great use and it will only get better as time goes on.

Alright, Buck! Where's The Bang!?
This one sits around $100. But if you just need the core, you're going to pay next to nothing – it's Performapals. Go ahead and pick the deck up. It's really cool and plays differently than much of what you'll see around you right now.

I can't stress how great it is to beat your opponent with Performapals. They may just give up the game after you do, and if you're lucky they'll give you all their cards. You need this deck.

-Zach Buckley

Zach is husband to his beloved wife, Emma. He's also a composer who's studying composition and production formally in an attempt to be both happy and poor. You can follow his progress on these goals by checking out his sporadically updated blog at www.wordpress.com/zwbuckleymusic