Pendulum Monsters are latest addition to the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG and they've very much the new kids on the block. As with Synchros in the 5D's era and Xyz in the Zexal era, Pendulums are the flagship cards of the new ARC-V series and will become a prominent part of the game in no time at all.

Surprisingly, I've found that some players are unaware of how Pendulums work, why they might consider playing them, and what their weaknesses are. I've been obsessed with these cards since they were introduced in the OCG, and I'm incredibly excited to begin discussing them in the context of the TCG. I'll be talking about them a lot more over the coming weeks as Duelist Alliance adds seven new Pendulums to the game, including the first World Premiere Pendulum: Dragon Horn Hunter.

Let's get started!

So Uh… What Do These Things Do Anyways?
Dual-use monsters are nothing new: Artifacts can be set as spells, hand traps like Maxx "C" and Effect Veiler are primarily played as traps, and some trap cards can even become monsters. Pendulum Monsters are the natural evolution of those cards: they take the dual-use concept to its limit. Each Pendulum Monster is a spell and a monster; the card's literally split in half and can be treated as one or both card types depending on the situation. When you Summoned them to the field as a monster they can make attacks, be used as a Synchro or Xyz Material, or do anything else that monsters would normally do. The one mechanical difference between these cards and their non-Pendulum counterparts is what happens when they'd be sent from the field to the graveyard: Pendulums go to the Extra Deck face-up when they're destroyed, used for a Synchro Summon, or Tributed. It's a seemingly minor change that makes a gigantic difference when you start exploring how to best abuse these cards.

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As Spells Pendulums can carry any number of effects that activate or remain active while in the Pendulum Zones. The currently-released Timegazer Magician and Stargazer Magician from Super Starter: Space-Time Showdown offer Pendulum Monsters protection from spell and trap effects while battling, and the upcoming Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon can destroy itself during the End Phase to search another Pendulum Monster. Some cards – like Foucault's Cannon – have effects with even more generic applications, while others like Qliphoth Tool are designed to support a specific theme.

Of course, the most striking aspect of Pendulum Monsters is the Pendulum Scale. The new Pendulum Summon mechanic allows you to Special Summon monsters from your hand or face-up in your Extra Deck to the field as long as their Level fits the Scale created by two Pendulum Monsters. Specifically, that's all of the Levels between the two end points of the Pendulums currently in play. If you have a Pendulum with a Scale of 1 and another with a Scale of 4, you can Pendulum Summon monsters that are Level 2 or 3. This type of Summon can only be conducted once per turn, but as long as you can keep your Scale in play you'll be able to do it again and again.

Tipping The Scale
The big selling point of Pendulum Monsters is the Pendulum Summon itself. The ability to Summon multiple monsters at no cost – including ones that would normally require Tributes – is a powerful addition to numerous strategies that have difficulty playing high-Level monsters otherwise. For example, Scraps can use Pendulums to Summon Scrap Golem more consistently and flood the field with Synchro Materials. There are tons of cards that can benefit from being Special Summoned from the hand; a few of them were even in Space-Time Showdown, like Sacred Crane. Other monsters like Aether, the Empowering Dragon, gain effects when Pendulum Summoned specifically.

The ability to Summon monsters from your hand is barely scratching the surface of what Pendulums can really do. Actually, it's worse than that. Using Pendulums to Summon high-Level monsters or swarm the field is a waste of time. The cost to set up a Scale is far too steep to justify the added Summoning power. It's just isn't worth it, especially if you're not getting any additional card advantage out of your play. Instead, the best way to play Pendulums is by exploiting the 'free' monsters they can produce. It's a bit more difficult to set up, but the payoff's enormous.

Take a look at Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon for a moment. It's a new Duelist Alliance card that destroys itself during the End Phase and searches out another Pendulum With 1500 ATK or less. Both Timegazer and Stargazer Magician fit that description, and while both are in play you can Summon monsters with a Level between 2 and 7. That lets you Summon both Magicians if you have them in your hand, as well as Odd-Eyes. And if you happen to have a Pendulum in your Extra Deck…as you would if you used Odd-Eyes ability… you can Summon that monster as a +1. It's not much, but it helps mitigate the -2 you're taking to set up your Scale.

Once you've established your Scale and put a Pendulum on the field as a monster, the real fun can begin. Each time your monster's destroyed it'll be returned to the Extra Deck. The next time you make a Pendulum Summon you can bring it back, and if it's destroyed again you can repeat the process on the following turn. As long as that Pendulum Monster isn't banished, spun back into your deck, taken by your opponent, or sent to the graveyard before hitting the field, you'll be able to repeatedly play it every turn at absolutely no cost. Of course, the more Pendulums you have in your Extra Deck the more monsters you can loop in that way. This all leads to some crazy scenarios where even after losing five monsters to a Torrential Tribute, you can Summon those same monsters again next turn and overwhelm your opponent.

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Pendulums defy card advantage in a way that's not so different from the Dragon Ruler decks of last year. Dragons generated card advantage by loading the graveyard with monsters and banishing for their effects, turning each Summon into a +1. Playing the grind game against those strategies was fruitless, and even after Super Rejuvenation was Forbidden the seemingly endless stream of Rank 7's was too much for most decks to handle. Likewise, Pendulums create card advantage from nothing, and are arguably even more costless outside of the initial investment in a Scale.

Some players have compared Qliphoths – a new theme debuting in The New Challengers – to Dragon Rulers, and I mostly agree with that assessment. Qliphoths are an excellent example of the power of Pendulums and feature a monster (Qliphoth Tool) that single-handedly sets up a Scale. Because most of the archetype's cards are Pendulums the deck can produce monsters for free as reliably as Dragon Rulers. It's an extremely powerful strategy that showcases the best of what these new cards have to offer, but we won't be seeing it until much later this year. Still, we'll definitely be discussing it more in the future.

Back To The Title: Are They Worth Playing?
The obvious question here is whether or not Pendulums will be worth playing. They have a lot going for them: more Summoning power, the ability to create free card advantage, and various other effects that give you as their controller a solid advantage. But at the end of the day will these cards see top-level tournament play? As with most questions regarding underdeveloped themes, my answer is:

Not yet.

Competitive strategies rarely indulge in complicated, conditional, and inconsistent means of achieving their win condition. HAT is built with simplicity in mind, and its straightforward approach still leaves plenty of room for problem-solving removal effects. It's all substance and no flash, built with what's essentially a combination of the best cards in the game. It's also crazy-consistent, and that's a big reason why it's so successful at major events. Simple, single card interactions win games more reliably than plays that depend on conditions that are difficult to meet or require a huge amount of set-up. Unfortunately, Pendulums are more accurately described as the latter.

I don't like to entertain the notion that every card in the game can be categorized as 'good' or 'bad'. Yu-Gi-Oh's too dynamic to be analyzed in such a linear fashion, and doing so can cause you to overlook cards with hidden potential. It's also possible to overestimate a card because it happens to be strong in one particular metagame, even if it's weak in others. Pendulums aren't inherently flawed; it's arguably a stronger mechanic than Fusions and Rituals. That said, Pendulums require you to use sub-par monsters in the same way that Synchros require Tuners.

Pendulum monsters, on their own, have been lackluster so far. Like early Tuner Monsters these cards are nearly worthless unless they're being used to as part of a Pendulum Summon. As a free Special Summon, Odd-Eyes is great! You can use it as a beatstick, a Synchro Material, or as Tribute fodder and it'll come back next turn. But as a Level 7 Effect Monster? It's nearly worthless. You can at least put Odd-Eyes into a Pendulum Zone to search out another card, but you can't say the same about other Pendulum Monsters. The lack of synergy with existing themes makes adding a Pendulum 'engine' to a deck a bad idea outside of casual strategies. The resulting build is almost always weaker than other variants of the same game plan.

Pendulum Monsters have the potential to be amazing, but it'll be some time before they're ready to take on Championship-level strategies. Spell and trap removal may end up being the greatest challenge for Pendulum decks to overcome, especially if Shaddolls and Artifacts are popular… which they probably will be. Duelist Alliance is just a taste of what's to come from Pendulum-based themes like Qliphoth and DD, so now's a good time to get acquainted. I'm sure that by the end of next year Pendulums will be a way of life, just as Xyz Monsters are today.

Until next time then

-Kelly