Pendulum strategies are the dominant factor shaping tech choices right now; any competitive player needs a strong counter to Majespecters, Performage Pendulums, and Magician Pendulums to even have a shot at winning. Those match-ups are unavoidable at Regional and Championship-level events, so players everywhere are hunting the best tech choices to give them an edge. Anti-Pendulum Side Deck cards are in high demand, but so are tech choices that work within Pendulum strategies. Pendulum Summons can put monsters on the field that wouldn't have been playable with their usual Summoning conditions.

Side Decks have changed since Structure Deck: Master of Pendulum hit the TCG, and I've been working on tracking those changes as they emerge. Last weekend saw a new set of anti-Pendulum cards hit the field, but the cards that Magician Pendulums themselves are playing deserve attention of their own. The cards being sided for the mirror match, and against other Pendulum Strategies, demand counter sides from everyone else.

Although Pendulums are a major influence on which cards see play, Kozmos and Satellarknights are nearly as influential. Reliable and searchable outs to Kozmo Dark Destroyer are a necessity, and Satellarknights continue to catch players off-guard with their continued effectiveness despite the loss of Evilswarm Excition Knight and two copies of Reinforcement of the Army. Sheer numbers make Pendulums the priority for most Side Decks, but you can't ignore those match-ups either.

Countering Counters
Players of Pendulum themes like Majespecters, Performage Pendulums, and Magician Pendulums know what they're up against. They'll do whatever it takes to counter the typical anti-Pendulum Side Deck cards that are being heavily played right now. Outs to Anti-Spell Fragrance are particularly important.

One unique solution is Breaker the Magical Warrior. Its effect requires your Normal Summon, but there aren't many floodgates that can stop it. It synergizes with Performage Pendulums thanks to its Spellcaster typing – with Jigabyte in hand you can quickly convert it to a Rank 4 Xyz after you've destroyed a spell or trap. Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress is a searchable alternative to Breaker, and ideal for decks that aren't playing Light-Imprisoning Mirror.

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Majespecters can opt to play Fortune Lady Wind instead, using it to destroy backrow with its non-targeting effect. It's a match for the Majespecter support cards too, so you can use Majespecter Cyclone to dodge effect negation and ensure your opponent still ends up losing a card. Fortune Lady Wind is only vulnerable to Summon or effect negation since it's too small to be hit by Bottomless Trap Hole, so it's a great way to bait out Solemn Warning. I'm honestly a bit surprised that it's not seeing play, although it's definitely an under the radar tech pick right now.

Backrow removal's great, but sometimes it's not enough. Royal Decree and Denko Sekka are trading places in a lot of builds. Leading a Pendulum Summon with either card let's you make plays without worrying about losing cards to Solemn Warning or Grand Horn of Heaven. Denko Sekka plays a role opposite of Breaker the Magical Warrior – it's powerless against Anti-Spell Fragrance, but it'll keep bigger backrows from doing much of anything. Proactive removal is almost always the better solution to individual cards, while the floodgates like Denko and Royal Decree are better suited for trap-heavy strategies like Satellarknights and Majespecters.

Winning The Wavering Eyes War
Pendulum match-ups often come down to just one card: Wavering Eyes. It's hard to overstate just how important that one spell is in these match-ups. You'll frequently see players concede the game after losing their Pendulum Scale to an opposing Wavering Eyes. It's not just its ability to knock out your opponent's Scales that makes it so powerful – the added deck-searching and banishing effects cripple your opponent's ability to mount an offensive that turn. In the best-case scenario you'll get to add any Pendulum Monster to your hand, banish a card on the field, and get a fresh copy of Wavering Eyes from your deck. Your opponent probably won't be coming back from that.

Stopping Wavering Eyes is paramount to the success of any Pendulum strategy this format, and some decks have gone all out to make sure they're staying safe. Negation effects from Mist Valley Apex Avian, Naturia Beast, Performage Damage Juggler, and Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon are the front line of defense against Wavering Eyes, and there's a whole lot of other cards that can keep it from being activated, like Denko Sekka and Mechanical Hound. Another option is proactive removal from Archfiend Eccentric or Mystical Space Typhoon, which can destroy a set Wavering Eyes before it becomes relevant.

There are plenty of options out there for countering Wavering Eyes, including some older tech like Breaker the Magical Warrior and Starlight Road. The latter's especially interesting given the widespread play of mass removal. Its utility's incredible: Starlight Road can negate Raigeki, Dark Hole, Torrential Tribute, Mirror Force, Bottomless Trap Hole, and Wavering Eyes. Starlight Road's really only being sided for Wavering Eyes, and to a lesser extent Raigeki. The rest is just an added bonus. Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force have been seeing less play due to the Majespecter match-up, and have mostly been replaced by Time-Space Trap Hole and Storming Mirror Force.

The reward for fully resolving Starlight Road is a free copy of Stardust Dragon, which in turn can negate one more destruction effect. Stardust is one of my favorite cards in the game, but it's ATK is a bit low this format. I wouldn't expect it to stick around on the field for long. Still, it's an extra negation for all the cards I mentioned previously and numerous single-destruction effects that Starlight Road can't negate.

Siding When Going First Or Second
Nearly every deck this format is opting to go second. Magician Pendulums love to play second despite their negation-heavy set-ups, mostly to OTK quicker. Some players, however, are building with going first in mind. The concept is simple: you can control when you'll go first in a duel because you can readily assume your opponent will choose to play second. When you get to choose, you can simply decide to start the duel. Despite being a card down, if you're lucky enough to open Game 2 or 3 with enough floodgates and negation effects you'll win the duel almost immediately. But Mist Valley Apex Avian and Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon aren't enough – you'll want something that's even more disruptive.

That's where Mechanical Hound comes in. Hound's effect locks out your opponent's spell activations while you have no cards in your hand. As a Level 7 monster it's easily Pendulum Summoned in Magicians alongside Apex Avian and friends. Much like Anti-Spell Fragrance, Mechanical Hound will prevent your opponent from playing any of their Pendulum cards. Their outs are limited: Dark Hole and Raigkei are useless, so it's up to Archfiend Eccentric to save the day. Or they can wait until you draw a card before flipping Wavering Eyes, knocking out your scales and searching for Eccentric. Still, your opponent has to avoid losing that turn.

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A more proactive way of removing monster-based floodgates from the field is to side Kumongous, the Sticky String Kaiju. While Mechanical Hound is best sided when you're going first, Kumongous is ideal for going second. It's a direct counter to Hound, Majesty's Fiend, Apex Avian, and Vortex Dragon. Nearly any monster that might stand in your way is gobbled up by Kumongous. Kozmo Dark Destroyer is also fair game. At 2400 ATK Kumongous is the best Kaiju to use there, and at Level 7 it's an ideal Side Deck pick in Magician Pendulums.

Balancing out first and second is tough this format, especially with so many Pendulum strategies in the mix. The Pendulum mechanic itself demands a higher card investment to get the ball rolling. At a minimum you'll be playing two of your cards just to Summon the remaining three or four from your hand. Obviously having four extra cards to work with is much better than three, particularly since you don't know how many of those cards might be spells or traps. That's part of the reason why Pendulum Call is so powerful; it corrects hands and ensures your first play involves enough monsters to make it worthwhile.

Avoiding Pendulum match-ups is almost impossible right now, but they're relatively easy to side for given their somewhat similar design. There's been a push over the last month to find the 'best' Side Deck outs to these decks, and the process of discovery has brought numerous cards back into competitive play. Psi-Blocker, Typhoon, and Mind Control are scattered throughout various Regional-topping deck lists. Surprise is a huge part of Side Deck strategy, so finding and testing new tech to play in those match-ups can be incredibly rewarding. I recently saw a deck profile were a Magician Pendulum player sided Heavy Knight of the Flame – a card I didn't even know existed – to answer Kozmo Dark Destroyer. So why play that instead of D.D. Warrior Lady? Because it's unaffected by Light-Imprisoning Mirror!

Innovative Side Deck choices win games, and keep you from losing them to your opponent's counter-sided cards. Now is the perfect time to take a risk with an unconventional Side Deck card.

Until next time then


Kelly Locke is a West Michigan gamer, writer, and college student with too much free time on his hands. Besides playing Yugioh, Kelly posts Let's Play videos of Minecraft on his Youtube channel and plays a possibly unhealthy amount of Destiny. He is currently studying marketing at Western Michigan University, and hopes to graduate before Dragon Ravine is Unlimited.