The aftermath of YCS Atlanta made it clear that Pendulum Magicians hadreplaced SPYRALs as the deck to beat in tournament competition, and that'schiefly thanks to Heavymetalfoes Electrumite. Magicians were able to shiftfrom an attrition-style strategy with Time Pendulumgraph and TimestarMagician to a far more aggressive and Link-heavy build thanks toElectrumite.

More importantly, Electrumite helped the deck stay afloat after the recentForbidden & Limited List. It's not an exaggeration to say that PendulumMagicians would be nowhere near the Top Tables at a YCS without it.

Current Pendulum strategies are now largely defined by how effectively theycan play Heavymetalfoes Electrumite, and how much card economy they canleverage from it. It's not a trend exclusive to Pendulum Magicians –twoMetalfoesbuilds have already scored Regional Top 8's with potentially more to come.I think it's only a matter of time until someone wins an invite to the WCQwith Zefras, and I'm sure Electrumite will continue to fuel Pendulumstrategies long after Magicians are nerfed into the ground. (Editor's Note:This article was written beforeDay 2 of YCS Bochumwhere Zefras Top 4'd, and the UDS,where Zefras won.)

#####CARDID=22969#####

Elecrumite Pendulums require a different Side Deck approach than theirpredecessors. Cards like Evenly Matched and Twin Twisters are a littleworse than they were just a month ago, while others like The Winged Dragonof Ra - Sphere Mode and Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries are better thanever. There's still the old guard of anti-Pendulum tech that's performingas expected, too: Anti-Spell Fragrance and Dimensional Barrier can and willend games by themselves.

Despite Pendulums clearly taking up the vacancy left by SPYRALs there'sstill plenty of diversity in the current competitive scene. Side Deck techneeds high match-up utility to make the cut, and that's especially truewith FTK versions of Pendulum Magicians running around.Last week I discussed how hand trapsplay out against these new builds, and I'd like to start by hitting up thattopic again because they're so important to avoiding the unbreakable boardsPendulums are capable of making.

Staying In The Game Playing Second
The final match between Dablessin Wilson and Jeremy Mitchell at YCSAtlantais an excellent snapshot of the current state of the competitive scene. Ina Pendulum Magician mirror match the player who starts the duel and remainsuninterrupted over the course of their turn is practically guaranteed towin that game, and that much is obvious from the two and three turn gamesthat comprised the final match.

Both Wilson and Mitchell had opportunities to set up massive boardscomplete with negation bodies and Quick Effects that would have beenunthinkable in January. Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon embarrasses Evenly Matched,and Tornado Dragon is fantastic in the mirror or against any strategythat's using Field Spells. Union Hangar and Trickstar Lightstage are at themercy of Tornado Dragon, and depending on the match-up other Rank 4's likeEvilswarm Nightmare or Abyss Dweller were an option. Both players ranNorito the Moral Leader in the Extra Decks to help knock out EvenlyMatched, Raigeki, and other mass removal effects.

Negation prevents most blowouts from Evenly Matched and its partner incrime: Magical Spring. Many competitive players brushed off the Pendulummatch-up last format because there were six cards that could nearlyauto-win the match-up. Resolving Magical Spring, drawing into EvenlyMatched, and banishing most of your opponent's field was absolutelydevastating. No other deck lost to Evenly Matched in the same way, and itwas another huge challenge Pendulums have had to overcome.

Evenly Matched is now so readily countered that it's become a bit of aliability. Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon, Norito the Moral Leader, Tri-GateWizard, and sometimes Mist Valley Apex Avian challenge players to bait outnegation before they can activate their trap. Evenly Matched is still sidedfor the match-up, of course, but there are alternatives that are gainingsteam as players look for ways to dodge interruption.

Kaijus remain a strong pick and can eat up one particular negation body toclear a path for more devastating effects. Lava Golem deals with two cardsat the cost of your Special Summons, but that's a fair trade for somestrategies – includingPendulum Magicians. Finally, The Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode can wipe out youropponent's monsters and breaks nearly all of the ideal boards Pendulums canproduce. It's a phenomenal Side Deck pick if you're looking for somethingother than Evenly Matched, and it's totally immune to Artifact Lancea andMind Crush.

As you're siding in counters to monsters like Tornado Dragon you'll want tobe siding out your most vulnerable cards. There's too much interruption forContinuous Spells and Traps to have an impact going second, and some FieldSpells are just out of luck against a solid opening from PendulumMagicians. You don't want to be holding Brilliant Fusion when you'restaring down Tornado Dragon and Vortex Dragon.

#####CARDID=21704#####

Instead, bring in Foolish Burial to yard your most important cards. Sidingisn't always about including devastating counters to your opponent'sstrategy; sometimes it's about making yourself less vulnerable to theirinterruptions.

Depending on how the first turn of the duel plays out – which is largelypredicated on your opponent's opening hand and your hand traps – you mightnot need to worry about Turn 2 as much. Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring,Ghost Reaper & Winter Cherries, and Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit canstop Heavymetalfoes Electrumite from hitting the field entirely, and EffectVeiler can greatly reduce the deck's ability to build a powerful field.

In the most extreme case – the Pendulum Magician FTK – hand traps are anecessity. Effect Veiler even edges out Ghost Ogre in that situationbecause negating Supreme King Dragon Starving Venom both erases its ATKgains and stops your opponent from potentially reviving it with MonsterReborn.

Setting Up Going First
The conventional wisdom last format was to simply let Pendulum Magicianplayers start the duel, and then hammer them with Evenly Matched.

Now, given the negation power of first-turn Pendulum Magician fields, it'sto your advantage to shut down their plays early. There are few cards thatdo this better than Dimensional Barrier – arguably the single-best Turn 1trap against Pendulum Magicians. Even in a now Link-heavy strategy, there'sstill the need to Special Summon Pendulum Monsters and use their effects.As soon as Dimensional Barrier's flipped it puts your opponent in asituation where the vast majority of their monster cards can't be SpecialSummoned Summoned, and at best they'll have lost an entire turn to a singlecard.

Unsurprisingly, the move towards Link Summons has greatly reducedDimensional Barrier's match-up utility. It's useless against Trickstars andTrue Dracos, and less effective against ABC's thanks to their great LinkSummoning potential. Dimensional Barrier's worthy of debate despite itsstrengths against Pendulums, but that didn't stop Jeremy Mitchell orDablessin Wilson from siding copies. Anti-Spell Fragrance is an option fornon-Pendulum strategies so long as you have other ways to defend yourset-up from Evenly Matched.

Both Mitchell and Wilson also sided in Solemn Judgement when they wereplaying first, to add another negation option into the mix. It's an obviouspick for any deck that's trying to avoid Evenly Matched, but its match-uputility is so extreme that realistically it can fit into any Side Deck. Theonly match-up where Solemn Judgment is arguable is against Trickstars;giving up half of your Life Points can put you scarily within strikingrange of numerous burn effects. But that's still not enough to fold onSolemn Judgment entirely, but it's far from a staple Side Deck pick at themoment. We'll see if that continues as players continue to explore thislong-Forbidden trap.

Spell and trap removal will almost always have insane utility from formatto format, and there were plenty of sided Twin Twisters and Cosmic Cyclonesat YCS Atlanta. Not everyone was actually bringing those cards in againstPendulums, but Cosmic Cyclone can act as yet another piece of disruptionand as an out to other backrow cards.

The problem with setting Quick-Play spells this format is that most of themcan be easily replaced with hand traps. With three copies of Evenly Matchedin seemingly every Side Deck right now you want to keep as many cards offthe table as possible.

#####CARDID=22681#####

Cosmic Cyclone does answer destruction-immune Pendulums searched offPendulum Call, and that's fine for situations where you don't have AshBlossom & Joyous Spring to negate the search effect. Speaking of which,anti-search effects are weirdly positioned in this match-up. Ash Blossom'sof course awesome because it answers both deck searches, Special Summonsfrom the deck, and cards like Foolish Burial and Dragon Shrine. Ina world without Ash Blossom I think we might see Thunder King Rai-Oh showup as a more popular pick, especially with its Summon negation to burn outeven more of your opponent's card advantage.

There's one more card I want to talk about for siding while playing firstagainst Pendulum Magicians: Imperial Order. It's actually a much moreviable pick with Performapal Skullcrobat Joker Forbidden, since youropponent's search effects are almost entirely sourced from spells.

The Pendulum effects of Chronograph Sorcerer and Abyss Actor - CurtainRaiser will be negated, which limits your opponent's ability to putmonsters on the field. The end result is that it's harder for your opponentto put together a Pendulum Scale, and even if they do their Summoningpotential will be limited.

Pendulum Magicians are absolutely the deck to beat, but there's stillincredible diversity at the Regional level. It's a great opportunity forThe Winged Dragon of Ra - Sphere Mode to shine, and a totally newbattleground the defining card of games two and three: Evenly Matched.Solemn Judgment is shaking things up again in a good way, and while any FTKis never good for the game I suspect it won't be around for long. Overallthe competitive scene is healthy, and Side Deck construction is ever soslightly more varied from a month ago. For me, that's the best news I'veheard in a long time.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​onTCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yu-Gi-Oh!,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.