Last month I wrote about how I felt Unicore had been crippling creativity for close to a year and expressing my excitement to play without it constraining the meta. I had to miss the ARG Circuit Series in Anaheim last month due to school obligations, which made this the first event I played in the post-Unicore era. My anticipations for the format were met, as I was able to take first place at the ARG Circuit Series in Last Vegas two weeks ago! This week I want to explain the Pendulum Magician deck that I worked closely with Abe Thalos, Justin Delhon, Zane Lingerfelt, and Andrea Ippolito to create, that allowed me to get my eight Championship ring!
Let’s start by taking a look at the decklist I used:
3 Performapal Skullcrobat Joker
3 Wisdom-Eye Magician
2 Dragonpulse Magician
1 Dragonpit Magician
3 Performage Damage Juggler
3 Performage Plushfire
1 Performage Mirror Conductor
1 Performage Trick Clown
1 Performage Hat Tricker
3 Luster Pendulum the Dracoslayer
1 Masked Chameleon
1 X-Saber Palomuro
1 Gem-Knight Garnet
3 Brilliant Fusion
3 Wavering Eyes
3 Pendulum Call
3 Instant Fusion
3 Upstart Goblin
1 Foolish Burial
Extra Deck: 15
1 Ignister Prominence the Blasting Dracoslayer
1 Psyframe Lord Omega
1 Naturia Beast
1 Constellar Pleiades
1 Tellarknight Ptolamaeus
1 Stellarknight Constellar Diamond
1 Diamond Dire Wolf
1 Diagusto Emeral
1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Abyss Dweller
1 Performage Trapeze Magician
1 King of the Feral Imps
2 Elder Entity Norden
1 Gem-Knight Seraphanite
Side Deck: 15
2 Denko Sekka
1 Dragonpit Magician
1 Gem-Knight Garnet
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
3 Magical Spring
1 Steelswarm Roach
Last week I explained three fundamental problems with the Magician deck. These problems were the paradox of the first turn, bricks, and the Pendulum XYZ problem. I’m going to attempt to show how this build mitigated each of these three problems.
We ran into this problem of what to do when forced to go first in the Pendulum mirror match. We could either put up scales and make a field, but often the field could be broken. More than that, any time you made a field first turn you would almost certainly be blown out by an opposing Wavering Eyes if your opponent was fortunate enough to draw it. Alternatively, you could not use scales on your first turn, which usually meant setting Plushfire and passing without any real defense. The problem here was that if your opponent opened with a Tuner then they would likely be able to OTK you. Do you play scales and make a board and lose to Wavering Eyes, or set Plushfire and lose to a Tuner?
This was the cumbersome task Pendulum players were faced with in the tournament. The correct answer and the way to best the competition is to avoid competition altogether. You need to create monopoly on your game plan. It’s not reliable to sometimes lose when they have it and sometimes win when they don’t. That’s not how you’re going to win a tournament.
Justin convinced me that main decking Magical Spring would be the perfect answer for the problem we were having first turn. Most Pendulum decks were Magician mirror matches by this point. Flipping Magical Spring on Wisdom-Eye will often lock them out for this turn and next turn, since it protects from destruction until the end of your opponent’s next turn. It seemed like a great option, but the one problem is that it as unsearchable. That meant that we would only see it 1/3 games where we went first, despite maxing out on a full three copies of it. What were we going to do the other 2/3 games when made to go first?
The morning of the event I woke up to a message from Andrea, recommending that I make X-Saber Palomaru a last minute consideration. This would give me a way to make Naturia Beast. We had also had this idea before when going through King of the Feral Imps targets, but dismissed it without ever trying it on the basis that he was level 1 and we could not Pendulum summon a level 1. He highly recommended it and said that not being able to Pendulum summon it was negligible. After 30 or 40 test hands where I assumed it was in my deck and that it could be searched if need be, I concurred with its power and liked it as a searchable alternative to having to draw Magical Spring. When Justin woke up I told him and he also agreed, so Spring got pushed to the side deck to make room for Palomaru and Hat Tricker, a card that we originally found redundant due to its inherent sameness with the Pendulum mechanic, but was a much-needed and searchable level 4 earth monster.
As noted in my last article, I wasn’t a fan of either Dragonpit or Dragonpulse. They usually ended up contributing to brick hands. As a matter of fact, I found all Magician monsters that weren’t Wisdom-Eye to contribute to brick hands. This resulted in me wanting to run the minimum number of Magician monsters that weren’t Wisdom-Eye. I needed at least one high scale target for Wisdom-Eye, but was unwilling to add additional copies. Low scales were far less common in the deck, while high scales were in abundance thanks to Wisdom-Eye, Dragonpit, Plushfire, and Luster. I wanted to balance out the scales slightly by conceding a second copy of Dragonpulse, despite not liking actually drawing it or thinking it had a particularly relevant effect. Justin also convinced me to cut Partanoga, a card that I had greatly enjoyed having access to in testing. While I can say there were two times I legitimately missed being able to search Partanoga throughout the tournament, one of which outright cost me a game I would have otherwise won, but at this point I find it unlikely for it to be worth it. While I did miss being able to search it, actually drawing it contributes to brick hands and the cost of having it as a subpar card in your hand isn’t really worth it.
The biggest thing that Justin convinced me of was the 3:1 ratio on Brilliant Fusion and Garnet. I had been vigorously opposed to this ratio and even found it suspicious whenever I had seen it before, but Justin made excellent points and convinced me that I was wrong about the second Garnet being necessary. He noted that the chance of drawing Garnet and Brilliant Fusion together was a mere 4%, which meant that would not happen 96% of the time. He also said that resolving a second Brilliant Fusion in a game was unnecessary to win, especially with the Beast plan. I was concerned about dead drawing additional Fusions later in the game, to which he noted that Emeral allowed this to be mitigated. Looking back on it I think he was correct overall and was really only wrong about Emeral’s benefit. It’s not likely that you can make a rank 4 midgame without actually using Brilliant Fusion that is, by definition, dead in your hand during this problem scenario. Still I think he was correct about the ratio being better than 3:2 overall and he managed to convince me of this for the tournament.
While he did persuade me to go against everything I know about math, I was not confident enough in such a choice that I had not actually tested to not have a fall back plan. The result was choosing to incorporate a second copy of Garnet in my side deck, in case I felt like I had made a mistake midway through the tournament. Siding it would allow me to correct for it games 2 and 3 if I felt like I had actually made a mistake and should have played the second. As the day when on and Justin and I were talking more our positions actually reversed. He advocated for me to side in the second Garnet any time I was going to game 3, because the risk of drawing it game 3 would put me out of the tournament and that was too great of a chance. By this point I decided the opposite and chose to never side it in, on the basis that it needs to be your day to win anyway. If you consistently perform at the average you’ll consistently go 6-3 and never actually top a tournament, let alone win it. You have to get lucky to win and I wanted to be sure to maximize my chance by eliminating unnecessary cards.
Of the three problems this is the one that we saw the least success with actually fixing. It was mostly mitigated by not needing the additional advantage to win the game because we had the option to go into Naturia Beast to keep them from building any advantage at all. While I do think this helped mitigate the problem, it likely can be improved upon further.
One way we mitigated this problem was with the inclusion of Trick Clown. While it may be a standard choice, Trick Clown barely made the cut in our build. I didn’t want to play it because it contributed to brick hands. Ultimately we ended up deciding to play it because we could overlay Plushfire and Trick Clown into an XYZ, then revive the Plushfire back, effectively giving Plushfire value even after being used as an XYZ material. This proved to be especially powerful the first turn when we were unable to make Naturia Beast, but were forced into going first. We found that it was really hard to actually die regardless of what the opponent had, if you made a board that had a Trick Clown under an XYZ with a Plushfire in grave. This ended up being the deciding factor for Trick Clown’s inclusion.
That about wraps up my explanation of the deck I used to win the ARG Circuit Series in Las Vegas. Next week I’ll give a detailed report of my matchups from the tournament, which I hope you’ll enjoy reading. I hope to see you all next weekend as we head to Disney World to kick off the first event of 2016 with the ARG Circuit Series in Orlando! Until next time, play hard or go home!