The Problems with the Pendulum Mechanic

Since the Pendulum mechanic was first released last summer they haven’t had too much of an impact on the game. Qliphort has been the only real Pendulum deck to break into the meta, while other decks like Igknight have struggled to really break through and compete with all the other decks. With other decks recently hit on the ban list, the impending release of more and more Pendulum cards, and the banning of Exciton Knight, it seems like we could be headed toward a Pendulum-oriented future for the game. Cards like Luster Pendulum and Performage Plushfire, as well as the soon-to-be-released Magician cards, seem like they have lots of potential and have performed well in the OCG. I certainly agree that this appears to be where the game is headed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain restrictions and limitations that deckbuilders must overcome to build a strong Pendulum deck. Identifying the problems is always the first step toward solving a problem, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do with the Pendulum mechanic today.


qliphort scoutThe High Cost of Activating Scales


Let’s say I set two scales so that I can Pendulum summon. If those scales don’t do something else besides Pendulum summoning, I would think I’m going to be starting the game pretty far behind my opponent. If I start with a five-card hand and use two of the cards as scales, then I’ve only got three cards left to actually do something with. My opponent is then drawing to six and I’m at a huge disadvantage. It’s difficult to expect to use your three cards to compete with their six.


I would almost go so far as to say this was a design flaw on the part of Konami. They are trying to shift the game toward Pendulum monsters, but then took away the sixth card going first. Using two scales that don’t replace themselves is just too high of a cost to compete with non-Pendulum decks.


Scout gave Qliphort a way around this. It lowed the cost of placing scales by a significant amount because it did what the other scales didn’t and replaced itself. Even still, you’re starting at a minus two instead of minus three. That’s a pretty big deficit to come back from. If Scout stays on the field, then you’re golden since you’ll get another search and monsters back from the extra deck when you summon as opposed to only getting monsters from your hand.


Frequent Summon Restrictions


Not having access to Synchros or XYZs seems worse than a deck that has access to Synchros and XYZs. Thanks to the “You can only Special Summon X monsters” clause, or the “F**k your deck idea” clause like my friends and I like to call it, decks like Qliphort and Zefra are often too restricted to compete with decks that can use their regular extra deck. Not having this restriction isn’t enough, but cards like Plushfire seem to have a lot of potential here, because it doesn’t have this restriction and it replaces itself to make up from having to set two scales.


The Cost of Setting Up


Setting up has a pretty high cost associated with it as well. Instead of costing actual cards, like setting scales do, setting up a good Pendulum summon costs turns. Since you don’t start out with cards in your extra deck, any early Pendulum summons are probably going to be special summons from your hand. Not that special summoning from your hand is a bad thing, it’s just not the kind of power I’d be willing to give up the two cards I’d have to use to set scales to be able to summon from my hand.


Igknights do a decent job at overcoming this as they are instantly summoning from your extra deck, but only every other card replaces itself since you trade two Igknights for one new one. That’s a fine rate if your Pendulum summon is successful, but it kind of makes the deck a glass cannon. If the opponent disrupts your Pendulum summon, you’re now going to have already given up a bunch of your cards to get to that point and the give up two Igknights for one new one trade becomes problematic.


Deckbuilders are going to have to find low cost ways of getting monsters to the extra deck in the early game that don’t have to give up card advantage to do it. The way the Pendulum decks are right now, you’re either going to have to summon from your hand in the early game and hope your scales survive to generate more advantage by summoning from the extra later on, or you’re going to risk losing to disruption because you had to trade lots of card advantage to get your scales to the extra deck.


castelThe Follow Up


On the surface it seems like Pendulum decks would have a great follow up play. Any monster summoned back from the extra deck is basically free. That’s true, but as we established we aren’t typically summoning back monsters from the extra deck early in the game and have to summon them from our hand. When we end our turn we leave our Pendulum scales exposed. I probably don’t have any other Pendulum scales in my hand, or I would have just used those somehow in my Pendulum summon the turn before. That means that if one of our Pendulum scales gets destroyed or spun away by Castel, we’re probably not going to be able to special summon those guys back for free and might not be able to make any plays at all.


Majester Paladin, the Ascending Dracolayer definitely helps with this problem since he will allow you to add a Pendulum Monster from your deck to your hand in the end phase. The problem with him brings me to my next point about the underlying lack of synergy between Pendulum Monsters and XYZ monsters. When I detach a Pendulum monster from my XYZ it’s not going to my extra deck for me to get back for free later. I seriously question why all Pendulum decks are made as an XYZ toolbox. This seems incorrect and flawed and while I think many of the problems with Pendulums can only be improved upon so much and may need additional support from Konami to compete, this is one problem that I think players have dropped the ball on with their deckbuilding.


Why are Igknight decks making things like Rhongominant when all it takes is for your opponent to set a monster and wait it out while you can’t ever kill them because you have no follow up? I almost wonder if Konami added the “You can only Special Summon X monsters” clause to so many Pendulum decks because they didn’t trust that players wouldn’t XYZ with them once they were on the field and then make the mechanic terrible.


Instead of XYZing and guaranteeing yourself not to have a follow up, why not build Pendulum decks around Synchros? Synchros are more powerful than XYZs and they have synergy with the Pendulum mechanic since all your monsters will go to the extra deck. Lots of players are taking advantage of Luster Pendulum and Ignister, and I certainly think those cards are a great start to fixing this problem, but I think players need to take it a step further than that and focus the rest of their Pendulum decks on Syncrhoing so that you actually have a play the following turn. XYZs seem so contradictory to the Pendulum mechanic and I’m not really sure how exactly everyone has bought into the hype of using XYZs as a toolbox.


Pendulums definitely have a lot of problems they have to overcome if they want to compete with non-Pendulum decks. Some of these problems may not be fixable with the current card pool and we may have to wait for more Pendulums to be released to fix them, but I think building Pendulum decks as an XYZ toolbox is contradictory and I think Synchros are a more apt alternative. As of right now, Pendulums struggle with the cost of getting out the early game and then struggle with the late game. Cards like Ignister, Luster Pendulum, Plushfire, and the Magicians are a solid start to fixing these problems, but it’s going to require more innovation than just that. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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