The past three weeks have been an interesting time. First the Adjusted List was released, drawing the same brief nod of the head from deeply competitive players whenever a new format’s announced, but getting a ton of heat from more intermediate players for the sheer speed of the list’s appearance after Breakers of Shadow. It’s always a beat when new stuff gets hit that hard, that fast.
…Or so it seemed? A few days later YCS Atlanta arrived with its Top 32 of twenty-nine Performage Performapal decks, kind of cushioning the blow and offering a solid reason that, yeah, maybe it was better to see the Adjusted List sooner rather than later. Meanwhile a ton of players were basically treating YCS Atlanta like the end of Performapal Pendulum variants. While the Limiting of Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer hurt all Pendulums, the rest of the changes under the Adjusted List seemed pretty targeted; they softened the game’s opening set-ups with Cyber Dragon Infinity; removed the longevity and sheer resource base of the Performages; and weakened the consistency of the Performapal searchers.
And then the first Regional weekend hit under Adjusted play, and the Performage Draco Performapal deck that so crushed Atlanta was still on top, now just as Draco Performapals. Despite the single most vicious emergency gutting the game’s ever seen, the deck largely remained the same in tone and purpose, filling the gaps with similar cards and continuing to take more Top 8 seats in Regionals than any other strategy.
Granted, Draco Performapals were only about 50% of the logged Top 8 decks that were made public from that first Regional weekend. That’s a big improvement, and we saw lots of Kozmos, Monarchs, and Burning Abyss top as well – it was a really balanced set of metagames, and that’s only continued through into the second weekend of competition. But the fact remains: Draco Performapals are still the most successful deck in the format going off the numbers we have, defying the expectations of thousands of duelists.
It begs the question: how did it happen? What adaptations were made, and what factors allowed Draco Performapals to survive? It’s an important thing to understand, because if you’re playing Draco Performapals yourself you need to know what your new priorities are. And if you’re playing something else, knowing what to expect can help you anticipate your opponent’s moves and beat them.
Let’s talk about the four big categories of adaptation that have carried Draco Performapals into Adjusted viability.
The Dark Pendulum Suite And Rank 4 Support
Armageddon Knight was just starting to see fringe play in the three or so weeks leading up to Atlanta. Players were running it as a flexible problem solver with Shaddoll Dragon, and to make more Rank 4 plays – including the Dark Material Evilswarm Nightmare – via Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite. Since Pendulum decks almost always have Scales on the field it’s easy to bounce one and revive Zephyros, then re-play the Scale, making Armageddon Knight a 1-card Rank 4 that could often combo by bouncing something of recursive value.
The Armageddon suite took on new importance under the Adjusted List, because with no Performages offering free Rank 4 Materials, it needed to make up ground on Xyz Summons. We’ve seen far more “Dark” Pendulum variants topping as a result. And while Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite and Shaddoll Dragon both remain popular, players are branching out as well. Magician Pendulums are running the same suite with Tuning Magician to score a free Synchro, while we’ve seen players Top 8 with Draco Performapals running Shaddoll Beast. The Beast offers a free draw when yarded, but can also shut off Domain of the True Monarchs when Tribute Summoned.
Aside from an upswing in Armageddon Knight, previous Rank 4 enablers that saw play before Breakers of Shadow have all made big comebacks. Jigabyte, Masked Chameleon, and Instant Fusion are all back with a vengeance, and each makes a range of different plays possible. Jigabyte’s the simplest of the bunch, searchable with King of the Feral Imps and easily Special Summoned. Chameleon offers some chance for recursion, and functions as a searchable Tuner off Feral Imps – now more important with fewer copies of Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer to serve as Tuners. Instant Fusion unleashes a range of plays via Elder Entity Norden, and still has some value with Panzer Dragon as well.
Compensating for the lost Rank 4 power’s hugely important, but there are lots of ways to accomplish that. Making the right choice for your style and your metagame is important, so it needs to be a forefront issue.
Tech To Beat Monarchs
…And this might be the second most important concept. Monarchs did really well in Regionals the week before YCS Atlanta, though the deck only scored two seats in the Top 32 once Day 2 of the Championship rolled around. The first Regional weekend a week later, played under the Adjusted List, was also the first outing for Wing Raiders, which powered up Monarchs with Super Quantum Layer Blue and Super Quantum Layer Red. Monarchs benefitted from a weakening of Pendulum variants, and from newfound consistency thanks to the new cards.
Successful Draco Performapal players responded by Main Decking answers, looking for an edge in Game 1 instead of relying on their Side Deck. Archfiend Eccentrick made its breakthrough Main Deck appearance in Andrew Fredella’s Top 32 Dark Pendulum build in Atlanta, but that carried forward as a big Main Deck pick in Adjusted play. It’s great because it tackles Domain of the True Monarchs on two levels; you can play it as a Pendulum Scale first to knock out Domain, and when your opponent destroys it you can Pendulum Summon it back and Tribute it off to take out whatever Tribute monster they control, turning off the effect of a second Domain if they have one. It’s also easily searched, so one copy gets the job done.
Also searchable, Performapal Turn Toad steps in for the now-handicapped Performage Mirror Conductor, turning Monarchs into sitting ducks with 1000 ATK. This was a better tech choice with triple Performapal Skullcrobat Joker, where you could just flop Joker, search Turn Toad, play it, and then attack over a Monarch more reliably. But it’s still putting in results, despite being an arguably more complicated card to support. It’s not as good of a one-shot answer all on its own, but it’s part of the tapestry of tech choices the deck can now rely on.
On the very specific side, we actually saw an unknown competitor at the Kansas Regional two weeks ago Top 8 with a build that ran double Moon Mirror Shield; it turns any monster on the field into an attack-based solution to bigger monsters, including Monarchs and Majesty’s Fiends. On the more utility-driven side, we’ve also seen Emergency Teleport for Re-Cover, played in tandem with Performapal Pendulum Sorcerer and Performapal Secondonkey to make Naturia Beast. It’s gaining some steam the past two weeks as both an answer to Monarch spells, and opposing Pendulum strategies.
But above all else, Effect Veiler and Breakthrough Skill have seen massive spikes in use. While they can stop Monarch effects, their biggest strength is the ability to interrupt plays with Edea the Heavenly Squire to cut off Eidos the Underworld Squire and stop Tributes before they happen. Kozmos put in a HUGE showing this past weekend, at both Regional Qualifiers and the UDS Invitational, and it was largely due to a massive upswing in Veiler. But the interesting thing is that simple monster effect negation’s less effective against Quantum Monarchs, which were big last weekend but failed to materialize to the same degree this most recent weekend.
There are lots of tech choices here and there’s no clear winner amongst them. What is clear, is the fact that Draco Performapals needs mained answers to Monarchs. The decks playing mained tech are topping tournaments, and the ones without it generally aren’t.
Abusing Performapal Skullcrobat Joker
With Performapal Skullcrobat Joker Limited, another key to success seemed to be finding new ways to abuse it repeatedly. Chalk that up as another reason the Armageddon Knight suite saw more play – loading the yard with Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite, Summoning Joker to get a search, and then bouncing it back to your hand for another Normal Summon is a powerful trick. Precision’s always been a key fundamental of the Performapal Pendulum variants, and with search effects now that much harder to come by, winning can be as easy as making more searches than your opponent.
That concept also lends tremendous strength to the once-popular Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin. Clocking in at Level 6 it’s far easier to Pendulum Summon in Magicians than in Draco Performapals, but it’s still possible, and you can always just Tribute Summon it – more approachable now than it once was, since you won’t be Normal Summoning Performapal Skullcrobat Joker nearly as often and Unicorn’s ideally a post-Joker play anyways.
Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin’s awesome right now for two big reasons: it makes for repeated Joker plays over and over as long as it stays on the field, and if it makes the leap from Magicians to a Performapal deck, it’s suddenly combo material with Monkeyboard and others. It’s also awesome against Monarchs, since it can bump away big monsters or deprive your opponent of Tribute. It’s a huge reason to play Magicians over Performapals right now, but even with that in mind I think it could wind up having a place in Performapal builds. A small engine of two Majespecter Raccoon – Bunbuku and two Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin can make it super-accessible if you can find the deck space.
Moving forward, I’ve even heard of players running Performapal Springoose for similar reasons. I haven’t seen it top a Regional yet, and I’m not convinced it’s better than Unicorn. But apparently there’s some interest.
Extra Deck Innovations
With Tellarknight Ptolemaeus gone, there’s more pressure on the Draco Performapal player to find new ways to make better use of their Extra Deck. Intriguingly enough, the departure of Ptolemaeus hasn’t actually meant the loss of Cyber Dragon Infinity.
Another hot pick from that Kansas Regional, we saw one Top 8 Draco Performapal player running a pair of Rank-Up-Magic Soul Shave Force. He’d overlay two Level 4’s for Raidraptor – Force Strix, use its ability to search out Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite to break even or score a free plus, and from there he’d Rank it Up once it hit the graveyard.
Soul Shave Force revives a Raidraptor Xyz from your yard and then uses it as Xyz Material for an Xyz Summon two Ranks higher, so it 1-for-1’s you straight into Cyber Dragon Infinity with a Material locked and loaded. The stronger your additional Rank 4 support is, the easier it can be to make that play, making stuff like Instant Fusion and Jigabyte even stronger.
You can play the same combo for Raidraptor – Revolution Falcon too, turning any opposing field of a few monsters into an OTK; Revolution Falcon can attack all of your opponent’s monsters, dropping their ATK to 0 in the process. It’s the perfect comeback if your opponent makes a big field in attack mode but can’t finish you off in one turn, and it even packs a removal effect that adds more damage to the equation.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, it’s become very common to see players running two Majester Paladin, the Ascending Dracoslayers instead of just one. It’s become a more attractive Turn 1 play, searching out that one Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer as an alternative to Draco Face-Off amongst other uses. With Rescue Rabbit seeing some considerable use in conjunction with higher numbers of Vector Pendulum, the Dracoverlord and Master Pendulum, the Dracoslayer, it’s now more viable as an explosive opener or high-impact topdeck.
The most successful Draco Performapal builds are compensating for lost Rank 4 power; teching heavily against Monarchs; abusing Performapal Skullcrobat Joker whenever possible; and in some cases pushing their Extra Deck in new, ambitious directions. If you’re running the deck yourself, that’s where you want to be. If you’re playing something different, then you want to be prepared for those Rank 4’s and the plays that lead into them; break Joker combos whenever possible; and you should be ready for some Extra Deck tricks you might not’ve seen before. You’ll also find yourself at an advantage against Draco Performapals if the cards they play to beat Monarchs don’t do much to beat you.
What do you think? Will Draco Performapals continue to represent about half of the top cut decks as this format proceeds? Or will its status as a known quantity see it dragged down even further. Let me know your thoughts down in the Comments.