Regional Top 8 Double Profile: Dark Synchro and Evil Empowering Pendulums

While we’re only heading into the third weekend of Regional Qualifiers so far this format, we’ve seen some really cool decks and some equally impressive innovations to previous strategies. While Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Burning Phantom Knight variants are just as popular as many expected, the changes to the format really opened up a lot of possibilities; both for old decks to see more play, and for new strategies we’ve never really seen before.

300px-AllureofDarknessSDGU-EN-C-1EAnd that wasn’t just because the top decks of the previous format got thrown a beating. Several changes to the F&L List seemed to’ve been carefully picked to push competition in new directions and open up deck building opportunities: Gold Sarcophagus immediately comes to mind, strengthening any strategy that can make Leviair the Sea Dragon and capitalize on the ability to search and, then instantly Special Summon monsters of Level 4 or lower. Triple Gold Sarcophagus and even something as simple as Speedroid Terrortop is suddenly a powerful combo that strengthens a wide variety of combo decks.

And while Terrortop’s an obvious choice there, we’ve seen decks like Shiranui Zombies that do the same trick, but don’t run Speedroids at all. The strong finishes we’ve seen from Shiranuis, Madolches, and Ritual Beasts wouldn’t be possible without Sarcophagus at three.

The impact of triple Allure of Darkness is actually quite similar; it’s more subtle, because the immediate player response was to sensibly slap three copies of Allure into Burning Phantom Knights and call it a day, the moment we saw that change. But beyond that one obvious choice, there are many more interesting strategies that are suddenly competitive – in large part or entirely – because of Allure’s shift to unrestricted status. Removing Allure of Darkness from the F&L List drew a ton of heat from players, but decks like Heroes, Different Dimension Demons, Shaddolls, and Genex Mermails are all back at Regional levels of viability now that Allure’s back at three.

Not convinced? Today I want to look at two Top 8 Regional decks that take advantage of triple Allure to do some really creative, really powerful stuff. Let’s start with a subtle variant of Odd-Eyes Pendulums that’s got more going on than you might first suspect.

Noah Bsiso’s Evil Empowering Pendulums – 40 Cards
Top 8 Buford Georgia Regional, September 2016
Monsters:26

300px-OddEyesPendulumDragon-DUEA-EN-ScR-1E3 Aether, the Evil Empowering Dragon
1 Dragon Horn Hunter
2 Dragonpit Magician
3 Magical Abductor
2 Majespecter Raccoon – Bunbuku
1 Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin
2 Mist Valley Apex Avian
2 Oafdragon Magician
2 Odd-Eyes Mirage Dragon
3 Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon
1 Performapal Odd-Eyes Unicorn
1 Performapal Skullcrobat Joker
1 Performapal Splashmammoth
1 Wisdom-Eye Magician
1 Xiangke Magician

Spells: 16
3 Allure of Darkness
1 Odd-Eyes Fusion
1 Pendulum Call
2 Pot of Desires
1 Secret Village of the Spellcasters
2 Sky Iris
2 Summoner’s Art
3 Terraforming
1 Upstart Goblin

Extra Deck: 15
number24dragulasthevampiricdragon-drl3-en-scr-1e1 Abyss Dweller
1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
1 Number 11: Big Eye
1 Number 24: Dragulas the Vampiric Dragon
1 Number 39: Utopia
1 Number 39: Utopia Beyond
1 Number S39: Utopia the Lightning
1 Odd-Eyes Absolute Dragon
1 Odd-Eyes Meteorburst Dragon
1 Odd-Eyes Rebellion Dragon
2 Odd-Eyes Vortex Dragon
1 Photon Papilloperative
1 Red-Eyes Flare Metal Dragon
1 Super Quantal Mech Beast Grampulse

Side Deck: 15
1 Amorphage Sloth
1 Archfiend Eccentrick
1 Dark Hole
1 Full House
2 Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit
2 Maxx “C”
2 Radian, the Multidimensional Kaiju
1 Raigeki
3 Twin Twisters
1 Typhoon

Aether, the Evil Empowering Dragon is one of the coolest tech picks we’ve seen in the new format so far; Aaron Furman played one copy in his winning Majespecter Metalfoes deck, which he used to capture the UDS title belt at the Ultimate Duelist Series Summer Invitational a couple weeks ago in Chicago. Aether’s a serious powerhouse. At Level 6 it’s relatively easy to Pendulum Summon, and it packs 2300 ATK and a killer effect: whenever you Normal or Special Summon it, you can banish any monster on the field.

That’s anything you want, regardless of size, position, or Level. That’s the kind of problem-solving power Pendulums lost with the Limiting of Majespecter Unicorn – Kirin, and while Aether can’t remove a threat on your opponent’s turn like Kirin, it’s still a wildly powerful removal trick that most opponents won’t see coming, and can punch through established fields to create surprising wins. Since both monsters are Level 6 they fit into a lot of the same strategies.

aethertheevilempoweringdragon-ct13-en-sr-leIf you’ve seen Aether before, you probably saw it there in Furman’s masterful Metalfoes build. But Noah Bsiso played it a week earlier in the deck above, and for him it wasn’t just a singleton tech choice: Bsiso played a full three copies and then went so far as to tailor the rest of his build around it. He likely ran Aether because it’s an amazing Pendulum Summon that steals wins and offers fast, precise pressure in virtually any match-up.

But in doing so, Bsiso also wound up adding three Dark monsters to a deck that doesn’t always have a lot of Darks kicking around. Performapal Skullcrobat Joker’s more important on the field, but combining his three Aethers with Xiangke Magician, two Odd-Eyes Mirage Dragons, and three Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragons, suddenly Bsiso had enough Dark monsters to run triple Allure of Darkness really consistently. He even went so far as to add a single Dragon Horn Hunter: a Scale 3 Level 6 he could search to get more range out of his Summoner’s Arts, and that he could overlay with his other Level 6’s to make Number 24: Dragulas the Vampiric Dragon.

That made for a very different strategy; it had different pacing, more consistency, and a greater breadth of moves. Bsiso had a wealth of options that could outplay his opponents’ expectations, and that made his deck a real sleeper hit early in the format. Allure of Darkness at three made it possible.

From the innovative to the downright alarming, let’s look at our second example of an Allure-enabled strategy. Charles Larson piloted easily one of the most notable decks of the format so far, the first weekend out in the 2017 Regional Qualifier season.

Charles Larson’s Dark Synchro – 41 Cards
Top 8 Colorado Springs Regional, September 2016
Monsters: 24

300px-DarkGrepher-LCYW-EN-C-1E3 Armageddon Knight
3 Blackwing – Gofu the Vague Shadow
3 Dark Grepher
3 Destiny Hero – Malicious
1 Doppelwarrior
1 Glow-Up Bulb
1 Jet Synchron
3 Level Eater
2 Plaguespreader Zombie
1 Red Resonator
2 Summoner Monk
1 Synkron Resonator

Spells: 16
3 Allure of Darkness
1 Black Garden
2 D.D.R. – Different Dimension Reincarnation
1 Foolish Burial
3 Instant Fusion
1 One for One
1 Reasoning
1 Reinforcement of the Army
2 Resonator Call
1 Soul Charge

Traps: 1
Heavy Slump

Extra Deck: 15
PSYFramelordOmega-HSRD-EN-ScR-1E1 Accel Synchron
1 Ancient Fairy Dragon
1 Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal
1 Coral Dragon
1 Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon
1 Elder Entity Norden
2 Formula Synchron
3 PSY-Framelord Omega
1 Stardust Charge Warrior
1 T.G. Hyper Librarian
1 Tatsunoko
1 Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier

Side Deck: 15
1 Ally of Justice Cycle Reader
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Farfa, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss
2 Gameciel, the Sea Turtle Kaiju
2 Mask Change II
1 Masked HERO Dark Law
2 Maxx “C”
1 Mind Control
1 Shaddoll Dragon
3 Twin Twisters

As the sheer power level of PSY-Framelord Omega becomes more and more apparent, we’ve started to see a new breed of combo deck that looks to go first and loop the heck out of your opponent’s hand. That concept comes in a lot of flavors. Tre Braaten caught a ton of attention doing it with his Zombie Shiranui deck in the first Regional Qualifier weekend of the format, but Charles Larson leaned even further into the concept that same weekend, with a deck that was even more keen to Synchro Summon.

There’s a lot going on here, and while the chief goal is to demolish your opponent’s hand with repeated Omegas and the occasional Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier, there’s a lot more here than just that. Larson could also play to a draw-heavy strategy that would see him recover a ton of cards and build economy off a string of Synchros.

tghyperlibrarian-lc5d-en-scr-1eYes, he could unleash a ton of Omegas and even return them to the field for more shenanigans courtesy of D.D.R. – Different Dimension Reincarnation. But he could also abuse T.G. Hyper Librarian and Formula Synchron, along with stuff like Stardust Charge Warrior and Coral Dragon, to get a ton of range out of his combo turns, and that made a highly variable, wildly maneuverable deck.

While Braaten played a few different Synchros and went more for Rank 4’s, Larson’s build was looking for a slightly longer game plan that could aim for those big Turn 1’s, but also survive without them, or adapt in the face of adversity. Note too that Larson ran Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon while Braaten didn’t, giving Larson’s deck a more preemptive focus while Braaten’s was more reactive (it relied more on Rank 4’s and Black Rose Dragon).

So let’s break it down. Larson ran a ton of cards that were heavily concerned with loading the graveyard, armed with triple Dark Grepher and triple Armageddon Knight, keying off three copies each of Level Eater and Destiny Hero – Malicious. Reinforcement of the Army and double Summoner Monk could search those Knights and Grephers for more consistency, while One for One and Foolish Burial patched up individual plays. He could even capitalize on the discard costs associated with cards like D.D.R. – Different Dimension Reincarnation, One for One, and Coral Dragon, giving him strong, proactive measures to smooth out rough draws.

And while Malicious and Level Eater were the most important graveyard fodder, they were really just the beginning. Larson could also load up his graveyard with Plaguespreader Zombie, Glow-Up Bulb, Jet Synchron, and Synkron Resonator, since they all have recursive tricks. He could even go so far as to make Beatrice, Lady of the Eternal and yard whatever he needed, and he could recur a slim lineup of monsters like Destiny Hero – Malicous, the all-important T.G. Hyper Librarian, or Coral Dragon with Black Garden.

Yes, Black Garden. Charles Larson is that cool.

Speaking of Coral Dragon, it filled some really varied roles here. As mentioned before, it’s an enabler for Larson’s graveyard effects since it puts stuff in the yard as profitable 1-for-1 spot removal. That same spot removal also made it a valuable problem-solver and Turn 2 troubleshooter, busting up fields when he went second or clearing the way when he went first and met resistance.

coraldragon-tdil-en-scr-1eIn post-event remarks Larson mentioned a specific combo that’s worth a look, too: with T.G. Hyper Librarian on the field he’d make Coral Dragon to draw a card off Librarian’s effect; he’d then revive Level Eater by reducing the Level 6 Coral Dragon to Level 5, Tune it to Level Eater since Coral Dragon’s a Tuner, and Synchro Summon Stardust Charge Warrior. From there he’d draw a card for sending Coral Dragon to the graveyard, another card for Charge Warrior’s effect, and a third card for T.G. Hyper Librarian. It was brutal, and with a Level 5 and Level 6 on the field he’d basically have a fresh hand plus two big monsters on deck to attack with, or make more Synchro plays. Coral Dragon remains fairly underappreciated in competition, but it gets its due here.

The Resonator and Accel Synchron engines are both worth noting too, featuring in lots of these new breeds of combo decks. Accel Synchron’s a big, flexible Tuner that yards Jet Synchron, setting up its recursive effect to make Formula Synchron plays or bigger moves. Accel Synchron’s reactive in the same way as Formula Synchron, and can flex to Level 4 or Level 6 with its ability. That versatility is key, opening up a ton of options.

Meanwhile Synkron Resonator and Red Resonator are both searchable with Resonator Call. Synkron Resonator’s essentially a giant combo extender, Special Summoning itself for free once your plays are underway and helping grift value from T.G. Hyper Librarian, while then recovering Red Resonator, which is a combo starter acting much like a Tuner version of Marauding Captain. Even if you don’t want to Normal Summon it again, you can pitch Red Resonator for stuff like D.D.R. – Different Dimension Reincarnation or Coral Dragon to get more value out of it. That little four-card package keeps popping up in combos decks and it’s well worth exploring.

Charles Larson’s Dark Synchro deck offers a level of complexity that’s fairly rare amongst the top decks right now, and again, it probably wouldn’t be viable without triple Allure of Darkness. Allure doesn’t just lend consistency toward those big Turn 1 openings; it creates combos with those Different Dimension Reincarnation and helps you smooth out hands when you don’t have a use for Normal Summons like Armageddon Knight, Summoner Monk, and even Dark Grepher.

redresonator-hsrd-en-c-1eTwo awesome decks, two very different approaches, both made possible by Allure of Darkness. While the boost to consistency for Burning Abyss and Phantom Knights drew a ton of attention when Allure’s shift off the F&L List was announced, we saw an immediate response from strategies like these, which made it clear why R&D decided to make that compromise.

The futures of all the involved decks are really up in the air right now: while Burning Phantom Knight variants are currently in the number two position behind Blue-Eyes White Dragon decks, their popularity could fade if some of the doubts about those decks come to be realized at the next YCS.

At the same time, these more creative strategies leveraging triple Allure of Darkness could see more play, or disappear altogether. There’s no clear path forward, but what there is, is potential. As we filter through this weekend’s Regional results, and the upcoming trends coming out of YCS Minneapolis, keep an eye on Allure and what it’s doing. There are big opportunities there and they could play in your favor.

-Jason Grabher-Meyer

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