Spar-Spangled Banter: Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards – Xyz and Pendulum Monsters

Hello, Gaspar here again.
Having already talked about Fusion, Ritual and Synchro Monsters, there are only 2 more monster sub-types to comment on. And I shall be talking about both of them in this part.


Xyz Monsters

There are quite a few things to say about Xyz Monsters. And by that I mean “complain”. Because for a mechanic an entire series of one anime and two mangas was built around, they do not make sense. They feel like the super special unique thing you would create for yourself when you are a little kid, but discard it later on because you do not remember what was going through your mind at the time and do not feel like reverse-engineering and correcting your own thoughts. Xyz do not have Levels! They have Ranks, which are almost like Levels but they are not! Why? BECAUSE!

The only thing Ranks do is make most Level-related cards pointless. It’s easy to see that with Level Limit – Area B and Gravity Bind, two cards that were Limited until Xyz came along and then both of them were swiftly moved up because Xyz Monsters do not care about them. Not that they had been doing anything for years, but that has never mattered to Konami: all that matters is the new mechanics, and all heretics shall perish!

That would make too much sense.

Is that all? Oh, of course it is not…
See, one of the main issues with Xyz Monsters is that not only they are the easiest-to-use Extra Deck frame due to having zero risks involved to them, but they also actively avoid any and every kind of restriction they might have.

If you give something a limiter, but the monster always goes down before said limiter actually matters, and/or if the monster only needs to do its thing once to be worth it, then the limiter does not matter at all and it might as well not be there. Do you know what I just described? Xyz Materials. They are a meaningless restriction that rarely ever matters in gameplay. They do not matter any more than a once per turn clause would for a non-Xyz Monster because they do not live long enough to run out of Xyz Materials – and even if they did, the vast majority of them do not actually impair you. And the one that does impair you is usually combo’d with Creature Swap or used specifically to crash into another monster with 3000 ATK.

If you give a monster a summoning restriction to compensate for an absurd effect, but the monster is overly easy to summon anyway, then the summoning restriction does not matter. What did I describe just now? Bujintei Susanowo, Lightning Chidori, Fire Fist – Tiger King, Evilswarm Ophion, any high-Rank Xyz, and that is not even close to a complete list.

If you force a drawback onto a monster if it uses its effect, but you also hand that monster a way around the drawback in a silver plate, why are you even giving the first monster that drawback? The drawback-avoider in this situation is Gaia Dragon the Thunder Charger, but it has expanded onto many other things in the game nowadays.

Thanks a lot, Gaia.

You do not have to do anything to use Xyz Monsters besides using monsters that have the same Levels. This means there is no excuse to not use them, and their variety of effects means you always have access to a toolbox with a wide number of options to solve plenty of “issues” at the tip of your fingers. This is a bad thing, because these “issues” are rarely anything you actually cannot deal with in any other way. It discourages you from using cards in your Main Deck that actually deal with situations and encourages you to streamline your Deck into doing little beyond summoning one Xyz after the other, increasing your Main Deck’s consistency for no reason other than the Extra Deck being the one holding all the solutions to every single situation now.

And now you have the solution to almost every situation…
In a single card.

The power level scheme of Xyz Monsters is completely distorted. Rank 4 is the best Rank, due to having the best non-Tribute monsters available to it and a lot of tools to assist in churning out monsters to Xyz with, as well as many of the best Xyz monsters of the game: Castel the Skyblaster Musketeer, Evilswarm Exciton Knight, Number 101: Silent Honor ARK and Tellarknight Ptolemaeus. You would have thought the Rank with the monsters that are the most spammable would be the weakest Rank, not the best. Rank 3 used to be the best Rank before Rank 4 took the throne due to Tour Guide from the Underworld existing and Rank 4s actually being rather weak in the first year of Xyz, but even nowadays Rank 3s are still very good. On the other hand you have Rank 9, which is very awkward to use due to the sheer lack of Level 9 monsters; the Rank itself barely has any monsters, most of which are not worth using or are Chaos Numbers. Then there’s Ranks 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 all having very good removal and/or protection on very big monsters. The 2-material Rank 2 Sky Cavalry Centaurea can dispose of almost any monster due to not even targeting with its effect, and it cannot be destroyed by battle while it has materials attached, and it also has 2000 ATK… Rank 1 is pretty much the only one that is “fine” due to most of the Xyz focusing on support or defense – and yes, Rank 4s are easier to slap on the field anyway.


So, what is wrong with Xyz Monsters?
I have a better question: what is right with Xyz Monsters?

Their restrictions do not matter, you do not have to dedicate your Deck to use them, and the easiest-to-summon ones are also the best. What sense does that make?

They warped the idea of everything that came after their introduction and also a bunch of things that came before. Anything that could summon multiple monsters at once? That’s an Xyz enabler unless it is restricted in some way, and the way those were “restricted” was either “completely meaningless” or “I do this and cannot do anything else at all, I end my turn”. Sure, being able to easily summon both Tuners and non-Tuners for Synchro purposes is no better at all, but other than the already-existing-at-that-point Rescue Cat, Konami only got their hand into doing that on purpose rather late in the Synchro era… they did it right from the get-go with Xyz. And then there is the lot of cards that cannot be used as Synchro Material in order to force you to Xyz whether you like it or not. And all the cards designed to be nothing beyond fodder that gives you extra cards no matter what. And entire archetypes whose every card has a billion effects that may or may not give you meaningful card advantage, and redundant searching becoming the norm instead of the exception when it came to Deck design because we apparently have to reward you for using the Extra Deck mechanic with the lowest risk involved. And every single card becoming searchable so that people cannot complain about them not having their one Bottomless Trap Hole at all times to stop a particular summon. And they finished making Levels completely meaningless through their abundant Level modulation effects.

Here’s an example.

The mechanic itself would only be fine as long as every monster involved in it were very low-powered, and by that I mean “As good as Maestroke the Symphony Djinn and Photon Papilloperative at the very best”, and even those probably have a bit too much of utility for their own good. The moment Xyz Monsters tried their hand at outright card removal in the lower Ranks, they lost their mind. You cannot have the easiest-to-use mechanic having removal as an option. The next step is to make removal cards you put in the Main Deck searchable, and then searchable cards that are removal and search more cards to search more removal.
Oh, right. They did that too.

Come to think of it… if the whole point of Xyz Monsters is to have a free, easy-to-access toolbox with no downsides whatsoever, why do many Xyz Monsters feature summoning restrictions?

In the end, Xyz Monsters did little to improve the game and a lot to make it worse, either directly or indirectly.

And what’s the idea behind Xyz Monsters, anyway?
None. There is no explanation for Xyz Monsters beyond “TWO/THREE MONSTERS COMBINE!”… which is, you know, the same as Fusions. To the point where many Xyz Monsters are literally just combinations of previous monsters, like Vylon Disigma being the 3 Main Deck Vylons with a darker color scheme. Xyz are nothing beyond the summoning mechanic itself, which makes them pretty bland.

Well, Konami says they are made of antimatter – whatever that means – but they also say Nordics are better than full-powered Plant Synchro, so you should probably take their word with a salt mine.

Not that them being made of antimatter would actually mean anything, either.


Pendulum Monsters

Can anyone tell me in what alternate reality the idea of infinitely reusable monsters with no actual drawbacks that actually do things and can fuel more things and are overly searchable is a good idea?

No, seriously, can anyone? Yu-Gi-Oh barely has cards that produce Tokens and has even less cards that can make good use of them, yet we get an entire mechanic that does everything those do, actually does them well, does not need gimmicky things to do so, gets an absurd amount of searchability due to needing 2 appropriate cards to conduct the titular mechanic’s summoning, and then some? From the get-go? And then it keeps escalating over and over?

The closest thing we had to this was, like, The Supremacy Sun in the GX manga, and the only thing it did was revive itself while having 3000 ATK yet it got brutally nerfed… but it is perfectly fine when Konami wants an entire mechanic to be better than that?

Stare at the swaying pendulum…
Your eyes feel drowzy…
You will buy our mechanic that is already eclipsing everything…

The Pendulum mechanic does little beyond encouraging redundant searching even more than Xyz Monsters did while also being able to easily deal massive amounts of damage. The mechanic’s own workings give you recurrent fodder that actually does things, so it is not even actual fodder, and they actively do their best to have you not paying the cost for anything.

Like, look at Majespecters. All their low-Level monsters search cards upon summon. Said cards include removal Spells and Traps that tribute the monsters, but the monsters themselves cannot be targeted or destroyed by the opponent’s effects while they are monsters so the opponent is fighting a losing battle as long as they cannot dispose of the Pendulum Scales because the monsters search things upon Special Summon too, and their Level 6 monster also deals with the opponent’s monsters. And their Field Spell turns any Majespecter on your field into a Majespecter from your Deck, with the tributed monster going to the Extra Deck. And two of the Majespecters can also search monsters to Pendulum everything back.

If you want another example you can look at Qliphorts, who abuse the fact Pendulums Monsters are able to also be Normal Monsters because of rules lawyering so that their two Pendulums that generate advantage while in the Pendulum Scales are searchable by Summoner’s Art, 2 of their monsters are removal against monsters or Spells/Traps when if tributed, another one of them is removal when Tribute Summoned, and yet another one swarms with monsters from the Deck that are destroyed at the end of the turn… placing them in the Extra Deck, so you have more things to spam next turn. They also have two 3-tribute with inmunities to almost everything under the sun and they are easy to summon due to, you know, all the spam – but using them is not necessary because the Pendulum base is that ridiculous.

And then you have things like Pendulums Tuners and Contact Fusions that can be summoned using only Pendulums and Pendulums that destroy other Pendulums so that you get them in your Extra Deck while also getting more Pendulums in your hand…

Card design!

It was obvious that Pendulums would basically hijack the game as soon as Konami felt like pushing them just a bit. So, what does Konami do to “fight off” Pendulums? They print Galaxy Cyclone and Twin Twister as they can destroy 2 Spell/Traps. Oh, you are not using Pendulums but you get hit by them anyway? Sucks to suck. Maybe that’ll teach you to use things that float whenever your opponent tried to do anything. Not that destroying the Scales matters if they can get 2 of them back onto the field again, something that they are more than able to do. And you better not destroy any of those Pendulums that do things upon destruction.

The one consistent way to defeat Pendulums “reliably” is not to dispose of their Pendulum Scales, but to not let them play at all. A mechanic that imposes do or die on both players at all times, is designed specifically to disregard the costs of everything to an extent only Nekroz gets close, and does not care about the players’ actual input in the duel is NOT the kind of mechanic that anyone would actually enjoy.

Well, not beyond coming up with these combos, anyway. Do not ask me where they start, nobody knows. The fact someone came up with them is pretty cool. The fact Konami is neutering every Deck out there other than this one while giving it more and more tools on purpose is not. The Deck got murdered in the January 2016 OCG banlist after Konami was done with milking Performages. But, eh, you know… *flips through script* “there’s no other way to make anime Decks good”. Except nope, this is a complete and utter lie. It’s Konami not knowing how to design anything.

Pendulums share two more issues with Xyz Monsters.
First of all, their presence in the game has warped card design even further. I mentioned Twin Twister and Galaxy Cyclone a few paragraphs ago. Those hurt actual backrow infinitely more than Pendulums, which were not even fazed by those very much due to, you know, all their searchability and their retreating to the Extra when destroyed. Unless the Pendulum Deck is topdecking, you have no way to know if your removal card is actually doing you any good. And you cannot be sure if you are winning even if they are topdecking, because Konami is already making Pendulums who get you more Pendulums while they are in the Pendulum Scale, or 1-card Pendulum Summon set-ups.

Secondly, the Pendulum mechanic is exactly like the Xyz mechanic in that neither makes sense when thinking about it in a non-mechanical way. Placing two monsters on specific areas of the field creates an arc of light with a swinging pendulum? And a bunch of monsters from your hand and Extra Deck come out from it? And they return to your Extra Deck if they would be sent from the field to the Graveyard? And they are supposedly half Spell Cards when they actually are Spells only in one specific all-new Zone in the Field and they are monsters everywhere else? What sense does that make? Why do these happen?


Yeah, I do not have any good things to say about Pendulums. The mechanic itself is absurd in a bad way. Why are you giving me an entire mechanic that is literally infinite fuel for anything and is usable even when not being fuel? What is the downside? Needing two Scales? Is that the downside? With all the ways to get extra Scales and how even destroyed Scales do not die when they are killed, that does not seem like a downside. The one thing I liked about Pendulums was their effects as Spell Cards… but it took only one set to turn them into search cards that stay on the field to fuel field vomit even if you destroy them in response. I cannot come up with any ways to “fix” this mechanic while still keeping it playable. It is made to be abused. How do you make a mechanic that is only good for abuse?

Seriously, where is the good in this mechanic? Is it the part where you can Special Summon whatever you want from your hand as long as it has the appropriate Level and you use deranged nostalgia as an excuse? Because, well, you know, almost every single Pendulum is part of a self-contained archetype which does not like non-themed monsters, with very few exceptions… and those exceptions are Pendulums themselves. Or is it the part where they are tied to Yu-Gi-Oh Arc-V, and people love giving every single thing related to Arc-V a pass no matter how bad something about it might be, just because it is not ZeXal?


Well, that finishes up the monster sub-types. This part was a tad more… bitter than the previous ones. It is easy to see that I am not pleased by the Xyz and Pendulum mechanics and what has happened to the game due to their presence.

The series is not over yet. I’ll be talking about cards in general next time.

Oh, right, and Merry Christmas.


3 thoughts on “Spar-Spangled Banter: Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards – Xyz and Pendulum Monsters

  1. Pingback: Seeds of Discord – Die Frauen and the Mentality of 4 | PGX

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