Welcome to my next CDS article, and we will be returning to a deck that I have covered once before! Spell Counter decks have always struggled with one big issue – either you would draw too many monsters and not enough spells, or you would draw too many spells and not enough monsters. Even the build in my previous article had that issue. I’m here today to introduce two modern ideas on how to run a Spell Counter deck to solve that problem in this new age, so let’s jump right in!
Rewind over a year and a half ago, and you will find a lovely article here on YGOrganization about how the ‘brand new’ Lightsworn Tuner, Minerva, would be lighting up Spell Counter decks and giving them a brighter future. And yet again, the same thing has occurred. I’ll definitely be discussing this trend more in depth by the end of the article. Once again, brand new archetypes have been released that play directly into the strengths of the counter-counting Spellcasters, and it is time to unleash these secrets upon the world. This article will be discussing two distinct approaches to Spell Counters in the modern age – One I made quite clear with the teasers in my previous two articles (which I like to call the Fusion Citadel), and the second theme is the Pendulum Citadel. Both decks show great promise, and they can actually be considerably competitive in their own rights.
As a general introduction to Spell Counter decks, the goal of such a deck is to generate Spell Counters on specific cards, which then in turn fuel the effects for your key monsters. It can almost be considered a sort of ‘mana’ mechanic adapted into Yu-Gi-Oh!, especially since many of the key monsters have extremely powerful effects. In both of the builds this article will be discussing, there is one specific main boss monster, and that is Arcanite Magician. Arcanite allows you to destroy any card your opponent controls at the small cost of a single Spell Counter. And it gives itself 2 of them to begin with! Since Arcanite’s effect is not restricted to once per turn, it is actually a pretty common occurrence to sweep the opponent’s entire field clean with Arcanite before attacking safely for 2400 battle damage. The second boss monster available for Spell Counter decks is the game-ending Tempest Magician. At the cost of removing every Spell Counter on the field, Tempest can easily inflict massive amounts of effect damage by itself. While it is extremely unlikely for you to accumulate 16 counters to inflict a full 8000 damage strike, it is possible with a couple of perfect hands, especially in the Fusion Citadel variant. So enough about our boss Synchro monsters, let’s meet each of the variants!
Endymion Fusion Citadel
Welcome to the deck of Fusion Summoning galore! This build is actually closer to the Spell Counter variants that you have probably encountered in the past. The basic strategy of this sort of Spell Counter variant is to rely on the boss Synchros in the midgame, then using their discarded bodies to Fusion Summon Supreme Arcanite Magician with the help of Miracle Synchro Fusion as a decisive way to end the duel. Before we can even get to that however, I must introduce the card that fuels the Special Summoning in the deck, Magical Exemplar.
Exemplar is the start and a core member of any combo that your deck can put out. Exemplar is not only your best Spell Counter generator, but she also becomes your non-Tuner Synchro Material for almost any Synchro Summon performed by this variant. In the old days, Exemplar was your ticket to ending the duel due to its ability to complete a 2-card combo with which you could Synchro Summon Tempest Magician. All you needed was Foolish Burial and Exemplar, and you could send your Level 2 Tuner to the Graveyard, then bring it right back to make your Level 6 Spellcaster, since Foolish gave Exemplar the necessary Spell Counters. When I was originally working on Spell Counters in this new day and age, I thought back to this core combo and wanted to try and find a way to improve upon it, because let’s face it, there definitely has to be better cards that can setup the Graveyard with a Spellcaster-Type Tuner, right? But, wouldn’t it be even better if this specific card could function on its own, or even if it could create brand new combos of its own without requiring Exemplar? And of course, this card has to be a Spell Card, since we are using Spell Counters after all… If you combine all of these criteria, there is really only one option that shines well above the rest, and that card is Shaddoll Fusion.
Magical Marionette is Pulling the Strings…
I swear, if you are turning green out of disgust because I am mentioning Shaddolls in a CDS article, please don’t. I spent a large amount of time figuring out a cool way to introduce this DT archetype in a CDS setting! While Shaddolls still have managed to retain a place in this current meta due to their ability to float while maintaining the potential for OTKs, they are actually a very advantage-conscious strategy that pair well with other Spellcaster archetypes. It just happens to be super important for Spellcasters to get setup, and it is even BETTER that Shaddolls have a Level 2 Spellcaster-Type Tuner that can even Special Summon itself when needed! Talk about a better replacement for Night’s End Sorcerer in every way. The most important thing to remember is that Falco’s effect is NOT mandatory, therefore if you still want to do the typical Exemplar + Foolish into Tempest play, you simply do not have to use Falco’s effect to summon itself!
Now what makes Shaddolls specifically so special? In comparison to my previous CDS article concerning Spell Counters, you will notice that I replaced the Apprentice/Undertaker engine. This relates back to the initial problem that I posed concerning Spell Counter decks. To put it bluntly, Spell Counter decks need to have better ways to keep Spells flowing, so it is more important to recycle Spells than it is to recycle monsters. Therefore, the endless Spellcaster wave that arises from Apprentice and Undertaker is great, but it is a resource that you don’t need endless amounts of. The reason that Shaddolls are so important is that the Shaddoll Fusion Spells return to your hand whenever the Fusion Monster hits the Graveyard. You literally have a stream of Spell cards until the number of Shaddolls in your Extra Deck run out. Take note that Exemplar also serves an integral role for bringing back a Shaddoll monster to fuse with, if you have already run your deck dry!
While this already has the sense of being a smart, intelligent, and well-rounded concept for establishing a deck, I believe I can take it a step further. Let’s throw in one additional monster archetype to call it a day and make this deck a success – the Performages. On their own, the Performages are a great archetype involving advantage and effect damage, but in this specific deck, we only need the skills of those that focus on advantage! Cue the applause for Performage Trick Clown! This sadistic monster not only serves as your best form of Xyz or Synchro Material, but he also is great for helping you Fusion Summon El-Shaddoll Construct. While his status as a LIGHT monster opens up Michael as a Synchro Monster, it is more important that he constantly brings himself back turn after turn. A couple copies of Trick Clown, and you have the exact same ‘endless stream’ of Spellcaster-type monsters that you used to rely on Apprentice and Undertaker for. Not too shabby, and it is even better that you can dump both your Spellcaster Tuner AND begin the monster chain with one Spell Card, Shaddoll Fusion. Now that we’ve come full circle in my logic, it’s time to add one final wrinkle, one more archetype needs to be thrown in to make this deck special. So why not call upon another archetype that I have already written a CDS article about, perhaps only a year ago? Let’s call in the Spell Card archetype, the Bamboo Swords!
If you need a quick review of the Bamboo archetype, Click Here. While that article is a bit outdated, it still gives a good introduction as to how the archetype functions as a catalyst for making the main strategy stronger. In a deck relying on Spell Cards to gain strong effects, the Bamboo Swords couldn’t shine brighter. With pretty much a searchable Pot of Greed at your fingertips in Golden Bamboo Sword, you have a ton of potential at your fingertips to explode with advantage and get to your Exemplar as fast as possible. And don’t forget that you can always loop Golden with the help of our Effect Monster Boss, Endymion, the Master Magician.
-  3 Magical Exemplar
-  2-3 Performage Trick Clown
-  1 Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden
-  1 Genex Ally Birdman
-  1 Endymion, the Master Magician
-  1 Shaddoll Dragon
-  2-3 Shaddoll Falco
-  2-3 Shaddoll Hedgehog
-  1 Shaddoll Squamata
-  2 Summoner Monk
-  3 Cursed Bamboo Sword
-  3 Golden Bamboo Sword
-  2 Magical Citadel of Endymion
-  3 Shaddoll Fusion
-  2 Miracle Synchro Fusion
How does this Variant Win?
The Win Condition for the Fusion Citadel is simple – rely on your Synchro Monsters. If your opponent has a large amount of Field Presence, knock them down with a complete wipe courtesy of Arcanite, then attack for game with the help of Shaddoll OTK potency. The other option is to simply go halfway with your aggression, then Synchro Summoning Tempest Magician in Main Phase 2 in order to end the duel. If you manage to summon both Magicians to your side of the field in the same turn, you can definitely have some fun with that, since Tempest can load counters onto Arcanite to boost its attack! Don’t forget, any monsters with Spell Counters that are destroyed transfer their counters over to a face-up Citadel, so it is always a good idea to have the Field Spell ready to collect! Lastly, the perfect game-ending situation involves Exemplar and Shaddoll Fusion while your opponent controls a monster summoned from the Extra Deck. Remember, Exemplar gets more Spell Counters than Citadel, so it is easier to go for a Tempest OTK if you have an additional Exemplar racking up the counters!
Now that you’ve met the more run-of-the-mill Spell Counter deck of the modern era, let’s jump to something you’ve probably wanted to experiment with, but never had the time to actually try! This second version of Spell Counters involves Pendulum monsters of course, but word of advice before we dive in, there is a bit more of an OCG presence here until the TCG gets stronger Pendulum monsters!
Endymion Pendulum Citadel
What do you get when you combine Pendulum Summoning and Spell Counters? The perfect solution to the problem that has plagued Spell Counter decks for almost a decade – that problem being the issue of monster hands or spell hands. What better solution than cards that can act as a Monster or as a Spell, whichever you need at the current time. What makes this combination even sweeter is the fact that the Spell Counter theme has got a Pendulum monster all to themselves in the form of Magical Abductor. Abductor can even accumulate Spell Counters in either the Monster Zone or the Pendulum Zone, making her act as a second Citadel as a storehouse for Spell Counters. There is just one issue with this master plan for our deck – Abductor has a Pendulum Scale of 3. If that scale was just a bit lower, we would be living the life due to the perfect companion of Archfiend Eccentrick giving Spell Counter decks removal without needing the Extra Deck. But sadly that is not to be, so we must accept the facts and find a different partner in crime. So let’s bring in the second piece to our Pendulum Puzzle – Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer. With a Scale of 5, this gives you access to Pendulum Summoning Level 4 monsters to your heart’s content, and there are awesome plays for loading Spell Counters onto Endymion when needed!
To continue discussing the theory behind the Pendulum Spell Counter strategy, we have to accept one condition – this build is supposed to eliminate ‘dead’ hands and instead aim to have ‘live’ hands with just about any combination of cards in your opening hand. Therefore, hoping for one Pendulum combination to pop up is unreasonable, so we need to look for a second Pendulum combo in order to guarantee that we have access to Pendulum Summoning when needed. Look no further than an archetype that we already talked about earlier in this article – the Performages! Not only do the Performages synergize extremely well with Spell Counters and other Spellcasters, but they also have a Scale 3 and a Scale 5 Pendulum monster AND a monster that searches both of those. Taking it up one more notch, both of the Performage effect monsters you can run happen to be LIGHT, which opens up non-destruction removal in the form of Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn when Arcanite Magician just cannot inflict enough damage. In order to make this possible, we will obviously be sticking with the small Lightsworn engine in order to get to our Tuner monsters quickly and effectively.
Now let’s tie up the loose ends of this variant by bringing everything together in a mission statement for the deck. With this Pendulum Spell Counter build, we want to:
-  Eliminate ‘Dead’ Hands
-  Consistently setup Scales
-  Search whatever Scale we need
-  Access Arcanite Magician
-  Be able to put enough damage on the board to win the duel
It’s not too bad then that we’ve managed to hit all of those points while only filling 23 slots in the Main Deck. For almost all Spell Counter duelists, deck space is THE luxury item, and this Pendulum build actually gives you a lot of wriggle room in order to work out exactly what additional techs you want to fit in. Feel the need for an additional scale or two? Look into Pendulum monsters such as the Empowered Warriors that can both be searched by Reinforcement of the Army. Feel the need for more Spell Counters? Look into engines such as Spell Power Grasp or Upstart Goblin that can turbocharge your Spell Counter users. Want to bring back a bit of the nostalgic feel of old Spell Counter decks? Run a couple copies of Exemplar, Breaker or even Defender! This variant is all about being versatile within the frame of a Spell Counter build, so you can totally run with all of your wild ideas. Just don’t try to smash too much into the deck, you do want to maintain the elements of consistency and synergy.
-  2 Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress
-  2 Minerva, Lightsworn Maiden
-  3 Magical Abductor
-  3 Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer
-  3 Performage Flame Mascot
-  3 Performage Damage Juggler
-  2 Performage Trick Clown
-  1-2 Performage Mirror Conductor
-  2 Charge of the Light Brigade
-  2 Magical Citadel of Endymion
Additional Tech Options:
-  Swaying Gaze
- Functions extremely well alongside Flame Mascot, since it triggers its effect while searching a new Pendulum Monster. Especially good against an opponent using Pendulum monsters.
-  Dragodies, the Empowered Warrior & Reinforcement of the Army
- Functions as a searchable low scale, in addition to getting 2 additional Spell Counters on either Citadel or Abductor. The Pendulum effect of Dragodies can be invaluable as well, allowing your monsters to overwhelm your opponent’s more easily.
-  Terraforming
- Faster access to Citadel, while still letting you activate a new Spell Card if you draw it alongside a Citadel.
-  Upstart Goblin
- Spell Counter generation while deck thinning, not bad.
-  Spell Power Grasp
- See Upstart, except you are placing 2 Spell Counters instead of 1; however, it is less flexible since it can only be used in certain situations. It is excellent at boosting Arcanite’s ATK though.
-  Endymion the Master Magician
- Still an amazing boss monster, allowing you to recycle important Spell Cards and gain access to removal without the need of Arcanite Magician. Also allows to trigger your own Flame Mascot. Note that in dire need, you can move Pendulums from your Zones to your Extra Deck with his effect as well!
-  Effect Veiler
- Searchable through Abductor’s monster effect, this card is extremely disruptive to an opponent reliant on monster effects. Veiler also enables you to summon Trishula, since you can just Pendulum Summon the Level 4 monsters that you need for the summon, and Pendulum Monsters return to the Extra so you do not lose out on card advantage.
-  Droll & Lock Bird
- In certain metas, this card can be amazing. Looking at the meta we are currently in, with Chicken Race FTK and Towers Turbo both being a thing, Droll & Lock Bird can be excellently timed to an ‘Into the Void’ or any other Draw Spell to disrupt their turn completely and lower their chances of ever recovering back into the game. It is also searchable by Abductor’s monster effect.
-  Magical Exemplar
- Still an extremely powerful card in tandem with the Lightsworn Engine. In this specific build, Exemplar can be used to generate counters to then transfer over to Citadel when it is destroyed to either fuel the effect of Endymion or to fuel the effects of Abductor.
-  Breaker, the Magical Warrior
- Backrow control is always useful, and with Citadel, multiple traps can be blown away in a blink of an eye. He is also an excellent magnet for your opponent’s Trap Cards, which then secures a safe Pendulum Summon.
-  Soul Charge
- Again, this sort of Spell Card is immensely powerful, especially when you have so many potent cards in your Extra Deck rearing to fight.
-  Foolish Burial & Night’s End Sorcerer/Shaddoll Falco
- If you would like to get access to Tempest Magician, this is pretty much your only way in this sort of variant. I guess if you were desperate you could resort to some other Level 2 tuner engine, such as T.G. Striker if you are running Reinforcement of the Army, but this is the best way to go if you want to stick with Spellcasters
-  Magical Blast
- Believe it or not, 1000 damage each turn will add up over time. It is also noteworthy since it is a Spell Card that can recycle itself and guarantee that you get a Spell Card when needed if you need additional Spell Counters pronto. On the other hand, it is still an unstable card that does not have any card advantage purpose that could be perceived as going against the core principles of this sort of deck.
-  Mystical Space Typhoon
- This is always a great Spell Card, and can definitely be used in here, however, it functions better in a less monster-dependent meta.
-  Raigeki and Dark Hole
- Controlling the field has its definite advantages, therefore you may wish to opt into the mass destruction spells that are at your disposal.
Specific Combos and Interactions:
1] Magical Abductor and Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer
This combination of Pendulum cards is even better than just a Pendulum Setup. All you need is Citadel and you basically begin generating advantage. Activate Citadel first (if it isn’t already), then activate your 2 Pendulum Spells. Use Dracoslayer’s effect, destroying Abductor (and transferring its Counter over to Citadel) then add an additional Abductor from the deck. Activate Abductor as a Spell, then Pendulum Summon the Abductor you destroyed. After this play occurs, you can then activate either the Pendulum or Monster effect of Abductor to search out whatever you need at the time to support the other 2 cards in your hand. This is an excellent play to begin a duel, because it gives you counter generation during your opponents turn as well, since you will end with 2 face-up Abductor and a Citadel.
2] Performage Flame Mascot and Luster Pendulum, the Dracoslayer
While both of these Pendulum Monsters have the same Pendulum Scale, they are AMAZING when you draw both of them together. Use Luster’s effect to destroy Mascot and add a new Mascot, then Mascot’s monster effect triggers, allowing you to Special Summon a Performage monster from the deck. If you choose to Special Summon Damage Juggler, you should then make an Xyz or Synchro Summon to get that Juggler to the Graveyard, to then use its effect to search Mirror Conductor from your deck in order to Pendulum Summon back the Flame Mascot you originally destroyed. This two-card combo generates a large amount of card advantage, even if you have no other cards to work with, so be sure to utilize it when you happen to draw into it.
Both approaches to the Modern Spell Counter deck have their benefits and disadvantages, but they both can be extremely fun decks to use, especially in the current meta and the next whenever DOCS arrives. The Fusion Citadel can be made in the TCG now, you really don’t need to use any OCG cards, and the Pendulum Citadel just needs DOCS to hit American shores and it can be fully constructed without any OCG cards. This deck is definitely going to get better as additional Pendulum monsters are created, and don’t forget that additional Performage monsters will also benefit this theme greatly. Quite frankly, every time a new Spell Card comes out, you could also be looking for Synergy with Spell Counter decks, since that is the reason why Bamboo Swords became one of the premiere counter-generating engines for the theme! Join me or not, I will continue hoping that someday Spell Counter decks can become meta outside of Tempest Magician FTK, Magical Explosion OTK, Royal Magial Library Exodia FTK, or other degenerate decks, because at their core, the Spell Counter theme is extremely well designed and connected to its background and inspirations. So here’s to the future of Spell Counters, may they someday return to being more than just a ‘casual deck’.
Completed Example Decks:
The following are two of my Endymion Spell Counter builds. For those who stuck it out, thanks for reading all the way through this article! There may be issues with these builds and/or paragraphs about Spell Counters in the modern era, but as always, this article is meant as a starting point for your own deck-building endeavors in the future!
Endymion Fusion Citadel: Click Here.
Endymion Pendulum Citadel: Click Here.
To all of you who have kept up with reading my strategy articles, thank you so much for your support. The topic for this article was chosen by the request for a deck you can build in the TCG now, so I chose the Fusion Citadel for that portion and the Pendulum Citadel in order to discuss options for the future. Below is a list of 4 options for future article(s), so please leave feedback as to what you would like to see next in the comments below!
-  Black Luster Soldier – A Guide to the new support
- Brand new support is coming soon in Dimensions of Chaos for Black Luster Soldier! Let’s introduce you to playing the deck with or without Ritual Monsters!
-  Prediction Symphony
- Some duelists have found success combining the Prediction Princess archetype with Shaddolls, but what happens if you turn to the Symphonic Warriors instead…
-  “C” Monarch
- The monarchs are powerful monsters that need a tribute engine to function, and the “C” theme is pretty much the best at providing support in that regard. Meet the Monarch deck that relies on Insects!
-  Red-Eyes
- Have you ever wondered how to create a Red-Eyes deck without Sacrificing consistency? Let’s see if I can tie loose ends into a magnificent tapestry.