Side decking against less popular decks can be tricky. Even similar builds of less commonly played decks often vary significantly, and that makes it extremely important to pay attention to the cards your opponent plays in the first game: you need that information in order to make side-decking decisions that will counter your opponent’s particular build.
Fortunately, there is a bright side to siding against these decks. Most decks in competitive metagames are built to beat TeleDAD and Lightsworn. That means when you come up against a rogue deck in a tournament, you can easily find several cards that you’re able to remove from your main deck with little consequence. In this article, I’ll be focusing on side-deck strategies that Gladiator Beasts can use against several competitive decks that are right below TeleDAD and Lightsworn on the tournament scene. I’ll start with the matchup that has the simplest side-deck strategy.
Gladiator Beasts vs. Gladiator Beasts: The Mirror MatchIf your Gladiator Beast deck is built to take down TeleDAD and Lightsworn, you probably have a lot of cards in your deck that are extremely ineffective in this matchup. The Gladiator mirror match is all about maintaining field dominance and keeping the strongest monster out there, without weaker ones that would enable the opponent to tag out his or her Gladiator Beast monsters. This means that defense-position monsters are a liability, and Gladiator Beast Hoplomus is an obvious choice to side deck out. If you play Spirit Reaper, Marshmallon, or similar cards that are primarily used for defense, those cards are also obvious choices to remove when entering game 2. All they do is provide free tag-ins for the opponent. Similarly, Waboku is an ineffective card in this matchup. If your opponent’s Gladiator Beast monster attacks yours, your opponent will be able to tag out before you do. This means that even if Waboku kept your monster alive in battle, Gladiator Beast Murmillo will most likely be tagged in to destroy that monster you protected, before that monster gets a chance to tag out.
Gorz the Emissary of Darkness, a phenomenal card in several matchups, is also extremely weak in the Gladiator Beast mirror match. Just to satisfy his summoning requirement, you need to put yourself in a position where the opponent is guaranteed to tag out and tag in a Gladiator Beast. That means the Gladiator Beast Murmillo he or she tags into will destroy Gorz—despite his 2700 ATK—and since most Gladiator Beast monsters have low ATK points when attacking directly, the Emissary of Darkness Token probably won’t be much of a threat. Furthermore, a tag-in leading to a Gladiator Beast Darius that recovers Gladiator Beast Bestiari to Fuse for Gladiator Beast Gyzarus will destroy both Gorz and the token he created before you even have a chance to attack with either one.
Thunder King Rai-Oh, a decent card in this matchup because of his 1900 ATK that allows him to destroy several of the Gladiator Beast monsters in battle, is also worth side decking out if necessary. Typically, high ATK monsters are great in the Gladiator Beast matchup, so this certainly wouldn’t be my first choice to side deck out. But his ability that enables him to negate special summons won’t work against Gladiator Beast tag-ins, which means it’s most likely restricted to negating the special summons of Gladiator Beast Gyzarus, Gladiator Beast Heraklinos, and Test Tiger. Unfortunately, Gyzarus and Heraklinos are difficult for your opponent to summon anyway if you have a 1900 ATK monster on the field, and losing a 1900 ATK monster to negate the summon of a Test Tiger will often put you in a difficult position. The effect of Rai-Oh that prevents players from searching their decks could be strong reason to play Rai-Oh against your opponent’s Gladiator Beast deck, but only if you know your opponent is running several search cards like Gladiator Proving Ground or Reinforcement of the Army.
Gladiator Beast War Chariot is often ineffective in this matchup as well. Its activation requires you to have a Gladiator Beast monster on the field, which is rare when the opponent is attempting a tag-out that you want to negate. Success in the Gladiator Beast mirror match is heavily based on how well you can destroy opposing monsters in order to make successful tag-ins. War Chariot fails to help achieve this goal. Instead, you’ll find that Gladiator Beast War Chariot easily gets destroyed by Gladiator Beast Bestiari. Chariot can be a great card against Elemental Hero Prisma and Test Tiger, however, so pay attention to whether or not your opponent’s deck relies on these cards in game 1.
There are a lot of cards you’ll probably want to remove from your main deck after game 1 of the mirror match. This means that there’s a lot of opportunity to add cards in from your side deck at that time. Bottomless Trap Hole, Smashing Ground, Hammer Shot, Dimensional Prison, and other simple forms of removal that make for easy tag-ins are all excellent cards in the Gladiator Beast mirror match. Conveniently, some of these cards were most likely in your side deck to combat other decks as well.
and Mind Control are two of the best cards in the Gladiator Beast mirror, but neither of them has the level of side-deck utility that simple destruction spells and traps have. The use of Brain Control to take an opposing Gladiator Beast monster and then tag it out for your own can be game-changing, since it not only gets rid of an opposing threat, but also replaces it with one of your own. A Gladiator Beast taken with Mind Control can’t attack and tag out like a monster taken by Brain Control can, but it can be used in a Fusion with Gladiator Beast Bestiari to form Gladiator Beast Gyzarus, which can be just as game-breaking. Both of them are also able to steal your opponent’s lone on-field Gladiator Beast monster, making any copies of War Chariot completely useless if he or she decided not to side them out.
In the past, when Gladiator Beasts were the most dominant deck type, players used Rescue Cat and Neo-Spacian Dark Panther in their side decks. By side-decking them in, those players could tribute Rescue Cat to search for two copies of Dark Panther to imitate opposing copies of Bestiari and Fuse them into Gyzarus. They could also search for a Dark Panther and a Test Tiger—using the Panther to imitate any opposing Gladiator and then the Test Tiger to send the Panther back into the deck. This is still one of the strongest strategies in the Gladiator Beast mirror match because of how quickly it can change the tide of a game. Unfortunately, it requires at least four side-deck slots to be used effectively (two for Rescue Cat and two for Dark Panther), all useless against every other deck type. Many players are rightfully unwilling to dedicate all of those side-deck slots to beating a deck that has faded out of popularity. If Gladiator Beasts ever regain the dominance they once held, however, expect this strategy to resurface, and expect Gladiator Beast War Chariot to be used to counter it.
Suggestion Summary:In: Brain Control, Mind Control, Bottomless Trap Hole, Smashing Ground, Hammer Shot, Dimensional Prison.
Out: Gladiator Beast Hoplomus, Spirit Reaper, Marshmallon, Waboku, Gorz the Emissary of Darkness, Gladiator Beast War Chariot, and, if necessary, Thunder King Rai-Oh.
ZombiesZombies are both a swarm and a combo deck. Zombie players can swarm the field with multiple copies of Zombie Master as long as they draw all of the cards they need to do so. This often involves Goblin Zombie (who is able to search for Zombie Master) and Card of Safe Return to draw cards each time Zombie Master uses his effect. Fortunately, thanks to Gladiator Beast Retiari, Gladiator Beast decks have a great matchup against Zombie decks. Retiari can remove opposing copies of Plaguespreader Zombie, which become a hassle when they start Synchro summoning strong monsters. Perhaps more importantly, he can also remove the opponent’s Zombie monsters that would otherwise be returned to the field with Book of Life and Zombie Master. He can also remove Mezuki.
The importance of removing the opponent’s monsters from play in this matchup cannot be overstated. Without a graveyard, your opponent’s options are limited. Many Zombie duelists realized this and began running Burial from a Different Dimension in part to combat this strategy. Burial also offsets the deck’s tendency to remove its own copies of Plaguespreader Zombie and Mezuki, which are dangerous when reused.
Since most Zombies don’t have effects that protect them, Shrink is an amazing card in this matchup. When an opposing monster attacks into your Gladiator Beast after its ATK points are halved and you tag out for Retiari, there is a tremendous shift in the game.
For the most part, Zombies have the same weaknesses as both TeleDAD and Lightsworn decks combined. As a convenient result, your side deck most likely won’t need any specific cards to combat only the Zombie matchup. Needle Ceiling, which also works well in the Lightsworn matchup, takes care of Zombie decks’ tendency to swarm the field. Bottomless Trap Hole does the same, neutralizing threats before they can harm you. Zombie Master can’t even resolve his effect if he’s not standing on the field, so a single Bottomless Trap Hole against a Zombie Master can prevent a whole string of summons.
Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror will likely negate the majority of your opponent’s monsters. In recent Zombie builds that have appeared at Shonen Jump Championships, this included Destiny Hero - Malicious and Dark Armed Dragon.
Thunder King Rai-Oh is also a great card against Zombies. 1900 ATK means he can run over the majority of the monsters in a Zombie deck, and his effect can negate Synchro summons. More importantly, he prevents the opponent from searching his or her deck with Goblin Zombie’s effect, which is critical to preventing the opponent’s combo.
Choosing cards to side deck out against Zombies can be a challenge when so many cards seem good against them. After all, your deck is most likely built to beat TeleDAD or Lightsworn, and Zombies have the same weaknesses as both. Destruction effects that only hit one monster and send that monster to the graveyard instead of removing it from play (like Smashing Ground or Hammer Shot) are good, but not quite as good as the side deck options that could take their place.
Waboku is also a good card in this matchup, but it’s not necessary to run a full three copies against Zombies when massive destruction effects like Mirror Force, Torrential Tribute, and Needle Ceiling are significantly better at handling threats than a single tag-out. Other than that, you’ll most likely need to trim down the Gladiator Beast focus for anti-Zombie tech, keeping the toolbox intact as I discussed in Taking Sides: Gladiator Beasts Part 1.
Suggestion Summary:In: Bottomless Trap Hole, Thunder King Rai-Oh, Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror, and Needle Ceiling.
Out: Smashing Ground, Hammer Shot, extra copies of Waboku, and, if necessary, spare Gladiator Beast cards that can be removed from the deck with little consequence.
Oppression Monarchs/Gadgets/BeatdownThere are several decks that rely on Royal Oppression to prevent the opponent from making strong plays. While many of these Oppression decks are drastically different from one another, they are all similar because they succeed against most of the top decks when they can successfully keep Royal Oppression on the field for the majority of the game. Since a Gladiator Beast deck relies heavily on special summoning—particularly for tag-ins—it’s vulnerable to Royal Oppression.
The side-deck strategy against any Oppression decks will therefore most likely be aimed at destroying Royal Oppression. As a Gladiator Beast player, Heavy Storm is most likely in your main deck already, but Mystical Space Typhoon and Breaker the Magical Warrior might not be. These two cards are great ways to destroy Royal Oppression, and should definitely be considered as side-deck options when running Gladiator Beasts. Twister and Dust Tornado are also popular side-deck choices against Oppression decks. While some people prefer Twister for its speed, I prefer Dust Tornado for its versatility. As an added benefit, all of these cards will help give you an edge in the unexpected Burn matchup as well.
Beyond the means of destroying Royal Oppression, side-decking decisions against these three Oppression decks will most likely vary tremendously. Bottomless Trap Hole and other monster destruction, for instance, may be ineffective against some Gadget decks because of how easily the opponent can summon a Gadget every turn. Against a Beatdown variant of an Oppression deck, however—or even a Monarch variant—any form of monster removal is awesome. It allows some of the stronger Gladiator Beasts, like Gladiator Beast Laquari, to make several direct attacks and finish games without needing to tag out and without fearing Royal Oppression. Furthermore, Gladiator Beast War Chariot works great against Monarch effects and Gadget effects, but does nothing against Elemental Hero Neos Alius or Thunder King Rai-Oh, two of the largest threats in many Oppression Beatdown decks.
Against Beatdown and Gadget variants, Gladiator Beast Hoplomus is a great card because he can hold off swarms of monsters, even if Royal Oppression is preventing him from tagging out for a different Gladiator Beast. He can often be a challenge for opponents to destroy. Hoplomus’s 2100 DEF leaves him helpless against the 2400 ATK Monarchs, however, and without Mask of Restrict on the field, Hoplomus will often just sit on the table until he’s tributed after an opponent’s Soul Exchange or Brain Control.
Against all of these Oppression decks, Waboku isn’t as good as some of the side-deck options that could take its place. The main purpose of Waboku in the Gladiator Beast deck has always been to ensure safe tag-outs. With Royal Oppression in the opponent’s deck, a safe tag-out and tag-in will often be difficult to ensure.
Gladiator Beast Retiari’s effect may also be nearly useless in Oppression matchups, since several Oppression decks don’t rely on the graveyard at all. Pay attention to the cards your opponent plays in game 1. If you don’t see tech that requires use of the opponent’s graveyard, like Pot of Avarice or a random Treeborn Frog in the Oppression Monarch deck, you may want to side out Retiari.
In: Mystical Space Typhoon, Breaker the Magical Warrior, and Dust Tornado
Suggestion Summary for all Three:
Out: Waboku and Gladiator Beast Retiari
Suggestion Summary for Oppression Monarchs:Also in: Bottomless Trap Hole and Mask of Restrict
Also out: Gladiator Beast Hoplomus
Suggestion Summary for Oppression Gadgets:Also in: Gladiator Beast Hoplomus
Also out: Smashing Ground, Hammer Shot
Suggestion Summary for Oppression Beatdown:Also in: Bottomless Trap Hole, Smashing Ground, Dimensional Prison, and other forms of monster removal.
Also out: Gladiator Beast War Chariot and spare Gladiator Beast cards that can be cut from the deck with little consequence.
That covers some side-decking strategies for Gladiator Beasts against the most commonly played decks on the tournament scene. Against more random decks, you’ll need to improvise. When faced with a less typical deck, visualize how the match is likely to play out, and make rational side-decking decisions based on that expectation. With a great side, you should be able to make every matchup favorable for your Gladiator Beast deck.