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Doomkaiser Dragon
Card# CSOC-EN043

Doomkaiser Dragon's effect isn't just for Zombie World duelists: remember that its effect can swipe copies of Plaguespreader Zombie, too!
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Gladiator Beasts: A Different Approach
Michael Kohanim

Ever since Teleport Dark Armed emerged as a threat in the metagame at Shonen Jump Championship Baltimore, I made gradual changes to my Gladiator Beast deck to adapt to Dark Armed Dragon’s rising presence. With extensive playtesting, I changed a few cards in my deck each week, until my deck completely transformed into one that relies heavily on Gladiator Beast Equeste, Gladiator Beast War Chariot, and Gladiator Beast’s Respite—three cards I didn’t even run in Baltimore. Here’s my current decklist:

Monsters: 17
3 Test Tiger
3 Gladiator Beast Laquari
2 Gladiator Beast Equeste
2 Gladiator Beast Bestiari
1 Gladiator Beast Darius
1 Gladiator Beast Hoplomus
1 Gladiator Beast Murmillo
1 Gladiator Beast Retiari
1 Gladiator Beast Secutor
1 Morphing Jar
1 Neo-Spacian Grand Mole

Spells: 13
3 Gladiator Proving Ground
3 Gladiator Beast’s Respite
3 Shrink
1 Heavy Storm
1 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Smashing Ground
1 Monster Reborn

Traps: 10
3 Gladiator Beast War Chariot
3 Solemn Judgment
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Mirror Force
1 Waboku
1 Trap Dustshoot

Extra Deck: 15
3 Gladiator Beast Gyzarus
3 Gladiator Beast Heraklinos
3 Goyo Guardian
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Magical Android
1 Red Dragon Archfiend
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Thought Ruler Archfiend

Unlike previous decks that have experienced success in Shonen Jump competitions, my current build is more focused on Gladiator Beast Equeste than any other Gladiator Beast monster, and makes optimal use of the Gladiator toolbox. It doesn’t simply rely on Gladiator Beast Gyzarus or Gladiator Beast Heraklinos to lead the majority of its victories. In fact, it doesn’t even need to summon Gyzarus. Instead, the player running this deck can strategically tag-in appropriate Gladiators for each situation with help from cards like Shrink and Waboku to either increase his or her own options or slowly destroy opposing threats. With enough tag-ins, the player running this deck will gain a decisive advantage that can be used to finally win the duel.

The Focus of the Deck: Gladiator Beast Equeste
There are eighteen cards in the deck with "Gladiator Beast" in their names, plus three copies of Gladiator Proving Ground: each of which can search for a card with "Gladiator Beast" in its name. That’s effectively 21 targets for Gladiator Beast’s Respite to return to the deck! With that many targets, Respite is rarely a dead card. While running this deck, keep in mind that Respite is not restricted to returning Gladiator Beast monsters. It can work with anything that has "Gladiator Beast" in its name, including Gladiator Beast War Chariot and extra copies of Gladiator Beast’s Respite. Similarly, remember that anything Respite can return to the deck, Equeste can return from the graveyard. This means that as soon as the first Respite or War Chariot is activated, Equeste has a beneficial tag-in effect for the rest of the duel. So even if the opponent has no threats on the field or in the graveyard that need to be addressed, the Gladiator Beast player can instead improve his or her own options as a different way of getting ahead of the opponent with every tag-in. This is huge, since it turns Respite into a source of constant draw power, and War Chariot into a reusable counter!

The ability to cycle through several cards at once by returning dead draws like Gladiator Beast Secutor and Gladiator Beast Murmillo to the deck allows the Gladiator Beast player to completely change a terrible hand into a great one with a single copy of Respite. But if any copies of Respite were already used while a Gladiator Beast player is holding copies of useless Gladiators, that player only needs a single tag-in of Equeste to turn two of those dead cards into three draws. The draw power that Respite provides can be renewed with every tag-in of Equeste. The advantages that this can give should not be underestimated.

The Rest of the Monsters
To accommodate the three copies of Gladiator Beast’s Respite, Gladiator Proving Ground, and Test Tiger, it was necessary to run several Gladiator Beast monsters in the deck. So not surprisingly, there are only two monsters in the deck that stray from the Gladiator Beast theme: Morphing Jar and Neo-Spacian Grand Mole. Because of the low monster count (seventeen monsters total in the deck) and the build’s ability to drop Test Tiger from the hand quickly, the deck can easily go down to a small hand size in an instant (whether it’s from special summons or from setting spells and traps). As a result, a successful flip of Morphing Jar has the potential to give the Gladiator Beast player a significant number of options without stripping many cards from that player’s hand. Because of that, I found that Morphing Jar fits perfectly here. I decided to include Neo-Spacian Grand Mole simply because of its ability to eliminate any opposing Synchro monster, whether that monster is Stardust Dragon or Thought Ruler Archfiend. This is versatility that no spell or trap card in the lineup can offer. The classic synergy between Grand Mole and Gladiator Beast Heraklinos was an additional reason I decided to run it.

The rest of the monsters in the deck are Gladiator Beasts and copies of Test Tiger. Laquari is the "big hitter" of the Gladiators and the card most commonly searched for with Gladiator Proving Ground, while the rest of the Gladiator Beast monsters are there to be part of the toolbox, ready to be summoned from the deck when needed. Deciding which Gladiator Beast to take after each tag-out may be difficult while running this deck, but the process of making these decisions is certainly not unfamiliar to anyone who has used any Gladiator Beast deck before.

The Spells and Traps
The deck’s goal is to recycle spells and traps with Equeste or to annihilate opposing threats every time there is a successful tag-in. But in order to accomplish a successful tag-in, the Gladiator Beast monsters often need some help. That’s why I included three copies of Shrink: to enable the weak Gladiators to take down stronger enemies in battle. Waboku is also extremely effective because it can guarantee the tag-out of any Gladiator that is attacked, regardless of its ATK or DEF points. Smashing Ground, Torrential Tribute, and Mirror Force also help to clear the way for direct attacks with Gladiator Beast monsters, leading into successful tag-outs.

Gladiator Beast War Chariot and Solemn Judgment do the same thing for this Gladiator Beast deck as they did for every one before it: they help the Gladiator Beast player maintain control. They negate the cards that the Gladiator Beast player would otherwise have no answer for and they enable the Gladiator Beast player to plan plays that cannot be interrupted by the opponent. They also provide backup for Gladiator Beast Heraklinos as he locks down the opponent’s options.

Gladiator Beast War Chariot deserves particular attention because of how damaging it is to the current top-level decks. Summoning Laquari and setting War Chariot is an extremely strong opening against a TeleDAD player, who will most likely try to activate the effect of Elemental Hero Stratos, Destiny Hero - Malicious, or Psychic Commander on the first turn in an effort to destroy Laquari. The same opening is also strong against Lightsworn, since a Lightsworn duelist also relies heavily on effects when trying to destroy an 1800 ATK monster in the early game. Nearly every monster currently played in the competitive metagame has an effect that can be negated by Gladiator Beast War Chariot, and unless the opponent can make a strong read or sees Equeste recover it, he or she will find it hard to resist using a monster’s effect.

The Matchups
I’ve found that the matchup against Teleport Dark Armed decks is quite favorable for this deck. Gladiator Beast War Chariot is often the key to winning, and the rest of the spell and trap lineup usually pulls through to take care of any threats that the deck throws at me. Because of the great versatility of the Gladiator Beast toolbox, the deck also fares well against rogue decks and anti-meta decks (especially after going to the side deck).

Against Lightsworn, however, I’ve found that this Gladiator Beast deck has an unfavorable matchup. Honest trumps Shrink every time, and the fast summons of Wulf, Lightsworn Beast can be difficult to get around. Necro Gardna only worsens this matchup if the opponent sends it to the graveyard early. Waboku is an extremely strong card in this matchup, and if you expect to play several Lightsworn decks, you should consider running additional copies of Waboku over Shrink. Continuously reusing Gladiator Beast War Chariot thanks to Gladiator Beast Equeste is often the best way to win this matchup, but this isn’t a strategy that you can realistically depend on for every game, especially with the chance of not drawing War Chariot during the game at all. Fortunately, a strong side deck can adjust the matchup to favor Gladiator Beasts with some copies of Light-Imprisoning Mirror—which have no effect on the Gladiator Beast player’s monsters—and some other anti-Lightsworn tech.

While recent Shonen Jump tournament results have made it clear that Gladiator Beasts are no longer the indomitable force they once were, they can still compete successfully among the top decks, and they are considerably cheaper to play than many of them. Gladiator Beast decks don’t need to summon several monsters in one turn in order to be a good deck type. They have unmatched consistency and incredible versatility in their cards that should be enough to carry them to the top. I still have faith that Gladiator Beasts will be able to rise up in the high-level tournament scene.

—Michael Kohanim

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