Gladiator Beast Retiari
has met with extremely mixed opinions since his text was first leaked a couple of weeks ago. Many people saw his 1200 ATK and called him useless, claiming Retiari would never see play in a serious tournament. Others saw potential in Retiari and weren’t so quick to give up on the newest card in the Gladiator Beast legacy. In his Crossroads of Chaos Preview
, Matt Peddle already discussed the card’s basic purpose and common plays that will likely be made with it. But Retiari’s true contribution to the Gladiator Beast deck can only be realized with a comprehensive perspective of the entire Gladiator Beast theme in a post-Crossroads
A Power-up for all of his Friends
Gladiator Beast Bestiari, Gladiator Beast Murmillo, Gladiator Beast Laquari, Gladiator Beast Hoplomus, Gladiator Beast Darius, and every other Gladiator capable of tagging out for a different one just gained a new ability. As long as a single copy of Retiari remains in the deck, each Gladiator can remove a card from the opponent’s graveyard after battling by switching places with Retiari. That means that about one-quarter of your deck is now capable of removing the opponent’s Destiny Hero - Malicious or Plaguespreader Zombie from play without costing you a single card! That’s consistency that even a full set of three D.D. Crow cards and three copies of Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer couldn’t promise. Add that to the Gladiator Beasts’ abilities to destroy spell and trap cards, destroy face-up monsters, increase ATK, boost DEF, or special summon monsters after they battle, and the deadliest toolbox deck in the game becomes even deadlier.
Gladiator Beasts has always been one of the most difficult decks to play against. It’s often a mistake to set unnecessary bluffs in the spell or trap zone against a Gladiator Beast deck since Bestiari can just destroy those bluffs when it’s tagged in. It can even be difficult to decide when to set traps like Solemn Judgment, which can’t be activated in response to a Gladiator Beast tag. Once a trap is set by the opponent of a Gladiator Beast player, that opponent is often committed to activate that trap within the next turn or two, or let it be destroyed by Bestiari. Skilled opponents of Gladiator Beast duelists also know that summoning a weak monster that can be destroyed by Laquari—alongside a strong monster like Goyo Guardian—is often a poor play if it enables the opponent to successfully complete an attack and tag out for Gladiator Beast Murmillo. Now the opponents of Gladiator Beast decks have something else to play around: Gladiator Beast Retiari.
A Nightmare for Gladiator Enemies
None of the Gladiators can mess up opponents’ plans as much as Retiari. Opponents can play around Gladiator Beast Bestiari by just not setting cards until they know they will be activating them, but it’s often harder to refrain from sending cards to the graveyard that will be needed there later in the game. It’s unrealistic to expect Teleport Dark Armed players to hold Destiny Draw and Destiny Hero - Malicious in their hands until they’re able to safely make two Synchro summons with two copies of Malicious in a single turn. By the time they can guarantee effective use of every copy of Malicious in their deck, they would most likely be facing down Gladiator Beast Heraklinos, or would have already lost the game. Similarly, Plaguespreader Zombie and Mezuki often sit in the graveyard long after entering it, because they are needed to pay a cost in the early game and used to finish a duel in the late game (just like Malicious). Lightsworn players can’t even control when cards like Plaguespreader Zombie are sent to the graveyard, and since these cards are often sent there straight from the deck in the Lightsworn player’s end phase, the Gladiator Beast duelist has a full turn to tag out for Retiari and prevent Plaguespreader from being used in a Synchro summon.
Gladiator Beast Retiari is also an answer to Necro Gardna, the bane of Gladiator Beast decks. Necro Gardna has always disrupted plays by preventing Gladiator tag-outs when they would be most effective. But now, since Retiari can remove Necro Gardna when he is tagged in, opponents with Necro Gardna in their graveyards will need to use Necro Gardna as soon as possible or risk seeing it removed by Retiari. This is not unlike the way Bestiari forces opponents to activate traps at times that are far from optimal. Only now, opponents of Gladiator Beast players must contend with an added threat.
Heraklinos’ New MinionA common strategy among Gladiator Beast players is to wear away at an opponent’s card presence with a variety of tag-ins and slowly generate card advantage before locking the opponent down with Gladiator Beast Heraklinos. Gladiator Beast Retiari incorporates himself perfectly into that strategy. Heraklinos only negates spells and traps, making them useless to opponents. But with Retiari manipulating the opponent’s graveyard prior to the summoning of Heraklinos, the graveyard is also potentially dead once he is summoned. That means that the two most devastating answers to Gladiator Beast Heraklinos—Dark Armed Dragon and Judgment Dragon—will be hard to bring onto the field. There are very few cards played in the common metagame that can take down Heraklinos without reliance on the graveyard. Snipe Hunter, Honest, and Exiled Force can work, while Destiny Hero - Doom Lord can provide a temporary solution, but none of them are as game-ending as a 3000 ATK or higher Colossal Fighter summoned after removing Malicious from the graveyard.
To make Heraklinos’s newest minion even better, Retiari’s status as a Gladiator Beast allows him to be used in the Fusion that creates Gladiator Beast Heraklinos. That means that Gladiator Beast Secutor can bring out both Retiari and Laquari, controlling the opponent’s graveyard before contact Fusing for the "boss" monster that controls the opponent’s hand. While it is usually better to summon Gladiator Beast Equeste and Gladiator Beast Laquari with Secutor if Gladiator Beast War Chariot is in the graveyard, that play depends on War Chariot being in the graveyard in the first place, which isn’t as common as one might expect. With a single copy of Gladiator Beast Retiari added to the deck, a whole new play has become possible—greatly raising the consistency of an already extraordinarily consistent toolbox.
Synergy with the Gladiator BeastsGladiators all have a common goal: survive battle. Gladiator Beast Retiari is no different. With 1200 ATK, survival may seem difficult at first, but after taking into account all of the defensive spells and traps that a Gladiator deck normally plays, it becomes clear that his 1200 ATK isn’t much of a drawback at all. Gladiator Beast Murmillo only has 800 ATK, and it’s not uncommon for him to attack into a clear field or weak monster in order to tag back into the deck. With cards like Mirror Force, Phoenix Wing Wind Blast, Book of Moon, Bottomless Trap Hole, Shrink, and Waboku clearing the field and making safe battles possible for the Gladiators, it shouldn’t be hard to tag Gladiator Beast Retiari back into the deck after he is drawn or tagged into. Plus, Gladiator Beast’s Respite—which already has great synergy with the entire Gladiator theme—can return Retiari to the deck along with another unusable Gladiator if necessary. With Gladiator Beast Equeste returning Gladiator Beast’s Respite to the hand continuously, a Gladiator player can cycle through the deck very effectively. I expect Gladiator Beast’s Respite to become an increasingly popular choice in Gladiators with the decreased amount of play seen by Elemental Hero Prisma.
The hardest part of running Gladiator Beasts is deciding which ones to tag in and when to do so. Since it’s one of the largest toolbox decks in the game, players running the deck are faced with many decisions throughout a match. As a Gladiator Beast player on the defensive, you must decide which threats are the most dangerous. If an opponent has Destiny Hero - Malicious in the graveyard and a full hand, it might be a better choice to remove that Malicious with Retiari than tag out for Bestiari when it could be hit by a trap. Other times, on-field threats are more urgent to eliminate, and tagging in Murmillo or Bestiari is the safe choice to make. Examining each scenario is often difficult, and the addition of Gladiator Beast Retiari to the Gladiator toolbox makes the decision even harder by adding another choice for each decision. But at the same time, it makes the Gladiator Beast deck significantly better. More choices are never a bad thing. The best possible play for the Gladiator Beast player is now stronger than ever.
The Optimal Tag-in
Gladiator Beast Retiari enables Gladiator Beast decks to run cards that faded out of popularity. Smashing Ground, for instance, became increasingly unpopular in Gladiator Beasts after Stardust Dragon emerged to negate it. But now, Smashing Ground can be good even against Stardust Dragon. If the opponent chooses to negate Smashing Ground with Stardust’s effect, Stardust will be sent to the graveyard for Retiari to remove when he’s tagged in that turn. Cards like Shrink and Waboku, which have already gained recent attention from Gladiator players, are also likely to be played more often, since they help all of the weak Gladiator Beast monsters defeat the strongest threats. Gladiator-specific cards, like Gladiator Proving Ground and Gladiator Beast’s Respite are also likely to see increased amounts of play as Gladiators develop a more focused strategy: one less dependent on Gladiator Beast Gyzarus, who is easily countered and unable to destroy Stardust Dragon.
Future Gladiator Beast Builds
It’s fairly obvious that highly control-based Gladiator builds have emerged as the most successful type of Gladiator Beast deck in current metagames, and Gladiator Beast Retiari contributes a great deal to the typical strategy of that deck. Expect to see at least one copy in every Gladiator Beast deck as a way of further increasing the versatility of Gladiator tag-outs.