If someone walked up to me on the street and asked me to rate Gladiator Beasts on a scale from one to ten, based on how fun they were, I'd probably say "negative five." For the longest time, Gladiator Beast strategies have been extremely linear and suffered from some big issues. I think my beef with the deck is that it lacks good standalone plays. Gladiator Beast Laquari's probably the only monster in the deck with solid utility independent of other cards, requiring no prior setup. The other three main Glads aren't so lucky. Gladiator Beast Bestiari isn't very useful if your opponent has no back row; Gladiator Beast Darius without a Glad in the graveyard is kind of pointless; and Gladiator Beast Equeste is pretty terrible without worthwhile cards in your graveyard to recur.

So yeah, there are those problems. I've largely avoided building the deck entirely because of those drawbacks, but the recently released Gladiator Beast Nerokius sparked my curiosity. It's like, a giant bat. With its arms folded in a badass, king-of-the-world type of way. Aesthetics aside, good ol' Batman leaps over some hurtles that were holding the Gladiator Beasts back for years, like how Gladiator Beast Essedarii is a total pile. Before Primal Origin there just wasn't a reliable way to shuffle back Gladiator Beasts that weren't named Gladiator Beast Bestiari. I mean, yeah, there's always Gladiator Beast Heraklinos, but the fundamental requirement of having cards in your hand totally clashes with Gladiator Beasts' habit of setting tons of traps.

Nerokius is the complete opposite, protecting you on another front entirely. It can't be destroyed by battle, and your opponent can't activate stuff in response to its attacks. Even better, Nerokius doesn't cut off the chain of tagging in and out (unlike Heraklinos and Essedarii, which can't tag themselves off the field). A defense position Nerokius backed by a Gladiator Beast War Chariot is really difficult for a variety of decks to get over.

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And to be honest, the three material requirement isn't even that hard to achieve. I think the most common play is blowing up two cards with Gladiator Beast Gyzarus, attacking, and tagging out for a Gladiator Beast Darius and Gladiator Beast Equeste. From there you can Special Summon your third Glad from the graveyard, and retrieve a War Chariot in the process. The final outcome is Nerokius guarded by War Chariot – a strong game position to end your turn on. From there you can just continuously sit on Nerokius or play aggressive without fear of Mirror Force or Dimensional Prison.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is that Nerokius is way, way better than players are making it out to be, and that using Gladiator Beasts at their maximum potential means abusing Nerokius when called for.

Decisions, Decisions
Despite being a generally linear strategy there are actually several different paths you can go with Gladiator Beasts. I'm currently enjoying throwing Traptrix and Hand monsters into literally every deck, and that's definitely a valid possibility for Gladiator Beasts. Furthermore, the Fire Fist suite meshes nicely because Gladiator Beast Laquari is a Beast-Warrior Fire monster that you can revive with Coach Soldier Wolfbark. Then there's always the #ThrowbackThursday route of playing Elemental Hero Prisma and Test Tiger, thought these days that's more for giggles than anything else.

Realistically, the Fire Fist suite is the best option. It doesn't take much space and it works well with the cards you're already playing, as opposed to just being a bunch of good standalone add-ins like the Traptrix monsters or the Hands. Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear grants you a solid Turn 1 option to supplement Laquari, and you can use it to bluff your opponent into thinking you're playing an actual Fire Fist deck. Still, I wanted Gladiator Beast combos that were more universal and applicable to a wider range of situations – not just useful against particular set-ups, or when you yourself already had an entrenched field.

Enter: Gladiator Beast Augustus. Exit: All the horrible John Green jokes I had planned but luckily edited out.

Anyway, this Level 8 Gladiator Beast might seem like an auto-out. After all, the previous three high-Level Gladiator Beast monsters were arguably unplayable. However, Augustus isn't only really good, it rewards you for playing multiple copies and drawing them. Weird for a high-Level monster to do that, right? Whenever you Special Summon Augustus with a Gladiator Beast effect you can Special Summon another Glad from your hand. That means if you open with Augustus and another Gladiator Beast monster you're one successful attack away from a Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand.

Even cooler, you can actually just straight up revive Augustus with Darius, something that's exactly as ridiculous as it seems. Tagging in for two monsters through Nerokius or Gyzarus becomes scary good, threatening Felgrands all over the place. In testing I repeatedly found myself attacking with Nerokius and tagging out for Augustus and Darius to end with a Felgrand and Gyzarus. In my country they call that "brutal."

The challenge, then, was finding a way to not only fit the regular Gladiator Beast lineup into this deck, but also Augustus, and Fire Fist cards, and enough support to make sure all your plays work when you need them to. Let's check out the build...

DECKID=100549With Fire and Ice Hand running amuck in everything from HATs to Geargia, it might not seem like the greatest time to pilot a battle-driven strategy like this one. But Gladiator Beasts wield a powerful counter trap that can help address that threat: Gladiator Beast War Chariot. Recyclable through Gladiator Beast Equeste, War Chariot's your theme-stamped stop to all monster effects that activate. It's not quite as searchable as Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, but it makes up for that by being so difficult to avoid and so easy to reuse. All you really need is to draw a single War Chariot and from then on out you can continuously return it to your hand with Equeste. It's a consistent, effective system at forcing your opponent to make awkward plays or suffer consequences.

Of course, that's something any Gladiator Beast deck is capable of doing. With my version I wanted to really address the issue of good standalone plays.; that's where the Elemental Hero Prisma build fell short. You'd open with Prisma and Test Tiger - resulting in a Gladiator Beast Gyzarus - but you couldn't really do anything for a couple turns while you waited for your opponent to play enough cards and make enough investments for Gyzarus to be worthwhile. A Turn 1 Gyzarus isn't useful because it doesn't pop anything, and Turn 2 Gyzarus is susceptible to generic trap cards like Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, Fiendish Chain, and Breakthrough Skill. That basically meant you'd have to get up some defenses like Wiretap or Seven Tools of the Bandit before you went off, which means going first actually meant you'd effectively be going third.

With this build though, you've got plenty of plays with Augustus if your opponent refuses to commit cards to the field. A lot of opponents will try to hold back cards so they don't get destroyed, and if that happens you can just defensively make Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand or Gladiator Beast Nerokius. Neither card's getting much attention right now, and as a result you'll go up against a ton of opponents that won't see them coming. After all, how many times have you seen a Gladiator Beast player swiftly go into a Rank 8? Anyway, feel free to ask questions or pose your own ideas in the Comment section below, and I wish the best of luck to all those starting their WCQ testing!

-Doug Zeeff