I know that Link Summoning's been a contentious topic since the new rules were announced months ago, but personally I don't have any ill-will towards the changes.
That said, Links will change how the game is played; Code of the Duelist arrives this week and will usher in a ton of new changes. New cards like Missus Radiant and Firewall Dragon will make Link Summons a lot easier, but there are plenty of decks that circumvent Link Summoning mechanics and don't need Link monsters to be a killer strategy, so in the Link formats going forward, you don't have to play Link decks… maybe just a Link card or two to keep your strategy bible.
In the past I was never a fan of Gladiator Beasts, but I've clearly come around in recent years. I have a soft spot in my heart for underrated and underplayed strategies, and so does our submitter today. He writes…
Gladiator Beast decks finally have some more support, but I'm not too excited about it. Gladiator Beast Tamer Editor sure is an interesting card, but it's hard to get out outside since its requirements are totally whack. I searched through all the old Gladiator Beast cards, but nothing stood out to me.
I added Zoodiacs because why not? They're the best cards around, and even with Link monsters I think they're a good choice, right? They're not the most expensive cards anymore either, so I say go for it. Actually with everything getting reprinted, is anything really that expensive anymore?
-Jon M. ~ Marietta, Georgia
It's simple - take Gladiator Beasts and add Zoodiacs.
Ok, so maybe that's not SO simple, but it's a wee simplistic in the creativity department. Take a look for yourself; here's the deck!
DECKID=107789While Zoodiacs have certainly had their heyday, I don't think they'll be the best choice going forward once we see more Link monsters. The next Forbidden & Limited List won't be too kind to them either, and honestly, I don't think Zoodiacs gel in Gladiator Beasts as they do in other strategies. You can keep them in, but...
Right out of the gate, I'll take out the Zoodiac Barrages and Zoodiac Main Deck monsters. While I'm not denying the power of Zoodiac Drident and vouch for keeping Extra Deck Zoodiac cards in the deck, I didn't feel like we were making Gladiator Beasts better - we were just making Zoodiacs. However, the Extra Deck Zoodiac monsters are definitely worth it to set up combos, stack your opening hand, and prove a hindrance for your opponent. I'm only keeping a Zoodiac Chakanine and Zoodiac Boarbow to fetch our lone Link monster we're forced to use - Missus Radiant – and the Zoodiac Broadbull is mostly used to feed Zoodiac Drident. Means to an end and nothing more.
Take a step back and consider Gladiator Beast Noxious. While the card may seem paltry with no ATK and a high Level, realize that it's a hand-trap version of Waboku and a Gladiator Beast monster rolled into one; you can block an attack from your opponent and then transform your Noxious into any Gladiator Beast from the deck with its effects turned on. The high Level might seem like a downside, but it's a segue for Gladiator Beast Tamer Editor, too, if you can throw down a ton of cards in one turn.
Consider Gladiator Beast's Respite too, the Moray of Greed for Gladiator Beast monsters. It's rarely seen play in competitive Gladiator Beast decks because why bother putting back Gladiator Beast cards just to draw them again? But factor in Gladiator Beast Equeste and Zoodiac Broadbull, and you have your answer.
Regardless of how good your hand is, Respite lets you effectively stock your deck while maximizing the overall strength of your hand, and playing it immediately gives you a target for Gladiator Beast Equeste. It's hard to call that a combo since you're not playing a flurry of cards all in one go, but it's a loop, and you can make it on Turn 1 with the right cards. In short, you can add cards back from your hand or graveyard when the turn is said and done, and you can reuse a yarded Respite with Gladiator Beast Equeste.
…And what cards would those be? Elemental Hero Prisma and Test Tiger, of course.
Instead of having the Zoodiac Main Deck arsenal, Elemental Hero Prisma opens up your plays for niche Rank 4's and pretty much every Gladiator Beast Fusion monster as well as the Zoodiacs - at least the Extra Deck threats. Having an alternate avenue to field a Gladiator Beast Darius or Gladiator Beast Equeste and actually gain economy from your cards is a huge help. Nothing's more dissatisfying than simply ending with a Gladiator Beast Laquari because you had nothing better to do.
Trim Down The Beasts
Gladiator Beasts can suffer from having too many monsters, so we'll want to try and keep the monster lineup as slim as possible while still having the variety of Gladiator Beasts needed to complete the combos. Fortunately, Test Tiger and Maxx "C" are more or less hand traps and you can Special Summon Elemental Hero Prisma with A Hero Lives, so even that count may be too high. Gladiator Proving Ground is surprisingly not the be-all end-all search card you'd like it to be, because it's technically not a "Gladiator Beast" card, so you can't use it with Gladiator Beast Equeste or Gladiator Beast's Respite.
Moving on, I think we need more ways to clear the field for direct attacks. After all, Gladiator Beasts work best when simply attacking your opponent, circumnavigating the fancy ways to trigger their effects via Test Tiger and the like. Dark Hole and Raigeki seem like obvious answers, but you'll also need ways to dig for them. Now that we're removing the Zoodiacs why not add Pot of Desires? The price tag on that card's finally dropped and it goes great in pretty much any deck that's not Zoodiacs.
In terms of defense, Quaking Mirror Force is one of the better "last line of defense" trap cards since it sets your opponent's monsters, making them prime attack targets for your Gladiator Beasts. With a much more offensive assault, taking a passive back-seat and sitting on traps is a forgone strategy. And now that we're adding A Hero Lives, I don't think paying all the Life Points for Solemn Warning and Solemn Strike is too prudent. I found more luck with My Body as a Shield, proactively protecting my monsters while still being clutch in a pinch on my opponent's turn.
Instead of ten million Zoodiac monsters in the Extra Deck, I think a few staples are in order. Gladiator Beast Nerokius and Gladiator Beast Heraklinos are important, especially since we can't throw down Gladiator Beast Tamer Editor and use it efficiently at the moment. Technically, you can Special Summon a Gladiator Beast Augustus and in turn Special Summon another copy to Special Summon a Gladiator Beast Darius to fetch another Earth monster, but that seems pretty hard to do, no? It's killer when it works but it'd be dumb to call this deck a true "Link" deck.
Here are the changes!
-1 Gladiator Beast Bestiari
-1 Gladiator Beast Darius
-1 Gladiator Beast Secutor
-2 Zoodiac Ramram
-2 Zoodiac Ratpier
-3 Zoodiac Whiptail
-3 Zoodiac Barrage
-3 Fire Formation - Tenki
-1 Gladiator Proving Ground
-1 Twin Twisters
-1 Upstart Goblin
-2 Solemn Strike
-1 Solemn Warning
-1 Zoodiac Broadbull
-1 Zoodiac Drident
-1 Zoodiac Chakanine
-1 Zoodiac Hammerkong
-1 Zoodiac Tigermortar
-1 Daigusto Emeral
+1 Gladiator Beast Darius
+2 Gladiator Beast Augustus
+2 Elemental Hero Prisma
+3 A Hero Lives
+3 Gladiator Beast's Respite
+3 Pot of Desires
+2 Dark Hole
+2 My Body as a Shield
+3 Quaking Mirror Force
+1 Missus Radiant
+1 Gladiator Beast Nerokius
+1 Gladiator Beast Heraklinos
+1 Number 39: Utopia
+1 Number S39: Utopia the Lightning
+1 Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer
+1 Abyss Dweller
And here's the final cut. It may seem like we chopped up the deck, but most of that was just purging the Main Deck Zoodiac cards and adding HERO support.
I guess with only two cards it's hard to call it a HERO hybrid, but I digress. After all, to have a chance of ever actually fielding Gladiator Beast Tamer Editor, we have to throw one Link Monster in there. With Test Tiger and Gladiator Beast Darius, Missus Radiant may be the best option we have.
DECKID=107795Gladiator Beasts have been on and off a "summon one and done" kind of deck, but that gets pretty boring after a while. You could stuff the deck with more traps and some support cards like Pot of Duality, but doing so would severely limit your range and what you can do on your turn.
I'd stick with a more proactive version instead of the reactionary one, though I won't say a slower Gladiator Beast deck is completely horrible. If we ever get El Shaddoll Construct on the Forbidden and Limited List, I would even revisit Gladiator Beast Shaddolls.
I know I called the deck "Linkless Gladiator Beasts," but if I really pinned for Gladiator Beast Tamer Editor as a focal point, I'd have to dedicate infinitely more Extra and Main Deck space, wasting resources to summon a Monster that may not be worth it in the end.