Dinowrestler Pankratops is arguably the best new Side Deck card of 2018,and that's no small feat with competition like GhostBelle & Haunted Mansion and Infinite Impermanence.

Ever since its release in Soul Fusion Pankratops has easily scoredtop spots in ourMarket Watchcolumn, topping the sales charts almost every week it's been available.Pankratops has become insanely popular at all levels of competition fromRegionals to YCS events, and players are running it in just about everystrategy out there.

The secret to Pankratops' widespread use isn't specifically tied toaccessibility, but the fact that it's a common has certainly helped itbecome so popular. Instead, Pankratops has taken off because it's the rightcard at almost the right time: it's an excellent counter to hugeTurn 1 boards; it's generic removal in an era when most decks don't havethemed removal; and it's field presence for Link Summons and Xyz Summons ina pinch. It's not a hand trap, but outside of Evenly Matched it's arguablyone of the best follow-ups to a hand trap available.

The current competitive outlook favors hand traps above all else. ExtraLinks, FTKs, and lockdowns with Number 86: Heroic Champion - Rhongomyniadhave forced players to prioritize hand traps and floodgates wheneverpossible. Very few decks can mount a comeback against Goukis, DarkWarriors, or Danger! if those decks are allowed to make uninterrupted playsat the start of the duel. In fact, you often won't have a chance to make acomeback at all, since you can lose before you get to start your firstturn.

That said, Pankratops is seeing play despite the fact that it's almostnever relevant against FTK strategies. It's even a great card in FTK SideDecks where it can dispatch floodgates and offer itself up as anothermonster for a Link Summon.

I'm speculating that Pankratops will be even more important next format. But for now let's talk about where and how Pankratops is beingplayed, and how it fits into your Side Deck strategy right now.

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Monsters with high ATK and relatively easy Summoning conditions have afundamental value in Yu-Gi-Oh! that's only offset by Effect Monsters. Level4 Normal Monsters with 2000 ATK would inevitably be some of the best cardsin the game if Effect Monsters didn't exist, and that's simply the resultof ATK values mattering in a more simplified environment. In today's gameATK is often irrelevant – generating card economy, Summoning monsters, andactivating removal effects all take precedence over sheet attack power. Butthere's still something to be said for raw strength: ATK can be agame-changing stat under the right circumstances, and the catch is thosecircumstances come up more often than you might think.

With 2600 ATK Dinowrestler Pankratops easily clears floodgates and negationbodies like Naturia Beast, Inspector Boarder, and Knightmare Gryphon. It'sa significant step up from Cyber Dragon's 2100 ATK, and it's even strongerthan Mekk-Knights despite the fact that it has a far easier Summoningcondition. It's arguably the biggest threat to a wide range of Extra Deckmonsters with floodgate effects.

In the event that you make an attack with Pankratops and it fails you canoften use its destruction effect as a backup anyways, destroying anopposing monster with an effect rather than battle. We'll circle back tothat ability in a bit, but for now just know it's a key component of howPankratops plays as an aggressive Side Deck pick for when you're goingsecond.

Pankratops also acts as a serious threat to your opponent's Life Points.Its 2600 ATK represents almost a third of your opponent's LP, and when itsdirect damage-dealing potential is combined with its ability to beat dozensof popular Turn 1 monsters you're already looking at an offensivepowerhouse. On top of that it has a powerful targeting destruction effectthat can be activated even after you make your attack. Paving theway for more attacks is just scratching the surface of what Pankratops iscapable of. It's much more than that: Pankratops is an amazing tool fordismantling set-ups and applying big pressure to your opponent.

Generic Destruction Is In Demand
Years ago more decks had access to card removal from Main Deck effectmonsters. Today's themes will often attempt to leverage generic removallike Twin Twisters or Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit to deal with threats onthe field, or rely on Extra Deck options like Knightmares instead.

There's nothing wrong with using Knightmares, but negating a KnightmareCerberus is much easier than stopping Dinowrestler Pankratops. Investingtwo monsters into a Link that requires yet another card to actually destroya monster is a pretty steep ask and Pankratops can accomplish that all byitself. While you won't churn out a Pankratops as the byproduct of somelengthy Extra Link combo, you'll find that Pankratops simply offers bettervalue than most other forms of card removal, and that alone is an excellentreason to play it.

Monster removal's great, but Pankratops can also target spells and traps toknock out set cards and painful continuous effects. Its utility as acounter side against floodgates is a major selling point, and I think it'sa must play in any deck that loses to Anti-Spell Fragrance or ImperialOrder. Pendulum themes have a new best friend in Pankratops, and most otherstrategies can find some way to use its removal effects to beat cardsfrequently sided against them. Pankratops solves most floodgatesthat still allow Special Summons, including Skill Drain and Imperial IronWall.

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Unfortunately Pankratops can struggle against Gozen Match and Rivalry ofWarlords. It's hard to follow up with Pankratops – and often impossible –if either floodgate's flipped once you've committed your first monster. Youcan play around that by Summoning Pankratops first, however, and if eithercard is chained you can then use its destruction effect to destroy thefloodgate before you're forced to send a monster to the graveyard.

Chainable temporary floodgates like Dimensional Barrier and DifferentDimension Ground can still only be answered with Red Reboot, and anygoing-second Side Deck strategy should probably consider playing both tocover the most likely Side Deck picks from your opponent.

Not Just For Offense
The obvious time to play Dinowrestler Pankratops is when you're goingsecond in a duel, but whether you're playing first or not you can often usePankratops defensively to interrupt your opponent.

Since Pankratops' ability is a Quick Effect you'll have plenty ofopportunities to destroy your opponent's cards, including their FieldSpells, Link Monsters, or freshly-set traps. Activating Pankratops duringyour opponent's End Phase after they've set a card or two to their backrowis a popular play, but most of the time you'll end up using it to destroy aField Spell like Trickstar Light Stage or an early combo piece like somekey Link Monster. You really want to cut your opponent off from their bigplays before they can get them going, and Pankratops can do that.

Unless you're playing Pendulums you'll probably have a hard time SummoningPankratops on your first turn. I wouldn't bother siding it in if you'recertain you'll be going first, but that doesn't mean Pankratops isworthless on defense when you're playing second. In a grind game there arefew better cards to draw into than Pankratops: it's flexible enough toissue spot removal against any card on the field, and its sheer ATK willput immediate pressure on your opponent that can easily win you the game.Dropping a 2600 ATK monster with a chainable destruction effect onto thefield at no cost is a strong play in a simplified duel, so even when youdon't draw Pankratops on Turn 1 it could suddenly become thereason you won if you draw into it later on.

Aggressive and defensive potential is usually an either-or scenario formost cards. Pankratops' ability to fill both of those roles makes it aflexible tech choice that can answer a variety of threats, but moreimportantly it can play those roles at different times during the sameduel.

One of the hallmarks of outstanding technical play is the knowledge of whento switch from conservative to aggressive priorities. That distinction isoften lost in a format where explosive Turn 1 Link combos can end games soquickly, but in slower duels that last past Turn 2 there's a noticeableskill gap among players who can decide when to switch into and out ofaggressive play correctly. Pankratops facilitates that shift by blurringthe line between a card built for just defense or offense, and that meansit's essentially always useful beyond Turn 1.

I don't think Pankratops necessarily replaces other forms of backrowremoval, and you'll still need ways to out monsters that resist destructionlike Thunder Dragon Colossus. It's a great Side Deck card to combine withother tech choices like Book of Eclipse. There are great synergies toexplore using Pankratops and generic Side Deck tech, but there are alsoplenty of ways to get mileage out of it just by combining it with key cardscertain themes already run.

As a Level 7 it's valuable for all kinds of Synchro and Xyz plays, and itgets you one step closer to the totally busted Number 42: Galaxy Tomahawk.If you haven't already, there's no excuse not to give Pankratops a shot:it's the best common we've had in years, and it's a seriously competitiveoption to beat back floodgates and fight back against Extra Links.

Until next time then

-Kelly


Kelly​​​ ​​​Locke​​​ ​​​is​​​ ​​​a​​​ ​​​West​​​ ​​​Michigan​​​​​​gamer and writer. In​​​ ​​​addition​​​ ​​​to​​​ ​​​writing​​​ ​​​onTCGplayer,​​​ ​​​Kelly​​​ ​​​writes​​​ a ​​​​​​personal​​​ ​​​blog​​​​​​ ​​​covering​​​ ​​​Yu-Gi-Oh!,​​​ ​​​Destiny,​​​ ​​​and​​​​​​other​​​ ​​​hobbies. You​​​ ​​​can follow​​​ ​​​him​​​ ​​​on​​​​​​​​​Twitter​​​​​​ ​​​and​​​ ​​​check​​​ ​​​out​​​ ​​​his​​​ ​​​​​​Youtube​​​ ​​​channel​​​. He​​​ ​​​also studied marketing at Western Michigan University.