For me, one of the most shocking decks to top at YCS Providence was Brad Pironciak’s Gladiator Beast build. I’d predicted a GB comeback since YCS Toronto, seeing a unique opportunity for Gladiator Beast Gyzarus to do some major damage against the large first-turn fields that were established as the new norm that weekend. But what shocked me was the actual builds of GB’s that wound up being successful: I’d expected a conventional Gladiator Beast deck or a HERO variant, not the one that wound up topping.
Brad Pironciak Had Other Plans!
Pironciak waded into the fray with a fairly rare version of Gladiator Beasts: a build that favors a hefty lineup of Beast and Beast-Warrior Gladiators instead of more common picks like Test Tiger or Rescue Rabbit. He played three copies each of Gladiator Beast Laquari and Gladiator Beast Darius, just because they have solid ATK and the Beast-Warrior type, as well as two Gladiator Beast Samnite. That let him run triple Horn of the Phantom Beast, and he played three Gladiator Beast War Chariot with triple Gladiator Beast Equeste to bring them back. It was a strong strategy built on a core of redundancy and consistency, and the only thing that stopped Pironciak from getting further than the Top 16 was a horrible match-up combined with an even worse run of bad luck.
What am I talking about? Well, Pironciak’s Top 16 Feature Match opponent was the player who’d eventually go on to win the whole event, Chris LeBlanc. LeBlanc was playing Geargia, a deck that thrives in longer grind games by searching tons of free cards with Geargiarmor. While Gladiator Beast War Chariot can negate Geargiarmor’s effect and destroy it, doing that would require Pironciak to keep a Gladiator on the field. And though a Horn-boosted Gladiator could swing through Geargiarmor’s bulky 1900 DEF, LeBlanc played a ton of defensive cards to ward off attacks.
It wasn’t a pretty Feature Match.
Pironciak lost the first Duel opening with nothing but Gladiator Beast Murmillo and a fistful of traps, including two dead Horn of the Phantom Beast and two War Chariots that would have no value if he couldn’t get to a bigger Gladiator immediately. How’d that work out? Well, when he tagged into Gladiator Beast Bestiari he lost it to Bottomless Trap Hole on his first turn. On Turn 2 he lucked into a Gladiator Proving Ground for Gladiator Beast Laquari, but a pair of Mystical Space Typhoons would seal the duel for LeBlanc. Duel 2 would see LeBlanc banish Bestiari almost instantly for a second time, and then score a three-card Heavy Storm. It just wasn’t Pironciak’s match.
Pironciak’s strategy was totally valid for YCS Providence. His range of Gladiator Beast effects gave him a number of dynamic play options; Horn of the Phantom Beast and his defensive traps made him tough to attack; and Gladiator Beast War Chariot could pick apart all the top strategies of the time. The deck’s especially good at dealing with Dino Rabbit and Wind-Ups: it can Chariot their key effects, out-muscle their best monsters, and demolish dug-in back rows with Gladiator Beast Gyzarus. Here’s what Pironciak’s build looked like:
Brad Pironciak’s Horn GB’s – 40 Cards
Top 16 at YCS Providence
1 Gladiator Beast Bestiari
3 Gladiator Beast Darius
3 Gladiator Beast Equeste
3 Gladiator Beast Laquari
1 Gladiator Beast Murmillo
1 Gladiator Beast Retiari
2 Gladiator Beast Samnite
2 Thunder King Rai-Oh
1 Dark Hole
3 Gladiator Proving Ground
1 Monster Reborn
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Bottomless Trap Hole
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
2 Dimensional Prison
3 Gladiator Beast War Chariot
3 Horn of the Phantom Beast
1 Solemn Judgment
2 Solemn Warning
2 Starlight Road
2 Torrential Tribute
1 Ally of Justice Catastor
2 Chimeratech Fortress Dragon
2 Gladiator Beast Essedarii
2 Gladiator Beast Gyzarus
1 Gladiator Beast Heraklinos
1 Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1 Number 17: Leviathan Dragon
1 Number 39: Utopia
2 Stardust Dragon
1 Temtempo the Percussion Djinn
1 Wind-Up Zenmaines
1 Book of Moon
3 Cyber Dragon
3 Dimensional Fissure
3 Forbidden Lance
1 Heavy Storm
3 King Tiger Wanghu
1 Mystical Space Typhoon
It’s no secret that competitive metagames have changed quite a bit since YCS Providence, but when you look at this build – especially the Side Deck – I think this strategy has actually gotten better due to a number of different trends. Obviously the biggest difference between the YCS Providence metagame and the competitive landscape today, is the existence of Mermails. I think Pironciak’s Main Deck is pretty well prepared for Wind-Ups and Dino Rabbit, and those match-ups get even better once he brings in triple King Tiger Wanghu from his Side Deck. Both of those strategies have become more popular since Providence, with the competitive field narrowing a bit at YCS Barcelona, and that shift plays in the Gladiator duelist’s favor.
At the same time, a number of finer trends either leave Horn GB’s unscathed or work to boost its performance. Macro Cosmos all over the place? Not really a big deal for this deck, since it packs plenty of removal and can generally deal with seeing its stuff banished. You might want to shift those Forbidden Lances from the Side Deck to the Main Deck just to deal with Dino Rabbit and its tendency to play more removal cards, and you might want to de-emphasize Gladiator Beast Equeste, but those are relatively fine tweaks. In a general sense, Macro Cosmos doesn’t touch this thing unless it leads to Gladiator Beast Bestiari getting banished.
At the same time, other Continuous cards like Gozen Match and Rivalry of Warlords can’t be played by Wind-Ups and Dino Rabbit either, so the resurgence of those cards is a non-issue. The revitalized interest in Torrential Tribute and especially Mirror Force is a good thing for this strategy, since you pack two Starlight Roads and resolving that card usually means you win. Starlight Road has actually lost some popularity since YCS Providence, and that’s another factor that works in Gladiator Beast Gyzarus’ favor.
The Only Real Catch…
…is Mermails. Left to their own devices, a Mermail player can shred the set cards and face-up Gladiator Beasts that make this strategy what it is, and while 1-for-1 trades could theoretically work in either deck’s favor, a lack of face-up monsters means that Gladiator Beast War Chariot and Horn of the Phantom Beast are dead cards. An early game press with Mermail Abyssmegalo backed by sufficient removal and Deep Sea Diva can end games quickly and violently, especially if the GB player draws too many monsters, or not enough.
At the same time though, the concept has alot going for it. In Game 1, even a decent couple of turns is going to do some serious damage to Mermails if you can score just a few attacks. At the same time, Gladiator Beast War Chariot can keep Diva and Abyssmegalo off the table, while the Gladiator tendency to set everything outplays Moulinglacia the Elemental Lord’s discard effect. If an Atlantean Marksman targets Horn of the Phantom Beast you can chain it and it’ll remain on the field provided there’s a valid target – the first of what’s likely to become several straight minuses should an Atlantean Heavy Infantry not enter the picture. Thunder King Rai-Oh wards off Atlantean Dragoons, Genex Undine, and Mermail Abysspike too.
In Game 2 things can get even uglier: you can bring in triple Dimensional Fissure to keep Atlantean effects out of the game entirely, suffering few or no drawbacks yourself. If you wanted to switch things up and tech even harder against Mermails, Inzektors, and Wind-Ups, you could Main Deck Macro Cosmos over Gladiator Beast Equeste and lose relatively little in most competitive metagames.
The mermail match-up is a complicated one, and likely the toughest for this strategy out of all the popular, competitive decks. But the devil’s in the details, and alot of the smaller elements of the Horn GB deck allow for outs to expected Mermail play patterns. It might not be a great match-up, but it certainly isn’t bad.
-1 Gladiator Beast Equeste, -1 Gladiator Beast Retiari
+2 Forbidden Lance
Lance is a great addition to this kind of aggressive Gladiator deck. One of the few plays that can ruin your day is Bottomless Trap Hole on Gladiator Beast Bestiari, and Lance keeps that from happening. It works as a defensive card; a pseudo-Horn to boost your attacker over a bigger defender; and helps you outplay Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force. I don’t mind cutting the monster count a bit, because the list is still left with 14 monsters plus triple Gladiator Proving Ground. Retiari just isn’t hugely important, since it’s not relevant against what I’d consider to be the “Big Three” right now: Mermails, Wind-Ups, and Dino Rabbit. While it’s a top pick against Inzektors I think we’re going to see less and less of that deck as time goes by. Retiari’s an underwhelming topdeck that just isn’t needed here.
-2 Dimensional Prison
+1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
I feel like Compulsory Evacuation Device is largely Gladiator Beast War Chariot #4 when it comes to dealing with Xyz Monsters. It’s an awesome answer to virtually anything Wind-Ups and Dino Rabbit are going to throw at you, and while banishing an attacking Mermail Abyssmegalo with Dimensional Prison is ideal, Prison isn’t chainable and it’s easily lost to Atlantean Marksman. An extra Compulsory is going to give us more flexibility in the Battle Phase, and it can even rescue Bestiari in a pinch. I don’t think Prison is bad, it’s just not the right call for your biggest match-ups and works better in the Side Deck than the main. Cutting both Prisons instead of just one brings the deck down to the all-important 40 card mark, which helps us draw Laquaris, Horns, and War Chariots as often as possible. There’s no reason to go over 40 cards here.
There’s a tremendous amount of potential in Brad Pironciak’s GB build: almost everything that’s happened since YCS Providence has made this deck stronger, and it’s a shame that it was swept to the side in favor of flashier Providence-topping strategies like Fish OTK, Machina Monster Mash, and Sea Lancer Obelisk. Try it out – I think you’ll be surprised at how well it fares in competition today!
What do you think about Gladiator Beasts in tournaments right now? Share your thoughts in the Comments!