If you don't know about the Monarchs, you can't have been playing very long. They are 7 single-tribute monsters with 2400 ATK, 1000 DEF, distinctive artworks (looking less like humans than living towers) and a certain effect that activates when they are tribute summoned. Here's a refresher on their effects. (Those who know already can skip to the Monarch Variants section.)
Zaborg the Thunder Monarch:LIGHT, Thunder. Zaborg is the only level 5 Monarch; all others are level 6. When he is tribute summoned, you destroy 1 monster on the field. However, the effect isn't optional, so keep in mind that if Zaborg is the only monster on the field you'll have to destroy him.
Caius the Shadow Monarch:DARK, Fiend. Caius will remove any 1 card on the field - spell, trap, or monster - from play. Better yet, if the removed card was a DARK monster, your opponent takes 1000 damage! You can clear out a card of your opponent's, but if your opponent has low enough Life Points, consider removing Caius himself and burning your opponent to win.
Raiza the Storm Monarch:WIND, Winged Beast. Raiza returns one card on the field to the top of its owner's deck. This ability earned it a place on the limited list for a time (it was Semi-Limited in March and will be Unlimited in September) because it sets your opponent back a draw phase - they won't be getting any new cards on their draw. It is sometimes considered to be the most powerful Monarch.
Granmarg the Rock Monarch:EARTH, Rock. Granmarg destroys any face-down card on the field. While this may sound good, consider that if you are destroying a monster, you might as well use Zaborg and be able to destroy face-up monsters as well. If you select a spell or trap, it might be chained (if the card is a continuous trap and is chained, it will not be destroyed as it is no longer face-down). Consequently, Granmarg gets the least use of the Monarchs.
Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch:FIRE, Pyro. Thestalos is unique in that he does not remove cards from the field but from that hand. When he is tribute summoned, a card is discarded randomly from your opponent's hand; if it is a monster, your opponent takes damage equal to 100x its level.This can be quite a useful ability.
Mobius the Frost Monarch:WATER, Aqua. Mobius destroys up to 2 spell or trap cards on the field. It almost always deserves a place in a Monarch deck, because it alone deprives your opponent of more than one card in terms of net loss.
Kuraz the Light Monarch:LIGHT, Warrior. Kuraz is a rather strange Monarch. Firstly, he cannot attack the turn he is summoned. Secondly, his effect also activates when he is special summoned. Thirdly, the effect destroys up to 2 cards on the field, but each player draws a card for each of their cards that was destroyed. Keep in mind that you can destroy your own cards as well as your opponent's, or one card for each player.
Now, these cards are evidently powerful. So, what do you do with them? Build a deck based around these cards, of course - the Monarch Control deck.
The most important thing for a Monarch user to do is generate tribute material, or else the deck falls flat. The ways to do this are many and varied, and some are very innovative and powerful. Here's some of them.
This deck uses Apprentice Magician, a rather weak little Spellcaster with a very good effect. When it is destroyed by battle and sent to the graveyard, you special summon a level 2 or lower Spellcaster from your deck - in face-down defense position. Usually, the monsters summoned by this effect are either another Apprentice Magician, or one of these 2 cards:
Crystal Seer: A WATER Spellcaster whose Flip effect picks up the top 2 cards of your deck. The one you select goes to your hand - the other to the bottom of your deck.
The normal sequence is something like this: Set Apprentice Magician, wait for it be destroyed, and bring in either of these 2 monsters. On your turn, flip summon your new Spellcaster, activating its effect, and tribute it for a Monarch. This is a powerful tag-team combo: If you tribute your Old Vindictive Magician for Mobius the Frost Monarch, that means destroying a monster and 2 spells or traps.
This variation of the Monarch deck tributes your opponent's monsters instead of your own. This is accomplished with the card Soul Exchange, which allows you to do just that at the cost of your battle phase. You also use cards like Brain Control. Like the Apprentice Monarch build, this can generate lots of card advantage, although this build is a bit slower than it (you lose the ability to attack and press your advantage).
Using the Destiny Hero cards, this deck generates lots of tribute fodder for monsters. This deck can use Destiny Draw and Allure of Darkness, and is very very fast because of it. The most useful Destiny Heroes for this build are Fear Monger, which revives a Destiny Hero other than itself from your graveyard during the standby phase of the turn it was destroyed in battle; Dasher, which can buff itself up to 3100 ATK, and allows you to special summon a monster when you draw it during your draw phase while Dasher is in the grave; Diamond Dude, which can send spell cards from the top of your deck to the graveyard and activate their effects next turn, bypassing costs (for instance, you can draw 2 cards with Destiny Draw but not have to discard a Destiny Hero); and Malicious, a level 6 monster with horrendous stats, but whose effect allows you to special summon another copy of itself from your deck by removing it from play while in the graveyard. Cards like Foolish Burial are used to send useful D-Heroes to the grave instantly.
For an in-depth guide to this archetype, click here. Essentially, this version uses "D.D. Scout Plane" and "D.D. Survivor", combined with "Macro Cosmos" or "Dimensional Fissure". With those two cards, whenever your Scout Plane or your Survivor is destroyed by battle, destroyed by an effect, or tributed, it simply returns to the field at the end of the turn. This means you always have tribute fodder for Monarchs.
Gadget Oppression Monarchs
Gadgets have become infamous because of their abilities to continuously produce a great amount of hand advantage while the user takes advantage of this. With Gadgets, you will always have a monster to normal summon on your next turn, meaning that you can always have Monarch tribute fodder. The downside is that you usually have to wait an extra turn to summon your Monarch... unless you could somehow normal summon more than once a turn. That's the point of Gadget Monarchs; you can use Ultimate Offering to summon an army of Gadgets and tribute them for an army of Monarchs! Can you say "OTK"?!? That is why this deck is so powerful - it has a high OTK rate because Normal Summons cannot be stopped like Special Summons. This is great because monarchs are only one tribute and they have great effects.
Essentially, by going through your Gadgets with Ultimate Offering and tributing them for 3 Caius and 2 Raiza, or Mobius (depending on the situation), you can clear all of your opponent's monsters and/or multiple spells and traps. In short, you can clear your opponent's field immediately and go for the OTK! That is what makes this deck great. Even if you don't have that many Monarchs, just use Gadgets to fill their place and you will still be able to bring your opponent's LP down to zero. Now where does Oppression come in? It slows the duel and gives you time to get your cards together. Even though the deck doesn't need too much of a setup, you will need a good amount of Monarchs to tribute summon all in one turn, and getting them along with a Gadget and Ultimate Offering will take longer than you will often have. Thus, Royal Oppression, which allows you to keep your opponent from swarming and finishing you off before you can set up your kill. Monarchs don't swarm and they usually need 3 or maybe 4 turns in order to get enough Monarchs out to win, not to mention the two turn minimum wait you need to set up Ultimate Offering.
Those are some ideas. However, the number of ways you can build a Monarch deck is only limited by your ingenuity. Also, there are some semi-staples of Monarch decks that are often seen:
Treeborn Frog: This frog has the ability to special summon itself from the grave during your standby phase provided you control no spells or traps. A powerful card, and limited because of it.
Cyber Dragon: If your opponent controls a monster and you don't, you can special summon Cyber Dragon from your hand. Also limited, because it's an easy 2100 ATK beatstick.
Spell Striker: It special summons itself from your hand by removing a spell from your grave. It's good for Monarchs, but it's also a 600 ATK direct attacker and you don't take battle damage from battles involving it.
Jester Confit: This card is a literal free special summon. You can just special summon it from your hand costlessly, provided that you don't have more than one on the field at once.
Level Stealer: If you have a level 5 or higher monster on your field, you can lower its level by 1 to special summon this bug from your grave. It costs you nothing in field advantage, and with Monarchs out it shouldn't be a huge challenge to use.
Gravekeeper's Spy: Boasting 2000 DEF and a flip effect to special summon a Gravekeeper from your deck, this is a very useful card.
Fiend's Sanctuary: This card summons a Metal Fiend Token with no cost. Good for tribute summons.
Building the Deck
Now, let's get to work! First of all, though your deck may be centered around the Monarchs, you cannot have too many of them. Otherwise you risk having a lot of bad hands - all Monarchs with no ways to summon them. I find ten tribute monsters is the upper limit. Then you choose which Monarchs you want. In my Fortune Lady Monarch deck, which had 2 other tribute monsters, I went for 3 Caius, 2 Thestalos, 2 Raiza and one Mobius. This deck will not have any non-Monarch tribute monsters, so let's put them in. Let's go to nine tribute monsters instead of ten for consistency's sake and put in simply another Raiza. (Note: this deck is for the September 2009 format.Click the Show button to view the list.)
Now, to choose the Monarch variant... how about a simple Apprentice Monarch deck? So, three each of Apprentice Magician, Old Vindictive Magician, and Crystal Seer; also, how about a Night's End Sorcerer or two for synchro summons?
The monster line-up is alright for now, so it's time for spells. As mentioned, Brain Control is a good choice. Allure of Darkness can add speed to the deck, which already has 11 DARK monsters. Heavy Storm and Mystical Space Typhoon are no-brainers, being very powerful cards.
For traps, we'll start with a few copies of Threatening Roar. You don't always want your opponent to be able to destroy your monsters (consider Blackwings, which can swarm the field; you may not be able to hold off all of their attacks by cycling through Apprentice Magicians). Next, how about counter traps? 2 copies of Dark Bribe ought to cut it. Also, Call of the Haunted is a good choice.
If you'll notice, we're nine cards short of a deck, so let's start filling it in. For monsters, Cyber Dragon can generate tribute material and be a good beatstick. Also, a Breaker the Magical Warrior for ATK strength and removal power can come in handy, as well as Treeborn Frog as has been mentioned. In the spell department, Book of Moon is a good idea, as it can block attacks, reuse flip effects, and more. Magical Mallet allows you to return useless Monarchs or extra Seers/Vindictive Magicians to the deck. Now, for traps... Bottomless Trap Hole can get rid of troublesome monsters. Now, add an extra deck and we're done!
... or are we? Honestly, we are at forty cards, but I find that forty isn't always quite enough. I actually like to go to 43. So, for some ideas... a single copy of Royal Oppression won't mess up our strategy. This deck special summons its spellcasters in the damage step, and Royal Oppression can't do anything about that. Of course, you can't use Treeborn Frog or Call of the Haunted with Oppression, but that's life, and being able to use Oppression is well worth the risk - it can shut down many major decks when used correctly. Another Breaker will do us some good, too. Finally, Lightning Vortex can deal with menacing swarms and get Treeborn Frog to the grave. So, here's the deck!
This Monarch deck uses Magical Hats, a rather odd card that special summons 2 spells or traps to your side of the field face-down as monsters! It can redirect attacks, but can also activate the effects of certain spell and trap cards, as all spells and traps selected are destroyed when the turn ends.
Notice that Monarchs are not the only tribute monsters represented. Armored Axon Kicker can swarm the field at the cost of my life (it mostly brings back Mind Master, but coupled with Book of Moon it could bring back some other targets), and Prime Material Dragon protects my monsters and replenishes my life.
The biggest flaw of a Monarch deck can be consistency. Because Monarchs are tribute monsters, and the deck must include quite a few of them, any Monarch player is susceptible to bad hands consisting of only Monarchs and no way to summon them. A similar problem arises against very, very fast decks (or sometimes simply very fast decks); they may be able to rush your monsters so much and take them out so quickly that you cannot keep any monster on the field long enough to tribute it. This problem can easily be solved using monsters that special summon themselves; ideally, Jester Confit (which is literally a free special summon), but also Destiny Hero – Malicious, Spell Striker, and Cyber Dragon. However, even if you can bring out the Monarchs, you may have some trouble keeping your beatstick in the game for long against these very speedy decks. You will need to have a way to keep your Monarchs out or keep your opponent's monsters in their hand because most if not all variants except Gadget Oppression Monarchs are not poised to make a comeback so the deck is somewhat a one shot deck. You either hit or miss. Macro Monarchs can stop LS decks and Zombie Decks so they will not be able to swarm because of D-Fissure/Macro Cosmos and you can also side to match any other meta decks but be wary of other Macro Monarch decks because if you are running the variant yourself. You will just be helping your opponent.
On the plus side, barring terrible hands a Monarch deck can eliminate your opponent's options. The Monarchs have the ability to generate potent advantage. For instance, in the Apprentice Monarch build mentioned, you can flip summon Old Vindictive Magician and destroy your opponent's monster, then tribute it for Caius the Shadow Monarch and remove another one from play, and finally attack and destroy a third one during your battle phase. This is what made them so popular and powerful.
Nowadays, Monarch decks are rarely seen in major competitions, being thrust from the metagame by fast decks like Lightsworn, Blackwings, Synchro Cat, and Tele-DAD. Here is a list of 7 matchups you can expect to face at a tournament with Monarchs.
Skill Drain: Focused on using Skill Drain to negate your opponent's card effects while building your deck so that it is untouched. This type of deck, for obvious reasons, is super-powerful against Monarchs, removing the effects of your star monsters. Side-deck copies of cards such as Twister, Dust Tornado, Malevolent Catastrophe, and the like.
Zombies: Everyone's favorite undead deck... that is, the favorite of everyone except Monarchs. A Zombie World deck will wreck Monarchs, as Zombie World prevents non-Zombies from being tribute summoned. Make sure to have spell and trap removal, as said. Against a regular Zombie deck, however, you should do fine. Make sure to focus on your Caiuses, which can remove your opponent's Zombies from play where they do no good. And watch out for your opponent's high-ATK monsters that can destroy your Monarchs by battle, such as Ryu Kokki.
Blackwings: Blackwings are a very very fast deck, focused around swarming from the hand and Synchro summoning. This matchup is fairly difficult, but not insurmountable. Thestalos, Raiza and Caius will be the most useful Monarchs here. If you can keep your opponent's hand count down as you lay low their field, you'll do fine.
Vayu Turbo: Not exactly the same as plain Blackwings. This deck got hit by the banning of Dark Strike Fighter, but it can still be powerful. The objective is to dump Blackwing – Vayu the Big Flag along with Blackwing – Sirocco the Dawn or Blackwing – Elphin the Raven into the grave, then use Vayu's effect and do a faux-Synchro summon. Then use Burial from a Different Dimension, Necroface, etc. to repeat the process. Side multiple copies of Lightning Vortex and Threatening Roar to deal with this; if you were so inclined, you could also side in Scary Moth.
Gladiator Beasts: It's a matchup of Control deck against Control deck – after all, that's what Gladiator Beasts are all about, control. Use lots of Threatening Roars, because Gladiators are nothing without battles.
Lightsworn: God's favorite archetype (... I actually can't verify that statement) is here and ready to roll. Lightsworns are all about swarming with LIGHT monsters, finding their game-winner in Judgment Dragon. But what does this deck lose to? That's right: Light-Imprisoning Mirror! Yes, you do lose the use of Kuraz and Zaborg, but that's not a huge problem.
Synchro Cat: As the March 2009 banlist was designed to kill Tele-DAD (limiting both Tele and DAD, in addition to semi-limiting Destiny Hero Malicious, Destiny Draw, and Allure of Darkness) so the September 2009 banlist is designed to kill Synchro Cat (banning Dark Strike Fighter and limiting Rescue Cat, Summoner Monk, Cold Wave and Mind Control). However, they failed to take into account the new X-Saber support from ANPR, which is poised to save the archetype with such powerhouses as XX-Sabers Gardestrike, Faultroll, Fulhelmknight, Gottoms and Ragigura. The aim of Synchro Cat is to synchro summon as fast as it can, plain and simple. Try side decking copies of Discord or Summon Limit.
Monarchs have not seen the light of play in a while. This guide hopes to change that, and I hope it inspired you to make your own; or, if you already were, to take a second look and fine-tune your deck. Good luck with your deck! May you win tournaments with the Seven Emperors!