How's it going TCGplayers? The North American World Championship Qualifier is drawing ever closer, and that means it's time for hardcore testing! Going into the WCQ we know there are already some top dogs in Geargia, Madolches, and Dragon Rulers. But that doesn't mean there can't be room for new decks to spring forth and make a splash at one of the biggest events of the year!

This week I'll be taking a look at one of the newer themes that gained a bevy of support from Primal Origin, Sylvans. Making the most of the excavate mechanic, Sylvans are a Plant-fans dream strategy. At the latest ARG Circuit Series event in Milwaukee, Edward Lee was able to take home the win with his trap-free Sylvan deck, while Jeff Jones made a Top 16 showing championing the same strategy! As always, let's get started with the winning deck list…

DECKID=100530There are a lot of Sylvans to choose from, so let's take a look at the ones Lee chose to run. A playset each of Sylvan Marshalleaf and Sylvan Komushroomo work a lot like Atlantean Marksman and Atlantean Heavy Infantry: they get rid of problematic monsters or backrow cards, and they have great utility at most points in the duel. Marshalleaf's a solid Normal Summon, and combined with Sylvan Cherubsprout it gives you an easy Level 8 Synchro Summon. Komushroomo's one of the better bluffs for you to set when you're going first and your hand isn't too great – excavating up to five cards can really get the game going in the right direction.

Three Sylvan Hermitree and three Sylvan Sagequoia are the big beaters of the deck. Sagequoia's an easy-to-Summon Level 7 that works great alongside Sylvan Princessprout or Cherubsprout for quick Xyz Summons. Its secondary ability, which gets back a Sylvan spell or trap from your graveyard when Sagequoia's excavated can also be invaluable as a game drags on. Getting as many uses out of Sylvan Charity as possible, or keeping Mount Sylvania on the field, can help you claw your way back into the game if you couldn't set up an early OTK. Hermitree's the biggest monster in the Main Deck, and can help you net free card advantage whenever you hit a Plant monster with its effect. Hermitree's normally the first monster you'll search for off of Lonefire Blossom because the potential draw power is just too good to ignore, and at Level 8 it's your ticket to multiple Divine Dragon Knight Felgrands, the favorite trump card for this build.

Sylvan Princessprout and Sylvan Cherubsprout are two of the bigger utility monsters in the Sylvan arsenal. Princessprout's effect to Special Summon itself as any Level from 1 to 8 is how you're going to make most of your double Felgrand plays. But don't forget about its first ability should you happen to open with a slower hand. Not only do you get a free excavation, you also get to place a "sprout" monster back on top of your deck – including Princessprout itself – so you can set up a Special Summon play either that turn or next turn. Sylvan Cherubsprout's your easy access to Spore for additional Synchro or Xyz plays, and it can give you more excavations should you happen to Special Summon it off of Lonefire Blossom or Soul Charge. The drawback of running Sylvan Princessprout and Sylvan Cherubsprout in multiples is that they're awful to draw. Princessprout can alleviate that problem a bit, but be warned – they'll often be dead cards in your hand as you wait to pitch them for Mount Sylvania.

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You can't have a deck centered around the excavation mechanic without including a few Kuribandit. Almost a necessary evil, Kuribandit's a great Turn 1 play when you're going first but is incredibly weak when you're going second. You don't want to set yourself even further behind when you're only going to gain a minimal advantage for doing so. But if you're going first you have some time to set up, and some lucky excavations and a card like Soul Charge can let you make your push as early as Turn 2. Two copies is fine for a card like Kuribandit because it's so powerful on Turn 1, even though it gets weaker and weaker as the game continues.

Every Plant deck needs Lonefire Blossom, so Edward of course ran the maximum two copies of the powerful searcher. Summoning any Plant monster in a pinch is incredibly powerful, and also gives you the option to tech powerful plants like Tytannial, Princess of Camellias, or Chirubime, Princess of Autumn Leaves. That said, most of the time you'll be searching out another Lonefire Blossom into a Sylvan Hermitree. Lonefire's power shines through when you open with Soul Charge, often leading to a full graveyard as well as a pair of Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand. It makes your opponent's first turn a total nightmare.

Spore deserves special mention here because it's just as useful helping you make Xyz Summons as it is for Synchro Summons. Banishing a Sagequoia makes Spore a Level 8 so you can easily go into Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis or Felgrand.

You may have noticed that Lee's deck runs no traps, but to compensate for that he played six powerful hand traps: a playset of Effect Veiler and Rose Archer each. Veiler's an incredibly powerful card when you happen to go second; it's great at shutting down Geargiarsenal or Madolche Anjelly plays, giving you a chance to try and break up your opponent's plans before they get another turn. Effect Veiler's also great at protecting your Felgrand from harm, letting you save its effect for when you really need it. Rose Archer's still underplayed and can easily catch an opponent off-guard. They may think they're safe behind a wall of Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmares and Fiendish Chains, but Rose Archer shuts those down cold. It ensures you aren't blown out by the likes of Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force, and only something like Debunk can stop it. Rose Archer works especially well against decks packing things like Wiretap and Seven Tools of the Bandit to protect their own backrow; Rose Archer works around those cards beautifully.

Spells And Traps
As previously mentioned, Lee chose to eschew trap cards in favor of powerful spells. Three copies each of Mount Sylvania and Sylvan Charity form the backbone of the consistent engine. You get ample card draw through Sylvan Charity and you can also put cards like Sylvan Cherubsprout or Sylvan Princessprout back into the deck where their effects are more useful. Mount Sylvania also lets you set up your excavations for later in the turn; don't forget, you can search up Sylvan Charity or even another Mount Sylvania should your hand be a little slow. The ability to excavate during your opponent's turn is incredibly powerful – hitting a timely Sylvan Marshalleaf or Sylvan Komushroomo can take care of threats before your opponent has a chance to protect them.

Three copies of Miracle Fertilizer and Soul Charge are your best ways to make big pushes and impressive boards. Sylvans possess arguably one of the strongest Soul Charge plays in the game, since you can gain so much card advantage off of Sylvan Hermitree and Sylvan Sagequoia before you Xyz Summon into even greater threats. A first turn Lonefire Blossom followed up with Soul Charge is too much for virtually any opponent to deal with. Miracle Fertilizer plays a similar role, but it doesn't stop you from attacking your opponent that turn. Sacrificing your Normal Summon for the turn to get a free Monster Reborn is a welcome trade, as this deck rarely Normal Summons apart from Lonefire Blossom anyways. Just be careful: Fertilizer opens you up to the likes of Artifact Ignition and Mystical Space Typhoon, which can shut down your hopes of using Fertilizer as a comeback card.

A pair of Forbidden Lance rounds out Lee's list, giving more protection should you not happen to have Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand on the field or a Rose Archer in hand.

Side Deck Tech
Lee's Side Deck goals revolve around stopping your opponent from stopping you. Cards like Mystical Space Typhoon get rid of floodgate cards like Macro Cosmos and Skill Drain, while Xyz Encore can address a problematic Evilswarm Ophion or Number 106: Giant Hand. Maxx "C" and D.D. Crow help against other OTK-based decks, with Crow putting in extra work against Madolche and even Lightsworn. Debunk's a great out to an opposing Maxx "C" and it can stop Dragon Rulers and Mermails.

Deck Devastation Virus and Eradicator Epidemic Virus may seem a bit out of place, but it's very easy for this deck to put Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter or Number 11: Big Eye onto the battlefield. After you've taken advantage of their effects you can sacrifice them with a Virus to devastate your opponent's hand and their subsequent draws. Xyz Universe works wonderfully in this deck due to the array of Rank 7 and Rank 8 Xyz monsters you already run; Geargia and Madolche duelists beware, this card is the real deal and can steal games from you should you fail to play around it properly.

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A lone copy of Rivalry of Warlords serves as your own floodgate card; some of your big threats like Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector and Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter are both Plants. While Rivalry does lock you out of potential Felgrand plays, it should be doing more harm to your opponent, justifying the loss of some of your options.

Extra Deck
It's worth taking a look at the Extra Deck here, since so much of this deck's power is derived from Soul Charge. As I've stated many times throughout this article, Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand is your go-to Xyz; its lockdown and self-protection abilities are often too much for your opponent to overcome, especially when you can easily bring two of them to the field at once. But since this is a Rank 7 and Rank 8 based deck, you can also use Number 15: Gimmick Puppet Giant Grinder to push through your opponent's Soul Charged field, as well as Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis to just power through big set-ups. Remember that Heliopolis can dodge Skill Drain and Fiendish Chain because you can Tribute itself for its effect; that makes it kind of similar to Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack.

The two themed Xyz are probably the ones that take the most getting used to should you happen to be new to playing Sylvans. Alsei's unique in that it lets you excavate any card when you name a card with its effect. You can call something that you need like a Soul Charge or a Miracle Fertilizer, or you can make the wrong call and activate Alsei's second ability to send a card to the top or bottom of your opponent's deck. When we discussed Lightray Diabolos last week, I touched on how powerful controlling your opponent's draws can be and Alsei's no different. While it doesn't have much attack power, it's got a respectable 3200 DEF. Also, remember that you can use its card-calling effect to excavate even when it doesn't have any materials!

Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter is the true boss of the deck. It gives you a great way to ditch those dead Hermitrees from your hand so you can stack the top eight cards of your deck (or fewer, should you pitch a different Plant). That level of control works beautifully with its second effect, which lets you bounce a card your opponent controls for each Plant you hit. That ability doesn't target, so it can get rid of anything that Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack can't and even sneaks around things like Bujingi Turtle and Safe Zone. Again, remember that you can use the deck-stacking effect even when Orea has no materials.

Going forward into the North American WCQ, Sylvans are one of the few viable decks that possess a high-risk high-reward opportunity. They can be hurt greatly by a poor initial draw without the likes of Mount Sylvania or Sylvan Charity to help you recover, but the sheer power you can put on the field thanks to Soul Charge makes Sylvans a welcome contender. Keep testing and exploring those options!

~Joe Soto

Invictus