It's time to talk about Plants again! Over the last weekend I attended the Garden City Regional in Michigan to do some field research. There were tons of interesting decks running around, but what surprised me the most was the sheer number of Sylvan players at the event. I wasn't certain if Sylvans would take off, or if the recent Regional tops were a fluke.

At the very least I know it's not the latter: Sylvans live up to the hype...at least in part. We'll have to see where the deck goes from here, but for now I'm certain this is a match-up you should be siding for. Luckily a lot of the best Side Deck cards to play against Sylvans are also great against nearly everything else.

A Princess, A Hermit, And A Sage
The Sylvan strategy uses excavation effects to fill the graveyard with Plants and trigger the abilities of monsters like Sylvan Marshalleaf and Sylvan Hermitree. Most Sylvan monsters can excavate cards and carry effects that activate when they themselves are excavated. It's not just the monsters that are digging up cards; the Field Spell Mount Sylvania and off-theme tech like Archfiend's Oath and Kuribandit also lend a hand. The themed excavations are special: other than Sylvan Princessprout and Alsei, the High Sylvan Protector, only excavated Plants are sent to the graveyard. Everything else returns to the deck in one way or another.

Coupled with these new cards are much older pieces of Plant support: Lonefire Blossom, Spore, and Miracle Fertilizer. Lonefire's a powerful recruiter that Summons any Plant out of the deck and can be used again and again with Soul Charge and Sylvan Peaskeeper. It's generally a vector for the bigger Sylvan monsters like Hermitree and Sagequoia, but it can also grab Princessprout or Copy Plant to make Xyz or Synchro Summons. Miracle Fertilizer works best in pairs, allowing a Sylvan player to repeatedly put Xyz Monsters on the field. Using Fertilizer's effect comes at the cost of losing a Normal Summon, but that's rarely a concern with the amount of Special Summon effects this deck is packing.

Rank 7 and 8 Xyz Summons are a focus here, and it's Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand that sees the most play. Sylvan duelists will usually try to start the game with Felgrand and keep it protected for a turn. When their turn comes around again, they'll make even bigger plays while using Felgrand's effect to keep their monsters safe. The themed Rank 8, Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector excavates the deck and spins opposing cards. Orea, the High Sylvan Arbiter can also excavate, and returns cards on the field to the hand up to the number of Plants sent to the graveyard. Orea's particularly dangerous when combined with Miracle Fertilizer, as it can bounce the spells back to the hand where they can immediately be played again.

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This deck is very fast-paced and tends to put a lot of ATK on the field in a short amount of time. With Felgrand and Orea Sylvans can quickly push past established set-ups – and that's before you consider their on-theme removal. Sylvan Komushroomo and Marshalleaf destroy opposing cards when they're excavated and pave the way for bigger plays. They're sometimes excavated for free during the End Phase through Mount Sylvania, which can be terrifying for Geargia players.

Thanks to Sylvan Charity this strategy's much, much more consistent and capable of competing with some of the best decks in the format. Sylvans play really differently from other popular strategies, and it's worth making a plan for how you'll Side Deck against them if you're not yet prepared.

Uprooting Trees
The most obvious way to side for Sylvans is to use cards that counter the excavation mechanic. To trigger the effects of monsters like Peaskeeper or Princessprout your opponent needs access to their graveyard, which you can easily prevent. Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure banish excavated Plants and stops them from hitting the graveyard altogether. Banisher of the Radiance is another option that can't be taken out by sided Mystical Space Typhoons. Its ATK might be a bit low, but that's not a problem in this match-up. Only Sylvan Flowerknight, an Extra Deck card, or a monster Summoned through Lonefire Blossom can destroy it in battle. All of those cards are effectively immune to themed removal in the form of Marshalleaf and Komushroomo, although Breakthrough Skill is a concern with Banisher.

Besides stopping excavations through Sylvan effects or Kuribandit, blanket banishing effects also keep your Sylvan opponent from loading their graveyard. Soul Charge and Miracle Fertilizer are useless without decent targets, quickly becoming dead draws. Although Lonefire Blossom can still be used, it'll end up banished and out of your opponent's reach for the rest of the duel. The same goes for Sylvan Charity; your opponent can't recycle Charity with Sylvan Sagequoia if you banish Charity in the first place. While none of these cards will win you the duel outright, they will buy you time until your opponent draws into an answer. In the meantime their key cards will be banished and their ability to use recursion effects will be crippled until they can develop their graveyard.

D.D. Crow might not be as effective as other means of banishing cards, but it's almost impossible to counter outside of Debunk. Crow can answer quite a few Sylvan combos without ever exposing itself to your opponent's removal. Princessprout, for instance, is easily banished by Crow when it activates after being excavated. The usual play is to Summon Hermitree or Sagequoia, then excavate Princessprout with their effects. Princessprout can then jump out of the graveyard and change its Level to match the tree that excavated it, leading to an Xyz Summon of a Rank 7 or 8. Because each of Princessprout's effects can only be used once per turn, banishing it when its effect is activated in the graveyard is often enough to prevent an Xyz from hitting the field. You can use Crow to counter Sylvan Peaskeeper in a similar way.

Miracle Fertilizer and Soul Charge are also susceptible to Crow, although in both cases there are better options available. Mystical Space Typhoon or some other form of sided spell removal is more than enough to take out Fertilizer. Soul Charge only loses one of its targets with Crow, although banishing a key monster can still disrupt your opponent's plans. Ideally you'd rather use something like Vanity's Emptiness or Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo to prevent any monsters from being Summoned, but your opponent can deal with both of those cards very easily.

Because so many monsters in this deck activate in the graveyard, Soul Drain's an obvious choice when siding. It shuts down many of the better combos in the deck while remaining safe from Komushroomo. Once again: you should be aiming to side cards that aren't affected by your opponent's themed removal. Soul Drain's great, but it does interfere with a large number of popular strategies. Few players are actually using it right now for that exact reason, and have instead decided to run a card with similar applications: Debunk. If you're playing Artifacts, Madolche, Dragon Rulers, or Sylvans yourself, you'll definitely want to be siding Debunk. Negating and banishing a Princessprout or Sagequoia is a serious setback for your opponent. Not only that, but Debunk can also take out hand traps like Maxx "C" and Rose Archer.

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Unsurprisingly, Maxx "C" is just awesome against Sylvans. While it won't stop plays outright like D.D. Crow would, it will fill up your hand if your opponent continues to Special Summon monsters. Hermitree and Sagequoia are rarely going to stick around for long, and leaving them exposed is generally a bad idea. To turn a Hermitree into a Felgrand, your opponent will have to Summon at least two more times. If they're under Maxx "C" you'll draw three new cards, and that's assuming they didn't use Lonefire Blossom. If they did, you're looking at four or more draws. It's even useful to counter early Soul Charge plays where Lonefire's targeted. Very few worthwhile plays in this deck don't require at least a few Special Summons, which makes Maxx "C" an excellent choice in this match-up.

Lastly, Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare is a solid answer to the bulk of this deck's monsters. Most of the time you'll hit either Hermitree or Sageqouia, but Traptrix Trap Hole can also counter Xyz Monsters like Felgrand, Orea, Dracossack, or Alsei. Breakthrough Skill's an alternative if you're especially concerned about Felgrand, and although it won't destroy the negated monster it will still stop most plays. Traptrix Trap Hole, on the other hand, will destroy attached Miracle Fertilizers and destroy high-ATK monsters before they can run over your cards or attack directly.

Sylvans are performing surprisingly well this format, in part thanks to new cards from Dragons of Legend. The strategy's well-equipped to take on the most popular decks being played right now, but it's also extremely vulnerable to common Side Deck cards. What's more: players are still experimenting with various builds and coming up with new tech choices and ways to play. Sylvans may still be just short of blossoming into something truly fearsome, but it's not a match-up you'll want to ignore.

Until next time then

-Kelly