Last week we talked about how to side for the Sylvan match-up, but this week we'll be looking at the deck from the opposite direction: what to side when you're the one playing the deck.

I'm usually apprehensive about heading into Game 2 and 3 with a combo deck – especially one so dependent on the graveyard. Strategies like that are exceptionally vulnerable to floodgates and even the simplest forms of disruption. Dozens of popular Side Deck cards like D.D. Crow, Maxx "C", Debunk, Dimensional Fissure, Macro Cosmos, Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, Soul Drain, and Vanity's Emptiness are stupidly good when played against Sylvans. While few players are siding cards specifically for this match-up, their Side Decks still contain many of those cards. It's an unfortunate side effect combo decks suffer in any backrow-heavy format.

On the other hand, Sylvans can play a handful of Side Deck cards better than any other strategy. Capitalizing on those cards could give you a serious edge in a number of important match-ups. Let's take a look at some of the cards successful Sylvan decks are already siding, and check out some underplayed picks that are worth your consideration.

The Gardener's Toolshed
Nearly every Sylvan Side Deck contains a full set of Mystical Space Typhoon. It's hardly surprising: Dragon Rulers and Mermails have been siding Typhoons for ages. Leaving them out of the Main Deck opens up more space for combo cards and reduces the likelihood of unplayable hands. Sylvans need to squeeze every last drop of consistency out of their deck as possible, and playing Typhoons in Game 1 is already risky with Artifacts running around. Thankfully better options are available, like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast. Since it's not limited to targeting backrow, and since it provides a discard outlet that sets up Miracle Fertilizer and Soul Charge, Wind Blast is a great choice.

Still, Typhoon remains a simple and straightforward solution to cards that cripple the Sylvan strategy. The popularity of Zombie World, Dimensional Fissure, Macro Cosmos, Skill Drain, and other floodgates that say "You can't use basic game mechanics!" makes reliable spell and trap removal a necessity...at least after Game 1. There is a themed option available – Sylvan Komushroomo – but it's a tough fit with the rest of the deck. It rarely contributes anything when most of your opponent's backrow is aimed at stopping you from excavating in the first place. It's not seeing much play compared to other cards like Sylvan Marshalleaf and Sylvan Peaskeeper, and generally takes a backseat to Rose Archer and Trap Stun.

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Mistake's an incredibly obvious Side Deck choice for a strategy that's devoid of search effects. Mount Sylvania and Sylvan Flowerknight move Sylvan cards to the top of the deck, but they don't actually add that card to your hand. Sylvan Hemitree, Sylvan Charity, and Lonefire Blossom grab new cards by drawing or Special Summoning them, once again circumventing Mistake's effect. There's very little reason not to play this thing when it's so effective against Spellbooks, Geargias, Bujins, Mermails, and Madolches. Unlike Sylvans, these strategies rely heavily on search effects like Spellbook of Secrets, Geargiarmor, Fire Formation - Tenki, Mermail Abysspike, and Madolche Messengelato. In some cases Mistake is all you'll need to leave your opponent without any plays.

And it's not just excellent against popular decks either: Mistake's utility extends to rogue strategies like Fire King, Evols, Ghostricks, Koa'ki Meiru, and Gravekeepers. Unfortunately it's a bit lacking against HATs, and even some Traptrix Hands variants. As a Continuous Trap Mistake's a huge target for spell and trap removal, particularly in the form of Ice Hand. Still, it's hard to overstate its effectiveness and utility in a format where nearly every major deck is packed with search effects.

Both Rivalry of Warlords and Gozen Match can be played around, and you can even side Rivalry in this deck. Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter and Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector offer Rank 7 and Rank 8 Xyz options even when you're restricted to a single monster type. Both cards have removal effects and excavation abilities to propel your strategy forward while your opponent's plays are locked up under Rivalry. Madolches, Evilswarm, and Traptrix Hands will find it difficult to put more than one monster on the field, and decks like Geargia and Infernities will find their Extra Decks even more restricted than yours. You can even use Orea's effect to return Rivalry to your hand, temporarily opening up your Xyz options.

As counterintuitive as it might seem, And the Band Played On is actually a rather effective Side Deck card for Sylvans. You'll lose access to some of your plays; for instance, Summoning two Hermitree or two Sagequoia to make an Xyz Summon will be impossible outside of Soul Charge. Once the first tree hits the field, you won't be able to Summon the second one. That doesn't prevent you from making an Xyz Summon, however. Sylvan Princessprout is more than capable of turning your trees into Rank 7 or 8 Xyz. Princessprout becomes the declared Level only after she's hit the field, so Band's effect won't prevent her Summon. Like Mistake, this trap will end up hurting your opponent far more than it'll hurt you. Flipping it after your opponent searches Geargiaccelerator with Geargiarmor leaves them with a dead monster, and you can activate it in response to other Special Summon effects like Coach Soldier Wolfbark, Traptrix Dionaea, or a Dragon Ruler. It'll definitely make life harder on your opponent, while your Xyz Summons remain largely unaffected.

I'll admit that I completely overlooked Xyz Universe until very recently. It wasn't until I realized just how often decks like Madolche and Geargia will put two Xyz Monsters on the field in the same turn that I really took note of it. Leviair the Sea Dragon or XX-Saber Invoker usually set up Madolche Queen Tiaramisu's Summon, also creating the ideal conditions for Xyz Universe to work its magic. Once activated, Universe will send both cards to the graveyard and allow you to Summon your own Xyz Monster. In this match-up you'll usually end up sending a Rank 3 and a Rank 4, giving you the option to Summon a Rank 6 or 7. In exchange for your opponent's cards, you'll get a free Orea or Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack! You can't ask for a better deal.

Xyz Universe works even better against Geargia where sending a pair of Gear Gigant X not only causes them to miss the timing for their effects, but also nets you a Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand. In fact, Universe is great in nearly any match-up where Rank 4's are frequently played in pairs. Siding it in this deck is exceptionally good thanks to the large number of Rank 7 and 8 Xyz Monsters being played. And believe me: this card isn't some fringe tech being perpetuated by some guy who has collected hundreds of copies already. It was played at the Portugal National Championship by two Top 16 decks: Mermail and Mythic Rulers. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of this card in the future as players catch on to how effective it is.

A Well-Rounded Side Deck
Debunk, D.D. Crow, and Maxx "C" being played almost everywhere, and Sylvans are no exception. Right now Debunk's phenomenal in a variety of match-ups like Madolche and Bujins, and it's generally good against anything playing Hands. D.D. Crow and Maxx "C" stay out of reach of your opponent's Mystical Space Typhoons, something that can be very important in a deck that's setting so few cards. It's a lot easier to read backrow when only a handful of traps are being played. Nobleman of Crossout is picking up in play as an out to Geargiarmor and the Hands. Even with Felgrand a set Fire Hand can be dangerous. Nobleman allows you to remove that monster effortlessly before you launch an aggressive play – it eliminates a potential threat and clears the way for direct attacks.

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A lot of the cards we've talked about so far show up in Chistopher Phobee-Mensah and Ronald Wilson's Top 8 Regional builds. They both played Debunk and Maxx "C", but aside from that their Side Decks were very different. Wilson's use of Forbidden Chalice is particularly interesting, especially with Breakthrough Skill and Fiendish Chain already in the Main Deck. Then, as if that wasn't enough, he was also siding Skill Drain. His build – which noticeably lacks Mount Sylvania – is a perfect example of just how diverse the spread of Sylvan decks really is. There's a lot of flexibility in both the Main and Side Deck that has yet to be explored.

So what are your thoughts? What are you siding with Sylvans? What interesting cards are you siding in other decks? There are a ton of viable Side Deck cards right now, and I want know which ones you think are worth playing. I'm hoping to do more of these 'Siding With' articles in the future, so let me know what you thought of this piece and which decks you'd like me to cover in the future!

Until next time then

-Kelly