I wrote about Plants in my very first articles on TCGplayer back in 2008. It was around that time that I'd started playing Yu-Gi-Oh! again after dropping it for the duration of the GX era. As the Synchro era began I managed to find a local gathering of players to compete with every weekend, and very quickly realized that my deck of 1900 ATK monsters supported by Sakuretsu Armor wasn't going to cut it against Gladiator Beasts and Lightsworn.

I went in search of something more competitive, and settled upon Plants. Lonefire Blossom and Gigaplant were two of the first singles I ever bought online, and I stuck with them until Extreme Victory put Plants well outside of my price range. I couldn't afford Tour Guide From the Underworld or Maxx "C" in their prime, and instead switched to Dragunity as my main strategy.

In January I dismantled Dragunity and started building Sylvan. I spent most of the month experimenting with different builds, tech choices, and combos. I wasn't making much progress, but I felt the deck still had potential. Then, just over a week before Legacy of the Valiant's release date, news of Sylvan support hit the TCG. Sylvan Charity's reveal spiked interest in the deck and drove up pre-release price speculation. I was worried that the deck's Ultra Rare cards would end up outside my budget, but I thankfully invested in Sylvan Marshalleaf and Hermitree before their post-release spikes.

I discussed Fire Kings in my previous article and why I took it to YCS Chicago. Sylvan just weren't competitive enough to stand a chance, and I didn't feel like losing games purely to the deck's current consistency issues. Even with Sylvan Cherubsprout's help I was never going to win against Fire Fist, Mermail, Bujin, or Geargia without the support from Primal Origin. That said, after leaving the YCS I began discussing a new build with a friend of mine, Nick Gibson. He re-introduced me to a card that I had nearly forgotten about; a card that gives pre-PRIO and post-PRIO Sylvan an unexpected win condition. Let's look at the build.

DECKID=100163A Sylvan-heavy monsters line-up is a huge departure from the original design I had for this deck. Loukas Peterson's Sylvania Princess build actually has more in common with my original strategy: summon Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand as early and often as possible. For a long time I was playing a Trade-In variant of Sylvan with Chirubimé, Princess of Autumn Leaves and Phoenixian Cluster Amaryllis--the latter of which I used to play back in 2009 with Skill Drain Plants, and convinced Loukas that it was simply outstanding in this Level 8-based strategy. This particular build is the antithesis of that design, playing more like Lightsworn than Crane Crane Plants. I wasn't going to try building anything like this until Sylvan Charity was released, but after testing Raging Mad Plants I changed my mind.

Up A Mountain
Excavation is the name of the game here; every Sylvan has an effect that excavates cards, and another effect that activates when it's excavated and sent to the graveyard. The majority of the cards in this generate a +1 when they're excavated. For example: Sylvan Peaskeeper revives a Level 4 or lower Plant from the graveyard, Sylvan Marshalleaf destroys a monster, Sylvan Komushroomo takes out a spell or trap, and Sylvan Cherubsprout summons a Level 1 Plant from the deck. Those effects are great, but they only activate when they're excavated. While Komushroomo and Marshalleaf can excavate a decent number of cards on their own, they're still not enough to make the strategy reliable. That's where the rest of the Sylvan monsters come in.

Sylvan Hermitree and Guardioak are the heavyweights of this archetype, and their excavation effects are the best of the bunch. Hermitree lets you draw a card whenever you excavate a Plant – effortlessly refilling your hand while digging for your power spells. It's your best choice when you know what the card on top of your deck is. If you don't know what the top card is, Sylvan Guardioak's a better option. While it's slightly weaker and doesn't carry a draw effect, its ability to excavate three cards makes it much more likely to hit a Sylvan. Both monsters have ignition effects that can be activated once per turn, which is a major advantage over the on-Summon trigger of other Sylvans.

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Mount Sylvania ties the strategy together: a Field Spell that ensures your single-card excavators like Hermitree, Flowerknight, and Peaskeeper will trigger the specific Sylvan you want. Sylvania keeps things moving and sets up plays that would otherwise only be possible through sheer luck. Most of the deck's best combos require this card to ensure that a Peaskeeper or Cherubsprout is excavated, but its cost is a bit troublesome. Drawing multiples is painful, and activating its effective is a huge risk. If your opponent chains Mystical Space Typhoon you'll be out two cards and you won't be able to use Sylvania again that turn. Until Sylvan Charity comes out it's up to Sylvania and – to a lesser extent – Flowerknight, Guardioak, and Hermitree to stack the top of your deck with the cards you need.

Branching Options
The Extra Deck is where you'll find this strategy's best cards. The Rank 8 Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand is usually your go-to Xyz Monster on the first turn, and it's generally a strong opening. It's easily the best Rank 8 in the game right now and plays a bit like a cross between Photon Strike Bounzer and Stardust Dragon. Speaking of which, both of those cards are also included in the Extra Deck. There's a noticeable lack of defensive cards in the Main Deck, leaving effect negation almost entirely up to Xyz and Synchro Monsters.

There are plenty of aggressive cards in the Extra Deck as well. You can Summon Mist Wurm, Vulcan the Divine, and Scrap Dragon in any number of ways and eliminate problem cards on the field. Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector is another Rank 8 that can spin cards and clear the way for direct attacks. You can also use it to trigger Sylvan effects, or to simply draw the card you know is on top of your deck. If Mount Sylvania excavates a monster during the End Phase, Alsei can activate then too. Even without materials it'll still let you excavate or draw a card once per turn, and with 3200 DEF it's likely to stick around for a while.

So how do you actually Summon these cards? The answer lies with Copy Plant and its Level-imitation effect. Because Copy Plant can copy the Level of a face-up Plant, you can pair it with Hermitree to bring out Rank 8's or Guardioak to make Rank 6's. Combined with a Level 4 Plant like Flowerknight, Bladefender, or Evilswarm Mandragora, Copy Plant allows you to Summon either a Rank 4 Xyz or a Level 8 Synchro. Its importance in this strategy is hard to overstate, and it's the reason why I chose to run three copies of Cherubsprout. Any time you start with Lonefire and no other combo cards, you can bring out Guardioak and hopefully trigger a Cherub to fetch Copy Plant. That lets you start the duel with Photon Strike Bounzer, which is useful for baiting out early removal and slowing down your opponent while you work to set up bigger plays.

U Mad?
It doesn't take long to fill up your graveyard with excavated Plants. As the number of yarded Plants rises, so does the power of Raging Mad Plants. This Quick-Play Spell increases the ATK of all Plants you control by 300 for every Plant in your graveyard, and during the End Phase all Plant monsters you control are destroyed. The End Phase destruction is very similar to Limiter Removal, but there are two big differences: first, Mad Plants works through addition rather than multiplication. That makes a big difference if you're trying to boost the ATK of monsters with less than 500 to begin with; the original ATK of your Plants is less of a concern than the original ATK of Machines being influenced by Limiter. Why's that important? Because most of the cards you'll be using Raging Mad Plants with are things like Cherubsprout, Spore, and Peaskeeper, all of which have less than 500 ATK.

The second distinction I want to make between Limiter Removal and Mad Plants is much simpler: the latter is Unlimited.

By your second or third turn it's entirely likely that you'll have upwards of ten Plants in your graveyard. This turns Raging Mad Plants into a 3000 ATK buff to every Plant on your side of the field. That's a serious increase, especially when it's given to multiple monsters. The amount of damage you can dish out in a single turn thanks to this card is absurd. The extra attack points are more than enough to overwhelm Bujingi Crane, even when applied to Marshalleaf. 3000 ATK Fluff Tokens are a terrifying sight – nearly any of your monsters can become a serious threat to your opponent with just one card.

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Of course, that's assuming you only have one Raging Mad Plants. If you have two, or even three, you'll be able to close out the game right there. Again, in situation where you have ten Plants in the graveyard you're looking at a 3000 ATK increase per Mad Plants. Two copies gives your monsters an obscene 6000 ATK increase and typically allows you to attack through monsters for game-ending battle damage. The more monsters you have, the more attack points Mad Plants can put on your side of the field. During the mid or late game you'll be able to apply anywhere from 4000 to 5000 points with just one copy, and it's fairly easy to get Hermitree or Guardioak up over 9000 ATK.

The excavation mechanic will often ensure that your spells stay in your deck until you start running out of monsters. It's the perfect set of conditions for Raging Mad Plants, and I fully expect it to be a common sight in Sylvan once players catch on to just how stupidly good it is.

New Cards; Same Tactics
New Sylvans are on their way in Primal Origin, but surprisingly Dragons of Legend has an almost equal amount of support for this strategy. Kuribandit is like an upgraded Magical Merchant that adds Sylvan Charity, Raging Mad Plants, or Soul Charge to your hand. Soul Charge itself will immediately replace Miracle Fertilizer in every build, and enables first-turn Shooting Quasar Dragon summons among other things. Both of these cards are hugely advantageous to Sylvans, although Soul Charge will probably end up being played in everything. Once May rolls around we'll finally get Sylvan Sagequoia and Oreia, the Sylvan High Arbiter. Rank 7's will be in season again and the deck's consistency will skyrocket.

I'm sure I'll be discussing Sylvans in the future, but for now I have a healthy skepticism of the deck's tournament success. Consistency will remain an issue even after Primal Origin, and commonly-played Side Deck cards eat this strategy alive. There's very little room for tech choices, and moving Typhoon out of the Main Deck is a huge risk. Time will tell if Sylvans are going to be a serious contender this format, or if more consistent strategies with better Side Decks will keep it from seeing tournament success.

If nothing else Sylvan are incredibly fun to play dozens of different builds to explore. Every time I beat someone with a 4900 ATK Spore I can't help laughing. It certainly makes up for the losses that stem from playing an incomplete theme.

Until next time then,

-Kelly