North American WCQ Top 16 Report Part I: My Sylvan Deck Explained

patrickhobanThe first of the two biggest TCG tournaments of the year took place this weekend; the North American World Championship Qualifier. The other is the ARG Circuit Series Championship in Cleveland, Ohio in just under two weeks. There, Alter Reality will be giving away over $20,000 in prizes! I hope you all come out to this amazing event.

While there is a Forbidden and Limited List change, a new summon mechanic, and a rule change that will all be in effect for the Circuit Series Championship, none of these were in effect for this weekend’s World Championship Qualifier. There I made top 16 with a Sylvan deck that was pretty different compared to the standardized build originally popularized after Hin Lee won the Circuit Series in Milwaukee. This is going to be a two-part report. Today I’ll start out by explaining my card choices and in my next article I’ll give a round-by-round recap of the event. Let’s jump right into it with the decklist!

Monsters: 18
2 Lonefire Blossom
3 Kuribandit
3 Sylvan Hermitree
3 Sylvan Sagequoia
2 Sylvan Princessprout
2 Sylvan Komushroomo
1 Sylvan Marshalleaf
1 Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos
1 Spore

Spells: 19
2 Terraforming
2 Mount Sylvania
3 Upstart Goblin
3 Soul Charge
3 Miracle Fertalizer
3 Sylvan Charity
1 Foolish Burial
1 Book of Moon
1 Forbidden Lance

Traps: 3
3 Vanity’s Emptiness

Side Deck: 15
2 Maxx “C”
3 Flying “C”
1 Sylvan Marshalleaf
2 Mystical Space Typhoon
1 Forbidden Chalice
1 Forbidden Lance
3 Rivalry of the Warlords
2 Light-Imprisoning Mirror

Extra Deck: 15
1 Mecha-Phantom Beast Dracossack
1 Number 11: Big Eye
2 Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter
1 Hieratic Sun Dragon Overlord of Heliopolis
2 Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand
1 Number 15: Gimmick Puppet – Giant Grinder
1 Alsei, the Sylvan High Protector
1 Ghosterick Alucard
1 Mechquipped Angineer
1 Ally of Justice Decisive Armor
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Stardust Spark Dragon

sylvan charitySit back guys; I’ve got a lot to talk about.

Let’s start off with the golden question, why Sylvans? Well two weeks ago in Philadelphia I broke my cardinal rule that said I would never enter a premier event with a deck that I didn’t think was the best deck. Doing so would be illogical as you are trying to win the event and any deck other than the best deck would give you a worse chance of accomplishing that than if you were simply playing the best deck, but two weeks ago I registered for the Circuit Series with exactly that. When I entered that event I did not think Lightsworn was the best deck. I fully believed that Sylvans were the best deck at that time.

The North American Championship is held by most in higher regard than every other premier event other than the World Championship itself. Even after winning the last North American Championship, I maintained the thought that it was just another premier event. The World Championship, however, is the one tournament that I have not had success at. Only 26 people qualify each year and participating in it is the greatest honor in the game, but when I qualified I was quite disappointed with my results. I wanted redemption. I wanted to reclaim a seat at the World Championship and to have a second chance on the highest stage of them all. Therefore I chose to make the conscious decision to prioritize my seat at the World Championship.

It is my belief that the only way to consistently do well in tournaments is to have a better deck than every single other person in the room. It’s a philosophy that’s served me well and has gotten me 19 tops and 4 wins, credentials that can only be topped by Adam Corn. It’s an extremely difficult task to create the best of a format and then create an even better one in just two weeks. It’s hard to play a better deck than every other person in the room when dozens of them are playing the same deck. Because of this, I chose to not spoil the surprise in Philadelphia.

kuribanditSo why exactly do I think Sylvans were the best deck? Sylvans have a very high number of auto wins such as opening with Lonefire Blossom and Soul Charge, they are kept consistent through Sylvan Charity and Kuribandit, but above all is a unique interaction with Sylvans and floodgate cards no other deck is capable of replicating.

The interaction is based on two simple assumptions; you will resolve Soul Charge a high percentage of the time by turn 2 and that floodgates are among the most powerful cards in the game. With Upstart Goblin, you have a 42% chance of straight drawing Soul Charge on your first turn. When we include Sylvan Charity, that percentage will jump into the 50s. When we take Kuribandit into account and his powerful ability (though not as powerful as Yugi’s Kuribandit) to dig deep into the deck, the percentage of getting to Soul Charge is extremely high by the second turn. The other assumption is an easy one to make. Floodgates are of course some of the most powerful and unfair cards ever printed. They allow you to play the game while single-handedly shutting your opponent out of the game. If I’m using Vanity’s Emptiness, it’s only after I’ve summoned multiple monsters. If I’m using Rivalry of the Warlords, it’s only because all of my monsters are one type. If I’m using Flying “C,” I can still XYZ summon. Under all of these, I can play the game where my opponent cannot. If it were up to me, every single floodgate from DNA Surgery to DNA Transplant would be forbidden as they all stop the opponent from playing while not hindering the person who uses it. Until that day comes, they are still some of the most powerful cards ever printed and I’m going to abuse them to their fullest.

So what exactly is this interaction between Soul Charge and floodgate cards that made Sylvans over the top? The idea is this; Sylvans can take advantage of some floodgate card that will allow them to play and the opponents to not. They have Flying “C” to lock out Geargia, Rivalry for Madolche and Mermails, and Light-Imprisoning and Vanity’s Emptiness for Lightsworn. The latter is the most generic floodgate in the game as it can hit every deck in some way. The kicker? Soul Charge will allow us to draw a floodgate. That’s right, you will be able to keep your opponent from playing the game after establishing a field almost every single time. You do this by using Soul Charge to make Orea, the Sylvan High Arbiter. You then use its effect to tribute a monster to look at the top 7 or 8 cards. Since you’re playing multiple floodgate cards, it is likely that there will be one in that amount of cards. You then rearrange the cards to have a plant monster on top followed by the floodgate. You then use Hermitree to draw the floodgate. This is an incredibly powerful interaction.

soul chargeThe best part? You can consistently get to a floodgate. Any time you get to Soul Charge, you’ll be able to get to one. You get to Soul Charge any time you have combo cards like Sylvan Charity or Kuribandit. If you don’t have cards like this, you still have to draw something in your 6 cards, so you will either draw combo cards that will get you to Soul Charge and in turn get you to a floodgate, or you will draw non combo cards. The only non combo cards? The floodgates. Therefore you will be able to lock your opponent out with a floodgate in just about every hand no matter what you draw.

I decided that I would build my deck around this interaction, but that did not mean that the core of this deck was not without problems that needed to be solved. The first problem I noticed with Hin Lee and Jeff Jones’ deck was that it had consistency issues. Some of the hands contained awkward combinations of cards. The second problem was a lack of reliable defensive cards. I’ll talk more about what I mean by this a little later. The third problem was that the deck could not deal with opposing floodgates. These were the only three basic problems I found when playing the deck, but some of them were not as simple as they seemed on the surface.

One of the first things I did in order to attempt to solve these problems was reaching out to Sam Pedigo. Sam is my absolute favorite person to talk theory with. He brings a unique perspective, while still tackling it with the same scientific approach that I do. He challenges me and can easily point out flaws in my thinking. He also recently piloted the Sylvan deck at YCS Philadelphia. While he did not make the top cut with the deck, I still wanted his insight and knew that he’d have a lot to offer. Let’s take a look at both Hin Lee’s build and Sam Pedigo’s build to better demonstrate the problems.

Hin Ting Lee

Monsters: 26
3 Sylvan Hermitree
3 Sylvan Sagequoia
3 Sylvan Marshaleaf
2 Kuribandit
3 Rose Archer
3 Sylvan Komushroomo
2 Sylvan Princesprout
3 Effect Veiler
2 Lonefire Blossom
1 Sylvan Cherubsprout
1 Spore

Spells: 14
2 Forbidden Lance
3 Sylvan Charity
3 Mount Sylvania
3 Soul Charge
3 Miracle Fertilizer

Samuel Pedigo

Monsters: 17
3 Maxx “C”
3 Kuribandit
2 Lonefire Blossom
3 Sylvan Hermitree
3 Sylvan Sagequoia
3 Sylvan Princessprout

Spells: 12
3 Soul Charge
3 Miracle Fertilizer
3 Sylvan Charity
3 Upstart Goblin

Traps: 11
3 Call of the Haunted
3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast
3 Raigeki Break
1 Complsory Evacuation Device
1 Bottomless Trap Hole

mountsylvaniaSam wrote an article explaining his deck that you can read here.  In it, he talks about how he found certain cards unnecessary. He found Marshaleaf, Komushroomo, Mount Sylvania, and both Spore and Cherubsprout unnecessary. It should also be noted that Sam’s build of Sylvans predates Lee’s build.

Sam found parallels in Marshaleaf and Komushroomo in Sylvans being compared to Atlantean Heavy Infantry and Atlantean Marksman in Mermails. This was something I first realized close to the beginning of the year. Mermails, being a combo deck, did not favor a simplified game state, yet Atlanteans Marksman and Heavy Infantry put you in exactly that. Sylvans, also being a combo deck, would not favor a simplified game state and Marshaleaf and Komushroomo did that. While I was not willing to exclude the cards entirely, I would agree that multiple copies of the cards did not do much to help the consistency of your hands.

I found Komushroomo to be much better than Marshaleaf. Sam was under the impression that you could use your monsters to deal with their monsters so that Marshaleaf was unnecessary altogether. While I found that to be mostly true, Geargia complicated things and having access to Marshaleaf did wonders for that matchup and was the reason why one was included. If the format were different I might exclude Marshaleaf completely. Komushroomo can help you escape the early game with its flip effect so he had additional value. Komushroomo is also a fire monster and playing it could allow us to play Blaster which proved to be a powerful option. While he did have a lot of benefits, I never wanted to see multiples and Lightsworn is heavily played, a matchup in which Komushroomo is underwhelming. That being the case, I decided that it was not a three of.

One thing about Sylvans is that without the field spell, you’d rather not draw any of the monsters other than maybe Sagequoia. Sure, you can set Komushroomo or hope to hit off of Marshaleaf, but really your hands are going to be better when you don’t draw the actual Sylvan monsters. Princessprout is no exception so I decided that it was not a three of.

sporeSpore is something I put a great deal of consideration into. On one hand, Sam had a very valid point in that most of the times Spore was actually good, you’d already be winning the game. On the other hand, Spore provided a ton of options for a single card. High level Synchros are almost always more powerful than high rank XYZs. There are some things you can make sound good, but in reality the power of a card overwhelms whatever justification you can give for not running the card. Think of it this way. It’s a one deck format where that one deck is Dragon Rulers. Evilswarm sound like a great choice, right? But despite Evilswarms sounding like a great choice and there being plenty of them in the tournament, they don’t manage to win the tournament or even get more than a couple of tops per event. Why? Dragon Rulers are simply a better deck and despite Evilswarm sounding good, Dragons are simply better. I eventually came to the conclusion that Spore was similar and having access to powerful cards like Stardust Spark Dragon, especially with Vanity’s Emptiness, would be worthwhile even though I could justify foregoing the card.

Ally of Justice Decisive Armor is also a huge reason to play Spore. Including this card in your extra deck makes Soul Charge steal games against Lightsworn. An additional reason is that this deck is traditionally weak to Maxx “C.” The inclusion of Decisive Armor turns Maxx “C” into an autolose when used against Soul Charge. You can simply special summon a good number of times until your opponent draws enough cards to burn them for game with Decisive Armor. It turns a weakness into a strength and that’s incredibly desirable.

Cherubsprout, on the other hand, I completely agreed with Sam and found it win more in just about every scenario. The only scenario I found it to not be win more was when you used the field spell or Charity to stack it to the top and then summoned Marshaleaf. Considering that I was only using one Marshaleaf I decided that Cherubsprout’s inclusion would be unwarranted. Cutting it would reduce the number of undesirable draws.

EffectVeiler-ORCS-EN-SR-LEWhat I disliked about both Hin Lee’s deck and Sam’s deck was the defensive lineup. Lee played only three Effect Veiler to defend himself. Forbidden Lance can act as a defensive card in specific scenarios, but those situations are pretty few and far between. Veiler does little to protect from Judgment Dragon as they rarely drop one boss monster without being able to drop a second boss.

What I disliked about Sam’s build was the exact opposite. He’s playing a combo deck, yet he runs a whopping 11 defensive cards. The more defensive cards you play the greater chance you have of drawing multiple defensive cards in your opening hand. If you’ve got two defensive cards in your opening hand, you’ve only got four cards left that can be combo cards. Your deck is going to work the best when you use your combo cards. You should minimize your defensive cards when running a combo deck to avoid drawing multiples and have the greatest chance of successfully executing a combo.

I thought that Lee’s build was closer to the correct number of defensive cards, but the defensive cards he was playing weren’t the optimal ones. When I came up with the idea of floodgating your opponent out of the game, Vanity’s seemed like the obvious choice for the most optimal defensive card to play.

Templating from past formats has told me that the ideal number of defensive cards to play in a combo deck is 4-6. Even maxing out on Vanity’s, I thought you needed at least one more. I decided to go with the lower end of the spectrum as I can draw a defensive card with Orea and see more cards with Charity. Book of Moon seemed like the best choice with all the Wiretaps in the meta.

Foolish did a great deal for solving the consistency issues the deck had. Using it in the early game could unbrick any hand with dead Soul Charges and Fertilizers. In the late game Foolish can be used as a second Blaster or to send Spore. It has more utility in this deck for the amount of options it provides than any card other than Soul Charge.

Rose Archer was a card that contributed a great deal to brick hands. It is neither a combo card nor a defensive card to stall to get you to combo pieces. Ensuring that your plays go through is important, but there is a generalization in deckbuilding that monsters will trump backrow when a combo deck is working like it is supposed to. The best combo decks play with free cards and this is no different. If I Soul Charge multiple monsters, they’re often going to have to use multiple traps to deal with your one Soul Charge. Because of this, Rose Archer seemed unnecessary and did nothing but add more bad draws to the deck.

Bottomless Trap HoleAs I said though, ensuring that your plays go through is important, though not for Soul Charge, but rather ensuring that you can get to Soul Charge. Kuribandit is one of the main ways for getting to Soul Charge. Geargias began shifting away from Fiendish Chain and to Breakthrough Skill at the last event so they could more readily stop Kuribandit. Rose Archer does nothing for this interaction as you won’t have a plant on the field. I decided that I’d play a single Forbidden Lance to help push Kuribandit through. Lance has the additional benefit of often acting like Rose Archer in many scenarios such as Bottomless and Traptrix Trap Hole.

Mount Sylvania does a lot for helping the deck out of the early game, but is unique in that the first copy of the card is super important, but the second one is awful to draw. I came up with a solution to this by playing two Terraforming and two Sylvania instead of three and one. This way, I would not decrease my chances of drawing the first one like I could if I played only 3 Sylvania, but if I draw Terraforming before Sylvania, I take a bad draw out of my deck when I play it.

It’s unlikely that they will deal with two Sylvanias and I will have dead drawn a Terraforming that could have otherwise acted as a third Field Spell. The only relevant difference is with Charity as I can return a field spell, but not a drawn Terraforming. There are also benefits though, mainly returning two cards that would not be ideal to draw with Charity and then using Terraforming to shuffle your deck so that they aren’t on the top of your deck.

Of all the cards in the main deck, I had the greatest debate with myself about the second Lonefire. Really, what’s the point of the second one? All I’m doing is going Lonefire into Lonefire and then getting a plant. I could just cut out the middleman!

My friend was looking for a card and I was helping him look the Monday before the event when I happened to see a Flying “C” lying on the table. After reading the card, I realized how amazing it was against Geargia. It floodgates them and can be drawn after the fact since I can put up a single big monster and they have to XYZ to out it. It also can be sided against Evilswarm and Infernity to floodgate them.

forbidden lanceI wanted to side a second copy of Forbidden Lance for HAT only. It’s good against Geargia, but Geargia can side floodgates so I have to side MST against them. Since MST and Lance aren’t defensive cards or combo cards, I never want multiples and I felt 2 MST and 2 Lance would be too much against Gears. Since HAT can’t effectively side floodgates, I don’t side MST against them which means the second Lance is worthwhile.

Rivalry is to floodgate Mermail and Madolche. They can be drawn after the fact and shut those decks out completely.

Marshaleaf is one of the best cards against Geargia, so I wanted to side a second copy against them. I would also side it in against Lightsworn when I go second as a means of getting through their monsters on turns I use Soul Charge or they have too many Necro Gardnas to simply attack and clear their field.

Chalice and Maxx “C” were my concession to the mirror and Dragons. Dragons is a bad matchup since Blaster is bigger than my entire deck and Felgrand is impossible to deal with, and neither of these do much against either deck, but they could at least allow me to play and hopefully set up a lock with Emptiness.

Light-Imprisoning was only for going first against Lightsworn. Even if I shut off their effects Judgment Dragon is still bigger than all of my monsters. If they go first they can mill unopposed and it’ll be too late for Light-Imprisoning to do anything. In all likelihood I wouldn’t have sided LIM at all if not for Bujin, but being decent against Lightsworn is enough reason to side it going first.

This wraps up my explanation of card choices for my Sylvan deck. I’ll be back next week with a round-by-round report on the matches I played. I look forward to seeing you all at the ARG Circuit Series Championship in Cleveland, Ohio next weekend and truly hope you take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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