Sylvia is one of my favorite rulers design-wise. Her ruler side provides versatility in will-fixing while her j-ruler side provides power, speed, and evasion. This combination allows her to accelerate and apply pressure at the same time. Sylvia has the capability to play an aggro-midrange style while boasting a strong finisher in her j-ruler side.
Reasons to Play Sylvia
A 1000/1000 Lancelot on turn two that also destroys one of their resonators from the attack trigger? Yes please.
We can also cast this on turn two:
Swiftness + Target Attack + First Strike + Flying (possibly) on a single resonator? YES. Did you know she also deals 500 to the opponent when she dies?
The Optimal Curve: Turn 1 Elvish Priest -> Turn 2 Lancelot + Rapid Growth -> Turn 3 Pricia Target Attack + Flying.
Against decks that go wide on the ground, we can also cast this turn two:
Lastly, we have the power to accelerate into one of the greatest red lategame plays: Little Dread + banish outlet:
All these wonderful plays assume we open with turn 1 Elvish Priest, which is why we mulligan very aggressively for it.
4 Elvish Priest
2 Flame King’s Shout
4 Guinevere, the Jealous Queen
4 Perceval, the Seeker of Holy Grail
3 Laevateinn, the Demon Sword
4 Pricia, Pursuant of Exploding Flame
4 Lancelot, the Knight of Mad Demon
4 Rapid Growth
2 Dream of Juliet
1 Susanowo, the Ten-Fist Sword
3 Little Dread, the Fake Red Moon
4 Rukh Egg
1 Athena, Titan of Revenge
Most of the list is straightforward. I’ll explain some potentially curious slots here:
- Dream of Juliet – Many players will side in Robe of Fire-Rat against you. Some run it mainboard due to how popular red decks are in most metas. Having a mainboard answer to a card that significantly slows you down is crucial. Dream is the mainboard choice here because you can cycle it (cast it to draw) in matchups where it is dead.
- Athena, Titan of Revenge – This highly hyped card is actually quite average in practice and serves as a lategame bomb searchable off Rukh Egg after you’ve exhausted most of their removal. Like Susanowo, we run it as a one-of.
- Laevateinn, the Demon Sword – A versatile way to give imperishable and boost damage at the same time. With multiple resonators in play, Laevateinn can boost Sylvia‘s ETB damage trigger to destroy an enemy Gwiber (or anything else). Sometimes it allows her to attack for lethal damage that same turn. It also synergizes with Rukh Egg and Little Dread.
- Fetal Movement in the Outer World – We’d prefer not to run Split Heaven and Earth, so this card often comes in against control decks with greedy manabases since we often don’t need the extensive reach Split offers due to Sylvia being able to connect for a lot of damage. This also gives us another out against reanimation strategies.
If you want to cut white, I recommend the following changes:
Where’s the Excalibur?
I get this question a lot. When you stop running this card, you’ve reached a new level in playing Sylvia. If you’re relying on Excalibur as a crux so Sylvia‘s trigger doesn’t end up targeting and killing herself, you should probably evaluate why your deck gets into those situations in the first place. If you’re using it for target attack, there are more efficient ways to remove enemy resonators than swinging your best body into them every turn.
Laevateinn is the superior regalia choice for almost everything you want to do with Sylvia. It allows her ETB trigger to deal more than 1000 damage to target J/Resonator and also gives her the capability to deal upwards of 2000 damage in a single attack thanks to the ability to banish a resonator and recover.
How to Mulligan
Always mulligan hard for this. If you don’t have it in your opening hand, mull all five. It doesn’t matter if you have a Guinevere, Lancelot, and Rapid Growth – that hand is actually subpar compared to playing a turn 1 Elvish Priest and tapping into this deck’s natural curve.
Assuming you have the Priest, you should aim for an efficient turn 2 that utilizes all three will:
- Lancelot and Rapid Growth
- Pricia, Pursuant of Exploding Flame
- If you know the enemy is a swarm deck: Flame King’s Shout
If you don’t have any of these combos, the deck can still function like a typical red deck powered by individually good cards. These combos are still devastating in the midgame when you draw into them.
Apply board pressure while destroying theirs at the same time.
Notice the general plan isn’t about hitting the opponent in the face. Damage to the face is simply a byproduct of Lancelot shooting their potential blocker for 700, Pricia not having a good resonator to target attack, or because you stole their resonator using Little Dread. You’re not a pure aggro deck and should only swing at the opponent directly if it’s your best option. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get in damage when you can, but rather that you should focus on controlling the board and getting in incremental damage before dealing lethal with a Sylvia judgment + attack.
This plan is effective for most matchups, including the aggro mirror. However, knowing when it’s no longer effective to play the board and switching to a race plan is crucial in many matchups, especially against red decks. Your trump card is Sylvia herself, often capable of swinging upwards of 2000+ with a Laevateinn in play.
Tips and Tricks
- If you have a Lancelot and Elvish Priest in play, you can rest Priest before recover to cast Rapid Growth and buff Lancelot to 1000/1000.
- When resolving Guinevere‘s discard effect, Rapid Growth is one of the best choices since you can cast it from the graveyard using Remnant.
- Hold Laevateinn in hand until the turn before you intend to judgment with Sylvia. This lets you rest Laevateinn before recover for an additional damage boost. I recommend not playing Laevateinn earlier as it gives the opponent information. The only exception is if you intend to utilize it with Rukh Egg or Little Dread (read next tip below).
- You can use the second awakening effect of Little Dread to steal an opponent’s resonator and then banish it to Guinevere or Laevateinn for extreme value.
- Pricia deals 5 damage to your opponent when she dies. This is an important trigger you don’t want to miss. You can utilize cards like Guinevere, Laevateinn, or Sylvia (ETB trigger after judgment) if you need additional reach.
- You can rest Laevateinn to increase the damage from Sylvia‘s ETB trigger.
Note: Some of these have a different sideboard than the one I eventually settled upon because I was still developing the sideboard over the course of these matches.
Reflect Italian Aggro (BRU) – No Commentary
Gill Lapis Control (BR-Moon)
Vlad Control (BRU)
The Observer Red (R)
Kaguya Control (BGU-Moon) – No Commentary in First Game
Sideboards are ever-changing. You should adapt your sideboard for the expected meta, but against a general field my sideboard covers most weaknesses adequately. Note that this isn’t what you actually want – if you’re going to a major event at the time of this post, having sideboard slots for Bahamut is probably wasteful.
- Deathscythe, the Life Reaper comes in against strategies relying heavily on a J-Ruler for damage. This includes Bahamut and an opposing Sylvia. In these matchups you are likely not going to get much value out of Little Dread‘s second awakening so reducing the number of banish outlets is reasonable.
- If you know they are playing Robes or will side them in against you, trade the Dreams for Blessed Holy Wolfs since it’s better to have an out to Robe that also has a body.
- If you’re on the draw against a deck that puts many bodies on the field, Sign to the Future is an all-star. Note that playing Sign generally prolongs the game and makes it grindy, so I often like bringing in Foment to sculpt my hand in the midgame if I’m against a deck that can put on a lot of pressure.
- In a grindy matchup, siding in the Fetal Movement can provide you the last bit of reach.
- Your best out against Avatar of the Seven Lands, Alice is to have enough will to steal it with Little Dread (requires 7) or to use Demonflame.
Dominate the board. Go Big with Sylvia.
The past few weeks on LackeyCCG and Untap.in have been an exhilarating foray into how to build Sylvia. I don’t claim to have the best possible list but the deck feels incredibly solid. If you’re interested in playing the dragon clan founder then I highly suggest giving this a try. As always, I’m interested in what people think and their experiences with the deck, especially changes. Let me know in the comments!