We need to go deeper

Let’s take a look at the not-so-new mechanic used by Sylvan Monsters: Excavate

Legacy of the Valiant introduces the new Sylvan theme. These monsters have a common Trigger Effect that activates once they are Excavated and sent to the Graveyard.

…Excavate? What’s that?

Excavate is a new term introduced in the new Rulebook (available in the Cyber Dragon Revolution Structure Deck or digitally here). This change was announced a month ago in the Strategy blog, but I have noticed players and judges alike are having some problems understanding how this mechanic works.

First, let’s go over by the rulebook’s definition:

When a card says to “excavate” cards from your Deck, you reveal those cards to both players. Then, before you do anything else, apply the instructions from the card effect that excavated them. Cards that are being excavated are still treated as being in the Deck until sent elsewhere by the card instructions.

That seems…simple, doesn’t it?

Yet some people find it too simple. So simple that they feel that the definition says nothing. Let’s look at the core of that definition: When you excavate something from the Deck, you reveal it.

We know what revealing is, so why not just use “reveal”? This seems to be part some people first get stuck with. When you excavate something, you reveal it, but when you reveal something, you are not necessarily excavating. Still puzzling? Think of tributing, destroying and discarding: They are all defined as sending cards to the Graveyard, but they are all different, right? You are probably more used to these terms after dealing with cards like Dark World Monsters, or how Stardust Dragon can’t stop Number 50: Blackship of Corn. But the principle is the same, just like how tributing is a special form of sending cards to the Graveyard, excavating is a special form of revealing cards.

So why now? Why more stuff to remember? Why even use a new term at all? For a number of reasons. The obvious reason would be Sylvan monsters, the very mechanic was designed for them. But if excavating means reveal, why not just use reveal? Let’s just say the mileage of the game’s various anniversaries eventually weighs on how cards should work.

We foresaw some problems may occur with Sylvan monsters since we first knew their Japanese texts. They used a term equivalent to “reveal” in English texts, but a few cards that say “reveal” in Japanese that can trigger the effects of Sylvan monsters have been using other terms inconsistently in English like “pick-up”. How bad is it? Not so much: There are more Sylvan cards than problematic cards, the Sylvan cards work with each other, and the missing cards are so random you probably won’t even use them.

Let’s take a look at the cards whose Japanese texts use this term “reveal” (めくる):

A Man with Wdjat
Bait Doll
Morphing Jar #2
Reaper of the Cards
Seal of the Ancients
Clay Charge
Dark Scorpion – Chick the Yellow
Pot of Duality
Cyber Jar
Sunlight Unicorn
Shooting Star Dragon
Crystal Seer
Conscription
Morphtronic Celfon
DNA Checkup
Archfiend’s Oath
Fake Trap
Peeking Goblin
Cobraman Sakuzy
Patroid
Armed Ninja
Ma’at
Empress of Prophecy
Magical Merchant
Spellbook Library of the Heliosphere
Spellbook Organization
Enchanting Fitting Room
De-Spell
Reasoning
Mental Seeker
Monster Gate
Gishki Diviner
Gishki Noellia
Crimson Ninja

That is, if we ignore the Sylvan cards.

What does that list tell us? For one, that they are indeed random older cards you probably forgot even existed. But while some cards look like they can work with Sylvans, some seem simply weird like Crimson Ninja. That is because めくる is actually a bigger word meaning “to turn over”, so cards that need to verify face-down cards will use it as well. Since Excavating occurs with cards in the Deck, we can chop it down a little:

Morphing Jar #2
Dark Scorpion – Chick the Yellow
Pot of Duality
Cyber Jar
Sunlight Unicorn
Shooting Star Dragon
Crystal Seer
Conscription
Morphtronic Celfon
Archfiend’s Oath
Peeking Goblin
Ma’at
Empress of Prophecy
Magical Merchant
Spellbook Library of the Heliosphere
Spellbook Organization
Enchanting Fitting Room
Reasoning
Mental Seeker
Monster Gate
Gishki Diviner
Gishki Noellia

That’s more like it. Among these cards, there’s only a few that actually excavate AND send monsters to the Graveyard, triggering the effects of Sylvan monsters. However, some of these cards may be receiving updates to their texts to include the term “excavate” in upcoming products, even if they can’t exactly work with Sylvan monsters. Want an example? Conscription was just reprinted in Battle Pack 2 War of the Giants Reinforcements/Round 2. This is now its updated text:

Excavate the top card of your opponent’s Deck, and if it is a monster that can be Normal Summoned/Set, Special Summon it to your side of the field. Otherwise, add that card to your opponent’s hand.

There is currently no way to trigger any of the Sylvan effects out of Conscription. And many of the remaining cards on the list even deal only with specific cards like Gishki monsters, or don’t even move the cards out of the Deck at all! We can’t really know which cards the TCG may want to update with “excavate” in their text, but there is a number of cards that probably should:

Archfiend’s Oath
Ma’at
Magical Merchant
Morphing Jar #2
Reasoning

These 5 cards all can excavate (or reveal or turn around) Sylvan monsters and send them to the Graveyard. Some say pick-up, some say reveal, but they will all probably be updated to Excavate.

Something to notice is that those 5 cards can send the cards they excavate to the Graveyard by their own effect (if you fail to call the card for Archfiend’s Oath or Ma’at‘s effects, if your opponent guesses Reasoning‘s Level correctly, peculiar monsters for Morphing Jar #2, and every monster for Magical Merchant‘s effect). There are some cards that reveal the top cards of the Deck, but may fail to to move them somewhere else under certain conditions of the Game State, so they are sent to the Graveyard. An example would be if Pot of Duality is activated and Thunder King Rai-Oh appears on the field before it resolves, sending the card you choose to keep to the Graveyard. If this is not the effect of the card, this will not trigger the effects of Sylvan monsters, as it is a Game Mechanic that is causing them to be sent to the Graveyard.

In summary:
-Reveal means excavate, but not the other way round.
-Some cards will be updated to say “excavate” in upcoming products. Keep an eye out for them.
-Stick to just using Sylvan cards for your excavating purposes for the most part.

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