Welcome to the Comprehensive Companion to Cardians - A long form guide and introduction to the flower cardians as an archetype, from what the cards themselves do down to decklists and tech options available for the strategy.
I'm Brexx, an individual crazy enough to take this deck to regionals in zoodiac format, and I'll be your guide on this journey into the Hanafuda archetype.
What are Flower Cardians?
Flower Cardians are an archetype of Dark attribute Warrior monsters first introduced in 2016's (Good lord I'm old) Dragons of legend: Unleashed, following their initial debut in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc V anime, utilised by Chojiro Tokumatsu in the synchro dimension portion of the show. Naturally, the deck is a synchro-focused archetype due to this, and features some of the most famously xenophobic archetype designs that exist in modern Yu-Gi-Oh while also displaying one of the most lucrative deep draw potentials of any deck printed in the last decade.
The cardians themselves largely draw inspiration from Hanafuda, a type of japanese playing card game. Many of the Flower Cardians' designs reflect those of their respective hanafuda counterparts, while also parodying other existing Yu-Gi-Oh! cards in their artwork instead of utilising traditional hanafuda designs.
Each main deck monster's level is equal to the month represented by their respective suit in Hanafuda, so any cardian who belong to the first suit, "Matsu" (corresponding to January), are level one, and so forth. The ATK/DEF values of each Flower Cardian main deck monster correspond to their points value in the real life Hanafuda card game, but multiplied by 100. For example, Flower Cardian Pine is worth one point in Hanafuda, and as such has 100 ATK and DEF.
Flower Cardian Pine, our first Flower Cardian, and our only one thus far that doesn't prominantly feature a parody of an existing Yu-Gi-Oh! card. Importantly, pine was the only normal summonable flower cardian monster on the deck's release, and remains the deck's best existing normal summon at present. You'll typically see three of this cardboard companion in the majority of flower cardian decklists.
While their effects may vary, the vast majority of Flower Cardian monsters a similar clause to the following:
Herein lies the first major deckbuilding conundrum in the archetype - A large number of the Flower Cardian theme share this effect, and this makes the deck's deckbuilding extremely peculiar, in so far as that you actually don't want to play any non engine unless you absolutely have to - Any card placed into the deck ideally should benefit from being sent to the graveyard or should have flower cardian in the name, or ideally be powerful enough to warrant the risk involved with playing it.
For pine specifically, it's no massive loss if the card is lost, but for some others the punishment is much more severe. Pine also draws a card if he's destroyed, but its generally quite rare that he'll stick around to have the chance to resolve that effect unless things are already headed downhill.
Now, as for pine's older sibling - Flower Cardian Pine with Crane - This one's worth 20 points in Hanafuda, and as such boasts a 2000 ATK/DEF value to reflect this. Flower Cardian Pine with Crane's effect reads as follows:
"Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must first be Special Summoned (from your hand) by Tributing 1 Level 1 "Flower Cardian" monster, except "Flower Cardian Pine with Crane". If this card is Special Summoned: Draw 1 card, and if you do, show it, then you can Special Summon it if it is a "Flower Cardian" monster. Otherwise, send it to the GY. Once per turn, at the end of the Battle Phase, if this card battled: You can draw 1 card. "
You'll notice a trend with these - Almost all of the 2000 ATK/DEF Flower Cardian monsters have a summoning condition that usually involves tributing a flower cardian of the appropriate level in order to special summon themselves, must first be summoned in this manner, and cannot be normal summoned/set. Additionally, all of the initial wave 20-point cardians share the similar draw effect to pine, but with the benefit of being able to summon the monster drawn if it's a flower cardian, as well as another (usually battle-focused) situational effect to draw a card.
While these effects might not seem bad, the summoning of monsters like these quickly becomes difficult to manage upon realising that there exists only one monster in the deck whose level matches this monster's, and the draw-summon effect rarely proves to be an extender due to the effect not subverting the summoning conditions of Flower Cardians, leaving you unable to summon most of the ones you may draw.
Oh, and the quick minded of you may notice that this card features Crane Crane, a popular monster from the Zexal era of Yu-Gi-Oh.
You may notice that there's no level two Flower Cardians at time of writing. That's right, a deck whose cards are themed after months of the year are missing months. Watch this space (and several others), as there could be more in our future.
Our first Flower Cardian not from the original wave of support, Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom first debuted in 2020's Battles of Legend: Armageddon. Like many of the 100 attack point flower cardians, Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom has the following summoning condition:
"If you control a Level 2 or lower "Flower Cardian" monster: You can Special Summon this card from your hand, also you cannot Normal or Special Summon monsters for the rest of this turn, except "Flower Cardian" monsters."
As we will discover later, many of these 1-point Hanafuda Cardians are able to summon themselves from the hand provided that there exists a lower level Flower Cardian monster on your field. For Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom, at time of writing this limits it to only being able to summon itself if you control a variant of Flower Cardian Pine or if you have modulated a monster's level with another card effect (But we'll get to that later). More importantly, Cherry blossom has the following additional effect:
"Once per Turn: You can Tribute 1 "Flower Cardian" monster; draw 1 card, and if you do, show it, then, if it is a "Flower Cardian" monster, you can take 1 "Flower Cardian" monster from your Deck, except "Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom", and either add it to your hand or Special Summon it. Otherwise, send the card you drew to the GY."
This is an incredibly powerful effect, but with a massive downside should it fail to resolve. Upon successfully resolving the effect and drawing a flower cardian, this card can fetch you any cardian you need, helping you rapidly gain resources. Hard once per turn clause? What's that?
Much like Flower Cardian Pine, being one of only two (non-tribute requirement) normal summonable flower cardians quickly makes this card an auto include in the deck.
Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom with Curtain is the older sibling to Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom, first debuting in 2017's raging tempest in the deck's second wave of support after release. Unlike other 20-point Cardians, Flower Cardian Cherry Blossom with Curtain boasts a powerful self summoning condition in the form of the standard Cardian Draw-Reveal-Keep/Discard some cardians have, allowing itself to be summoned if the revealed card was a cardian, but sending both to the graveyard should the revealed card be a non-cardian.
Additionally this card doubles as the deck's only handtrap - Being able to discard itself to boost a Flower Cardian monster's ATK by 1000 until the end of the turn. Importantly this lacks a once per turn clause, meaning you can potentially boost a cardian by up to three thousand attack points in niche scenarios where you are able to retain multiple of these. Being the easiest to summon Flower Cardian tuner, almost every flower cardian decklist will run three of these. I'd run four if I could, but I don't feel like getting banned from locals anytime soon.
Levels Four and Five
These also don't exist yet as flower cardians! You'd think Konami would remember April and May, but we're still waiting on representation from these hanafuda suits too.
At level six, we introduce our first tuner from the archetype - Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly. Peony with butterfly at time of writing is the flower cardian strategy's main and best tuner, and one of three Flower Cardians that have a completely generic summoning condition. Like the other 1000 ATK Flower Cardians we'll cover later, Peony need only tribute any Flower Cardian to summon itself, making it one of the easier flower cardians that require a tribute to summon.
Another trend you'll notice with Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly is that all of the 1000 attack point flower cardians draw a card on summon, then activate a unique effect to the individual card if the drawn card is a Flower Cardian monster card. In the case of Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly, this on a successful draw allows you to take the top three cards of the opponent's deck, look at them, and then place them on either the top or bottom of the deck in any order. Any individuals that are SPYRAL fans may realise this is SPYRAL GEAR - Drone's older and uglier brother. Being able to gain knowledge of the opponent's deck and guarantee them imperfect draws is an incredibly powerful effect, and can prevent your opponent from drawing outs to your board, or deliberately brick their next draw.
Lastly, Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly allows you to treat all monsters you use as synchro material alongside it (and itself) as level two monsters for the purpose of a synchro summon. We'll come back to this later as its an important effect to be able to make the Flower Cardian synchro monsters summonable, but this is an effect that's shared by all flower cardian synchros. This one is notably just the easiest to access of the bunch.
At level seven, we have Flower Cardian Clover with Boar. This card shares a lot of similarities with the aforementioned Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly, sharing the same summoning conditions and draw effect, but with a different outcome. Instead of the deck stacking effect, Flower Cardian Clover with Boar destroys a monster on the field upon resolution. Importantly, this does not target - But being an effect that your opponent doesn't know will resolve leaves your opponent unsure if they need to negate the effect or not, leading to some interesting decision making positions.
Something worth noting about the summoning effects of these monsters with 1000 attack is that unlike other Flower Cardian monsters, these do not prevent you from summoning non-flower cardians, meaning that you could theoretically make Xyz monsters utilising multiples of these, or for Flower Cardian Clover with Boar specifically, you could normal summon a level three handtrap tuner such as Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring to get access to powerful generic boss monsters such as Baronne de Fleur in a pinch.
At level eight, firstly we have Flower Cardian Zebra Grass. Herein lies the first of several flower cardians who famously lock you into only summoning flower cardians for the rest of the turn when summoned via its effect. That's right, you're locked into the archetype only after resolving these effects. No generic link monsters, no Baronne de Fleur. Something you'll note with this effect when it comes up is that these monsters summon themselves if you control a flower cardian monster whose level is lower than this monster's. For Flower Cardian Zebra Grass, that means level seven or lower.
Additionally, each of the first wave of self-summoning flower cardians have an additional effect. For Flower Cardian Zebra Grass you are given the opportunity to Magical Mallet away your potentially dead flower cardian draws in hopes of drawing staples or power spells. Overall this is a card that has not aged spectacularly well unless you're pushing hard for a first turn kill build of the strategy, but originally this card was played at more copies in order to unbrick hands when possible. Nowadays you'll likely just play one or two as a target for Flower Gathering, but we'll get to that later.
This ominous looking piece of cardboard has a lot in common with Flower Cardian Pine with Crane which we covered earlier. Similar summoning condition (except it has to tribute a level eight instead), and the same stats. This one instead allows you to draw a card if it destroys an opponent's monster by battle. I'll be honest, you're never resolving that last effect, and the summoning restrictions paired with low need for copies of Flower Cardian Zebra Grass make this a particularly hard sell as an include in a decklist for this archetype.
You probably aren't running this unless you particularly want to run every flower cardian name or you have a particular fondness for The Wicked Avatar , whom this card draws its artwork from.
Nothing to see here! Wake me up when september ends...
At level ten, we have Flower Cardian Maple with Deer. There's not a lot to cover here aside from that this is the backrow removal counterpart to Flower Cardian Clover with Boar, complete with the same summoning conditions and stats. The number of each that you run may vary from meta to meta, or by your need for access to certain ranks of XYZ monsters. Two Flower Cardian Maple with Deer can occasionally give you access to rather scary XYZ boss monsters such as Number 81: Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Super Dora, but these moments can be infrequent at best due to archetypal locks.
At level eleven, we have a couple of entries. Both are worth consideration, but Flower Cardian Willow takes the cake by far. This card shares the archetypal lock summoning condition mentioned previously on Flower Cardian Zebra Grass, allowing you to summon it from your hand when you control any level 10 or lower flower cardian... which is almost all of them. Not bad. But the real kicker here is the secondary effect of Flower Cardian Willow:
Once per turn, you can target 1 "Flower Cardian" monster in your Graveyard; shuffle it into the Deck, then draw 1 card.
This might seem quite innocuous at first, until you realise that this card is easily summonable dozens of times in a singular turn through revival effects, shuffling other copies of itself back into the deck, or similar effects allowing you to use this effect over and over. No hard once per turn makes this card the backbone of Flower Cardian draw potential, and is the main reason the deck is able to function in any kind of consistent manner. At time of writing, running any less than three copies of this card is criminal in the deck.
Secondly in the level eleven lineup, we have Flower Cardian Willow with Calligrapher.
This is another one of those ever-so clunky level specific summoning requirement cardians. This one requires you to tribute Flower Cardian Willow in order to summon itself. Unlike its ilk, Flower Cardian Willow with Calligrapher is able to justify the cost somewhat through being a tuner, and the secondary effect provides the level modulation effect shared by Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly. Due to these, and Flower Cardian Willow being by far the most commonly summoned Flower Cardian, this card is worth at least some consideration in your flower cardian lists. Flower Cardian Peony with Butterfly does render it somewhat redundant due to being far easier to summon, however having a tuner in play is a prerequisite for flower cardian combo lines, meaning that considering 1-2 copies of this card isn't out of the question.
Lastly, at level twelve we have Flower Cardian Paulownia and his older brother, Flower Cardian Paulownia with Phoenix. Flower Cardian Paulownia mostly serves as a body and free extender, due to having the easiest summoning condition by virtue of sharing the level-based summoning condition and having the highest possible level simultaneously. The secondary effect... isn't really an effect? This card draws you a card and ends the battle phase when he's attacked, so unless your opponent isn't particularly fond of reading, this should never actually come up in actual play. I've had it happen maybe once in several years of experimenting with this archetype. On the archetype's release, this was one of the better extenders, but due to having a lackluster secondary effect Flower Cardian Paulownia has mostly been relegated to a one of that can be summoned off Flower Gathering's effect that you don't mind drawing every now and then.
Lastly, we have Flower Cardian Paulownia with Phoenix.
Not much to write home about here - This is yet another flower cardian with an awkward summoning condition, and being paired with arguably the worst of the four counterparts, it's very hard to justify playing this unless you're truly dedicated to running every cardian name. But on the plus side, if it attacks and deals damage you get to draw a card... So you recieve a small christmas gift from the December cardian, but not often. Probably don't play this.
Thank you for coming with me on this journey through the months of Flower Cardians. As this has become quite long, Part 2 will likely cover some of the synchros of the archetypes, along with the spells (and trap) the deck has.