When I first started playing Magic, I looked to the internet for help in starting my journey as a deck builder. One of the first things I saw being said was
“Build a 75 card deck”
Well, this sort of confused me at the time because other guides mentioned keeping the card count to 60 in a Standard deck. A bit more digging and I came across the concept of the Sideboard.
For the newer players out there, the sideboard is a set of cards that aren’t part of your main 60 card deck (also known as your “Mainboard”). You can have 0-15 cards in your Sideboard that you’re able to switch out with cards in your Mainboard between games in a match. Of course there is much more to it than that but now you at least know the general idea of what this article is going to be about.
It is very tough to talk about sideboarding in specifics as it is something that is customized to an extent towards your own deck, other decks, your meta, etc. so it would take me quite a while to get through everything so this will be a guide mostly to give you some foundational tips to help you fix/build your sideboard and utilize it properly. Most people have the general idea of how to sideboard but it’s the fine tuning that is difficult and I’ll tell you right now, it takes work!
I will split this guide into multiple articles/parts to help keep this whole thing a bit more concise. The first couple of parts are more preparing/building your Sideboard with the last part I’ll about things to consider when going through the motions of sideboarding in matches.
PART 1: Planning/Preparation
First and foremost one thing you need to have a grasp of is the meta of wherever you’re playing whether it’s FNM, Major Tournaments, or in your casual playgroup. Establishing your meta can be accomplished just by playing the game and testing. One LGS (Local Game Store) might have a heavier amount of Control decks while another might be filled with Aggro decks. Establishing your meta should be the first thing to do as it will heavily influence the shell of your Sideboard. How are you supposed to build a Sideboard when you have no idea what you’re going up against? Those Plummet’s aren’t going to do much good if no one in your LGS has any flying creatures!
The meta is basically just the breakdown of the popular decks being played. For example in most major tournaments right now the meta is mostly made up of U/W/x Control decks, B/x Midrange decks, R/W Burn Decks, and G/R/x Monster Decks. These are going to be the more popular decks being played.
The tournament meta is something you should always take into consideration when planning a Sideboard. There are always going to be those players looking to play the best/top decks so one place you should check out when preparing to build/fix your Sideboard is http://www.mtgtop8.com This website will let you know the top decks winning both MTGO tournaments and Paper tournaments. You will want to refer to this website if you plan on going to any major tournaments (and even some FNM’s) to determine the popular decks. As for casual playgroups, I can’t tell you what the popular decks are as it could be literally anything if they don’t pay attention to tournament results so it’s up to you to figure out what the people around you are playing most.
Once you’ve determined what your main competition looks like, make sure you have tested your deck thoroughly. Through testing you should have a solid idea of what your meta is. Not only this but you’ll learn your deck more which is very important when working/building on your Sideboard.
After your meta is established you can even look at other people’s Sideboards to give ideas for your own Sideboard. I’m not saying copy and paste but you may see cards that would be perfect for your deck and would just require you to do minor changes. You see a Jund deck similar to yours playing only 1 Rakdos’s Return in the Sideboard? If your meta is Control heavy, maybe you’ll consider adding 2 or 3 Rakdos’s Return instead.
Also, keep testing!
I cannot stress that enough. Test against all the possible matchups in your playgroup/LGS/Tournaments and most importantly if you’re playing a popular deck, test the mirror match. This is where proxy’s really shine. If you have a friend to help you test, grab some deck lists of popular decks/bad matchups in your meta and sleeve up proxy decks which your friend can help play against your own deck. In reality, through testing you can solve most of your Sideboarding problems.
When you’re testing it can help to write down cards that were not good in the matchup while playing or right after the game. You can use this to refer back to when choosing cards for building your Sideboard. Once you’ve tested enough and have figured out where your deck lacks you’re ready to move onto picking cards for your Sideboard!
Click HERE for Part 2!