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[Article] So You Want to Build a Sideboard? (Part 2/3)

Part 2 of my “So You Want to Build a Sideboard?” series. If you haven’t checked out the first part and/or are a newer player, please check it out:


For the rest of you, let’s move on as we have a lot to cover!

Part 2: Choices, choices, choices.

Now if you remember from the last part Sideboards can contain a variety of cards since they are made specifically for your deck and your meta. So, for this next part I will go over more general ideas to help you determine what kinds of cards you should be putting into your Sideboard and at least give you a framework to help determine what is Sideboard material and what isn’t.

1. Look back on your testing!

It really does not start anywhere but here. If you’ve tested enough the rest of the tips will be much easier to follow if you know what your deck’s worst/best matchups are as well as what cards underperform in those matchups.

2. Always keep your Mainboard mind

Every single time you look at a potential Sideboard card, check back to your Mainboard and imagine how it would fit in with the rest of your cards. The reason for this is that you should never add in Sideboard cards that disrupt or fundamentally change your deck’s goal or plan. Because there are so many different cards out there, some are going to do similar things but one card may perform better in your deck that might not for someone else’s even though the effect is the same.

Take Imposing Sovereign and Blind Obedience for instance.


Very similar effects but are used in very different decks. An aggro deck might use Imposing Sovereign in for mirror matchups to race better or to sneak in more damage while still playing a threat on board. On the other hand the Control/Midrange decks have no use for a 2/1 but still need a similar effect to slow down opposing aggro decks so Blind Obedience is a much better choice there.

Another reason to take the Mainboard into consideration is that you have to remember you are taking a card out of the deck and putting a different one in from the Sideboard. Every deck has a goal and you want to be able to improve your chances of winning without changing the integrity/goal of your deck. For example, if my Rakdos Midrange deck needs access to a lot of removal, I may have Dark Betrayals in the Sideboard to swap out Doom Blades against B/x decks to improve the matchup without losing the amount of removal I need for the deck to function. A loose example I know, but it helps illustrate what I mean.

3. Don’t just play strong cards. Play Impactful cards.

The best Sideboard cards are impactful and can potentially be used in multiple matchups rather than just one. Because you’re switching out cards you want to make sure every single card you bring in will have a larger impact on the game than the card you’re switching out. Otherwise, what’s the point? Even though there are some cards you specifically need for certain cards in matchups the best Sideboard cards are impactful cards you can use in many different matchups if you need to. This means that you don’t want to tunnel vision onto specific problem cards. You sometimes have to think in terms of plans rather than thinking “This card keeps kicking my ass so I need X card to beat it in this matchup”. Always keep your deck’s plan in mind. You may find a great card but it may not fit your deck.

For example an aggro deck isn’t going to include Mizzium Mortars in the sideboard just because of those pesky Blood Baron of Vizkopas or Archangel of Thunes. It’s too slow, very linear, and doesn’t work towards your plan. Instead it’ll play Skullcrack since it doesn’t slow the deck down, hits the player, and works well against not only Blood Baron/Archangel to stop the lifegain and close out the game but playing against any other deck where lifegain is bad for it such as Sphinx’s Revelation decks.

4. Sideboards aren’t just extra card slots

When I started, there were so many awesome cards I wanted to include in my deck(s). Then I of course learned the best chances of winning meant keeping my deck to 60 cards.

“Well, future Me, this Sideboard thing can hold all the extra cards I want to play right?”

No Michael from the past, you’re wrong. Very wrong.

This was one of the first hurdles I had to overcome and it’s a recurring problem I see in newer player’s (and some older player’s) Sideboards. They figure some cards are in their colours, goes along with the rest of their deck, answers other people’s cards, but they just don’t have room in their Mainboard for them so they put them in the Sideboard.

Every card in the Sideboard has a specific purpose. You don’t put cards in the Sideboard just because they SEEM to work in certain matchups. The Sideboard is carefully crafted to be your key to winning games that are tough for you pre-board. It is a way to make weak matchups better, and to an extent, include specific hate. You should always ask yourself these things before putting a card in the sideboard:

– When am I bringing this card in?
– What am I taking out for this card?
– What purpose does this card serve?

If you fail to answer even one of these questions, then it’s likely not a card you should be putting in your Sideboard. Again, look back on your testing! It’ll make answering these questions a thousand times easier.

So, you’ve tested your deck.

Written down your worst matchups and cards.

Looked at other decklists/Sideboards.

Picked the cards to fix those poor matchups.

After all of this I’m sure you have crafted a Sideboard worthy of winning! Right?


5. Back to testing!

Sorry, I told you it’d take work!

Post-board games can be drastically different than pre-board games and doing lots of testing with Sideboards is essential. Not only this but the majority of games you play will be Sideboard games. Go through the same motions as before, and keep asking yourself what works and what doesn’t each time you draw one of your Sideboard cards:

– Did it do what I hoped it would do?
– Would including more of this card improve my deck/Sideboard?
– (and possibly) Do I want this card in my Mainboard permanently?

Keep track of this information and rinse and repeat. Having a well-built Sideboard will be worth it and I guarantee you’ll start noticing yourself winning more games.

This concludes Part 2. I know I could’ve probably included more things but trying to keep things concise but still include the important parts is difficult with a topic so broad!

Part 3 I will talk about things to think about when doing the actual process of sideboarding in games.

Part 3 coming soon!

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