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

Part 3 of my “So You Want to Build a Sideboard?” series. If you haven’t checked out the other parts, please check them out:

HERE for Part 1
HERE for Part 2

So. You’ve just played a game and you head to those precious 15 cards you’ve crafted to help close out the match.

This last part is where I’m going to give you some guidelines to the actual process of sideboarding. Now, it’s going to be a bit shorter than the other parts. The reason for this is if you’ve tested enough, and have made the right preparations against the right matchups; you really don’t need my help in sideboarding. You already know what to bring in! This is why in my last part I mentioned it’s good to write down things while you’re testing so you can refer back to them when picking your Sideboard cards for each relevant matchup.

That being said, you’ll always encounter a variety of decks especially in tournaments. You can’t prepare against everything so here are some things to help you determine what to sideboard on the fly if you need to.

1. Don’t assume what might not be there

This is quite relevant when you’re playing an aggro deck and you get your opponent to concede quite early or you kill them too fast for them to see them play anything important. Everyone’s had those games there all they get is lands and end up having to concede due to a flood. Don’t let just the colour of lands influence your sideboarding because they might not even have the cards you think they do or it might be a totally different archetype than you think (ie. Esper Humans instead of Esper Control).

2. Don’t Over-sideboard

Over-sideboarding is when you end up bringing in too many of your Sideboard cards thinking it will improve the matchup when in reality you’re weakening a matchup that was already fine in the first place; taking out perfectly fine cards for either less powerful or only slightly better cards. This also can result in making your main deck’s plan weaker (which is usually a result of a poor Sideboard or lack of planning anyway).

For example, an aggro deck doesn’t include Enchantment hate in the Sideboard. Why? Because it doesn’t fit their game plan. If they bring in too many hate cards, whether its ways to remove creatures they’re afraid of, or other things such as Enchantments their deck is going to slow down.

That being said, including 1 or 2 of’s for certain cards (ie. An aggro deck bringing in Mizzium Mortars for Blood Baron of Vizkopa ) is fine but bringing in 3 or 4 of them is not. You’ll end up having to take out 1 or 2 creatures for those and what if you draw those and they don’t even end up playing their Blood Barons? Well you sideboarded more than you needed to. Sideboard cards should have an impact when you draw them but shouldn’t impede your original goal.

3. Bring in cards that make their cards worse and yours better. NOT the other way around.

This may seem obvious to people but it’s still a problem. I added in that last part because of a game I played with my RW Burn deck on MTGO. It was against a Mono Black opponent. The first game I won, but it was very close largely due to Desecration Demon. Now, in my burn deck I am playing Mainboard Searing Bloods. Works great against Mutavault and Pack Rat but not against cards such as Desecration Demon so I still wanted a couple but not all 4. I take 2 out, and a couple Satyr Firedancers, bring in some more Chained to the Rocks, and a couple Spark Troopers and submit for Game 2.

In Game 2 I noticed my opponent brought in Lifebane Zombies. Thanks for making it easier for my Searing Bloods! I got to kill his Zombie which made him take extra damage where he normally wouldn’t have if he didn’t have brought them in.

When I asked him why brought them in post-board he felt the first game was so close that the extra threat seemed good to race. His argument was sound, but it wasn’t correct. He didn’t think about it enough to realize it made one of my spells even more effective.

Think before bringing anything in. Don’t snap Sideboard something in without realizing all possible consequences.

4. Remember which cards were the most impactful and how your Sideboard can affect them

While playing, keep track of which cards your opponents have that make the most impact on the game. It will make sideboarding easier, especially if you already have hate cards for them.

This is especially important when playing against decks you’re not familiar with. You likely won’t have any Sideboard plans for them so you’ll have to do it on the spot which can be tough.

Here’s a scenario to illustrate; Let’s say you play a couple of Enchantment removal spells in the Sideboard for certain matchups (usually for cards such as Detention Spheres or Gods) and you end up against a Hexproof deck. Your deck may not deal with flying creatures that well and if you see your opponent play Gift of Orzhova you might just think you’re out of luck. However, you also might overlook the fact you can actually still target your opponent’s enchantments even if they’re on a Hexproof creature. The matchup may not be why you have the Enchantment hate but it’s still applicable. There are a lot of things to remember in Magic and these smaller bits get overlooked more often than you’d think.


In conclusion, there are a lot of ways to sideboard but I can’t stress enough that the most important things to do regarding the Sideboard are done before actually sideboarding in games.

The testing, the planning, and the research are all major parts of knowing how to build your Sideboard and how to use it. It’s not something that comes easily but I hope this series has helped at least shed some light on some of the more important things to think about!

So go out there and test!

…And then test some more.

– Michael Y.

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