Sideboarding From Within
Have you ever wished you could sideboard in Commander?
Unless there’s a special version happening, we’re playing one game matches with no chance to sideboard. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the middle of a game and wished I had some kind of answer for the situation. But sometimes our answers don’t line up with what’s happening on the battlefield, so what do we do then?
That’s why I like to think about building a “sideboard” into the very deck itself.
No, I’m not talking about Rivals of Ixalan’s Mastermind’s Acquisition, although that is a technicality in the sideboard question. I’m not sure how to handle these in a casual multiplayer game at a pal’s house. But in any case, that’s not what I’m writing about today.
For this strategy to work, we’ll need cards for our “living sideboard” and ways to get rid of them in case they end up stranded in our hands. Basically, the answers and cards that let us discard for value. That’s how we’re going to treat them. What we lose in tempo by activating those discard outlets, we’ll be gaining by having more focused answers for tough problems!
Part of knowing what kinds of sideboard cards to include in your deck means knowing a bit about your meta. If you play in a casual group of regulars, you get to know what kinds of decks you face a lot and what kinds of things keep getting you down.
I won’t go over things like wraths, because those are generally accepted as good includes in any deck. The’re a bit bigger than what I’d call my “living sideboard” thought. They’re more “living maindeck”.
If you’re more the type of player who faces new opponents all the time, or even the same opponents with dozens of decks in rotation, it can be tougher to put decks into general archetypes. In any case, I’m going to categorize these cards based on some very common archetypes you’re likely to encounter at most tables you might sit down at.
There are quite a few token decks out there, from Mono-Red goblins, to Black-White zombies, to Abzan saprolings, and so on. They’re about as rampant as the swarms of little nuisances they generate. Here are a couple cards that work exceptionally well against those kinds of decks:
Detention Sphere is a halfway decent card on its own, but against tokens it shines! Put their whole fake army under the sphere, and they’re never coming back. Izzet Staticaster is another one that’s sub-par if we’re up against a regular brew, but is really handy against a swarm of 1/1s. And, since it’s not exactly a wrath, Yahenni’s Expertise is narrow enough to occupy this spot in the deck. Very few tokens are surviving this one.
Another type of deck that we run into a lot is artifact decks. We all know how great Vandalblast is, but what if there are more artifact heavy decks in our meta?
We could use Reduce to Dreams if it didn’t hurt our board too much. Besides, what if our artifact opponent made their whole battlefield indestructible and hexproof? It’s very possible. I find myself often wishing I had a Furnace Dragon to take care of the problem player. Just remember to crack your Commander’s Sphere before you cast it.
But what about those pesky Graveyard decks? The ones that keep stealing things out of our graveyards, or cheating out massive monsters from their own? Well don’t you worry, there are solutions!
Don’t like them dipping into their own yard for creature goodies? Repopulate them back into the deck. It’ll be a while until they get them again. If we’re running classic sideboard cards in our decks, one of the best is Grafdigger’s Cage. It’s in legit sideboard formats for a reason. And lastly, Withered Wretch is an efficient way to whisk away any cards your opponents were thinking of using.
So there are some excellent “sideboard” cards worth maindecking, depending on your meta. Even if they’re not too useful, we’ll make sure to run plenty of cards that let us discard for value.
That’s it for this article, but I’ll go over some of my favourite cards to enable discard in my next article in two weeks. Stay tuned! In the meantime, am I missing some of your favourite sideboard cards? Any cards that you’ve wanted to run in decks but they seemed a little too narrow? Let me know in the comments below!