Sideboarding in Modern Part II

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Posted April 17, 2017 by Abdullah Elhawary in Tabletop

After covering how to sideboard generically in Modern in Part I of this article, I will delve into how to sideboard against the most popular decks in the format and discuss which sideboard cards/strategies are most effective against them. If you recall from the previous article, I dedicate half of my sideboard to generic hate and the other half to improving my worst match-ups.

I will cover Modern’s top 12 archetypes according to mtggoldfish and lump them into categories in order to avoid being repetitive, in addition to covering decks that have similar strategies but aren’t in the top 12 decks of the format.

Death’s Shadow:

Modern’s consensus best deck has 3 main flavors; Jund, Abzan and Grixis. The first two are very similar, and sideboarding against all three shouldn’t deviate too much. Graveyard hate like Rest in Peace shuts off threats like Tarmogoyf and Traverse the Ulvenwald in addition to neutralizing grindier cards like Lingering Souls, Kolaghan’s Command, Snapcaster Mage and Liliana, the Last Hope. Rest in Peace also makes delve threats like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler nearly impossible to cast.

Big Game Hunter is a card that I mentioned was quite phenomenal in this match-up, acting as a a removal spell and a chump blocker that can be brought back with cards like Kolaghan’s Command. The reason BGH is so good is that ultimately Death’s Shadow decks are threat light, with 8-12 actual threats in the entire deck. On a similar note, non-damage based removal spells like Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay are great against Death’s Shadow.

Engineered Explosives is one of the few cards that can easily 2 or 3 for 1 Death’s Shadow, as you can get rid of Lingering Souls tokens, Death’s Shadow, Tarmogoyf or Grim Flayer by paying 0-2 colors, which most Modern decks can do quite easily. Additionally, EE being colorless makes it even more versatile. Almost any deck can play it. It is worth mentioning that EE is much worse against the Grixis version, because of their delve threats.

Dredge:

See the generic graveyard hate section in Part I

Affinity:

As discussed in Part I, Ancient Grudge is a house in this match-up, representing two instant speed removal spells. Affinity is a deck that has a lot of weaker setup cards like Ornithopter and Memnite that maximize the bigger payoffs like Cranial Plating and Master of Etherium. Killing the payoff cards makes their deck quite underwhelming. Grudge and co. are also quite good against Lantern Control and the new kid on the block, Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo.

Stony Silence is the big card I didn’t mention in Part I. It isn’t really removal, but against Affinity it’s much better than a simple removal spell. Shutting down Darksteel Citadel, Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Mox Opal, Springleaf Drum and Steel Overseer transforms Affinity into a crappy aggro deck that probably would lose to most limited decks. Lantern Control and KCI Combo practically can’t win as long as Stony Silence is on the board.

Kozilek’s Return was touted as the death of Affinity when it was spoiled, because it kills the dreaded Etched Champion. Its presence has been quite underwhelming in Modern, unfortunately. That being said, it still wins games against Affinity, killing Etched Champion, Ornithopter, Memnite, Vault Skirge, Steel Overseer and Signal Pest. Moreover, it can hit Affinity’s manlands, Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus.`

Abzan/ Jund:

Although there are no cards that hose these strategies – they are just fair midrange decks, after all – there are still a bevy of cards that shine against Abzan and Jund. Any form of card advantage is often quite good because these decks try to grind you to oblivion. That’s why a card like Lingering Souls is often viewed as the best cards in the BGx match-up as it’s quite difficult to trade 1 for 1 and usually you have to 2 for 1 yourself in order to deal with it. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and planeswalkers in general are often quite good against GBx. They’re inherently hard to deal with and represent card advantage. (I chose Ashiok as the poster child for planeswalkers because it’s one of my editor’s favorite cards)

Similarly, Painful Truths provides card advantage in the mid-to-late game. It allows you to refill after spending the first few turns trading one for one. This is also the reason an early Ancestral Vision is actually very difficult for GBx decks to beat – your leftovers just end up being better. The life you spend on Painful Truths isn’t super relevant. The GBx decks aren’t going to put as much pressure on your life total as decks like Zoo or Burn.

Thragtusk is one of my favorite sideboard cards against Abzan and Jund. It’s 8 power and 6 toughness across two bodies for 5 mana. Additionally, the additional life gain can often be relevant. Thragtusk is improve if you have blink effects like Restoration Angel. Along the same lines, Kitchen Finks, Wurmcoil Engine and Thrun, the Last Troll are quite good against Abzan/Jund as they are difficult to trade 1 for 1.

I’d also like to give a special mention to Blood Moon. It can be backbreaking against the greedy mana bases and man lands of both Jund and Abzan.

 Burn:

 

Kor Firewalker is the biggest, baddest soldier from the plane of Zendikar when it comes to beating Red decks. Having the ability to eat any creature in combat deters your opponent from attacking, and the life gain functionally counters one out of every three or four burn spells. It gets even better if you’re on Red! The only problem with Kor Firewalker is the double white casting cost making it difficult to cast early without damage from your lands.

Collective Brutality‘s more immediate impact and less intense mana requirements gives the Firewalker a run for its money as the best card against Burn. One benefit is that Collective Brutality is a maindeckable card, so the opportunity cost is lower. All three modes on Collective Brutality are also relevant against Burn, and you actually want to be escalating twice which more often than not results in a clean 3 for 1.

Kitchen Finks sometimes operates like Kor Firewalker, but also has much easier mana requirements on top of the fact that it’s better in other matches like GBx. If you can trade Finks for 2 creatures and 4 life then you’re probably not losing. Burn is quite good at dealing exactly 20 damage and really not much more.

Eldrazi Tron/ Tron/ Bant Eldrazi:

 

See the generic land destruction section in Part I.

Other than the mana denial plan, a card that I am a huge fan of is Disdainful Stroke. Countering all the big pay-off cards in the Eldrazi decks for only 2 mana is a great deal, especially when paired with Snapcaster Mage. The downside to Stroke is that the Bant Eldrazi deck usually plays 3 Cavern of Souls, rendering the card absolutely useless. The more popular Eldrazi Tron and regular Tron decks usually runs 0-1 Caverns, so expect Stroke to pull more weight in those matches.

Wrath effects like Supreme Verdict and Damnation are exceptional against both Eldrazi Tron and Bant Eldrazi. The decks have no way of getting card advantage, so a clean two or three for one is brutal. Since Eldrazi are usually too big for most damage based removal, you may be better served with cards like Journey to Nowhere  and Dismember that can kill high toughness creatures.

If you are only gunning for regular Tron, I recommend Stony Silence as opposed to wraths because it turns off Expedition Map, Oblivion Stone and all their stars and spheres.

Ad Nauseam/ UR Gifts Storm:

   

Although it may seem odd to lump these two decks in the same category when it comes to sideboarding, they have similar gameplans, ignoring their opponent and focusing on goldfishing as fast as possible. They do this by using cantrips to assemble their respective combos which rely on fast mana to go off as early as turn 3. Discard spells like Duress and Thoughtseize shine against these decks. Stripping a key combo piece out of their hand can put them back several turns. It also gives you a lot of information when you’re formulating your gameplan.

Counterspells like Negate and Countersquall are also solid against these combo decks. Almost all of their combo pieces are noncreature spells. In the case of Storm, you can also let them go off for a bit then counter a key spell so that they fizzle and can never rebuild before you kill them. This is obviously a high risk, high reward play but it will sometimes win the game on the spot.

The reason I chose Rakdos Charm for the last card to display is because it combats the different elements of Ad Nauseam and Storm unlike any other card. Storm relies heavily on its graveyard to win, and Ad Nauseam depends on mana rocks for their fast mana. Rakdos Charm can attack both of those resources which makes it difficult for the decks to win before you can put the game away.

A proper conclusion this time:

Hopefully you know have all the tools necessary to build a sideboard that allows you to succeed in the vast and dangerous world of Modern. If you have any comments or questions regarding sideboarding in Modern or Modern in general, just leave them in the comment’s section!


About the Author

Abdullah Elhawary
Abdullah Elhawary