While I don’t recall when or who, but many an esteemed writer have waxed magical in regards to the importance of the sideboard in relation to the main deck. And they are right. Short of your opponents conceding, receiving game loses, and just plain lapsing into a coma, you will play more than 50% of your games in a Magical card tournament using cards from your sideboard.
I’ll bet you jotted down your decklist before the tournament too, right? Did you jot down the list as it would appear in 50% to 66% of the games verses Goblins? What it would include for 50% to 66% of your games verses Slide? In the exact form the deck would be for 50% to 66% of your games verses Affinity? What cards would be in the main deck for 50% to 66% of your games verses bye? No wait…
Anyway. I bet you didn’t, did you? I bet, and you’ll find this super-scary, but I assure you, I cannot read your mind. I bet, you went to sideboard in your thirteen hate cards versus Affinity, and found you didn’t have enough cards to remove! Or even, perhaps just even, you accidentally removed all of your victory conditions and sat there trying not to let on that you had no possible way to win.
Yeah. Now you think about it, a little forethought in regards to your sideboard might not be such a silly idea, am I right? Don’t answer, I know I am.
Okay. So the tournament is coming up, you’ve pretty much finalized your decklist, and like the good child you are, you’ve also finalized your sideboard. Now. Imagine you find a mystical bottle behind the couch. A juice bottle, if you would. Left there from last time Kurt Hahn called around for a quick game of multiple player Magical cards. This juice bottle is old, dusty, and err, old. You rub it out of pure frustration in the hope that genie will come out and cure said frustrations. Sure enough, a genie. Whoduh thunk it?
Anyhoople, you get the”hottest girl/boy/teacher to love you forever” thing out of the way, and you get to thinking. What if I knew exactly what everyone was gonna play this weekend? Oh my God! What the flip? Eleventy one, barbecue! The genie tells you that 95% of the field will be playing Affinity! How lucky!
If you knew that 95% of the field were going to play Affinity, you’d pre-sideboard quite considerably. What would your decklist look like then? Write it out. Go on.
What if, what if there field was actually going to 95% Slide? Look, I know what the genie said, but we’re pretending here. Pretend the freakin’ genie said 95% Slide. How would you presideboard verses a field of Slide decks? Write that out, too.
Now do the same for every possible match-up you might face.
(You can probably not bother with Elves dot deck, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem at all, ever again.)
You should now have anywhere between five and ten deck lists, all being reconfigurations of your original main deck and sideboard. When you look over these lists, are there any cards that you sideboard in or out in most cases? Maybe, and this is just me thinking out loud, as usual. Maybe, some of these sideboard cards should be in the main deck. Or in the case of cards sideboarded out, not in the main deck at all.
For instance, if you sideboard out one of your four <insert main deck card here> in most of your match-ups, why aren’t you instead running three of them main and one in the side? When it comes to that, is that final copy just wasting space in the sideboard? Should it perhaps be something else?
If you switch some of the more frequently sideboarded cards in for the ones that come out the most, your deck might begin to look a little more finely tuned for the anticipated metagame. The problem here is, your sideboard now may start to look like a badly organized list of cards that were previously in the main deck, and yet have no place in the side. If they have no place in the side, and they didn’t need to be in the main, well you can just throw them away.
(Or at least slot them into your trade binder, I guess. But I like the idea of just plain chucking them!)
This of course, frees up more space in your sideboard. But you have to wary again, that you’re not devoting more sideboard slots than you can afford to any particular match-up. This is why you need to do these lists slash sideboard plans for each match-up, as above.
If you happened to be playing a Red/Green deck in some kind of salute to recent, somewhat seasonal festivities, you may want to have some Naturalizes and Dwarven Blastminers in your sideboard. Your first and natural instinct is to add four of each, but when playing versus Affinity, can you afford to pull eight cards from the main deck? We’ll assume no, so maybe not four of each, then?
Because the Dwarf is such a beating versus decks that run one hundred percent non-basic lands, you’d think it’s a natural four-of. But then again, maybe you need the full compliment of Naturalizes when playing against a Slide deck. Naturalize does also have”natural” in it’s name, so who can argue against it being a natural four-of? Certainly not me anyway, I’m sure I’d need a note from my doctor, or something.
So while it would seem like a good idea to have four Dwarves on the bench, all ready to go like the pizza order you phoned in twenty minutes ago. If you’re only ever going to be able to sideboard in two or three of them, only run those two or three.
This process is known as fine tuning, and will help you with creating a better deck, and will help you with your sideboarding decisions during a tournament. And how can that be a bad thing? Laugh out loud, barbecue, what the flip, etcetera!
Good luck in the tournament, and here’s to the genie’s spell not wearing off in regards to that”hottest girl/boy/teacher/anthropoid” mentioned earlier.