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MTG: My Top 5 Tips for Sideboarding

Updated on January 4, 2021
Christian Allasia profile image

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time and today I want to share my tricks

Good decks have 75 cards

In constructed it is good practice that decks have at least 60 cards but real decks play 75.
This is because it is essential that the mainboard is fully integrated with the Sideboard and not two distinct objects.
In fact, it is extremely important that the sideboard is complementary to the mainboard and can be of help to overcome the major weaknesses of the deck we intend to play in the tournament.
For this reason, many Magic: The gathering Pro Players give the advice to consider all 75 possible slots together and not think first of 60 cards and then the remaining 15.
Playing the best of three games we will have to play with the side at least half of the time if not about 60% of the time, for this reason having a good ability to use the side can really make the difference between a win and a defeat.

Use the sideboard more in Limited

We just talked about Constructed Formats but the same principle applies to Limited formats as well.
In this case the deck is made up of 40 cards and all the others that are not finished in the deck are considered part of the Sideboard by regulation. Considering that we have 45 picks in a draft and only about 23 nonland cards will enter our deck, we have a lot of cards that can be useful and will end up in the side.
Of course all the best ones ended up in the main deck but, in certain situations, some cards might have ended up in the sideboard that can help us make a difference.
That is, when building the main deck it is prepared against the unknown in the opponent's deck but after the first game we should have understood what we are dealing with and therefore we can use this knowledge to our advantage in game 2 and 3.
A serious mistake that many make is precisely that of not considering or re-evaluating the cards in the sideboard considering them to be suboptimal. In Sealed you could even make a deck for game 1 and a second deck for game 2 or game 3. Room for creativity.

A practical example?
Does the opponent play many creatures with toughness equal to 1 or 2? the strength of his creatures does not pass beyond 3 or 4?
That cute 2/5 Crab you put on the side could be a great help against this opponent.

Use the sideboard differently if you are on Draw or Play

Another concept that is often misinterpreted is how to use the Sideboard in a different way for what we are on the play or we are on the draw.
When we are on the Play we have to think about starting to play proactively (i.e. building our game) while when we are on the draw we have to play reactively (i.e. reacting to the opponent's bets).
Why this?
By hypothesis we are playing a mirror match against a deck identical to ours that wins with a 100% third round combo. In this case, the first player to start has an advantage because he can win in his third round which comes just before the opponent's third round. For this reason it is necessary that the second player gets involved with a different mentality (compared to when he plays first) in order to neutralize the opponent's advantage.
The second player also gets the chance to draw a card that can surely allow him to have more resources to be able to manage the game in this way.

It is not easy to have all the answers ...
It is not easy to have all the answers ...

Use the sideboard against the opponent's post sideboard deck (and not the game1 version)

Extremely important advice, if you are using the Sideboard, consider that the opponent is also doing the same thing towards you!
Don't build your deck to be perfect against the opponent's deck it played against before, build your deck to be perfect against the deck you will be playing against now!
This is because getting your sideboard wrong can impact your chances of winning a lot. Preparing to fight an opponent who no longer exists will certainly not help us win.
Ask yourself these questions: How is the opponent preparing himself? What cards will I be most afraid of? What are the cards that will be weakened the most by the opponent's exchange?

Don't evolve the sideboard

The balance between the different decks in a format is constantly changing, new cards are added, new discoveries are made by the players in the local shop just as they happen on Pro Tours.
A big mistake is therefore not to modify the sideboard to accommodate these changes.
Very often players arrive at a sideboard configuration that they consider valid and from that point forward they don't modify it anymore. Big mistake.
The sideboard is specially designed to be versatile and give versatility to the 75-card deck, if the sideboard does not allow enough versatility to the deck, it will be easier to beat and this greatly affects our win rate. Remember when I said that 60% of games are played with the sideboard?
Furthermore, the local shop and the Pro Tour do not share the same type of metagame and therefore must be faced with different sideboards and with different mentalities.
One of the risks when playing in a small group of players is that decks become too dependent on that specific metagame and can perform poorly in larger tournaments.
This concludes the list of my 5 tips on the Sideboard, I hope they will help you, let me know in the comments below!

© 2021 Christian Allasia

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