Owning the Arena: Sideboarding 101

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One of the most difficult parts of learning to play Magic is sideboarding. Unless you want to play in the best of 1 queues for forever, you’ll eventually want to learn how to sideboard in MTG Arena. While the topic is a little complicated, this edition of Owning the Arena will shed some light on it.

Read More:  Owning the Arena: What does metagame mean?

How do I craft a sideboard?

I usually recommend not making a sideboard from scratch. As mentioned in our previous article on Net Decking, it’s totally fine and even encouraged to look at people who are successful with your deck and mimic what they’re doing. There are tons of streamers, YouTubers, and professional players who offer this information for free! This, of course, only works if you’re playing a more meta decklist.

If you play your own brew or feel like you want to craft your own sideboard, it’s totally possible! The goal of sideboarding is to allow you to turn bad matchups into winnable ones. So, when you’re starting out, try to think of what bad matchups your deck faces. If you don’t know, maybe run a few games in the casual queue on MTG Arena. This can give you a feel of what decks are hard to beat. Then, add cards to your sideboard that help you beat those matchups. For example, if you have a hard time with Mono-Red or Vampires in current Standard, it may be a good idea to run some extra removal in your sideboard to help you deal with all their creatures. Whenever you are looking to add a card to your sideboard, ask the question, “What problem does adding this card solve?”

Look for flexible cards

You only have 15 slots in your sideboard to help you cope with an entire metagame. That means it’s important to look for sideboard cards that help you in multiple matches.  In the above example, I mentioned that if you’re having trouble with Vampires and Mono-Red, you’d maybe want some extra removal in your sideboard. Well, let’s say you want to run two copies of Legion’s End, Moment of Craving, or Cast Down. Which do you choose?

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While there are certainly cases where one of the other two may be more preferable, Legion’s End helps you in both the matches you’re having trouble in and is really good against Bant Scapeshift, one of the biggest decks in this meta! It can be brought in against 3 different and very popular decks, so it’s probably something to have in your sideboard.

Another example of a flexible card is Dovin’s Veto. It has game against Scapeshift, Esper Control, Jeskai Superfriends, and many others.

What cards do I remove from my main deck while sideboarding?

The general advice is, “remove cards that are bad against your opponent, bring in cards that are good.” While that’s a very true statement, there’s a little more to it. Here are a few very general tips:

  • Against Aggro: Bring in cheap removal spells like the ones mentioned above. It’s usually okay to take out expensive cards that you may not have the time to cast. For example, if you’re playing Yarok Field, it may be correct to trim a Yarok and a Cavalier of Thorns to bring in two Legion’s Ends. Odds are that if things go poorly, you wouldn’t have time to cast a 5-drop. However, the extra removal could save your life.
  • Against Control: Bring in hand disruption like Duress, resilient threats like Shifting Ceratops, and ways to counter or remove their planeswalkers like Despark or Dovin’s Veto. You’ll want to remove most of the creature removal from your deck since control doesn’t run many creatures.
  • Against Combo: Bring in spells that disrupt their hand, stop their combo, or clean up after their combo goes off (if possible). A good example of this is Ashiok, Dream Render stopping the Scapeshift combo. Another example would be Flame Sweep cleaning up their horde of zombies after they go off.  For cuts, it’s generally safe to cut creature removal since most combo decks don’t rely on many creatures. If they’re a fast combo deck, you can also trim expensive cards that you may not have time to cast, just like if you were against aggro.
  • Against Ramp: Bring in anti-green spells like Aether Gust or Noxious Grasp. If you’re unable to do that, bring in removal like Despark for their Planeswalkers and hand disruption or countermagic for their big spells. You’re probably fine trimming some of your more expensive spells. This is because your main goal is to make sure they can’t ramp into a game-ending board state.

Conclusion

Keep in mind, the advice in this article is pretty general and is geared towards MTG Arena Standard. Sideboarding changes over time as we get new cards, and there are generally no hard rules.  If you want some more content for MTG Arena beginners, check out our Owning the Arena page!


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