Dragons of Tarkir shook up the Standard metagame with an influx of playable cards, but the metagame is now starting to settle down and define itself. As a few major archetypes gain steam, they push out other archetypes which makes the metagame more predictable and easier to exploit. Today I'll explore some underutilized sideboard cards that are excellent against the major players in Standard and offer an edge over the competition.


Beating Dragons

Thunderbreak Regent and Draconic Roar from Dragons of Tarkir have brought about a RG Monsters-style Dragons deck with Stormbreath Dragon. This archetype uses the solid green core of Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Courser of Kruphix to support a cast of powerful midrange creatures and planeswalkers. This deck is full of incidental damage from cards like Draconic Roar, so the flying creatures end up being difficult for opponents to race. Roast provides the archetype with a powerful maindeck removal option.

Last week Seth Manfield shared his version of the deck.

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Chris VanMeter took his adaptation of Seth's decklist to an SCG Open win over the weekend. The archetype is the real deal and will be a force in the coming weeks.

Arbor Colossus is a trump against dragon creatures. It not only stops fliers cold, it Threatens to destroy them and generate value with its Monstrous ability. As a 6/6 it conveniently dodges Roast and the ability of Dragonlord Atarka, so beyond Crater's Claws it's very difficult for the RG Dragons deck to deal with.

Arbor Colossus is a great option for any green decks which are typically weak to fliers. It's best in decks with mana acceleration, especially Green Devotion strategies. It's also a great option for RG Monsters decks and in RG Dragons to combat the mirror.

One anti-flyer option for Green Devotion decks is to use Hornet Queen for its ability to lock down the air. It's difficult for the RG Dragons deck to deal with, but those with Dragonlord Atarka have a good answer.

Green anti-flying technology extends to Plummet, an instant-speed way to take care of any flyer, and for two-mana it generates a tempo boost against dragons. This option seems great in the aggressive RG Dragons mirror, where a small tempo boost could easily translate to a game-winning advantage.

I wouldn't mind experimenting with Return to the Earth, which answers Dragons and enchantments like Jeskai Ascendancy, Outpost Siege, and Courser of Kruphix. It's not efficient, but it's such a flexible sideboard card that it just might be worth playing.

While on the topic of destroying dragons, on MTGO Bathe in Dragonfire is seeing play in the sideboards of most Monored aggro decks. Unlike Roast, Bathe in Dragonfire kills dragons at a tempo gain, and that's important for a red deck in tight racing situations against the RG Dragons deck. In a pinch Bathe in Dragonfire also destroys Courser of Kruphix, so it's flexible enough that the increase in versatility makes up for the decrease in efficiency from Roast.

One way to beat large creatures that are trying to race is Threaten effects, and Standard offers some very powerful options. Harness by Force comes with the added benefit of being able to steal two or more creatures in late-game situations. In these situations it will be quite difficult to beat. Another option is Mob Rule, which is pigeonholed as an expensive card, but is significantly more impactful than Harness by Force. This option is best in a deck that can produce extra mana, especially RG Monsters/Dragons decks.


Beating Monored Aggro

Monored has a consistent aggressive plan that's difficult for any deck to overcome consistently, and it has a huge presence in the metagame, so Standard players are fighting back with cards that punish the linear Monored game plan. The best sideboard plans against Monored aggro include destroying their creatures to stymie their aggressive capabilities, and gaining life to buy time against early aggression and to counteract their burn spells.

Nylea's Disciple is an obvious choice for any green-heavy deck looking to get an edge against Monored, especially Green Devotion decks. This card is not off the radar, but it's underplayed given how effective it is against the red strategy. Not only is Nylea's Disciple a lifegain card with no limit on upward potential, but it's also a blocker that trades with their all-important Goblin Heelcutter. In a metagame heavy with Monored, playing four Nylea's Disciple in Green Devotion is a very reasonable use of sideboard space to help lock down the matchup.

A seemingly forgotten favorite against Monored aggro is Nyx-Fleece Ram which, as a 0/5 blocker, shuts down one of their creatures; and with a lifegain ability helps to stem the bleeding and in multiples will take over a game if it goes long. With such a large body the card is also a fine blocker against other forms of aggro, including Abzan Aggro and Temur with Frost Walker. This is a great choice for decks that otherwise lack interactive early plays, control decks especially, but Nyx-Fleece Ram has applications in any white deck.

A similar card to Nyx-Fleece Ram in sideboard application is Arashin Cleric. While not as powerful going long, it's great in the early game because it has power and will thus shut down multiple X/1 attackers or force the opponent to trade creatures for damage. This also makes it excellent for eating Goblin Tokens from Goblin Rabblemaster. Because it's a great blocker, it may demand a removal spell. The initial burst of lifegain is also good value in the short-term; Nyx-Fleece Ram will often block and then eat a burn spell before ever gaining life. Arashin Cleric however suffers against Goblin Heelcutter.

Feed the Clan offers a huge burst of life at a low-rate. It's serviceable in a deck without ferocious, but decks that can meet the requirement have the ability to gain an absurd amount of life. This is ideal in aggressive green decks that play many large creatures and are interested in racing, not in playing the long-game style supported by Nylea's Disciple. It's a great option for RG Dragons, RG Monsters, and Temur Aggro. It has potential in Abzan Midrange with Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. For the synergy with Tasigur, the Golden Fang it could also have applications in Sultai Reanimator.

Seismic Rupture is the red answer to Drown in Sorrow. Standard is filled with small creatures, and having access to a board sweeper provides a huge edge against them. Seismic Rupture is much easier on the mana than Anger of the Gods, which was restricted to decks with a red-heavy manabase. It's also important to note that it does less damage, which is enough to do the job against the aggressive red creatures, green ramp creatures, Manifests, and tokens that it shines against, but it's low enough that it doesn't destroy its controller's own Seeker of the Way or Mantis Rider. This makes it an excellent option for Jeskai. It's also strong with Heir of the Wilds, which can grow to a 3/3 before Seismic Rupture is cast post combat. Last weekend it was a part of Chris VanMeter's Open-winning RG Dragons deck, and it was in Todd Anderson's Top 16 Jeskai Tokens deck, and it should probably be in your red midrange sideboard as long as Monored aggro is the most popular opponent in the room.

For heavy black decks, Pharika's Cure is a good supplement to Drown in Sorrow. Against aggressive decks, it's something like a Lightning Helix. The lifegain is worth close to a card against their deck, and it kills all of their creatures.

Against Monored aggro, beware of Magmatic Chasm. This Falter-effect has become a staple of the archetype and extends their ability to disrupt blockers far beyond Goblin Heelcutter. This makes killing their creatures with removal the most reliable and effective plan because relying on blockers in foolish. It's also another reason why Hornet Nest is flawed against their strategy.


Beating Green

GW Devotion and GR Devotion are proving themselves to be major players in the metagame.

Archfiend of Depravity offers black decks a way to proactively fight against the creature onslaught of Green Devotion while simultaneously presenting a large, evasive clock that green decks have difficulty blocking. Green decks also have difficulty destroying Archfiend of Depravity, which avoids Roast from GR and demands sideboarded Valorous Stance against GW Devotion. It's especially potent from the sideboard of controlling decks where Green Devotion is unlikely to have many if any suitable removal spells available.

Archfiend of Depravity has plenty of incidental value against any decks with a lot of creatures, including Abzan Aggro, Monsters decks, Jeskai Token, and I'd also try it against Monored aggro. Keep in mind it dies to Stoke the Flames.

Hunt the Hunter is attractive in a world of green creature mirrors. In these matchups it's very effective as a removal spell and will lead to a large tempo boost and a board advantage. It's situational and conditional, but the power level is unmatched. Abzan Aggro and all flavors of Green Devotion are the primary decks using Hunt the Hunter, and the primary decks playing against it, but it has applications in and against any deck with many green creatures.


Beating Everybody

Arc Lightning is on its way to becoming one of the premier sideboard cards in Standard. It's an excellent source of card advantage and tempo against Monored Aggro, which presents multiple attackers and will subject itself to a two-for-one or even a three-for-one. These creatures are otherwise difficult to deal with effectively and efficiently, but Arc Lightning offers some reprieve. It's also great against Jeskai tokens, and it's strong against green decks that play Elvish Mystic and other assorted mana acceleration creatures like Voyaging Satyr or Rattleclaw Mystic.

Arc Lightning is excellent in the Monored mirror and defines post-sideboard games in the matchup. Some players are getting a leg-up in the mirror with Hall of Triumph buffing their creatures against cards like Arc Lightning. Arc Lightning also does work in the sideboard of decks like RG Dragons/Monsters and Jeskai Tempo.

While it's debatable that Ultimate Price should be included into the maindeck of any particular deck, it's a clear mistake not to have access to the card from the sideboard. As a two-mana instant speed removal spell with limited restriction, against creatures that it kills it's simply the best removal spell in the format.

As it plays out in Standard, the restriction on Ultimate Price is minimal. It destroys every creature in Monored Aggro, and it's excellent against every flavor of green Courser of Kruphix deck, including GW Devotion and its Whisperwood Elemental, and RG Monsters and its Stormbreath Dragon. It's also excellent against UW Heroic. Because Ultimate Price kills Courser of Kruphix and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, it has value against decks like Abzan Control and Sultai Reanimator that otherwise don't have many other great targets. Ultimate Price fails badly against Abzan Aggro, which is a big enough presence in the metagame that maindeck Ultimate Price as a removal spell of choice does not come without risk.

Ultimate Price should earn serious consideration as a maindeck card, but at minimum it's a necessity in the sideboards of Standard black decks.

Much like Ultimate Price trades favorably against a majority of the format, so does Disdainful Stroke. It fails against Red Aggro, but it's a crushing tempo play against all varieties of midrange like Abzan and Sultai, Green Devotion, and Ux control. It's not necessarily underrated, but I wanted to point out just how powerful the card really is, and that it's one of the most powerful tools in blue's Standard arsenal.

What other Standard sideboard cards are flying under the radar? To make way for new sideboard cards, something has to go. What cards were staples before Dragons of Tarkir but are out of place in the new metagame? Have any previous sideboard options grown even better? Share your ideas and questions in the forums!

-Adam
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