Building a sideboard is a true test of the Modern deckbuilder and responding to the constant ebb and flow of the metagame is the most important way to stay ahead in any given format. Sideboarding effectively against an expected field means identifying which cards are of utmost importance - and with recent results coming in from tournaments like GP Vegas, it's critical to ensure you know which cards will serve you best as Modern continues to develop.
Stony Silence is, as ever, one of the very best frontrunners when it comes to artifact hate in Modern. Usually cards like Ancient Grudge and/or Shatterstorm are included in any discussion of this kind, but right now it's pretty clear that Stony Silence outshines all other contenders for anti-artifact sideboard slots.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, Stony Silence shines against the principal reason you can't approach Modern without artifact hate in the first place – Affinity. I recently purchased a few copies of Stony Silence I believed to be competitively priced; making conversation at dinner that night, I asked Affinity master Frank Karsten if I'd got a good deal. Given the price I paid, I was surprised to hear him tell me, flatly, "No." I asked him why, and he said "you could have paid actual zero for them and it would still be a bad deal. I hate that card."
In other words, Stony Silence is an absolute hoser against one of the premier aggro decks in the format, as a crippling turn-two play against Affinity. But its applications are all the more important with the rise of Krark-Clan Ironworks combo – Matt Nass winning back-to-back GPs with the deck will have people attempting to ride on those coattails in the weeks to come, infinite clicks on MTGO be damned. You need to be ready for this, and Stony Silence is you best way forward.
Ancient Grudge and Shatterstorm are fine but are unreliable given KCI's many recursion engines (which no-one apart from Matt Nass quite understands; there's rumor that he himself doesn't quite understand them and just relies on always being the one at the table who is slightly less confused). The fact that KCI can consistently return cards from the 'yard makes relying on artifact destruction a lot less straightforward. Slam your Stony Silence, and all of a sudden their cards are blanker than the check handed to Preston Waters.
Additionally, Stony Silence has niche application against Tron. Seeing as Tron decks are once again out in force in Modern, and given you generally have more cards to take out than to bring in for game two, Stony Silence is a nice way to scramble the eggs they like to play early.
In a similar vein, Ceremonious Rejection is tremendously well-positioned in the current Modern format. It's a one-mana hard counter against three of the format's best-performing decks, in Tron, Affinity and now KCI. While it suffers the same pitfalls as Ancient Grudge against KCI, there aren't many better nonland cards against Tron.
Counters are, traditionally, pretty good against sorcery-speed seven-drops, but the threat density found in Tron decks will eventually overpower even the most dedicated blue mage. The reason Ceremonious Rejection is so much better than something like Logic Knot or Cryptic Command is its cost. The best way to beat a deck like Tron is the combination of pressure and disruption – and the fact that Ceremonious Rejection costs one mana enables you do both these things concurrently without ever having to lower the shields by tapping out.
Ceremonious Rejection also puts in a tidy performance against Affinity. The fact that it can counter a turn-two Plating, Ravager or Overseer on the draw is absolutely huge – and flashing it back with Snapcaster is trivial, allowing you to keep yourself in the game. I've been a big proponent of this card for a long time, and while it's sad to have to shave cards like Dispel and Negate in favor of it, it's the right call in today's Modern.
While the color restrictions on this card make it a little tricky to play, if you have access to black and green you better have a good reason not to run Golgari Charm in your board. As is often the case with modal cards, none of the individual modes are worth the card or the cost in the abstract – but Stitch Together three relevant and flexible modes like those on Golgari Charm and, baby, you got a stew going.
The rise of Liliana, the Last Hope has clearly demonstrated how useful it can be to snipe the many one-toughness creatures in Modern (maybe we should be running Goblin Chainwhirler!), and Golgari Charm further punishes decks that seek to go wide such as Humans, Affinity, Mardu Pyromancer and post-board Storm. As long as you're not doing something like killing your own Bobs, the Shrivel effect on this card can and will be huge.
Destroying an enchantment isn't exactly a headline effect Modern players are begging for, but there is a surprising amount of utility to a Demystify. Golgari Charm can remove utility enchantments like Rest in Peace to unlock Tarmogoyf or Leyline of Sanctity to unlock Thoughtseize, it can efficiently answer Eidolon of the Great Revel, it can blow up an early Search for Azcanta, and most importantly it can snipe important Auras on opposing Bogles. Remember, if your opponent controls a Bogle with a Daybreak Coronet and a single other Aura, blowing up the other Aura will also cause the Coronet to fall off!
Finally, how often are you going to want to regenerate all your creatures? Not too often, you might think. It's tricky to set up combat in a way that Golgari Charm will be a blowout, but that's not the best use of this mode. Regenerating your team in response to a Supreme Verdict blows a big fat raspberry in the face of your opponent – turns out Supreme Verdict can be countered after all, pal!
While on the subject of flexibility, Abrade is an excellent card to discuss. It's a very rare matchup in which neither half of this card is relevant (Jeskai Control, I suppose, but hey, you can't win 'em all). Abrade is the perfect card to include in any crowded sideboard, as it does a simultaneous (although slightly worse) impression of two Modern all-stars – Lightning Bolt and Ancient Grudge. Having a card that can be safely brought in against both Humans and KCI is nothing to sneeze at.
Once again, it's flexibility that is king here. Many players like to fill their sideboard with hard-hitting silver bullets to shore up tough matchups, whereas a card like Abrade trades off power for utility. Personally, I want my sideboard to offer as much flexibility as possible – Modern is far too diverse to cover it all in 15 cards, but I want to get as close as I can. The combination of two relevant effects at a decent price point means Abrade should at least be under strong consideration when building a red sideboard.
Any sideboard without any kind of graveyard hate is, to be diplomatic, rather optimistic (the exception to this is Humans - justified, given its synergy-based approach that precludes effective graveyard hate). Almost every deck in Modern uses the graveyard for something, and to varying degrees - and given that a lot of graveyard hate cards provide symmetrical effects, it's difficult to properly say which is the "best."
Rest in Peace is the be-all and end-all anti-graveyard technology, seeing play in decks that ignore the bin altogether like Affinity and Bogles – it's difficult to make any use of this card if your deck has even the most minor graveyard reliance. Instead, Relic of Progenitus is used in decks that seek to have a pseudo-asymmetric effect (typically Snapcaster decks) that won't lose a card thanks to the cycling ability
Similarly, Nihil Spellbomb is seen in black decks that care about card flow but has the added bonus of not hitting your own graveyard – this makes it perfect for decks with Tarmogoyf or delve creatures. Leyline of the Void has a similar effect but is a more all-in card that is typically seen in decks like Hollow One which can still hard cast it, should the need arise.
Surgical Extraction can pinpoint the cards that matter, having extra utility against combo decks – it can also act as a Crumble to Dust-type effect against Tron. Grafdigger's Cage shuts off a range of – but critically, not all – key graveyard interactions (Snapcaster, Chord of Calling, and Bloodghast don't work, whereas Tarmogoyf, delve creatures, and Scrap Trawler still do).
In short, it's difficult to properly say which of these options is going to work best for you – figure out what you're trying to do with your own 'yard, and select the appropriate cards available in your colors. Generally speaking, Relic of Progenitus is the safest bet, as it gives you maximum control over its symmetric effect and at worst will cycle away for two mana.
Staying on top of all the latest chopping and changing in Modern is of fundamental importance if you wish to succeed. The cards discussed today will serve you well when constructing a sideboard to go up against the best decks in the format – but much of this process is up to you. Do you want a wide-ranging, flexible sideboard with cards that priorities utility above power, or do you want to fix four to six specific matchups with your fifteen? Ultimately this choice is yours alone, but keep these cards in mind the next time you ready yourself for the next Modern tournament.
- Riley Knight