No matter where you are playing Standard this weekend, whether at one ofTCGplayer's Standard State Championship events being held all around the country, or Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, your sideboard will be an invaluable asset in your quest for victory.
The post-rotation Standard metagame is beginning to take form, and some successful archetypes have been defined. There is still a lot of room for Exploration, and there is an incredible diversity in the field. It's not an easy feat to predict the metagame and then take that information to create an ideal sideboard. Building sideboards is especially difficult in a format with excellent mana-fixing and splashing ability because sideboard options are innumerable.
Before building a sideboard, it's important to understand what sideboard options are available, and how to best leverage them for your specific situation and needs. Today I will lay out all of the best sideboard options in Standard, and explain their unique advantages and applications. While I will discuss over fifty different cards today, most sideboard cards fall into a few specific broader categories, which helps to provide a framework for comparison between different sideboard options.
Fiery Impulse is cheapest burn spell in Standard alongside Wild Slash. While it gives up the ability to hit players, it gains the spell mastery ability of dealing three damage, which makes it more powerful as a dedicated creature removal spell, so it's a better sideboard option if destroying creatures is your primary goal.
Besides Dragons and Mantis Rider, Roast destroys most of the commonly played creatures in Standard. It remains red's most efficient solution to Siege Rhino.
White's answer to Siege Rhino, Valorous Stance, does destroy Dragons, and it has added utility as a combat trick and a Counterspell for removal spells.
Ultimate Price is excellent at picking off the creatures of red decks, and it handles every creature in G/W Aggro besides Hangarback Walker.
Hidden Dragonslayer combines a removal spell with a creature, so it's a form of card advantage. This is a powerful tool for midrange decks against other midrange decks.
Anti-Hangarback Walker Removal
Hangarback Walker is built into the fabric of Standard, and it demand specific answers because it's so effective against traditional removal spells.
Silkwrap has been identified as Standard's most efficient answer to Hangarback Walker and it's flexible enough to Remove many of Standard's other most important creatures, including Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Mantis Rider, and Anafenza, the Foremost. This earns it maindeck slots in many decks, but it's also an effective and popular sideboard option.
Spending an extra white mana grants the ability to Remove any creature. While less efficient at removing Hangarback Walker, it's more powerful and flexible than Silkwrap, and the usefulness of flash can't be understated.
Utter End is effective removal for Hangbarback Walker and any other creature, but also planeswalkers, and any artifact or enchantment. This extra utility comes at the cost of efficiency.
For those really rich in mana, Quarantine Field provides the most power and flexibility of all, but it comes at the cost of efficiency. While it can Remove any nonland permanent, it demands four mana to Remove its first target. Every extra two mana Removes another card, so later in the game it's incredibly effective.
Black decks without white mana can turn to Complete Disregard as an answer to a small Hangarback Walker. The instant speed is excellent, and it does Remove Mantis Rider as well, but it's not particularly powerful.
Touch of the Void
Red decks without access to white mana have to turn to Touch of the Void to Remove Hangarback Walker from play. It's not particularly efficient, and sorcery speed is not ideal, but red decks are comfortable operating in their mainphase, and this card has added utility as a burn spell for finishing off the opponent.
Color-Specific Creature Removal
These removal spells are very narrow and are only effective against certain colors of opponent, but compared to conventional spells they are more efficient and powerful.
The main draw to Self-Inflicted Wound is the extra two life loss, which makes it a potent tool for aggressive decks. The sacrifice ability can give the opponent a choice, which has some downside, but it also has the upside of being able to destroy Dragonlord Ojutai.
Rending Volley is surprisingly effective in Standard, particularly against Jeskai, where it destroys nearly everything, including Mantis Rider and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but it's also incredible against Dragonlord Ojutai because the opponent can't counter it.
Encase in Ice
Encase in Ice isn't particularly efficient or powerful, but it is blue. I suspect that most decks with blue will have access to better options in other colors, but it remains available.
These removal spells destroy many creatures at once, and are thus important tools against aggressive strategies that flood the battlefield, including G/W Aggro and Red Aggro.
Radiant Flames is the most important board wipe in Standard, where it's readily accessible with fetchlands and dual lands, and is fully powered in any deck with access to three colors of mana. It's particularly interesting because it's a modal spell, and can potentially be cast to deal one, two, or three damage, and can potentially allow its controller's own creatures to survive. The three-mana cost means it's more efficient than more powerful and expensive options, but it's more effective at stopping the early creature rushes before it's too late.
For red decks without access to three colors of mana, Seismic Rupture clears the board of the smallest creatures, and is particularly strong against red aggro.
When it was printed, Languish was lauded as the board wipe spell Standard needed, because it was a mana cheaper than other options. It remains an excellent way to punish aggressive opponents, and it's a clean answer to Thunderbreak Regent and Dragonlord Ojutai.
Crux of Fate
Crux of Fate is a powerful board wipe that destroys even Siege Rhino. It also has some unique aspects hinging around Dragons, either as a board wipe against Dragons that allows one's own creatures to live, or as a board wipe for Dragon decks themselves that allow their Dragons to survive the board wipe.
With Bestow creatures leaving Standard, End Hostilities has lost its extra potential benefit, and has lost most of its market share to Planar Outburst, which offers extra late game utility with its Awaken ability.
Tragic Arrogance is a unique board wipe because it leaves some cards in play. It's best in decks that can break the parity with Hangarback Walker, which can be left in play as an artifact alongside another creature, or sacrificed to leave a Thopter army in play. It also impacts planeswalkers, so it can help contain players with multiples, notably destroying Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Nissa, Sage Animist against G/W Aggro.
Access to extra colors of mana has made sideboarding Counterspells particularly popular. This is bad news for control decks, which rely on resolving key removal spells on time, and play relatively expensive cards, so they are particularly susceptible to Counterspells.
Disdainful Stroke has maindeck applications, but it has been especially popular as a sideboard splash. This card misses early game spells, but it's a midrange killer that counters board wipes, card drawing, and win conditions from control decks.
Dispel is similar to Disdainful Stroke in that it's often used against control decks, but Dispel is unique because it efficiently answers early game disruption .
While more expensive than Dispel, Negate also stops sorceries and planeswalkers. When efficiency is not the primary concern, Negate is an ideal option.
Stratus Dancer is part Counterspell, part creature. The added bonus of a creature makes it very powerful and a source of card advantage. It may seem clunky at first glance, but it's actually relatively efficient, assuming a Counterspell is worth two mana and a 3/2 flyer three mana.
Ojutai's Command sees sideboard play as a creature Counterspell that can also generate card advantage or gain life. Ojutai's Command sacrifices efficiency for power and flexibility.
With the loss of Thoughtseize, discard in Standard is at a relative low point in power level, but there are still some effective options available.
Transgress the Mind
The new Transgress the Mind is interesting because it's not limited by class of card, but rather it's limited to hitting mid and late game cards, leaving the cheapest early game cards untouched. This makes it very poor against fast opponents, but it' effective against opponents playing a slower strategy.
Duress is very effective against control opponents lacking many creatures, where it's sure to find a mark.
Alternatively, Despise is excellent against opponents that are heavy on creatures and it's an answer to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Standard's excellent mana means Mardu Charm is more accessible than ever. What Mardu Charm lacks in efficiency it makes up for in utility and can serve as a removal spell or a threat.
With Theros gone, artifacts and enchantments are at a relative low in Standard, but there are removal options available.
Naturalize is an efficient, no-fuss answer to artifacts and enchantments.
Caustic Caterpillar lacks the efficiency of Naturalize, but it's a creature, so it can be found with cards like Seek the Wilds, and it can fulfill triggers on cards like Liliana, Heretical Healer.
Felidar Cub can destroy enchantments, but it's also a very reasonable creature.
G/W Aggro is one of the most popular decks in Standard, and there are a few cards that players are using to gain an advantage over it, especially in the mirror match
Archangel of Tithes
Archangel of Tithes is punishing against G/W Aggro, which players many creatures and is mana intensive. The angel slows down their assault, and even blocks most of their creatures effectively.
Dragonlord Dromoka finds little resistance in the mirror, and it will win any race in ten-life increments.
Red Aggro has been one of the most successful decks in new Standard and its unique angle of attack demands specific solutions.
Lantern Scout is catching on with Standard players as a source of life gain in aggressive decks. When it comes into play it will grant all of its controller's creatures life gain, which can be held until the perfect time to swing a race, and it comes attached to a body.
Retreat to Kazandu
Pure life gain cards have become less effective now that red decks have moved away from burn and towards creatures, but Retreat to Kazandu is a repeatable source of life gain that will exhaust red's ability to play an extended game. It's best in decks that want to play a longer game, and is especially strong with fetch lands.
Feed the Clan
Feed the Clan is still an effective life gain option, but will be best in decks that can reliably trigger ferocious.
Arashin Cleric combines life gain with a robust blocker, which is why it has been one of Standard's premier anti-red cards since it was printed.
Surge of Righteousness
Surge of Righteousness is beginning to surpass Arashin Cleric in popularity, in part because of its ability to destroy Mantis Rider and Thunderbreak Regent, but mostly because of its excellent ability to stop the new breed of red deck that has increasingly moved towards playing creature pump spells like Titan's Strength and Temur Battle Rage.
One of the best ways to stop Red Aggro is to attack its creatures, and Boiling Earth cleanly sweeps them, including any Goblin Tokens.
Arc Lightning can destroy up to three creatures, and will reliably destroy two.
Twin Bolt isn't as powerful as Arc Lightning, but it's turned on a turn earlier.
Virulent Plague is notable as a way to punish decks that play both Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst, and it also contains tokens made by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Orbs of Warding
Orbs of Warding attacks red decks on two fronts, both turning off burn spells and making their army less potent.
Control decks come in all shape and sizes, and in our five-color world of midrange, the lines are blurry. It's also generally accepted Magic theory that every matchup tends to slow down and become more attrition based after sideboarding. Standard is full of excellent options that help to generate incremental value and grind out opponents, and they are commonly played in sideboards across archetypes.
Exert Influence is a Control Magic effect that can't be undone by enchantment removal and that can be recast by Jace, Telepath Unbound. Taking an opposing creature is effectively a two-for-one and major tempo play, so it's among the most powerful things one can do in Magic. Exert Influence reaches its full power level in a five-color deck where it's extremely useful against any midrange creature deck.
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Ob Nixilis Reignited is best when immediately destroying a creature and generating a tempo advantage, but coming into play and drawing a card is still card advantage even if it's immediately destroyed by removal.
Greenwarden of Murasa
Greenwarden of Murasa is a huge play that generates card and board advantage immediately, and then again when it dies. It's a nightmare for control decks.
Last season Read the Bones was a commonly played sideboard card and Painful Truths fills in as a very close analog. In a pure attrition battle, the raw card advantage of drawing three cards is a great plan.
Treasure Cruise is clean card advantage, and especially strong with all of the fetch lands in Standard. It's great after sideboard when opponents are likely to have lots of removal spells.
Evolutionary Leap ruins any opponent's plan at winning an attrition war with removal spells, because Evolutionary Leap can cash in any dying creature for a new one. This endless cycle of creatures gives control decks fits and makes Evolutionary Leap an excellent tool for aggressive decks like G/W Aggro.
Mastery of the Unseen
Mastery of the Unseen essentially makes 2/2 creature for 3W mana, which provides an endless source of pressure against control decks.
Whisperwood Elemental creates a slow and steady stream of threats, and it also provides insurance against board sweepers.
Dragonlord Silumgar is often seen alongside Exert Influence, its main advantage being that it can take planeswalkers. Taking Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and making an emblem is surely a fun time.
Outpost Siege is a tool employed by red decks to help them grind out an attrition war against control. It's unlikely the opponent can Remove a resolved Outpost Siege, so it's worth the high cost.
Alternatively some red decks turn to Thunderbreak Regent as their expensive finisher. It doesn't provide true card advantage, but it does create the value of extra damage to the opponent, and unanswered it will end the game in short order.
Scab-Clan Berserker requires hitting the opponent once to be fully powered, but once it does it's similar to Thunderbreak Regent in that it will generate immediate value against a removal spell.
While unique, Infinite Obliteration could have a place in sideboards as a way to neutralize certain cards from control decks, and is especially interesting when recast with Jace, Telepath Unbound.
A well-constructed sideboard is a steel-forged sword that will slice through the competition and provide a competitive advantage throughout an event. A poor sideboard, ill-equipped to deal with the metagame, is a weight that drags one down into The Abyss. Pay careful, careful attention to your sideboard choices and Reap the rewards.
What are your favorite sideboard cards in Standard? What potential sideboard cards did I miss? What will you be playing this weekend at your TCGplayer State Championship event?
Turn to the comments with your questions and ideas!