Today I’m back to looking at Modern with the art of building a sideboard in focus. I will go over four of the most popular decks and show examples for how to fight them with useful crossover sideboard cards.

First Things First

How to build a sideboard

Slaughter Games by Steve Prescott

Slaughter Games by Steve Prescott

Whenever you build a good sideboard, you need to study recent results, metagame shares and tendencies in order to hit the nail on the head. There are two tried and tested methods in my book, the first one a lot more “high risk, high reward” than the other one.

At Pro Tour 25th Anniversary I was locked on Titan Shift in Modern, but I was concerned with the amount of Ironworks combo I would have to face. I could either accept a bad matchup and hope to dodge it or I could “waste” four slots in my sideboard and try to crush it. My feeling was that KCI would appeal to a lot of good players, so I decided to cut a Mountain for a Blood CryptBlood Crypt and run quadruple Slaughter GamesSlaughter Games in my sideboard. In the end I got paired against KCI three times, winning two of them thanks to Slaughter Games. I did not get to finish the third one at 1-1 vs. Ben Stark where I had lands, FarseekFarseek and Slaughter Games (castable on turn three) in hand. He was on the play and never got to ask Ben if he had the turn 3 kill, so I can’t count it as a win or a loss of course. The point I’m trying to make is that dedicating four sideboard slots to one matchup worked out for me that time, but it’s extremely hard to justify in a normal Modern metagame. That leads me to the second approach.

The Beauty of Crossover Cards

Give up impact for flexibility

Realistically, if I wanted to improve my odds significantly against KCI at that event, I would need a combination of graveyard hate and artifact removal in those four slots and probably make room for even more by giving up percentages to numerous other matchups that I prepared for. Thankfully, no deck in the current metagame demands as much from its opponents, so let’s put that thing to rest and focus on the Modern metagame, February 2019.


Arclight Phoenix by Slawomir Maniak

Arclight Phoenix by Slawomir Maniak

Playing against Phoenix is a tough nut to crack because its draws vary so much from game to game. Sometimes you need removal for their turn two Thing in the IceThing in the Ice and other times you have to worry about reccuring birds from the graveyard and your Fatal PushFatal Push does next to nothing. Likewise, gaining an advantage after sideboard is hard to do with other cards than the obvious graveyard hate. My best bet if you want a card that will also do work in other matchups is Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of Thraben to hinder their ability to chain spells. She will also help you against Storm, Burn and Control decks.

Death’s Shadow

Modern Death's Shadow by Howard Lyon

Death’s Shadow by Howard Lyon

Before we get to how to sideboard against Death’s ShadowDeath’s Shadow, I just want to mention a cool card they recently started to run. Shattering BlowShattering Blow‘s exile wording has earned it a spot in their sideboard because of Wurmcoil EngineWurmcoil Engine and Hangarback WalkerHangarback Walker. At the same time it answers Chalice of the VoidChalice of the Void, Cranial PlatingCranial Plating and Ensnaring BridgeEnsnaring Bridge. Compared to AbradeAbrade you lose a piece of small creature removal in your sideboard, but exiling big hard-to-deal-with artifacts has proven more vital right now in Modern.

Aside from playing a lot of hard removal like Path to ExilePath to Exile and TerminateTerminate or a creature deck with tons of permanents on the battlefield early on, you can attack Death’s ShadowDeath’s Shadow from your sideboard a couple of ways. The deck is softer to graveyard hate than most people think. Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void or Rest in PeaceRest in Peace on the battlefield means that it is more or less relegated to using only Death’s ShadowDeath’s Shadow and the blue Ambush ViperAmbush Viper as its road to victory which isn’t very scary. Likewise sticky threats like Kitchen FinksKitchen Finks will block twice in a damage race while they still have tons of applications against Burn, Black-Green Midrange decks and Control.

Another good one is Celestial PurgeCelestial Purge which will deal with the big critters of Shadow while it also takes care of Liliana of the VeilLiliana of the Veil, Blood MoonBlood Moon and any red creatures out there.


Modern Stinkweed Imp by Edward P. Beard Jr.

Stinkweed Imp by Edward P. Beard Jr.

Most players know that graveyard hate is great against Dredge, but let’s break down the different options.

  • Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void is the most backbreaking piece of hate, but also comes with the most variance since you can’t draw into it later in the game.
  • Rest in PeaceRest in Peace is great because you can keep hands without it and find it on your turn one Serum VisionsSerum Visions or find it with your scry off of a mulligan. Occasionally when on the play, Dredge will get on the board on turn 2 with some threats, and the second turn Rest in PeaceRest in Peace is too late. Like Leyline, it is also quite good against Hardened ScalesHardened Scales, Black-Green Midrange, Phoenix, Shadow and Storm.
  • Tormod’s CryptTormod’s Crypt could be your graveyard hate of choice if you need metalcraft for Mox OpalMox Opal or you play Burn with Light up the StageLight up the Stage to find it. You will need a fast clock to close out the game to support the Crypt, otherwise the one time-effect will be lackluster.
  • Surgical ExtractionSurgical Extraction will do great work against Dredge because it plays relatively few different threats. It combos well with Snapcaster MageSnapcaster Mage and will make the opponent work to get the Phoenixes into play only to realize it’s not gonna happen.
  • Grafdigger’s CageGrafdigger’s Cage can stop Dredge, Phoenix, GriselbrandGriselbrand, Snapcaster MageSnapcaster Mage and even Collected CompanyCollected Company and Chord of CallingChord of Calling from doing anything meaningful. If you don’t run any of these cards yourself, I always love the first copy of Grafdigger’s CageGrafdigger’s Cage in my sideboard.
  • Relic of ProgenitusRelic of Progenitus is the most maindeckable card on the list because of its ability to cantrip for two mana when it’s dead. In some metagames I can see myself playing it in the starting 60 in Tron and Titan Shift.
  • Nihil SpellbombNihil Spellbomb will be the go-to for Black-Green Midrange players who don’t enjoy the variance swings of Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void. They want to disrupt the opponent’s graveyard while keeping their own for TarmogoyfTarmogoyf. Spellbomb itself even adds an artifact to your yard.


Matchup Monastery Swiftspear by Steve Argyle

Monastery Swiftspear by Steve Argyle

If you didn’t already, check out my article on Rakdos Burn including videos of my top 8 matches of the Modern Challenge.

Life would be so much easier if you could just slam 4 Dragon’s ClawDragon’s Claw into your sideboard and crush the tournament. Lifegain is going to be great against Burn, but you need to find cards that help you in other matchups. DispelDispel will counter a decent amount of burn spells while it helps out against Cryptic CommandCryptic Command, Collected CompanyCollected Company and Gifts UngivenGifts Ungiven to name a few. Kitchen FinksKitchen Finks will spell trouble for the burn player and do relevant stuff against the decks I talked about in the Shadow part. NegateNegate and FlashfreezeFlashfreeze will be fine against Burn while they also counter big plays in your expected metagame whether it’s Karn LiberatedKarn Liberated or Primeval TitanPrimeval Titan.



This article was written by Andreas Petersen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com

Andreas Petersen

Andreas Petersen

Andreas is probably better known as "ecobaronen" on MTGO. After 2nd place of Team Trios #GPMadrid playing Modern he's heading to his second Pro Tour in Minneapolis this year. Andreas has an opinion about every constructed format except Standard.