Introduction to Your Sideboard

Jan 16, 2018

The art of building a sideboard and using it effectively is arguably one of the most difficult skills to master in any competitive trading card game. How important is having the correct sideboard in a tournament? In any given tournament, you’re going to play more Game 2 and Game 3 matches as that is the nature of the game. While winning Game 1 is certainly important, most of your rounds will include your time digging into those 10 carefully selected cards you picked in hopes of having that exact card you need for the matchup. 

Before we get into the details of what to sideboard and when let’s discuss cards that are clear in their intention. Star of Divinity has Immune and Immune, meaning it cannot be dealt damage nor targeted by spells or effects of those colors. As you might imagine, this is a very strong card against decks that are primarily Black or Red. However, how good is this card outside of those matchups? Is this something you can afford to play in every Green deck? Probably not. Star of Divinity shines in heavy yellow creature focused decks where you can benefit the most from its auto ability and Dragocross effect. Dragoborne is great in that it offers cards that are focused in their design around combating specific decks, but what do you do when you need to take cards out?

For our next part, we will use the list I used at Nationals as an example.


4 Righteous End

2 Nature's Touch

2 Holt Stalker

2 Chromatic Disturbance 

4 Growing Touch

3 Darion Brutal Enforcer

4 Tariel High Preietess

4 Redfang, Born Leader

4 Sigrun, the Holy Hand

2 Wings of the Sunscale

2 Eleanor, Queen of Storms

3 Remus, Hunter Adept

2 Thalessa, Partisan of Life

4 Doomfire Avatar

4 Izarco-Tvash, Born of Magma

4 Raid


1 Wings of the Sunscale

1 Nature's Touch

2 Holt Stalker

3 Fafneer, Voltaile Fire

3 Yvel, Lord of the Skies


For our first pair we will use another easy example – Holt Stalker. Holt Stalker has the benefit of being an ambush card with decent attack and endurance, but the Immune and Immune are what make her shine in the aggressive matchups. I ran two copies in the main deck and two more in my sideboard to help with the attacks that wanted to end the game as quickly as possible. Thalessa, Partisan of Life is a card that requires a great deal of set up and wants you to have eight or more resources. Against a few decks, you might not even be able to make it to eight! Thinking about the impact cards have at different points in the game will help you select better cards for each matchup and plan better for future sideboard lists.

4 Doomfire Avatar, 3 Fafneer, Volatile Fire, and 1 Wings of the Sunscale are the cards we will focus on for the next point in planning your sideboard. Doomfire Avatar is one of my favorite red cards in the level of utility it offers; dealing damage, breaking shields, and setting you up for a Chromatic Disturbance is the quick list of what it can accomplish. However, if you expect your opponent is going to be playing creatures with higher endurance you will want to swap out for Fafneer, Volatile Fire. Dealing 5 damage can be critical if you’re facing opposing Sigrun, the Holy Hand decks and your opponent forgets to Dragocross her. Wings of the Sunscale plays an important part in refilling our hand after playing early ambushes or digging for key pieces of removal. 

What about the not so straight forward ones? Where do you think Yvel, Lord of the Skies belongs? Should this card be in the main deck? The main reason I included it in the deck was for black aggressive decks that would try to sideboard into 4 copies of Sennes, Lord of the Rampage to try and destroy my hand to keep me out of the game. Yvel, Lord of the Skies can be the key card we need to draw up to four cards after playing him when our hand has been picked apart. It’s also worth noting the 1-4 yellow dice modifier ability that can help keep our opponent guessing on where we will attack and whether they should put up a dragoshield on an empty fort. For the three Yvel, Lord of the Skies in the side board, I would suggest swapping out Remus, Hunter Adept as the barrier regeneration won’t be as important. 

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to what cards can be useful in your sideboard and what changes I made during the nationals event. The key to building out your 10 card sideboard is to include cards that are powerful in the matchups you expect to see, and having a few carefully selected tricks to put you ahead in what you think your opponent will be bringing in. 

Practice is the only way to improve on this skill. I’ll see you in the battleground. 

Matt Kozmor

Six Sages Gaming