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Brewer's Minute: Proactive Sideboarding in Modern

Hey, everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute. A few weeks ago on Brewer's Minute, we talked about the basics of sideboarding in Modern, with our focus primarily being on what sideboard cards are popular in the format and what matchups they are for. When it comes to sideboarding, this is the first level: bring in cards that are good against the cards we see in our opponent's deck. While this strategy is fine, it's important to go to the next level—especially in Modern—and proactively sideboard to beat the sideboard cards we expect our opponent to sideboard in. There are tons of extremely powerful sideboard cards in Modern, and some are so powerful that they can swing a match on their own, which means when we sideboard, we need to proactively bring in cards to deal with our opponent's sideboard cards or risk losing the game to a single card. So today, we'll be breaking down some examples of proactive sideboarding in Modern and discussing some common cards that popular decks play to deal with opposing sideboard cards.

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Affinity vs. Stony Silence

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For Affinity, the nightmare sideboard card is Stony Silence, which keeps most of Affinity's most powerful cards (like Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating) from working. As such, if you're playing Affinity and facing a white deck, it's usually correct to assume that your opponent will have Stony Silence and sideboard accordingly. So, what sideboard cards do Affinity decks commonly play to deal with Stony Silence? The most common are Wear // Tear, Abrupt Decay, Thoughtseize, and Spell Pierce. One thing you'll notice is that most of these cards are broad and can deal with more than just Stony Silence. For instance, Anger of the Gods is another great sideboard card against Affinity, and things like Thoughtseize and Spell Pierce can deal with both Anger of the Gods and Stony Silence

Lantern Control vs. Stony Silence

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One of the reasons why Stony Silence is such a popular sideboard card in Modern is because it doesn't just hate on Affinity but other decks like Lantern Control as well (along with other decks like Tron). However, the answers that Lantern Control plays for Stony Silence are a bit different. Seal of Primordium is one of the big ones because it works well with Ensnaring Bridge by sitting on the battlefield instead of in your hand, while Maelstrom Pulse and Nature's Claim show up as well. The lesson here is that proactive sideboarding isn't about what specific cards you are bringing in but instead finding the right plan for your deck to deal with your opponent's sideboard. While Affinity and Lantern Control are worried about the same sideboard card, they each play different answers that support the plan of their decks.

Dredge vs. Rest in Peace

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As devastating as Stony Silence is against Affinity, graveyard hate is even more powerful against Dredge, with some commonly played one- and two-mana cards beating Dredge on their own. Many of Dredge's answers look the same as Lantern Control, with cards like Thoughtseize, Abrupt Decay, and Nature's Claim. Maybe the most interesting aspect of proactively sideboarding with Dredge is just how many different answers you need to beat, with opponents using artifacts, enchantments, and even creatures to disrupt the graveyard. As such, Dredge tends to lean on the widest answers possible, like Thoughtseize, which gets rid of anything, and Nature's Claim, which not only kills Relic of Progenitus and Rest in Peace like Abrupt Decay but deals with Leyline of the Void as well, which Abrupt Decay can't hit.

Storm vs. Eidolon of Rhetoric and Rule of Law

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Finally, we have UR Storm, which is extremely powerful but loses to multiple sideboard cards—not just graveyard hate like Dredge but Rule of Law effects (that keep players from casting more than one spell each turn) as well. Most interesting is the color combination—blue and red can't really deal with enchantments, so the proactive sideboard cards look a lot different than the ones we've seen in the other decks we've talked about so far. Instead of killing things, Storm mostly relies on bouncing permanents with cards like Void Snare and Echoing Truth or countering the problematic cards before they reach the battlefield with Swan Song or Spell Pierce


The point of all this isn't so much to tell you what sideboard cards to play but to reinforce the importance of going to the next level when sideboarding. There's nothing worse than playing Storm, not bringing in Echoing Truth, and scooping up the game on Turn 2 to Rule of Law, or not bringing in Nature's Claim while playing Dredge and losing to a Turn 0 Leyline of the Void. Because of this, it's usually better to bring these cards into pretty much every match on the assumption that your opponent will have some sort of powerful sideboard card to interact with your strategy. Basically, it's better to have a couple of dead cards in your deck than scooping to one cheap, efficient, heavily played sideboard card. 

This also extends to deck building because you can't bring in Echoing Truth or Nature's Claim when you don't have them in your 75, so as you are building your sideboard, make sure to not just think about what your opponent might be playing in their main deck but what cards they will be bringing in from their sideboard that can beat your deck, and make sure to include some proactive answers for their answers in your sideboard.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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