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Brewer's Minute: The Most Played Sideboard Cards in Modern


Hey everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute. Over the past few months, one thing a lot of people have asked for is a discussion about the specifics of sideboarding in Modern, so this week for our Brewer's Minute, we are going to look at this question by examining the most played sideboard cards in the format and talking about what matches they are for and what replacements (if any) are available in the format. 

One of the interesting aspects of Modern as a format is just how important sideboard cards actually are—if you look over the lists of the most played cards in the format, you'll see that it's littered with cards that show up exclusively or primarily in sideboards. The question we are looking at today is why. Why is Stony Silence the tenth most played card in the Modern format, even though you'd never even consider putting it in your main deck? Hopefully, by the time we're done, we'll have a better idea of just why these cards are so important, what decks they fight against, and why, when you are building a deck, you should be including these effects somewhere in your 75.

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Stony Silence

Coming in as not only the most played sideboard card in Modern but as the tenth most played card overall, Stony Silence is primarily used to hose two of the top four decks in the Modern format: Affinity (where it shuts down Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, and Steel Overseer, among other things) and Tron (where it shuts down Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star, and Expedition Map, making it much harder for the deck to assemble Tron). Even better, Stony Silence is also very good against some less popular decks like Ad Nauseam and KCI Combo.

While there are plenty of substitutes that deal with artifacts and enchantments like Ancient Grudge, Wear // Tear, Nature's Claim, Vandalblast, and Kataki, War's Wage, none of these cards really do what Stony Silence does. Take Kataki, War's Wage, for example. Against Affinity, Kataki, War's Wage can be just as good as Stony Silence, making it really hard for the opponent to execute their game plan. On the other hand, Kataki, War's Wage does very little against Tron, which is looking to sacrificing its artifacts rather than leaving them out on the battlefield. One of the most important things in building Modern sideboards is picking the widest option available (the one that does something against the most decks) because the format is so diverse. And while the other artifact hate cards are good in specific situations, nothing matches Stony Silence in terms of its power to simply beat a certain percentage of decks all by itself, which is why it is so good and heavily played in Modern. 

Graveyard Hate

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Relic of Progenitus and Surgical Extraction are both top 20 cards (overall) in Modern, with their main purpose being to hate on graveyard-based strategies. Right now, the two biggest are Dredge (a top-four deck in the format) and Storm (a solid tier-two deck), although part of the power of Relic of Progenitus and Surgical Extraction is that they have a lot of random value in other matchups as well. For instant, against Tron, you can Ghost Quarter a land and Surgical Extraction it to keep the opponent off Tron forever, or against Death's Shadow decks, Relic of Progenitus can keep Tarmogoyf small and shut down delirium, which is necessary to tutor with Traverse the Ulvenwald.

As for other options, the list is fairly long. Scavenging Ooze can be good, especially in decks with Collected Company or other ways to tutor up creatures. Rest in Peace nukes all graveyards forever—just make sure you don't have any graveyard synergies in your deck! Leyline of the Void can be very powerful but only if it's in your opening hand, and Nihil Spellbomb can get the job done as well.

Leyline of Sanctity

Leyline of Sanctity is next on our list, and it's one of the most interesting sideboards cards in Modern for two reasons. First, there really isn't a good substitute. While Witchbane Orb and Orbs of Warding can work, they are way slower than Leyline of Sanctity, which means that by the time you get around to casting them, the damage may already be done. The second reason Leyline of Sanctity is so interesting is the way it is used. Basically, two different styles of decks take advantage of Leyline of Sanctity: fair decks and unfair decks. Even stranger, the decks use Leyline of Sanctity to fight against each other. Fair decks primarily use Leyline of Sanctity to keep from dying to unfair combos like Grapeshot from Storm or Lightning Storm from Ad Nauseam. Meanwhile, unfair decks use Leyline of Sanctity to make sure their combo pieces don't get hit by Thoughtseizes and Inquisition of Kozileks from fair decks. Plus, both decks can use it to randomly hose Burn or Mill decks, which really struggle to win when they can't target the opponent with their spells.

Dispel

Much like Leyline of Sanctity, Dispel has two purposes. Controlling decks often use it to win counterwars to keep from dying to opponent's combos, while combo decks use it to protect their combos and force through their game-winning play. While there are plenty of substitute counters available in Modern like Negate, Spell Pierce, and Mana Leak, when your only goal is to counter your opponent's counterspell, it doesn't get any more efficient than Dispel.

Sweepers

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Next up, we have a couple of sweepers in Engineered Explosives and Anger of the Gods. These two are mostly used by midrange and control decks to fight against aggressive creature-based strategies. Engineered Explosives has the upside of dealing with non-creatures from decks like Lantern Control, while Anger of the Gods is the default sweeper in red, since it takes care of recursive threats like Kitchen Finks and Dredge creatures permanently. Here, there are a lot of other options as well, ranging from Pyroclasm and Drown in Sorrow to Wrath of God and Damnation, but these two rise to the top as sideboard options thanks to the upsides we talked about along with their efficient mana costs. 

Other Somewhat Popular Sideboard Options

  • Kitchen Finks is a main-deck card in some builds but is also used from sideboards to fight aggro by gaining some life and blocking twice.
  • Vendilion Clique is the blue Thoughtseize, getting rid of the best card in your opponent's hand and also giving some free information, which can be extremely helpful.
  • Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, like Kitchen Finks, is a main-deck card in some decks but also comes in from sideboards to fight against spell-based combo like Storm, while also being helpful against pretty much any deck with a lot of non-creatures.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Hopefully, going over the most played and most important sideboard cards will be helpful. Next time you sit down to construct a sideboard, keep these cards in mind. Finding room for them will greatly improve some matchups and help shore up weaknesses in your main deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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