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I Use a Commander Sideboard, And Here's Why | Commander Quickie

Hey friends, today I want to cover something I've started doing with almost all of my personal commander decks, and that's adding what I call a Commander Sideboard. These aren't sideboards in the traditional sense of the term as used in 1v1 format, but rather these are cards that I'll choose to modify my deck with before a game begins. My sideboards are usually meant as easy ways to depower my decks if I'm playing at a lower powered table, but I've started also incorporating sideboards into other decks as a budget-friendly way to add variety to them without having to spend tons of money building a brand new deck from scratch. I'll go over some examples of what my own personal sideboards look like, and maybe even convince you to give sideboards a shot as well.

Sideboarding Out Combos

The first and simplest type of sideboarding is swapping out combos to depower your deck for a lower power game. I personally do this with my $50 Siona, Captain of the Pyleas deck, which I've recently covered in a full primer and gameplay video.

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Despite having a low budget, Siona is one of my most powerful paper decks: not only is the deck an Aura Enchantress deck, which has an incredibly deep pool of strong cards to work with on a low budget, but it's also able to quickly and consistently combo off thanks to the interaction between Siona, Captain of the Pyleas + Shielded by Faith to generate infinite Soldier tokens and the backup combo of Siona + Reins of the Vinesteed + a sac outlet like Blasting Station which similarly generates infinite tokens to sacrifice and win with. All the pieces can easily be tutored thanks to cards like Heliod's Pilgrim, Open the Armory, Boonweaver Giant, and Auratouched Mage, so it's quick and easy to assemble the combos.

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Now I love my Siona deck, but there's times where either it's too strong for the table or I just want to win with the deck using other finishers. This is where my sideboard comes in: with just a few swaps, I remove the combo cards and replace them with still powerful but noncombo cards. In this case, my sideboard swaps is just four cards:



This removes my ability to combo off by replacing them with powerful Aura Enchantress cards that still keeps roughly the same budget as before. The deck's focus is now shifted from a combo win to winning with huge beaters using cards like Ethereal Armor and Ancestral Mask or a massive token army with Archon of Sun's Grace and Sigil of the Empty Throne. It's still a strong deck, but it's weaker and slower than before to match lower power playgroups.

Sideboarding Commanders

Another quick and easy way to significantly alter your deck is by having another commander in your sideboard that you can swap to. There are a ton of commanders that support the same archetype in the same colors and swapping just your commander will result in your deck feeling way different, even though the rest of the 99 cards are the exact same.

I have a sideboard for my $50 Niv-Mizzet, Parun deck for this reason. Just like my Siona deck, my Niv-Mizzet list is an Izzet Spellslinger deck that wins the game off quick and consistent combos: Niv-Mizzet, Parun enchanted by Curiosity or a few other similar cards allows Niv-Mizzet to deal near-infinite damage and draw near-infinite cards. The rest of the deck is still a powerful Izzet Spellslinger list that can still win without any combos, so a few cards in the sideboard lets me depower the deck by swapping out the easy combos. 

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Since all the combos require my commander to instantly win, a quick n' easy way to do this would be just to swap Niv-Mizzet, Parun out with a noncombo commander and call it a day: Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is a straightforward swap if you still want to keep The Firemind in your command zone, or you can switch to another Spellslinger commander like Kaza, Roil Chaser.

But for this deck's sideboard I decided to do something a bit more ambitious by transforming it into a Tibor and Lumia deck. I've always had a soft spot for T&L, as it's not a particularly strong commander but an oldschool one that I have nostalgic feelings for. Most of the cards that I want in a T&L deck are already in the 99 so I just need to make room for a few more iconic cards like Willbreaker, Charisma, and Basilisk Collar. So here's how I do it:



And voila, the deck is now a Tibor and Lumia deck! The lack of combos makes it more appropriate at lower power tables but it still has all the Izzet Spellslinger goodies that I love plus some new exciting spice. Sometimes I play this version of the deck regardless of power level just because I like changing it up.

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Galaxy Brain: Two Decks In One!

Now up until this point I've been talking about how to get a lot of value out of swapping just a handful of cards: it's easy, simple, and effective. But what if we took the sideboard concept a step further? What if we expanded on the concept of a sideboard so that it's large and robust enough that we essentially have two decks in one? Stick with me, friends, because it's galaxy brain time!

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The next budget deck that I plan on adding to my personal collection is a Kicker deck. With the release of Zendikar Rising we not only got a ton more support for the Kicker archetype but we got a second commander option, letting us choose between Hallar, the Firefletcher in Gruul colors and Verazol, the Split Current in Simic colors. But what if we didn't have to choose?

While both Hallar and Verazol play very differently, with Hallar being an explosive Burn deck and Verazol being a durdly value engine, both have a ton of overlap in terms of the cards they're using. Both decks reward you for running spells with kicker and both deal with +1/+1 counters. While it's true that they are in different colors, both decks share Green and they lean heavily on that color. Green cards like Grow from the Ashes, Inscription of Abundance, Mold Shambler, and Vastwood Surge make up the core of both decks.

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So what if instead of building a single deck around one of these two commanders, we built a deck that consisted of a section for all the Green and colorless cards that both commanders would share, and then a section for Hallar including Red decks and a section for Verazol including Blue decks? Has science gone too far? Is this crazy, brilliant, or both? That's what I plan on doing at least! Wish me luck!

What Do You Think?

So those are my quick thoughts on Commander Sideboards. I've been getting a ton of value from my own sideboards, both to depower my decks when needed but also as a budget-friendly way to add variety to my collection without having to spend tons of money building a brand new deck from scratch. So what do you think about commander sideboards? Are you against the idea, have I convinced you to try, or do you already use them yourself? Let me know in the comments section! Thanks for reading!

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