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By: Tarmotog, Naoto Watabe
Sep 24 2008 3:50am
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Sideboarding is an art that is frequently explored and there are many thoughts pertaining to it. The main question is how do you sideboard in Singleton?

Sideboarding in other formats tend to be more obvious. For example:

Against faeries in standard, the Reveillark player wants to put in Pact of Negation and Crovax, Ascendant Hero.

Against affinity in extended, aggro loam wants to put in Shattering Sprees.

Against dredge decks in Vintage, every deck wants to throw in Leyline of the Voids and Pithing Needles.

Basically, sideboards are tools to give your deck an edge against other decks once you have managed to successfully identified them. I'll be covering various sideboarding strategies and giving some examples on how it can be done.

1) Straight-Up Sideboard

This is the most basic function of a sideboard. For a straight-up sideboard, you want to put in cards that are good against decks that you want to beat. These cards are aimed at cards or the basic strategies that you have already seen from your opponent's deck.

The illustrate this, let's say you lost game 1 to Sword of Fire and Ice. You sideboard in Uktabi Orangutan and Viridian Shaman to kill the equipment if it shows itself again because you don't have maindeck artifact removal.

Or let's say you see green creatures and so you board in Deathmark and Flashfreeze. Simple?

The main problem with straight-up sideboarding in Singleton is that the process is more tedious than in the other formats because you need to consider the fact that only 1 copy of any card exists unless there is a alternate version of it. If you are playing white and you want a Circle of Protection: Red, you have access to a maximum of 1 of it. The next closest card is Sphere of Law?

Circle of Protection: Red

Sideboarding in Singleton tends to give you only a slight advantage over your opponent unlike mainstream formats where the post sideboarded games can actually wreck games because the sideboarded cards in the main formats appear more often together with the cards that they were meant to interact with. Other than basic lands, each other card in Singleton should have the same probability of being draw and that number is rather small so there is a need to strategize how to make better use of the sideboard.

Also, Singleton is currently not as defined as other formats that tend to have the big few decks to beat. The last I saw, Singleton was split right in the middle between control and aggro decks with some combo sneaking in here and there. With so many variations of decks and styles, sideboarding would end up less focused but more versatile.

Straight up sideboarding is the most honest way of sideboarding. You use cards that will let you interact with your opponent directly.

Here is an example of straight-up sideboarding in Singleton:

I'm playing RG beatdown. I hate counter magic so my sideboard would include:

Cryoclasm - plain annoying
Demonfire - uncounterable Fireball
Molten Disaster - uncounterable Earthquake
Zo-Zu the Punisher - brings down life totals fast
Krosan Grip - uncounterable
Vexing Shusher - uncounterable
Sulfur Elemental - uncounterable

Molten Disaster

No? No no!

I want to win the mirror matchups so I have:

Boldwyr Heavyweights - good against aggro decks that don't pack gigantic monsters
Threaten - to steal beefy creatures
Moldervine Cloak - to beef up my creatuers
Scuzzback Marauders - to trade efficiently
Witherscale Wurm - 9/9 should be good

These 5 cards add more meat into the deck. RG mirror matchups are usually determined by who has the more gigantic monster in play.

Lastly, I want 3 more cards for attacking the graveyard to give combo decks a tough time:

Loaming Shaman
Tormod's Crypt
Faerie Macabre

The number of cards allocated for a certain deck should be determined by how bad you think the matchup is and how many you expect to run into. In the above example, you can tell that I am expecting beatdown decks and counter based decks more than any other decks.

2) Sideboard aimed at the structural weakness of a deck

Some decks have a basic characteristic that can be attacked. This form of attack is usually the most effective because it attacks the structure of the deck itself rather than the individual cards.

Such structures include:

-Mana base

If the deck is heavily dependant on its mana base, attacking it would likely put the game in your favor by making multiple cards dead without having to engage those cards at all. Cards that mess around with mana allow players to win games without having to put oo much effort because a mana screwed player can't cast his cards. The outcome is similar to the outcome of disabling a power plant in a command and conquer game. They need to get the power plant up before they can retaliate.

However, this strategy assumes that your opponent is heavily dependant on his mana base. If your opponent has a very consistent deck that is able to run on a few mana sources, attacking the mana base would definitely not be the way to go because you are trading more than 10% of your business spells with cards that are not considered business spells

-Low mana curve

Some decks are overloaded at the low curve to churn out aggressive plays consistently. Attacking this structure with cards like Engineered Explosives, Pernicious Deed, Counterbalance or even Threads of Disloyalty can become very effective. Normally, if you manage to bring the game into your pace, by suppressing the early game, you would tend to be highly favored to win against such decks.

-High mana curve

On the other end of the spectrum, there are decks packed with cards that cost quite some mana to cast. If you can control the flow of the game by playing cards like Winter Orb or Armageddon, or cards that simply buy time, it is easy to win while the opponent is stumbled at various areas of development.

-Large proportion of reactive cards

If your opponent is playing largely reactive cards, the best way to attack them is to play cards that they cannot react to. Man-lands are really good because they can let you use your mana while avoiding a large number of reactive cards. Also for this reason, suspend cards are really good because they use resources from a different time to engage the opponent who should not be able to keep up efficiently. Also, playing uncounterable/untargetable cards increase the number of dead cards in the reactive player's hand so you can put them in a situation whereby they need specific answers.

-Decks with a focal point

The focal point of a deck are the key cards that the entire deck revolve around. If those important cards are somewhat disrupted, winning the game would become really easy because the deck is build around those key cards.

Let us say we are playing the Worldgorger Dragon combo deck. The focal point or the key cards are Animate Dead, Necromancy and Worldgorger Dragon.

To secure a win, either Worldgorger Dragon or both Animate Dead and Necromancy must be sealed off in order to prevent the combo from going off. If we know this, preparing a sideboard isn't that difficult.

Let's say, I want to attack the graveyard and attack Worldgorger Dragon. Therefore I put in cards like Slaughter Pact, Swords to Plowshares to attack the dragon mid-combo and cards like Tormod's Crypt and Faerie Macabre to attack the dragon while it's in the graveyard. These 4 cards, if they manage to do their thing, should be able to prevent the combo deck from winning. Only Tormod's Crypt can be played around directly because it needs to be in play. The other 3 may or may not be in your hand so your opponent has to play around them before going off or risk losing immediately.

Cards like Extract, Hide/Seek and Earwig Squad can directly disrupt a deck that is based on a small number of cards to work. This is especially true in Singleton where the key pieces are barely a handful. Getting hit by the ability of Earwig Squad is equivalent to getting hit by 3 Cranial Extractions in a mainstream format. Ouch.


To prevent yourself from being attacked by such a strategy, a countermeasure that can be taken is to diversify your cards and have a stable mana base. The more stable your deck is and the more your deck is independent from each individual part, the more unlikely it is that you will be disrupted indirectly.

Nowadays, I make a conscious effort to make my deck in such a way that wouldn't get hit by Counterbalance easily so that my games wouldn't get wrecked by it.

3) Extending Sideboards

Usually, some cards are good but you don't want too many in a deck because that card may not be effective for certain matchups. An easy way to explain this is to use the question my friend brought up to me during the prerelease. He asked that how many of the removal that targets non-green creatures I would play if I had 3. It was obviously a great card but having all 3 in the deck was going to be horrible if my opponent played mostly green creatures. With this line of thought, I replied that I would play 2 and change the numbers post sideboard.

Likewise, in Singleton, it is possible to alter the number of cards with a desirable effect by having additional cards that have a parallel effect as standby in the sideboard.

For example, you need life gain because you play many lands that hurt you. However, too many of such cards will hurt the quality of the deck. Therefore, you include about 2 in your maindeck and throw in more when you see that your opponent is trying to win you by reducing your life quickly.

Another example that is easier to understand is the inclusion of cards like Mutilate and Austere Command in the sideboard of a BW deck that already has both Wrath of God and Damnation in the maindeck with the intention to ensure that decks trying to amass creatures to win won't.

4) Reverse Sideboard

I don't know what to call this but this is simply putting in cards that kill hate cards. Instead of putting cards to improve your matchup, you put in cards to fight cards that would likely be sideboarded in against you.

For example: You are playing red with creatures against a white deck. You think that your opponent would likely pack some cards like Circle of Protection: Red or Paladin en-Vec so you sideboard in Culling Scales because you need a colorless answer to those problematic cards.

Dredge from Vintage is probably the best case study since it packs almost a full sideboard of hate cards dedicated to fight anti-dredge cards like Pithing Needle (naming Bazaar of Baghdad) and Leyline of the Void. In goes cards to bounce/destroy enchantments or artifacts and sometimes even Chalice of the Void to prevent Tormod's Crypt from being cast. It's quite amazing to see how the deck still works even after it becomes so diluted.

The problem about reverse sideboarding is that you expect to face cards that may or may not be there in the first place. Such a sideboard tactic is much more relevant in formats that play 4 offs because the card you put in has a higher chance of meeting the card you expect your opponent to put in. In Singleton, however, you don't find cards that have the exact same effects very often and this makes such sideboarding more difficult to pull off.

Therefore, it is important to actually use answer cards that can hit a variety of possible sideboarded cards from the opponent. This sideboarding strategy is best used when the format becomes more defined. For now, I believe other strategies will prove more than sufficient.

5) Wish-Based Sideboard 

Wish-based sideboards are what you call a sideboard filled with cards that can be accessed using a wish card like Burning Wish or Living Wish. It essentially allows cards that can reach into "cards that you own outside the game" to have somewhere to get cards from because you can't just go to your collection and pick up a card during competitive play.

One of the uses of a wish card in the mainstream format is to allow the player to have access to virtually 7 copies of a certain card in the deck (3 of the actual card, 4 wishes for the last copy of the card sitting in the sideboard) in the case of a combo deck.

Having a wish-based sideboard greatly improves the probability of a player winning game 1 because that player can use cards that are not maindeck quality but are very good against certain matchups without jeopardizing on the raw strength of the maindeck. However, the drawback to this is that the post sideboard games are highly compromised a significant number of cards in the sideboard are locked away as a toolbox and there is less space to have a more focused sideboard against various decks.

Cunning Wish

I wish I had Stifle..

----------------------------Wishes in Singleton----------------------

In Singleton, there are not as many wishes spotted in a deck. Death Wish overlaps with every other wish and Glittering Wish can overlap with the various wishes as long as you use multicolored instants/creatures/sorceries. Therefore, a person effectively can have up a maximum of 4 wishes (including Ring of Maruf) to access the same card pool but the number of wishes actually played is usually 1 or 2 because more often than not, you are willing to only pay up to 3 mana for a wish card.

Wishes cannot increase the virtual number of cards in a Singleton deck because you can't have the card in your deck and in your sideboard at the same time.

So what advantages are there to actually playing wish cards in Singleton besides a minimally better game 1? (Minimally because you have 1 or 2 wishes as compared to 4)

-Wish as an almighty answer. 
If you play tutors in your deck that can tutor up the wish, you would be able to have an out against any situation provided you are prepared for it with a space in the sideboard. For example, you can cast Merchant Scroll for Cunning Wish if you need a specific answer and when you don't you can simply choose a card like Fact or Fiction to just get ahead. The wish in this case becomes an almighty answer, somewhat like Vindicate.

-Wishes are flexible. 
At almost any part of the game (be it early, mid or late), each wish should be able to let you have the best card you require depending on the current situation. A sub-par card can be played at the right time if you have a wish in hand.

-Wishes can get cards that are "removed from the game". 
If you can manipulate this properly, the power of a wish card would greatly jump because the wish would essentially be able to get back cards from the sideboard and also some from the maindeck.

For example: You have Psychatog and you have Fact or Fiction in your graveyard. You need to punch a few more damage and have 7 mana up, you can attack, remove Fact or Fiction to pump Psychatog, cast Cunning Wish to get back Fact or Fiction, cast Fact or Fiction, win.
Another example: You are playing a GW deck against burn and burn has managed to put you at a very low life despite having cast Loxodon Hierarch. You boarded in every life gain creature so you have none in the sideboard. You have a Swords to Plowshares. You cast it on Loxodon Hierarch, cast Glittering Wish to fetch it back and cast it again, putting you at a safer life total of +8.

Rant: When wishes were spoilt, my Living Wish had to pick up my suspended Greater Gargadon!!

Having a wish sideboard greatly reduces the number of sideboard quality cards in the deck because a significant number of cards would tend to be wish targets. This makes games 2 and 3 slightly less favored than it might have been otherwise.

6) Toolbox Sideboard

This sideboard uses the fact that there are maindeck tutors to allow the sideboard to have a variety of silver bullets against various strategies. Such a sideboard is usually lined with a number of cards with different uses specially prepared to be used with the tutors in the deck.

Let's say you are playing a black white control deck. You play Vampiric TutorEnlightened Tutor to search out cards like Animate Dead, Bitterblossom, Oblivion Ring, Faith's Fetters and Phyrexian Arena in the maindeck. and

Your sideboard can include cards like:

Null Rod or Serenity against decks that rely on many artifacts (or/and enchantments),
Engineered Plague against goblins,
Moat against decks that want to attack you directly,
Sun Droplet against decks that throw damage at your face,
Tsabo's Web against annoying man-lands,
Tormod's Crypt against decks that want to abuse the graveyard.


Did anyone remember me?

Usually, a toolbox sideboard consists of cards of the same card type so that the they are more easily accessible to the better tutor cards.

The advantage of playing a toolbox sideboard is that it allows you to have more consistent games because you have more copies of the sideboarded card. However, having a toolbox sideboard means that your sideboard space would somewhat shrink because you would tend to put in cards good against specific matchups rather than broad strategies.

7) Transformational Sideboard

A transformational sideboard is called so because the sideboard will change the main characteristics of your deck by replacing the game plan with totally different one. This strategy basically gives you 2 decks to play with instead of just having a better game 2.

For example: You are playing the UG Heartbeat of Spring combo deck. You win game 1 because your opponent has creature kills gummed up in his hand. You expect him to remove his removals to change to cards that attack the graveyard so you dump into the deck cards that change the combo deck into a UG beatdown deck. Without removals to bother you, you easily win game 2 because my opponent has dead cards again and the relevant cards for that particular game are gone.

The success of this sideboarding strategy depends on how well you manage to catch your opponent off guard. If your opponent leaves himself vulnerable to your "other deck", it is highly likely that you would win. If for some reason your opponent retains his removals in the above example, you will have to continue to slog it out with a slight disadvantage because you have a "presideboarded" deck against a sideboarded deck.

Therefore, for a transformational sideboard to be effective, you need both decks to play really differently so that you can reduce the effectiveness of cards played against you.

The key to making a transformational sideboard is to have a 2 decks that can be supported by the same mana base and can use similar cards to accomplish different objectives.

The main drawback to a transformational sideboard is that you immediately lose important space to actually allocate cards to fight certain strategies and if both your main deck and the "other deck" are poor against your opponent's deck, you will have almost no outs from that.

--------------------------Demonstration with Illustration------------------------------------

Here is a deck I came up with for the heartbeat combo for illustration purposes (in other words, not very well tuned yet):

Next, we have the heavily transformed deck (also not fine tuned yet but it worked when I tried it):

If you notice, the land base is unchanged, making this deck slightly less powerful than a properly made version. Therefore, much precaution is needed when adjusting lands into Vedalken Shackles or to get a copy of a Swamp into play.

In this change, there are 12 cards were used to change the maindeck from the heartbeat combo to this UG (beats?) deck. 

Removed: Replaced by:
Brain Freeze
Muddle the Mixture
Nostalgic Dreams
Far Wanderings
Drift of Phantasms
Early Harvest
Heartbeat of Spring
Diminishing Returns
Tendrils of Agony
Mind's Desire
Wild Mongrel
Kitchen Finks
Pernicious Deed
Vedalken Shackles
Ravenous Baloth
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Oona, Queen of the Fae
Slaughter Pact


The change is quite extreme in my opinion but this illustration should be able to explain the possible effect of playing a transformational sideboard. With the change, the deck adopts a totally different playstyle which is more resilient to Stifle effects or graveyard hate and threatens to win from a totally different approach.


Sideboarding Tip:

-Write down your sideboard tactics

Unlike in real life, there are no judges to call against you looking up your notes when sideboarding. Therefore, it becomes important to plan your sideboarding strategies beforehand because under stress, it becomes difficult to analyze what you need or do not need. Do remember that there is a time limit to how long you can actually take to sideboard and once you fail to meet the allocated time, you will be playing with a pre-sideboarded deck against your opponent's post-sideboarded deck. We don't really want that now do we?

However, do remember that you should take some time to consider what else you can sideboard against the particular matchup because decks in Singleton are much more varied than other formats but be careful of lag so you should use as much time as you can until about 15 seconds left.

Sideboarding fast can let you to seal off your opponent from re-sideboarding after they have submitted once so good sideboarding requires speed and accuracy.

Rant: I really hate the timer because MTGO always lags on me so I used to take forever to put a card from the maindeck into the sideboard in v2. In v3, I lose more time than I ever did just going through a game because there is a 2-3 second delay from my click. This has caused me to skip turns, even in sanctioned games. PLEASE FIX EVERYTHING!

--------End of Sideboarding in Singleton---------------------------------------

This week, the Singleton PE should be up again so I hope more people join it. "One in three players make it into prizes!" Make sure you prepare your sideboard properly before entering.

Until next time, this is Tarmotog coming up with a prismatic singleton deck only possible with Eventide in the mix, using a totally different deck concept, ready to be unveiled when Eventide comes online.

Questions can be directed to: tarmotog@hotmail.com


by JXClaytor at Wed, 09/24/2008 - 03:53
JXClaytor's picture

This article has been posted before, it was up for abotu 30 minutes before the last crash, so I am bringing it to you all again.



There is a need to keep it by tangaka1990 at Mon, 03/13/2017 - 06:22
tangaka1990's picture

There is a need to keep it fresh. That is why people take that change. - Paradise Home Improvement Charlotte