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By: Arnnaria, Sean Costales
Apr 23 2008 11:24pm
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Welcome to Pure Standard!

Tournament level players are always prepared to face a slew of decks that define the metagame.  Knowing what decks are out there and what their strengths and weaknesses are can be the difference between winning and losing a game.  But there is another, often unexplored, part of your deck that gives you an advantage over some of the decks out there: your sideboard.  This fifteen card “minature deck” should be honed to the current metagame for maximum efficiency.  Today we’re going to take a look at the top tier decks in standard, and what cards should be placed in your sideboards to deal with them.

I’ve decided to divide the sideboard cards into three distinct pools: Hosers, Weaknesses Exploiters, and Strategy Defense.  Hosers are popular cards that haven’t gotten much support recently.  Hosers get their name from “hosing” an opponent for playing a certain color or lands: the most famous examples would be Karma and Compost.  Nowadays, hosers are much weaker and aren’t an “automatic win” like they once were.  Weakness Exploiters are exactly that: they exploit a weakness an opponent’s deck has.  For example, mono red burn decks have a weakness against life gain; if you can outrace their damage with some lifegain your chances of survival and hitting them with twenty damage increases.  So lifegain cards such as Bottle Gnomes and Aven Riftwatcher are effective to exploit this weakness.  Finally, there are Strategy Defense cards.  Strategy Defense cards abuse a strategy that your opponent’s deck has decided to use.  For example, Reanimator decks use their graveyard to store up on fatties and then use reanimation cards like Makeshift Mannequin and Dread Return.  A card that would remove cards from the graveyard from the game like Extirpate or Tormod’s Crypt would be a Strategic Defense cards.





Akroma, Angel of Fury

Akroma can’t be countered by spells or abilities.  That alone would make this a good card to sideboard against a Reveillark deck.  But the icing on the cake is that it has protection from white and blue, meaning none of their creatures can chump block it.  All you will need to do is attack twice, pumping it up, and you should be home free to victory.  Their only out in this case is a Wrath of God, but that works double duty for you because it’ll kill their entire offense as well as your Akroma.

Weakness Exploiters

Sower of Temptation

Reveillark doesn’t run any removal except for three Wrath of Gods.  So, stealing their Reveillark will cause a lot of discomfort as it can block their 2/2 flyers all day.  Don’t forget, if Reveillark leaves play and you control it, you’re the owner of the ability so you get to return two creatures from your graveyard to play.

Magus of the Moon

Reveillark runs a mana base of ten to twelve nonbasic lands: Mutavault, Adarkar Wastes, and Nimbus Maze.  This number will probably only increase after Shadowmoor comes out due to Mystic Gate – the white/blue filter land from the Graven Cairns cycle.  Magus of the Moon shuts down their lands and can shut them out of a color until they draw a basic land of the appropriate type.  That should be enough time to wreck some damage on them before they're able to Wrath of God your Magus of the Moon away. 


Reveillark is an expensive deck; the version I run has fourteen cards that cost five or more mana: Body Double, Mulldrifter, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Reveillark.  If you’re playing red, and apply some early pressure and damage, dropping a Manabarbs on turn four or five essentially shuts down your opponent from casting anymore spells, yest they get dangerously close to zero life. 

Strategy Defense


Extirpate / Tormod’s Crypt 

Both of these cards disrupt the graveyard strategy that Reveillark employs.  Both of these cards are also decent into the Reanimator decks that remain popular in Standard.  However, Tormod’s Crypt doesn’t play as well as Extirpate.  With Extirpate, you can remove key spells from the game and sometimes hit your opponent’s hand as well.  The same isn’t true for Tormod’s Crypt.  Tormod’s Cyrpt just gets rid of the graveyard, no questions asked.  If I had to choose between the two, I would go with Extirpate due to his split second ability.  It still is effective against say a Faerie deck holding onto Cryptic Command or a Control deck holding onto Wrath of God or Damnation.

RG Big Mana




Flashfreeze is probably the most powerful of the Coldsnap hosers.  The great thing about this card is that it counter practically every potential threat in RG Big Mana save Treetop Village and Mutavault.  Side out your more expensive counters, like Cryptic Command, to turn a four mana answer into a two mana answer. 

Weakness Exploiters

Remove Soul

RG Big Mana operates on casting huge creatures with big abilities: Cloudthresher, Siege-Gang Commander, Bogardan Hellkite.  For only two mana, you can nullify the creature and set up your next turn when they’ve hopefully tapped out to play their baddy.  If you’re playing against RG Big Mana, side out your Rune Snag in favor of Remove Soul.  If your opponent knows you are playing Rune Snags, they can easily play around it with the massive amounts of mana that this deck generates.  If you side out your Rune Snags, your opponent might still think you are playing them and play one or two turns slower.  Remove Soul is the better card here because it’s a hard counter compared to the soft counter of Rune Snag.


Like Reveillark, RG Big Mana has a lot of expensive spells.  There’s no way they can cast a Cloudthresher and Bogardan Hellkite against a devoted red deck and still be alive.  The only threat you have to worry about is the two mana (and thus two damage) Tarmogoyf.  But still, Manabarbs will be eating away at their life total that you can go in for the kill with your aggressive red strategy. 

Rock / Doran Rock / Elves



Deathmark (Against Doran or Elves)

For one black mana, Deathmark destroys the best creature currently in Standard: Tarmogoyf.  That and that alone would warrant it to get played in a sideboard.  However, Deathmark also destroys some other key critters that could be giving you nightmares: Doran, The Siege Tower, Imperious Perfect, (Wren’s Run Vanquisher).  There are not too many white creatures you have to worry about these days, but that could all change once Shadowmoor hits.  Don’t’ forget that Deathmark is a sorcery event though it feels like an instant; you can’t play it on your opponent’s turn!  Some great cards still have their limitations.

Chameleon Colossus

If you drop a Chameleon Colossus against a player who’s removal is primarily black, what are they going to do?  Nameless Inversion can’t target it, and it’s too big of a creature anyway.  Eyeblight’s Ending can’t target it either, and even if it could the Colossus is still an elf.  The only way around the Colossus is removing it via combat damage.  This could be okay if they have a Wren’s Run Vanquisher out, but if they are not going elves route you might as well have sealed your victory.  I’m not a big fan of the Colossus, but against black-based removal decks there’s nothing better.

Weakness Exploiters

Sulfurous Blast (Against Elves) 

Elves are fragile creatures.  Sulfurous Blast played on your main phase kills all of them even if they have one Imperious Perfect out.  If they have a Wren’s Run Vanquisher and Imperious Perfect out, then the Vanquisher is a 4/4 but this is how it goes down.  The Sulfurous Blast deals three damage to every creature, the Imperious Perfect dies.  Since the Perfect dies, the Vanquisher becomes a 3/3 and it still has three damage on it.  The damage is enough to kill it now and it goes to the graveyard from play.  The great think about Sulfurous Blast against Elves is that most Elves decks don’t have a long-term strategy; very few run Harmonize or even Masked Admirers anymore.

Strategy Defense

Damnation / Wrath of God

What was said about Sulfurous Blast remains true for Damnation and Wrath of God.  Elves doesn’t have a long term strategy.  This isn’t true for Rock or Doran, which run Harmonize and Liliana Vess – two cards that can help an ailing hand in the late game.  However, destroying three or more creatures against any deck will net you card advantage and card advantage wins games.  You’ll still have to deal with their Treetop Village, but hopefully by then you’ve secured a defender to soak up the damage from their 3/3 Apes. 

Teferi’s Moat

A Teferi’s Moat set to green stops the horde of attacking Elves, stops Tarmogoyf, stops Doran, and stops Treetop Village.  It also stops some of the rarer green fatties you’ll see running around like Troll Ascetic and Chameleon Colossus.  The only thing you’ll have to worry about is that some Rock / Elves / Doran sideboards run Krosan Grip.  However, I’ve found that many players forget about the Teferi’s Moat in the sideboard and forget to board them in game two.  They have them handy game three, but by then it might already be too late for them.

Mwonvuli Acid-Moss

Mwonvuli Acid-Moss gets rid of Treetop Village.  I don’t know how to say it anymore eloquently or simply.  This is the only land destruction spell that matters in Standard right now because it also fetches you a land which is crucial in RG Big Mana to build up your mana base.  The moss can also get rid of other targets like Faerie Conclave, or Scrying Sheets but its best job is getting ride of the Ape Village from attacking.




Eyes of the Wisent

First and foremost, I must say that I am not a fan of this card.  All it seems to do is force your opponent to play aggro instead of control.  And a faerie deck is very capable of playing an aggro strategy if it has nothing to lose.  That being said, Eye of the Wisent stops Rune Snag, Cryptic Command, and Spellstutter Sprite from countering your spells and Pestermite, Scion of Oona, and Mistbind Clique from being flashed into play.  This means that your spells are more likely to resolve and if they don’t, you get a 4/4 elemental token to beat down with.  Personally I think there are better cards in green to disrupt the fae, but Eyes of the Wisent might be a contender for you.  Test it out and see how it does.

Weakness Exploiters

Sulfurous Blast / Pyroclasm

The fae, with the exception of Mistbind Clique, all have one toughness.  This means that a Sulfurous Blast or a Pyroclasm essentially wipes out their entire board.  Sulfurous Blast is an instant too so you can hit them when they tap out to play a Mistbind Clique during your upkeep.  Between the two, I would say that Sulfurous Blast is the better choice for your sideboard, but the price may be right for Pyroclasm.

Squall Line / Cloudthresher / Hurricane

Squall Line and Hurricane have the added bonus of hitting players as well.  So if you’ve been on the offensive and your opponent is at a low level of life, you can essentially win he game by using both as a direct damage spell.  However, the main purpose of these cards is destroying the fae while keeping your own creatures in tact.  The only cards that have flying these days are the faeries in Faeries, so you don’t have to worry about decimating your own army.  After the storm hits, attack with your Tarmogoyfs and Treetop Villages and victory should be yours.

Strategy Defense

Krosan Grip / Wispmare / Oblivion Ring

All of these cards get rid of Bitterblossom.  And if you have played against Faeries you should know that a Bitterblossom going unchecked is certain death.  Another option that leaves you open to more possibilities is Thoughtseize.  A turn one Thoughtseize can stop a turn two Bitterblossom.  However, like Eyes of the Wisent, I’m not a fan of Thoughtseize in sideboards.  If you are worried about Bitterblossom, I think that Krosan Grip, Wispmare, and Oblivion Ring are your best defense.


Faeries exhaust their hands pretty early with early game threats like Thoughtseize, Rune Snag, Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, Scion of Oona and Pestermite. They rely on a turn five or six Ancestral Visions to refuel their hands and go into a defensive mode, having all their offensive threats on the board.  A well-timed Riftsweeper can disrupt this strategy and leave them without cards and a proper defense against your Cloudthreshers, Squall Lines, or Hurricanes.  Riftsweeper can also perform double duty against Knoll Storm which suspends Lotus Blooms and Reveillark which suspends Riftwing Cloudskates.

Mono Red Aggro / Mono Red Burn

Mono Red Aggro
Rainier Aubren Santiago
2 Blood Knight
4 Countryside Crusher
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Mudbutton Torchrunner

Other Spells
4 Incinerate
4 Lash Out
4 Shard Volley
4 Shock
4 Rift Bolt
3 Keldon Megaliths
15 Mountain
4 Mutavault
Shard Volley



Burrenton Forge-Tender

If you’re playing with Burrenton Forge-Tender in yoru sideboard, chances are you’re playing Kithkin.  And if you’re playing Kithkin, chances are you’re weak against Sulfurous Blast and Pyroclasm.  A Burrenton Forge-Tender can stop these mass removal spells with a simple sacrifice.  The Forge-Tender prevents all damage the red source deals, so your army lives to fight another day.  The Forge-Tender also performs as a way to prevent Mogg Fanatics and Keldon Marauders from attacking and decimating your life total.

Weakness Exploiters

Bottle Gnomes / Aven Riftwatcher

Mono red decks are unapologetic in attacking your life total.  Their main goal is to decimate your twenty points as quickly and as fast as possible.  Therefore, life gain is good against these decks.  Mono red has a quick and fast early game, but if you get them into the late game your chances of winning dramatically increases.  You can force them into the late game by playing cards that earn you life and that can block their onslaught of creatures.  Both Bottle Gnomes and Aven Riftwatcher due these things: they gain you life and are efficient blockers against their creatures.  Hopefully, the life gain will buy you enough time to secure a win against the offensive threats mono red has to offer.

Dragon’s Claw

I kind of embarrassed to include this in my article, but I have seen this card make the final fifteen of some sideboards so I guess it warrants me to take it seriously.  Dragon’s Claw gains you a point of life every time a red spell is cast.  This spell does not need to be your spell.  Essentially, this nullifies every red burn spell they can throw at you: Shard Volley hits for two, as does Rift Bolt, and Shock hits for a measly one.  Get two of these out and it is essentially a game win against the mono red player.  I haven’t tested Dragon’s Claw in any of my builds, but if you’re having problems against the speed that is mono red, this is a universal answer that any deck can play.

Primal Command

Mono red doesn’t have a late game.  And with Primal Command, you can search out your fattest creature and gain seven life.  Seven life is about three more spells they will have to draw to kill you, and three more turns means three more combat phases with Tarmogoyf and Treetop Villages.  You can even buy yourself four or more turns by placing a Ghitu Encampment on top of their library and gaining seven life.

Strategy Defense

Teferi’s Moat

This card is much more useful against Mono Red Aggro than Mono Red Burn.  For five mana, you stop their offense: Mogg Fanatic, Countryside Crusher, Siege-Gang Commander, and Keldon Marauders.  Red does not have any access to enchantment destruction so a resolved Moat spells game over for a lot of players.  They can still burn you out with their spells, but Mono Red Aggro plays less burn spells than Mono Red Burn.

Shadowmoor on the Horizon

As Shadowmoor enters the Standard arena, the metagame will shift and change.  Most people are already predicting the emergence of mono-color decks to abuse the hybrid cards which are mana intensive to dual-color decks but are right at home in mono-color decks.  As the metagame shifts, so will the current decks and so will their current sideboards.  Standard is an ever-evolving format and an additional 300 cards added to the mix will make some of the current archetypes unplayable, revive dead archetypes, and add new archetypes that no one thought of before.  When the time comes, all you can do is pray your sixty card deck is strong enough and that your fifteen card sideboard strengthens your decks against the tier one contenders.  Thanks for reading and have fun constructing your sideboards!

Sean Costales

Arnnaria on Magic Online


by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 04/28/2008 - 07:44
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>Side out your more expensive counters, like Cryptic Command, to turn a four mana >answer into a two mana answer.



by Lord Erman at Fri, 04/25/2008 - 16:46
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Great article. Very informative.

by hamtastic at Fri, 04/25/2008 - 09:33
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Good article!

I had actually forgotten about a few of these cards!  :)

I love hate decks 

NIce work here sir! by Zur the Enchanter (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 04/24/2008 - 23:31
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i'd just like to add that extirpate though a decent sideboard against ark decks is less well rounded than say counterspells if you have access to them via the colors you're playing. i know this from experience. see the reason why the faerie decks are such bad match ups for lark decks is that the fae can selectively pick off the ark decks threats via permissions. it's one thing to go extirpate but it's a whole new ballgame to go say turn 2 bitterblossom, counter a threat via spellstutter sprite and sit on your mana to counter whatever the ark deck does while beating down with a hoard of 1/1 flyers. of course if you don't have access to blue but are dipping into green then primal command would be a great way to nullify the lark's recursion strategy. although it's true that u/r ark could win without anything in the yard this is a rarity that may happen in less than 4 out of 10 games, ie provided  your  facing very capable opposition. i think extirpate should be included as a last resort or as a silver bullet since it really does nothing to improve board conditions and is very situational (unless you are playing teachings control in w/c case you manipulate the situation). just my two cents! thanks

by Javasci at Thu, 04/24/2008 - 04:35
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I think that hosers and strategy defense should both be part of one category.  "Hosers" by my definition isn't limited to color; it's anything that hoses any specific strategy, i. e. Leyline of the Void is a graveyard hoser. 

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 04/24/2008 - 00:31
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actually a sulfurous blast can kill all your opponent's elves even if they have 2 imperious perfects in play.

Great! by Jacksci-fi (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 04/24/2008 - 02:02
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The article was pretty cool!


Just remember lark decks don't need things in the graveyard to win. 

Great insight into the touney scene by Kailassa at Tue, 04/22/2008 - 22:37
Kailassa's picture

Thanks Sean. That was well worth reading.

You've inspired me to work more on hosing decks.