Riley’s Modern Life: The Modern Sideboard Table

Riley shares with us a reference table he's been working on for the Modern format. Need to know the best cards for each color for your extra 15? Look no further my friends.

Last week, we discussed some of the fundamentals of sideboarding and talked about the exaggerated role it has in Modern when set against virtually all other constructed formats. Our next step is to look at individual cards – a truly Herculean task, given the size of the card pool. Well, maybe not Herculean – after all, he was doing brutal, manly things like wrestling with lions, hunting boars, and cleaning cowpats out of a stable. We’re just putting together a list of cards with monsters, but hey, it counts.

Before starting an exercise like this, it’s worth considering what we’re trying to learn and achieve by doing so. Figuring out what question you’re trying to answer before looking for solutions is generally an excellent way to do business, and our objective here isn’t merely to answer the question “what are the best sideboard cards in Modern?” If we broaden the aperture here, we can make our research much more nuanced, and end up with a product that will be of ongoing use.

As a result, I set out to create a tool that will aid anyone in constructing a Modern sideboard. If you know what colours your deck has access to, and if you know which decks you are looking to beat, then the table below will be of some assistance in you figuring out exactly what your options are.

Using recent Magic Online results, I compiled a list of the fifteen most played decks in Modern at the moment. This list is by no means exhaustive – putting together a comprehensive list of viable Modern decks would be virtually impossible. Not only is there huge debate as to what a “viable deck” is, but then attempting to cover every iteration of each archetype and every minor variation that gives a deck and edge here or creates a weakness there… no, it’s too much. We’re working with broad strokes here, and so a wider view is appropriate for what we’re trying to do.

After compiling this list, I then went through and added each commonly-played sideboard card in the format to a table, each one set against the deck (or decks) against which it shines. I sorted these cards by colour, accounting for weird cases like the fact that Nihil Spellbomb is effectively a black card, or how Ancient Grudge is essentially gold. With that done, we now have a table to refer to when building a sideboard in Modern.

The Modern Sideboard Table

White Blue Black Red Green
Abzan Counters Leyline of Sanctity Linvala, Keeper of Silence Damnation
Collective Brutality
  Anger of the Gods
Ad Nauseam Rule of Law
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Leyline of Sanctity
Disdainful Stroke
Dispel
Negate
Thoughtseize Seal of Primordium
Affinity Stony Silence Negate
Ceremonious Rejection
Hurkyll’s Recall
Damnation Shattering Spree
Vandalblast
Anger of the Gods
Nature’s Claim
Reclamation Sage
Seal of Primordium
Burn Celestial Purge
Kor Firewalker
Leyline of Sanctity
Timely Reinforcements
Dispel
Negate
Collective Brutality Anger of the Gods Feed the Clan
Life Goes On
Obstinate Baloth
Death & Taxes Stony Silence Damnation Anger of the Gods
Death’s Shadow Celestial Purge
Rest in Peace
Blessed Alliance
Dispel Damnation
Nihil Spellbomb
Leyline of the Void
Blood Moon Chameleon Colossus
Dredge Rest in Peace Negate Damnation
Nihil Spellbomb
Leyline of the Void
Anger of the Gods
Eldrazi Tron Disdainful Stroke
Ceremonious Rejection
Thoughtseize
Fulminator Mage
Damnation
Blood Moon
Crumble to Dust
Fulminator Mage
Jeskai Tempo Leyline of Sanctity Dispel
Negate
Collective Brutality
Damnation
Anger of the Gods Thrun, the Last Troll
Jund Celestial Purge
Mirran Crusader
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Leyline of Sanctity
Negate Damnation Chameleon Colossus
Tireless Tracker
Obstinate Baloth
Lantern Control Stony Silence
Leyline of Sanctity
Negate
Ceremonious Rejection
Hurkyll’s Recall
Thoughtseize Shattering Spree
Vandalblast
Nature’s Claim
Reclamation Sage
Seal of Primordium
Scapeshift Aven Mindcensor
Leyline of Sanctity
Disdainful Stroke
Negate
Thoughtseize
Fulminator Mage
Fulminator Mage
Storm Rule of Law
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Rest in Peace
Dispel
Negate
Thoughtseize
Nihil Spellbomb
Leyline of the Void
Anger of the Gods
Traditional Tron Stony Silence Disdainful Stroke
Negate
Ceremonious Rejection
Thoughtseize
Fulminator Mage
Blood Moon
Crumble to Dust
Fulminator Mage
UW Control Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Disdainful Stroke
Dispel
Negate
Collective Brutality
Thoughtseize
Fulminator Mage
Fulminator Mage Tireless Tracker
Gaea’s Revenge
Thrun, the Last Troll
Gold Colourless Land
Abzan Counters Supreme Verdict
Izzet Staticaster
Warping Wail
Ad Nauseam Destructive Revelry
Wear // Tear
Surgical Extraction
Affinity Ancient Grudge
Destructive Revelry
Wear // Tear
Pithing Needle
Burn Ratchet Bomb
Death & Taxes Supreme Verdict
Izzet Staticaster
Wear // Tear
Pithing Needle
Warping Wail
Death’s Shadow Supreme Verdict Ratchet Bomb
Chalice of the Void
Dismember
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Dredge Supreme Verdict Relic of Progenitus
Grafdigger’s Cage
Surgical Extraction
   Eldrazi Tron Supreme Verdict Dismember Ghost Quarter
 Jeskai Tempo Supreme Verdict Engineered Explosives Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Jund Supreme Verdict Dismember
 Lantern Control Destructive Revelry
Ancient Grudge
Wear // Tear
Engineered Explosives
Ratchet Bomb
Surgical Extraction
  Scapeshift Warping Wail
Surgical Extraction
Ghost Quarter
Storm Izzet Staticaster
Supreme Verdict
Surgical Extraction
Ratchet Bomb
Warping Wail
Chalice of the Void
   Traditional Tron Pithing Needle Ghost Quarter
    UW Control Wear // Tear Boseiju, Who Shelters All

So! What does this table tell us? Apart from the glaringly obvious fact that Negate is just about the best sideboard card in the format (which, I believe, is also true in Standard), there is a lot of data to sort through here.

Firstly, White justifies its position as the sideboard colour of the format. Both in volume and power level, the cards that white mages can include in their fifteen completely outstrip the options in any other colour. Powerful, hateful cards like Stony Silence and Rest in Peace are, obviously, the marquee reasons to include white, and historically we’ve seen Rock decks splash white for zero main deck white cards outside of Lingering Souls. After sideboard, white means business!

Just as Gandalf’s career in Lord of the Rings taught us, one step down from white, we have grey. I was surprised to find just how much you can do with artifacts and other colourless cards in Modern – everything from graveyard hate to sweepers, from point removal to counterspells! Phyrexian mana is crucial in offering colourless decks like Eldrazi Tron access to effects that are otherwise beyond their means (the prime example being, um, which member? Ah yes, of course, Dismember, and as a result, the sheer number of angles that colourless decks can cover in games two and three is staggering.

Blue doesn’t offer a wide array of options to Island-tapping nerds – however, they’re the best at what they do, and what they do isn’t very nice. With the single exception of Hurkyll’s Recall, blue only offers “narrow” counterspells – but you cannot deny the potency of cards like Negate, Ceremonious Rejection and… er, which spell? Ah yes, that’s right, Dispel.

In the right matchups, these cards can be backbreaking – as we’ve talked about in the past, Ceremonious Rejection is a one-mana hard counter against three or four excellent Modern decks! Additionally, given the recent trend towards bigger and more expensive spells in Modern (thanks, Fatal Push), there’s a card that makes surprising headlines as an exceptional counterspell… hm, which dainful stroke? Ah yes, there it is, Disdainful Stroke.

Black’s offerings are also nowhere near as hard hitting as white’s, with discard and mass removal more or less all it brings to the table. Note that in most cases, the Thoughtseize in the table is emblematic of other one-mana discard spells, specifically, Inquisition of Kozilek and Duress, and either might be more appropriate at certain junctures.

Red offers what at certain points is the best sweeper in Modern – a well-timed Anger of the Gods is more or less game over against decks from Counters to Dredge, and can clean up nicely against Affinity, or post-board Goblins in Storm. Aside from that, red of course boasts the safety valve of Modern: Blood Moon. We’ve got across Blood Moon in a previous article – Sgt. B. Moon provides a highly necessary Fun Police presence.

Green offers similarly narrow but powerful options, principally centred around artifact and enchantment removal. Reclamation Sage is an important piece of the puzzle for creature-based decks who need a Disenchant effect without diluting their board presence. Difficult-to-handle creatures also give green a boost post board, with Gaea’s Revenge, Chameleon Colossus, and Thrun, the Last Troll all causing headaches against different foes.

There isn’t much in the way of gold cards. Upgraded Disenchants are alongside sweepers of different flavours – Izzet Staticaster when you need to repeat yourself, Supreme Verdict when you need ’em gone no questions asked, and Izzet Staticaster when you need to repeat yourself. We don’t often see utility lands sideboarded in – perhaps it should be happening more – but Boseiju helps your Ad Nauseum resolve against blue decks and extra Ghost Quarters are always welcome against Tron and Scapeshift.

You Gotta Stay Fresh

My goal in creating this table was not just just to discover the most powerful post-board options in each colour, but to create a resource that will be of use whenever I sit down to put together a bench full of backup cards. As a result, I want to keep this tool sharp – I’ll be looking to periodically update this table over time. Should it ever grow unrecognisably different, it might be worth republishing in a future article – but right now, keep an eye on this page as things move forward in Modern, as an easy reference to the sideboard options available across the colours.

As I mentioned, my aim is to keep this table updated – and for that, I need your help! I’m certain there are cards I’ve missed in this table, and I want to know what they are. Something glaringly obvious? A piece of super-secret tech? Let me know what should be included in the table, and I’ll update it with gratitude – you can always reach me on Twitter, @rileyquarytower, and while you’re there it’s a good idea to follow @mtgdotone so as not to miss a thing!

Riley Knight

Riley Knight is a member of the Magic coverage team, and has covered top-level events around the world since 2014. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, his favourite formats are Modern and Cube. Riley enjoys playing most of his Magic during his opponent’s end step.

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