The Sideboard Box and Local Metagaming

I have a box of shameful white cards. I like to imagine everyone does, though my box of shame might be a bit bigger than yours… This box contains the cards that have fallen out of favor in D&T over the years, flex cards that aren’t quite right for the main at the moment, fringe sideboard cards that are potentially good in odd metagames, and failed experiments that didn’t quite make the deck. I usually carry at least a portion of this box around anytime I attend a small event. At a large event, there’s pretty much nothing I will see that will make me want to adjust my deck on the fly. However, at a smaller event, it’s very likely that a few tweaks can really improve your chances at spiking the event. Today I’d like to walk you through some of the stuff floating around my pile o’ D&T “playables.” Some of these might be just the thing you need to wreck your local metagame.

The Burn/Punishing Fire Hate Pile

I don’t mind playing against a Burn deck or two over the course of an event; however, I don’t want to play it all day without taking a few precautions. Similarly, a field full of things like Jund and Lands that want to Punishing Fire out all my creatures can be a little nerve wracking. These cards can help you tear those matchups open:

Beat the Red Decks!

Spells (9)
Absolute Law
Kor Firewalker
Circle of Protection: Red
Lone Missionary
Aerial Responder
Kitchen Finks
Burrenton Forge-tender
Fiendslayer Paladin

Absolute Law and Warmth are great Enlightened Tutor targets, if you are still running that card. The remaining creatures have a certain degree of utility. Burrenton Forge-tender is a defensive, tutorable bullet, whereas the remainder of the cards are more general, lifegain critters with various scenarios where each is better. Aerial Responder is a card that I’d never play in the sideboard, but could be an acceptable Serra Avenger or Mirran Crusader substitute in the right room. Fiendslayer Paladin isn’t as objectively powerful as Avenger or Crusader, though I know a few people from MtG:Salvation really liked it as an option some time ago. Kor Firewalker is the one I’d be most likely to shove in the deck in a vacuum, as it stalls opposing creatures while also gaining life. That being said, WW can be a touch tough on turn two, so many people turn to the enchantment options that are more easily castable. Of those options, Warmth or CoP:Red will wreck Burn the hardest, while Absolute Law is great against most decks with red removal.

The Anti-Combo Pile

D&T is pretty well-positioned against mid-to-slow speed combo decks, but sometimes you bring the wrong set of hate for a room and get swamped, or your opponents go off a bit too quickly. These cards can help you adjust:

Hate out the Combo!

Spells (10)
Chalice of the Void
Thorn of Amethyst
Enlightened Tutor
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Vryn Wingmare
Relic of Progenitus
Surgical Extraction
Grafdigger’s Cage
Mindbreak Trap
Faerie Macabre

Of these cards, only Vryn Winmare and Spirit of the Labyrinth are reasonably maindeckable. The remainder serve as cards that interact on slightly different angles against the various combo decks of the format. In particular, it’s very easy to swap around your graveyard hate to maximize your chances at beating specific combo decks.

For example, let’s say that you walk around a room and see a ton of Dredge and Elves as well as an Oops, All Spells deck. Grafdigger’s Cage is amazing against all three of these decks. Cutting a Rest in Peace or two for Cages would probably give you about the same percentage points in the Dredge matchup while vastly improving your Elves matchup “for free” and speeding up your hate a turn against Oops.

On the other hand, what if you see a room full of U/B Reanimator, Dredge, and Lands? This could be a good time to trim your Containment Priests for Surgical Extractions. Reanimator tends to play favorites like Massacre to deal with Containment Priest, Lands has Punishing Fire, and Dredge has Firestorm. All three of these decks struggle in interacting with Surgical, so that would seem like a safe bet to me. Sugical on Griselbrand, Bridge from Below, or Life from the Loam might (effectively) win you the game on the spot.

The Removal Pile

Look, sometimes you just need to destroy things…

Boom Goes the Dynamite

Spells (12)
Seal of Cleansing
Leonin Relic-Warder
Ratchet Bomb
Mangara of Corondor
Path to Exile
Palace Jailer
Blessed Alliance
Holy Light

D&T has Flickerwisp, Swords, and Council’s Judgment as the standard options for removal (with Path starting to become standard as well), but sometimes you need a little bit more. The biggest choice you have to make in adding extra removal to the deck is speed. Lower cost options (e.g. Sunlance, Leonin Relic-Warder) tend to have some amount of limitation or drawback, whereas higher cost options like Mangara have more flexibility. Many of these cards will tutorable via Recruiter or Enlightened Tutor. Some of these cards are extremely good in fringe scenarios, but might not be perfect for the normal metagame as a whole. Ratchet Bomb and Holy Light, for example, offer the potential for massive blowout potential (e.g. cleaning the board after a huge Empty the Warrens, but aren’t necessarily the broad answers our sideboards need for a generic event.

Of these, Armageddon and Cataclysm are of special note. Armageddon is an odd sort of tempo card in many cases; you get ahead on board and drop the bomb, knowing that you can likely close out the game before your opponent can recover. Cataclysm tends to be more of a defensive or catch-up card. When you are behind on board against, say, Shardless, it can be used to sweep a couple of planeswalkers off the board. Cataclysm has huge upsides against some of the fringe decks of the format (e.g. MUD, Enchantress), but rarely wins a game on its own against the tiered decks. Against Lands, for example, a Cataclysm buys a ton of time, but you really need a Rest in Piece beyond that to lock things up. Cataclysm used to be the hate card of choice to beat Miracles, but now that the deck is less reliant on big mana threats like Jace, the Mindsculptor and Entreat the Angels, it’s now more likely that the Miracles deck can recover post-Cataclysm.

The Flex Slot Pile

Prior to the printing of Recruiter of the guard, D&T had a ton of flex slots. These days there is a bit less room for experimentation. These are the reasonable cards I tried in various configurations in about the past year.

Bonus dudes

Aven Mindcensor
Leonin Arbiter
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Anafenza, Kin Tree Spirit
Eldrazi Displacer
Restoration Angel
Blade Splicer
Thalia, Heretic Cathar

Aven Mindcensor and Leonin Arbiter play well together (and even better with Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile), but don’t particularly go well with the Stoneforge package of the deck. Brimaz is great in a room full of Miracles and decks with red-based removal. Anafenza was a card I thought might have potential, but I never got it to work. Displacer and Restoration Angel are very reasonable cards in current D&T (and I played against both in Louisville), serving as the 5th Flickerwisp with great upsides in certain matchups. This isn’t an exhaustive list. I’ve played my fair share of Judge’s Familiar and Weathered Wayfarer, but this is a pretty good feel for what I carry around.

Alternatives to the Norm
The lands and equipment in D&T are pretty stock these days. I do, however, adjust things a bit from time to time.

Flex lands and equipment

Spells (3)
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Body and Mind
Lands (7)
Flagstones of Trokair
Dust Bowl
Mishra’s Factory
Horizon Canopy
Ghost Quarter
Eiganjo Castle
Sea Gate Wreckage

I’ve already written about my thoughts on flex lands and equipment, so I won’t go into much detail here. I will say that Sword of Body and Mind might have its day in the sun soon if Reid Duke’s GP Louisville deck trends upwards in popularity.

We Can Go Deeper

Hate Hate Hate

Splash (3)
Orzhov Pontiff
Magus of the Moon
Gaddok Tegg

Beat BUG (2)
Baneslayer Angel
Wilt-Leaf Liege

Tutor for cute things (2)
Angel of Invention
Phyrexian Metamorph

Splashing a single card as a Recruiter target is somewhat reasonable, and it’s not all that uncommon to stumble upon it. I’ve never been a huge fan of splashing (though I have experimented pretty heavily with every color combination). Feel free to visit my various Deckbuilding pages on Splashing Colors if you want to read more about that.

In a room full of BUG, you can do some dirty things. Wilt-Leaf Liege makes Hymn to Tourach or Liliana of the Veil considerably less threatening. Baneslayer Angel is borderline unbeatable if you’re willing to go that big (which I do not advocate doing unless you are already on the Restoration Angel plan). These two cards are mana intensive though, so I usually don’t recommend them. Most of what they can accomplish is oftentimes done with a Crusader without getting cute. These cards lead to blowouts, but are probably win-more.

The final two cards caught my eye when Recruiter came out. It’s not like they are amazing against anything in particular, but these cards are on my watch list. Angel of Invention is a tutorable bomb, and Metamorph has the potential to be exactly what you need in a weird situation. These are currently what I refer to as “fun-ofs,” card that you play in your local metagame to try them out and have some laughs, but probably don’t make their way to the floor of an Open level event or higher.

Today’s article was a request from a fan, so I hope it was useful to a few of you. I really appreciate the support (emails, donations, sharing decklists and data, just coming up and saying hello) that I’ve received over the past month. It’s really validating for me to hear that you crushed your first event with D&T after reading things on my site or that my tech of Sword of War and Peace was particularly great for you. I think I said this previously, but I enjoyed GP Louisville more than any other Magic event. Cashing the GP was great and all, but it was really interacting with 50+ D&T pilots over the course of the weekend that made my trip amazing. In trying to make Thraben University an even better resource, I’m now going to commit to doing an article or new piece of content of some kind for the deck each week. I’m currently planning on releasing new stuff on Friday, though I’ll likely change that from time to time if I have a tournament that weekend or am planning on doing major playtesting over the weekend. I’ve got quite a bit of testing to do prior to the Baltimore Team Constructed event. I might as well share what I’m learning with you all!

About the Author

Phil Gallagher

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