Should sideboard size be increased?

General forum

Posted on Sept. 26, 2018, 10:49 p.m. by DragonKing90

I am the type of player who likes to run a playset of every spell i use. the only real exceptions for me are legendaries, or slivers whose effects don't stack with themselves. this poses a problem when sideboarding. by limiting the sideboard to 15 cards, it forces me to run less than a full playset of at least one card. if i have a card in my mainboard that is useless in a particular matchup, and 3 copies of a card in the sideboard that could be useful, i end up with 1 of the useless cards remaining in my deck post-sideboarding.

so in my opinion, i think the sideboard could stand to be 16 cards. its only 1 more card, but it'd let players like me who like to use full playsets, run 4 full playsets in the sideboard. its a change that would affect every player and every deck equally, with no deck gaining any more advantage from it than any other deck.

what do you guys think? with the current sideboard size of 15, how do you decide which cards to run less than 4 total copies of?

TypicalTimmy says... #2

This is a bit of a trap a lot of new players, myself included, fall into. Can you post a deck or two so maybe we can assist you in making it more fluid without the need of a playset of everything?

I feel like if we can see your decks, we can help with your Sideboard. Rather than discuss whether it should or should not be 16.

September 26, 2018 11:39 p.m.

clayperce says... #3

DragonKing90,

how do you decide which cards to run less than 4 total copies of?

A lot of it depends on when I need the card. If I want it in my opener, I want 4. If I want to see it in most games, I want 3. If I don't need to see it until the late game, I want 1-2.

It also depends on how much draw/card advantage I have in the deck. 2-3 is fine if I have a bunch of cantrips or cards like Bloodbraid Elf which allow me to Cascade into (low-CMC) sideboard cards.

Finally, it REALLY depends on what match-ups I expect to see and how many cards I want for them. Say, for example, I have a terrible match-up vs. a deck, and there are maybe 3 different cards that are really good vs. the deck ... but 2 of those are really good against other decks too. I might run a 2-2-2 split of the three cards, since that essentially gives me 6 cards vs. the first deck, and 4 cards vs. each of the other two.

Good luck with your sideboard planning!

September 26, 2018 11:54 p.m.

Boza says... #4

Actually, I think that Magic has a sideboard problem, but in the opposite direction - too many cards in the sideboard. 15 cards means you have something for pretty much 90% of matchups. Who cares if Modern has 20 unique top level decks if 8 of them are graveyard-based and you can sideboard 3 cards that ruin their day?

Addionally, sideboards have almost 0 opportunity cost. You are not giving up anything in your deck by having some cards in the sideboard over others, in fact you are helping your deck by including powerful silver bullets not in your main deck.

Finally, given how wildly different post-sideboard and pre-sideboard games usually are, I would say that making the sideboard a real decision is something that should happen, forcing players to actually choose what goes in there.

A question - do you play with sideboards in Commander? Likely you do not, as per the official rules. Do you really miss them?

My suggestion is to make the sideboard 8 cards, down from 15.

TLDR; Sideboarding makes games less interesting.

September 27, 2018 3:30 a.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #5

I thought Commander allowed a sideboard of 10 cards?

September 27, 2018 3:47 a.m.

Boza says... #6

Official rules do not allow sideboards - it is up to the playgroup.

September 27, 2018 3:55 a.m.

DragonKing90 says... #7

TypicalTimmy: i am not a new player. i've been playing for 13 years. decks do not become more "fluid" by lowering consistency. it doesnt matter what deck i'm using. its not the type of deck that creates or solves this problem.

September 27, 2018 9:32 a.m.

DragonKing90 says... #8

Boza: you are absolutely giving up something by having certain cards in your sideboard over others, because sideboards don't have space to prepare for every single matchup. and i can't take your "sideboards make games less interesting" statement seriously

September 27, 2018 9:35 a.m.

Boza says... #9

It is a serious statement with multiple examples - many games, chiefly online games such as Hearthstone, Eternal and others, heck including MTG Arena in its most played constructed format, have dumped sideboards as a concept. MTG and YGO are actually the oddballs that still use sideboards. This is a part of Magic that has not budged in 20 years and is subject to scrutiny just like every other part of Magic!

Lets examine your statement that sideboards do not have enough space - will there ever be enough sideboard space to incorporate every matchup that could possibly happen? No, not really. The absolute perfect sideboard is 4 copies of every card in the format and the ability to side in up to 60 cards at a time. Anything less and you do not have a perfect sideboard, but that is not feasible. On this scale, the difference between 15 and 8 card sideboards is miniscule.

Formats like modern are really driven by sideboards - in a 3 game match, you play more sideboard games than preboard, making you focus on sideboard building very much. The matchup percentages differences preboard and postboard are severely reduced post-board, but only if you draw those key cards - thus, the focus on those cards is increased, especially in more disadvanteged matchups.

The concept of sideboards is so ubiquitous that it has bled into card design as well - Crushing Canopy is a card in GRN that you would never realistically include in your main deck, but is a great sideboard card. Should such "silver bullet" cards be a part of the game? Absolutely, the "there is a solution to everything" concept is key to MTG.

Should the impact of sideboards be reduced? Absolutely - I think the 75 card concept is outdated and needs to be changed and/or abolished. But the first steps of reducing SB sizes should come first and test it out.

Final thought is an experiment. You go to a Standard tournament at which everybody has to wear name tag that mentions what deck they are playing and both players have 5 minutes to sideboard prior to the first game beginning. Would you do participate in such a tournament and why?

September 27, 2018 10:36 a.m.

DragonKing90 says... #10

Boza: i do not take your "sideboards makes games less interesting" statement seriously because i believe it to be blatantly untrue. funny enough, it is for reasons that you yourself have stated. sideboards have been factored into card designs, and the idea that there is a solution to everything is crucial. furthermore, your statement "the difference between 8 and 15 is miniscule" because "no sideboard can be perfect since you can't make an infinitely large sideboard" is ludicrous because not only are you comparing apples to oranges, but i can say with absolute certainty you don't even believe your own statement. would you ever go to modern fnm with an 8 card sideboard? absolutely not. because you know those other 7 slots aren't "miniscule". and finally, as for your question about the experiment, i can tell that you asked it thinking my answer would be "no", thinking it "proves" your point. well it backfired, because I actually think that sounds fun. especially for homebrewers like me who would use decks that people might not be prepared for even with a sideboard. of course this is easier in my preferred format of modern.

September 27, 2018 10:54 a.m.

DragonKing90 says... #11

Boza: oh and btw the issue was never "sideboards don't have enough space to prepare for every possible matchup". that was a gross misinterpretation of what i said. my issue is that the sideboard size is not a multiple of 4, thus forcing players to run less than a full playset of at least 1 card, which lowers the consistency of a deck. obviously 4 of "card A" is more consistent than 3 of card A and 1 of card B.

September 27, 2018 10:57 a.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #12

Well, Boza to answer your thought experiment - while I do not normally play Standard yes I would absolutely love that sort of pre-fixing.

Why? Because the thing about Magic, and any card game really, is that it is both a combination of Chess and Poker.

You need to know how to implement strategy, look several turns ahead, and plan a method to win. But since we are dealing with cards, you need to know how to successfully bluff, how to deal with the mathematics of your cards, and how to try and manipulate circumstances the best you can (Such as through scry, or using your graveyard as a "second library").

What sets Magic apart from pretty much all other games is that in here, nearly nothing is off limits. If a card can do it, great. Sometimes a card doesn't even say things can be done, but through a careful understanding of certain rules and interactions many things can be done regardless. Point and case: The Gitrog Monster's land combo in EDH. Gitrog Dredge Combo [Primer].

Personally, I like the 15 SB. It's 1/4th of your constructed deck, which if you consider roughly 1/3rd are lands than this means it's more akin to nearly 1/2 of your actual cards.

Actual percentages vary, but if you run 24 lands in a 60 card deck, you have:

  • 40% lands at 24 cards
  • 60% non-land cards at 36
  • Sideboard of 15 cards can replace 41.6% of your "deck"

You are essentially playing with a different deck every single game, which is why sideboard matches feel so dramatically different.

Now, obviously you are not going to slip in all 15 cards - but here's the thing... you might need to.

Say you are playing against a deck that is heavy on enchantments. So you slip in enchantment removal in the 2nd game. Your opponent might slip in artifacts in the 3rd game instead. It's a crude example, but I'm tired and can't think of any actual ones.

This back-and-fourth tug-of-war game is something that should be cherished in MTG. This is where true skill comes into play.

Just because you have a "silver bullet" doesn't mean you can win. If you don't know how or when to use it, it means nothing to you.

For example, when I was playing my last EDH match, my opponent had a Garruk, Primal Hunter sitting at 6. I had a Lavalanche sitting in my hand and enough mana for 18.

He had far, far more creatures than I did. But I waited.

I could target Garruk, sure. Wipe the board and take out a threat. But he survives. I could also target him, wipe the board, but Garruk survives. I could also target him, wipe the board, and attack Garruk.

Or, I could do what I did. Wait.

Garruk's ult hit, he got something like 12 6/6 Wurms, and didn't attack. I knew he was going to full-swing. He didn't have enough to kill me in one shot before, so swinging now would make no difference. His game was to overrun me with so many creatures that declaring blockers would be next to pointless.

So, with Garruk off the board and it now filled with 6/6 Wurms, I hit Lavalanche for X = 15 (Having to pay the Jund cost) and not only nuked him, but slammed him in the face with 15, THEN attacked him directly full-force and won.

A "silver bullet" is generally only as good as it's opportunity. You miss it, you screw yourself over.

I could see sideboards being reduced, making each card more important. Right now it feels like it's more akin to saying "Oh, this card didn't help me. Let me pull something out of my binder instead."

I think a SB of 12 would be best. 8 feels a little too shallow, and 12 works with the mathematics of a 60 card deck fairly well.


As for lowering consistency to make it more fluid, this depends on the mana curve / mana cost.

If you are wanting to say, run 4x Karn Liberated at and hope you can T3 it, well... what are the actual chances of hitting all three lands on T3 with Karn in hand? Actually, not very well. I've seen decks burn out because they can't "get their opening hand".

So if you keep drawing into an -drop time and time again without the mana to play it, you are only hurting yourself.

Going down to 3 or 2 is better than always having something in your hand you can't use.

Cards you are not playing are dead cards.

Balancing cards means balancing costs. Maybe if you run a deck of nothing but 1 - 3 CMC cards, fine. But don't run something like a playset of Zacama, Primal Calamity if you aren't built to cheat him out with something like Champion of Rhonas.

September 27, 2018 11:12 a.m.

Boza says... #13

DragonKing90 - Funny you should mention that - last week, I went to Modern FNM in my LGS with a Mardu Pyromancer deck with no sideboard or any Liliana's in the main or even a single Blood Crypt and came in third with 3-1 score. I will try again this week to see what happens.

I do believe and stand by my statement - I think that decks should have more focus on their mainboards. Would you go to a Modern FNM where everyone has to have 8 card sideboards?

In modern, single-minded focused strategies are powerful - Hollowed One, Infect, Storm, Dredge, Affinity - but are able to be stopped by a single silver bullet - Solemnity or Leyline of Sanctity or Leyline of the Void or Shattering Spree. This makes pre-board and post-board games feel wildly different. Heck, it makes post-board games where you draw your answers wildly different from post-board games where you do not.

I do not think this should be a thing as it puts so much weight and expectations on the sideboard.

I am glad you liked the idea of sideboarding before the game. It was not a loaded question, but a genuine exploration of how to make the game actively better. I am of the opinion that any part of the game is up for debate and especially those that have stayed the same since forever.

September 27, 2018 11:15 a.m.

DragonKing90 says... #14

Boza: again, you are asking questions assuming you know my answer, and again you are incorrect in your assumption. you can "claim" you stand by your statement, but we both know you do not. there is absolutely no possible way any player could think cutting a sideboard in half is "miniscule". your one-time experience against bad players doesn't change this fact. and lets face it, thats what they were if you could go 3-1 with a sub-par mana base and no lili's. assuming of course you didn't just make up the story.

September 27, 2018 11:22 a.m.

DragonKing90 says... #15

TypicalTimmy: tron can assemble its lands T3 pretty consistently, so its really only a matter of getting the karn. Ancient Stirrings helps here. its not really about the mana cost of a card so long as that cost can be reached consistently.

September 27, 2018 11:30 a.m.

Boza says... #16

DragonKing90 - one piece of advice - please do not claim I assume to know your answer and in the very next sentence, state the exact opposite of that - "you can "claim" you stand by your statement, but we both know you do not."

I think I have raised an interesting topic, but this is not the place, or perhaps the time for this discussion. I will refrain from diluting the main topic any more and any further comments on the subject of reducing or eliminating sideboards.

September 27, 2018 11:40 a.m.

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