An Introduction to Sideboarding: Part II

Two weeks ago I delivered unto you, loyal 9moons reader, the first part of my primer on the subject of sideboards. If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so. Gotta get them views somehow!

Today, I’d like to follow up on that post. After all, I claimed the last one was “Part I.” It only makes sense.

Have a Game Plan

One of the best ways that you can prepare yourself–both before the event actually starts and in between rounds–is to have a plan. What do I mean by “plan?”

If you’ve never played in an event before, I encourage you to do the following:

  • Figure out which 5 or so matches you expect to face.
  • Create a makeshift sideboard based on the wise teachings from my past article.
  • List what cards from your maindeck you think are bad in each matchup. You can be somewhat aggressive with this assessment.
  • List which cards you would like to play from your sideboard in each. Don’t focus matching card-for-card with your previous list just yet.

In a perfect world, for every matchup you expected, you’d want to see that you’ve planned to board out and board in the exact same number of cards. That likely won’t be the case in practice. At this point, you may  need to reassess your sideboard.

Are there cards that your’re not really boarding in at all? Is this because they they’re not as important as you thought, or because the deck they’re intended for isn’t showing up in the top 5 factions? If so, is that a concession you’re willing to make based on the power of that card in that particular matchup?

Are you lopsided? Do you find some matches you want to take out a lot but have little to add, while also having matches were you don’t want to take out much but have a ton you want to include? You may be overboarding for a particular deck to the detriment of another. If this is the case, you might want to rework your board to better accommodate the matchups you expect.

Does your curve still look good? A common issue is boarding in solid cards for weak ones but ending up with a deck that is weaker overall due to an awkward (or non-existent) curve. Are there other options at different costs that you could be considering to mitigate this issue?

There’s no magic panacea to sideboarding woes. The best advice I gave give at this point is practice and see how things pan out and learn from your experience. The one solid piece of advice I can give at this point, especially for newer players, is this: Literally write down what is coming in and out in each particular matchup before you enter the tournament.

This guide suggestion isn’t a hard and fast requirement. I don’t do this for example, but I know several long term, high profile, solid players that literally make themselves a sideboarding guide prior to every tournament. Often, these players even bring their guide to reference during the event itself. Having a guide prior going into the tournament will give you confidence on how to perform, and provide insight that you were able to think about in depth as opposed to on the fly.

One caveat: Don’t become married to anything you whip up before hand. You may need to make on-the-fly alterations, and religiously adhering to “your plan” may end up doing more harm than good.

The Ol’ Bait and Switch

Before I move on to the card-specific section of the article, I’d like to touch on one aspect of sideboarding that I haven’t really delved into just that: “the man plan.” The name doesn’t really apply to Duelyst, but I’m keeping it due to its historical context. So what is, “the man plan?”

In Magic: the Gathering (the birthplace of sideboards), occasionally a combo or control deck would pop up that relied very little or not at all on creatures. If you were playing against this deck, how would you sideboard? If you answered, “Uh, duh! I’d take out all of my creature removal for cards that aren’t straight up dead,” then you may be falling right into your opponent’s trap! The man plan, as you may have guess by now, entails these previously creatureless decks boarding in multiple creatures for post board games to catch their now-removal-light opponents off guard.

“Oh, you boarded out all of your kill spells? How are you going to deal with this powerful albeit fragile threat I have now?”

While not exactly applicable for Duelyst’s purposes, I’m going to use the term “man plan” to refer to any drastic, post-board, surprise shift in game plan. A found a couple of great examples from this past week’s melee to illustrate this point!

The first is from Demmiremmi’s 5-8 place Aggro Argeon.

Game 1 plays out like a regular old aggro Argeon deck–he beast you to death with overpowered, undercosted, tempo-focused minions. After that, his savvy opponent presumably picks up on the lack of high cost threats and boards to compensate. Perhaps he brinsg in a bunch of life gain to counteract the aggressive nature of the game 1 list.

Then BAM! Post-board, Demmiremmi transforms into a deck with an entirely new game plan, hopefully one the opponent hasn’t prepared for. Dioltas, Ironcliffe Guardians and, most importantly, Divine Bond all now make an appearance, threatening lethal on an entirely different axis than previous anticipated by the opponent.

Gil4’s board is another exciting example.

With opponents preoccupied with dealing with Mechaz0r!, in comes a whole ‘nother problem they’ll need to deal with: Jax Truesight plus Razorback. Presumably, the opponent didn’t bring in lots of sweepers, instead focusing on how to beat the perceived main 8/8 threat. Heck! With any luck, Gil4’s opponents actually removed cards that could have proved problematic since something like Blistering Skorn isn’t all that great against Mecha0r! and his harbingers.

Awesome Neutral Sideboard Options

In this section, I’d like to talk a little about some neutral sideboard options that you might want to consider for your upcoming event. Note that this list isn’t a definitive one that will last throughout the ages. Like all things Duelyst related, its relevancy will fade out as time goes on, new cards are introduced, and the meta changes. 

I’ll be referencing several times the results of the most recent Tuesday Melee event run by 9moons. You can find the decklists here.



Crossbones is a card I highlighted in my last article as one that is ideal for a sideboard. It’s horrible in most matchups, but really shines a few specific ones. In particular, it’s adept at both neutering Mechaz0r! decks and those helmed by Reva. In the former, it kills their titular threat outright, not to mention random Cannon of Mechaz0rs that might also prove irksome. In the latter, you can snipe the inevitable Heartseeker or potential Ki Beholder. It feels even more satisfying if they’ve loaded it up with a Killing Edge or other pump spell.

If I was going into a tournament, I’d always want at least one Crossbones, if only because of how thoroughly it trumps two specific matches that I wouldn’t be surprised to see. I’ll note here that last week’s melee winner, SonofMatuka, ran a full playset of Mr. Bones in his board.

Rust Crawler


Another card whose value varies from “nigh unplayable” to “downright disgusting blowout potential” is Rust Crawler. If your opponent isn’t running artifacts, a random 2/3 for 2 is pretty mediocre. If you’re picking off Arclyte Regalias or Grimoires though, he’s invaluable. He’s particularly good in archetypes that otherwise have a card time removing artifacts, like Magmar. This past week’s third place finisher, TM87, packed a couple in his board.

Lightbender / Ephemeral Shroud

Lightbender, and to a lesser extent Shroud, are two great options for sideboards because they tend to be nice catch-all answers for decks that are trying to do ridiculous things that you might not otherwise have answers for. There are also several archetypes that lean heavily on minions whose effectiveness is largely dependent on their abilities rather than their stats. Songhai, for example, can run a bevy of such threats–Chakri Avatar, Lantern Fox, Battle Panddo, Katara, etc. Having additional copies of dispel can mean you can use your effects more liberally throughout post-board matches.

I, personally, prefer Lightbender over the 2-drop option. If you’re bringing it in, you’re likely expecting a high amount of dispel target; the 3/3 can tag multiple threats unlike the measly 1/1. That said, you might want to err on the side of Shroud if your curb demands or so as not to accidentally hobble yourself if you’re running a lot of dispel-weak threats. Vaath, Cassyva, Zir’an and Zirix are all generals that  might be better off sticking to the pinpoint precision of Shroud.

Take note: Literally ever single player in the top 4 of this past week’s melee played at least one of these cards in their board.


Night Watcher didn’t show up in too many boards this past week–only one of the top 8 players it seemed ran him. Still, he’s Crossbones-tier sideboard playable. Against most folks, he’ll often just be “ok.” Against some decks though, he’ll be a complete blowout if your opponent can’t deal with him which, considering his forcefield, may prove difficult. Vetruvian in particular gets hosed real hard by Nigthwatcher, as does any deck that overly leans on rush minions **cough** Makantor **cough** Elucidator.

Blistering Skorn

Blistering Skron showed up in a few high-placing sideboards this past week. It clearly acts as an anti-swarm card, killing 1/1 wraithlings with a vengeance, but can also potentially serve a couple other purposes though. If your opponent is playing Magmar, for example, Skorn (1) kills eggs, (2) removes forcefield Sunsteel Defender, and (3) doesn’t die to Plasma Storm, making it a potential solid post-board inclusion. It also can help chip away at artifacts if you’re otherwise lacking in that department maindeck.

What type of creature is Skorn by the way? A lizard? KeithPls I’m very curious.

Zen-rui the Blightspawned

Zen’rui was a card that I had not considered for my board when I played in the Melee a couple of weeks ago. Mulling over it though, it’s clear it has a really high upside in specific matchups. Stealing a Kelaino or Lantern Fox or Sojourner is backbreaking, so if you’re expecting these cards to be played, maybe the 6-drop is a great contender for a sideboard slot or two. It’s largely disappeared from the ladder due to its increased cost, but if you know you’ve got a lot of juicy targets in your matchup, then it might prove super powerful yet again.

Wrap up & Faction Specific Options

I’m again getting a little wordy, so I’m going to wrap things up.

Before I do, I’ll note something I noticed with regard to the faction-specific spells that I saw in folks’ boards from this past week. Namely, the vast majority of these spells were AOE focused: Necrotic Sphere, Breath of the Unborn, Circle of Dessication, Frostburn, Plasma Storm, Tempest. These were, by and large, the vast majority of faction-specific cards that folks were running. There aren’t that many truly solid neutral options for AOE, which makes sense considering neutral minions are all creatures. 

That’s it for today! Thanks for reading, and feel free to chime in with comments or thoughts.