Just going to write a brief reflection on my sideboarding. This is partly for my own good, in order to make me think about what I am doing and partly because I think it is an interesting topic. Sideboarding between games is an area in which I really struggle. Firstly, I do not currently use a transformational sideboard, so my sideboard is just adjusting my deck towards cards which are useful against a particular opponent. Here is my sideboard from a few weeks ago with my Zombies list
3 x Ratchet Bomb
1 x Hellrider
2 x Manabarbs
2 x Manic Vandal
2 x Nihil Spellbomb
1 x Witchbane Orb
And now I hope to explain why cards are there.
3 x Ratchet Bomb – This is in the sideboard of all of my decks for FNM at the moment. It is fantastic against token strategies as you can surprise them the Converted Mana Cost = 0. The other reason is because in Black there is no way to deal with Hexproof (Except Black Sun’s Zenith) in my deck, so it is always good to side into this against Geist of Saint Traft and also for Oblivion Ring. It is probably the most sideboarded card in the deck and often comes in to replace spot removal, if against token strategies where the opponent gets to 2 for 1 against removal (or 4 for one against Lingering Souls). It is such a versatile card that this week I ran 2 main deck. Another good thing is that often opponents sideboard in artifact hate for it, which means that they can end up with dead cards if I sideboard them out again.
1 x Black Sun’s Zenith – This was to compliment 2 which were already in the deck. Great against little dudes, especially if I am using my life total as a resource and allowing them to overextend a little. All round good card, comes in against Tokens and Geist of Saint Traft, out against creatureless decks and control.
1 x Hellrider – This is a difficult card to play due to its mana cost having 2 red. However, haste is fantastic at all points of the game and this dude is awesome late on with a stalled board, which is something that Zombies does not like. He is also great against strategies like turbo fog which has started cropping up in Lancaster. Has proved useful against multiple planeswalkers including Gideon Jura, because you can redirect the damage to the other planeswalkers. Not sided in often, but has a lot of uses and usually replaces a Phyrexian Obliterator so as not to affect the curve too much.
2 x Manabarbs – This has been an all-star out of the sideboard for me. Nobody expects it, nobody packs enchantment hate and it just seems to work really well in this shell. Zombies fairly regularly takes 8-10 damage off an opponent pretty quickly. If this is dropped Turn 4 into an emptyish board such as that you come across when playing control or Wolf-Run it is just incredible. Want to play Karn Liberated? Sure, just pay 7 life. Want to mill me with Nephalia Drownyard? That’ll be 3 of your life please. I got abused for using this card, then one of the people who was so rude about the card watched me close out a game with it. The thing about Zombies is that it nearly always has a better board presence so by the times manabarbs comes down, you have usually pretty much won anyway.
1 x Phyrexian Obliterator – Against people without fliers/removal this guy is insane, so if I can’t see a deck having an answer for him then I side him in. Totally unfair card and people hate playing against it. Usually sided in against Zombies (if they aren’t running clones) and humans mainly. I have a few maindeck, which get cut quite a lot if my opponents have fliers or if they are playing control/lots of removal. The great thing about Zombies is how resiliant it is to removal, so if you add a big, non-resiliant target like this he will die a lot. Side him out when my opponents are playing clone cards such as Phyrexian Metamorph or Phantasmal Image.
2 x Manic Vandal – Anti Birthing Pod, Swords and Runechanters Pike. I have no other removal for artifacts so this guy comes in if a deck runs a lot of them. Quite good against Blade Splicers and the like. Was put into the sideboard after I got beaten by a Sword of Feast and Famine and it has been useful.
2 x Nihil Spellbomb – Used against Zombies and Reanimator decks for obvious reasons. Also good to respond to undying triggers (or an opponents surgical extraction on Gravecrawler in one instance, exiling my own graveyard). Also comes in against control in place of removal. One less dead card in the deck and also helps against Snapcaster Mage.
2 x Surgical Extraction – Same as Nihil Spellbomb in a lot of respects, except that it sometimes nets you a card from their hand. Had a game where by turn 3 I had exiled 2 cards from my opponents hand after he had cast them. Removing all the Mana Leak and all of the Think Twice from my opponents deck pretty much ruined him, especially after I stripped an additional one of each from his hand.
1 x Witchbane Orb – Another underestimated card, often gets ignored but has proved very good against me. Shuts down a lot of Zombies, as Geralf’s Messenger and Diregraf Captain stop being as good, as well as stopping Geth’s Verdict etc. Good against RDW of course and also excellent against Karn Liberated as they can’t +4 him.
Technique of Sideboarding
I am currently reading Next Level Magic which has partly inspired this article. Some of the recommendations in there I am going to aim to do whilst at FNM, including siding in 15 cards and out 15, so the opponent has no idea what you are doing. I am also aiming to take more care sideboarding between Game 2 and 3 (not that game 3 happens that often with this deck at the moment) and make sure to sideboard some cards in and out, just to keep the opponent on their toes. There is a lot this book has made me consider, including signalling and signs which I give out. Another interesting part of sideboarding, especially with the Zombies deck is that the deck has an undisruptable core. Basically, you cannot take out any of the Zombies. This makes sideboarding really difficult sometimes and it is nearly always just swapping one type of removal for another, or cutting the Phyrexian Obliterators. This makes me think about which cards are important to the deck and what I can cut sometimes. Cards like Culling Dais often come out, but I rarely want to remove creatures.
I have noticed myself using a few tactics at FNM, such as playing quickly (but still clearly) so that my opponent plays quickly. I have played with my deck a lot and by playing quickly, I have noticed my opponents also play quicker and possibly make a few more mistakes. Stopping the opponent at random points as if to respond has also worked well, even if you have nothing reactive in your hand, sometimes just getting an opponent to stop makes them think that you have something instant speed to respond with. I am trying to become better at not showing how good my hand is, especially after a Mulligan. Appearing strong when you are weak and weak when you are strong is an area which I am trying to do and I have started doing things such as keeping a card in my hand (especially if it’s a land I don’t need) in order to make opponents think I might have something and making sure I put my land into my hand, not just playing it straight away.
I hope this was interesting, it has not been proof read so there may be some mistakes. Any questions, feel free to contact me!