What’s good, Spirit Squad!

Today we’re going to be talking about sideboarding, specifically the concept of sideboard guides. For anyone who has not used one before, a sideboard guide is a written-out, pre-planned strategy for sideboarding with your deck against most (if not all) of the other decks that exist in the format you’re playing. One of the biggest questions that people generally have when building or playing a deck that’s new to them is whether a content creator out there has a sideboard guide available for their use.

The reason for this is important: almost 2/3’s of the tournament Magic you will ever play will consist of post-sideboard games!

Sideboard guides do a few different things for Magic players:

First, it’s always great to have a detailed plan when you go into any tournament. This is definitely no less true for Magic than it is for any other game that’s played competitively… if anything, it might be more true for Magic players than almost anybody else. Most games operate under a set of variables that, given enough time, you can memorize. Chess only has so many pieces, fighting games only have so many characters, and even other popular card games like Hearthstone only have 9 classes that players can choose from. Magic, on the other hand, has very little restriction on the options a player has, aside from the subset of cards legal to a particular format.

Secondly, when you obtain a sideboard guide you generally get it from a known expert in the deck. As we all know, Magic is a game of knowledge. Pro players, deck experts, and content creators generally spend a ton of time playing and interacting with Magic. This makes things like a sideboard or strategy guide the perfect way for us to take advantage of all of that time they’ve invested and expertise they’ve honed. This also extends to resources such as deck primers and techs, gameplay videos with commentary, and even directly asking them questions about decks or ideas.

And the last, potentially biggest benefit that you would get from using somebody’s sideboard guide would be the time saved. When you try to get good with anything, and especially a game as complex as Magic: the Gathering, you have to spend a lot of time and effort getting to the point where you can be considered an expert yourself. When you consider all of the time and energy you’re spending on even a few matches—a half-hour to an hour each—and how many matches you actually need to play to get good with a deck, this adds up to a lot of time being spent! By using the sideboard guide someone else has generated, you’re taking advantage of all of their time and effort so that you’re not spending hours, weeks, or even months honing your craft. Instead they’ve honed it for you and a large part of your work is now expunged.

This doesn’t mean sideboard guides are the perfect resource!

Sideboard guides are incredibly useful, but they are by no means a complete resource. What I mean by that is you generally get a sideboard guide that contains options for what you want to take out and put in for any given matchup. This is great knowledge to have, but it doesn’t tell you why you’re making each of these changes. When you simply make subs following a sideboard guide and don’t use other resources, you’re just getting a copy-pasted list without actually understanding the theory behind what you’re doing. Not understanding why you’re sideboarding in (or out) certain cards will lead to you having a less than perfect understanding of your role in the matchup. As we discussed in our recap of the “Who’s the Beatdown” article, understanding your role in a matchup is key to winning games of Magic.

The second big thing to take notice of is the fact that sideboard guides by themselves don’t actually provide any help for playing your games of Magic. When you’re actually playing games of Magic it is incredibly important to make sure that you have the right cards in your deck for the matchup you’re playing. And this is where sideboard guides are fantastic. However, a sideboard guide by itself doesn’t tell you when or how to play your cards, and it doesn’t tell you what the optimal scenario is for when you’re doing things. This is where more detailed help comes into play: things like watching gameplay videos, listening to commentary, reading articles (you’re doing great, by the way!), or directly obtaining coaching services. These are going to be the resources that help take a sideboard guide and turn an incomplete resource into a great piece of help!

So… what’s the verdict? Should I use a sideboard guide?

Absolutely, yes! When you use a sideboard guide along with additional resources, you command the tools that help make sure you’re bringing the best version of your deck to every single game of Magic you play. That’s huge! I still use sideboard guides to this day when playing anything, even the Spirits decks I’m known for. The best thing about sideboard guides is that, once you have the knowledge and expertise to feel comfortable doing so, you can confidently make changes to your sideboarding and strategy. This will let you be fluid in both your gameplay and deckbuilding, and having practice in figuring out the “why” of sideboard changes will give you tons of valuable contextual knowledge when playing.

So, there’s my input on the value of sideboard guides, and the effect that using these resources can have on your games of Magic. Make sure to pick up your favorite sideboard cards right at FusionGamingOnline.com, and I’ll see y’all on the next one!

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