Deep Analysis – Transitional Sideboard


During PT Kaladesh, I saw a technique that I feel is necessary for you to learn, Transitional Sideboarding

This technique requires much forethought, both in the construction of your deck and sideboard and in your approach to each match.  The idea is a tactic that is steeped in both business and warfare, the art of deception:


The idea of a Transitional Sideboard goes back a long way in Magic history.

Past examples of success

Tooth and Nail - Terry Soh 2005 Invitational

Main Deck Sideboard
2 Duplicant
4 Eternal Witness
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Sundering Titan

3 Mindslaver
3 Oblivion Stone
4 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Kodama's Reach
1 Plow Under
3 Reap and Sow
4 Sylvan Scrying
3 Tooth and Nail

10 Forest
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
3 Plow Under
2 Iwamori of the Open Fist
2 Molder Slug
2 Razormane Masticore
4 Troll Ascetic
2 Vine Trellis

Terry Soh used this deck to win the 2005 Invitational in part due to this deck.  The deck was a ramp strategy that used Tooth and Nail to put Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Sundering Titan into play to blow up a ton of their opponent’s lands leaving them powerless to respond.

Normally when you sideboard, you bring out the ineffective cards and bring in cards to fight your opponent’s strategy and your opponent does the same….except you do something entirely different.

Terry Soh took out his combo pieces and sided in more creatures (Iwamori of the Open FistMolder SlugRazormane MasticoreTroll Ascetic,  Vine Trellis) and then brings in some more disruption (Plow Under) with those creatures to lock his opponent out of the game.

Let’s take a look at a more recent use of this technique:

Jeskai Ascendancy Combo - Lee Shi Tian

Main Deck Sideboard
3 Kiora's Follower
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Commune with the Gods
3 Tormenting Voice
2 Twinflame
4 Retraction Helix
3 Dig Through Time

2 Briber's Purse
4 Dragon Mantle
4 Jeskai Ascendancy
1 Nissa, Worldwaker

4 Mana Confluence
2 Frontier Bivouac
2 Temple of Abandon
2 Temple of Mystery
2 Temple of Plenty
2 Yavimaya Coast
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Flooded Strand
1 Mountain
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Plains
4 Savage Knuckleblade
2 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Arc Lightning
3 Lightning Strike
3 Swan Song

Lee Shi Tian’s took this deck to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.  The Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck was quite good but it had a problem against control.  His sideboard plan was to side out the combo and side in the more aggressive creatures, like Savage Knuckleblade.

Bant Aetherworks - Yuuya Watanabe - Pro Tour Kaladesh - 7-2-1 Record

Main Deck Sideboard
3 Tamiyo, Field Researcher

4 Servant of the Conduit
4 Spell Queller
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
3 Emrakul, the Promised End

4 Attune with Aether
3 Descend upon the Sinful
2 Anticipate
4 Glassblower's Puzzleknot
4 Woodweaver's Puzzleknot
4 Aetherworks Marvel

4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
4 Evolving Wilds
6 Forest
1 Island
2 Plains
2 Prairie Stream
4 Longtusk Cub
3 Tireless Tracker
3 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Dispel
2 Aether Meltdown
1 Negate
1 Consulate Surveillance

Yuuya Watanabe brought this deck to Pro Tour Kaladesh.  It is an Aetherworks Marvel Energy deck trying to cheat Ulamog or Emarkal into play.  Yuuya also had a back up plan of siding in several aggressive creatures (Longtusk Cub and Tireless Tracker) to switch to a beatdown plan against control decks.

Why would you use this strategy?

The first reason you would do something like this is surprise.

The second reason is to fight off hate cards.

The third reason is to fix really bad matchups.

Let’s say you are playing a combo deck with few to no creatures and your are playing in a control heavy field. Each of your opponents believe that since you are a combo deck, you will bring in disruption to help you combo off.  They side out their removal in anticipation of this but you sideboard out your combo cards and side in a bunch of creatures.

How would you implement this strategy?

I would recommend you testing your main deck first and finding out if it has major holes against certain strategies (like say your combo deck has trouble against control decks).  Once you have identified that there is a major problem for you on one front, then you need to design part of your sideboard to switch strategies.

Derek Lansche

By Steve Argyle

By Steve Argyle

4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Stormchaser Mage
4 Young Pyromancer

4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Serum Visions
1 Past in Flames
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Thought Scour

4 Mutagenic Growth
2 Temur Battle Rage
2 Become Immense
1 Dead / Gone

2 Steam Vents
1 Breeding Pool
1 Mountain
2 Island
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Shivan Reef

The theoretical list above is a deck based around cheap, powerful creatures and quick ways to finish the game.  It is very similar to what you would see with Death’s Shadow Aggro or Infect.  As you can tell from the list, the deck is very creature light and many of the cards require a creature to be playable.  Most opponent’s will side in creature removal to deal with the problem.  But what happens when you side out this:trollface

4 Mutagenic Growth
2 Temur Battle Rage
2 Become Immense
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Stormchaser Mage
4 Young Pyromancer

…for this?

4 Pyretic Ritual
4 Desperate Ritual
2 Grapeshot
1 Past in Flames
4 Pyromancer Ascension

My guess is you will have a very salty opponent.

He’s just sided in a bunch of cards that are now dead draws against your deck that is now a Storm deck rather than a Prowess deck.

When to use this tactic

This type of tactic works for a short period of time against your local play group.  After a while, they will get wise to your tactics and just leave in the cards they would normally side out against you.

Where this tactic excels is at larger events, such as PPTQ, RPTQ, Grand Prix, or SCG events.  Decklists aren’t made public until after the cut rounds.  Even then, your opponent still has to play a guessing game.

Enjoy this technique in the art of deception.

Until next week,



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