Building a Better Legacy Sideboard

by Andreas Petersen on 04 January 2019, Friday

Andreas Petersen

I remember like it was yesterday how I felt Legacy was great when I played my trusty four-color Leovold, Emissary of Trest deck powered by Deathrite Shaman and every matchup felt favored. I had long and intense matches against the mirror and Grixis Delver. And every week I tried to squeeze just a few more percentage points out of those matchups because the metagame was so predictable. I focused so much on this aspect and the matches themselves which I enjoyed so much that I totally forgot all the great cards that Deathrite Shaman made unplayable. Looking back I feel very bad about this. However, cooler minds would prevail and Wizards made a great decision to ban Deathrite Shaman. Fast forward to the end of 2018, we now have the following extremely healthy metagame. I'm here today to give some tips on how to maximize the value of your 15 sideboard slots in a world of many playable decks by sorting them in categories and finding great crossover use. Also I apologize in advance if your favorite deck is not in this list. If you want to include a write up on your favorite Legacy deck, I would be happy to read about it!

Sideboarding against control

Miracles; Grixis Control; Stoneblade

These decks have a few things in common that you can exploit when building a sideboard. They win very slowly and play a lot of non-creature spells. Creature removal is bad to mediocre against them and they handle enchantments and planeswalkers rather poorly. If you want to hedge your bets with relevant cards against other pillars of the format, your sideboard should contain Flusterstorm, Spell Pierce, Thoughtseize and Pyroblast. On the other hand permanents like Choke, Bitterblossomand Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are more likely to win you the game on their own against control decks.

Sideboarding against spell combo

Show and Tell; Storm

The versions of the Show and Tell and Storm decks can vary a lot, but I think the relevant sideboard cards are roughly the same against all versions. Sure, Ethersworn Canonist is good against Omniscience versions while Pithing Needle can name Sneak Attack, but I've grouped them together for simplicity. These spell combo decks are both resilient and explosive. This means you need to make a choice whether you want big haymakers or small adjustments that push the odds a bit in your favor. I like the cheap disruption spells from the control side against both these combo decks. Surgical Extraction is also great against Storm when combined with a fast clock, especially in conjunction with cheap discard spells. It makes their Ad Nauseam bad and forces them to be a Past in Flames deck. If you really want to beat Storm, the permanent-based hate cards like Sphere effects and Pyrostatic Pillar will be the most impactful. Both decks will struggle if you gun at them from two angles because they need to find specific answers and their combo to win the game. This could be counterspells and discard or counterspells and permanent hate. As an aside, in Blue decks I like to have two answers for Empty the Warrens, whether that's Toxic DelugeRough // Tumble or whatever other sweeper your deck runs.

Sideboarding against graveyard combo

Reanimator; Dredge 

Simply put, Reanimator and Dredge are two powerful Magic decks that will beat you if you only rely on discard spells and counterspells. You need hateful sideboard cards like Leyline of the VoidNihil Spellbomb or Surgical Extraction to even compete with these decks, so that's step one. Step two is to make sure you can upgrade other cards after game one. You will almost certainly have some stinkers in there. Thankfully, a lot of the above cheap disruption spells will improve your matchup against Reanimator and Dredge, and even Pyroblast is playable against Dredge to stop Careful Study and Breakthrough.

Sideboarding against land-based combo

Lands; Turbo Depths; Four-Color Loam

Four-Color Loam is different from the others because the Marit Lage plan is not their primary path to victory. That deck is hard to play against because they play like a normal midrange deck, but they potentially have Chalice of the Void on turn 1. And perhaps a 20/20 indestructible legendary flyer when you thought you stabilized against their Dark Confidant and Knight of the Reliquary. What these decks have in common is that Blood Moon can leave them in the dust if you time it right. In the last six months or so, I really loved to have two copies of Bitterblossom in my Grixis Control sideboard. Not only to have a great army-in-a-can against other control decks, but also to have free blockers for the Marit Lage token that can otherwise be so difficult to deal with without White removal. Some decks have Karakas; others have Vapor Snag or Ensnaring Bridge.

Sideboarding against Chalice of the Void decks

Mono-Red Prison; Eldrazi; Four-Color Loam

Since these are all Chalice decks, you need some number of artifact removal effects unless your deck functions perfectly without access to spells with a converted mana cost of 1. Flexible artifact removal spells include AbradeKolaghan's Command or Abrupt Decay. The first two of these decks often invest more resources than merely tapping lands and playing their threats. Examples are an exiled Simian Spirit Guide, life paid with Ancient Tomb or the sacrifice of a City of Traitors, so punishing them further with Wasteland and/or a fast clock is likely a winning strategy. Keep in mind that the Mono-Red deck plays both Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss, so removal spells like Lightning Bolt that you can cast under a Blood Moon are fine against them. Aside from Blood MoonBack to Basics will do the trick against Eldrazi and Loam.

Sideboarding against creature-based decks

Grixis Delver; Mono-White Death and Taxes; Elves

Against these creature-heavy decks, removal is where you wanna be. Thanks to the composition of Legacy, you can't afford to play a ton of these in your sideboard, but even a few sweepers will go a long way. Force of Will is often a liability against Delver and Mono-White, but it's fine against Elves because of Glimpse of Nature and Natural Order. I like Thoughtseize in small numbers against the latter two and artifact removal in large numbers against Mono-White. Your ability to play against Wasteland will determine a lot of the results against Delver and Mono-White. This could be either searching up basic lands, keeping uncracked fetches at the ready or fetching up duals to be able to cast your spells and try to fade Wasteland. Sideboard cards are no good when you can't cast them!

Thank you so much for reading and please add whatever I missed (plenty, I'm sure!) in the comments!

This article was written by Andreas Petersen in a media collaboration with

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