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Side Dishes

    In one of my previous articles I lightly went over the concepts of
sideboarding.  I would like to take some of your time today to go into a
little more detail.  I think players put a ton of thought into the main part
of the deck, but not enough into their sideboards.

    The first thing to remember is that your matches are played two out of
three games.  If you and your opponent are evenly matched you will more than
like be going the distance in your match.  It is best to plan on each of you
having sideboard cards in for two of your three games.  This means that the
core of the deck that you have put a ton of time and work into will be
affected for two games each match.  Granted some of your matches will be in
or out of your favor and be over in two straight, but we are planning on
tough player scenario. 

    What cards are best to sideboard? That's a good question to ask yourself.
I usually try to sideboard cards that work with the theme of the deck.  If
you are playing a beatdown deck try to sideboard cards that help force the
issue of forcing damage through.  You don't want to sideboard cards that help
control a match when you are trying to beat down.  You also don't want to
side in cards that help with spot removal or early game advantage when you
are playing a control style deck.  Lots of people just don't take the time to
figure this in.

    For instance, take Flashfires versus Earthquake.  Flashfires and
Earthquake both have the ability to swing a game into your favor.  As far as
mana cost goes, you will more than likely cast Earthquake for three or four
damage.  This will make the casting cost of each card comparable.  You can
use the Earthquake as a finisher.  You don't have to worry about Flashfires
hurting you.  So far so good.  The tough part is deciding which of these is
better for your deck. 

    Since we are discussing red decks, let us let at two of the more popular
red decks.  A Ponza style deck is about destroying land.  It is also more of
a controllish style deck for red players.  This also already has a lot of
ways to deal with creatures.  This style of deck would benefit more from
Flashfires.  Most of you know about Sligh.  Sligh is about going for the
throat and taking down your opponent as fast as possible.  Sligh likes to get
out to the early start.  Sometimes Sligh decks can have trouble putting a
game way, so they can use a finisher.  Also, being able to get rid of a lot
of creatures (even at the expense of losing your own) puts Sligh decks in a
good position to get the quick jump again.  As you can see, this deck would
more likely benefit from Earthquake.  One thing to consider is the whether
the deck you are playing is creature based or not.  This has become important
since Invasion block.  With creatures like the battlemages, you can afford to
have a few more creatures but also get the ability you desire from one of
their kickers.

    Well, there you go.  That's it.  I'm just kidding.  There is still
another important thing to consider.  You have to take into account what
decks you plan to be facing.  There are three ways to find out.  The first,
and most obvious if you are reading this, is to read tournament reports
online.  Read them no matter how bad they are. Learn what cards people like
in different regions.  Players seem to forget that certain cards, main deck
and sideboard, are influenced by different decks and card choices from region
to region.  The second is to talk to people that play in the area that you
plan to play in.  Someone local to the tournament scene there may have a
little extra insight.  However, this is not always reliable, because in some
places the decks or cards change week to week depending on the local
competition.  The last is to scout a few tournaments in the area you plan to
play to get a feel for decks and play styles of different players. 

    After you get all of this metagame selection figured out, you can decide
what last few cards to sideboard in.  At this point it is not about your deck
so much as the competition at that point.  You may not wish to sideboard
Flashfires if the only decks with white in them are going to be Counter-Rebel
decks since most will have about eight non-basic land AND Islands other than
their small number of plains.  However, if there is several monowhite or
blue/white control decks, you can sideboard Flashfires with expectations of
higher results.

    Well, we are getting near the three week countdown to Regionals.  I hope
this help all of you prepare for the big day.  Sideboarding is never easy. 
Some days even when you have the metagame figured out, you just don't face
certain decks and end up with dead cards in the sideboard.  That's just a
chance you will have to take though.  Don't worry, many times its worth

    Enjoy, and meet you back here this same time next week.

    Oh, yeah, don't forget about Pojo's Unofficial ALL MAGIC Magazine coming
out in May!!!  Ask your store about carrying it.

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn