Last week, I went over my main-deck card choices for Modern Eldrazi Tron—today I’ll cover the sideboard, as well as how to use it. For reference, here's the list:
I'll break down each sideboard card individually, but first I’m going to answer Matt Zampogna’s question from the comments on last week's article. Why are there no Warping Wails in the 75?
It was the last cut. I initially had them in the main deck, but it was the first card to go when Walking Ballista was printed—it also can deal with a creature in the early game, but Ballista is way better later. Naturally, I moved them to the sideboard thinking I’d need the "counter target sorcery spell" ability.
After going over my matchups and a ton of games, I discovered that this line of text is way too narrow. Besides Bring to Light Scapeshift or a dedicated 4 Scapeshift deck, there was no matchup where it was impactful enough. The tiebreaker to run them would be if Storm and Living End really picked up in popularity. For now, I decided to run the Grafdigger’s Cage and the 3rd Spatial Contortion over 2 Warping Wail.
Speaking of Valakut, these are a backdoor, desperate plan against Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. If you’re playing against a red-green version, they likely play 4, and if they happen to draw it before casting Scapeshift, you can Ghost Quarter and Surgical all of them.
That matchup is quite bad, and I would not dedicate so many sideboard slots to a plan that's so situational. The Surgical Extractions are mainly there for the mirror. Alongside Ghost Quarter, they just happen to also come in against Valakut and the standard Tron deck.
I’m still not convinced it's the right plan for the mirror, as some of the games don't rely on your lands that much. Sometimes you just get run over by Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. But I can't think of anything else, so I’m sticking to this for now.
You have so many bad cards against Ad Nauseam that I end up sideboarding 2 Surgicals to perhaps disrupt their scrys, snag copies of Angel’s Grace after they play one to survive, or sometimes hit another copy of a card in their hand you've seen with Thought-Knot. It's situational and frankly horrible, but still better than Dismember.
The others matchups where I bring it in are fairly self-explanatory: Grixis, Dredge, Melira, Goryo’s Vengeance, Storm, and Lantern.
The poor man’s Lightning Bolt. You’ll bring this in whenever you want extra removal or early interaction.
Hate Bears, Burn, Merfolk, Affinity, Melira, Elves, and recently Storm. The new version relies so much on having Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer in play that it's worth bringing in the removal in my opinion.
It’s not unreasonable to bring it in against Bant Eldrazi—it doesn't kill much, but Eldrazi Displacer is one of their best cards against you.
Engineered Explosives is a much better card, except when you can only cast it for 0. You still want access to this kind of ability to deal with annoying permanents such as Daybreak Coronet, Spreading Seas, Cranial Plating, Ensnaring Bridge, Phyrexian Unlife, and Amulet of Vigor. Sometimes it's also just extra removal—against Death’s Shadow, for example.
Affinity, Death’s Shadow, Merfolk, Bogles, Lantern, Ad Nauseam, Infect, Amulet, Storm, Elves is the list. Burn as well if they are on the Wild Nacatl version.
A similar card to Ratchet Bomb in that it catches effects you have a hard time dealing with.
Instead of matchups, I’ll tell you what I usually name, and you can determine which matchups you'd want it in.
Drowner of Hope, Eldrazi Displacer, Fulminator Mage, Liliana of the Veil, Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Aether Vial, Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, Oblivion Stone, Karn Liberated, Nahiri, the Harbinger, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Ajani Vengeant, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Jura, Codex Shredder, Academy Ruins, Inventor’s Fair, Ghoulcaller’s Bell, Wooded Foothills, Sakura Tribe-Elder, Khalni Heart Expedition, Griselbrand, Tolaria West, Slayer’s Stronghold, and Engineered Explosives.
That's a ton, and you’re probably wondering why I don't play more Pithing Needles if this is the case. Well, this is actually not that many cards per deck, and if they don't draw what you name, you're down a card.
All Is Dust
This is a powerful card that I wish I played main deck sometimes, but there are far too many matchups where it doesn't do anything. I’m happy to bring it in against the following decks:
B/G/x, Merfolk, Bogles, Melira, and Elves.
It’s debatable against Death’s Shadow. I like Karn Liberated better and would rather not have four 7-drops there.
I added Gemstone Caverns to the sideboard when I started playing the Simian Spirit Guides. Basically, whether you’re on the draw or on the play, against grindy decks I generally want to board out the Spirit Guides and because of that, I’d like to have a 24th land in my deck.
It still feels random to have this card since I haven't actually equipped it very often, but in theory it should be good, and players I respect have been playing up to 2 main deck. So I’ll trust them and keep it until I can live the dream.
Bant Eldrazi, the mirror match, Burn, B/G/x, Death’s Shadow, Hate Bears, Merfolk, and Melira are the matchups I bring it in.
I opted for Cage rather than a 4th Surgical Extraction or any other graveyard hate because I wanted it to beat Collected Company out of Melira and Elves, as well as the Kari Zev’s Expertise and Breaking // Entering combo, which you can’t combat with any other type of colorless graveyard hate since you get no priority within the resolution of both halves.
As it turns out, the Kari Zev’s Expertise deck is not that popular, so you could cut this card for a 2nd Basilisk Collar or something.
What Do I Take Out?
As you saw, instead of having a detailed "in and out" type of sideboard plan, I’m just telling you what my sideboard cards are for. That's because opposing deck lists can vary too much. I don't want to make you think a certain main deck card should always be boarded out. Evaluate depending on context.
You take this out against any deck with creatures that are too big to kill, like Tron and Death’s Shadow, or no creatures at all at all like Lantern. The matchup where it isn't intuitive to keep it is Grixis—I value killingTasigur very highly.
Against fast matchups where killing a single permanent isn't very impactful. Burn, Dredge, Merfolk, and Elves.
Against grindy matchups like B/G/x or Grixis, Batterskull is great. Whenever the matchup is about life total, it's okay but not insane, since it's pretty slow. Against any kind of combo it's horrible. As such, I board it out frequently since combo decks are prominent in Modern, but I always like to think the top tables end up having more fair and consistent decks since the majority of pros prefer them.
Chalice of the Void
This is the trickiest. I keep them in a few matchups that aren't intuitive.
• Valakut. If they are on the Summoner’s Pact version, setting it on 0 can do the trick when paired with a Thought-Knot Seer that gets the Primeval Titan. If you're playing against the Bring to Light version it’s a long shot, but putting 4 counters on it stops Scapeshift and Cryptic Command, and that pretty much locks them out of them game.
• Dredge. If you can manage to stop Cathartic Reunion it’s pretty great. Often you won't be fast enough for that. Still, stopping Ancient Grudge and Life from the Loam can single-handedly give you the game.
Simian Spirit Guide
Losing a card for pure speed isn't great in a grindy matchup like B/G/x, Jeskai, or Grixis.
I generally board these out when I have enough sideboard cards to bring in and I’m turning into a control deck. This happens against Merfolk, Hate Bears, Infect, Melira, and Elves.
Whenever the matchup is about speed and my opponent’s strategy doesn't rely on creatures, these become basically 5/5s for 6 and they should be boarded out. Storm and Bogles are good examples.
Thought-Knot Seer/Matter Reshaper
I rarely board these out, but when I do it's against Affinity. TKS on the draw is quite bad there—you rarely hit something, and Matter Reshaper doesn't block anything.
You would think Ballista is bad in every matchup where pinging for 1 doesn't do anything, except that's not entirely true. It’s a Tron payoff, where it’ll be a Triskelion or a Fireball later, and that shouldn't be underestimated. I will shave a few when it will be hard to kill creatures with it, but that's it.
Why Not Bant Eldrazi?
I considered switching multiple times over the week. I had a hard time convincing myself that the Tron version was better, but ultimately I think I got tricked by the amount of Burn and B/G/x decks I faced on Magic Online. Eldrazi Tron has a better matchup against those, and having Chalice of the Void gives you insurance against Cheerios and Storm, which I thought might be popular.
But the popularity of Death’s Shadow tells me to go back to Bant Eldrazi. It used to be a matchup I wanted to face, and I don’t think their being slower will change that.