Bant Eldrazi is a weird deck. It is simultaneously the best deck and most mediocre deck in Modern. It simultaneously has the most devastating and yet least impactful sideboard in the format.

How can these seemingly contradictory statements be true? Well, Bant Eldrazi has draws that start with turn-1 Noble Hierarch, turn-2 Thought-Knot Seer, turn-3 Reality Smasher that just obliterate everyone. It also has draws that stumble or don’t really get there, where the first play of the game is a 2/1 with flying or a 3/2 on turn 3. Not exactly crushing it as far as Modern is concerned.

Likewise, the sideboard is at times a surgical tool to destroy the opponent. In some matchups, you get to Ancient Stirrings for Engineered Explosives, or Ancient Stirrings for Grafdigger’s Cage, or Spellskite, or whatever hate card exists, and just completely dominate the game. And then there are matchups where you just have no sideboard. Matchups where you’re leaving in Path to Exile to target your own creatures as a ramp spell, or Dismember in case they maybe play a creature out of the sideboard. Over the course of a tournament, you may only use half of your sideboard.

I think that Bant Eldrazi is one of the best decks in Modern, despite a mediocre-to-bad sideboard. I think that with a better, more impactful, more meaningful sideboard, Bant Eldrazi could easily become “the deck” in Modern. I don’t know exactly what that sideboard should look like, I just know what it’s not supposed to look like—a.k.a., what it currently looks like.

Let’s start by taking a look at my list from Worlds.

Bant Eldrazi

 

The main deck is fairly generic. I played only 3 Drowner of Hope. As much as I like that card, you often get flooded on expensive threats and stuck on lands unable to cast them. I had a mix of 3 Matter Reshaper and 2 Eldrazi Skyspawner. I’m not sure if this split is correct or if it is even worth playing any Skyspawner at all. I didn’t play any cutesy cards like Elder Deep-Fiend. I played 1 Spellskite and 1 Engineered Explosives. Neither card is amazing but both have matchups where they shine; and with Ancient Stirrings, it’s nice to have something to draw to in certain matchups. I played zero Birds of Paradise, because it is an extremely weak card everywhere except your opening hand, and I don’t like having dead draws late.

 

My mana base was also the same I have been playing for a while, however, I should have played 2 basic Plains instead of Forest because I had Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in my sideboard.

But I’m not really here to discuss the main deck. I want to talk about the sideboard. Bant Eldrazi basically has access to every great green, white, blue, or colorless card that has been printed in the past 10+ years. Yet every list I see plays the same sideboard that doesn’t really attack the correct things. I have a hard time believing that is the best we can do.

It’s important to develop a sideboard that plays the highest impact cards for the matchups where Bant Eldrazi actually needs the help. Bant Eldrazi is the kind of deck where you don’t really want to sideboard too much in any given matchup, and in some matchups you don’t really need to sideboard at all. For that reason, I want powerful sideboard cards that address the problems that Bant Eldrazi actually has in Modern. You don’t want too many sideboard cards for matchups that don’t need them and find yourself with nothing to bring in for matchups where you need the help.

Let’s start with midrange and creature-based matchups. Bant Eldrazi does not need a lot of help in these matchups, thanks to the size, speed, and disruption of the Eldrazi, the powerful and cheap removal spells in Path to Exile and Dismember, and Eldrazi Displacer completely dominating the combat step. For a lot of these matchups, Engineered Explosives is also great. It blows up on 2 to kill things like Grim Flayer, Tarmogoyf, and Scavenging Ooze or on zero to kill things like Lingering Souls tokens. Bant is favored in these matchups and you don’t need many additional cards to keep it that way.

Where Bant struggles is against decks like Affinity and random combo or graveyard-oriented strategies. For that reason, I think it’s pretty key to tune the sideboard to tackle those matchups, even if it means you only sideboard one or two cards (or none) against fair matchups.

Cards I Am Positive I Want

 

I like having 1-2 cards for fair matchups, but no more than that. I like planeswalkers, and my go-to choice is Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Elspeth completely takes over the game, is hard to kill (most lists have only 1-2 ways to deal with Elspeth), and is not actually that difficult to cast, thanks to the prevalence of Path to Exile to help accelerate you to 6 mana.

 

I think having Stony Silence for Affinity is a must.

 

I also think having access to Engineered Explosives is a must. The card is versatile, great in a variety of matchups from fair to unfair, and a card that you can find with Ancient Stirrings.

 

 

 

I think it’s important to have some sort of graveyard hate card. That card can either be Rest in Peace or Grafdigger’s Cage or some combination of the two, as they overlap some, but also have some differences.

When it’s all said and done, I’m locked on my sideboard starting with these cards:

1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Stony Silence
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Grafdigger’s Cage/Rest in Peace split

More realistically, it will probably look like this:

2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion/Gideon Jura split
3 Stony Silence
3 Engineered Explosives (Between main and SB)
4 Grafdigger’s Cage/Rest in Peace split

That’s somewhere between 8-12 sideboards slots accounted for, meaning there are anywhere between 3-7 slots we still need to fill.

Cards I Am Not Sure About

There are also a number of cards that I like, but I’m not really sure if they belong in the sideboard.

 

Worship is a good example. I like the card. It’s powerful. Some decks simply cannot beat it. But it also comes with its own set of drawbacks. Sometimes it is clunky, and some tournaments you will go the entire event without playing against a deck where Worship is a relevant card. It’s very narrow, and I’m not convinced that you even need the card for the matchups in which it’s good.

 

 

Chalice of the Void is another example. I last-minute bought a playset of this card and jammed them into my sideboard for Worlds. My logic for playing the card is that there are a number of decks in Modern that struggle to beat Chalice and you can find it off of Ancient Stirrings. Chalice is also a very narrow card, however, and also a lot of decks can beat Chalice if they are prepared to bring in artifact hate against you. Chalice is also sometimes too slow. If you need to cast it for X=2, that’s happening turn 3 at the earliest, and Chalice on X=1 can sometimes mess you up too much by turning off Ancient Stirrings and Path to Exile (Noble Hierarch you can still cast by planning ahead with Cavern of Souls on Human). I’ll need more experience with this card.

 

 

And then there is Blessed Alliance. I actually love this card. It is brutal and effective at what it does. But I don’t think you actually need this card because it’s beating up on decks that Eldrazi already beats up on. I didn’t include it in my Worlds SB because I didn’t think I would need it and I probably won’t play it in the future because I want to attack decks that I struggle to beat and not prey on the weak.

 

Cards I Don’t Like

 

World Breaker is a card I see a lot but dislike in the SB. World Breaker costs a million mana and I’m not sure what problem it really solves. I suppose it is meant to be a catch-all answer, but I don’t think it is good in the mirror match, I don’t think it is good versus random midrange decks, and it costs 7 mana, which is pretty high for a catch-all answer. I would play World Breaker if we had Eye of Ugin, but we don’t.

 

 

Stubborn Denial is another card I hate. Most of the time, big Stubs is a situational Force Spike. There are actually only 11 creatures in the deck that are big enough to turn on Stubborn Denial, and frequently you don’t have enough mana to both play a big threat and also hold up the Stubs at the same time. It’s surprisingly hard to achieve the necessary circumstances to make Stubborn Denial good.

 

Matchups That Need Help

The big ones are matchups like Scapeshift, Primeval Titan Valakut decks, or random combo decks like Ad Nauseam. Sometimes random go-wide or creature-based combo decks like Elves or Abzan Company can create problems.

Stubborn Denial is supposed to be the kind of card that helps in most of these matchups, but it is just such a high variance, often bad card that I think we can do better.

Personally, I’d rather have something like Negate, Unified Will, or even Disdainful Stroke. Negate is great, but can’t counter Primeval Titan. Unified Will hits everything, but can’t always be cast early in the game and doesn’t work in some matchups. Disdainful Stroke hits cards like Ad Nauseam, Scapeshift, and Primeval Titan, but misses on a number of other cards. They each have their ups and downs, but this is where I’m looking to fill these holes.

Chalice of the Void is good against some of these decks, but laughably bad against the likes of Scapeshift.

Runed Halo is another potential card. It shuts down Lightning Storm from Ad Nauseam, Grapeshot from Storm, Valakut from Scapeshift, etc. One issue is that it is fairly narrow, and some decks can beat you anyway. Storm could Empty the Warrens. Valakut can just attack you with Primeval Titan after killing every creature. Ad Nauseam can still just Laboratory Maniac you.

Putting It All Together

When it’s all said and done, I’m looking for a sideboard that looks like the following:

2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Worship
1 Spellskite (1 Main)
2 Engineered Explosives (1 Main)
3 Stony Silence
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Rest in Peace
1 Negate
2 Unified Will
2 Chalice of the Void

That’s an 18-card sideboard, which isn’t legal, but it has all the cards I want. More realistically it probably looks like:

2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Worship
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Stony Silence
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Rest in Peace
1 Negate
2 Unified WIll

But I could also see a sideboard that is more random-combo hateful that looks like this:

1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Stony Silence
2 Rest in Peace
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Negate
2 Unified Will
3 Chalice of the Void

What you settle on probably depends on the expected metagame, but if there is one thing I think you should do it is to not waste your time on improving good matchups or playing cards that are marginal upgrades in fine matchups. Instead play cards that are super powerful in hard matchups and let the raw, natural power of Eldrazi take care of the rest.