With Dragons of Tarkir around the corner everyone seems to be abuzz about the new decks they want to brew and which existing decks have improved. What people don’t often talk about are the possible implications to their sideboards and that’s what I want to go over today. I have ranked the top 7 sideboard cards in Dragons of Tarkir here:

7. Surge of Righteousness

Normally I wouldn’t get excited about a card that only trades 1-for-1 against an aggressive deck, but here the “gain 2 life” is substantial. I’ve played with Pharika’s Cure often enough to appreciate having some life gain against red aggro decks whose sole goal is to burn you out. It’s rough to put a card in your sideboard to bring in against red decks when it can’t kill Stormbreath Dragon, but I still suspect this card will be good enough to see play and should be on your radar.

6. Atarka’s Command

Skullcrack is back! I would make mention of some of the other modes of this card but to be honest the primary use of it will be as Skullcrack, and when you put it in your sideboard, that’s basically what you’re hoping for.

5. Self-Inflicted Wound

This card is less brutal than some of the other hosers I’ve talked about because it’s less reliable. If I’m on the play and go turn-1 Elvish Mystic, turn-2 Courser of Kruphix and you play your second land and have Self-Inflicted Wound it just won’t do what you want it to do (kill my Courser). It’s nice to have a card that can kill Sylvan Caryatid, but in general I would say Self-Inflicted Wound is only good with heaps of other spot removal or against a deck like UW Heroic, where it’s a slam dunk.

4. Virulent Plague

Goodbye Splinter Twin… or something like that. This card excites me because with the addition of Dragon Fodder I could see Raise the Alarm and Hordeling Outburst gaining in popularity, possibly alongside Jeskai Ascendancy. The existence of this card means Secure the Wastes will never be too powerful in Standard, which I appreciate. I don’t expect Virulent Plague to be a staple moving forward but I do expect it to pop up from time to time and it’s a card you need to be worried about if you play too many of the previously mentioned token spells or Goblin Rabblemaster.

3. Encase in Ice

A 2-casting-cost clean and simple way to kill a Siege Rhino or Stormbreath Dragon is a huge win for control decks. Flash means it plays very well with counterspells and instant-speed card draw, and lastly it taps the creature when it comes into play, so even if it’s destroyed by, say, a Display of Dominance, you still get some value tapping down that threatening attacker for one turn. This card is awesome, I fully expect to see it played as a 4-of in any blue sideboard.

2. Display of Dominance

This is a modern day Pyroblast, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. You can use it to either counter target Hero’s Downfall or destroy target Ashiok. Having an instant that costs 2 mana and reads “destroy target permanent” is dangerous and I fully expect green decks to pack Display of Dominance. Furthermore I expect this card to change the way blue and black control decks are built.

1. Duress

The Duress reprint gave me butterflies in my stomach, no jokes. I’ve made Top 8 of two Standard Pro Tours, and each time I had Duress in my sideboard—I love this card. It’s innocuous, but what Duress does for black decks is huge. Since black has many anti-creature removal spells in the main deck, it has a weak matchup against control and combo (if that exists) in game one, so having a card you can safely play four of that lets you massively improve your deck after sideboard is great. You’re allowed to take out cards that do stone-cold nothing and a add card that is versatile and brutal. It’s often been a concern that you have too many nonthreatening cards in your deck when you have 4 Thoughtseize and 4 Duress, but all that says to me is that the time for Read the Bones is now.

It looks like Dragons of Tarkir will be a great set for new deck types and for sweet sideboard additions to existing decks. Which cards would you put in the top 7 that I didn’t?

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