In order to draft the right sideboard cards and to be able to use them in the right situation, it is first essential to know what the format is about, what the mechanisms are and which archetypes which work the best, in order to adapt and to take the right cards to fight against them.
On first glance, Scars of Mirrodin draft seems like a pretty simple format. You have metalcraft based decks, poison decks, and eventually marginal decks which try and win without using either of those two mechanisms. And indeed, in the beginning, everyone was trying to go for those archetypes as much as possible. However, with some experience of the format, you start realizing things are not exactly going this way. For instance, artifact based decks have lots of flaws. You have too few slots for non-artifact spells, you’re too vulnerable to artifact hate, and in particular to Tel-Jilad Fallen, and even one card which looked like it could be the core of the deck at first, Golem Foundry, turned out to be pretty bad. Indeed the card is only good on turn three, but if you play it then your opponent probably won’t have wasted a single artifact removal yet, so dealing with it a couple of turns later shouldn’t be much trouble. Also, if you’ve wasted your turn three and possibly held Spellbombs in hand, the effect on your tempo is huge.
Considering poison, the archetype can of course be excellent, but there is hardly room for two players to draft it at the table, so people start drafting it a little less. So in the end, what are the archetypes played in the format? You can’t really cut them into specific color associations, but mostly in mechanics and global strategy. Globally, there are four of them you will face a lot:
Played Green/Black most of the time, the deck plays as many poison guys as it can, and tries to fill the other slots with pump spells, equipment and removal.
When so many guys in the format have such low power, it isn’t easy to build an aggro deck. Usually, they use white for flyers, and combine evasion power with either removal (red) or even more evasion (blue). This is usually the deck which makes the best use of Metalcraft.
Non-poison Green decks
There are several pretty good green cards which poison can’t make a good use of (Lifesmith, Carapace Forger, Molder Beast, Acid Web Spider) that it leaves room left for a whole different type of deck, which can be aggro but usually turns out to be midrange.
Card advantage, fixers, removal and so on are great, but they are not enough to play control in this format. As you’re going to have long games, you will often face bombs which most removal can’t kill. It’s pretty simple; any time your opponent taps six lands for mana in SoM draft, you can nearly concede if you let them untap without dealing with their spell. Therefore, most of those control decks either run some of those 6-mana bombs, or play a lot of removal, including some which can deal with non-artifact 5 toughness guys (which, as far as commons are concerned, only Arrest, Stoic Rebuttal or Turn to Slag can do).
Let’s now see, color by color, the cards you may want to take in or out depending on the matchup you’re dealing with.
If you’re black, non-poison, and aggro, you can force poison into a race it will be hard for them to win if you have a decent follow up. If you’re black, non-poison and running against any non-poison black deck, an unstoppable guy like this will be pretty useful as well.
Any deck but poison should play this main deck. However, in the mirror you will want to take it in in order to stop the opponent’s turn two drop.
(Out) This guy’s only a 3 mana 2/1 in the poison mirror, and it even gives you more tempo disadvantage on the draw.
This comes in against any deck which has bombs, and in particular if you have guys you don’t mind sacrificing (Clone Shell, Perilous Myr, and actually most Myrs).
This is good against aggro decks if you have a way to deal with flyers (removal or flyers of your own), in which case it will stop pretty much any guys costing 4 or less.
Even though the card is often a little too slow to be run maindeck, it survives most removal and is an amazing kill condition against control.
Too fragile most of the time, but against control decks and/or decks whose removals are mostly artifact removal, the card wins games.
Pretty good against decks which run Wall of Tanglecord, and post-combat the card can also kill Sylvok Replica, creatures with higher defense than attack in general, and creatures equipped with Accorder’s Shield.
Excellent against the full removal deck, whether they are control or aggro, but actually even better against control deck which has to adapt its moves to yours even more and therefore will find its plans more disrupted by such a trick.
The best common removal, after Arrest, that you can have against bombs. The slower both decks are, the better it works. Also, this isn’t a format when you need to pass on turn 3 or 4 in order to counter the first threat, as the cards you can’t deal with usually don’t happen to touch the board before the opponent reaches six mana.
The card has no impact until you get Metalcraft, and it makes you play so you can get it fast but dies to removal pretty easily, which is why I usually don’t run the card in the main deck. However, there are some decks which are very short on removal (green decks mostly), and I like adding it in against them.
A card which is pretty high variance, but which can end up being your MVP against the right deck, so I don’t mind picking it pretty high even if I know it has good chance to remain in the sideboard.
Just like Screeching Silcaw, it blocks two of the most annoying poison guys, but it is also pretty good against white decks. I wouldn’t necessarily waste a slot for it in poison, but in another green deck I’d be very glad to have it.
As it doesn’t die to most removal in the format, it is an interesting option in non-poison green VS control.
Even if you’re not poison, you have to consider this card against a deck which is mostly artifact based, as it will both be an amazing blocker and a card which wins on its own in four attacks.
Pretty good against artifact based decks, in any green deck, and quite decent in non-poison decks against decks running equipment.
It’s pretty good against white, and sometimes blue decks, mostly because it is unexpected and your opponent never plays around it. Also, even if your opponent plays a removal/bounce in response, the last power of your guy will be remembered. So, as long as your guy was not targeted by a -x/-x type spell or ability, the green removal will still work.
(In/Out): The card is both to be taken in against heavy removals deck, and to be taken out against poison, against which it generally will be nothing more than a mulligan.
Heavy metalcraft decks and those with a bunch of Spellbomb in particular probably won’t like to face this card. If you have several artifact removal and/or Liquimetal Coating in the deck as well, you can absolutely run it main deck.
If you have at least three of Spellbombs + Perilous Myr, the card is a pretty good sideboard card against Poison, as it can stop his first ground guy as well as the follow up Chosen.
Big + non-artifact + haste = Control’s enemy. However the card is too slow against other archetypes, so you shouldn’t play it main.
If you’re white and not aggro, or at least not Metalcraft aggro, keep in mind that drafting the 2/2 flyer can be a great help against aggro decks, whether they use poison or not. The card is one of the many in SoM which would be good enough for a main deck use, but usually don’t find a slot because they don’t have enough synergy with the rest of the deck.
The card is a good sideboarding option if your deck’s key cards are artifacts and your opponent has heavy removal, as well as if you have multiple Sylvok Replicas and it turns out artifacts are the core of your opponent’s deck.
Against any aggro deck, either it’s poison or not, the card’s surprise effect can destroy their game plan (flash attack for the win, Untamed Might on the unblocked poison guy), as well as kill one or two guys.
I like the card in sealed, but I find it usually too slow for draft. However, when my opponent doesn’t have many fliers and has a slow deck, I’m usually glad to board it in.
The more removals the opponent has, the better.
Against red aggro decks, life gain can be very precious. The card may be super weak against 95% of the decks, but it is still useful to remember at the time of an 11th pick it can actually be pretty good against the last 5%.
The card usually doesn’t make the cut in poison, but it becomes pretty great against a removal based control deck.
I usually play the card maindeck, but if I’m not green I usually still consider it a decent sideboard card, in the same way Loxodon Wayfarer and Plated Seastrider can be.
No matter how much I like this type of card in general, it is reaaaally slow and usually doesn’t produce any card advantage until the third turn. As a result I tend more and more to keep it in the sideboard and simply to take it in versus the slower and/or most removal based decks.
(In/Out): I usually play the card in the main deck, but its influence is not nearly as big in draft as it is in sealed. Therefore, it is either a card I play main but take out if my opponent is poison or any deck low on artifacts, or I take it in against the other type of decks.
(Out): Against control, and if you’re not running poison, the card is absolutely useless, so it would better take it out for anything, even for a land.
When it seems like you will have enough playables (approximately when you have 8 playables in pack one, 15 in pack two or 22-23 in pack three), bear in mind that it is better to take a good sideboard card than a theoretically better maindeck card you’re actually unlikely to play.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!