24, Mar, 21

The 15 Modern Magic: The Gathering Sideboard Cards You Can't Leave Home Without

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Magic: The Gathering Online, the game’s older digital client, just announced a week of daily Strixhaven Championship Qualifiers from April 3 to April 9. Two of these in-client Qualifiers that offer two Championship invites and a large haul of Play Points and Treasure Chests are Modern events. I’ll try my best to play both PTQs, especially because MTGO will offer a Mythic Event Token in their store that grants access to almost every card ever released.

Even if I had to rent or borrow cards to play Modern, I would still try my best to play the Qualifiers because I love the format! While a few decks clearly make up the top tier, including Heliod Company and Jund Death’s Shadow, so many other archetypes are competitive that anyone looking to do well in these events will have to bring a strong sideboard built to address several matchups.

Read More: Is This The New Best Modern Deck?

Whether you’re building your favorite deck’s sideboard for these events and are looking for some inspiration, or you just want to keep updated with the Modern meta for when paper Magic comes back, I’ve put together a list of the best 15 sideboard cards in Modern.

This is by no means a definitive list, and if you think I’ve missed an important hate piece, transformational threat, or interaction spell, let me know on socials!

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn


I’m kicking the list off with what looks like a meme but is really a clever way to beat one of Modern’s better decks. Having Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or any of the other original Eldrazi Titans from Rise of the Eldrazi helps your postboard matchup against the annoying and surprisingly powerful Dimir Mill deck. Even if you never cast the gigantic creature, the Eldrazi’s last ability will ensure that you never run out of cards against Mill.

Funnily enough, you only really want one of these in your sideboard because drawing it is a complete disaster and basically leaves you down a card, unless you have a way to discard it for value. It’s also important to note that your Mill opponent can get around the shuffle clause by hitting it with a Surgical Extraction or Extirpate before the trigger resolves. Even if they do that, Emrakul is sideboard technology that is tricky to deal with and asks very little of you.

Read More: 5 Best Kaldheim Cards for Modern



Choke is a powerful sideboard hate card against Blue control decks that I’ve ranked pretty low on this list because of how seldom I’ve seen it included in decks over the past couple of weeks.

Make no mistake though; this card will always be one of the best options available for decks like Heliod Company and Jund variants against Azorius Control. I just think a lot of these Green decks already have a decent matchup against Blue right now and would rather shore up other matchups.

Leyline of Sanctity


In response to the resurgence of various Death’s Shadow variants like Grixis and Jund in the post-Uro Modern landscape, MTGO tournaments have also seen a rise in Selesnya Bogles decks that look to exploit the abundance of targeted removal being played right now. Hexproof creatures like the eponymous Slippery Bogle look unimpressive, but they can’t be killed with spot removal and grow quickly out of range of blockers.

While removal won’t do the trick against Bogles decks, discard spells like Thoughtseize are very effective at disrupting their Voltron game plan by nabbing a crucial Daybreak Coronet, for example. That’s why Selesnya players also pack Leylines of Sanctity in their sideboards, and sometimes in the maindeck!

Right now I like having access to Lurrus as a Companion in Bogles, so I’d rather start with my Leylines in the board. If I ever get to start with one in play before Jund can cast a discard spell, it’s going to be hard to lose.

Kor Firewalker


One of white’s strengths in Modern is having access to some of the cheapest and most effective sideboard hate cards. Kor Firewalker is an excellent example of this. This 2/2 has been terrorizing Red decks in multiple formats since being printed in Worldwake.

Fortunately for Burn players, this card has suffered a drop in effectiveness thanks to cards like Dismember, Skullcrack, and Kozilek’s Return. It’s also become much easier of late for Burn decks to play more White sources, so they can bring in Path to Exile as an additional effective answer to the Firewalker.



Dismember is one of the few remaining Phyrexian Mana spells still legal in Modern. Gitaxian Probe and Birthing Pod were pretty broken, but don’t let Dismember’s continued legality fool you. This instant is one of the format’s best answers to threats like Thought-Knot Seer and Kor Firewalker. It’s also an important tool for Death’s Shadow decks thanks to its ability to kill a large creature like Tarmogoyf while also growing your Shadow.

The card’s real strength, however, lies in the fact that colorless decks like Eldrazi Tron can run this without too much of a cost. Linear decks like Infect should also look to play one or two copies of Dismember to offer up a little bit of interaction in sideboard games.

Kozilek’s Return


Kozilek’s Return is flexible like Dismember, but in a different way. You need access to Red mana to play this card, but thanks to its Devoid ability, it can get around pesky White creatures like Auriok Champion, Burrenton Forge-Tender, and Kor Firewalker.

It’s a little inefficient for its rate, but Red decks of all speeds might need to pack a copy or two of this card in their sideboards, lest they get crushed by White decks like Heliod Company and Humans. It’s worth noting that Prowess decks can play this card because the 1/2 Soul-Scar Mages and Monastery Swiftspears will grow to 2/3s before Return resolves.

Mystical Dispute/Aether Gust


I’m lumping these two cheap Blue counterpells together because I think control mages should be looking to devote five or six sideboard slots to some combination of these two cards. Between Mystical Dispute and Gust, Modern’s slowest decks they can present early interaction against a huge swath of the format.

There was even a time when it might have been correct to run maindeck copies of Aether Gust. I don’t think we’re there at the moment because spells like Mana Leak and Remand do the trick just fine. But I can tell you that I’ve felt a lot safer as a control player knowing I have access to these flexible counterspells in my sideboard.

All is Dust


Speaking of flexible, All is Dust ranks pretty highly on my list of sideboard cards because of how easily this gets cast off of Tron lands or Eldrazi Temple and completely demolishes the opponent’s game plan. While only decks like Mono G Tron and Eldrazi Tron can reliably play this card, All is Dust still has a huge impact on Modern because of how it deals with sticky threats from different archetypes. This kills most Planeswalkers and it is an incredible sweeper against the Heliod Company deck because it gets around Heliod, Sun-Crowned’s indestructible ability.

I’ve learned to play around this card after getting destroyed by it several times, so I respect its role as one of the best sweepers in the format out of the sideboard.

Damping Sphere


After talking about one of Tron’s best tools against the rest of the field, we now get to cover one of the best sideboard hate cards against these big mana decks. With Damping Sphere in play, opposing Tron lands tap for one colorless mana no matter what, and it makes the Mono Green version struggle to cast cantrip artifacts and threats on the same turn. This card has the added benefit of being good against Storm decks, too.

I should take this opportunity to advise less experienced Modern players running this card to make sure its symmetrical effect doesn’t inconvenience you. This can be as simple as casting a creature before you play the Sphere.

Engineered Explosives


Engineered Explosives is an incredibly flexible card that many archetypes can run to deal with both threats and hate cards. Most decks in Modern will be able to cast this with two counters, with three being largely attainable as well.

If you’re considering running this card in your sideboard, you should identify which problem cards your deck needs to deal with most, and you need to consider how many of your own cards this will hit. Explosives is especially good in either a midrange deck whose threats are more expensive than the number of counters you’ll likely put on this card, or in a combo deck that wants to have answers to both aggressive creatures and cheap hate cards like Rest in Peace or Grafdigger’s Cage.

It’s also important to know that your Explosives interacts with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben favorably. Even though Thalia taxes noncreature spells by one mana, all this card cares about is the number of colors used to cast it. You can pay a Blue and Red mana to cast a two-drop Explosives even with a Thalia in play, if you announce that you’re casting the spell with X=1.

Rest in Peace


Rest in Peace is the third White card on this list and another example of how powerful this color’s silver bullets are in Modern. Rest in Peace competes with Leyline of the Void as the most potent graveyard hate card in the format, and I’ve picked it for this list because of how easy it is to cast.

Since the Uro ban, I’ve seen more Dredge decks popping up and trying to dump a ton of power on the board before their opponents can set up defenses or enact their own game plan. With Rest in Peace, you have a way to either shut their deck down completely or slow them down until they kill this enchantment with an Assassin’s Trophy or Nature’s Claim.

Celestial Purge


I promise that this is the last White card on the list! I would be remiss to leave Celestial Purge out of a ranking of the best sideboard cards in the format. It’s one of the best answers to a lot of Modern’s biggest threats. Death’s Shadow, Liliana of the Veil, Blood Moon, Leyline of the Void, and Omnath, Locus of Creation all get cleanly answered by Purge, so I expect this to be a mainstay in the sideboards of White decks regardless of what the metagame looks like.

One Mana Artifact Graveyard Hate


I made the claim that Rest in Peace is the most powerful graveyard hate card in Modern, so why am I ranking Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, et al. higher? I think these one-mana artifacts are better overall sideboard cards because of how cheap and flexible they are.

Cage is closer to Rest in Peace than the other cards in this category, as it shares a lot of Rest in Peace’s strengths without offering card draw like the others do. For a minimal investment, you can still shut down decks like Dredge and you even hose Collected Company decks. You can also fetch Cage and the other one-mana hate cards out of the sideboard with Karn, the Great Creator.


Meanwhile, each of these cantripping one-mana artifacts, including Nihil Spellbomb, all have strengths and reasons to run them over their brethren. Relic is at its best in a deck like Tron, where you can impact graveyard strategies without doing much work and then draw a card when you help from the top of your deck or when the opposing yard gets too thick.


Soul-Guide Lantern is especially effective against the Oops! All Spells deck because it gets around the Leyline of Sanctities the often play in the maindeck, since it doesn’t target. Finally, Nihil Spellbomb oftengets the nod in Jund and Rakdos decks because it lets you exile your opponent’s graveyard and draw a card. Crucially it leaves your graveyard intact so you don’t lose too much food for your Tarmogoyf.

Veil of Summer


Veil of Summer is one of the many ridiculously broken Green cards printed in 2019 (think Oko, Thief of Crowns and Once Upon a Time), and it’s one of the few of these that you can still play in Modern. For better or worse, Green decks can run several copies of this to blank both Blue counterspells and Black removal while also replacing itself. It’s basically a one-mana Cryptic Command, and that comparison should show you why this is one of the best Modern sideboard cards.

Perhaps the only thing keeping it in check is that you can still target a Green or Red spell on the stack with an Aether Gust and avoid getting blown out by Veil, since Gust doesn’t actually counter the spell it targets. It’s a small comfort for Blue players.

Blood Moon


I think the top five cards or card clusters on this list are all pretty close, but when it came down to it I had to pay respects to the sideboard card that has defined the Modern format since its inception. Modern is the format of Fetch and Shocklands, and there is no better way to turn a game on its head than by slamming down a Blood Moon against a careless and greedy opponent.

Blood Moon is one of the reasons to run a Mono Red aggro, prowess, or prison deck in the format. It’s so backbreaking that it’s often a big part of the sideboard plans of the popular Rakdos Death’s Shadow deck. Whenever you play against a Red deck that suspiciously seems to be playing a lot of basics lands, you need to be aware of Blood Moon and play around it accordingly, lest you lose the ability to cast spells for the rest of the game.

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