February was an incredible month for competitive Standard, with several big tournaments like the Star City Games Tour Online leading up to the latest MTG League Weekend and the February Championship Qualifier Weekend on Magic: The Gathering Arena.
Since the release of Kaldheim, we’ve seen a surge of new decks and strategies. New archetypes like Mono White Aggro and Izzet Tempo have spent time at the top of the tier list alongside Standard veterans like Gruul Adventures and Dimir Rogues. We’ve also seen older decks getting refreshed with exciting Kaldheim cards like the Naya Fling archetype powered up by Showdown of the Skalds.
This awesome infographic by MTG Data shows how Standard has evolved so quickly in such a short span of time.
As we leave February behind and begin a new month of the Arena ladder, we have a clearer picture of the format’s top decks. If you want to do well on the ladder this month, you’ll need to have a decent sideboard plan against Mono White Aggro, Mono Red Aggro, Sultai Ultimatum, Naya and Gruul Adventures, and Dimir Rogues.
That’s a lot of decks to prepare for! To help you with that, I’ve put together a list of the best sideboard cards in Standard right now. I’ll name one sideboard bullet for each color, one for colorless, and a Gold card. I’ll also tell you why I think each card is so well positioned, and how you can use these cards to crush the competition in Best of Three Standard!
White: Drannith Magistrate
Drannith Magistrate from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is one of the latest in a long line of White “Hate Bears,” in Magic: The Gathering. This class of creatures, usually two drops, taxes your opponent’s mana or otherwise makes it difficult to cast spells or enact their game plan.
It might surprise you how many cards and strategies the Magistrate blanks in Standard right now. Its rules text forbidding spells from being cast except from hand hoses the creature side of Adventure cards, it stops spells from being cast off of Emergent Ultimatum, and it even prevents Mono Red opponents from getting value off Robber of the Rich.
While I don’t recommend siding this card in against Mono Red, I do think that this 1/3 is a great bullet in the sideboard of the Mono White Aggro deck against decks that aren’t willing to play fair. With this in play, Temur Adventures and Gruul opponents are going to have to decide whether casting the Adventure spell is worth losing the creature half, at least until they kill the Magistrate. And any card that demands an answer before Sultai pops off is worth its weight in gold in that matchup.
Blue: Mystical Dispute
It feels weird to write that Mystical Dispute is an oldie but a goodie, but it also feels like this card has been countering blue spells efficiently for the last decade.
Since seeing print in Throne of Eldraine, Mystical Dispute has won countless counterspell battles in multiple formats, often from the main deck. It’s strong to start in your Blue decks because it can target any spell, but it really shines in a control or midrange mirror when both players have expensive spells they either need to stop or protect.
In the current Standard format, it’s probably better to keep Mystical Dispute in your sideboard. Any Blue deck you play right now should have two or three copies in your 15 to bring in against decks like Temur Adventures, Sultai Ultimatum, Dimir Rogues, and the rare Esper Doom Foretold deck. If you can build up an early board presence and use Mystical Dispute to counter a big Blue spell or even a Black sweeper, you’re probably winning that game.
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Black: Crippling Fear
Black decks have a ton of options when it comes to sweepers in Standard right now. Extinction Event and Shadow’s Verdict are probably the two best ones, but they’re both good in slow decks like Ultimatum and are probably best in the starting 60.
If you’re playing Dimir Rogues on ladder right now, Crippling Fear is a flexible and effective answer to aggro decks like Mono Red and Mono White. Even if it doesn’t hit four-toughness creatures like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or pumped up White creatures, it deals with pesky attackers while also sparing all your Rogues.
If this sweeper from Kaldheim kills two creatures and helps you win the race, you’ll be happy you sided this in to put the Fear in your opponent’s heart.
Red: Redcap Melee
Mono Red is one of the most popular decks on ladder and at tournaments right now, so Red decks of all shapes, sizes, and speeds should be packing this cheap removal spell in their sideboards this week.
Even if you don’t run into Mono Red Aggro, this is a one-mana answer to some of the most common creatures in the format like Bonecrusher Giant and Goldspan Dragon. Against a deck like Naya Fling that plays only around eight Red creatures, I want to bring in Melee because it kills two of their best threats and disrupts the game-ending combo of Unleash Fury plus Kazuul’s Fury.
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Green: Run Afoul
Speaking of Goldspan Dragon, this 4/4 hasty flier has been making waves in Standard since it was spoiled in Kaldheim. It spawned the Izzet Tempo archetype that did well on week one of the format and has since found a home in the Naya Fling deck that has been crushing tournaments recently.
What makes the Dragon so good is that targeting it with removal gives them an extra two mana they can use to protect it with a counterspell or a Sejiri Shelter. Even if you let the Dragon die, the mana bump granted by the Treasure will help you get ahead of your opponent. The best answer to Dragon is one that doesn’t let them take advantage of its mana generation engine.
Enter Run Afoul. The card is pretty narrow, but it trades one mana for the five spent on Dragon, and it leaves them without a Treasure to boot. While Goldspan Dragon is flying over everything in the format right now, I recommend Green decks have one or two copies of this card handy in their sideboard. This also helps shore up the matchup against Dimir Rogues in a pinch.
Multicolor: Klothys: God of Destiny
Klothys, God of Destiny’s high point in this Standard was a couple of weeks ago, when Rakdos Midrange was wrecking the top tables of Star City Games Arena events. Her stock has gone down since then, but this Indestructible God is still an important tool to have access to in your Gruul and Naya sideboards.
Klothys is truly the best card against Kroxa-reliant strategies like Rakdos Midrange, but she also helps against slow decks like Sultai Ultimatum. In this current metagame dominated by aggro decks, I would be looking to only play one copy in my sideboard, but I’ll be happy she’s there when I inevitably queue up against three Kroxa players in a row on ladder.
Colorless: Scalding Cauldron
Magic: The Gathering World Champion and arguably the best player of all time Paolo Vitor Damo da Rosa surprised a lot of followers on Twitter when he revealed this secret sideboard tech in the Mono White Aggro deck he played in the MPL League Weekend:
It may look like he misclicked and added Throne of Eldraine Draft chaff to his tier one Standard deck, but I can assure you that Scalding Cauldron is the real deal.
It’s not insane by any stretch of the imagination, but it helps Mono White deal with creatures like Skyclave Apparition and Bonecrusher Giant without having to dip into a second color. It also looks great against the Rogues deck, which can put up a surprisingly convincing wall of blockers up with Ruin Crab and Soaring Thought-Thief.
I love how even in the age of Arena and breaking the metagame at light speed, we still see cool new technology like Scalding Cauldron pop up from time to time.
What’s your favorite sideboard technology? We’d love to know!
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