Traditional Draft Guide: 6 Tips For Sideboarding

With Kaladesh Remastered Draft Challenge (best-of-three) coming up, it’s time to get better at drafting with a sideboard. In this Traditional Draft Guide you’ll find six tips, which should improve your win rate in this format.

Although we’ll use most examples from Kaladesh Remastered, the strategy we’ll talk about here won’t be format specific. Ideally, it’ll help you improve your knowledge of the Traditional Draft overall, no matter what set you’re drafting.

As you can expect, there will be a lot of talk about sideboarding, as this is the big difference here. With that said, let’s dive right in with our first tip.

1. Change Your Pick Order.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should draft completely differently then you usually do. You should still pick the best cards early on, try to find open colors, and comply with the usual draft strategy.

So, what should you change? You should prioritize good sideboard cards over the cards, that usually end up around 15th to 23rd best cards in your deck. Sometimes even higher, if the card is a really good in certain matchups.

Make Obsolete Traditional Draft Guide

For example, something like Make Obsolete doesn’t always it to your main deck. If you’re only playing best-of-one drafts you learn to ignore these type of cards and pick anything remotely playable over them. You have to change this approach in the Traditional Draft.

While a card like Make Obsolete might truly be obsolete against most decks, it can also be backbreaking against decks that have many 1 toughness creatures. This is especially true in Kaladesh Remastered, where there are plenty of Servos and Thopters. So while in some cases this card won’t be maindeckable, it could be one of the top 5 cards in your deck when you do board it in.

That’s why you have to pick them accordingly. Don’t just pay attention to your main deck. Sideboard cards are very important, since you’ll play more post-board than pre-board games.

Side note: Make Obsolete perhaps isn’t the best example, as it’s very close to a maindeckable card already. However, Kaladesh Remastered doesn’t have many purely sideboard cards, as most can be reasonable main deck inclusions, so we decided to go with that one.

2. Pay Attention to What Your Opponent is Doing.

Of course, you should always pay attention to what your opponent is doing. As we said in our guide on how to get better at Magic, you should think about what your opponent thinks about.

Traditional Draft Guide Padeem

However, this tip goes a bit further here. When you’re playing quick drafts (best-of-one), and the game ends, it doesn’t matter what your opponent was doing, as that game is done. In Traditional Draft, you’ll have to play at least one more game against the same opponent.

That’s why it’s crucial that you pay attention to each card they played, as this will affect your sideboarding decisions in a major way.

So, at the end of the game, don’t just move on to the sideboarding. First, click View Battlefield in the top right corner. Then quickly skim through your opponent’s battlefield, graveyard and exile. Of course, you should pay attention to this during the whole game, but a quick refresher won’t hurt.

Traditional Draft Guide – Attention Check List

Which things should you try to note? Here’s some general examples:

  • What stats did you opponent’s creatures have on average?
  • Did they have plenty of flyers?
  • Did they play powerful artifacts or enchantments?
  • What type of removal spells did they use?
  • Was their deck quick or slow?

All of this will come in real handy, when you’re sideboarding. Anyways, don’t spend too much time on this at the end of the game, as you might run out of time to do the actual sideboarding. Ideally, you should think about all this during the game as well.

3. Board in the Good Cards for the Matchup.

This is probably the most obvious tip and one that most players already use at least in some capacity. Naturally, you want the cards that will make your deck better against your opponent’s.

There are some cards, that clearly shine in certain matchups. For example, if you’re playing against blue-white flyers, you’ll want Plummet.

However, not all the cards that will be good in certain matchups are so obvious. We mentioned that you should pay attention to the size of your opponent’s creatures. If your opponent is playing a bunch of 2/1 creatures (like Aether Chaser), your cheap 1/3 creatures (like Reckless Fireweaver), become better and you might want to board them in.

So try to think more broadly about what makes a card good in a certain matchup. Not every card that is good, is an obvious one, such as Fragmentize against the decks with cheap artifacts and enchantments.

4. Board Out Bad Cards.

Now this tip is one that less experienced players get wrong quite often. They’ll look through their sideboard, see that they don’t have any good cards for the matchup, so they’ll just submit their deck as it is. What’s the problem with this?

They didn’t consider which cards in their deck are bad in this matchup. Let’s borrow an example that we used earlier. You’re playing a couple of Aether Chasers, but not many combat tricks.

In your first game, your opponent presented two copies of Reckless Fireweaver and your Chaser was unable to meaningfully participate in the combat. You can probably expect the same thing happening in the second game as well.

So, Aether Chaser is essentially a dead card in this scenario. That means you should put it in your sideboard and play something else. What would that be? Anything, as long as it can do at least something in the matchup.

You could play Weldfast Monitor, for example. Even though it’s worse then Chaser in a vacuum, it is better in this specific scenario. Even something on the other end of the mana curve, like Lathnu Sailback might be preferred, because at least it will affect the game at some point.

Some cards like Hinterland Drake will be amazing in some matchups, while nearly unplayable in others. So remember, don’t just think about good cards in your sideboard, but about bad ones in your main deck, as well.

5. Being on the Play or Draw Matters.

Well, that’s pretty obvious, you might say. Being on the play is better the being on the draw. But that’s not what you should focus on in Traditional Draft.

A Magic is – in a way – a game of information. The more information you have, better decisions you can make. So based on a result of the previous game, you know if you’re going to be on the play or on the draw. If you lost, you’ll choose to be on the play. If you won, your opponent will choose to be on the play (vast majority of the time).

So, with that in mind, you should make different sideboarding decisions, whether you’ll be going first or second.

On the Play

If you’re on the play, you’ll usually have the initiative. So combat tricks will usually be better when you’re on the play and aggressive creatures as well. Draw spells also work better when you’re on the play, as you’re usually the one setting the tempo of the game.

In general, you’ll make less changes to your main deck when you’re on the play.

On the Draw

Card Draw

When you’re on the draw you’re usually reacting to what your opponent is doing. You already have card advantage, as you get to draw first. That’s why you might want to consider boarding out draw spells, especially if you have multiple of them.

Tezzeret's AmbitionTraditional Draft Guide How to Sideboard

A draw spell that costs a lot, like Tezzeret’s Ambition might better wait in your sideboard, when you’re on the draw.

Combat Tricks

Additionally, your opponent will likely be playing creatures and attacking first. This makes combat tricks worse for you. Just imagine a scenario where they play a two drop, and you play a two drop, they attack and they have mana up, so they’ll be able to play a combat trick. If you don’t block they can still just cast their creature in their second main phase.

On the other hand, if you decide to have open mana for a combat trick during the blocking phase, they can simply decide to not attack and cast their creature, leaving you further behind. So it’s probably a good idea to go low on combat tricks when you’re on the draw, especially if they only work on attackers, like Built to Smash does.

Trimming a Land

One option you have on the draw is to trim a land and go down to 16. The idea is that you’ll draw more cards in the course of the game, so you can cheat on your land count a little.

However, don’t go too crazy with this one.

Consider the Matchup

Finally, don’t let these play/draw based decisions matter more than the matchup. All of these decisions, should be made with the matchup in mind. Matchup is the first thing you should think about and the play/draw is secondary.

If both you and you’re opponent are playing slow, grindy decks, the card advantage will be important. In this case it doesn’t matter if you’re on the play or on the draw, you’ll want Tezzeret’s Ambition in your deck.

6. Adjust Your Deck’s Plan if Necessary.

You’ve reached the final tip in our Traditional Draft Guide. You won’t use this one in every game, but when you will, it could be the difference between victory and defeat.

The idea is that sometimes your deck is very badly positioned against the opposing one. In a regular game such deck would lose a vast majority of the time. In that case, it might be a good idea to adjust your deck accordingly.

Let’s take a look at the two most common examples.

Midrange With a Worse End Game

First common scenario is that you and your opponent are both playing not-very-aggressive midrange decks. However, your opponent has multiple rare bombs, that you just can compete with in the late game. (Something like Nissa, Vital Force in Kaladesh Remastered or Kiora Bests the Sea God from Theros Beyond Death).

Minister of Inquiries How to Sideboard in Draft

So the idea is that you try to built your deck in a way that becomes more aggressive. You include more cheap aggressive creatures and more combat tricks, while cutting some of your top end and defensive creatures.

Hopefully, you’ll get manage to beat them down before they can play their bombs. In some cases, like with planeswalkers, it can be enough that you have lots of creatures out, so you can take out the walker before it generates even more value.

Of course, this might not work, as your opponent can still manage to defend, or because you’re missing the correct cards in your sideboard. However, it will probably increase your win percentage overall.

Splashing

Splashing (playing a card that isn’t in your main colors) is also something to consider here. You might have a powerful card in another color in your sideboard. If you expect a game to go long, you can afford to splash it, as you’ll probably get to draw the colors you need.

This option doesn’t mash well with going aggressive, so choose one or the other.

Slower Aggro Deck

Another common scenario is when you and your opponent both have an aggressive deck, but yours seems to be slower. So if you can’t compete in a race with them, you have to lean into your role of a bit slower deck.

You want to remove cards like Built to Smash and Hijack, and rather include cards that work on defense as well – just your regular two and three drop creatures will preform better. Of course, you might want something good on your top end, so you can turn the game in your favor once you have stabilized.

You won’t always be able to do this, especially not in Kaladesh Remastered, because so many cards in this set are so much better when attacking than blocking. In that case, you can just try to be as aggressive as possible and hope for the best.

Countering a Mill Deck

Minister of Inquiries How to Sideboard in Draft

Now. this one is probably more of a fun suggestion, than anything else. It will come up very rarely, if ever. Nevertheless, if you’re playing against a mill deck, which only has a mill plan as its win condition, you can take advantage of the rule that there isn’t a upper limit to your deck size. (Well there is one on Arena – it’s 250, but that probably won’t matter here.)

What you can do is to add any remotely playable cards from your sideboard to the main deck, plus basic lands, so that you have the same ratio and start the game with 10 or more additional cards in your deck. This way your opponent will have to mill more cards to win, which might give you enough time to defeat them. Pretty neat, huh?

Do remember, that many mill decks can also win with the regular attacking as well. In that case, you don’t want to use this plan, as it will dilute the quality of your deck quite a bit.

Conclusion

That’s all for our Traditional Draft Guide. Hopefully, you learnt something that will help you improve your win rate. In case you want to know more about the Kaladesh format, you should check our Kaladesh Remastered Draft Guide. There you’ll find the best commons and an overview of all archetypes.

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Until next time, have fun and may you win your next Traditional Draft with ease.

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