Insider: Rising Standard Sideboard Stock

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Every new set has an impact on Standard, and Journey Into Nyx is no exception. Being the third set of a block, people have high expectations for powerful and exciting new cards. Journey Into Nyx certainly has those elements, complete with Gods and Planeswalkers, but I believe its biggest single impact on Standard will be the nonbasic lands.

With the printing of Temple of Malady and Temple of Epiphany, now all colors are created equal in their access to mana, and this helps redistribute the Standard metagame by boosting Golgari and Izzet. The tri-color shard decks like Jund, Junk and UWR are boosted. All of the devotion decks can now splash equally, including Black Devotion splashing green and Blue Devotion splashing red.

Mana Confluence pushes the mana envelop to the extreme, super-charging the colored mana in the format and giving every deck the opportunity to play whatever it wants. It’s the single biggest change to the format. Return to Ravnica block gave Standard all sorts of powerful gold cards, but not necessarily the mana to cast them all.

Mana Confluence is a real boon to aggressive decks, which can ignore the incremental life-loss costs by ending the game quickly. Aggressive decks will become faster and more powerful, which means aggressive decks will be better than ever before. I expect to see a renaissance in strategy, particularly in the early weeks of the format.

I’ll be attending SCG Cincinnati this weekend, and Journey Into Nyx is in the forefront of my Standard preparation. I am not focused on the individual new cards in the set so much as the overall impact it’s going to have upon the format.

I’ve devoured all the relevant articles on the internet, had conversations, written, analyzed, and now feel like I have a picture of what the new format will look like. It’s aggressive. In order to adapt, all of the top archetypes in the format will have to adopt a more anti-aggressive stance, particularly out of the sideboard. I’ve composed a list of Standard sideboard cards that are well-suited for combatting an aggressive metagame and should be considered this weekend.

Black Devotion

When I play competitive Standard it’s with Black Devotion, and it’s what I’ll be playing this weekend. Though the deck now has more splash options available, I’m reluctant to play shock lands in an aggressive format. Regardless of the particular build, Black Devotion has some excellent anti-aggro sideboard cards at its disposal:

Drown in Sorrow was among the most hyped cards in Born of the Gods. It answered the prayers of black players everywhere, who finally had the sweeper they were looking for. The early days of Theros Standard were filled with rush decks, but the printing of Drown in Sorrow and Bile Blight was their nail in the coffin. With no aggressive decks to play against, the sweeper was no longer necessary and all but disappeared. Now, with aggro on the rise, put Drown in Sorrow back in the sideboard and punish unsuspecting opponents.

Pharika's Cure had a similar fate to Drown in Sorrow, and with the decline of aggro, what was once in the main deck became absent from the 75. While I think it’s outclassed in the maindeck by Bile Blight, now is the time to sideboard Pharika's Cure.

Blue Devotion

Blue Devotion has often been considered a foil for aggressive decks, which suffer against the synergistic, tempo-oriented strategy of Blue. Over the last seven months, however, aggressive decks have since gotten wiser and more sophisticated, and with each additional set they have gained more tools at their disposal while Blue has stayed relatively stagnant. Blue Devotion needs to keep up, so it's fortunate that  it has some great sideboard tools :

This card is not pretty, but it does the job of acting like a bonafide removal spell against rush aggro decks. And with more good one-drops now than ever before, Sensory Deprivation seems better than ever. It also provides a devotion to Blue, which helps make up for the drawbacks associated with being an enchantment rather than hard removal.

Jace, Architect of Thought is ideal against rush aggro decks, where the +1 ability can cut their attackers in half. While this is a fine maindeck card, it’s an excellent way to change gears post sideboard, slow down and employ a more controlling strategy.

Moving On

M14 brought some nasty color hosers to Standard. Dark Betrayal and Gainsay have been played heavily, and I expect to see more of the others in the cycle:

With better mana available, now more and more decks have access to red hate in the form of Peak Eruption. This card is an absolute blowout against Chained to the Rocks, and it also has applications against any deck with Mountain shocklands.

Glare of Heresy is a clean answer to White permanents, which have gotten a big boost from Journey Into Nyx. This is a great answer to permanents like Godsend, Athreos, God of Passage and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Exiling gets around Tethmos High Priest.

Anger of the Gods is the red version of Drown in Sorrow, and it’s even better because it hits harder and removes even more creatures. This card has more maindeck potential, but it’s primarily an effective sideboard card against rush aggro decks. I expect to see this from all sorts of sideboards, including UWR control decks, decks like Gruul and Jund Monsters, and even in aggressive mirrors.

This creature fights very well against rush aggro decks, and its abilities all work together to create a very effective and reliable sideboard card for White aggro decks, hexproof decks, and even from the sideboard of control decks.

Nyx-Fleece Ram stands out as one of the best anti-aggro cards in the new set. The big body serves very well on defense as a blocker, and the passive lifegain every turn effectively erases half of a 2/2 attacker and helps its controller help pull away by creating a life-total buffer.

Golgari Charm might be the best card of all on my list, and it’s the biggest winner of all because it pairs with Temple of Malady. This card does it all, whether it serves as a small sweeper, a counterspell for removal or enchantment removal. This flexibility makes it a very valuable asset to the sideboard and potentially the maindeck.

What sideboard cards are you looking forward to using this weekend? Share in the comments!

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