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Dragons of Tarkir includes many powerful sideboard cards for the Standard format. Today I’ll examine the options and assess their Standard applications.
This card is quite strong against Green creatures like Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. It’s great against white creatures like Seeker of the Way and Soulfire Grandmaster. It hits a huge swath of gold cards including Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Fleecemane Lion, and Rakshasa Deathdealer. The value as a burn spell gives it additional value, which is best utilized out of an aggressive deck.
Green and white together cover a great majority of creatures played in Standard and make Self-Inflicted Wound a potent sideboard card and a sure staple going forward. It would seem best in Abzan Aggro and Mardu Midrange, it would be a clear choice in B/W Aggro and Mono-Black Aggro, and could potentially see play in all sorts of Abzan Midrange decks.
Surge of Righteousness
Surge of Righteousness is more situational than its black counterpart, and it’s also easier to play around. It does kill Goblin Rabblemaster, but only after allowing it to make two tokens. It does do its part against Siege Rhino and Mantis Rider, and potentially Anafenza, the Foremost. It would be a fine sideboard card against Mono-Red and Mono-Black aggressive decks, but these decks are not very popular and are naturally resistant to this effect.
Kill Shot-style cards are historically weak in Standard, so I don’t have high hopes for Surge of Righteousness, but it might be useful in UWx control decks.
Display of Dominance
Display of Dominance is powerful and somewhat versatile. It functions like a Negate against creature removal, and it kills some permanents. On the other hand, it’s reactive and narrow. It doesn’t shine in current Standard, though it’s certainly strong against Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Whip of Erebos decks.
Display of Dominance is a sleeper card that could shine in a future metagame.
Dealing four damage for one mana at instant speed, Rending Volley is quite powerful against white and blue creatures. Unfortunately it doesn’t kill Siege Rhino, but it does get Mantis Rider and Butcher of the Horde, along with cheap white creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Fleecemane Lion, Soulfire Grand Master, and Seeker of the Way. If Mono-Blue Devotion becomes popular this will be a strong option against that archetype.
Rending Volley could see play in a wide variety of decks, including Mono-Red aggro, R/W Aggro, Temur, R/G Monsters, Mardu Midrange, Jeskai, and URx control decks.
Encase in Ice
This effect isn’t typical in a removal spell, but it offers blue a functional way to deal with aggressive green and red creatures. It matches up well with Rakshasa Deathdealer, though Fleecemane Lion trumps it. Most importantly, it stops Siege Rhino cold. It’s decent against Mono-Red and would be serviceable against Stormbreath Dragon, but Goblin Rabblemaster trumps it with goblin tokens.
Encase in Ice would seem best in Mono-Blue Devotion and Temur, and it’s playable in U/B Control and Jeskai.
Virulent Plague offers a powerful card to hate against token strategies. This new-and-improved Illness in the Ranks handles all of the traditional token offerings like Hordeling Outburst, Raise the Alarm, and the DTK-reprinted Dragon Fodder. It offers additional value as a way to handle zombie tokens from Necromancer's Stockpile, satyr tokens from Xenagos, the Reveler, and vampires from Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Virulent Plague may also prove valuable against the new Secure the Wastes.
Virulent Plague is playable in any black deck if tokens become a significant part of the metagame.
Roast may as well say “Destroy target Siege Rhino”. Roast is not far off from Terminate, and it kills all the important Standard creatures, including Courser of Kruphix, Whisperwood Elemental, and Polukranos, World Eater. Roast makes red a lot more competitive in Standard and relaxes some of the pressure on Stoke the Flames and even Chained to the Rocks.
This is a sideboard staple that could easily see maindeck play in any variety of red decks, especially Mono-Red because it lacks other options.
Duress is back! This supplements Thoughtseize as a discard spell, but it’s notably better against burn spells in particular.
Ultimate Price is an unassuming removal spell but is actually quite powerful in Standard. This destroys Voyaging Satyr, Goblin Rabblemaster, Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, Courser of Kruphix, Whisperwood Elemental, and Polukranos, World Eater.
The quality of removal spells in this format before Dragons of Tarkir was relatively weak and slow, and Ultimate Price represents a transition to a world with two-mana removal spells beyond Valorous Stance. This is a great sideboard card with maindeck potential.
On the topic of two-mana removal spells, Silkwrap is a great answer to a great number of Standard creatures, including Courser of Kruphix, Mantis Rider, Rakshasa Deathdealer, Fleecemane Lion, and Voyaging Satyr.
This is a fine sideboard card for any white deck, but it also has real potential for the maindeck in an aggressive metagame.
Hidden Dragonslayer has promise, if for not for anything but the fact that it destroys Siege Rhino. It’s great against Whisperwood Elemental and Polukranos, World Eater as well. The Morph comes down on turn three, preempting its mark, and green decks will have little or no way to interact with the morph beyond fighting through it, which sets them up for a massive tempo loss.
This card seems quite strong in Abzan Aggro, Mardu Midrange, Jeskai Tempo, and R/W Aggro.
Seismic Rupture is a functional Pyroclasm that is a great tool for any red deck going forward. This gives control a board sweeper that is more splashable than Anger of the Gods, and as cheaper spell, more efficient against creature rush strategies. This is something of a red Drown in Sorrow that is punishing against R/W Aggro, Mono-Red Aggro, and any token strategies.
Looking at Commands
Some of the most interesting sideboard cards of all are contained in the cycle of gold command cards. With so many abilities, they are versatile and powerful options for a variety of situations, and some of them are naturally well-suited as sideboard cards.
Dromoka's Command has numerous abilities that shine in the sideboard role, and they combine to make a powerful and versatile card worth its weight in gold out of the sideboard. It also has a ton of maindeck potential in the right metagame.
The ability of making an opponent sacrifice an enchantment has a ton of value against popularly played cards Courser of Kruphix, Chained to the Rocks, Outpost Siege, Citadel Siege, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Mastery of the Unseen. The fight ability is a bonafide removal spell in a deck with a high creature count.
The card is also a great tool against burn spells. The +1/+1 counter ability does not stand out, but it has clear combat applications and could surprise burn spells being used as removal. More importantly, the mere existence of the ability in the format forces opponents to play differently, much like Abzan Charm.
Kolaghan's Command is a reliable source of card advantage that is useful in attrition battles between removal spells and creatures, which are a common occurrence in Standard. It will be best against opponents where the two damage ability is useful as removal, like against Goblin Rabblemaster, Seeker of the Way, Soulfire Grand Master, and small aggressive creatures. This two damage is also useful as a burn spell to finish off the opponent, and is incredibly useful against planeswalkers.
The card is even better when opponents are killing one’s creatures because it turns on the Raise Dead ability. Kolaghan's Command is useful as a source of card advantage against control decks, where it can return a creature to hand and make the opponent discard a card. This discard ability can be used in the opponent’s draw step to ensure they enter their mainphase hellbent. There is also the ability to target artifact, but artifacts are not popular in Standard.
Kolaghan's Command seems best in Mardu Midrange.
Are there any great Standard sideboard cards I missed? Let me know in the comments.