Staples of Modern 2018: Sideboard #10-6

While yesterday’s article was a timely spotlight on current Modern, we are far from done with 2018’s data. Last week we went through the top mainboard cards of Modern for 2018 but sideboard hosers are a hallmark of the format. As with previous articles this ranking is based on’s dataset of over 6,000 results from paper and online tournaments in 2018. We will continue to approach the 2018 Modern format as a single 100 player tournament.

The following cards have been ranked by dominance rating. This is calculated by multiplying the percent of sideboards they appear in by the average number of copies that appear in said sideboards. For frame of reference, a card that appears in 25% of sideboards as a two of will have a 0.5 dominance rating. For our hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room.

Honorable Mention: Engineered Explosives
Sitting just outside of the Top 10 at a 0.26 dominance rating is Engineered Explosives. This will come as a surprise to many as it sees a ton of play in various multi-colored archetypes. This one is simply a victim of methodology. Explosives misses the Top 10 because it is good enough to see significant mainboard play; particularly in KCI. This Friday we will examine the Top 5 Artifacts in the format and that list will use both the mainboard and sideboard dominance ratings as criteria. I would expect to see Explosives make the cut.

#10 Grafdigger’s Cage: 0.28
Just barely making the cut is the good old Cage. This allows players to hose graveyard strategies for just one mana in a “set it and forget it” fashion. It has the additional utility of preventing creatures from entering from the library as well a la Collected Company and Chord of Calling. The weakness however is that it does not exile the opposing graveyard. Therefore it is ignored by cards such as Bedlam Reveler and had no lasting effect if it is removed. It still is serviceable and decks like GBx Midrange can use it as grave hate that does not hurt Tarmogoyf.

#9 Collective Brutality: 0.30
The most recent printing on our list today is still a brutal one. Modal spells are typically powerful due to their versatility and this is no exception. It is disruption against spell decks, removal against creature decks, with has a gain and drain effect to boot. Escalate  even allows multiple modes to be used, but Brutality requires discard for escalation. However, many of the decks that play it are able to actually derive value from discarding cards regardless of the additional modes. This has led to Brutality actually seeing significant mainboard play throughout the year but that is not a factor in today’s rating.

#8 Dispel: 0.30
Simple, effective, and extremely efficient at only one mana. Dispel averages less than two copies but sees play in the vast majority of blue decks in the format. As seen in the mainboard staples article, the top two spells in the format are instants that fall prey to Dispel. But where this card really shines is the tempo gain from countering costly instants such as Cryptic Command. When blue mages go to war in Modern, Dispel is often the best card they can bring in against each other and it will always have a target. With powerful instants seeing playing in all colors, it easily makes the grade.

#7 Relic of Progenitus: 0.32
Very similar to the previously mentioned Cage, Relic is a more skill intensive option at the same mana cost. Effective use of Relic is often a battle of wits. It allows the user to pick at the opponent’s graveyard over time with the option to pay one mana to pop it and exile each player’s graveyard. The graveyard abusing player must play around this and attempt to bait the Relic user to pop it early. Like Cage though, it is not particularly effective in the face of removal if played early. It is not an easy card to play but rewards the user with a cantrip effect and this allows it to see mainboard play.

#6 Surgical Extraction: 0.33
Our final list item for today, Surgical is another graveyard hate option without color restriction; though it is most popular in black decks anyways. Unlike the other options listed today it is not aa permanen that the opponent can remove and as an instant it can be quite a surprise.  It may only exile a single card from the graveyard but it guarantees that additional copies will not be an issue later. This leads to it being brought in against dedicated combo decks paired with targeted discard or against big mana decks when paired with land destruction. The effect is not always dramatic but it is versatile and can be played instantly for 0 mana so it is quite popular.

This is the starting point for cards you should consider when building your sideboard. Notably three of the five are graveyard hate options that lack color restrictions. Of course dominance ratings generally favor cards that are colorless but the fact that all three make the Top 10 is impressive. We will be looking at even more grave hate and methods to fight it when we look at the Top 5 tomorrow. Which cards do you expect to make the list? I hope you will join us.

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