Sideboarding is an integral, important, and necessary part of any form of organized play. They are there to help you make adjustments, if any, to your immediate match. They also serve a lot of other purposes that don’t involve interim changes, and those are the things I want to touch on here.

In a normal game of Commander, you don’t really have matches, just a single multiplayer game you jam until you’re all satisfied. You could play multiple games, but that’s just playing the same game over again, not a match. Sideboards in their traditional sense wouldn’t fit into that kind of structure. The other issue is the general interest of said mechanic. The large majority of players would simply not care to do this, even at a cEDH level. It’s not an attractive option for players who simply want to sit down and game.

The way sideboards function would have to fundamentally change for it to work, but I think I have a neat idea that could be used by some groups, one I’ll be trying.

Note that this isn’t something I’m necessarily proposing or pushing, but it’s more of a thought I think could work in theory. It’s an option for those who wish to add a bit more dynamic play to their tables that are also willing to try it.

The experiment: Any Commander sideboard can only contain five cards. At the beginning of the game, when all commanders are revealed, each player may select one card from their sideboard and exchange it with any non-commander card in their deck.

And that’s it!

I know this doesn’t sound like too much, and it isn’t, but it’s the implications of a sideboard existing not only open up a lot of options in a format full of ways go through your deck quickly, and even tutor for whatever you want quickly, but it also adds a bit of spice to the lower power level builds that could use a silver bullet for a problematic commander. If you’re truly struggling against Collector Ouphe and somehow forgot that not every creature is indestructible by default, then maybe having a silver bullet against artifact hate may do the trick. This is also a good way to make small adjustments in between games over longer sessions.

Now, there’s even more implications to this. Wishes become playable now, as with any “outside the game” spells and effects. You’ll now open up more options in your gameplay, as well as your deckbuilding. Wishes are effectively tutors, but arguably more limited, unless you tailor your sideboard to fit. The amount of decisions going into this would be pretty interesting. 

There are downsides to this, of course.

First off, like many tables that play too often, some cards may wind up extremely staple-esque. This can be checked and updated of course, but as long as you aren’t perpetually on Twitter, you should be fine. Secondly, it’s uncertain that five cards will make any impact at all, or wind up being too much. Commander is already a bloated format, and being expected to worry about five more cards is asking a lot. On the other hand, five cards may wind up not being impactful at all, and it’s hard enough to get people to worry about more cards.

There are ups and downs to this idea, but I think it’s worth taking a look at, tweaking, and refining, just to see how things play out. I think I can convince my table to give it a go for a few days, but I’m also very excited to hear about how you’d go about this!

Anthony Lowry (they/he) is a seasoned TCG, MMORPG, and FPS veteran. They are extensively knowledgeable on the intricacies of many competitive outlets, and are always looking for a new challenge in the gaming sphere.

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