The Captain’s Log – Building a RUG Sideboard

The Captain’s Log – Building a RUG Sideboard

Last week I took you inside my list for RUG Delver. While some might think it’s a pretty standard list, there were a few variations that I think gives it the edge it needs in the current metagame. This week I will be discussing my sideboard choices and why I chose them. Since Legacy is an ever evolving format with so many different decks it is important to have a versatile sideboard that can be used in many different scenarios and not just in one matchup. While some sideboard slots I believe are rock solid and should not be changed in the current metagame there is some flexibility and room to change others. I have spent many hours tuning and adjusting my sideboard and I am happy where it is at now. That being said, without further ado…

The graveyard removal package in this current sideboard is criminally low. Normally I put in a solid four slots because I think Dredge is a very legitimate deck and it deserves to have the proper sideboard slots dedicated to it. This tournament however, I chose to run only three slots and in retrospect that was a mistake. There should be another Surgical Extraction in my board.


As well as being a card short against this archetype I was also wrong in my choice of Tormod’s Crypt. My thought process behind choosing this card is being able to play it for zero, therefore losing no tempo, and still being able to provide disruption. Grafdigger’s Cage is just better. Dredge can grind out one crypt and often just power right through. But one Grafdigger’s cage they are just cold to, unless they draw their hate.


[Image of Surgical Extraction]The plus side for my choices in graveyard hate… Surgical Extraction has multiple applications. Surgical Extraction is very versatile, which is exactly what you want out of your sideboard slots, it doubles as combo hate disrupting draw spells and win conditions. Against UW control decks it can shift the card order of the top of libraries so setting up miracles is much harder, and it even has applications in the mirror. Some people side in Surgical against the mirror in hopes of hitting a Tropical Island that fell victim to a Wasteland. Be careful when you do this though because it turns off the alternate casting cost on your Submerge, but potentially can neuter an opponent’s chances of winning.


Three slots dedicated to Red Elemental Blast or Pryoblast seems to be generally accepted, but between these spells, Force of Will and Spell Pierce I always feel like three may be a bit of overkill in some scenarios.


Ancient Grudge is another versatile card that hits many cards that are problematic against RUG, but the biggest target is Batterskull, a card that is a beast against us.


Now on to the next blast…Blue Elemental Blast. This is a card that for a long time I haven’t been a fan of playing. I’ve always felt like the matchups that it was good against were matchups that weren’t necessarily great, but didn’t deserve the respect of dedicating sideboard slots. But with the recent resurgence of Goblins I felt like I needed to be prepared. So for this tournament I decided to give it a try. As it turns out I didn’t play against anyone running goblins, though I boarded them in once against a Sneak and Show opponent. This card needless to say was very underwhelming, but has the potential to be a boss in a goblin heavy field. I feel that if Rug Delver is played properly the goblin match is very winnable so this sideboard slot may not be necessary.


Now the all-stars of the sideboard…


[Image of Submerge]Hands down the best cards in the sideboard are Submerge and Cursed Totem. These cards are great for two very different reasons. First Submerge. This card has Tempo written all over. A card that you can cast for free that puts a problematic card on top of its owner library? Please Sign me up all day. I hear some people cutting these to three in the board and I think it is just not acceptable. Being able to answer a Knight of the Reliquary mid-to-late game even for a turn is a huge gain. There are so many interactions with this card as well that make it permanent removal. Opponent cracks a fetch? No problem, in response put that Knight of the Reliquary on top of their library in response. Oh, you’re casting a Stoneforge Mystic? Trigger on the stack send her packing. This gives you that tempo you need and leaves the opponent with the decision of putting a threat on the board or putting an artifact on the field. Lately I have been Submerging a lot more Noble Hierarchs than normal. Being able to shut that mana acceleration down in the right scenario is game breaking, while also preserving the value of your Daze.


Finally to the card in my sideboard which I was late to the party on, but have been very impressed with since, Cursed Totem.


[Image of Cursed Totem]Until not long ago I wasn’t very familiar with this card. This card is absolutely nuts against Maverick, which can be a very tough matchup for RUG. This card turns all of Maverick’s awesome utility creatures into vanilla subpar creatures. Mother of Ruins? Sweet 1/1 dude. Noble Hierarch? Awesome you have a 0/1, thanks for coming in today. Quasil Pridemage is your answer to problematic artifacts and enchantments? Doesn’t work here, nice try. It takes Maverick’s power and strength and shuts it off completely. With Totem out the only card that is potentially scary is Knight of the Reliquary, so hold those Submerges. Cursed Totem gives RUG the ability to have the better creatures. This is huge matched with RUGs superior card advantage and tempo ability. It swings the advantage to the RUG player. Against Elf Combo, Cursed Totem is also the stones, which is a seriously tough deck when it gets going. Cursed Totem shuts those elves down in their tracks. Shutting of their ability to tap for mana turns the deck into a bunch of 1/1’s and 2/2’s and RUG can surely deal with those no problem at all.


Some people may notice that Life from the Loam did not make the cut in my sideboard. This has been a card that I have gone back and forth on time and time again. I think this card does something that RUG doesn’t want to do. It wants to go late. While when this gets going it can be near impossible to beat or answer effectively (without a Surgical), playing this in a tempo deck feels wrong. I recall a situation where I was playing against BUG in this past tournament where my opponent had the choice of returning Loam to his hand from his graveyard or drawing and possible getting something to kill an onboard Tarmogoyf. Which do you attack, the land that can possibly pump out more threats or the creature that is applying pressure on you? In this case my opponent chose to dredge two turns in a row killing his draw step (which potentially could have had an uncounterable kill spell) and then allowing me to counter his loam providing a huge tempo shift. In this scenario my opponent seemed to have two different lines of play, go after the creature or land. What I have found in Legacy is that the more you are focused, the better the result is. Loam provides a very powerful effect and by no means do I think it is an unreasonable card, but not for me and not in RUG. I want my deck and sideboard to be focused and all working towards the same game plan.


Well thanks for reading. See you next time
Paolo Cesari

6 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – Building a RUG Sideboard”

  1. Hi thanks for nice article. What do you think about Rough/Tumble instead Blue Elemental Blast? It seems to me like better choice against Goblins and it is very useful against other tribal decks also.

  2. I have tried rough/tumble before and while it is very good against those decks that you mentioned, it isnt very versatile. That is the biggest thing I am looking for in a sb slot. Red blast has other applications against Omni-show decks which seem to be more prevalent in the meta as of now.

  3. ” There are so many interactions with this card as well that make it permanent removal. Opponent cracks a fetch? No problem, in response put that Knight of the Reliquary on top of their library in response. Oh, you’re casting a Stoneforge Mystic? Trigger on the stack send her packing. ”

    Can you explain those plays?? I dont understand them.

    Plus, I included three ascetic troll in the sideboard. Its a great card against pretty much every aggro deck, since it regenerates and cant be target of spells. Being a 3/2 it kills all kird apes, gaddock teg and much of the zoo and maverick. It’s also invulnerable to swords, lightings and etc. The other option I was thinking were spongifys. What you think??

  4. When an opponent uses a fetchland or a Stoneforge Mystic or any other ability or trigger that causes them to shuffle their library in response you submerge the creature of your choice then that puts it on top of their library then the shuffle trigger resolves shuffling away that creature with it. To your other comment, generally speaking 3 mana cards are not where this deck likes to be, seeing how it runs 6 lands that produce mana (not counting wasteland). Keep brainstorming though!

  5. Also, its my impression or no one plays black in legacy anymore? I can count with the fingers of one hand the number of times i’ve played against opponents with black mana producing lands. Also white, the only reason it gets played is to for splashing knights or swords. But black, lately I have seen zero serious black decks.

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