Whether you’re familiar or not with sideboards, you might have heard the phrase pop-up in a lot of Shadespire discussions. Today I’ll be looking at the pros and cons of having a sideboard in Shadespire as well as if it’s even needed.
With the advent of the final wave of new cards to Shadespire I feel it’s a good time to bring up my thoughts on the subject as a lot of people feel that sideboards are the only way to counter all the strong cards out there. Now while I’ve never played any trading card games competitively I do have a fair bit of knowledge with them.
So what is a sideboard I hear you ask? For those out of the loop, a sideboard (sometimes called a side deck) is a collection of cards outside of your normal deck that you can swap in and out with your main deck in between rounds. They are used in major trading card games such as Yugioh and Magic the Gathering. The main use of this is to keep cards you don’t always need for particular match-ups/cards your opponent runs to form a hard counter.
With that brief description out-of-the-way, let’s go into the positives and negatives for a game such as Shadespire to implement one.
It allows you to tailor your cards to what your opponent is running – This means you can focus on a particular playstyle and then swap around cards from the sideboard as required depending on what your opponent is running. You could be an aggro player with all the push enemy cards (such as Earthquake), in your first game you are matched vs another aggro player and then after the first game swap out the mass push cards as your opponent doesn’t care about objectives etc.
You can be more relaxed with your deck construction – You won’t need to stress as much over what ‘must have’ card you need in your deck as you can swap them in and out between rounds.
Keeps your opponent guessing – Changing a few cards in-between games means now your opponent has to think about if any major cards were swapped out. What remains and what has been changed? Also changing no cards could mean you either don’t have any counters to what your opponent has or that you feel you already have what’s needed.
Allows more adaptive play – You could be playing defensively in the first game then swap a few cards around and then completely change your approach to an aggressive one and shock the opponent or vice versa etc.
It increases the time each player uses between rounds – With how tight Shadespire tournament games can be, an extra 2 to 5 minutes each round can waste a lot of time. If you and your opponent are both on a win and a loss and each game was 30 minutes with 5 minutes each round for sidedecking, you both now only have 20 minutes to finish that last round. While a game can be done in 20 minutes, both players will be rushing more than normal in order to get the game done and increasing the likelihood of making mistakes. Card games don’t go for as long as Shadespire and with tournament games every second counts.
You can become too relaxed with card choice – As you can swap out what cards you want inbetween games, the pressure of deck selection goes down. While this is good, it also means you may forget to tighten how your deck works with the choices and combos. It also makes you rely more on the cards to win your bad match-ups instead of trying to adapt in other ways.
It can make you oversee what contributed to your losses – As you now may be relying on your sideboard to deal mainly with all your bad match-ups/opponent’s cards, you would likely focus on that as to why you lost. While sideboards help cover weaknesses, it would be easy to say you swapped in the wrong card or didn’t swap another one earlier etc.
Shadespire was not designed with sideboards in mind – Probably the biggest point. Shadespire is designed with a best of 3 system in mind. It’s in place for multiple reasons including: countering your opponent’s plays, keeping a track of what cards they use, mitigate poor hands/draws and dice rolls as well as remembering your opponent’s quirks. Sideboards hurt this and make the game lose a bit of its magic as well as slow the game down. This doesn’t even cover the fact about how big the sideboard would be, if it scaled with deck sizes, if there was one for the Objective deck and Power Card deck etc.
So what’s my verdict on sideboards then? I really would not like them added to Shadespire. I feel they take away more than they add and risk slowing down tournament games when timing is crucial and that extra thinking time during the rounds is more important than thinking time for sideboarding. While I can appreciate why people want them added to the game, Shadespire is all about movement and positioning so if you feel cards are the most important aspect of the game then I’m afraid that thinking in such ways will only hinder your progress with the game.
So there you have it. My take on sideboards, a complex subject such as the eternal issue of: can you roll a crit?