Last week, I wrote about the process that led me to play Humans at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and a brief tournament report. Today, I’ll go in-depths on Humans, including deck choices and a sideboard plan!

Humans

Andrea Mengucci, 8th place at PT RIX

I started toying with Humans around one month ago when I was trying different decks. I was loving Dark Confidant at first, to the point that I was playing 2 copies in the main deck. Then I realized that the aim of the deck wasn’t to get card advantage, but to disrupt your opponent and then push through damage, and Dark Confidant wasn’t good at either. So I ended up cutting them.

I was also high on Kessig Malcontents after seeing a Japanese player repeatedly going 5-0 on MTGO. I was playing 2 copies, over 2 Reflector Mage, but when we broke down the metagame, we noticed that the most expected decks were creature decks, and Reflector Mage was just too good not to play 4 copies. Javier couldn’t drop the Malcontents, and decided to play it over a 1-drop, which is fine, but I still love to have one more play on turn 1.

We added Kytheon, Hero of Akros a few days before the Pro Tour. I’ve always wanted to play an extra 1-drop, and after trying Thraben Inspector I wasn’t excited. It’s a mediocre card with a low floor. Kytheon, on the other hand, can be crazy good if flipped on turn 3 and can be a good beater. Not having a turn-1 play is very relevant, and Kytheon was the best 1-drop at our disposal.

We were undecided about our sideboard. That’s why Javier and I decided to go different routes. Some cards were easy choices, but others were hard to figure out. Selfless Spirit and Xathrid Necromancer were two of the slots I was most unsure about, and I still am. They are good versus Supreme Verdict types of cards, but maybe they just aren’t worth the slot.

Javier decided to play Kambal, a card that I had mainly for the Lantern matchup, but then decided to drop it once we figured out that Lantern would see very little play at the PT. It did win the PT, but only 9 people showed up with it. Maybe going forward you should play it.

Gut Shot is another card that is very important to have against Noble Hierarch decks, especially on the draw where you can just fall behind against a ramp deck or in the mirror. Javier didn’t like the card and chose to play an extra Dismember, whereas I thought that it was a good call since I was expecting many mirror matches.

Grafdigger’s Cage was a concession to Dredge and Abzan Company, two decks that showed up in very little numbers, and I ended up never sideboarding in Cage in any of my 11 matches.

Sideboard Guide

Humans

Out

In

Ideally you want to cut 8 cards: Thalia and Mages, but we ended up cutting the 8th fair card for a Grafdigger’s Cage in the sideboard, so we ended up short in this matchup. Which is fine, since this matchup depends on who draws more Thalia’s Lieutenants and Phantasmal Images. Other cards matter less.

Some like to cut Kitesail Freebooter over Meddling Mage, but I think that’s a mistake since flyers are very important, and even if Freebooter is a 1/2 flying for 2, it’s still better than Meddling Mage.

I also see some people getting fancy with cards like Lantern Scout or Hostage Taker, but those don’t work in a mirror match with 4 Phantasmal Image. Whatever tech you have, your opponent will have it too.

Burn

Out

In

This is the matchup we playtested most, since most of us were undecided until the very last day. The matchup is very die-roll dependent, and Burn has to stick a threat into play and then kill every creature.

Humans will win when they get on the board quickly and pick apart their opponent’s hand. Meddling Mage is at times fantastic and very medium at others. The same is true of Phantasmal Image. That’s why we ended up cutting 2 of each. Mantis Rider is important for both blocking and attacking, but it’s worse than Reflector Mage, and since we are boarding in two 3-drops you need to cut it to bring the curve in line.

Affinity

Out

In

This is a tough matchup. It’s almost impossible to beat Steel Overseer game 1, and almost impossible to win on the draw. Post-sideboard you have lots of tools, though.

I see some people cutting Kitesail Freebooter, and I think it’s a big mistake since not only does Affinity raise their spell count post-sideboard, even when it doesn’t discard anything it’ll be great for blocking Signal Pest and friends. Meddling Mage is way less exciting.

Jeskai or U/W Control

Out

In

There is some consideration for cutting a Seachrome Coast for a Grafdigger’s Cage since you don’t want to flood and they have Path to Exile/Field of Ruin to make sure that you don’t get mana screwed, but since we are adding Selfless Spirit, you don’t really want to cut any sources that can cast it.

The matchup is tight, and discard creatures and permission spells are the way to win the game.

G/x Tron

Out on the Play

In on the Play

Out on the Draw

In on the Draw

This matchup depends on your opponent. If they hit Tron on turn 3 there’s very little you can do. If you manage to slow them down, and prevent them from playing Oblivion Stone or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, then you’ll win.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is good on the play since you’ll slow down your opponent’s ability to hit Tron, but on the draw it gets much worse since your opponent will already be able to play multiple 1-drops.

Grixis Shadow

Out

In

I playtested this matchup a great deal against Eduardo and I love to play it. It’s very tight and I’m still unsure of which cards are good and bad, so we ended up trimming them after sideboard.

Usually on the play you like Thalia’s Lieutenant better than on the draw, but there are games where your opponent just kills everything and it doesn’t do much. You want to cut Aether Vial for sure, as you don’t want to flood against discard card decks.

Abzan Midrange

Out

In

Again you’ll be cutting Aether Vial here and bringing in a bunch of fair cards. I’m not bringing in Selfless Spirit because of Liliana, the Last Hope and Lingering Souls. I playtested this matchup a lot versus Javier when he was on B/G Midrange and Abzan, and again I like it a lot. You need to be fast and never give them the time to kill your creatures and build up their defenses. Reid’s version doesn’t play Path to Exile, which is good for us, since 1-drop removal spells are how they get back into the game.

It’s Modern, so there are approximately 100 viable decks. I can’t talk about them all, but if you want to discuss any of them in the comments I’ll be there to answer!