A Guide to Humans in Modern

Humans is one of the most consistent decks in Modern, which is why I chose it as my weapon of choice at the Mythic Championship in London, where I went 8-2 in Modern. The deck choice wasn’t easy as many would think. While I played Humans at Pro Tour Bilbao to a Top 8, my total record with the deck at the last three GPs was a very disappointing 12-14. So I was definitely off the deck for a while.

After not playing Modern for roughly five months, when Wizards announced London would be Modern, I began to play the format again, including the Whir Prison deck that I piloted to a 103rd place at GP Bilbao last March. I liked the deck and liked it even more with the new rule dictating shared decklists, which was a good change for the deck. If the tournament was best-of-1, then Whir Prison would have been the deck to play, but unfortunately Gaddock Teeg and Shatterstorm exist and those cards are not only a beating, they are basically unbeatable.

After some sideboard testing with my teammates–some of the best players in the world–I got demolished 6-0 vs Humans, 6-0 vs Grixis Death’s Shadow and 4-2 vs Izzet Phoenix. I was basically beating only Hardened Scales, Dredge and Tron. It was on Tuesday Morning when I met Yellowhat on a Magic Online League on U/W Control that I decided that I was officially off the deck.

Bernardo Santos, Goncalo Pinto and Marcio Carvalho welcomed me in the Humans house and this is what I finally registered.

Humans in Modern

Andrea Mengucci – MC London, April 26, 2019

4 Cavern of Souls
4 Unclaimed Territory
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Ancient Ziggurat
1 Plains (331)
1 Island (335)
1 Seachrome Coast
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Meddling Mage
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
3 Phantasmal Image
4 Mantis Rider
4 Reflector Mage
1 Militia Bugler
1 Deputy of Detention
4 AEther Vial

Sideboard
3 Damping Sphere
3 Ravenous Trap
3 Auriok Champion
2 Deputy of Detention
2 Militia Bugler
2 Dismember

I went 8-2 at the Mythic Championship, with the matchups breaking down like this:

  • Esper/UW Control: 3-0
  • Izzet Phoenix: 1-0
  • Humans: 1-0
  • Dredge: 1-0
  • Hardened Scales: 1-0
  • Esper Shadow: 1-0
  • UR Electro-Balance: 0-1
  • Tron: 0-1

The list is very straightforward. The only real decision we had in the main deck was to play 3 or 4 Phantasmal Image and Kitesail Freebooter. We opted for 4 Freebooter because it’s a creature that you can always play on Turn 2, whereas you can find yourself with multiple Phantasmal Images in hand and a board where you can’t cast them (for example, if your opponent has removal up and you only control one creature). With 3 Militia Bugler, the matchup against control isn’t that bad, considering that Jeskai fell out in favor of U/W Control.

The other sideboard discussion was mainly about Gaddock Teeg. I ended up not playing it, since the addition of Deputy of Detention means you already need to name Wizards with your five-color lands and the addition of another non-Human in the sideboard could have been problematic.

I made sure to play as many copies as possible of Ravenous Trap, since in my opinion that was the only card that allowed you to beat Dredge on the draw. Auriok Champion wasn’t enough to stop Cathartic Reunion and that’s why we decided to cut the fourth Champion for more Ravenous Trap.

I saw some lists playing Chalice of the Void and I genuinely can’t understand why. A Chalice on 1 on the draw isn’t even good, and this isn’t Legacy where there are a bunch of cantrip-based lists or decks that particularly care about 1-drops. On top of that, it’s an Ancient Ziggurat deck and I don’t intend cutting any copies of that for Gemstone Mine or Mana Confluence.

Damping Sphere was the only noncreature card that I could see myself putting in the sideboard because of the bad matchup against Tron, which we expected to be the most popular deck. Funnily enough, at the tournament I lost to Tron with Damping Sphere in hand I couldn’t cast, having only 2 lands in play along with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

Sideboard Guide

Izzet Phoenix

OUT:

Mantis RiderMantis RiderMantis RiderMantis Rider

IN:

Militia BuglerMilitia BuglerDismemberDismember

This is a much closer matchup than what we thought at first, especially with Izzet oprting for Surgical Extraction over Gut Shot. Me and Javier played a lot of this match-p and ended with a 50-50 score.

Meddling Mage has to name Thing in the Ice first if you’re on the play and don’t have Reflector Mage. Tempo is the key and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is your strongest card.

Post-sideboard, cut the Mantis Rider, since they die too easily to Lightning Bolt and Arclight Phoenix and you’ll replace them with Dismember to deal with Thing in the Ice and Militia Bugler to get card advantage in a match-up that becomes grindy.

Mirror

OUT:

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenMeddling MageMeddling MageMeddling MageMeddling MageKitesail Freebooter

IN:

DismemberDismemberAuriok ChampionAuriok ChampionAuriok ChampionMilitia BuglerMilitia BuglerDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

Deputy of Detention is the new cool toy in the mirror match. Be aware of it and avoid putting into play multiple creatures with the same name. Sidebording is easy since Meddling Mage and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are just bad, whereas Kitesail Freeboter is just fine and the third-worst card of the main deck.

Tron (On the play)

OUT:

Militia BuglerReflector MageReflector MageKitesail FreebooterPhantasmal Image

IN:

Damping SphereDamping SphereDamping SphereDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

(On the draw)

OUT:

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenMilitia BuglerReflector Mage

IN:

Damping SphereDamping SphereDamping SphereDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

Thalia is good on the play, but very bad on the draw. It’s still a fine creature, and since she’s legendary it’s mostly fine to leave one copy in, even in matchups where she doesn’t shine. Reflector Mage gets replaced by Deputy of Detention, which is very good at dealing with Oblivion Stone with Damping Sphere in play. This matchup isn’t good, but as Eli Loveman proved, sometimes you just can just kill Tron on turn 4 anyway.

Dredge (On the play)

OUT:

Militia BuglerKitesail FreebooterKitesail FreebooterKitesail FreebooterKitesail FreebooterReflector MageReflector MageThalia, Guardian of Thraben

IN:

Auriok ChampionAuriok ChampionAuriok ChampionRavenous TrapRavenous TrapRavenous TrapDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

(On the draw)

OUT:

Militia BuglerThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenKitesail FreebooterKitesail FreebooterReflector MageReflector Mage

IN:

Auriok ChampionAuriok ChampionAuriok ChampionRavenous TrapRavenous TrapRavenous TrapDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

Thalia’s job here is similar to its role against Tron. The matchup isn’t good, but the existence of Ravenous Trap means you can win even against any nut hand and even on the draw. Auriok Champion can sometimes take over against slower draws from your opponent.

Don’t sideboard out Phantasmal Image, even if they have Darkblast, because you need Image to copy Auriok Champion to create a wall of them. Meddling Mage needs to name Conflagrate as soon as you can, since that card can single-handedly clear your board.

U/W Control

OUT:

Noble HierarchNoble HierarchReflector MageReflector MageReflector MageReflector Mage

IN:

DismemberDismemberMilitia BuglerMilitia BuglerDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

Last year, Jeskai Control was the deck that kept down Humans, but luckily Jeskai is gone and has been replaced with U/W and Esper Control, which are much easier for Humans to beat. Sure, at any point of the game of the game you must hope they don’t topdeck Terminus, but if they don’t then you should be in a good spot. I beat one U/W Control and two Esper Control decks at Mythic Championship London. I would say it’s a slightly favorable matchup, but it really depends on how prepared they are, and it might have been that people weren’t expecting as many Humans decks as showed up, as Ivan Floch confessed to me at the event.

Grixis Death’s Shadow

OUT:

Thalia's LieutenantThalia's LieutenantThalia's LieutenantThalia's LieutenantMeddling MageMeddling MageMeddling MageMeddling MageAEther Vial

IN:

DismemberDismemberAuriok ChampionAuriok ChampionAuriok ChampionMilitia BuglerMilitia BuglerDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

This is a good matchup, and the reason why Grixis Shadow is slowly getting played less and less (this and U/W Control being popular). It’s very hard for them to deal with all your creatures as well as damaging themselves to play a Death’s Shadow that could just get bounced. Sure, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is good in the matchup, but that’s not enough. Auriok Champion and Militia Bugler are great additions from the sideboard that make their plan of discard + removal much weaker.

Hardened Scales // Affinity

OUT:

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of ThrabenThalia, Guardian of Thraben

IN:

DismemberDismemberDeputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention

This was supposed to be a bad matchup, but as Kanister admitted, it got much closer with Deputy of Detention. Steel Overseer is still a beating, but if they don’t have it and you name Walking Ballista with Meddling Mage you will be fine. At the Mythic Championship I managed to defeat Hardened Scales 2-0 on the draw thanks to a Turn 2 Reflector Mage on Steel Overseer in both games. I’m pretty sure if I had Aether Vial over Noble Hierarch I would have lost at least one of the two games.

That’s all about Humans. It’s a cool deck that has game against any other deck in the format, and it’s also the deck that won the Mythic Championship. I’m sure we’ll see more Gut Shot back in Izzet Phoenix and more Lightning Bolt in Control decks now, so get ready!

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