We’ve seen what an aggressive Humans shell can do in Standard. Early creatures that scale in the late game backed by removal make for a reliable and punishing game plan.
Champion of the Parish is what originally put the Humans decks on the map. Champion hits the board on turn 1 and then threatens to become a massive threat that only gets bigger and bigger as the game drags on. Thalia’s Lieutenant plays the same role. She’ll cost you 1 mana more for the Champion of the Parish effect, but also happens to put +1/+1 counters on each of your other Human creatures. Being this powerful in both the early, middle, and late game is a huge incentive to play Humans.
There are other excellent early drops that you can play that help scale your creatures. Soldier of the Pantheon can gain a few life and block a fair number of creatures while living to tell the tale. By the same token, Soldier can’t be blocked by opposing creatures like Kitchen Finks or Siege Rhino. We’ve seen what Kytheon can do in Standard. Not the best creature or planeswalker in the world, but still a 2-power threat for a single mana that can transform into something many decks struggle to deal with.
Burning-Tree Emissary is a pretty huge payoff for any rush deck, but it also happens to be a Human. Being a “free” spell that can allow you to cast additional spells in the same turn allows you to create an incredible tempo game. A turn-1 Champion into BTE and another threat generates a massive amount of damage that just continues to escalate each turn. In this particular build, there happen to be very few creatures that you can actually cast off of the green and red mana BTE produces, so there’s probably a way to help optimize the Humans build, but this is a step in the right direction.
If you’re going to play BTE, preferably into more BTEs when you already have a Champion in play, the card you most want to follow up with has got to be Reckless Bushwhacker. Champion into BTE into Bushwhacker is 9 damage on turn 2. Each additional BTE represents another 4 damage in that particular nut draw (2 from the BTE, 1 additional from Champion, and 1 additional from Bushwhacker). That also means the full nut draw of Champion, 4 BTEs, and Bushwhacker is 21 damage on turn 2! With 4 copies of BTE, I would strongly consider some additional Bushwhackers just to live the dream.
The other red and green creatures you can cast on turn 2 off of your Burning-Tree Emissary are Lightning Mauler and Mayor of Avabruck. The Mayor will pump your entire team, while Lightning Mauler is another way to give your creatures haste that doesn’t need to be surged like the Bushwhackers. The turn-1 Champion into turn-2 BTE-plus-Mauler draw is still a pretty nice 7 damage on turn 2 that will all still be around the following turn.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben will tax opponents for playing cheap spells. Increasing the cost of sweepers should give you more than enough time to finish the job with your giant monsters. Even if you’re only pushing back their Angers and Pyroclasms by a turn, when you have creatures like Thalia’s Lieutenant and Champion, they will often grow out of range before an opponent can deal with them. Dark Confidant will keep the cards flowing in an aggressive deck with a low curve.
The top of the curve is a card I was actually surprised to find out is a Human. Mantis Rider is not an actual Mantis, but the person riding the monster is. A 3/3 flying, vigilance, haste creature for 3 mana is exciting and can close a game in a hurry. With Bushwhackers and Maulers to grant haste, Lieutenants and Champions that get pseudo-haste because of their counters, and then Mantis Rider, the Humans deck has a way to overload up on damage even with an innocuous board to start the turn.
When backed up by the best removal spells, Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, the Humans have a chance to make an impact on Modern. This is an aggressive deck that has creatures that can grow bigger than even the Tarmogoyfs and Eldrazi of the world. With one of the most incredible lands in the format in Cavern of Souls, Humans look like they could be a top deck in Modern!