If you’re looking to play the latest in white aggro decks, look no further than Craig Wescoe. When your range begins and ends at white creature strategies, you can be sure that whatever he sleeves up is going to be one of the best lists you could possibly play. Of course, even when white creature decks are very bad, you’re still likely to see Wescoe sleeve them up, but that’s certainly not the case right now.
Thalia’s Lieutenant has made waves ever since being introduced to Standard. A 2-mana 1/1 creature isn’t passing any vanilla tests, but the abilities are remarkable. Not only will the Lieutenant grow to enormous sizes in any dedicated Human deck, it’ll pump your entire team permanently when entering the battlefield. That power alone is worth building around.
But why not play Toolcraft Exemplar and artifacts? A 3/2 creature for 1 mana is a massive threat that goes well above the curve, but there are no Human synergies, and your deck building restriction pushes in another direction. There are plenty of incidental ways to get artifacts, such as Clue tokens, and any white creature deck is sure to max out on Smuggler’s Copters, but playing Scrapheap Scrounger and enough other artifacts to make sure the Exemplar is good comes at a very real cost. Not only are these creatures not Humans, but Scrounger only works in dedicated aggressive decks since you won’t be doing any blocking. The G/W Humans shell has all the tools to fight through midrange decks and continue to pull ahead in the late game. The Lieutenant is a big part of the reason for that.
By skewing more midrange, a creature that can swing the damage race by 20 or more is appealing. Heron’s Grace Champion is a 4-mana 3/3 flash lifelink Human. That’s a pretty reasonable rate, especially if you’re ever able to ambush a creature and gain some life. The synergy with Thalia’s Lieutenant is clear, as you can both pump your Champions already in play or pump your Lieutenants at instant speed with a Champion.
Giving your entire team this temporary bonus should completely warp the game. In a board stall, this could represent enough life gained that your opponent can never really recover. An instant-speed trick means your opponent can’t make the best blocks that they can see on the surface. Your open mana suddenly represents a ton of potential damage and life gained. When trying to fight through Ishkanah and all of the little Spiders, Heron’s Grace Champion will completely blow a game up.
Heron’s Grace Champion plays especially well with larger creatures that may have otherwise been chump blocked. Lieutenant is one of these possibilities, but Tireless Tracker is in a similar boat. Trackers can continue to churn out Clues and grow. It might be easy against many decks to chump block with Spider tokens while using Ishkanah to try to burn the opponent out (returning Ishkanah to keep making more Spiders), but Heron’s Grace Champion should effectively put an end to that. Gaining double-digit life points is just going to crush any hopes of racing, and the cards you’ll draw off Clues make sure that you have a Champion when you need one.
Duskwatch Recruiter is another way to make sure your lifelink is online. Recruiter is the same powerful card it was before the rotation, but it hasn’t seen as much play since. Both Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker are Humans that can come down early and dominate later in the game, and having Recruiter means you want to play more creatures and fewer removal spells and/or Vehicles—but that was already the case with a card like Thalia’s Lieutenant in your deck. Both Recruiter and Tracker mitigate flood by turning even your late land drops into value.
Recruiter lets you find your impactful creatures far more consistently. Digging to find more Lieutenants and more Heron’s Grace Champions means that you’ll maximize the value of the other creatures you have in play. Recruiter flipping into a 3/3 in the early stages of the game will make it easier to cast your spells, and is a huge problem for a deck like U/W Flash. They might want to hold up their mana to cast something like Spell Queller, but Recruiter will really punish that. If they Reflector Mage after you’ve flipped, you can still cast the Recruiter immediately on the following turn. A 3/3 creature is also a nice size to get in good chunks of damage against their deck full of 1/2, 2/1, and 2/3 creatures.
Thraben Inspector remains the valuable little Human that could. A no-brainer 4-of in every white deck with creatures as it both produces an artifact, replaces itself, and has Human synergies. Getting the extra point of toughness means that Inspector can survive a Liliana activation, so you’re basically just looking at the high end of Elvish Visionaries here.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar is a bit slower, but also a huge tempo shift against decks with flash creatures or those that can create a bunch of Spiders. The potential blowout to completely mess with somebody’s mana and land sequencing is there, but the baseline of 3 power, first strike, and stopping blockers for a turn is already strong.
This is another creature that can get a bit out of control with a few pumps. A 3-power creature with first strike already does work on the battlefield, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar is one of the best blockers you could imagine against aggressive decks trying to get through with Exemplars and Scroungers.
Expedition Envoy is the weakest card in the deck, and it isn’t particularly close. A 2/1 creature for 1 mana used to be worthy of the rare slot in the good old days of Savannah Lions. That’s no longer the case. Trading off with a Thraben Inspector is not a great place to be, and immediately dying to an activation from Liliana is a huge drawback. This thing does hit reasonably hard with the aid of anything else. An Envoy into a Lieutenant is already a really good start (a.k.a. Exemplar into any artifact), and Heron’s Grace Champion means you’ll be gaining lots of life thanks to the extra power. Still, it probably isn’t good enough.
Both pilots of the deck, Wescoe and Sam Black, have noted that they weren’t happy with the Expedition Envoys. One of the proposed replacements was Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter. While you’re losing a little initial power, you’re still getting a 1-mana Human that can be pumped by and help pump Lieutenant. You’re also getting another late-game mana sink that can take over the board. I don’t know whether that’s good enough, but if having the 1-mana creature is really important, this is a viable option. I would normally not worry too much about having a 1-drop, especially in a deck with mana sinks as good as Recruiters and Trackers, but Smuggler’s Copter changes the game.
Smuggler’s Copter wants to be activated early and often. Playing a 3-drop and activating Copter is fine, so you don’t need to have 1-drops, there are real downsides. First off, you would love to loot before playing your land and your 3-drop, to see if you can find anything better. Second, you may not actually have the 3rd land, let alone one that can enter the battlefield untapped, so being able to loot before your 2nd main phase to try to find it can be a huge boon. Third, your 3-mana creature is probably going to be a better blocker—relevant in games where you’re racing.
Smuggler’s Copter is a great card, but it’s a little awkward in this deck. It can help dig to what you need when you need it, but this is the rare deck in which drawing a bunch of lands can be very beneficial (Recruiter and Tracker to start with). You also want every creature you can get your hands on—even the mediocre ones (Lieutenant and Grace Champion). It’s great to make sure you can continue hitting your curve and discarding excess removal or Copters, but it’s not the insane card it is in many other decks.
The one card that does give you a payoff for looting is Sigarda, Heron’s Grace. This thing does a ton, starting with the baseline stats. A 4/5 flying creature already blocks cards like Archangel Avacyn, Smuggler’s Copter, Spell Queller, and Gisela without breaking a sweat. Sigarda gives you hexproof, meaning that you can’t be hit by the random targeted discard spell, but more importantly nobody will be taking your next turn with an Emrakul, nor will they be targeting you with Ishkanah. Next, she creates an army single-handedly. This allows you to go around Ishkanah tokens and really take over any sort of long game. With a Lieutenant or Heron’s Grace Champion, all the tokens will be large enough to get into battle with opposing Spider babies.
Granting your Humans hexproof is a nice bonus, but it’s not insane. Sigarda, Heron’s Grace herself is vulnerable to removal, although the 5 toughness is a great entry point—a single Grasp of Darkness won’t be enough. The fact that Sigarda has to be targeted before other creatures may end up being more important, such as alongside a huge Tireless Tracker or Lieutenant.
The removal spells are simple and elegant. Stasis Snare and Declaration in Stone are both 3-ofs. Both can take care of an Emrakul, although Declaration in Stone being in your hand when Emrakul comes down is more of a liability than anything else. They also both exile, meaning Lilianas and Grapples won’t be returning any of the creatures you target.
Here’s the list Wescoe took to a near Top 8 (losing the final round) and Sam Black took to a Top 64 at GP Denver:
Craig Wescoe, Top 32 at GP Denver
Neither pilot seemed high on Selfless Spirit in the sideboard, and I can’t blame them. This is a very low impact card. It’s there to fight sweepers like Kozilek’s Return and Radiant Flames, but it just isn’t a great card. It has no Human synergies, and sacrificing it only to have them leave Kozilek’s Return in the graveyard isn’t a great solution. Protecting your team from Radiant Flames is nice, but I would rather just work toward having more resilient threats on the battlefield. Gideon will continue to produce threats after a Flames, Vehicles are already strong against sorcery-speed sweepers, and you can grow your creatures out of range fairly quickly if they decide to wait around.
My proposed sideboard change would be to cut the Selfless Spirits. In exchange, I want the 4th Servant of the Conduit. If you’re boarding out creatures that aren’t going to be good against a deck with heavy removal to board in a creature that can help accelerate into Gideon, let’s just go all the way with the 4th copy.
A 4th copy of Declaration in Stone would be a useful card to have against both B/G Delirium and U/W Flash, so that’s the next addition. Finally, a Plummet is an additional hate card againstCopters, Quellers, and Avacyns.
This makes the smaller creatures weaker. They have lots of spot removal in Dead Weight, Grasp of Darkness, Murder, Ruinous Path, and potentially more. They also have Lilianas. A 2/1 Envoy matches up poorly against all of these, as well as Spiders. Without as much ability to go wide, Lieutenant looks mediocre and you don’t want to draw too many copies of Heron’s Grace Champion.
This becomes even more the case when your game plan revolves around Gideon, as you can’t have too many 4s and you’re losing lots of Human synergy. You do have a ton of staying power in these planeswalkers and Sigardas, and the raw power and card advantage provided by your playsets of Recruiters and Trackers is going to be really problematic for anybody to deal with. You’re going to be maxed out on Declaration in Stones to deal with Ishkanah, as well.
It feels a bit weird to not try to be the turbo beatdown deck against a deck that is so good at being midrange, but you really do have the answers to many of these problems. If Grim Flayers hit you, that becomes a much bigger issue, but you have tons of creatures and removal. Your planeswalkers, Recruiters, Trackers, and Sigardas are all powerful late-game options, and many of them come down early. Inspectors and Copters also help to make sure that your draws are always solid and competitive.
Envoy looks silly against Thraben Inspector, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar is likely the weakest creature even against a deck full of flash options. Thanks to Stasis Snares and Plummets, you have lots of instant-speed removal for the important threats like Avacyn and Spell Quellers, with the additional playset of Declaration in Stones to clean up any messes.
Your creatures get much bigger than theirs do—Lieutenants and Grace Champions can really put them behind the 8-ball, and the lifelink will completely shift the race.
This is always a tough matchup, although it’s certainly winnable. Fragmentize gives you some interaction, though it isn’t ideal. Ishkanah can give you problems, but it’s not too difficult to work through, unless their Marvels are spinning.
You have answers to Emrakul, and even answers to having your turn stolen thanks to Sigarda. They’re going to board in all of their removal and have access to plenty of sweepers. Selfless Spirit was supposed to be for a matchup like this, but they have so much spot removal, and many versions are starting to play cards like Whirler Virtuoso that make the Spirit look pretty unimpressive.
Your best route to victory is an early Gideon. They don’t have a real answer to it, so a turn-3 Gideon off of a Servant is definitely your plan A. Barring that, you have some ability to fight the midgame and a Heron’s Grace Champion can definitely give you lots of extra time. There are removal spells, sweepers, planeswalkers, and huge creatures to fight through, but your deck plays the midrange game pretty well so you’ll always have a shot.
You’re removing your top end, so you have less need for lands. You’re adding cheap interaction and removal that will help you get to the powerful part of your deck’s plan. Heron’s Grace Champion is often enough to end the game without much help. Gaining 10 life in combat is just so hard for an aggressive deck to come back from, and then they still have the 3/3 lifelinker (or larger) to contend with.
G/W Humans is a strong deck with some solid matchups against both B/G Delirium and U/W Flash. Marvel is always going to be a tough matchup, but luckily it’s still winnable, and the deck is inconsistent. I can definitely advocate G/W Humans moving forward.
What do you think is the best build of Humans? Is there a good replacement for Expedition Envoy? How about potential sideboard cards? Sound off in the comments!