I’ve been playing tons of Humans Company lately, both on and off stream, and it’s been fantastic. I like everything about it, and my win percentage has been higher than usual.
Those who know me know that I love flash creatures. I like the flexibility to keep up reactive cards while retaining the potential to be proactive, navigating through the situation as the game progresses. Collected Company isn’t a creature, but works in a similar way. What’s nice about Collected Company is that even if your opponent thinks that you could have it, they don’t know what’s going to pop out of the jack-in-a-box, making it incredibly hard to play against. This might make it my favorite card in Modern!
So let’s talk about some Collected Company decks, their issues, and why I believe the Humans version has advantages the others don’t.
First off, a classic:
Counters Company, as it’s been renamed, might be the oldest of them all. It uses Collected Company together with Chord of Calling to find the combo pieces to gain infinite mana, infinite life, or deal infinite damage. Sounds sweet, huh? If there’s something I’ve always believed in Modern, it’s that it’s important to be proactive, unfair, or play the most powerful cards. Counters Company definitely does that with its combo potential, so what’s the problem?
- The combo is easy to disrupt. With tons of removal and discard from the fair decks of the format, this task becomes impossibly difficult. When you don’t combo off, you don’t produce enough of a clock to win the game quickly, and you’re no longer proactive.
- It’s possible to grind it out. Counters Company has sacrificed grind for speed with the addition of the new Vizier of Remedies combo. Before that, it wasn’t a problem. The fair decks, Jund, Abzan, or Jeskai, didn’t have as much of a clock, so you could outlast them. But now Grixis Death’s Shadow makes up a large part of the metagame, which disrupts you just as much, but puts on way more pressure.
- Your creatures are weak and pretty small. Anger of the Gods from TitanShift or Walking Ballista from Eldrazi Tron are your worst nightmares.
Elves, on the other hand, is a proactive deck that runs tons of threats to try to overwhelm you while having the option to combo with Vizier of Remedies together with Devoted Druid and Ezuri, Renegade Leader. So Elves has a pretty fast clock, and it’s good at overwhelming fair decks such as Grixis Shadow, B/G/x etc. Let’s look at the issues.
- Yet again, your creatures are pretty small. Izzet Staticaster, Anger of the Gods, or Walking Ballista is a problem.
- Elves is a synergistic deck and needs a ton of its moving pieces, which means that you don’t run a lot of interaction. Without interaction, some of the faster goldfishing decks are a problem.
- Your sideboard is limited not only due to color configuration, but also because you’re playing a synergistic deck, meaning that you can’t sideboard out too much without diluting your deck.
G/W Company is built around value creatures and Collected Company to grind your opponent out. A nightmare for the fair decks, and 4 Ghost Quarters together with the Crucible of Worlds-on-legs Ramunap Excavator can be a nightmare for Eldrazi Tron. Issues?
- It doesn’t do anything unfair or proactive, meaning that its sole plan is to grind your opponent out. There are going to be decks that don’t care about that, meaning that they will just combo you out. Not being proactive enough is a problem.
- The sideboard is limited to G/W, meaning that it’s hard to stop the unfair decks, especially with a rather slow clock.
So let’s look finally at 4c Humans Company, and see what it has that these decks don’t!
4c Humans Company
Humans Company has a proactive game plan. Between Champion of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenant, mana dorks and friends, it’s not too hard to goldfish on turn 4. The deck also does something unfair with the Retreat to Coralhelm and Knight of the Reliquary combo to have a kill out of nowhere as early as turn 3. Proactive? Unfair? Check!
So with the baselines covered, what is Humans Company’s greatest strength that other decks don’t have? Thalia’s Lieutenant might be the best lord ever and Champion of the Parish is great, but the card I’m most fond of is Reflector Mage. Backed up by just the right amount of pressure, Reflector Mage is excellent. Being able to cast it on turn 2 with a mana dork or hit it off Collected Company is what cements its excellence, and boy is it in a good place right now. Bouncing a delve creature from Grixis Shadow or a Death’s Shadow is fantastic, since the deck relies on small margins and on blockers. Bouncing a Thought-Knot Seer is great since you get to draw a card, and most of the time you can also empty your hand, rendering the effect useless. When they try to race you with multiple Reality Smashers, Reflector Mage stops all of that. Even bouncing Steel Overseer against Affinity is strong, often making the card too slow when it can’t be played until two turns later. The list goes on and on!
What’s important about Humans Company is that you want to be as efficient as possible to maximize your Collected Company. That means that you have to sequence the best way possible.
This hand is one of the simpler ones, but comes up often. Most of the time, especially against an unknown opponent, you want to lead with Avacyn’s Pilgrim if you have both Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant. This means that you can play both on the next turn, making the Avacyn’s Pilgrim less awkward to squeak into your curve later on. It also gives you more options, depending on what you draw. The only time you would want to lead with Champion of the Parish is when you are playing a deck where they run removal but not discard, say U/W/R with Lightning Bolt. Then Avacyn’s Pilgrim might be worth more since you are restricted on mana.
Here you want to lead with Champion of the Parish. Two things come to mind. First, you want to play that Collected Company on turn 3, and playing two mana dorks on turn 2 makes it harder for your opponent to deal with both. As a minor detail, if both mana dorks survive and you draw another land, as well as another Champion of the Parish, having 5 mana to play the Champion of the Parish before Collected Company ensures that the Champion will get the benefit of the Humans you find with Collected Company.
Second, if you play Champion of the Parish on turn 1, it will attack for 4 on turn 2 when unopposed! This gives you the best clock possible and can lead to some very fast games.
Once again, you want to lead with Champion of the Parish. You don’t have a 2-drop, so you can’t go Champion plus 2-drop if you play Avacyn’s Pilgrim on turn 1, which is the main factor. You also don’t have a ton of Humans to trigger Champion of the Parish in hand, so you want to make sure it gets every counter it can, especially since your hand can be a bit grindy. Third, you don’t want to play Eternal Witness on turn 2 with Avacyn’s Pilgrim to return a land to your hand, but if you play Pilgrim on turn 2, you can potentially Path to Exile something on turn 3 while returning it with Eternal Witness!
There’s no pre-made plan to know how to sequence perfectly in this deck. It takes experience with the deck and knowledge of the matchups. But if you think about it and try not to always play on auto-pilot, you will gain a lot more win percentage since it’s one of the most important things you can do.
All right, so game plan: get ’em dead. Sequencing is important. Got it. Time to walk through the matchups and sideboarding.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Grixis Death’s Shadow is a close matchup, but you have a small edge. The most important cards are Collected Company, Eternal Witness, and Reflector Mage. The games usually turn into a grind, but don’t be afraid to pressure their life total, even though it might enable a quicker Death’s Shadow since they have a hard time attacking through all of your smaller creatures.
Since Grixis Death’s Shadow has so much interaction, the dream of enabling the Retreat to Coralhelm combo is nigh impossible. Mayor of Avabruck comes out in most matchups, mostly because it’s one of the weaker cards in the deck, but also because it’s hard to get enough creatures on the board to make use of its tribal synergy.
Tireless Tracker is fantastic in this matchup, and getting two or more Clues out of it might just be game. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben makes their game a lot slower, and most of the time they need to take an entire turn to get it off the battlefield for them to make use of their cantrips. Lastly, Blessed Alliance is another way to take care of their creatures. Remember that the option to gain 4 life can target any player, so if you can use it to put them above 12 life, you can kill any Death’s Shadows in play.
Eldrazi Tron is a good matchup where Knight of the Reliquary, Champion of the Parish, and Reflector Mage are your best cards. Reflector Mage I broke down earlier, Champion of the Parish is great because it usually outgrows their creatures, and Knight of the Reliquary can get Ghost Quarter to stop them from assembling Tron. Eldrazi Tron also doesn’t run a ton interaction, so assembling the Retreat to Coralhelm combo is a solid plan.
Mayor of Avabruck and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben mostly come out because they are so bad against Walking Ballista. Retreat to Coralhelm gets a bit worse post-sideboard because they board in more removal, but the main reason to board it out alongside a Path to Exile is because you want to board in other noncreature spells from the sideboard and you want to keep your creature count high for Collected Company.
Stony Silence is fantastic against them because it shuts off Walking Ballista’s abilities, Basilisk Collar (one of the few ways for them to race you) Ratchet Bombs from the sideboard, as well as Expedition Map and Mind Stone. Vithian Renegades takes care of the same cards and Tireless Tracker makes it easier to win against a resolved All is Dust. Speaking of All is Dust, it’s their most important card in the sideboard, which is the main reason you are bringing in Unified Will.
Pre-sideboard, it’s important to keep their Goblin Electromancers and Baral, Chief of Compliances off the battlefield with Path to Exile and Reflector Mage. If you’re ever so lucky and draw the Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, your chances increase significantly. One of the common ways to win pre-board is by killing them with Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm before they combo off.
It’s important to take care of their creatures, but Path to Exile isn’t ideal and you have to remove some of them. You’re not looking to grind, so Eternal Witness has to go and Mayor of Avabruck isn’t great against an early Grapeshot. All the cards that come in are pretty self explanatory except the Izzet Staticaster. 1 Izzet Staticaster comes in to hedge against Empty the Warrens, which they always bring in.
Affinity is a great matchup and I’ve yet to lose against it. Path to Exile and Reflector Mage are fantastic and you race them well. What makes it even better is that the sideboard cards are excellent. As long as you control their draw early, you don’t give them many outs to finish the game since you clock them pretty fast, which is the game plan.
The reason why you board out the Retreat to Coralhelm combo is not because it’s bad, per se, but because of the smaller details combined. First, they can sometimes deal tons of damage early, meaning you won’t have enough life to work with, making the combo worse. Second, you are bringing in Stony Silence, so you don’t want your creature count to get too low, and third you want to make your deck as streamlined as possible since the matchup is great, meaning that you want to minimize the cards that are fantastic sometimes, but otherwise not great.
The Burn matchup is close and the die roll is important. You have good sideboard options, however Searing Blaze is quite good against you. The important thing to consider is how you fetch your lands and whether it’s worth shocking yourself to try to race them, of if you should take as little damage as possible from your own lands.
The games usually start out with them trying to deal as much damage to you as they can with creatures, clearing the way with their first burn spells. After the first few turns, when their creatures turn into chump blockers to give them time to try to race you with burn spells to the face, Blessed Alliance and Unified Will come in to play to help you survive so that your creatures can finish the job. Burrenton Forge-Tender needs little explanation and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is there to slow them down. It’s especially great to play it when they’ve suspended a Rift Bolt, which can lead to some awkward sequencing for them.
Eldrazi & Taxes
The Taxes decks are favorable matchups. Their game plan is designed to disrupt you from having access to mana, alongside Leonin Arbiter and Ghost Quarter. But you’re playing tons of mana dorks, making this quite difficult for them. Your plan is to make sure that you don’t get owned by Leonin Arbiter and to try to get rid off Tidehollow Sculler before they can use Wasteland Strangler.
Vithian Renegades hits both Aether Vial and Tidehollow Sculler, which are great targets, while Izzet Staticaster is a beast against them. The game can turn kind of grindy, so Tireless Tracker gets a spot too.
They don’t have a ton of targets for you Path and Mage besides Primeval Titan, meaning they are dead draws, except that Reflector Mage still is a 2/3. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben slows them down, Burrenton Forge-Tender stops Anger of the Gods, and Unified Will is fantastic against them. Most of the time they are the deciding factor between winning or losing. This is especially true when they Summoner’s Pact for a Primeval Titan.
Remember that it’s correct to sometimes play a Reflector Mage on a mere Sakura Tribe-Elder to let your larger creatures, such as Champion of the Parish or Knight of the Reliquary, get through, shortening the clock.
The most important thing to consider versus U/W Control is how to play around Supreme Verdict with Collected Company while timing it against their counterspells. This means that a lot of times you keep up mana for Collected Company, but don’t cast anyway when they are holding up mana for Cryptic Command and not casting their Supreme Verdict. It’s important to know whether your pressure is enough to play this dance or whether you just need to jam your spells.
Reflector Mage is god awful against them. The only creatures they play are creatures you never want to bounce, such as Wall of Omens or Snapcaster Mage. The split between cutting Retreat to Coralhelm and Path to Exile may seem weird, but you want some number of Path to Exile to close out the game versus chumpers and Celestial Colonnade while not having too many of them. Sometimes, especially in a land-light hand and with a ton of mana dorks, it’s correct to Path to Exile your own creatures in response to removal or Supreme Verdict.
This matchup is similar to how you play versus Grixis Death’s Shadow and you should approach it similarly. Their clock is a bit slower, but the games will be longer because they take less damage.
The major difference here is that Blessed Alliance is really bad in comparison to Grixis Death’s Shadow while Izzet Staticaster is great versus Lingering Souls. If they play Dark Confidant, it gets even better.
Your matchup versus Elves can be pretty tough. The die roll is important and you don’t have enough reactive cards to stop them. Your best shot pre-board is going mana dork into Reflector Mage on their first creature, then overwhelming them before they can really get going; or since they barely have interaction at all, the Retreat to Coralhelm combo is your second-best bet.
Things get better after board, however. Elves isn’t a combo deck, but it is banking on casting tons of creatures quickly and Ethersworn Canonist can be backbreaking for them. Izzet Staticaster is fantastic especially on turn 2. This is also one of the few matchups you have both Izzet Staticaster and Retreat to Coralhelm in post-sideboard, but I’ll tell you, assemble that combo and your Elves opponent is no more.
This matchup is interesting and tough to play. You want to get your threats out as soon as possible, but you don’t want to fetch-shock too much either. Their plan is to empty your hand and then burn you out with Shrieking Affliction and The Rack. Because of that, most of the time you want to only go up to 4 mana and then never really play a land again, since that will make their win conditions so much more painful. Eternal Witness and Collected Company are by far your best cards here.
The way you board is basically to have as few dead draws as possible because usually you will be playing from the top of your deck in short order. What’s nice about this is that you still get to hedge against potential threats they can board in, such as Dark Confidant or Death’s Shadow, not only with the lone Path to Exile but with the 4 Reflector Mage doing double-duty here.
Have a question about the deck? Let me know in the comments!