Modern Humans Deck Guide

Bernardo Santos


Hi there, I’m Bernardo Santos and I’m back with my second article for Hareruya. Today I’m going to talk about a deck I really like in a non-rotating format that a lot of people love to play, Humans in Modern. This is a deck I’ve had a lot of success with and very dear to my heart plus I have a ton of games with it so it’s pretty easy to talk about. My most impressive achievements with the deck are a qualification to the MOCS (Magic Online Championship 2018), a Grand Prix top 8 and an 8-2 constructed record in the Mythic Championship swiss round with my teammates and I went for an average of 7.5 wins out of 10.

Champion of the Parish

Why Play Humans?

Kitesail FreebooterMeddling MageThalia, Guardian of ThrabenReflector Mage

Humans is a deck that almost similar to Jund, it tries to pressure the opponent and disrupt them long enough to capitalize on that pressure and win. However, the big advantage it has is that its disruption comes on bodies in the form of 《Kitesail Freebooter》, 《Meddling Mage》, 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》, 《Reflector Mage》 and the pressure keeps mounting as you disrupt them making it faster than most 《Thoughtseize》 decks and therefore stronger against combo decks (ex: Storm, Ad Nauseam which are usually good matchups) and big mana decks (ex: Tron, Eldrazi Tron, Titanshift, Amulet).

While these decks are usually a nightmare matchup for Jund decks they’re not as bad for Humans as they’re all pretty close matchups with old Tron and Titanshift being slightly unfavorable and Amulet and Eldrazi Tron being slightly favored.

Auriok ChampionGaddock Teeg

Also thanks to 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》, 《Reflector Mage》 and 《Auriok Champion》 in the sideboard it has a good matchup against the ultra agrro decks (ex: Burn, Mono Red Prowess). I think the 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》 matchup is also favorable and 《Gaddock Teeg》 is very good against them but it depends on their version and list.

Lightning BoltPlague EngineerWrenn and SixBlood Moon

So what are the bad matchups? Usually midrange decks with a lot of early removal, disruption and card advantage (ex: Jund, Mardu) are hard matchups and they gained some great tools for the matcup last year (《Plague Engineer》 is hard to beat, and 《Wrenn and Six》 is incredibly strong against no 《Aether Vial》 opening hands). 《Blood Moon》 is a very strong card against you especially in the decks that they can destroy your Vial.

Ice-Fang CoatlNeoformDevoted Druid

Bant Control is also very hard especially post-board when they take their bad cards out (《Force of Negation》, 《Mana Leak》) even though you also improve. The traditional UW Control decks used to be a good matcup for Humans but 《Ice-Fang Coatl》 and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 in a deck with some cheap answers and a very good lategame make the mathcup a lot harder. Some very fast combo decks are also problematic (ex: Neoform and Devoted Druid Combo). Modern is a very vast format so you can’t be favored against everything, you try to choose a good deck for the metagame you expect and fix your weaknesses with powerful sideboard cards.

Humans Decklist and Basics

This is the list I play in this metagame.

Current Decklist

Card Choices: Mainboard

In my opinion the Humans maindeck only has 2 flex slots, in this case I chose 《Kessig Malcontents》 (other options are usually 《Militia Bugler》 or 《Deputy of Detention》) because in this metagame I want to be more aggressive and I think Malcontents is the best option for that. If your metagame has a lot of midrange decks with removal I would play Bugler and if it has a lot of creature deck (ex: Infect, Druid Combo, Eldrazi Tron) I would play Deputy. The other 58 cards are locked and there aren’t better options in my opinion. As you can see the deck apart from the mana source (Lands, 《Noble Hierarch》, Vial) is split into 2 different types of creatures:

The Heavy Hitters

Champion of the ParishThalia's LieutenantMantis RiderKessig Malcontents

The Disruptive Creatures

Kitesail FreebooterMeddling MageThalia, Guardian of ThrabenReflector Mage

The Joker

Phantasmal Image

《Phantasmal Image》 can be whichever you need more (pressure or disruption). It’s also very important to check your opponent’s side of the creatures you want to copy in the situation you are. I’ve copied all sorts of creatures and I’ll make a small list for amazing purposes:

The list goes on and on but you get the point.

Card Choices: Sideboard

The sideboard is a lot trickier.

《Gaddock Teeg》

Gaddock Teeg

Against 《Mystic Sanctuary》 + 《Cryptic Command》 decks, Ad Nauseam decks and Storm.

《Auriok Champion》

Auriok Champion

Against red aggro decks and 《Death’s Shadow》.

《Grafdigger’s Cage》

Grafdigger's Cage

Against Dredge, Neoform and Storm (it is not awful against Uro but there have to be more reasons for it).

《Militia Bugler》

Militia Bugler

Against midrange and control decks but it can also be fine if you need to find some important disruptive piece against combo and it is a nice blocker against Burn and a way to find 《Auriok Champion》.



Against decks such as Infect, Devoted Druid Combo, Urza decks and the Mirror (I don’t like it vs Eldrazi).

《Deputy of Detention》

Deputy of Detention

Against creature decks same as 《Dismember》 plus Eldrazi Tron.

Other Candidates for the Sideboard

《Collector Ouphe》

Collector Ouphe

Other cards you see often in the sideboard are 《Collector Ouphe》 and while it is a pretty good card against some matchups it also stops your Vials and that is a too big downside for me.

《Magus of the Moon》

Magus of the Moon

Recently you also see some 《Magus of the Moon》 which has its spots and a great friend of mine Thiago Saporito had them on his sideboard but it also messes your manabase a lot plus I don’t think you need them for the big mana matchups maybe except for old Tron.

《Mirran Crusader》

Mirran Crusader

《Mirran Crusader》 is a good card against Jund but I like Bugler more as a source of card advantage than a card that trades for 《Lightning Bolt》. Also, Bugler is more flexible as it comes in against other matchups like Bant Control and Burn.

《Knight of Autumn》

Knight of Autumn

《Knight of Autumn》 is a card I’ve played with a lot and it is decently versatile against aggro decks and artifacts/enchantments decks. If you want to play it as 1-of in your sideboard I actually like it, I cut it simply because I like the other options more.

《Damping Sphere》

Damping Sphere

《Damping Sphere》 is a card that’s important in some metagames. If you expect a lot of Tron and some Storms it could be OK but I think it’s not good enough right now as it is too narrow and those decks aren’t very popular.


Some of the advice I would give you in game plays and mulligan decisions may be obvious for some but I think it’s important to talk about it.

Sequence of the 1 Drops

AEther VialNoble HierarchChampion of the Parish

If you have the option of 1 drops to play on turn one you should almost always lead with 《Aether Vial》 just because it’s the one that will give you the best development, then 《Noble Hierarch》 and finally 《Champion of the Parish》. The Champion is usually the last one drop you should play if you have options. This is of course not always the case so always pay attention to your hand and situation but it’s true for the majority of times.

1 Land with Vial and another 1 Drop is a Keepable Opening Hand

Horizon CanopyAEther Vial

Don’t be afraid to keep 1 land hand with Vial and at least another one drop whether you are on the play or draw. This opening hand has potential for an explosive start and if you’re on the play Vial will allow you to play your Humans almost on time and on the draw you have more shots at drawing lands. 《Ancient Ziggurat》 and Vial is an example of a one land Vial hand you shouldn’t keep though.

On the Draw without 1 Drops

On the draw I usually mulligan my first seven if I have no one drops because Modern is super fast format and they’re really important. This sometimes punishes you by keeping a worse 6 or going to 5 but I’m sure it is better for your Humans life in the long term.

Sideboard and Matchup Guide

Now onto my sideboard guides.

Bant Control

Against Bant Control


Noble Hierarch Noble Hierarch Noble Hierarch Noble Hierarch
Reflector Mage Reflector Mage Thalia's Lieutenant Thalia's Lieutenant


Militia Bugler Militia Bugler Militia Bugler
Dismember Dismember Dismember
Gaddock Teeg Gaddock Teeg
Noble HierarchThalia's LieutenantReflector Mage

《Noble Hierarch》 is just pretty bad as you don’t need mana acceleration and the 0/1 body isn’t useful. Also, overextending for sweeper isn’t ideal and the same goes for 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》 except that it actually pressures a lot and the body is relevant so 2 copies stay in. 《Reflector Mage》 is only fine against Uro in the mid-lategame and sometimes 《Stoneforge Mystic》 or 《Batterskull》 but it’s awful against 《Ice-Fang Coatl》 thus I cut 2 of them.

Gaddock TeegMilitia BuglerDismember

《Gaddock Teeg》 stops 《Cryptic Command》, 《Supreme Verdict》 and 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 so it’s pretty good against them. 《Militia Bugler》 is a card advantage machine and it is your best option for 《Phantasmal Image》 to keep the gas flowing. 《Dismember》 may not be very intuitive but it’s pretty good against 《Ice-Fang Coatl》 and 《Stoneforge Mystic》 so you need them.

Meddling MagePath to Exile

Usually you name 《Path to Exile》 with 《Meddling Mage》 but the situations change successively and you may name 《Cryptic Command》, 《Ice-Fang Coatl》, 《Supreme Verdict》 and Uro. Also, it is important to remember that sometimes you should name 《Timely Reinforcements》 post-board when it’s the only card that saves them (when you have 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》 or 《Gaddock Teeg》).

Eldrazi Tron

Against Eldrazi Tron


Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Kessig Malcontents


Gaddock Teeg Gaddock Teeg
Deputy of Detention Deputy of Detention
Gaddock TeegDeputy of Detention

The sideboard here is pretty straightforward as Thalia is just fairly weak against them and just is not worth it. 《Kessig Malcontents》 is fine but I think all other cards are more important and since we are bringing in 《Deputy of Detention》 you don’t want that many 3 drops. 《Gaddock Teeg》 stops some problematic cards against you like 《Karn, the Great Creator》, 《Ugin, the Ineffable》 and 《All Is Dust》. Deputy is another way to take their creature out including 《Walking Ballista》 and an answer to 《Ensnaring Bridge》. I don’t think 《Dismember》 is worth it as it is only very good against 《Thought-Knot Seer》.

Meddling MageWalking Ballista

《Meddling Mage》 should name Ballista in the most cases especially if you have 《Gaddock Teeg》 as it is the most problematic creature in my opinion. But you can name 《Karn, the Great Creator》 and even 《Matter Reshaper》 in some situations and of course if the only card that saves your opponent is 《All Is Dust》 you name that one.


Against Jund


Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Kessig Malcontents Kessig Malcontents Noble Hierarch


Militia Bugler Militia Bugler Militia Bugler
Dismember Dismember Dismember
Militia BuglerDismember

This is a matchup that got a lot worse with the addition of Modern Horizons as they just got some great tools against you in the form of 《Wrenn and Six》 and 《Plague Engineer》. Your plan is to take out your one toughness creatures and low impact cards and bring in some staying power in 《Militia Bugler》 and 《Dismember》 to stop their pressure and kill 《Plague Engineer》.

Horizon CanopyWaterlogged Grove

Your advantage in this matchup is that you run a lower land count and 5 “Canopy Lands” so you get some more gas out of that but this is now a tough matchup as they have a lot of answers and they get card advantage out of their spells (《Wrenn and Six》, 《Liliana of the Veil》, 《Bloodbraid Elf》, and 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》).

Lightning BoltMeddling MageLiliana of the Veil

《Meddling Mage》 usually names 《Lightning Bolt》 because it is the removal they play the most but if you’re on the draw and it is your only creature then naming 《Liliana of the Veil》 is a good idea as it will be even worse usually. It doesn’t apply to lategame and you may name 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》 or a creature which you bounced to their hand with 《Reflector Mage》. 《Phantasmal Image》 is fragile against 《Wrenn and Six》 and 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》 dies to 《Plague Engineer》 but they still have their moments and are better than the other options.


Against Tron


Reflector Mage Reflector Mage


Gaddock Teeg Gaddock Teeg
Oblivion StoneMeddling MageUgin, the Spirit Dragon

This matchup is pretty easy to play and the die roll makes a HUGE difference, you basically go “all in” for aggression and try to beat them fast by disrupting them just long enough to win. 《Meddling Mage》 usually names 《Oblivion Stone》 and sometimes 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》. There aren’t many decisions in this matchup it’s just a race and whoever wins it wins the game.

Mono Red Prowess

Against Mono Red Prowess


Kessig Malcontents Kessig Malcontents Phantasmal Image Phantasmal Image
Mantis Rider Noble Hierarch


Auriok Champion Auriok Champion Auriok Champion
Militia Bugler Militia Bugler Militia Bugler
Auriok ChampionMilitia Bugler

In this matchup 《Auriok Champion》 shines a lot and you want 《Militia Bugler》 as a decent blocker and a way to find 《Auriok Champion》 or another blocker. The one toughness creatures and 《Phantasmal Image》 are sometimes weak to 《Lava Dart》 but they’re too important like 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》 to tax their spells, 《Champion of the Parish》 as your biggest creature and 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》 to make your other creatures big enough to contend with the Prowess creatures.

Phantasmal ImageBedlam Reveler

《Phantasmal Image》 can copy their 《Bedlam Reveler》 which is very good but if you think they board out 《Bedlam Reveler》 then cut 2 more 《Phantasmal Image》 and replace them with 《Mantis Rider》 and 《Noble Hierarch》 that you’re taking out.

AEther VialBlood Moon

《Meddling Mage》 usually names 《Lava Dart》 or 《Lightning Bolt》 but they still have 《Burst Lightning》 and 《Forked Bolt》 so it is difficult to hit the correct one. They usually board in 《Blood Moon》 on the play so 《Aether Vial》 is incredibly important in this matchup.


Against Uroza


Kessig Malcontents Kessig Malcontents Phantasmal Image Phantasmal Image
Mantis Rider Thalia's Lieutenant


Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Gaddock Teeg Gaddock Teeg
Dismember Dismember
Gaddock TeegGrafdigger's CageDismember

In this matchup I take out some of the heavy hitters as I want to be more interactive. Gaddock stops 《Cryptic Command》 and 《Engineered Explosives》 so it’s very important. 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 stops Uro and 《Emry, Lurker of the Loch》, and 《Dismember》 kills 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》, Emry and 《Gilded Goose》 to slow them down. I believe this is a favorable matchup as they take a while to get going and you disrupt them well enough.

《Meddling Mage》 names Cryptic and Explosives in game 1 and 《Galvanic Blast》 in game 2 and 3 if you have 《Gaddock Teeg》. It’s also fine to name Uro or Urza in some spots.


For this matchup the sideboarding has to be changed whether on the play or draw as cards like 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》 and 《Kitesail Freebooter》 are good on the play and bad on the draw.

Against Dredge (On the Play)


Kessig Malcontents Kessig Malcontents Kitesail Freebooter Kitesail Freebooter
Reflector Mage Reflector Mage


Deputy of Detention Deputy of Detention Auriok Champion Auriok Champion
Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage

Against Dredge (On the Draw)


Kessig Malcontents Kessig Malcontents Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Kitesail Freebooter Kitesail Freebooter Kitesail Freebooter
Reflector Mage Reflector Mage


Militia Bugler Militia Bugler Deputy of Detention Deputy of Detention
Auriok Champion Auriok Champion Auriok Champion
Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage
Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenCathartic ReunionKitesail Freebooter

The reasoning for this is Thalia and Freebooter stop 《Cathartic Reunion》 or 《Life from the Loam》 on the play but they are a turn late on the draw so your plan is to go more defensive where 《Militia Bugler》 shines. It keeps the gas, helps to find 《Auriok Champion》 and is a decent blocker against 《Bloodghast》 (sometimes against 《Prized Amalgam》 too with the help of 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》).

Meddling MageConflagrate

《Meddling Mage》 usually names 《Conflagrate》 but it can name 《Cathartic Reunion》 on the play and sometimes 《Life from the Loam》 especially post-board when they bring in 《Blast Zone》.

Mirror Match

Against Mirror Match


Kitesail Freebooter Kitesail Freebooter Kitesail Freebooter Kitesail Freebooter
Meddling Mage Meddling Mage Meddling Mage Meddling Mage
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Thalia, Guardian of Thraben


Auriok Champion Auriok Champion Auriok Champion
Militia Bugler Militia Bugler Militia Bugler
Dismember Dismember Dismember
Deputy of Detention Deputy of Detention
Auriok ChampionMilitia Bugler

In the mirror your disruptive creatures against non-creature spells are more or less useless and all the cards you bring in are superior as they’re better creatures like 《Militia Bugler》 to defend and find other good creatures (《Thalia’s Lieutenant》, 《Phantasmal Image》, 《Reflector Mage》 and 《Deputy of Detention》) or 《Auriok Champion》 that gains you a ton of life during the course of the game and it allows you to survive opposing 《Mantis Rider》 beatdown for a while.

《Meddling Mage》 goes out game 2 and 3 but if you draw it in game 1 without Vial in play just name a creature card that you don’t have in your deck like 《Deputy of Detention》 or 《Militia Bugler》. Not always but if you’re fortunate enough to have Vial and they don’t then you can name a good card in the mirror like 《Reflector Mage》, 《Mantis Rider》, 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》 or 《Phantasmal Image》 whichever is the most stronger at the time.


That’s all I have for you today I hope you liked this article and if you like Humans in Modern I like you already. I’m honored to be able to write for Hareruya and as always I’ll keep trying to improve both in playing Magic and in writing about Magic. See you guys next time.

Bernardo Santos (Twitter / Twitch)

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Bernardo Santos Bernardo Santos is a rising star from Portugal. He has been playing Magic competitively since 4 years ago and already accomplished so many things like three Grand Prix top 8s, joining two Magic Online Championships, and became a Gold Level Pro in the 2018-2019 season. He kept winning until Magic Pro League and Rivals League was born and he was elected one of the Rivals League player in the partial season. His favorite format is Draft and it was probably caused by his countryman and a great forerunner Marcio Carvalho. Read more articles by Bernardo Santos