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.
Why Play Humans?
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.
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.
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.
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.
4 《Ancient Ziggurat》
4 《Cavern of Souls》
4 《Unclaimed Territory》
4 《Horizon Canopy》
1 《Waterlogged Grove》
-Land (19)- 4 《Champion of the Parish》
4 《Noble Hierarch》
4 《Kitesail Freebooter》
4 《Meddling Mage》
4 《Phantasmal Image》
4 《Thalia’s Lieutenant》
3 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》
4 《Mantis Rider》
4 《Reflector Mage》
2 《Kessig Malcontents》
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
The Disruptive Creatures
《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.
Against red aggro decks and 《Death’s Shadow》.
Against Dredge, Neoform and Storm (it is not awful against Uro but there have to be more reasons for it).
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).
Against creature decks same as 《Dismember》 plus Eldrazi Tron.
Other Candidates for the Sideboard
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.
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》 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》 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》 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
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
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.
《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 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.
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》).
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 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.
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》.
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》).
《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.
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
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 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.
《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.
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.
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》).
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.