Humans (needs decklist)

May 09, 2018

Synopsis

Humans has recently become one of if not the top decks in Modern, and has taken the throne as the best Aether Vial deck in the format. While initially popularized via Collected Company in a Bant-colored shell, the latest version of humans is 5 colors and uses Aether Vial and 12 rainbow lands (Cavern of Souls, Ancient Ziggurat, Unclaimed Territoriy) to cast the most powerful humans in the format. At its core, Humans is an aggressive deck that wins by attacking, but there are plenty of disruptive creatures that also prevent the opponent from executing their gameplan (via Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, and Kitesail Freebooter). The biggest change from the original versions of the deck is the addition of Phantasmal Image, which is easily castable and able to copy your best human in each scenario.

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/archetype/modern-humans-46452#paper

Core Cards

The deck is capable of very explosive draws, particularly with Champion of the Parish and Mantis Rider. Aether Vial makes the deck possible and is the card you want in your opening hand the most. Not only does Aether Vial allow the deck to act at instant speed, get around Blood Moon and help play around sweepers, it allows the deck to dump its hand of creatures very quickly.
Champion of the Parish, Thalia's Lieutenant and Mantis Rider are the best beaters in the deck and help create a fast clock for your opponent. Thalia's Lieutenant acts as a Lord(definition: Tribal Creature that pumps creatures of the same tribe). Champion gets large in the first few turns and Lieutenants can either pump your early plays on turn 4 or be an okay beater by playing it first and have it grow up. You'd rather have the Lord effect but the versatility is nice.

Support Cards 

Noble Hierarch adds acceleration and is our next best turn 1 play after Vial. It gets pumped by our Lieutenant and adds a buff in Exalted. Noble Hierarch is great format-wide but Humans uses it best.  The suite of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kitesail Freebooter, Meddling Mage and Reflector Mage allow the deck various forms of disruption while adding to the board and pushing our clock. Phantasmal Image allows to double up on whichever effect is at its best and keep the beats going. This core allows the deck to slow its opponent down just enough to finish them off and is what makes Humans versatile enough to be one of the decks in the format.
Militia Bugler out of Core Set 2019 has made it into the deck as a 3 of generally and eclipsed a lot of the various 1 of's for the last few slots. Bugler improves matchups against fair decks like Mardu Pyromancer and Blue Control decks. Bugler helps the deck find it most critical pieces, varying from matchup to matchup and has excellent synergy with Phantasmal Image. 
 
The 1 of's in Humans are a thing of the past after Militia Bugler but they are still options and occasionally sneak into the 75. Restoration Angel serves as a way to get another enter-the-battlefield trigger from Thalia's Lieutenant and Reflector Mage. The 3/4 flying body is appreciated and the card gives potential for huge blowouts, but it is pretty obvious when it is in hand. Vial either has to go to 4, which is not ideal, or you cannot crack Horizon Canopies. 
Kytheon, Hero of Akroas adds a 1 drop to the deck, can flip pretty easily and is great in creature matchups if it flips. It is worse against midrange decks though. 
Dark Confidant is the antithesis of Kytheon, it is worse against creature matchups or fast combo, but gives you the chance for card advantage against the midrange decks. Dark Confidant will eat removal though, so play it when you have whittled through most of their removal. Whirler Rogue gives the deck access to flying blockers and a way to push through on a stalled board. Kessig Malcontents sees play as a way to end the game ahead of schedule and combining it with Phantasmal Image can deal a huge amount of damage out of nowhere. Adding direct damage to finish the game(also known as reach) adds another dimension to an already multi dimensional deck.

Manabase

The manabase is one of the biggest reasons to play this deck, as it only runs 19 lands, and the 4 Horizon Canopies can cycle themselves, to mitigate flood. Horizon Canopy gives your deck the ability to keep presenting threats by turning an extra land into a card. As mentioned earlier, 12 of the remaining 15 lands are rainbow lands, which allows you to play any color Humans you like, and gives a lot of options for flex slots. The deck can support 19 lands because of Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch. While primarily a Bant colored deck, Noble Hierarch does a great job of adding additional mana fixing. The final 3 slots are often 2 Seachrome Coast and 1 Plains. If decks like UW Control are present, trimming a Seachrome Coast for 1 Island is generally correct. 

 

Sideboarding

Sideboarding is fairly straightforward for this deck, as each card has a fairly specificly printed use. Against decks with primarily creatures (i.e. Affinity, Mirror, Merfolk) you want to cut your Thalias. Meddling Mage is best against combo decks that rely on a specific card or combination of cards to win, but can be trimmed or cut elsewhere. It is also useful if there is a specific card like Damnation or Anger of the Gods that beats you, that they otherwise probably will not win without. Aether Vial is great against most decks but can be cut against the discard heavy, Kolaghan's Command decks without Blood Moon, so think Jund, Abzan and Death Shadow Variants. When games go long and our opponent has a lot of 2 for 1's, drawing a midgame Vial is poor. Against a deck without creaturess, Reflector Mages can be cut. I would not side out Champion of the Parish or Noble Hierarch against anything, but corner cases may present themselves. 

Sideboard cards

Grafdigger's Cage - For Dredge, and Colllected Company and Chord decks. but can also be useful vs Mardu, Storm, and Hollow One
Dismember - A very versatile removal spell that is essenitally colorless. A fine sideboard card vs any deck that relies on creatures
Auriok Champion - Mostly for Hollow One and Burn, but has additional use against Grixis Shadow and Mardu, where it is virtually unkillable and the lifegain can pile up quickly
Reclamation Sage - Vithian Renegades was originally the card people played, as enchantments were not widely played. With the rise of Boggles and decks adding Worship, however, people have moved over to the more versatile, albeit non-human elf.
Hostage Taker - Can singlehandedly swing a game, as a built in 2 for 1. It is great against midrange creature decks such as Grixis Shadow, Jund, or even the mirror, and can function as a Vithian Renegade against decks such as Affinity or Lantern.
Dire Fleet Daredevil - Very strong against any Midrange or Blue Control deck. It is particularly good off a Vial, as it can counter a Snapcaster Mage. Also can remove a Past in Flames or Conflagrate at instant speed in certain spots too. Most of the time though, it flashes back Fatal Push killing their Tarmogoyf or Death's Shadow
Kataki, War's Wage - Primarily for Affinity and Lantern, which can be pretty bad matchups otherwise. 
Izzet Staticaster - Very good against Affinity, Elves, Infect, Mardu and even the mirror as it can kill Phantasmal Images on sight. It is incredible when copied with Phantasmal Image to take down 2 toughness creatures. It also is good with First Strike. It improves matchups that can be otherwise difficult.
Xathrid Necromancer/Selfless Spirit - Wrath-type protection. Selfless Spirit is good because it comes down early and protects from Anger of the Gods, whereas Xathrid turns all 1 for 1 removal into value for you in the form of zombies. The 2 are pretty interchangeable. 
Sin Collector Great against Blue control decks, and any combo decks that need instant/sorceries (i.e. Storm, Ad Nauseum, Scapeshift). A house against Mardu Pyromancer as well.
Damping Sphere Additional hate for Tron, Storm, Krark-Clan Ironworks and Amulet Titan. 

Strengths

Humans is touted as being best in a wide open field, since it has game versus basically every deck. While its aggressive draws can steal games against anything, the ability to put on pressure while disrupting with Meddling Mage, Kitesale Freebooter, and Thalia can really limit other decks from executing their gameplan. Even the "removal" type spells such as Meddling Mage, Freebooter, and Reflector Mage also provide pressure, as well as grow and get grown by your other threats (Champion, Thalia's Lieutenant). Humans is a great choice in a field of spell-based combo decks (i.e. Storm, Ad Nauseum) as well as BR Hollow One and Grixis Shadow. 

Weaknesses

Humans is not a great choice in a removal heavy meta-game. Jeskai control and Mardu Pyromancer are both tough matchups for Humans, as they provide plenty of removal and value that can be hard for Humans to overcome.  The Tron matchup is pretty much a coinflip based on play-draw. Affinity, Elves and Boggles are also pretty good against Humans.

General Tips

When given the opportunity to cast either Aether Vial, Noble Hierarch or Champion of the Parish to lead off a game, it is generally correct to lead with the Vial, as it will net you more mana over the long run. Doing so allows you to put Champion and either Hierarch or another human into play turn 2, and your Champion will slowly snowball from there. Leading with a Kitesail Freebooter allows you to gain information for Meddling Mage, both of which can be Vialed in at instant speed during a draw step or during the course of a big turn (i.e. storming off turn). In general, it is usually better to have the Vial stay on 2, at least preboard, because there are more relevant creatures to vial in at instant speed on 2 (Thalia's Lieutenant, Phantasmal Image, Kitesail Freebooter, Meddling Mage), whereas Mantis Rider you generally want to cast the moment you draw it, and Reflector Mage, whose effect only lasts until your next turn anyways.

Other Versions

When Humans was first explored, it was often in a Bant Collected Company shell. With the printing of Unclaimed Territory, the Aether Vial version became the consensus pick for the current format. If the format become more about beating Midrange decks or Control, the Company shells could rise back to prominence. With how fast the format is in its current iteration, that rise to prominence doesn't seem to be anytime soon. 

Future of Humans

Humans is in the top tier of Modern decks after putting tons of great finishes at every level. The future looks even brighter for humans. Moving forward, essentially any strong Human creature is a potential addition to the deck, as evidenced by Dire Fleet Daredevil and Militia Bugler's latest addition to the deck.  Expect to continue to see the deck do well, in the wide open format that is Modern.