Let’s Metagame – The Human Race

Oh boy.

Today, we journey into the land of Modern Magic.

Modern is where Magic really shines, with a diverse Metagame,and tons and tons of decks seemly all in perfect harmony (except you Hollow One, you know how we feel about you) it’s a great thing for Magic.

All jokes aside, Modern is in a great place right now. Nothing is too overpowered, and even after the unbannings nothing seemingly oppressive has come into the fray.

So, since Modern is so amazing and all; today we’re going to talk a little bit about my favorite deck right now.


Humans has been at the forefront of the Modern Metagame for a little while now, first really making its first big appearance with Collins Mullen dominating the SCG Open in Cincinnati with it last October.

Humans by Collins Mullen – 1st Place SCG Open Cincinnati on Oct 22, 2017

Creatures (36)
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
3 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Meddling Mage
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Reflector Mage
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar

Lands (20)
1 Plains
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Temple Garden
4 Unclaimed Territory
3 Windswept Heath

Spells (4)
4 Aether Vial

2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Izzet Staticaster
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Reflector Mage
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Vithian Renegades
2 Xathrid Necromancer
1 Anafenza, the Foremost

The Evolution of an Adaptive Deck

Humans is a deck that has a huge card pool to work with. The Human creature type is definitely one of the most printed creature types in magic. With all five colors to work with, the deck can really take advantage of all the best Humans. And the best part is that they don’t all follow a certain theme, unlike some of the other tribes, which really makes Humans a very versatile tribe to work with. 

As we’ve clearly seen, the 5 Color Humans deck has gone through some changes throughout its existence at the top of the Modern Metagame. One of the biggest additions after the Open in Cincinnati is Phantasmal Image. Some genius decided that having essentially 8 Mantis Rider in the deck would be a great idea, and we haven’t looked back yet. Phantasmal Image is by far one of the best cards in the deck, and while not a Human by default, most of the time always enters play as a human, and doing human things. Having the flexibility to copy any creature on the battlefield really gives this deck the tools to overcome a lot of different matchups, which is hard to beat. 

Like I said above, a deck that can consistently play all 5 colors is a deck that is going to cause some problems. Some other additions to the deck that really improved it’s reach in the long grindy matchups are Dark Confidant, and Kessig Malcontents.

Bob is a threat, and a card draw engine. He warrants instant removal or threatens to really put the Humans opponent in a bad position. The deck empties the hand relatively fast, and having Dark Confidant really helps mitigate top decking. Be careful though, those extra cards come at a cost.

Kessig Malcontents is simply a game-ender. When played right, it can completely catch opponents off guard to seal the game in the Human’s favor. This card comes in handy when the board becomes mucky and stalled, or just when you’re trying to outrace your opponent. A 3/1 body isn’t the most appealing, but what this card lacks in toughness it makes up for in closing speed.

We’ve also seen Restoration Angel added as a one of recently, really adding another level of play to the deck by being able to save a Human in the face of a removal spell, or simply blinking a Thalia’s Lieutenant to make the team even bigger.

Why Humans?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Humans is the most versatile and disruptive aggro deck in the Modern Metagame at the moment. It covers every out you could possibly think of. Kitesail Freebooter and Sin Collector for hand disruption, Reflector Mage and Hostage Taker to clear the path for your attackers, Meddling Mage to combo with Kitesail to turn off their nut cards, Thalia, Heretic Cathar to make those spells harder to cast, and finish your opponent off with a huge Champion of the Parish, in the sky with Mantis Rider, or by just pumping the team out of proportion with Thalia’s Lieutenant.

But the one card that really ties all these aspects together, and makes the deck really broken, is Aether Vial. This is the heart of the deck, making all these simply good cards seemingly amazing. Aether Vial lets you put any of your creatures onto the battlefield at instant speed (assuming it has the equivalent amount of counters on it). The best part of this interaction is that any creature you use Vial to put into play don’t use the stack, just the Vial activation goes on the stack. So, your opponent’s last chance to play a spell before your creature enters play is to do it when you activate, which you can also use to your advantage because you don’t have to put anything into play. It’s fringe, but sometimes you might be able to force a spell from your opponent simply from activating your Aether Vial.

Have you ever not wanted your opponent to play a certain card? Well, then Meddling Mage is the card for you! It’s not as simple as just playing the Mage and locking you opponent out of a card for the rest of the game, but it can make your opponent play a removal spell that could of target one of your beaters, or.. it just might actually lock your opponent, who knows?

Anyway, Meddling Mage is great. But the best way to make full use of this card is to pair it with Kitesail Freebooter or Sin Collector.

Now, we don’t always have the luxury of seeing our opponents hand before casting Meddling Mage. Casting a blind Mage isn’t ideal, so let’s go over some of the other top decks and what you can name with your Mage:

Hollow OneHollow One, Lightning Bolt, any of their discard spells. Honestly Meddling Mage isn’t great in this matchup and probably gets cut down a bit post-board

TronOblivion Stone (Green based Tron), All is Dust, sometimes Karn, Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Jeskai Supreme Verdict or Lightning Bolt. You’ll also have a higher chance of seeing your opponents hand post-board when you bring in Sin Collector, so that’s a plus

KCI – Do I even have to list this one?… Krark-Clan Ironworks (duh). You could also name Engineered Explosives or Pyrite Spellbomb if you wanted

Affinty – Not great in this matchup, but game one you could name Cranial Plating

Bogles – Mainly Daybreak Coronet

Humans – Mage is atrociously bad in this matchup because of Aether Vial, but if you have to cast it you should probably name Mantis Rider or Phantasmal Image


The Sideboard is more of the same. Value Humans (and sometimes other cards) that help out against Human’s more “difficult” matchups (which matchups are bad seem to be up for debate). Some cards you’ll likely see in any Humans Sideboard are:

Sin Collector – This is almost a “must have” in the sideboard. It gives you leverage against the more spell heavy decks, and also lets you see your opponent’s hand to make a more effective Meddling Mage call. And unlike Kitesail Freebooter, the card is exiled permanently, which is always a plus against decks with a lot of removal

Xathrid Necromancer – Humans can sometimes fold to sweepers, and having a way to combat that is why Xathrid Necromancer is there. It doesn’t keep your Humans alive however, they just all come back as 2/2 zombies, which isn’t a terrible trade and it keeps your tempo up. Punishing your opponent’s Supreme Verdict by Vialing in a Necromancer probably just might win you the game

Selfless Spirit – Sometimes your opponent wants to play Anger of the Gods, so your Xathrid Necromancer isn’t going to make a ton of zombies for you. This is where Selfless Spirit comes in. Unlike it’s Human counterpart, this spirit really is selfless by sacrificing itself to give all your Humans indestructible, saving your team and keeping up the pressure

Kataki, War’s Wage – I don’t like playing against Affinity just like the rest of you, but Kataki makes it a lot easier to overcome. Another card that simply taxes your opponent, Kataki takes advantage of Affinity’s low land count by making them pay for all their artifacts, or not, we don’t care. This let’s you begin to apply more pressure with Reflector Mage, Dismember, and just generally large bodies to take the game from your Artifact loving opponent

Dismember – Kind of a catchall, Dismember is one of the cards you’ll see 9 times out of 10 when looking at a Human player’s Sideboard. Dismember doesn’t have to cost you any mana, which makes it easier to cast in a deck can’t really produce black mana for spells that efficiently. -5/-5 will also get rid of most threats pretty easily. So it’s not hard to understand why there’s a non-Human spell like this in the deck

Hostage Taker – One of my favorite cards in the Sideboard. Hostage Taker is a double threat; being able to take both creatures and artifacts, so it’s very versatile. 4 mana is a lot for the Humans deck, and you really don’t usually want to tick your Vial up to 4, but sometimes it’s necessary. Having the ability to exile and opposing Tarmogoyf AND cast it too doesn’t seem like a bad deal though

Izzet Staticaster – Do you hate facing down a bunch of little X/1s? Annoying right? Well, Izzet Staticaster is the card for you. Having flash naturally, you don’t need your Vial to get this one going. It’s ability is an amazing “gotcha” against an opposing Empty the Warrens, it also just cleans up the board pretty well in the mirror match



With Dominaria just now coming into Standard, and consequently Modern, are there some new cards that could play a role in the Humans deck? I think there are a couple:

Damping Sphere – A possible replacement for Grafdigger’s Cage now that company decks are moving away from Chord of Calling. Damping Sphere hits a lot of different decks. It’s well positioned against Storm and KCI, and isn’t a game-ender but can definitely slow down the big Tron decks. I think it’s better positioned in the current Metagame then Cage, but I suppose time will tell.

Dauntless Bodyguard – Humans has a couple flex spots, and I think that this card could possibly find its place in one of those in the near future. This card has the potential to punish hard removal in the face of an Aether Vial. Even cast by itself, it can force a reaction from your opponent and absorb a Lightning Bolt meant for another creature. It also has the “As it enters the battlefield” clause, which means that it doesn’t have an ETB trigger. Opponents must make a decision with Dauntless Bodyguard on the stack, meaning you can choose a different creature to protect even if you initial one ended up in the graveyard.

Closing Thoughts

Modern is great, and Humans is great. This deck does it all, and I don’t think I want to play any other deck for awhile. I’m biased, sure, but the deck speaks for itself. Week after week this deck continues to preform well and put up results, so that says something about its power and reach.

So now what, you ask? You want to know more about Humans and all the ins and outs of the deck? Go check out a Facebook group called MTG: Modern 5c Humans (https://www.facebook.com/groups/161258564487133/).  This group is full of people who are well versed in the deck and are more than willing to help out (including myself). So go check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Humans by Brian Basoco 1st Place SCG Team Open Atlanta on April 28, 2018

Creatures (37)
4 Champion of the Parish
1 Kessig Malcontents
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
4 Meddling Mage
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Reflector Mage
1 Restoration Angel
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Lands (19)
1 Plains
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Horizon Canopy
2 Seachrome Coast
4 Unclaimed Territory

Spells (4)
4 Aether Vial

2 Damping Sphere
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Auriok Champion
2 Hostage Taker
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Selfless Spirit
1 Sin Collector
1 Xathrid Necromancer
1 Dismember
1 Kataki, War’s Wage

Also, huge congrats to Brian Basoco on his success over the past weekend, and adding a continuous reminder of how good this deck is.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, this one means a lot to me.
So again, until next time, this has been your Metagame insight!

– Logan Simmons


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