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Tribal synergies are well-loved and often well defined features of Magic. Modern’s most successful tribe, however, lacks any concrete identity. Hitting the scene shortly after Ixalan, Humans seeks to exploit the versatile and efficient Human tribe to fully embrace disruption. Packing a variety of difficult to interact with threats, Humans is perhaps the most unique deck in Modern — it’s both a Prison deck and an aggressive deck.

In this article, I’ll be evaluating the card choices available to Humans, as well as the role and recommended counts. With a highly defined main deck, I’ll highlight popular sideboard options, as well as other recommended card choices.

The One Drops

Aether Vial | While not a Human, Aether Vial gives many creature decks a much needed boost in mana efficiency. By effectively giving Humans one mana each turn, Aether Vial allows the deck to operate at maximum potential — putting uncounterable threats in at instant speed allows Humans to get tricky. Draw step Freebooter, to mid combat Reflector Mage, Aether Vial opens up many avenues of play.

Champion of the Parish | While not a one drop mana “accelerant” like Aether Vial or Noble Hierarch, Champion of the Parish contributes to incredibly aggressive draws. With an effect that quickly scales, Champion can threaten to be a 5/5 or a 6/6 as early as Turn 3, but often gives Humans an immense amount of board presence.

Noble Hierarch | The final one drop in the deck, Noble Hierarch serves as a mana accelerant without sacrificing late game power. Exalted is an exceptionally powerful mechanic in Humans, as chipping away with a single creature protects the chain of disruption.

The Two Drops

Thalia’s Lieutenant | The primary Human payoff, Thalia’s Lieutenant gives the deck an aggressive angle of attack, allowing a board full of mopey, disruptive threats to quickly end games. Additionally, you can do some sequencing tricks with Thalia’s Lieutenant and Aether Vial (such as playing a Lieutenant, and vialing in a creature in response to the trigger).

Kitesail Freebooter | As with most of the list, four copies is recommended for maximum disruption. In many ways serving as a Thoughtseize type effect, Kitesail Freebooer is both an evasive threat and a critical piece of disruption against control and combo alike. While somewhat fragile, a low propensity for interactive spells makes Freebooter an appealing option — especially when combined with other threats like Meddling Mage.

Phantasmal Image | While not a Human, Phantasmal Image can double up any disruptive threat. Additionally, copying a Mantis Rider or a Thalia’s Lieutenant (or even an opposing threat like a flipped Thing in the Ice) can supplement the aggressive plan exceptionally well. Still, a slightly more difficult to cast cost than a Human makes it a cuttable card.

Meddling Mage | Like Kitesail Freebooter, Meddling Mage occupies a unqiue role in Humans. By acting as the only threat capable of truly locking down a card, Meddling Mage can contribute to a variety of prison heavy draws that make it difficult for opponents to deploy their game plan.

Unsettled Mariner | While not quite as powerful as Thalia, Unsettled Mariner’s powerful effect earns it at least consideration for lists, as it can stack with Thalia or combine with Kitesail to continually tempo opponents. Two copies is sufficient, though I would consider cutting some number for other slots.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben | The primary disruptive threat of both Modern and Legacy, Thalia taxes noncreatures (of which Humans has few), making Thalia close a one sided effect. While being Legendary creates situations of “Thalia flooding”, this is unlikely and fixable.

The Three Drops

Mantis Rider | A former Standard icon, Mantis Rider showcases the power of a five color mana base. Contributing to a quick, evasive clock, Mantis Rider is a key component in many games, flying over board stalls and ending the game in a matter of turns. Four copies is absolutely necessary, as Mantis Rider has the highest power/toughness rate and is brutal in multiples.

Reflector Mage | Playing well with Aether Vial is no unqiue trait, but the ability to set up Meddling Mage is seldom an aspect of threats. Reflector Mage gives Humans an additional “prison” element, letting it lock out other aggressive decks. It also serves as the primary form of on board interaction, as Path to Exile is not consistently castable.

Deputy of Detention | While not as powerful as Reflector Mage against creatures, Deputy of Detention gives Humans the ability to remove problematic noncreatures, like Blood Moon or Oblivion Stone, without losing out on pressure. While not a human, Deputy’s upside is well worth the lack of synergy and difficult casting.

Other Choices and Recommendations

Plague Carrier | A highly recommended sideboard option, Plague Carrier slows down Hogaak, while decimating the mirror (especially when combined with Phantasmal Image). While not in the list above, Plague Carrier is a common sideboard card in other decks, like Mardu Pyromancer, and going forward I would recommend 2-3 copies in the sideboard. Note this means you should play a Silent Clearing!

Restoration Angel | A hallmark piece of tech in recent events, Restoration Angel give Humans access to additional enters the battlefield triggers, while roadblocking the mirror match. Perhaps most importantly, Restoration Angel can save a Gaddock Teeg or reset a Meddling Mage at a moment’s notice. Two copies feels perfect right now.

Phyrexian Revoker | A less common piece of tech, Phyrexian Revoker mostly serves as an additional piece of disruption in the Hogaak matchup (naming Altar most of the time), that also can “counter” a powerful planeswalker. Simply vial it in in response to the card you’re going to name, and there is little the opponent can do about it.

Leyline of the Void | While this list opted for Ravenous Trap instead, in a field of more Hogaak I would make the switch to Leyline. It’s the highest impact option, yet lacks the safe top deck nature of Ravenous Trap.

Yixlid Jailer | While Leyline is the de facto way to disable Hogaak, many other players have turned to Yixlid Jailer. While more vulnerable to Hogaak’s removal spells, Yixlid’s primary utility comes from being a creature — making it both easy to cast and easy to protect. It’s not a Human, but can be copied with Phantasmal Image just the same.

Dismember | A staple in most lists, Dismember gives Humans a removal spell similar to Path to Exile. I would recommend one copy if Arclight picks up in popularity, as killing Thing in the Ice is critical.

The Sideboard

Chalice of the Void | An unorthodox choice for a deck filled with one drops, Chalice gives Humans access to a disruptive sideboard card that transforms the deck into a true prison deck in postboard games. With both Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls, it can be easy to mitigate Chalice, though  you only want this plan for matchups where Chalice is high impact, like Hogaak or Prowess decks. I would play a second copy in most metagames with Hogaak.

Ravenous Trap | With top deck viability and a high impact, Ravenous Trap is more consistent than Leyline, though not as debilitating. I’m playing Trap over Leyline mostly due to personal preference, though either is an excellent option. Just make sure you have at least three pieces of graveyard hate.

Auriok Champion | With two relevant protections, Auriok Champion gives Humans game against Burn, while decimating both Mono Red Prowess and most Death’s Shadow decks. Anywhere from two to four copies are recommended, depending on the metagame.

Collector Ouphe | A high impact anti-Tron card, Collector Ouphe also shuts down Thopter Sword — making it an appealing sideboard option right now. Two copies are recommended, though more can be played as needed.

Gaddock Teeg | Showcasing a recurring theme in high impact sideboard cards, Gaddock Teeg gives Humans access to an additional disruptive threat against Control decks, while slowing down many combo decks. Whir of Invention, Supreme Verdict, and Engineered Explosives no longer work, making Teeg an addition version of Meddling Mage in slower matchups. At least two copies is recommended.

Damping Sphere | An old sideboard relic, Damping Sphere is both Tron and Arclight hate, though its artifact nature makes it easy to remove. In most lists this slot has been moved to additional graveyard or Humans hate, but I’m putting it here to showcase a variety of takes.

Deputy of Detention | As mentioned in the main deck, a catch all answer attached to a body is exactly the sideboard space Humans is looking to exploit. When you just need to remove a threat, board in any extra Deputy in the sideboard.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar | As with Damping Sphere, Thalia is an older piece of tech, serving as a disruptive threat against a variety of decks. Preventing opponents from playing blockers is gravy on top of the ability to disrupt fetchlands.


Thanks for checking out our Humans Deck Tech, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments below.