Humans, the Modern Tribe to Beat

Tribal decks have been a staple in the Modern format since its inception, but I don’t believe anyone expected this kind of longevity or winning streak like the Human tribal decks has been able to produce. With each deck only varying slightly in both the main deck and the sideboard, it goes to show that the real meat and potatoes of the deck is solid. Each player that pilots the deck seems to bring their own flavor to the main course, some a little spice, some a little blander (aka control…). So is Humans the best choice for you to sleeve up for your next Modern tournament? There has been a million write-ups, deck techs, and articles written about this incredible tribal deck, but let’s take a further look into the choices and real options a player has when piloting this deck.

Ancient Ziggurat
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Seachrome Coast
Unclaimed Territory
Champion of the Parish
Kessig Malcontents
Kitesail Freebooter
Mantis Rider
Meddling Mage
Noble Hierarch
Phantasmal Image
Reflector Mage
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Aether Vial
Auriok Champion
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Gut Shot
Izzet Staticaster
Kataki, War’s Wage
Reclamation Sage
Sin Collector

First, we are going to discuss the mana base. Humans have by far one of the most straightforward mana bases other than single color decks like Burn and Merfolk. Human’s mana base says, choose Human as the creature type, and then play a Human. Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory are a great example of these, pick Human, play a Human land. Depending on your brew of the deck these lands can really help or a hindrance your play-style. With the addition of Phantasmal Image and Restoration Angel to many of the top tier decks, your once destined to be human Unclaimed Territory now has to choose Illusion or Angel as its creature type so that you can be on curve and make the correct plays. Ancient Ziggurat does help with some of the different creature type issues, but since the removal of the fetches and shocks I’ve found myself wanting more as a player than Seachrome Coast and Horizon Canopy have to offer. Also, I still feel like there needs to be another basic land in the mix, with how rampant Path to Exile is and now the addition of Field of Ruin, I just see there is a need for an additional basic in the main.

With most tribal decks relying on Aether Vial to stay on curve, Humans I feel is the odd duck out. While I feel Aether Vial is a powerful card Humans stays low enough to the ground to stay on curve fairly easy. With Aether Vial in play, your Humans now become like Instant spells, able to be played on your opponent’s turn or in response to your opponent’s plays, if the counters on Aether Vial allow. Everything is a variable in this deck and your draws matter so much, that’s why mulliganing to the correct hand is key. I often find myself going down to 5-6 cards depending on if I’m on the play or draw just to have the perfect curve, in a lot of ways this deck is just bomb after bomb even at just 1-2 mana. Going back to Aether Vial, I feel its a necessity to the deck as a variable of possible play, but I’ve won many games just curving out Human after Human and playing off their synergies on just my turn. Being able to get around cards like Blood Moon and Chalice of the Void are real things though, which is why Aether Vial is the only non-creature spell played in the deck.

Creatures, or in this case Humans, are the main part of this tribal deck, with most decks playing 37 creatures it is a monumental portion of your deck’s body. Let’s begin with the single mana drops this deck offers. Champion of Parish is a great turn one drop getting bigger and bigger each turn, many times being a 3/3 or 4/4 by turn 3. Noble Hierarch is my favorite turn one play though, being able to slam a three drop like a Mantis Rider turn two just feels so good if your mana curve is with you.

Two mana drops are the main part of this deck with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben at the helm. Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter are other great examples of the two drops this deck has to offer and really show its controlling power. Meddling Mage brings a meta call top the deck, do you as a player know the format and understand what your playing against as early as turn 2? Humans is one of the best decks in Modern right now, I feel in part due to its players’ knowledge of the meta and just basic decks that are played in the format. Meddling Mage is a perfect example of needing to know this knowledge. Kitesail Freebooter can help gain you that knowledge also if you don’t have enough information on curve. Cards like Thalia’s Lieutenant and Phantasmal Image are just pure value in your mid game, with your mid game sometimes being as early as turn 3. Thalia’s Lieutenant pumps your entire team and just wins games with pure power, additionally getting pumped as more and more Humans hit the field. Phantasmal Image just says I’m going to double the best card you have on the field. Whether it copies a Mantis Rider and smashes in for additional damage, or maybe you want to double pump your team with an additional Thalia’s Lieutenant, or if your trying to control the board it can come down as a Meddling Mage and take an additional resource away from your opponent. When you are already ahead in a game Phantasmal Image just helps close out the gap.

The three drops in most Humans decks are the powerhouse cards and the creatures that really close out the game quick. Mantis Rider, a 3/3 flying creature with haste and vigilance, is devastating for your opponent dropping it on turn two. Reflector Mage is another great control card especially for the creature matchup, sending a Celestial Colonnade back to a players hand is a pretty funny way of utilizing a creature’s raw power along with Aether Vial tricks. Kessig Malcontents is the newest addition, but my absolute favorite. I think my favorite thing to do in any magic game is burn my opponent to the face. Overall the three drops are a force to be reckoned with and these Humans decks have such quick ways to get them out and keep the pressure coming down hard turn after turn.

So again I’ll ask you is Humans the best deck to sleeve up for you next modern tournament? My answer has been yes, with the raw power of it’s creatures and the answers it has available in the side to a number of the most popular decks, Humans has been my go-to deck in Modern. As far as the sideboard goes it’s really another meta call, what is played in your local meta? Many of the cards in the sideboard here are for the major contenders in Modern such as Affinity, Burn, Storm, KCI, Hollow One, and even the Human mirror match, it’s really a toolbox of great cards to answer whatever your opponent is playing, and they all have one thing in common: HUMANS!

Spread the word. Share this post!