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Oh the humanity! Wait, please don’t go. I promise I’ll keep the dad jokes to a minimum today. I recently brought Humans to the Team Constructed 1K tournament in San Antonio, TX at Gamerz Pair-a-Dice. I would like to give a special thanks to David Freeman and AJ Lopez as my Standard and Legacy teammates, respectively. We took the trophy home, except there was no actual trophy. Bummer. Also, as the top seed we just split the top prize money in the finals. However, I didn’t drop a match so I figured a tournament report and metagame synopsis is still worth writing about.
Now that the Ironworks deck is banned from Modern, many players are wondering how the metagame will change. We are only a couple of weeks in and it is pretty apparent that Burn and Phoenix decks will be major players along with Dredge. Bant Spirits was taking over as the premiere Aether Vial deck when Ironworks was on the rise due to its great matchup, but with the powerful artifact deck gone, it is possible 5 Color Humans can take back its former throne. While I do not think Humans will become the overly dominant force it once was, I think it is well-positioned at the moment.
This is what I came to after deliberating with Dylan Hand and Drake Sasser, along with my other compatriots at the 5C Humans Facebook group. I settled on the exact same 75 created by Drake, and only 1 card different from the recent sideboard guide, as a reaction to the expected metagame shift.
Notably, I chose to run 4 Thalia and shaved a Kitesail Freebooter as a direct reaction to Burn and Phoenix decks being popular. Thalia is an absolute workhorse against both of those decks, so I was always happy to see her. Until the meta shifts, I cannot stress enough how much I recommend running 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Kitesail Freebooter is good, but it is not as impactful as the rest of the deck so it got the boot. I am pretty sure I stole that joke from someone.
I have tried all of the common three drop flex slots in Humans, but I have always felt like Militia Bugler is the best choice as it smooths your draws, helps keep your hand full and assists in locating impactful cards. Dylan Hand is currently running Tajic, Legion’s Edge in that spot and I cannot fault him for that considering what the most commonly played decks are right now. If you are not running Bugler, Tajic is likely the best choice right now due to the influx of red-based decks in the format.
If you have been playing Humans for some time, you will notice that Gaddock Teeg is not anywhere to be found in this sideboard. While this weakens the Tron and Azorius Control matchups, Ironworks was a major reason to play him, and I just do not think I have room for poor ol’ Teeg right now.
Sin Collector has been absent from my sideboard for awhile, but it is fantastic at the moment due to, again, the Burn and Phoenix decks. It over-performed for me today and it will be sticking around in my sideboard for the foreseeable future. I could absolutely see myself playing a Kambal or two, but he is definitely not as good without Ironworks around. Kambal is great against Burn and Phoenix if he sticks, but he usually dies immediately. Instead, Sin Collector gets the nod from me since you immediately get its value when it comes into play, so you do not really care if it dies.
Finally, Auriok Champion is great against Red Phoenix (not Izzet), Burn and Dredge, so it deserves at least 3 slots (maybe even 4). Whirler Rogue is great as usual and comes in against a variety of matchups, including Izzet Phoenix. Damping Sphere deserves two slots and I do not know how you will beat Tron or Amulet Titan without it, or even Storm for that matter. I could see cutting Izzet Staticaster for some other impactful cards, but I feel absolutely crippled without it sometimes; when you need it, you really need it. As a side note, even though Izzet Phoenix generally has a few Young Pyromancers you should not bring in Staticaster against them.
Oh, right, the tournament report. That is kind of the point of this article, isn’t it? I am not going to include all the details of my matches, but will instead give a brief summary of the important and impactful plays. Regardless, I will do my best to remember everything that happened.
Rd 1: 2-1 over Izzet Phoenix
-4 Phantasmal Image, -1 Noble Hierarch, -1 Meddling Mage
+2 Dismember, +2 Whirler, +2 Sin Collector
Nice plan, Mr. Sasser, it worked nicely. Game 1 started out with me being the aggressor right out of the gate. I was able to quickly get my opponent down to 2 life after he missed two triggers while casting Thought Scour, denying himself of a Young Pyromancer token and a Thing in the Ice counter. This missed blocker possibly cost him the game as I was able to deploy my Mantis Rider after having it bounced by Thing in the Ice for an easy kill. He would have been at 4 life and bought another turn if he would have been able to block my Reflector Mage.
During sideboard games, the Phoenix player generally becomes more controlling and brings in removal spells. It is important to be aware of this and shift your play patterns accordingly, but you still have to be aggressive and keep the pressure on. My opponent was able to get two Thing in the Ice down successfully and on staggered counters to allow for two eventual bounce triggers. Thankfully, I was able to return one to his hand with Reflector Mage, but I quickly fell behind when I did not have an answer for the other. I was stuck in chump block mode for a little while until he drew a removal spell for my only blocker and killed me with an Awoken Horror.
Game 3 was over in a blur. I quickly created a huge board state with a Thalia’s Lieutenant. In response, he played an Izzet Staticaster and killed my Thalia, Guardian of Thraben before it got out of range, but playing an additional human afterwards grew my Champion of the Parish to be just large enough to attack with the rest of my team for exact lethal.
Rd 2: 2-1 over 5 Color Humans
-4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, -4 Meddling Mage, -3 Kitesail Freebooter
+2 Knight of Autumn, +3 Auriok Champion, +2 Dismember, +2 Whirler Rogue, +2 Izzet Staticaster
There nothing special about these games. I took the first one relatively easily with a couple of Mantis Riders to fly over his ground creatures. Game 2 was close and a little more interesting, but it was over for me when he played a Whirler Rogue to make his large Thalia’s Lieutenant unblockable. Game 3 was more of the same as the first game. He was on the back foot again, especially after having his Aether Vial destroyed by my Knight of Autumn. Good thing I was on the play for the first game, because not being on the draw was really all that mattered in this match. My team ended up winning before the game was officially over, but I am calling this one a win as it was very obvious what the outcome was going to be in a single turn cycle.
Rd 3: 1-1 unfinished against Izzet Phoenix
I cannot recall this match quite that well, but I know I was on the play for the first game. After some back and forth, I was able to get my opponent low enough for a Reflector Mage to take out a blocker to attack for lethal. Game 2 was probably over pretty quickly because I barely remember it. Game 3 was cut short as my team took the win for the round and we did not play it out. I was in a strong position, however, and I am fairly certain I was going to take that game regardless.
Rd 4: 2-0 over Rakdos Burn
-4 Meddling Mage, -2 Reflector Mage, -1 Phantasmal Image
+3 Auriok Champion, +2 Sin Collector, +2 Knight of Autumn
Game 1 was over pretty quickly as I was blessed with being on the play again, successfully tempoing my opponent out of the game. Reflector Mage was a beating to my opponent’s creature-heavy draw; he was never able to catch back up. Unfortunately for him, the second game was even worse as he mulliganed to 5 cards while I presented another fast clock, backed up my two Knight of Autumn lifegain triggers. While it is lower to the ground, Rakdos Burn does not scare me as much as Boros Burn does. Granted, this is the only match I played against it, but I was not impressed.
Rd 5: 2-1 over Boros Burn
-4 Meddling Mage, -2 Reflector Mage, -1 Phantasmal Image
+3 Auriok Champion, +2 Sin Collector, +2 Knight of Autumn
Being on the draw against Burn is not fun; thankfully, I had a fantastic hand. I was able to get my opponent down to 2, but made a devastating misplay that cost me the game. He was forced to hold back his Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear, then played an Eidolon of the Great Revel, leaving all three back to block. On my turn, I played a Reflector Mage, with the Eidolon trigger bringing my life down from 4 to 2 (just saying that out loud makes me feel stupid) to bounce a blocker. I should have slowed down though, because if I would have done the combat math correctly, he would have chump blocked with his Eidolon anyway to avoid having it kill him when he tried to play literally any spell. Playing the Reflector Mage after combat instead would have been correct. A topdecked Rift Bolt sealed the game for him as it immediately burned me for my remaining life total.
Game 2 is a bit of a blur as it was over pretty quickly and nothing noteworthy is coming to my recollection. Game 3 was technically over before we could finish as my team, once again, crushed it. However, my opponent and I decided to play the game out. I played an Auriok Champion at a high life total and figured the game was over. My opponent was representing Skullcrack, so I did not attack it into his blockers as I was afraid of it dying. It turns out he did not have the Skullcrack after all, but immediately drew a timely Path to Exile to remove my Auriok Champion from the game. He soon cast another Path to remove a large Champion of the Parish to its demise. However, he was not able to put enough pressure on after stabilizing, and I quickly assembled a huge boardstate after playing two Kitesail Freebooters, completely picking his hand apart in the process. A Thalia’s Lieutenant to grow my team sealed the match (even though my team already kind of did that).
Rd 6: 2-1 over Izzet Phoenix (same opponent from Round 3)
As the only undefeated team going into the Semifinals, we had top seed and were guaranteed to all be on the play. The first game in this round went very similarly to how it did in Round 3 against the same opponent as he quickly died to my aggressive draw.
Thalia is an absolute house and should almost always be played as soon as possible in this matchup unless you suspect the opponent can kill her with a removal spell immediately. I made the mistake of not playing her on turn 2 in the second game and instead led with a Kitesail Freebooter to get information for the Meddling Mage in my hand. I immediately regretted it as my opponent was able to get two Arclight Phoenixes into play after chaining several spells together. I was eventually forced to double block one of them with my Kitesail Freebooters to stem the bleeding, freeing up his Lightning Bolt. Thankfully, I had a Meddling Mage in play naming Lightning Bolt and was able to survive by returning a Crackling Drake to his hand that would have been otherwise lethal. I ended up being 1 point of damage shy of somehow killing my opponent after drawing a Thalia’s Lieutenant, making me wonder where I could have put in that extra point of damage in throughout that game.
Game 3 was a nail-biter as everything was riding on me for my team to win the round. I had a pretty great draw and eventually wrecked my opponent’s hand with Kitesail Freebooters and Sin Collectors, forcing him to pay the Thalia tax while getting beat by a large Champion of the Parish. I knew it was over when the only play he could make was a hardcast Arclight Phoenix to be placed on blocking duty. I secured the win for my team and secured our place in the finals.
Rd 7: Split Prizes with Boros Burn (same opponent from Round 5)
We already beat these guys in Round 5 and I am confident we could have done it again since all three of us teammates won our matches against them. Regardless, we decided to split the prize money so we could all go grab dinner at a reasonable time. It was a pretty easy choice since there was not much of a cash difference, so my journey came to an end for the day.
If you read this far, then the support is greatly appreciated. If you are interested in the Humans archetype in Modern, I highly encourage you to go check out the Facebook group that I mentioned before. They are a wealth of knowledge and a fantastic resource for the bleeding edge of Humans “technology”.
My team performed well today and I am very proud of them. I am also happy that they pushed me to play Humans today, even though I had not picked it up in a while. It is still a very powerful deck and I highly recommend it in the current meta. While I think the Izzet Phoenix matchup is not in our favor, I do think it is very close. My best guess is 45/55 so don’t be afraid of Modern’s new boogeyman; it is not that scary if you are prepared for it.
Between this and other recent results I think it is safe to say that 5C Humans is back in the Modern format. White sideboard cards have lost some of their potency and as a result Bant Spirits has fallen behind. I think we can expect these decks two decks to slip back and forth past each other as the metagame evolves. Tomorrow Jund specialist Michael Kidd will be back with his perspective of the most divisive new card of 2018. Until then my friends.