Humans has emerged as the preeminent aggro deck of Shadows over Innistrad Standard. The plethora of playable one-drops backed up by the power of Thalia’s Lieutenant, Always Watching, and Declaration in Stone has proven to be quite powerful, as demonstrated by the fact that there are several variants of the deck that supplement this core with different splashes.
Blue offers Reflector Mage and a great sideboard package of Negate, Dispel, and Dragonlord Ojutai. Green offers Dromoka’s Command and Den Protector. Both of these splashes give the deck more staying power, but Brandon Gaudet went with a red splash to be even more aggressive.
Reckless Bushwhacker is a very powerful card, and the +1/+0 sets up your attack nicely against the battlefield of 2/3s common in this format. Bushwhacker also plays nicely with Kytheon, Hero of Akros, letting you flip it unexpectedly, even on turns where you don’t start with it on the battlefield! That synergy makes me want the fourth copy of Kytheon despite the downside of being a legend.
Abbot of Keral Keep, while being a powerful aggressive creature in its own right, helps to give you the critical mass of creatures necessary to maximize Bushwhacker. Also, hitting your third land drop is important to surge Bushwhacker, but you want a reduced land count so that you can increase your density of creatures. Abbot alleviates these divergent forces by giving the deck some needed velocity.
The last addition that red gives is my pick for most underrated card in Standard: Outnumber. This is a classic case of an all-star on a losing team as Red is very poor right now. But Outnumber is a great tempo card that can clear the way early for your small creatures or take down an Archangel Avacyn later in the game. Outnumber in this deck will be much closer to Stasis Snare than you might think, and going from three mana to one is an important discount, allowing you to more easily progress your battlefield in the face of roadblocks.
Looking at the rest of the deck, there are some deviations from stock Humans lists, but they make sense in the context of the Red splash. The one-drop suite focuses heavily on the 2/1s, which makes sense with the +1/+0 of Bushwhacker helping those creatures trade up. Town Gossipmonger, while more powerful, is a bit slow for this archetype, although I could still see it being correct since it’s still great with Always Watching. Even if it is correct, I like that Brandon was thinking about a subtle change like this and was willing to deviate from the norm when he felt circumstances dictated it.
A lack of Knight of the White Orchid reflects this deck’s aggressive orientation with little desire to go long or play bigger spells, as does the presence of the full four copies of Always Watching and Gryff’s Boon.
The one change I would look to make to the maindeck is adding a land, since the deck wants to consistently make three land drops and has Needle Spires as flood insurance. Gryff’s Boon is likely the weakest card in the deck, even if it’s a card I personally like. I don’t want to cut a creature and Always Watching and Declaration in Stone are too powerful.
Kozilek’s Return is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed, especially because the number of X/1s in the deck means Always Watching doesn’t protect your team as effectively as it does in other lists. Bushwhacker helps by letting you recover quickly, but that’s likely not enough.
Overall, I like this take on the Humans archetype, since going long against decks like Bant Company and U/R Goggles is too difficult and both decks are exploitable in the early game, one due to a shaky manabase and the other from needing to set up its engine with velocity spells. Reflector Mage and Dromoka’s Command were obvious splash cards, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this turns out to be a better variant.
- 4 Dragon Hunter
- 3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
- 4 Abbot of Keral Keep
- 4 Expedition Envoy
- 4 Reckless Bushwhacker
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant