Humans Crushing Modern? It’s Jeskai Time! Also, Eldrazi Humans?!

It’s not as if Shaun McLaren needs an excuse to turn to his beloved Jeskai deck in Modern, but the rise of the Humans archetype sure is convenient! And then he has to go talk about Human Eldrazi decks right before SCG Regionals…

It’s the week before Pro Tour Ixalan, which means my lips are sealed on the topic of Standard. Fortunately, Modern continues to get spicier and spicier with SCG Regionals coming, so there’s plenty to talk about there.

The new hotness is Humans tribal piloted to first place at #SCGCIN by Collins Mullen:

It’s people…this Humans deck is made out of people!

Collins nailed it, this deck looks great, and you can read about it straight from him here.

My initial impression is that this deck is very much the real deal, and Collins’s undefeated record alongside Matt Ling winning the Modern Classic at #SCGDC this past weekend with a nearly identical list help to back that up like a garbage truck.

Humans are hot right now, largely thanks to Ixalan providing the tribe a bountiful Human harvest of Kitesail Freebooter and Unclaimed Territory.

It shows how easy it is to immediately glaze over a new card’s implications in Modern until someone champions it and finds a home for it. Then you see it in action. Maybe Unclaimed Territory can open the door for more tribes. Slivers, anyone?

This makes me both excited and a little terrified of the Modern Pro Tour.


I wonder what powerful Modern cards Rivals of Ixalan will bring to the table. I imagine that it’s going to be interesting, to say the least.

Modern is usually slow to adapt to new decks in a set’s first few weeks before the information cascades and more people get the cards to start playing the sweet new deck. Sometimes Modern cascades even lead to Bloodbraid Elf being banned.

Meanwhile, others begin to adapt their deck of choice to the new intruder. Today I’ll look at both strategies, why you might want to just play Humans, and what decks have a shot of beating it.

So Humans looks a little gimmicky. I mean, it’s a deck just full of a bunch of creatures, but it has a bunch going for it: tribal synergies that snowball, interaction on those creatures, great mana, and great starts with Aether Vial.

The key to the deck functioning is that it has a critical mass of ways to interact with your opponent’s noncreature spells, which you wouldn’t expect from a Humans deck. Kitesail Freebooter into Meddling Mage is a nice little combo, since you get to see their hand before naming what they can’t cast, and that, along with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, makes life especially miserable for a combo opponent.

Trying to find new cards to add to the deck is funny, since the best way to find new tech for Humans is just to search for the Human creature type in Modern.

Turns out there are plenty of great Humans that you probably even forgot were Human, such as Mantis Rider. I mean, I got second place at a Pro Tour playing a deck with Mantis Rider in it but forgot about the actual rider being the creature type. You think they would’ve gotten the hang of this by now, but Sunrise Seeker is still confusing me by not being a Dinosaur.

There are some options along the lines of Dark Confidant; Kambal, Consul of Allocation; and Auriok Champion and there are noncreature considerations as well, like Dismember or Path to Exile, but it’s probably better to just play more Humans.

I’m more interested in seeing if we can take the concept further.

Innovation or abomination? Crime against humanity or time to smash reality? Thought-Knot or Thought-Yes? You be the judge; just don’t judge me if it turns out to be good.

In theory, you should get access to the busted side of each deck without messing up your tribal synergies too hard.

Eldrazi Temple alongside Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory allows you to easily cast Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher by providing ample sources of colorless mana.

Eldrazi Displacer gets extra value by blinking Reflector Mage, Thalia’s Lieutenant, Thought-Knot Seer, Kitesail Freebooter, and Mayor of Avabruck. It helps pump up Champion of the Parish every time you blink a Human.

I cut Meddling Mage, Mantis Rider, and Aether Vial to fit in our Eldrazi friends, mainly since these cards don’t work well alongside Eldrazi Temple. Aether Vial is going to struggle with the high-casting-cost Eldrazi.

So the obvious question is whether the Eldrazi are even worth it. The answer is “probably not,” but it might be somewhere else. Unclaimed Territory is at least a consideration when Eldrazi are concerned.

So what should you play in Modern right now for SCG Regionals? My first recommendation would be to just play Humans, since new Modern decks are always sweet. My next recommendation would be to find a deck that beats Humans, since being a step ahead of the metagame is even sweeter.

The Modern format hasn’t really had a chance to correct to Humans, but what would decks look like going forward that are trying to beat Humans?

Surprise, surprise, I try to find a reason to play Jeskai Control.

I wrote about Jeskai Control playing Search for Azcanta before, but having finally tried it in Jeskai, I think I can officially bump it up from the rank of harebrained idea to quite promising.

Todd Anderson and Ari Lax were both skeptical about it even being mentioned in Modern, and with good reason. The thing is, you probably can afford to do nothing Turn 2 in Modern if that card is Rampant Growth, Crystal Ball, and your win condition.

Search for Azcanta is mainly your win condition in Jeskai Control, and anything else it does is pure gravy. It is mostly just to be an attrition war winner by finding Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Cryptic Command, or Sphinx’s Revelation.

You just need time.

With some decks in Modern you don’t have much chance of making it to the late-game because your Lightning Bolts don’t buy you time. With others you have plenty of time to durdle against.

One of the decks that you don’t interact well with is U/R Gifts Storm, they just combo through your meager counter wall too easily, so if Humans is great against it… and we’re good against Humans…

I’d say trying to predict the metagame of Modern and selecting your deck based on that rather than just playing a good deck you’re good with is the wrong strategy in general, but a shift of Humans getting more popular might help Jeskai Control.

Jeskai should have enough spot removal, battlefield clear, and card advantage to keep up with a steady stream of Humans.

Wait, let me check to see if anyone actually had some success with Jeskai Control recently…

Yup! Ninth place at the Modern Classic last weekend.

Luke did it, with Search for Azcanta and everything, the absolute madman!

Well, Luke kind of did it… I mean, ninth place is nice, but kudos are for closers.

I really like the idea of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion somewhere in a list with Search for Azcanta, since having a pseudo-Rampant Growth and pseudo-tutor for it is nice. That goes for any expensive noncreature late-game cards.

So Jeskai is promising, but what other strategies should be good against Humans?

My process for building a deck to beat another deck usually involves looking at what the deck can’t do well and then exploiting it.

What can’t Humans do very well? Land destruction! Well, there is Avalanche Riders, since apparently there’s a Human for everything, but big mana decks like Scapeshift or Tron might be a good place to start looking.

G/R Tron has largely fallen out of favor to other variations like G/B, but maybe it’s time for a comeback.

Pyroclasm, Lightning Bolt, Oblivion Stone; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; and even All Is Dust seem like the right kind of firepower to be packing. Karn Liberated and Wurmcoil Engine aren’t quite as appealing but should also do good work in certain situations.

The issue being, is Tron fast enough and the removal diverse and plentiful enough to get around Freebooter and Meddling Mage and a quick clock?

Another option would be to attack the Humans manabase with Blood Moon, since Humans aren’t great at destroying enchantments and their manabase is almost entirely nonbasics.

Mitchell Forst had the right idea, backing it up with Spreading Seas alongside some solid removal and Through the Breach into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

“Death to Humans!”

Losing to Humans in the finals is probably not a good sign, though.

Blood Moon being a solid answer is kind of stymied by the fact that Aether Vial is a card. Also, Humans can kind of go under it or shore up its mana with Noble Hierarch, and Freebooter is a card to just nab Blood Moon.

Oh, the Humanity!

Honestly the Humans deck seems difficult to attack from traditional angles and I imagine Modern is going to be interesting going forward as people try to solve the deck.

What do you think? Is the Humans deck the next big thing in Modern? Will it be a flash in the pan, or just casually integrate itself into Modern’s loving metagame arms as a solid deck?