The Guide To Modern Humans

It took three heads to do it, but Jonathan Rosum and his teammates took home SCG Dallas! Rosum piloted Humans, rather than his usual Jeskai build, and that made all the difference! Here’s his recommendations for SCG Philadelphia!

I finally did it!

It took quite a few tries, but at SCG Dallas last weekend, I was fortunate
enough to finally hoist a trophy alongside the sickest teammates, Kevin
King and Julian John. There were a lot of highs and lows during the
tournament, as we quickly started 5-0 and but then found ourselves with our
backs against the wall at 6-3 and barely squeezing into Day Two. Day Two,
however, was infinitely smoother than Day One, and we were incredibly
fortunate to not only Top 8 but also eventually become the champions.

I’m very happy to have won SCG Dallas, and I’m already looking forward to
SCG Philadelphia this weekend with my squad: Ralph Betesh and Korey
McDuffie. But before play begins in Philly, let’s get in to what you’re all
here to read about:

Humans is technically a “newer” deck to the current iteration of the Modern
metagame. The deck was popularized by my friend and Lotus Box teammate,
Collins Mullen, back with his win at SCG Cincinnati in 2017. Humans is a
deck looking to both provide an aggressive clock while also disrupting the
opponent to make sure that they can’t kill your creatures or you.

Humans is a very interesting deck from a gameplay perspective as you do a
lot of interacting with your opponent for a deck that has 37 creatures. The
reason why I started playing the deck before SCG Columbus was that I found
it absurdly consistent at executing its game plan of aggression and
disruption as well as rewarding individuals that have vast knowledge of the
Modern format.

First things first: Let’s talk about a few key cards that make Humans

Key Cards

The marque Human from Innistrad pulls a lot of weight in this
deck. Champion of the Parish gets out of hand quickly and puts a lot of
pressure on your opponent if left unanswered. It’s the ideal one-drop in
most matchups and allows Humans to kill their opponent quickly.

Phantasmal Image has secretly been the best card in Humans for quite a
while. This idea originated from Sam Pardee after he 5-0’d with an earlier
variant of Humans on MTGO and he had a single copy in his main deck. My
teammates and I quickly discovered that it was completely broken and it
makes the Humans nut draw a lot more consistent. Phantasmal Image allows
you to play both the aggressive and disruptive role in any matchup and is
quite honestly the most flexible card in Humans.

Meddling Mage has been the norm ever since Humans became a popular deck in
Modern and is probably one of the hardest cards to use correctly in the
deck. Blind Meddling Mages require a vast knowledge of the Modern format
while also knowing what the “worst” possible card for you is at any given

If I had to give an MVP award to the card that carried me the most at SCG
Dallas, it would absolutely go to Kessig Malcontents. Initially, I felt
that the card was bad against removal heavy decks like Jund and Jeskai
Control, but after thinking about it more it’s just the reach that you’re
looking for to close out the games. I can attest that the only reason I was
able to beat Jeskai Control as much as I did in Dallas was because my
Kessig Malcontents would deal between 2-4 damage; just enough reach to end
the game. The matchups where Kessig Malcontents are great, it outright
kills your opponent and completely shaves off a turn against decks like
Tron, Counters Company, and Scapeshift that can be the difference between a
win and a loss.

Sin Collector is a card that’s very good in a format that has as many
spell-heavy decks as Modern does. It’s an all-star against Burn and Jeskai
Control, and generating a two-for-one in these grindy matchups is important
in being able to untap with a creature on the battlefield.

The biggest flaw about Humans is that you must be very picky about what
non-creature spells you play because you must remember that you are a
ninteen-land deck with four copies of Ancient Ziggurat. Therefore, you
can’t play many spells and certainly can’t play spells that have strict
mana requirements. Dismember might not always be perfect, but I would
rather have a card like Dismember rather than a card like Stony Silence and
Rest in Peace that will often sit in my hand and never be cast.

Now let’s get to how to sideboard against the most popular Modern decks

VS Grixis Death’s Shadow



Blind Meddling Mage Names: Fatal Push, Temur Battle Rage

I believe the Grixis Death’s Shadow matchup is good for Humans, as you have
a lot of threats that are difficult for them to deal with in Mantis Rider,
Reflector Mage, Kessig Malcontents, and Meddling Mage. The card that bails
Death’s Shadow out of tough spots is Temur Battle Rage, so I often try to
set up situations that allow me to beat it even if they have it, and I
recommend playing around it if possible. I side out both Aether Vial and
Thalia’s Lieutenant because they are both fundamentally weak cards on their
own, and I want to be as threat dense as Humanly possible.

VS U/R Gifts Storm



Blind Meddling Mage: Grapeshot, Lightning Bolt

This is the matchup that Humans actively preys on. The two mana spells in
Humans are all extremely hard for Storm to beat – Kitesail Freebooter,
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Meddling Mage – with Meddling Mage being
the best of the bunch as most Storm decks can’t beat Meddling Mage naming
Grapeshot in game 1. This is a matchup where I value disruption over
aggression as it’s hard to just beat them with a fast clock. I recommend
mulliganing aggressively for a disruptive piece. It’s worth noting that
game 2 is basically the same as game 1, but Storm players often increase
the number of Lightning Bolts in their deck, so if my hand can afford to
have Meddling Mage name Lightning Bolt, I will often opt to do so.

VS Affinity



Blind Meddling Mage: Etched Champion, Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager

This matchup isn’t great for Humans, but I don’t feel like it is as bad as
people make it out to be. There are obviously some problematic cards in the
matchup, like Steel Overseer and Vault Skirge, but Humans is very good at
racing, and a timely Reflector Mage can make all the difference. The reason
why I don’t think this matchup is as bad as people think is because of the
inclusion of Phantasmal Image and its ability to make any sideboard hate
card like Izzet Staticaster and Vithian Renegades. Multiple Izzet
Staticasters and/or Vithian Renegades is very hard for Affinity to beat.

VS Humans



Blind Meddling Mage: Constantly in Flux

This matchup game 1 is obviously a coin flip because whoever draws the most
copies of Kitesail Freebooters and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is often
times the player who loses. The key to winning the mirror on the draw is by
capitalizing on any stumble and drawing exactly one Aether Vial. The post
sideboard games of the mirror are effectively the same as game 1; however
you just need to find spots to get in chip shots and eventually break
through with either a timely Mantis Rider or Reflector Mage. Kessig
Malcontents is an absolute all-star in the mirror but should only be used
if it’s going to kill your opponent so that they can’t Phantasmal Image it
and gain the advantage.

VS Jeskai Control



Blind Meddling Mage: Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, Snapcaster Mage,
Supreme Verdict

This matchup is one where you must slog through a bunch of removal spells
and try to catch your opponents off-guard. Overextending into a Supreme
Verdict is often fatal, and you should try to diversify your threats as
much as possible to keep the opponent off balance. Kessig Malcontents might
not seem great in this matchup, but a Lightning Bolt is often the
difference from your opponent stabilizing and them losing. Sin Collector is
a complete house in this matchup post sideboard, as it allows you to both
stick a threat and start clocking your opponent. Lastly, Aether Vial is
extremely important as it allows you to get ahead and can lead to intricate
scenarios in combat.

VS Burn



Blind Meddling Mage: Searing Blaze, Searing Blood, Lightning Helix

This matchup is actually close to even and is completely reliant on whether
your opponent has Grim Lavamancer or not. Grim Lavamancer is an absurdly
hard card for Humans to beat and will often singlehandedly beat you. The
flipside of that is that if your opponent doesn’t have Grim Lavamancer,
it’s very easy to go over the top of Burn and force them to use their burn
on your creatures until you eventually push through the final points of

General Tips

Know when to be disruptive and know when to be aggressive:

The learning curve in Humans is all about knowing what game plan you’re
supposed to enact and when you’re supposed to switch gears. The perfect
hand has a mix of these spells, but you can usually understand your role
from whatever the first land your opponent plays on turn 1.

Aether Vial is your best friend:
Aether Vial is both the best and worst card in the deck. The strength of
Aether Vial often comes from the lack of information your opponent has and
can lead to scenarios in which your opponent can easily misidentify what
you have and get absolutely blown out. The interesting interactions with
Aether Vial include draw-step Kitesail Freebooter as well as the Thalia’s
Lieutenant trick: Casting Thalia’s Lieutenant and Vialing in a creature
with the Thalia’s Lieutenant trigger on the stack will give the Lieutenant
a counter while also putting a counter on the Vialed in creature.

Phantasmal Image against Jund/Jeskai/Grixis Death’s Shadow:

Phantasmal Image plays a very different role against the grindy decks than
it does versus the combo decks. Phantasmal Image needs to generate some
form of effect when you cast it in these matchups, and I will often hold it
until I can set up a double Thalia’s Lieutenant/Mantis Rider turn to push
through a ton of damage.

Closing Thoughts

The best part about Humans being a new deck in Modern is that there are
still many different avenues that you can take the deck. I would be shocked
if this was the best Kessig Malcontents build, and I do feel as though a
more focused build on the deck is entirely possible. I will be working very
hard to figure out what I’m doing for SCG Philadelphia this weekend. I hope
this article was helpful to you in some way, and I would recommend picking
up this deck and trying it out for yourself.

Humans is way more than just some random aggressive deck and it’s most
certainly here to stay!