Modern is always evolving and adapting to the most recent innovations in
the metagame, and it is important to keep your deck updated with these
constant changes in mind, no matter what that deck is. For that reason, I
want to share the most recent updates I have made to Five-Color Humans.
Humans has proven itself to be a major player in the past couple of weeks.
Jund has risen to the top as the premier “removal spell” deck of the format
and has pushed out some of the more control heavy decks of the format like
Jeskai Control and U/W Control. This is great for Humans, because Humans is
slightly favored against Jund but was a big underdog to the more control
Here is the list I’m currently running.
- 3 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Kessig Malcontents
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 1 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
Probably the newest and most exciting innovation to the list is the
inclusion of a single Restoration Angel to the main deck. I first saw this
innovation in action when it blew me out during the MOCS Modern Monthly
last weekend. My opponent passed with four mana up in the mirror, usually
only an indicator of either Dismember or Izzet Staticaster. I played around
these cards rather well, but essentially lost the game on the spot to my
opponent flashing in Restoration Angel and flickering their Reflector Mage
during my combat step. Yikes.
After testing the card, I think Restoration Angel is an excellent inclusion
in the deck. It synergizes well with so many of the cards in the deck. You
can get another Clue from Thraben Inspector, you can get another Thalia’s
Lieutenant trigger, or you can reset a Meddling Mage. It even works well
against one of the main problems Humans faces in the format: spot removal.
I don’t think I want to see a bunch of copies of this card in Humans,
because four mana is quite a lot, but Restoration Angel has definitely
proven that it’s a strong contender, and I like having access to one moving
Selfless Spirit has been the MVP for me in so many matchups. There are many
games where the Humans player can develop a battlefield very quickly, and
often the opponent’s only route to victory is through some form of sweeper.
In these spots, Selfless Spirit does an excellent job at putting the nail
in the coffin by eliminating that out from the opponent.
I had initially run Xathrid Necromancer in that slot, but Selfless Spirit
has proven itself to be much better for a couple of reasons. First, it only
cost two mana, which can make a huge difference when you’re trying to curve
out. Second, Selfless Spirit is effective against what is arguably the most
popular sweeper right now.
Anger of the Gods is seeing play in the sideboard of many decks as a good
answer to Humans because of its effectiveness against Xathrid Necromancer.
Jund, Scapeshift, Storm, and Blue Moon all have access to the card after
sideboard. Having protection from this sweeper is invaluable in these
After the unbannings of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, we saw
many Humans lists abandon Kessig Malcontents in favor of more grindy cards
like Pia and Kiran Nalaar. But with the metagame returning to a more
predictable spot, I think it’s pretty clear that we need to be moving back
to Kessig Malcontents.
Humans, at its core, is an aggressive deck. It isn’t designed to try to
make the game go long and rely on grindy elements to generate value. It’s
trying to reduce the opponent’s life total to zero as quickly as possible.
I’ve even described its disruptive elements as building a house of cards.
If you have a removal spell under a Kitesail Freebooter and another removal
spell named with Meddling Mage, all it takes is for your opponent to draw
something to answer either of these creatures for your entire house of
cards to come crumbling down, as they can kill a creature, unlock their
other card, and kill the other creature as well.
For that reason, I’d rather have more cards in my deck that are good at
closing out the game than cards that are slightly better in a longer game.
Kessig Malcontents is quite good at closing out games, so I want at least
one copy in the 75.
After a lot of testing, I concluded that Humans wanted another creature in
the one mana slot. Part of the reason for this is because there are a few
matchups where you want to sideboard out Aether Vials, and in those
matchups you still want to be leading on a one mana play most of the time.
Having that extra tempo advantage given by a one mana play can be huge.
The question boiled down to whether we wanted Thraben Inspector in this
slot or Kytheon, Hero of Akros as they both have their pros and cons. On
one hand, Kytheon hits harder and can prove to be a must-answer threat in
some scenarios, when he’s threatening to flip into a planeswalker. On the
other hand, Thraben Inspector gives you a whole extra card later in the
game, a huge effect for a deck with as few lands as Humans.
The conclusion that I came to was that Kytheon’s text outside of just being
a 2/1 body wasn’t relevant enough of the time. Additionally, because we
wanted the extra one-drops for grindy matchups where we take out our Aether
Vials, having a better one-drop in those grindy matchups felt more
important. For those reasons, I settled on playing with Thraben Inspector.
Dire Fleet Daredevil has continued to impress me, and I’ve even moved up to
three copies of the card in my sideboard. It’s the best card against grindy
matchups like Jund and Death’s Shadow, where you can use their removal
spells and discard against them. On top of being an excellent card, it’s
even just very fun to play with. Here are a few sweet plays that I’ve made
with the card so far:
I gave my 6/6 Champion of the Parish double strike with a Boros
Charm to kill my opponent.
I Vialed in Dire Fleet Daredevil in response to Snapcaster Mage to
counter its effect and Lightning Bolt the Snapcaster Mage.
I Vialed in Dire Fleet Daredevil to counter my opponent’s Wrath of
God with their own Cryptic Command.
Some of the numbers in the deck may look a little wonky, but I promise
there’s a method to this madness. I cut down to only three copies of
Meddling Mages because the matchups where Meddling Mage excels aren’t as
popular right now. Jund and Humans are the most popular decks in Modern
right now, and Meddling Mage just isn’t exciting in either of those
matchups. By hedging the main deck a little bit, I’m giving myself a slight
I also went back up to a full four copies of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
because I still wanted enough disruptive elements for the combo matchups,
and Thalia is better against Jund and U/R/x matchups.
Sometimes I like to think that cards in Modern have a certain “stock
market” value associated with them when it comes to playability. These
values often fluctuate with the always changing nature of Modern, and it’s
very important to update the numbers of your deck to reflect which cards
have a higher market value or a lower market value. Right now, I believe
that the value of Meddling Mage is slightly lower, and the value of Thalia,
Guardian of Thraben is slightly higher, so I want the number of these cards
in my deck to reflect that.