Updating Humans In Time For SCG Philadelphia

With Bridge from Below banned in Modern, Humans re-emerges as a strong contender. If you’re playing with (or might play against) the deck at SCG Philadelphia, Dylan Hand has your must-read primer!

Well, that was quick…

Gone just as fast as it was here, Bridgevine – in its previous configuration, at least – is no more. Thankfully, it didn’t come at the cost of any of the sweet cards introduced via Modern Horizons. Bridge from Below and Faithless Looting were pretty easily the only non-Horizons candidates to get the axe/hammer/what-have-you. Faithless Looting is one of the most talked about (read: complained about) cards in Modern, and many would like to see it go. Bridge from Below isn’t too far behind – any card that doesn’t even encourage you to ever cast it can’t ever be reasonable, right?

This quashing of Bridge from Below gives Modern a little bit of breathing room. You can now put away a couple of your sideboard graveyard-hate pieces. This is no time to cut them completely, but at least you can stop having your sideboards look like this:

This list that I took to a local Modern Invitational Qualifier was anticipating that at least a few people would be showing up with some Bridgevine, ready to prey on people who had no idea what was about to hit them. It was a small event, with only about 45 players, but you bet that three out of three Bridgevine players in that room made the Top 8. One of them knocked me out in the quarterfinals, where I lost the first game, put two Leyline of the Voids onto the battlefield before Game 2 began, and then lost a long Game 3 wherein I drew two Leyline of the Voids that I could not cast.

Playing Leyline of the Void in the sideboard of Humans was likely one of the biggest canaries in the coal mine that Modern was not in a good place. As I just mentioned, you can’t ever cast it, so drawing it later makes it a skipped draw step. Savvy Bridgevine opponents could anticipate it and sideboard accordingly, and it essentially forced you into mulliganing for it, as it is what you essentially signed up for by putting four copies in your sideboard.

Thankfully, I’m happy to say that Humans can go back to playing graveyard hate that can actually be cast, like the occasional Grafdigger’s Cage or two. Those four sideboard slots dedicated to Leyline of the Void were fairly painful to lose, and it is a relief to have them back (for now). The banning of Bridge from Below has put a ripple effect on what becomes good and/or bad again in Modern. Before presenting how I’d look to build my Humans list moving forward, here’s a synopsis of the winners and losers in Modern from the ban, to help give some context.

The Winners

Big Mana (Mono-Green Tron, Amulet Titan)

Big mana decks are some of the early speculative winners of the Bridge from Below ban. There’s a very simple explanation as to why, and it centers around Altar of Dementia and how it interacts with Bridge:

Bridge from Below was instrumental in Bridgevine’s ability to kill without even using the combat step. Altar of Dementia and a combination of either two Hogaaks and one Bridge or two Bridges and one Hogaak allowed for the Bridgevine player to mill over their entire deck, generate a battlefield of creatures totaling power much higher than the opposing player’s cards in library, and then mill them out accordingly. Tron players were countering this by playing an Eldrazi Titan – like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – in their sideboards to prevent this, but it was still not easy to continuously deal with a horde of Zombies coming back repeatedly, thanks again to, of course, Bridge from Below.

Amulet Titan players simply didn’t have the tools to both interact and race at the same time. Amulet Titan can kill Turn 3 itself if it wants to, but nowhere near at the consistency Bridgevine could. Now, the deck has a little breathing room.


I actually don’t think that Humans had that bad of a Bridgevine matchup, truth be told. It was extremely difficult to stop the best draws the deck could produce, especially on the draw, but sometimes Game 1 could be stolen via Meddling Mage naming Hogaak and/or Altar of Dementia, and the sideboard games could frequently be cheesed out via Leyline of the Void.

An anecdote: Playing the Magic Online Format challenge, I played against Bridgevine three straight rounds. I lost every single Game 1 in those three matches and won every sideboard game that I had a Leyline of the Void on Turn 0 (which ended up being five out of six of those games).

That’s healthy, right?

Bridge from Below was, far and away, the most frustrating card for Humans to deal with. It made it practically impossible to do enough damage on the ground, even if they didn’t have Altar of Dementia or Hogaak, putting a huge onus on Mantis Rider to get in damage via the air to cross the finish line.

It’s a moot point now, but had there been no bans last Monday, I wanted to give more looks to Surgical Extraction in the sideboard over Leyline, since it could be cast after it was drawn, and the untested theory is that hitting Bridge from Below with Surgical Extraction would allow you to maintain control of the battlefield without the battlefield getting turned into Duel Deck: Blessed vs. Cursed before you could say Noble Hierarch.


This was an easy one. There were two graveyard decks, one was way better than the other, and now the lines are a little blurred. Time will tell to see if a Bridge from Below-less version of Bridgevine will still overshadow Dredge as we know it, or if the decks merge into one.

The Losers


While Infect isn’t that big of a loser overall thanks to getting Scale Up, the deck was another one of the canaries in the coal mine I spoke to earlier. Infect got a bit more popular in the few weird weeks we had of Bridgevine dominating Modern, and that is always a sign that players aren’t particularly interested in interacting. The deck boasted a decent Bridgevine matchup, much like most of the decks in the winners section did, and losing that matchup, as well as an uptick in Jund, means that Infect will likely head back into solidly Tier 2 category, where unless you’re Tom Ross or Aaron Barich, I wouldn’t recommend this deck moving forward.

Devoted Devastation

This deck is a loser for almost the exact same reasons Infect is – Devoted Devastation had one of the best Bridgevine matchups in all of Modern, and benefited heavily from players refusing to interact with one another for a bit. The deck, like Infect, got some sweet new tools from both Modern Horizons and War of the Spark with Finale of Devastation and Eladamri’s Call, but will likely bleed win percentage points moving forward.

Azorius Control

Azorius Control was one of the best non-Bridgevine decks to be playing during the month of June. It wo Grand Prix Dallas and performed exceedingly well in a handful of other places.

The reason for this is straightforward – while the format was extremely degenerate, it was also extremely narrow. Azorius Control only really had to contend with Bridgevine, Izzet Phoenix, Humans, Grixis Urza, and Jund. At least three of those decks are poor against Rest in Peace, which most lists contained four copies of, making it incredibly easy to know how to configure your control deck.

As is true of any control deck in the history of Magic, Azorius Control becomes much more powerful the narrower a format becomes, and this ban looks to, at least in the short term, expand the range of playable decks in Modern, meaning Azorius Control will likely have to go back to the drawing board to tackle Modern moving forward.

The Build

Within the context of the biggest winners and losers in Modern, this is how I’d look to have my Humans deck built for SCG Philadelphia, should you be in the Modern seat:

This list takes into consideration what I would anticipate being the Top 10 best decks in Modern post-ban.

Disclaimer: This is my view and takes into account the larger metagame for premier events like Opens and Grands Prix, not local metagames. The list is not meant to be a power ranking.

1. Izzet Phoenix

2. Humans

3. Grixis Urza

4. Jund

5. Dredge

6. Mono-Green Tron

7. Burn

8. Azorius Control

9. Mono-Red Phoenix

10. Neobrand

Grixis Urza was a big new Modern Horizons deck that, while a big beneficiary of Bridgevine being around, is likely still powerful enough even though it lost a good matchup. Jund’s inclusion of Wrenn and Six as a powerful recursion engine mimics the Life from the Loam midrange decks we see in Legacy and has given that deck a solid boost in power.

Dredge, as previously mentioned, is back on the menu for now while Bridgevine decks get their bearings. Mono-Green Tron and Burn are back on this list as the format is now back to being just slow enough to where they’re viable. Azorius Control is the best control deck available in Modern and has been putting up consistent results for a while now. Even though I considered it a loser post-ban, I think the deck is still robust enough thanks to new tools to stick around.

I want to talk about Neoform separately from the rest, as I believe it’s in a weird place. Some say the deck is far too powerful and will be banned. Others liken it to Legacy Belcher in that it loses to itself more than anything else. Either way, the deck was a big beneficiary of the London Mulligan and will be out in force for at least a little while. I would expect to play against it in some capacity for the time being, and I would keep it on your radar.

With all that being said, here’s how I would sideboard against my Top 10 list.

VS Izzet Phoenix



Don’t bother with Grafdigger’s Cage here. The cards that will overpower you are Aria of Flame and Thing in the Ice, and your goal in every single game you play of this matchup is to disrupt these engines to the best of your ability.

VS Mono-Red Phoenix



I’d experiment on the numbers with Noble Hierarch and Phantasmal Image here. Both are so weak to the pile of Gut Shots and Lava Darts this deck plays, yet Image is so solid when it copies Auriok Champion that I like keeping some in.

VS Azorius Control



I have thought about Plague Engineer a bit, as it lines up pretty well against opposing creatures out of Azorius (naming Wizard takes care of Vendilion Clique and Snapcaster Mage, cleaning up Timely Reinforcements is nice, and it trades with a Celestial Colonnade), but I think it’s likely too clunky to include for now.

VS Humans



You’re sideboarding in a Carrier and a Vedalken Wizard here, so be alert with your tribal-land names.

VS Mono-Green Tron



VS Grixis Urza



This matchup is still really tricky to sideboard for, and I’m not sure of the best configuration yet. All I do know is that Collector Ouphe and Plague Engineer are solid against Thopter-Sword combo. Plague Engineer does not explicitly stop the infinite life aspect with Urza, but it does prevent chump blocks and battlefield stalls.

VS Neobrand



It likely doesn’t really matter what you take out, but disruption favors aggression here. You’ll buy a lot of time on the play with Grafdigger’s Cage on the first turn, and Gaddock Teeg prevents drawing the library with Nourishing Shoal.

VS Jund



You may want to shave some Phantasmal Images instead of Meddling Mage since Wrenn and Six makes Image fairly embarrassing at times, but the synergy with Militia Bugler makes me want to keep them for now.

VS Burn



VS Dredge



One of our tougher matchups from Modern formats of yore, Dredge will likely rear its ugly head in some capacity in the coming weeks again. The sideboarding hasn’t changed too much, though Plague Engineer is a consideration, as it would be a solid way to keep Narcomoebas and Bloodghasts off the table.

I’m Not Biased! You’re Biased!

As is typical of my Modern-related articles here on Star City Games, I’m a huge advocate for Humans in Modern and likely will continue to be. The plethora of tools that the deck has access to gives the deck that ability to beat anything it wants to. For example, even with Bridgevine around, Leyline of the Void, while not an elegant solution, was good enough to get the job done a solid percentage of the time.

With a fresh new format on the horizon heading into SCG Philadelphia this weekend, Humans is looking as powerful and versatile as ever.