Humans are everywhere on Innistrad, and we’re hunting for the best candidates to make waves in Modern. The competition is strong, but the most prevalent tribe in Magic is always looking for fresh blood. The shifting landscape of Modern often opens the door for new threats to make their way to the stage. With such a huge raw number of Humans making their debut, I think it’s high time we go over my favorites and see what role they could play in developing new builds or revitalizing the traditional Five-Color version.
With so much cheap interaction running around, including the burst in popularity of Unholy Heat, it is important to keep our curve low and our creatures replacing themselves. We have so many juicy targets already, like Mantis Rider and all the disruptive elements, but cheap ways to gain card advantage, battlefield advantage, or disruption for their gameplan are always on the docket. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt has a lot of potential at first glance, so let’s get into it and figure out if any of these baddies can make the grade.
We’ll start with white and go in color order.
Three-mana Humans are effectively the top of the curve thanks to Aether Vial. Because of this, the competition for that slot is pretty ridiculous. Recent additions like General Kudro of Drannith are great, but even they don’t always make the cut. Reflector Mage and Mantis Rider are too strong, so they squeeze out a lot of other potential players.
Aside from the cost, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar is a home run in terms of playability. Four toughness dodges Lightning Bolt, it has a huge amount of power, and it continues to grow both itself and your army just by entering the attack step. It doesn’t have an enters-the-battlefield ability, nor does it have haste, which means it probably won’t make the grade, but I’ve definitely been keeping my eye on this one for Pioneer.
Brutal Cathar is exactly the type of card you’d want in Humans. It does the same thing that a lot of other Humans do, like Banisher Priest and Fiend Hunter before it, but works nicely with Aether Vial to trigger nightbound. If your opponent isn’t playing removal spells, this could singlehandedly take out most of their pressure. If you have Aether Vial going, it shouldn’t be too difficult to continue transforming it at least one cycle. The problem is that Brutal Cathar is likely worse than Reflector Mage, which it is battling for the slot. If the format calls for more effects like this, I would expect one or two to show up in the maindeck or sideboard.
This is an interesting one that I think might end up seeing some play. There are tons of artifacts and enchantments in Modern, and having a creature with good stats and abilities that can answer those threats is really sweet. The problem I’m seeing with Cathar Commando specifically is that it doesn’t really build toward anything. Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant reward you for keeping creatures on the battlefield. If I wanted this type of effect, I would much rather have it be an enters-the-battlefield ability so that we keep gaining stats from our other creatures.
I misread this card on first glance. The fact that it doesn’t trigger when casting it means you need to go a full night and day cycle before you gain any card advantage from it. For that reason alone, I’ll be sticking to Militia Bugler.
Intrepid Adversary is evenly costed, has lifelink to boot, and allows you to scale as the game goes long. If any Humans are making it into the Modern version of the deck, or helping to create new ones of their own, Intrepid Adversary is on the short list. Its ability can be a little awkward if you draw too many lands that don’t tap for white inside the ability, like Cavern of Souls or Ancient Ziggurat, but I do love that you can use it with Aether Vial and pay for valor counters with your lands.
Unlike Thalia’s Lieutenant, we don’t get to keep the buffs to our other creatures if Intrepid Adversary gets gutted, but it is well-costed and gives you play at virtually all points in the game. The true test for creatures like this is how good they are when cast for their least useful costs, and the answer here is “pretty good.”
Something tells me this card might end up being great, but I don’t think I’ll be the first person to actually try it. Mana reduction for attacking with creatures is neat, but this looks too much like Elvish Visionary for me to ignore.
Enters-the-battlefield ability? Check. Scaling later in the game when you have played all your cards? Check. Sungold Sentinel is a great way to interact with your opponent’s graveyard and has great stats to boot. I could definitely see a universe where Sungold Sentinel is a four-of in many builds, but those formats probably involved Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and fully powered Dredge.
I’ve seen a lot of people putting this in their sideboard in some Standard builds. I think Modern Humans might be the perfect place for it. A disruptive element is clutch for the cheaper threats, but it also has some longevity with Disturb, even if the back half is mostly irrelevant. I think this one will probably see some sideboard play, but I wouldn’t be surprised to have this one become a mainstay in multiple formats. It’s what Voidmage Prodigy always wanted to be. Sorry Kai.
This is a weird one but I’m somewhat confident this will see some maindeck play in Humans. It has the potential to dominate combat, which Humans are known for entering. The combat phase is often stalled out for Humans because they don’t want to attack with Meddling Mage and other disruptive creatures. Having something like Skaab Wrangler, even as a singleton, is a great way to break through battlefield stalls. If we’re building around Imperial Recruiter, a single Skaab Wrangler could ruin your opponent’s day.
I think this one is close to being good, but just isn’t quite there. I’m concerned with the front half being too weak, but the back side is obviously absurd. The fact that it can’t be blocked means you might be able to steal a game or two in the face of a battlefield stall, but it just doesn’t hit hard enough for consideration.
Not exactly the type of card we want in this Humans deck, but I’m a big fan of the number thirteen, so shout-out to the homie.
Poor guy. Not a Human anymore, big sadge. Another Champion of the Parish in a different color could have been outrageous. It made me wish for something that might’ve been.
This one feels a bit like Sungold Sentinel. I doubt it will see play in Humans specifically, but will likely be the new Deathgorge Scavenger for Standard decks that want this type of effect. It is a good card, but is fighting a losing battle in the three-drop slot. Getting scooped by a two-drop for the same shell is also a red flag.
I’ve seen a lot of builds playing Xathrid Necromancer in the sideboard, but this one could potentially fill a maindeck slot. I doubt we’ll ever transform it, but the front half bringing a token along with it and giving you Human tokens to pump your Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant can’t be ignored. Giving a large Human lifelink is also a plus if you’re in a racing situation. I love this card, and will be trying it out immediately upon release.
I was a big fan of Fires of Yavimaya back in the day, and Reckless Stormseeker gives me some serious Fires of Yavimaya vibes. The downside to many cards like this is that they don’t give themselves the boost. Reckless Stormseeker gives itself haste on the turn you cast it, if you want it to, which already puts it miles above the next-best iteration. As the game progresses, the biggest creature you cast each turn will gain haste, piling up damage in staggering chunks. The nightbound side giving trample as well will “get” plenty of opponents, as it is buried under two cards’ worth of text.
This one will probably end up seeing some play, as I think coven will be much easier to enable than people think. Humans are notorious at dumping creatures onto the battlefield, so having a way to gain constant card advantage and prevent flooding is a huge deal. Augur of Autumn also gains a lot of flexibility when you play more Horizon Canopy-style lands.
I had to include this one in the list, even if it is unplayable. Just saying it out loud brings a smile to my face, like a Twitter meme being formed. I am a Bird Admirer.
This one isn’t making the cut, but I do think it is good. While it can play a different and more aggressive role in midrange decks, it almost feels like a weird combination of Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker. That’s a fine spot to be for a midrange deck, but we’re trying to beat down and disrupt, which Briarbridge Tracker doesn’t do all too well.
This card is on par with Cathar Commando, but the backside allows you to keep it on the battlefield while doing its job. I doubt either will see much play, but I would probably pick Outland Liberator over Cathar Commando if I wanted this effect.
I don’t plan on putting Aether Vial to six anytime soon. WhileI wouldn’t expect this one to see play in Modern, I do like the card in general. Look for the green Grave Titan to hit hard in Standard very soon.
Dennick is on that list of hate cards that seem cool at first but just don’t end up being that good. We’ve had countless examples over the years, and this one just doesn’t excite me. Many graveyard decks dodge it completely, which leads me to believe it won’t be useful in any deck in any format.
This one seems cool at first, but then you realize you don’t actually have all that much to do with the mana. We already have Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch, so adding another creature that just adds mana doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Of all the cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt that could potentially spawn a new version of Humans, this is the one I’d be most excited about. Mayor of Avabruck was already close to being playable, so imagine a world where you just play all the best Humans but most of them are also Werewolves and we get to freeroll this burst of cards like we’re playing Edric, Spymaster of Trest.
Cards like this would see play in Standard iterations of Humans, but the lands in Modern just don’t adhere to playing non-creature spells. Raise the Alarm exists, and has seen play alongside Champion of the Parish in the past. I would think that Join the Dance could add to that potential if the manabases were different. Also, shout-out to Bryan Gottlieb for getting into the Wicker Wolf.
I think Katilda, Dawnhart Prime might be one of the cooler additions to Humans, but would incentivize changing the deck’s core makeup. Katila is a mana engine, so we would need to be playing more cards that replace themselves. A build going all-in on cards like Militia Bugler seems doable.
The true strength of Katila, Dawnhart Prime is the fact that it is both a mana generator and payoff. People underestimated Leyline of Abundance for a while, but that ended when people realized how good it was at being a self-sustaining system. Most cards that help you generate mana are weak in multiples or suffer from flooding. Some truly wonderful mana generators, like Leyline of Abundance or Urza, Lord High Artificer, offer the wielder an out for when they are able to produce a ton of extra mana.
As a singleton in a version featuring four copies of Imperial Recruiter, I could definitely see playing one. In a version hellbent on keeping the cards flowing, two or three of this one would be pretty neat to see.
Not a card for Humans specifically, but my man got a nice cleaver and big “Saturday Night on the Farm” energy.
Getting the Band Back Together
After analyzing the cards from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, here is the list of Five-Color Humans I would like to try first.
- 4 Imperial Recruiter
- 1 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 1 Sanctum Prelate
- 1 General Kudro of Drannith
- 1 Glasspool Mimic
- 1 Sanctifier en-Vec
- 1 Reckless Stormseeker
- 1 Outland Liberator
- 1 Katilda, Dawnhart Prime
- 1 Skaab Wrangler
I haven’t brewed much with Humans since they reprinted Imperial Recruiter into the format. It seems to me that any Aether Vial deck should be leaning on that card heavily, as a tutor for a million different singletons is exactly the type of thing a deck like this would want. Due to the influx of three-mana spells, it seems like the best course of action is to cut Mantis Rider. With so many Lightning Bolts running around, it shouldn’t feel too bad, but I’m sure we’ll definitely miss that aggressive slant in some matchups.
Mantis Rider is one of your best cards against opponents who aren’t trying to interact with you. The closing speed is unmatched, but I want to build a little differently for now. With an influx of new tools and a newfound reliance on Imperial Recruiter, we need to make room somewhere. Since Imperial Recruiter can’t grab Mantis Rider and doesn’t exactly scream “aggro” with its paltry stats, this direction is a bit more palatable and will certainly put Aether Vial to better use.
As we get our hands on these new cards and actually get to play with them, we’ll be able to decipher which of these new Humans deserves a shot in the big leagues. Imperial Recruiter has reshaped the way we think about and build this archetype, but at what cost? Losing our aggression is certainly a talking point, but is it that damaging?
In a world where everyone is being more interactive, our deck starts to look and feel more like Death and Taxes than the more traditional Aggro Humans. This way of building and looking at the deck might be hard at first, but Imperial Recruiter is here to stay. Since it doesn’t play well with Mantis Rider, it is an obvious cut, but perhaps removing them completely is the mistake. I’m hoping Reckless Stormseeker helps fill that role. If it turns out to be busted, I’ll consider increasing the number in the deck.
If you’re a fan of Humans in Modern, keep an open mind. Give some of these a try, and especially those that can be found via Imperial Recruiter. You just might be pleasantly surprised. With the format moving away from combo, mainstays like Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter have lost a lot of their utility. We can get a little experimental to see what slaps and what fails to deliver.
What’s your favorite Human from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt?