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The Human League

           Oh, the humanity! Modern is being taken over by a deck that's all creatures!

The Human League

Modern is home to some seriously powerful plays. You can kill an opponent with your lands with Scapeshift. You can dump your entire hand into the table with Affinity. You can even play Kitesail Freebooter on turn 2! If that last one seems out of place, prepare to be surprised, because the latest innovation to sweep the format is Human Tribal. This is a deck centred on going wide, taking over the tempo of the game, and punching in with cheap Human creatures. 

The entire deck curves at three mana, and thanks to Cavern of Souls, Ancient Ziggurat, and Ixalan Commander all-star Unclaimed Territory, you can have a manabase that can consistently support a curve of  Noble Hierarch, Kitesail Freebooter, and Mantis Rider. The core game plan is to use your Freebooters, Reflector Mages, and Thalias to out-tempo the opponent, then use your pump effects like Mayor of Avabruck to get in for a ton of damage. The deck also has the ability to go big with Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant since they grow larger with each Human you play.


Because the deck has such a low curve, it also benefits greatly from Aether Vial, which allows you to play multiple creatures a turn to flood your board. Aether Vial also gives you the flexibility of cheating in your creatures at instant-speed which creates situations where you can Vial in Kitesail Freebooter after the opponent’s drawn, Reflector Mage after the opponent has attacked, or Thalia’s Lieutenant after blocks to pump up your attackers.

The sideboard is entirely creatures because so many of your lands only make coloured mana when playing creatures. However, the sheer diversity of effects these Humans have offer a lot of versatility to fight most matchups. Fiend Hunter, Izzet Staticaster, and a fourth Reflector Mage give you additional interaction with your opponent’s creatures, whereas Vithian Renegades can destroy problematic artifacts like Cranial Plating and Chalice of the Void. For Tarmogoyf decks, Mirran Crusader and Anafenza, the Foremost do an excellent job of pressuring graveyard strategies while providing bodies that Green-Black decks find difficult to attack through. Finally, Tireless Tracker gives you long term card advantage against slower control decks, and Xathrid Necromancer is a fantastic answer to board wipes by replacing your fallen Humans with Zombie tokens.


An ideal opening hand for this deck predicates on curving 1-drop into 2-drop into 3-drop, so I typically mulligan any hand without any 1-drop spells. As well, you never want to see more than four lands due to the low mana curve, so land-heavy draws are also something I ship away. Other than that, you can keep some sketchy creature combinations due to the flexibility of your landbase.

While the deck is certainly powerful, it isn’t without its flaws, namely that since it can’t run non-Human spells, it’s incredibly limited to what it draws. This can result in clunky draws where you draw into the wrong half of the deck, such as getting the half that tempos creatures against a control opponent. As well, the deck is especially susceptible to Blood Moon and Spreading Seas effects, so Merfolk and Skred can cut off your ability to play spells entirely with the right draws. While these matches don’t pop up frequently, it’s still something to be aware of.

Humans has exploded in popularity since taking down both the SCG Cincinnati Open and the SCG Washington Classic, and until the metagame adjusts I don’t see the deck slowing down. The sheer variety of effects makes it difficult to deal with head-on, and the combination of tempo and aggro creatures can close out games very quickly, so I can see this archetype carving out its place in the metagame for quite some time.