More Humans for Modern


By Byron King

Interested in updating your Humans list?  Want to put a different spin on your list?  I’ve searched the database so you don’t have to.


Abzan Falconer might be a good singleton option if you need a way to push damage, but it will have consistency problems.  Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant are the cards that generate counters, and Thalia’s Lieutenant is the only one that spreads them around.  Without a Lieutenant, Abzan Falconer is a fairly useless piece of cardboard.  I suspect Kessig Malcontents is a better alternative to push damage if you need that kind of effect.


Between Meddling Mage, Kitesail Freebooter, and Ethersworn Cannonist, Humans already has a good plan against spell based decks.  If you need variety, Aegis of the Gods can fill a niche roll.  Otherwise, I think it is worse than several other options.


Double blue hits a point where the current mana base starts to break down.  It’s doable, but I wouldn’t advise it.  Between Reflector Mage, Banisher Priest, and Fiend Hunter, I think creature removal is covered.


That ability is quite nice, but none of the rainbow lands can activate it.  At best, I’d imagine Alesha could be activated around 50% of the time, which just isn’t enough.  I don’t think this is a good fit.


There aren’t a lot of humans that mess with the graveyard, leaving Anafensa as the best defense against Prized Amalgam and friends.  Anafensa is also just a big beater in matchups where you really need to race the opponent’s combo (Valakut, Storm, etc…).  Serving a dual roll as Dredge hate and a more efficient beater than Reflector Mage, I expect to see Anafensa, the Foremost in a lot of Humans sideboards.


Auriok Champion is a weaker version of Kor Firewalker that you can actually cast with the Humans manabase.  The Burn matchup is supposedly good with Humans, but I haven’t tested it enough to be sure of that.  The suite of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kitesail Freebooter, and Meddling Mage give me hope that the claim is true.  If you find a need for additional hate, Auriok Champion might be a place to turn.

Auriok Champion also serves as a pro black creature against Death’s Shadow, but I think that is much less reliable.  Losing the second point of toughness makes it unlikely that Auriok Champion would have any hope of surviving a Kozilek’s Return or Flaying Tendrils, needing multiple copies of Thalia’s Lieutenant and/or Mayor of Avenbruk.  Mirran Crusader is also capable of actually winning the game in a hit or two.  Auriok Champion is closer to a copy of Fog Bank than an actual win condition.  I’d stay away from this particular plan.


If you are looking for faster deployment speed, Avacyn’s Pilgrim is a good place to look.  I’ve found that the current build of Humans doesn’t really need more mana sources.  If you change the deck to incorporate Collected Company or some other four drops, Avacyn’s Pilgrim is the next best option for ramp.


Even if you wanted to start riding dirty, the manabase in Humans is going to hold you back.  There isn’t a single way to pay the red mana in the Echo cost of Avalanche riders, so this is an overcosted Molten Rain at best.  Thalia, Heretic Cathar is probably a better option if you need cards against various Tron decks.  If you think you need more hate than that, this overcosted Molten Rain might be your best bet.  If you need to reach this far, it’s probably time for a different deck.


Yet another promising card with an unusable activated ability.  Getting a -1/-1 counter might make Banewhip Punisher useful in some narrow corner cases, but I expect Izzet Staticaster and Orzhov Pontiff have this market pretty locked down.


There are some incredibly small edges to be gained determining if Banisher Priest or Fiend Hunter should be the creature removal spell.  If you expect more decks to go wide on the battlefield, the extra point of toughness is probably more important than the point of power.  Fiend Hunter will block better and can apply pressure against a board with only two total power.  If you expect to fight more decks that present a single threat, like Death’s Shadow, the extra point of power might matter.

Fiend Hunter is likely to be better most of the time.  The scenarios where Banisher Priest can attack are less common.  It is also weaker to various Pyroclasm effects that will often come in against Humans.  If you need more convincing, this debate existed when Birthing Pod was legal in Modern.  Fiend Hunter won the spot there too.


Big Game Hunter can certainly kill some things, but there are a ton of problems.  The double black mana cost makes it uncertain if you can cast Big Game Hunter at all.  The Madness ability might as well not exist; you can’t pay for it, and the opponent would have to force you to discard it anyway.  Even if the mana cost wasn’t a problem, I’m not sure it’s better than Intrepid Hero.  I expect this human will never make it into the deck.


Another victim of an impossible activated ability cost.


Burning-Tree Emissary offers a great way to develop the board faster, but Humans isn’t exactly set up to utilize that combination of mana.  Mayor of Avenbruk might be a good follow up, but the deck needs more uses for the mana before spending a card on a vanilla 2/2 creature.


Cartel Aristocrat wants to be part of a sacrifice package.  I haven’t found any sort of payoff for going down this road, but a free sacrifice outlet is worth noting if something comes along later.


Changelings count as Humans too.  Mirran Crusader is going to be better most of the time, but Colossus is big enough to survive Lightning Bolt.  If Death’s Shadow decks change back to a high density of Lightning Bolts, Chameleon Colossus could be a niche answer.


Too bad Lone Missionary isn’t a human.  Cleric of the Forward Order needs multiples to “shine,” taking up a bunch of sideboard slots for burn.  I can’t imagine that matchup ever getting bad enough to load up on hate this awful.  Still, it’s here if you absolutely need something else.


If you max out on Mayor of Avenbruk, you really have to start scraping the bottom of the barrel for more anthem effects.  Consul’s Lieutenant does give a bonus, but it’s delayed a turn at best.  Aether Vial makes this a little better, but I doubt you want to go down this rabbit hole.  If you want more anthem effects, try Slivers or Merfolk.  You’d have to start cutting the utility creatures in Humans to fit them anyway.


I don’t see Cunning Sparkmage dethroning Izzet Staticaster, but it could happen.  The only cards that Izzet Staticaster is much better against are Empty the Warrens, Lingering Souls, and various cards in W/B tokens.  The token decks are not particularly popular, and Storm is already a great matchup for the current build of the deck.  Figuring out if Sparkmage is actually better would be extremely difficult, as it’ll be blatantly obvious when it’s bad and much less so when it wins the game.  There might be a small edge to gain here if you have time to test it.


As previously discussed, double blue does start to stretch the Human’s current manabase.  I expect Daring Apprentice to work a lot like Spellskite when in play, essentially eating the first removal spell aimed at any of your creatures.  It would be best against combo decks, but I think Sin Collector does this job a little better.  Daring Apprentice is better against a top deck spell, but Sin Collector does more damage and sticks around after handing a spell.  It will be difficult to fit enough copies of Kitesail Freebooter and Sin Collector into the deck where Daring Apprentice does more than another copy of Sin Collector.  If you actually find the room, you’ve probably diluted the aggressive core of the deck too much already.


One of the few problems I have with the deck Collins Mullen won with was the inclusion of Tireless Tracker over Dark Confidant.  He claimed to want a larger body in his deck tech during the event, but I hesitate to think you can get many triggers out of a twenty land deck with only three fetches.  Dark Confidant needs to survive a turn to start drawing cards, but I’d much rather lose life than sink two mana into drawing cards in my aggressive deck.  I think Dark Confidant is the clearly superior choice against control decks.


Great graveyard interaction, except for that activated ability problem.  We’ll have to pass on Deadeye Tracker.


Almost definitely too cute, Disciple of Deceit does offer a tutor effect for Humans.  If you are looking for a way to stretch your sideboard, Disciple of Deceit can act as a second copy of multiple cards without taking multiple slots.  Just make sure not to count on that plan if you really need that hate card within the first couple turns.  Disciple of Deceit isn’t finding you a card before the fourth turn of the game.


How deep are you willing to go for Affinity hate?  Disciple of the Vault does some stuff against Arcbound Ravager and offers a little bit of reach.  I don’t think this is better than Vithigan Renegades or Manic Vandal, but I suppose it exists.  It also crushes the Ironworks deck if you need to target that in your local metagame.


Another enabler for the Cartel Aristocrat sacrifice deck.  Still not sure what the payoff card would be.


Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls already makes Humans good against countermagic, but Dosan the Falling Leaf is another option.  However, Grand Abolisher is a better version of the same card.


Duskwatch Recruiter does double duty as a card draw engine and a mana accelerant.  However, I think it falls short of Tireless Tracker without the ability to generate infinite mana.  A green activation cost is at least feasible in Humans, but three mana is quite high.  Aether Vial helps with flipping into Krallenhorde Howler, but that is likely too late to really utilize the mana advantage.  I’ll tack on another warning about Ancient Ziggurat not paying for the activated ability as a final caution.


Eternal Witness might be a direction Humans wants to explore during sideboarding.  There is a huge gap between the best cards in the deck and the worst, and getting a rebuy on the best cards is much more valuable than drawing a random card.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Eternal Witness is a better card than Tireless Tracker in slow matchups.  The floor on Eternal Witness is so high, I can’t imagine the card ever performing too badly.


Insult to injury here.  Ethersworn Cannonist is the final nail in the coffin for Storm, considering the current main deck configuration.  If you move away from the full set of Meddling Mages, Ethersworn Cannonist might be worth some slots.  Otherwise, I don’t really think you need it outside of a meta truly infested with Storm.


The current build of Humans puts Experiment One roughly on par with Isamaru, Hound of Konda, with six cards that push it up to Wild Nacatl range.  If you want to push the aggressive nature of the deck in this manner, Kytheon, Hero of Akros is probably a better choice.  Otherwise, the deck needs some restructuring.  Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Anafense, the Foremost look like good starting points to buff Experiment One.


One of the best removal spells available for Humans.  I pretty much covered Fiend Hunter with Banisher Priest.  I’d be surprised if you didn’t want a at least a couple copies in your 75.


More burn hate if you need it.  I think Paladin en-Vec is a better choice if you want to stretch this into a sideboard card for black too.  If you simply need it for burn, Fiendslayer Paladin’s Lifelink probably makes it stronger.


If you really need a true removal spell, Garza’s Assassin might be the place to look.  Godless Shrine would be a necessity for the manabase if Garza’s Assassin is anywhere in the deck or sideboard, and it still probably isn’t coming down on turn three that often.  I think Intrepid Hero is the better option if you want some kind of permanent removal spell, but Garza’s Assassin offers some assistance if you need to destroy some two and three power creatures.


More possible burn hate, and probably too weak to find a place otherwise.  Humans can often get stalled on the ground, and Glory-Bound Initiate doesn’t fight well against Death’s Shadow and delve creatures.  Stick to disruption creatures and lords in the two drop slot.  Glory-Bound Initiate doesn’t offer enough power to


I mentioned Grand Abolisher when I got to Dosan the Falling Leaf.  Grand Abolisher adds percentage points against counterspell decks, but that’s not really a problem for Humans.  Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial do a great job of mitigating counterspells, so the problem becomes spot removal backed by Snapcaster Mage.  Grand Abolisher is a fix for the wrong problem.


Another creature with a tough activated ability cost, Grim Lavamancer’s ability could be worth altering the manabase.  Unfortunately, there are a couple problems that arise.  The biggest is that Grim Lavamancer needs a graveyard to work with.  The decks that Lavamancer would be best against aren’t going to help load up your graveyard, and a deck full of creatures and lands won’t stock a graveyard naturally.


Harsh Mentor is one of the best cards on this list, because it actually does some work against decks that Humans isn’t necessarily favored against.  Affinity will probably trigger Harsh Mentor a few times between Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, creature lands, and random other cards.  If you are willing to cut some of the spell hate, Harsh Mentor would make a good addition.


If you are looking for some top-end beef, Hero of Bladehold has your back.  However, it doesn’t have a ton of synergy with the deck.  It’s a bummer that the tokens aren’t Humans, but it shouldn’t matter much if you actually get to attack with it.  I’m not sure you need this kind of raw power, particularly with the higher mana cost.


This might be the hero you need.  Haste makes Hero of Oxid Ridge a good card after the opponent casts a sweeper.  It also nullifies a large number of chump blockers to Champion of the Parish or Thalia’s Lieutenant to connect.  Riders of Gavony have seen a small amount of play for this kind of effect, and I think Hero of Oxid Ridge might be a little more versatile.


Hostage Taker does all sorts of cool things, but Humans isn’t exactly in the market for a value card.   Fiend Hunter does the important part of Hostage Taker, and the mana cost is much better.


More value four drops, which I don’t really think Humans wants.  Huntmater of the Fells does some good things with Aether Vial, but I’m not sure there is ever a reason to push the deck this direction.


This is a terrible sideboard card, since Izzet Staticaster does the job much better.  If you need to tweak the maindeck to have more game against Elves, Affinity, and other decks with small creatures, Icatian Javelineers might be worth a few slots in the main deck.


If you’re finding yourself in a bunch of racing situations, you might be interested in Imposing Sovereign.  However, Thalia, Heretic Cathar does this job better.  I don’t think this is a good enough sideboard card to warrant slots, since you’ll probably want removal effects or higher impact creatures.


If you need answers to Delve creatures or large Eldrazi, Intrepid Hero has your back.  There aren’t a ton of true removal spells available, and Intrepid Hero hits creatures in several major decks.  Definitely keep this one in mind.


More activated abilities that really can’t be used.  Getting Incinerate would be nice though.


Hate card for Storm and Burn.  The Storm matchup is already incredibly favored, so I don’t think you actually need this.  Burn is more interesting, since there are several other cards that would probably eat the first Searing Blaze.  If they can’t get Kambal off the table, it gets really hard for them to win.


Kessig Malcontents is an answer for some really corner case scenarios.  Ensnaring Bridge was the real reason I considered this card, but I’m not sure there are enough uses to justify it.  Still, it offers the pretty unique effect of non-combat damage for an all creature deck.


If you need protection from black spell that doesn’t cost as much mana as Mirran Crusader, Knight of Glory can do the job.  Exalted makes the damage output almost the same, at least before any buffs are applied.  More corner case options, but it’s there.


Between Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch, I’ve already found myself flooding out more than I’d like.  Knight of the White Orchid helps with deployment speed, but it doesn’t really disrupt the opponent in any meaningful way.  I’d be more interested in some kind of card draw over essentially a one mana 2/2.


If you want to change Humans to be a more aggressive deck with less spell disruption, Kytheon is a good creature to consider.  There are already 12 one drop cards in the deck, so I doubt Kytheon is worth more than a couple slots, but Ancient Ziggurat makes for slim pickings for planeswalkers.  Kytheon fits in the deck quite well, provided you can flip it and get more than an Elite Vanguard.


If you want to make sure you beat Burn, this is your card.  Casually gaining 10 life and a 3/2 body for three mana should seal the deal.


This might be the best payoff card for Cartel Aristocrat.  Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant make for some excellent targets for Liliana’s reanimate ability.  Without specifically building towards it, flipping Liliana might be harder than it would appear.  Your high impact spells will likely be dead before Liliana resolves, and she will definitely draw the first removal spell when she is in play.  Your opponent isn’t going to do the work for you here, so you’ll need a plan to flip her.  It’s a solid reward if you do.


If you’re looking for a more aggressive Fiend Hunter, Lyev Skyknight might be a good option.  It’s quite fragile, but it will lock anything down for a turn and hits for three in the air.  It’s unreliable enough that it probably shouldn’t be in a sideboard.


If you want to push the Mantis Rider angle harder, Magus of the Moat is certainly an interesting option.  This should lock out Elves outside of a possible copy of Fiend Hunter.  Most other decks will probably have some option for removing Magus of the Moat.  If you need a specific hate card for Elves, this is a good option.


Between Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch, it’s not completely unreasonable to try Magus of the Moon.  You’ll need to expect a lot of Tron and Scapeshift to make it worthwhile, but it’s an option.


Colored mana won’t be a problem for Magus of the Scroll, but the cost is fairly steep.  I think this is the best option if you need a damage source stronger than Izzet Statiacster.  I can’t really imagine that scenario, but it’s an extra damage.


A horrific rate, but this does kill anything dead.  It’s both slow and expensive, and I’m not sure that there are any good tricks without Flickerwisp or Karakas.  It is one of the only options for opposing planeswalkers.


This is a worse version of Vithian Renegades.


I think this is a worse version of Tireless Tracker, since you have to pay the mana upfront.  I already think Tireless Tracker is worse than Dark Confidant, so I can’t imagine Mentor of the Meek making the cut very often.  You’d need to have a real good reason to diversify your threats this much.


Metallic Mimic competes with Mayor of Avabruck for a slot as a Human Lord.  Metallic Mimic comes out short in a head-to-head, since it needs to come down first instead of last.  That plan conflicts with all of the disruptive two drops that really need to come down on curve.  If you are looking to make the deck more aggressive, a couple copies of Mimic in addition to Mayor might be a good idea.


Mostly worse than Orzhov Pontiff or Izzet Staticaster, this is an option if you are pursuing sacrifice themes.  It does work well with Liliana, Heretical Healer.


Need to beat Fatal Push and Tarmogoyf?  Mirran Crusader is the best card for the job.  If you need to beat Lightning Bolt, not so much.  As long as the current build of Death’s Shadow is skimping on Bolts, Mirran Crusader is great at blocking and getting past large Delve creatures.


If you have a need for a mana sink, Mirror Entity might be the best card for the job.  I’m not sure how useful it is, since you won’t have tons of mana to get creatures bigger than 3/3s or 4/4s.  If your draw is full of Mantis Riders and Meddling Mages, it’s not much of an upgrade.  I expect there are better trump cards, depending on what you specifically want to beat.


Nekrataal kills things dead.  Unfortunately, missing Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler makes Nekrataal useless in the matchup where you really want the effect.  It’s still good against Eldrazi Tron, but I think Intrepid Hero does that job with more cross-matchup applications.


Notion Thief wins the award for the sweetest play when you pull it off.  I can’t imagine a deck in Modern drawing enough cards to warrant this.


Izzet Staticaster and Orzhov Pontiff are the two best cards for dealing with swarms of X/1 creatures.  Staticaster is better when the opponent has a lot of the same card or gives you adequate time to kill off each type.  Orzhov Pontiff is better when you don’t have time to kill things off individually or when you can use the +1/+1 bonus effectively.  Staticaster is the safer option, since it handles future cards as well.


If you want to trade off the weakness for Lightning Bolt for a weakness to Tarmogoyf, Paladin en-Vec is your best option.  The real problem is that Crusader is a much faster clock than Paladin, and it synergizes with buffs better.  Still, this is an option if you really want a blocker.


Another value creature that costs four mana with a good activated ability that will be difficult to use.  I imagine Pia and Kiran Nalaar will stay way down on the list of options to try.


Pia on her own is a much stronger consideration than the couple.  The mana cost is more reasonable, and the best activated ability is colorless.  Pia also turns excess or unnecessary Aether Vials into unblockable creatures.  If you want a value creature, there are a lot of worse options than Pia Nalaar.


What a disappointing invitational card.  If you really feel like you need more help against combo decks, I suppose there are worse options (but not many).  If Freebooter, Meddling Mage, and Thalia aren’t enough, go to Sin Collector.  If you need more, you should probably build a different deck.


Finding a pair of Champion of the Parish is a nice ability.  You can also pick up a pair of Noble Hierarchs if you need some Exalted Triggers.  File Ranger of Eos away as a good value engine with Huntmaster of the Fells.


More value, particularly as you’ve got some really good targets to return.  Unfortunately, as with Liliana, Heretical Healer, this deck is really bad at putting cards in the graveyard.  Revolt is only possible through creature combat or with a small number of fetch lands.  The mana efficiency is nice, and the stats are better, but Eternal Witness is going to be more reliable if you want this effect.


Riders of Gavony got added recently as a way to break through ground stalls.  If you are playing against tribal decks, Riders should give you an instant KO.  If you need to beat things like Lingering Souls + other stuff, Hero of Oxid Ridge might be better.  This is probably a


Well, this certainly kills things.  I’m pretty sure Intrepid Hero is better in almost any scenario where you’d consider this.


I suppose this is a deterrent if you need a blocker.  I doubt you’d ever want this, but it’s an option.


Saffi does protect several of your more important creatures, but it’ll be difficult to get it down fast enough to matter.  By that, I mean you’ll delay deploying your critical cards in order to get Saffi Eriksdotter down first.  Otherwise, your opponent has a full turn to remove Saffi and it probably won’t protect anything relevant.  This is a great addition to a deck more centered around Liliana, Heretical Healer and Cartel Aristocrat.  Saffi Eriksdotter also has a ton of combo applications, more than I want to explore today.


Need even more hate cards for spell decks?  Scab-Clan Berserker is an option.  It will fight with Kambal for a slot, trading the life for more power and a hasty attack.  I expect the life matters more, or you’d move towards Sin Collector.  Maybe there is something here though.


Lower than Royal Assassin for killing things, so really awful?  Maybe there is some weird interaction where Serendib Sorcerer matters.


Need a real counterspell?  Silumgar Sorcerer has your back.  This seems unnecessary after all the spell hate that Humans already has, but maybe you want some insurance.


Probably the best hate card for spells that Humans isn’t already playing.  Older versions of Humans already played Sin Collector before Kitesail Freebooter got printed.  If you want another card or two against control and combo, Sin Collector is a solid choice.


I guess this is a two mana 4/4, if you have the green mana.  Seems really weak.


I think Kytheon, Hero of Akros or Experiment One are the way to go if you want another one drop.  As far as spells are concerned, Soldier only has protection from common cards with higher CMC.  Termiante, Electrolyze, and Kolaghan’s Command come to mind.  There are some midrange decks with multicolor cards, like Voice of Resurgance, but most come with plenty of single colored creatures.  I expect Soldier of the Pantheon to mostly mirror Elite Vanguard.


Humans is insanely bad at generating a graveyard in it’s current iteration.  Tasigur, the Golden Fang might be a consideration if you make some drastic changes.


Super sweet, but Teferi is incredibly off-theme for the current build of Humans.  I couldn’t resist adding it to the list though.


You don’t have a lot of control over your own life total, but Thraben Doomsayer has a huge bonus if you turn on Fateful Hour.  It does spit out Human tokens as an added bonus.  Overall, a potential token generator for some sacrifice engine, but likely too expensive and slow.


I discussed Tireless Tracker when I got to Dark Confidant.  I think Dark Confidant is the better card, but Tracker is an alright secondary choice if you want to diversify.  I doubt I’d ever get to the point where I included more than a single copy of Tireless Tracker in the sideboard.


Champion of the Parish and Thalia’s Lieutenant get large enough to turn Ulvenwald Tracker into a real threat.  The activation cost could be a problem, but green is at least one of the easier colors to generate.  There is some synergy with Ranger of Eos if you are looking to build a package.


If you are looking for a Swiss army knife, Venser, Shaper Savant is your best option.  It’s temporary, but Venser temporarily cures what ails you.  There is some synergy with Meddling Mage, but some tension with Reflector Mage.  There something available that handles each permanent type better than Venser, so you’ll only include it if you need to make space in the sideboard.  The mana cost is a little rough, but it should be manageable.


This is the best artifact destruction spell available.  I can’t imagine playing Manic Vandal over Renegades.  I’m not sure this is enough on it’s own, but you should definitely have a few copies in your sideboard.


I’m not sure what you’d want Vizier of Deferment for, but it does some stuff.


Human’s enchantment removal.  There aren’t a ton of reasons to include this at the moment, but if you need hate for your local metagame (like Boggles), War Priest of Thune has you covered.


If you manage to cram some utility lands into Humans, Weathered Wayfarer can find them.  Activation costs are another small problem.  Lots of problems to work through to make this work, but it is a card.


File Whirler Rogue in the category of midrange four drop creatures.  This is one of the better options, since it can get a stalled out Champion of the Parish or Thalia’s Lieutenant through blockers immediately.  Keep this one in mind.


Activation cost will be a problem, but there are some really good chains for Yisan, the Wanderer Bard.  Champion of the Parish into Thalia’s Lieutenant is a ton of power.  Chains for interaction are a little harder, as most of them cost two mana.  Still, Yisan offers some Birthing Pod-like options to Humans.


Five mana is an absolute ton, but threaten with a hasty 3/3 creature is a good payoff.  Conscripts  is almost definitely  too expensive.


Zulaport Cutthroat is another payoff card for the Aristocrats version of Humans.  I’m still not sure how to build the deck, but I expect this is the best payoff card to actually win a game.  Not sure how to generated enough triggers to matter, but Saffi Eriksdotter might be a good place to start.



I wanted to brew up a few decks, but this list stretched on a lot longer than I expected.  Feel free to message me if you have questions or disagree with my opinions.

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