Hello all! This week, I have been doing some testing for Modern, as I have changed from the Standard player to the Modern player for the Open in Baltimore. The format is wide open and exciting, but the deck I want to delve into today is the 5-Color Humans deck that won SCG Cincinnati. Here’s the list for reference:

5-Color Humans by Collins Mullen at SCG Cincinnati – 1st

Creatures (36)
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
3 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Meddling Mage
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Reflector Mage
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar

Non-Creature Spells (4)
4 Aether Vial

Lands (20)
1 Plains
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Temple Garden
4 Unclaimed Territory
3 Windswept Heath

Sideboard (15)
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Izzet Staticaster
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Reflector Mage
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Vithian Renegades
2 Xathrid Necromancer
1 Anafenza, the Foremost

I played against the deck on MtGO while testing Bant Company, and while I took it down in two games, I was incredibly impressed with the deck’s power and resiliency. The fact that the deck has almost perfect mana thanks to 12 5-color lands gives it a degree of consistency that mere three color decks sometimes lack. This is in part helped by Aether Vial, which lets the Humans player unload their hand extremely quickly, and causes many awkward scenarios for the opponent. For example, I saw a chance to Reflector Mage a Kitesail Freebooter and cast my exiled Collected Company the next turn to pull ahead, but my opponent wisely kept their Vial on two so that they could easily nab Company if I managed to bounce the Freebooter.

 

The deck doesn’t have an easily exploitable weakness at first glance, as it has cards to answer almost every type of deck. For spell based combo decks such as Ad Nauseam or Storm, the Humans deck has access to Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar to slow down their progress. Against Midrange decks such as Death’s Shadow or Jund, the Humans deck has a quick clock, Reflector Mage to remove blockers, and Meddling Mage for possible board wipes or annoying permanents such as Liliana of the Veil. Against big mana decks, Meddling Mage can prevent a large threat from coming down and both Thalias can slow their progress enough to let you get ahead. It’s important to play around sweepers such as All is Dust or Anger of the Gods against Tron and Scapeshift, as one of those can blow you out if you commit too many resources to the board. Aether Vial is key here, as it allows you to immediately get threats back on board.

The thing I found out about the Humans deck is that it is actually pretty weak to creature based combo decks. When you play a deck such as Bant Company, which has a combo plan as well as creature beatdown plan, it can be hard for the Humans deck to figure out what role they take in the matchup. If you take an aggressive role, trying to limit the amount of time your opponent has to get their game plan together, you can be combo’d fairly easily. If you take the control role, trying to out card advantage the opponent, it’s possible to be run over by the deck’s more aggressive cards.

In summary, having a backup plan is very good against Humans. If you die to their early creatures, make sure that you have a way to win the turn before you die. If you find yourself surviving to the late game but then dying in some way, make sure you can kill them before they manage to make their creatures too big to handle. Conventional sweepers can be lacking against these decks, as Kitesail Freebooter can take your out when you least expect it. Sweepers aren’t bad, but don’t get too greedy, or the Humans deck is sure to run you over.

The Humans deck, while it looks like a straightforward aggressive deck, is actually super complicated to play. I have watched multiple people (including myself) try to pilot it, and while some of the lines seem easy, there is often a different play that you can miss when it comes to the cards in the deck. Here are some examples:

  • Saving Reflector Mage for a later blocker instead of using it to push through a couple of point of damage
  • Saving a Reflector Mage when the couple of points are valuable
  • Playing a Kitesail Freebooter on turn 2 when the card you are worried about isn’t relevant for multiple turns
  • Swinging for only a couple of points against Death’s Shadow
  • Holding back your creatures too long against Death’s Shadow

 

So as I’m sure you’ve noticed, a couple of items on this list are contradictory. This is because you need to assess your role in every matchup, frequently several times within one game. Against Death’s Shadow, you will often be the aggressor. This means that it is usually correct to hit in for as much as you can. Your evasive creatures such as Mantis Rider and Kitesail Freebooter, when used in conjunction with Thalia’s Lieutenant and Mayor of Avabruck, can quickly finish the Death’s Shadow player off, not to mention Reflector Mage can get rid of their blocker and allow a lethal alpha strike.

 

Against decks like Scapeshift, it is often better to play your Kitesail after your other threats, as the card Scapeshift is one of the only spells that actually matters in the matchup. This is also true with Reflector Mage, as Mage-ing a Sakura-Tribe Elder to push a couple points of damage (even if they get to sacrifice it, effectively negating Mage’s enters the battlefield ability) is much better than Mage-ing a Primeval Titan, because they can win fairly easily off of one Titan if they are allowed several enters the battlefield or attack triggers, especially when they aim Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers at Humans’ creatures. Having the two points of damage and an extra creature on the board can oftentimes steal games that wouldn’t have been winnable if the Reflector Mage was saved for later. Kitesail Freebooter in particular is oftentimes better late, as the opponent will have used their removal, allowing you to take their important spells without them having an answer on hand.

Overall, this deck is extremely powerful, and it can quickly overrun unprepared opponents any time. However, if you are interested in picking it up for a big tournament and playing it at an advanced level, you should try to get as many reps in as possible, preferably against each of the big decks to learn the intricacies of the deck, which will give you an edge over all the people who pick it up for the first time.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this article! Have a great week, and I’ll see you in a bit.

Riccardo Monico

If you’re looking for another Modern deck on the rise thanks to the release of Ixalan, check out this article by Jonah Gaynor, where he goes over U/G Merfolk, which is looking to make itself a core member of the Modern metagame!

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