With SCG CON Summer in the books, the current chapter of the Modern format concludes, and a new one will begin with the release of Modern Horizons this Friday. The next few weeks leading up to the Pittsburgh Team Open will be an arms race to find the hottest and most broken deck possible using the new cards players get to try from the new set.
Today, however, I'm here to cover the cards from Modern Horizons that look to improve my beloved archetype even further: Humans!
There are at least a handful of cards that I think realistically have a shot at helping Humans keep up with the rest of the insanely new powerful cards that will likely reshape Modern as we know it. Before we begin, note that the order in which I discuss these cards does not represent any specific order in power level or effectiveness for the archetype, as these are all cards that still need to get run through the testing gauntlet.
Let's dig in.
I did a full write-up on Ranger-Captain of Eos a couple of weeks back, giving my initial analysis of the card. Speaking strictly in regards to its place in Humans, I discussed the ability to tutor up a Noble Hierarch or Champion of the Parish as being solid, and arguably a little bit better than at first glance. The three-drop flex slot options in Humans are plentiful as it stands, so this card has to be quite a bit more special than the other options like Militia Bugler; Thalia, Heretic Cathar; and Kessig Malcontents to be able to earn the spot. To that end, I think the decision will ultimately come down to how relevant the sacrifice ability is on the card. If the format features multiple decks where that ability would be useful, I would definitely be interested in giving this card a shot.
#2: Collector Ouphe
Of all of the cards that I'm most excited about for Humans, the one non-Human creature on the list today is the one that excites me the most. Historically, Humans has had a horrific time contending with Arcbound Ravager decks in the Modern format, and finally being able to play Stony Silence on a creature is a dream come true for the archetype. Additionally, I think this card can consolidate sideboard slots for the Tron matchup, as this card will go a long way to disrupting Tron by turning off their Expedition Maps, Chromatic Stars / Spheres, Oblivion Stones, and Walking Ballistas, which in turn takes a ton of pressure off Meddling Mage to name cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Wurmcoil Engine. Finally, given that some new artifact-centric cards have been printed in Modern Horizons, I expect players will be trying to find the spiritual successor to Ironworks, meaning the Ouphe will be great there as well. This card, in theory, closes one of the biggest holes Humans has had as a deck in Modern, and my initial lists will likely feature upward of three copies.
#3: Horizon Lands
Horizon Canopy is one of the best lands in Humans in its pre-Modern Horizons form, as it gives you a mana source that doubles as card draw when you're looking for more gas later in the game. Waterlogged Grove and Sunbaked Canyon are the top two contenders of the new cycle to see play in the deck, though I am unsure in what combination and exactly how many we'd want to play. My instincts tell me that we would want to start with six Horizon Lands total, and it's important that you don't dare play less than four Horizon Canopies to make room for them. The shaves to the typical manabase likely form some combination of Ancient Ziggurat or Unclaimed Territory for a Sunbaked Canyon, and possibly the Island for the Waterlogged Grove, but I will need to go into the lab to figure out the right formula.
#4: Bazaar Trademage
This card hasn't received as much buzz as I think it deserves. A 3/4 body on a three-mana flyer with the Human creature type is actually only beaten out by Anafenza in terms of power/toughness to mana cost in the Human tribe. The enters-the-battlefield ability is also great at helping filter away lands in the late-game to mitigate flood, and can also allow you to cycle away cards that are poor in the matchup in Game 1s, like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in the mirror match or Reflector Mages against other control decks. Like Ranger of Eos, it has to compete for one to two highly contested flex slots in the deck, but I like what the card has to offer enough to give it a try.
This two-drop Human (among other creature types) looks to add to the motley crew of disruptive Grizzly Bears that makes Humans so great. The biggest knock against Unsettled Mariner is the fact that it is likely difficult to find room for multiple copies, but the ability to protect your creatures (and yourself) from spells your opponents cast is potentially quite valuable. The Mariner is notably quite strong against Conflagrate, a card that usually takes Humans's lunch money and one of the biggest reasons the Dredge matchup is so challenging. If multiple removal-heavy decks like Jund, Mardu Pyromancer, and Jeskai Control find homes in this brave new Modern world, I could see this card's stock going up considerably.
I've decided to lump these two cards together, not for flavor reasons, but for the fact that they are both powerful Humans that ultimately serve a similar purpose: providing a slightly powerful card advantage engine to help Humans stand a better chance in the late-game in grindier matchups.
Urza's ability works well in Humans, as the activated ability uses strictly colorless mana, and while the ability does cost five mana, Aether Vial can be used to help pay that cost, meaning Humans has 23 mana sources to activate the ability if you count fifteen non-Ancient Ziggurat Lands, four Noble Hierarchs, and four Aether Vials.
Yawgmoth provides a similar card draw option and also incredibly relevant text for the mirror, having protection from Humans as well as being able to turn creatures that would otherwise die to removal into additional cards while shrinking opposing creatures. Humans has historically employed four-drops in the sideboard to give the deck a little bit of post-sideboard staying power, and I like what Urza and Yawgmoth bring to the table for this purpose.
This inclusion to the list at first can look like a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, but I think this card serves a valuable purpose if the Modern Horizons gives birth to degenerate Turn 2 or Turn 3 combo decks in the Modern format. From the looks of things, Wizards of the Coast is going to let the Allosaurus Rider Neoform deck be legal post-transition to the London Mulligan rule for at least some time, so having access to Force of Negation helps prevent you from dying to nonsense before you even manage to cast an Aether Vial.
As far as cards to pitch to Force are concerned, Mantis Riders, Phantasmal Images, Reflector Mages, Meddling Mages, and Unsettled Mariners (potentially) are on the roster. I am unfamiliar with the exact count of blue cards required to be in your deck to consistently be able to cast Force of Negation Turn 1, but adjustments could be made if necessary.
This card has been the most challenging to evaluate, and I've found myself trying to look at it in comparison to Bazaar Trademage, since they feature similar effects. The body compared to the Trademage is much smaller, but makes for a powerful draw when topdecking as you discard before you draw. Ultimately, I'm very lukewarm on this card, but its consideration is still warranted.
Moving forward, this is where I'd like to start my testing for Humans in Modern Horizons.
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Unsettled Mariner
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
For the maindeck, I want to focus on seeing just how useful Unsettled Mariner can prove itself to be, as I think it has the highest potential upside. The sideboard is the area that has gotten the biggest facelift, with basically only Deputy of Detention surviving from the previous sideboard options.
I am fearful of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis decks and other powerful graveyard strategies emerging in Modern, so I want to employ a full set of Leyline of the Void to give myself a fair shot in the post=sideboard games. I want to take the heavy-handed approach to graveyard hate in the sideboard, something Humans historically hasn't been keen to do, given that format is the Wild West right now.
Force of Negation as a three-of in the sideboard is for similar reasons, as I want to be ready to have at least a semblance of chance against decks like the Neoform deck, given that we'll have to deal with it for some time until it naturally bans itself out of the format.
One copy each of Yawgmoth and Urza are there to test their potential, and my hopes are high that they'll make powerful additions to the sideboard.
With the London Mulligan rule looming and a set of powerful cards added to the Modern card pool, the format is about to get shaken up in a way that we've never seen before. If I'm being honest, looking at some of the other decks are doing, playing Humans in this new format feels like it be like bringing a knife to a gunfight, but as we've seen for the last year a half, the deck has been able to hang with an incredible combination of disruption and aggression that no other aggro deck in Modern can compete with.
Let the new era of Modern begin.