I’ve largely avoided repeating decks for this series to keep the content fresh and interesting. That said, I think the Humans deck has gone through a slew of changes, and while the core of the deck remains the same, the gameplay can be quite different. On top of that, it seems we still haven’t found the optimal list of the archetype yet. People are still debating how to fill the “flex slot” and some lists are shifting gears in an even more aggressive way.
Week-to-week decklists have changed; for a particular stretch of time that one flex slot seemed to be the only card in flux. People had long since settled on the incredible innovation of Phantasmal Image. At this point, lists showing up had frequently opted for Dark Confidant in the 60th slot—that is until Kessig Malcontents started to creep into decklists, usually as a singleton.
Turns out, Kessig Malcontents is a house. After playing just a few games with it, you’ll find yourself yearning to draw it in nearly every game. In close games it is often your best closer, and sometimes your only out. In that regard, it feels very similar to Mantis Rider. On average, I find the two cards serve nearly the exact same function the turn they come into play, each with their own unique upside. Malcontents is generally a Lava Spike in a removal-heavy matchup, Mantis Rider is often the same. Obviously the value of these cards relative to each other can easily change from situation to situation, but functionally they serve a similar purpose. They give you that much needed reach to close out tougher games.
As an aside, if there is anyone out there who has not been convinced of the truth that is Phantasmal Image, then this message is for you. It feels strange to call a “Clone” effect the best card in the deck, but in this case it is not a far cry. If you play few leagues with Humans you will likely mentally divide the deck in a few different sections. You have your interactive bears: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, and Kitesail Freebooter. Next you have the pressure: Champion of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenant, and Mantis Rider. Lastly, you have your closers: Mantis Rider also occupies this role, and is joined by the previously mentioned Kessig Malcontents.
In some matchups, you can’t possibly draw too many Meddlers and Freebooters; in some you want to just put as much power and toughness on the table. In others the ground will get gummed up which will force you to take to the skies to whittle your opponent down, or deal them direct damage with Malcontents. In any case, your Images are additional copies of the cards that happen to matter in that particular matchup and situation. Need more Meddling Mages? No problem! Couldn’t care less about naming a card? Time to ride the Mantis twice as fast. Sure, the card can get awkward in games where you simply have too many, or your opponent has so many one-for-one instant-speed removal spells they don’t know what to do with themselves. Most frequently though, you will be very happy to see it join your hand.
Humans still has some issues in the format, predominately with Jeskai Control and other decks like it. That said, I think it is a strong deck and will continue to see play in the format, and most importantly, continue to become a more refined list. There are still a lot of questions about how best to build this deck and as those questions begin to come to more complete answers, I expect the deck to be an even more formidable Modern player.
I hope you enjoy the matches and, as usual, I’m interested to hear what kind of content you’d like to see moving forward, so I can continue to evolve and improve my videos. Please let me know your thoughts, and any improvements you would like to see concerning formatting, presentation, or whatever else strikes your fancy. If you’d like to see similar content, check out my Twitch channel for some more live Modern!