Last weekend, I piloted my favourite Modern deck, Humans, to victory at a Mythic Championship Qualifier (MCQ) and qualified for my first
Pro Tour Mythic Championship. I’m absolutely thrilled to finally be able to compete at the highest level of competitive play after quite a few years of ‘not quite’ getting there. There’s also a great sense of satisfaction in being able to seal the deal with a deck I really enjoy playing. In this article, I’ll provide some brief coverage of the event and share some tips on playing the deck, as this has been requested by quite a few people via social media.
I travelled to the event with Alfie Bennett, Matt Duggan, and Callum Bousfield. Alfie was playing Izzet Phoenix, Matt was playing Mono-red Phoenix, and Callum was playing Hogaak. I had spoken with Alfie and Matt while in Barcelona the weekend prior about whether I should try Eldrazi Tron, Mono Green Tron, or Hogaak instead of Humans, as I think those decks are simply more powerful in the format right now. Unfortunately, since returning from Spain, I had been quite busy with work and other matters, so I had no time to really test or obtain the cards for these decks. Therefore, I was locked in on my ‘old faithful’ of Humans and trying not to think about how Wrenn and Six is making Jund a popular choice again in Modern.
The event was not well-attended. Only 42 players showed up, which meant six rounds before a cut to top 8. It’s easy to view this event as ‘easier to win’ than a 150 player event that would have two more Swiss rounds as longer events require more Magic needs to be played and players thus have to dodge negative variance (e.g. mulligans, manascrew) over a longer time-frame. Despite the lower attendance, this event still had many players present who I consider to be highly skilled and more accomplished in the game than myself. A smaller field only increases the likelihood of playing against them, so the time it was unclear to me how much easier it would be to win.
Here’s what I registered for the event:
I did make two small changes from my list from GP Barcelona.
- I decided to cut one Phantasmal Image for an Unsettled Mariner, partly because I thought removal decks were on the uptick – plus I wanted to try out the Changeling. I had seen lists from the most recent Mythic Championship that cut Kitesail Freebooter for Mariner, but I wasn’t quite ready to do that just yet.
- I decided to cut a Chalice of the Void for a second Collector Ouphe. This card had impressed me against Tron and Eldrazi Tron at the Grand Prix the previous weekend, and given that Chalice was a secondary measure against Hogaak (behind Grafdigger’s Cage and Ravenous Trap) I decided the extra Ouphe would potentially help me more if I faced Tron or Grixis Urza.
Here are how the Swiss rounds played out.
- Round 1 vs Jund 2-1 WIN (1-0)
- Round 2 vs Humans 2-0 WIN (2-0)
- Round 3 vs Hogaak 1-2 LOSS (2-1)
- Round 4 vs Izzet Phoenix 2-0 WIN (3-1)
- Round 5 vs Jund 2-1 WIN (4-1)
- Round 6 vs Storm 0-0-3 ID (4-1-1)
Jund is a really bad matchup for Humans and don’t let the fact that I beat it twice persuade you otherwise. Not only did I have to play the games very well but I ALSO needed to get a bit lucky. In game two of round one my opponent kept a hand without green mana for cards like Assassin’s Trophy and Abrupt Decay and I was able to goldfish some very quick beatdown in spite of mulliganing because they didn’t draw a green mana source in the first few turns. In game three my opponent forgot to gain life with Scavenging Ooze in response to a timely Reflector Mage returning it to their hand. This allowed a topdecked Mantis Rider to steal the game the following turn. In round five my opponent unfortunately got a game loss, as during a deck check it was discovered that they were using a single promo card that was particularly curved. It was replaced for game three, but I had a great hand with multiple copies of Champion of the Parish. I’ll talk more Humans vs. Jund later when I discuss match-ups and sideboarding, but I can report that I did draw Unsettled Mariner and it performed well.
The top 8 decks were three Hogaak, two Jund, and one each of Storm, Amulet, and Humans. Unfortunately, none of my fellow Leeds players had made it into the top 8. I was obviously hoping to avoid both Jund decks! The top 8 unfolded as follows:
- QF vs Hogaak 2-0 WIN
- SF vs Hogaak 2-0 WIN
- Finals vs Hogaak 2-0 WIN
So much for that extra Collector Ouphe! One saving grace of playing the Humans deck is that I believe the Hogaak matchup to be at least even, and some would say it’s favoured. My top 8 matches on the day against some very good players may be evidence in support of that claim – I’ll discuss this more in the next section. The top 8 matches played out very favourably for me, as I was able to execute my game plan and always had some disruption to keep the games going my way. This isn’t to say my opponents didn’t play well – quite the opposite, a few of the games were very close, especially game one of the finals. In that particular game, I think we both flooded a bit and I was looking for either a Mantis Rider or Thalia’s Lieutenant to get the final points of damage through. My opponent had ‘stabilised’ and only needed a few turns to reverse the damage race. Fortunately, I drew a Thalia’s Lieutenant and got over the line in time.
Matchups and Sideboarding
I’ve been playing Humans for just under a couple of years and have recently received a few questions about playing the deck via social media. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide, but I thought people would find some guidance on how to approach and sideboard for the current main match-ups in Modern and sideboarding helpful.
This match-up is one I don’t mind playing against from the Humans side. Reflector Mage, Mantis Rider, and Deputy of Detention are great and our chances of winning only improve post-board. Despite the Hogaak deck being more explosive than Humans, the games aren’t really about being defensive, stabilising, and turning the corner. Instead, it’s much more about using tempo to win a race – the problem being that they usually have a head-start. Humans has some disruption to tip the race in its favour, and many of the creatures in Hogaak can’t block. I’m still mindful that their deck is doing something fundamentally much more broken than ours, so some of their best draws will still be pretty much impossible to beat. In the dark I usually name Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis with Meddling Mage – it’s their best card!
I sideboard out Thalia and Freebooter. I think it’s much better to disrupt their creatures and graveyard as this will be relevant 100% of the time, but their answers to our graveyard hate and their removal spells will only be relevant some of the time. I sideboard in Plague Engineer naming “Zombie” (and occasionally “Vampire”). Carrion Feeder is actually one of the more annoying cards for us as it can make Reflector Mage and Deputy of Detention a lot less effective while also out-sizing a lot of our creatures. Stopping our opponent from ever playing Gravecrawler is great! I also sideboard in Chalice of the Void, but now that Hogaak builds use Satyr Wayfinder, Lotleth Troll, Assassin’s Trophy, and Force of Vigor, this card has gotten significantly worse in the match-up – previously the deck was almost all one-drops!
From the Humans side, this match-up is all about whether the opponent has turn three Tron and resolves a payoff like Walking Ballista or All is Dust. If this is the case, Humans has probably lost. Otherwise, it’s a creature fight that typically favours Humans more often than not, primarily because of Mantis Rider and the ability of Champion and Lieutenant to grow larger than their 4/4’s and 5/5’s. Matter Reshaper is annoying as it slows us down while accelerating them, so it’s actually one of the better Reflector Mage targets. Karn, the Great Creator turns off Aether Vial, so if I know or think they have this card I need to plan accordingly. When playing Meddling Mage, I pay attention to their mana and early plays to inform what could pose a threat. If they look like they can assemble Tron quickly, I usually name Walking Ballista. If they aren’t playing Tron lands then naming Thought-Knot Seer or Matter Reshaper is often better.
OUT (on the play)
OUT (on the draw)
I sideboard out Thalia and Freebooter in varying amounts depending on if we’re on the play or the draw. Neither card is great, but Thalia is better on the play and Freebooter is better on the draw. I also remove Phantasmal Image because of Walking Ballista and Karn, the Great Creator. Our flexible answers to possible threats also come in: Gaddock Teeg handles Karn, All is Dust, and Ugin, the Ineffable; Collector Ouphe disrupts mainly Ballista but also Mind Stone and Expedition Map; and Dismember removes Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer.
From my experience, this match-up is unfavourable. Turn three Tron is often ‘lights out’ because the opponent has so many payoff cards that wipe us out if we don’t have the right disruption. If I know I’m up against this deck, for game one I usually keep hands that can beat our opponent down very quickly, hoping that they ‘don’t have it’ or to draw into disruption. I’ve found this to work more often than a disruption-heavy hand with a slow clock because with each extra turn the opponent survives, they have an increasing number of chances to draw their payoff spells which will inevitably overpower us. With Meddling Mage, I usually name Oblivion Stone or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Walking Ballista can also be a big problem, but the other two completely wipe us out whereas it’s sometimes possible to still win in spite of a Ballista. Some versions of Tron are also playing All is Dust, so it’s important to keep that in mind.
I sideboard out Reflector Mage because it’s only good against Wurmcoil Engine and the opponent will likely bring in Thragtusk, a card which Reflector Mage is not good against. I also shave on Phantasmal Image because of Walking Ballista. Gaddock Teeg and Collector Ouphe disrupt a number of problematic cards in their deck – the Ouphe in particular, if played early enough, can stop them from assembling Tron. I also sideboard in Chalice of the Void as it stops them using Chromatic Star, Chromatic Sphere, Expedition Map, and Ancient Stirrings. It’s not as powerful as stopping their payoff cards, as they might already have Tron, but every little helps!
Vial advantage is very important in the mirror as it allows us to deploy our creatures faster and more efficiently than our opponent. Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter are ‘misses’ in this match-up and Thalia doesn’t really help much. The two main ways to win are to have a superior aerial force or to have a larger and faster Champion draw. Mantis Rider is the best card followed by Champion and Lieutenant.
Sideboarding is about removing as many Meddling Mage and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as our sideboard allows. Freebooter isn’t great, but it can at least chump block an opposing Mantis Rider to buy us some time. With enough bonuses via +1/+1 counters or exalted it can actually become a true aerial threat if the ground is gridlocked. Plague Engineer is obviously insane and I like Dismember to take out any problem cards (such as my opponent’s Plague Engineer – preferably after copying it with my own Phantasmal Image!). Having Militia Bugler in the sideboard (instead of the maindeck) allows me to have enough cards to bring in when I remove the ‘bad cards’ – I’ve seen a lot of Humans players having to leave in multiple copies of Thalia or Meddling Mage in the mirror because they don’t have enough cards to bring in post-board.
This deck is very popular among some of my friends so I’ve played against it quite a lot. I think that the most important things with respect to this match-up from the Humans side are neutralizing Thing in the Ice and sticking a Thalia. If you manage to do both of these things, the match-up becomes very easy unless they’ve already somehow reanimated multiple Arclight Phoenix. Vial is incredible in this match-up as it helps us redeploy our creatures even if they do manage to flip Thing in the Ice. If the 0/4 horror appears on the board, I pretty much always try to remove it as quickly as possible as the opponent can often flip it the very next turn. Most of the time with Meddling Mage you want to be naming Lightning Bolt in the dark. Otherwise, it can be a tricky card to use in this match-up and it’s usually worth considering what cantrips they have already played and assess which they are most likely to have left.
Image is not very good as the opponent will likely increase their removal count post-board. I also sideboard out two copies of Mantis Rider as it’s a card they can trade up ‘mana-wise’ with removal like Lightning Bolt and it doesn’t really disrupt their game plan. I also bring in more removal for Thing in the Ice. Some Phoenix builds also sideboard Grim Lavamancer against Humans. Chalice of the Void is very good as it forces them to draw Abrade or Shenanigans. I don’t sideboard Grafdigger’s Cage as I personally don’t think it does enough in terms of their main game plan despite weakening Phoenix, Faithless Looting, and Finale of Devastation.
This deck is getting more and more popular because of Wrenn and Six (W6) and, as I mentioned earlier in the article, the match-up is terrible! Even with 37 creatures in my deck, the opponent will often have enough removal to comfortably slow me down enough and take over the game with their more powerful threats. Scavenging Ooze is one of the more problematic cards as it’s so easy for it to become very big very quickly while gaining the opponent life, given that they will destroy a lot of creatures. Fast beatdown is the best way to win. Unsettled Mariner, Thalia, and Freebooter can make sequencing spells very awkward for our opponent, but it’s still an uphill battle! Deputy is quite valuable as it can snag a Planeswalker from the opponent or multiple blockers which improves our attacks. Meddling Mage is very hard to use effectively because they have so many different removal spells. I usually just try to name known cards or make sensible guesses as to what cards they want to play to continue their gameplan. Often this will be removal, but sometimes I’ll want to name one of their proactive cards (Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, W6, and Ooze) to force them to kill the 2/2 before they can deploy their proactive threats.
Again, the priority is to sideboard out as many bad cards as possible. Image is even worse than Meddling Mage due to the volume of removal and Wrenn and Six. My sideboard isn’t very good for this match-up – we can bring in only five cards (despite wanting to remove about seven or eight). In spite of this, I think that even with more sideboard cards such as Unsettled Mariner or Ranger-Captain of Eos, the match-up would still be very difficult. Most Jund opponents will have Plague Engineer and more cards which foil our aggressive starts like Seasoned Pyromancer and Anger of the Gods after sideboarding.
This is a very classic match-up that can go either way, but I prefer playing from the Humans side. A lot of game one is about correctly playing around or not playing around Supreme Verdict. I prefer to force them to have it and accept my fate if it wrecks me on turn four, as this will happen a lot less often than not. Aether Vial makes a huge difference, but the opponent’s deck now has Teferi, Time Raveler to disrupt it. It’s sometimes tricky to calculate whether to attack the three mana Planesalkers that they play (instead of their life total) because they don’t provide the sheer incremental advantage for the opponent in the same ways as Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I usually name Path to Exile in the dark with Meddling Mage, but there are some board states where Supreme Verdict is the only card that loses us the game.
Reflector Mage is not very good, even if I think my opponent will sideboard Baneslayer Angel or Monastery Mentor. Dismember is a much better card to bring in as it also hits Celestial Colonnade. I also cut some Lieutenants, as the anthem effect is less relevant. Gaddock Teeg helps against Supreme Verdict and the larger Planeswalkers, but bear in mind that it doesn’t stop an overloaded Winds of Abandon. Militia Bugler helps us keep the gas flowing. I used to sideboard out Noble Hierarch for this matchup, but I now think it’s a little more important than before because it helps cast Deputy and can remove Teferi, Time Raveler if it uses its -3 ability straight away.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have won the event and qualified for my first Mythic Championship. I played my first PTQ in 2007 and have persevered with competitive Magic for 12 years. There have been some near misses over the years, a couple of 12-3’s at GPs, losing in the Top 8s of ‘old PTQs’, and an RPTQ, so there is a sense of ‘the monkey being off my back’! I’m very grateful to all the people who have supported me over the years:
- People against whom I play competitive Magic, whether I’m always lucky against you or you’ve crushed me multiple times.
- People to whom I talk to about Magic, whether regularly or infrequently – in person or online.
- People who have lent me cards to compete in an event, whether it’s just the fifteenth sideboard card or the whole 75.
- People who put on tournaments for me to attend, whether I went 0-2 or emerged victorious.
- People who have helped me maintain the game state, whether it’s at the Prerelease or in a Judge shirt at a Grand Prix.
- People who are part of my content creation journeys, whether you’re a fellow author, editor, reader, or supporter.
- People who create the content that I consume, whether it’s articles, videos, podcasts, or streams.
- People with whom I play casual Magic, whether you’re cutting my colours in cube draft or playing your Aetherflux Reservoir activation right into my Reroute in Commander.
- People who have believed in me, whether you know me well or just see me at events.
You all helped me get there – THANK YOU!
Grand Prix Birmingham is on the Horizon. It’s Modern, and probably another chance to attack with Champion of the Parish, though I keep being told I should switch to free 8/8’s with Trample. We shall see!
You can find me on Facebook and Twitter @Chris54154, feel free to hit me up with any of your thoughts! Despite qualifying for the Mythic Championship, I’ll still be at the European Modern Series Final! I’ll also see you in Birmingham if you’re going!
As always, thanks for reading, good luck, and have fun in your next game!