Understanding the Resurgence of Humans

by Zen Takahashi on 06 June 2016, Monday

Zen Takahashi

Understanding the Resurgence of Humans


Thalia's Lieutenant


Hello everyone!


Eight days ago, we witnessed two Grand Prix take place as players from the opposite ends of the world showed off their standard skills at Grand Prix Manchester and Grand Prix Minneapolis. Although White-Green Tokens managed to take down both events, the defining archetype of the weekend was Humans – especially at Minneapolis where the archetype placed five copies in Top 8 and was nearly 30% of the Top 32!


What’s more interesting is that of the five copies that made Top 8, there were three distinct versions – Mono White, Boros and Bant – each proving to be successful!





It seemed like this archetype was all but forgotten – it was no longer putting up results and people were largely starting to ignore the deck.


The majority of the community had written off the deck as a Week One archetype and as the metagame became slower and more attrition based, people started to drop their sideboard slots for it. In fact since the Pro Tour, the format has become slower week by week, as each new deck seemed to be designed to prey on the previous week’s midrange deck by emphasizing heavily on more card advantage and a more powerful top end.


Cryptolith Rite The Great Aurora


Where Bant Company once stood tall as the premier midrange deck of the format, it has since then been overtaken by these 4-color Cryptolith Rite decks, Naya Midrange, White-Black Control and Grixis Control. Even Sam Black’s GB The Great Aurora Control and Mono Blue Eldrazi Ramp were starting to find success as they could further go over the top of these decks, in a metagame where they could seemingly ignore aggro decks! It was almost like a storm was building up as each week people opted to do more powerful things – at the expense of steep mana costs and/or a painful manabase.


The interesting thing is this build up has led to the format looking a lot like it did in Week One – where people opted to play slow decks full of powerful cards at the cost of consistency and speed, which the Humans deck pounced on with its sheer ability to get on the board quickly and punish slow draws.


Although the decks in the format now are much more tuned than those Week One decks, they follow a similar principle of being based around powerful yet expensive synergies or cards. This is often a common occurrence in Standard metagames as the given format stabilizes. As people become better at identifying the correct suite of threats and answers in the format, the decks become better tuned and slow down a bit. Even though this would then make those Week One aggro decks better positioned, they usually still aren’t powerful enough to prey on these slower decks anymore, as the latter are now better built and consistent so can halt these aggro decks with little effort.


 Angel of Serenity


A common example was during the Innistrad-Return to Ravnica format where Mono Red swept the competition in Week One, but never found success again in the format. In fact the format ended up becoming very slow with many decks even utilizing Angel of Serenity, but it took quite some time for people to find an aggro deck that was powerful enough to go under these decks successfully (Black-Red Zombies was the answer!).


However as I mentioned in a previous article before the Pro Tour, this Humans deck was clearly not going to be one of those traditional aggro decks that disappear once the decks in the format become more tuned. It simply has too much of a powerful and diverse threat base to just fold that easily – its draws are very powerful and the deck can attack from multiple angles.


Ruinous Path Stasis Snare


The removal in this format is also a lot worse than in previous Standard formats, as it’s either conditional or expensive, and people were starting to opt for the latter with cards such as Ruinous Path and Stasis Snare because the threats in the format were becoming slower, yet more powerful in the form of Archangel Avacyn, Dragonlord Atarka and Planeswalkers. As people started to play slower threats, and therefore slower removal, Humans found itself in a ripe position to prey on these decks. This is exactly what we witnessed over the past weekend.


Tragic Arrogance Lambholt Pacifist


The immediate response I expect would be for the midrange decks to significantly drop their curve and become more board-presence orientated. This will lead to a similar effect to the aftermath of the Pro Tour, as White-Green Tokens and Bant Company will once again become more popular. These decks have been dropping in numbers due to the other decks becoming more top heavy, but are great at fighting Humans as they stall the board well and utilizes Tragic Arrogance better than any other deck. As the game goes long, their top end, though not the most powerful, is good enough to close the game against Humans. For White-Green Tokens players, I’d recommend leaning towards a Lambholt Pacifist build of the deck as it blocks very well in the matchup.


Fiery Impulse Ultimate Price


Control decks such as White-Black Control and Grixis will still be well positioned and popular, but will need to be readjusted. As mentioned earlier we’ve been seeing these control decks leaning towards more expensive removal spells that have more utility against the range of powerful threats that were being played in the format. Now, they will have to revert back to cheaper, more efficient removal such as Fiery Impulse and Ultimate Price. These decks may also want to shave on the number of Read the Bones/Painful Truths effects in the main deck and put less emphasis on Transgress the Mind in the main as well.


Reflector Mage Needle Spires


As for Humans, I strongly recommend the Bant version over Mono White and Boros. While the latter variants are the best at punishing these slower decks, they are also much more vulnerable to hate cards as their gameplan is much more one dimensional. Cards such as Radiant Flames, Languish and Tragic Arrogance will rise back up in popularity and these aggressive builds will have a much more difficult time beating them.


Collected Company Negate


On the other hand, the Bant version is still vulnerable to these cards but is much better equipped to fight them. The combination of Collected Company and Negate from the sideboard allows you to navigate around these sweepers well and Tireless Tracker allows you to compete against these midrange/control decks even when the game goes long, as you can keep up with their card advantage.


This build is also favoured in the Humans mirror as Lambholt Pacifist and Dromoka’s Command are both great against the aggressive builds that are based around smaller creatures and Always Watching.


It also gets access to Tragic Arrogance in the sideboard, which is one of the best cards in the mirror that the other versions can’t play because of their low land counts. Although Bant is less explosive, and hence worse against decks such as 4-color Cryptolith Rite and Ramp, those decks should be dropping in popularity now due to the increase in Humans’ presence, so overall this build is much better at beating the strategies people will bring to the table this weekend.


Thraben Inspector


I hope you enjoyed this article and learnt more about the reasoning behind Humans’ resurgence. Hopefully this can give you a better idea on how you can prepare going forward. Whether you’re on the Humans’ side or not, be prepared for the matchup, as well as the changes to the other decks in the format. Remember that beating last weekend’s top deck is not enough – you have to also be prepared for the decks and strategies people will now play in response to the previous result.


Until next time!


Zen Takahashi

@mtgzen on Twitter

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