Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oh, the Humanity! Humans in Standard.

Let me preface this by saying this article is not intended or expected to produce a competitive Standard deck. I haven’t played Standard since Rafiq of the Many and the rest of the Bant Shard rotated out. But I don’t like to turn my back on 60-card Magic for too long, as I don’t want to let my 60-card deckbuilding skills atrophy too much. So at worst, this article might produce a deck that’s fun to play in the Casual room on MTGO or maybe, just MAYBE, good enough to make Top 8 at some local FNMs, but it’s not meant to be a serious deck.

Human is actually an extremely common creature type, but has never been officially supported as a true “Tribe” in that there were no cards that specifically referenced them in their ability text. No “Lord” creatures existed, nor other beneficial abilities to push players into playing Humans. Innistrad has changed all that, and quite drastically. There are plenty of Humans in Innistrad, of course, but plenty of cards with abilities that push you into playing Humans as a legitimate tribe. Some are great (Champion of the Parish) and some are not so great (Dearly Departed).

Right now, I imagine the optimal Human deck to be Green/White, though mono-White certainly is well supported enough to be viable… however we’d be cutting off two really strong “Lords” in the form of Mayor of Avabruck and Hamlet Captain. Hamlet Captain is one of the principle reasons I’m even interested in building this deck, so I am not willing to lose Green… besides that, a Mono-White Human deck would be very much like a typical White Weenie deck, which is somewhat less exciting, as I’ve visited that archetype quite often over the years.

Let’s take a look at which Humans are available to us in Standard, at least those that are the most playable. I’ll run these down by mana-cost, starting with one drops.

One Mana

Champion of the Parish – Easily the best one-drop we have access to, this should be an automatic 4x in any Human deck.
Elite Vanguard – Another fantastic, highly aggressive Human for a single W. Also a likely 4x.
Gideon’s Lawkeeper – Not as aggressive, but could be a good side-board option.
Avacyn’s Pilgrim – It might seem a bit odd to include a “mana elf” in a deck with such a low curve, but I think this should also be a 4x.

Two Mana                         

Accorder Paladin – Seems ideal here, as a very aggressive two-drop that also pumps the rest of your guys. Highly playable.
Elite Inquisitor – More of a sideboard card, if anything, but a 2/2 First Striker with Vigilance is still playable.
Grand Abolisher – Not quite aggro enough for the main deck, but a very valuable sideboard option.
Puresteel Paladin – Fantastic in the right deck, but I doubt he’ll have adequate support in this particular deck.
Hamlet Captain – Definitely a 4x, as it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to build this deck.
Mayor of Avabruck – Your other humans get +1/+1… seems like something we might want. It does kinda suck if he flips, but you should have little trouble dropping two guys in one turn to flip him back.
Skinshifter – This guy is tough, as I can’t figure out if I want 4x of him, or zero copies. Seems pretty solid.

Three Mana

Fiend Hunter – Tough call. It seems possible to maindeck this guy, but as a 1/3 for 3 he’d be the least aggro creature in the deck, probably. I’d say 4x sideboard, or a 2x main deck.
Gideon’s Avenger – I’m a big fan of this guy, but if you’re not running other tap effects (such as Gideon’s Lawkeeper) I’m not sure he’s worth it.
Mentor of the Meek – A must-have for this deck, as we’ll likely be dumping our hand quickly, and need to keep our grip full to apply pressure.
Mirran Crusader – Best with some Equipment such as Sword of War and Peace or whatever, but probably still great on his own.
Elder of Laurels – Might be a 2x in a more casual, slow version of the deck. Too expensive for my build, though.

Four Mana

Hero of Bladehold – There’s only one creature powerful enough to be worthwhile above three mana, and this is it. I would love to have 2x of these in the deck, if we can fit them. Note that if we do have Hero, Avacyn’s Pilgrim definitely starts to look necessary.

Variable Cost

Mikaeus, the Lunarch – Probably too slow and costly for a truly aggro deck, but a fine casual card nonetheless.

That pretty much sums up the best of what Humanity has to offer us, for now at least. There are a lot of options here, and there’s no way we can fit all of these cards into a single 60 card deck. But that’s okay, because it gives us room for variance and customization. You should be able to tune the list to suit your playgroup’s power level, and your own personal play preferences. If Elder of Laurels and Mikaeus the Lunarch excite you the most, you can easily play a slower more deliberate version of this deck. Throw in the Lawkeepers and Fiend Hunters to control the board while you build up to critical mass.

Or, you can just see how far you can push the aggro side, and make the deck as fast as possible.

Here’s my starting list:

4x Champion of the Parish
4x Elite Vanguard
3x Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4x Accorder Paladin
4x Hamlet Captain
3x Mayor of Avabruck
2x Skinshifter
3x Mirran Crusader
2x Mentor of the Meek
2x Hero of the Bladehold

3x Beast Within
4x Mutagenic Growth

4x Razorgrass Prairie
4x Sunpetal Grove
4x Forest
10x Plains

For the non-Creature spells, I chose the most generically useful spells I could find, as I have no idea what opposition this deck might encounter. Mutagenic Growth is basically the best Giant Growth variant in Standard right now, and Beast Within is a pretty universal answer to any problematic Creature, Planeswalker or other permanent type.

A suggested sideboard might include:

4x Fiend Hunter
4x Elite Inquisitor
4x Grand Abolisher
3x Celestial Purge

Or something like that. I dunno. Another really compelling option is to run Triumph of the Hordes. It’s an Infect card, yes, so it kinda seems out of place with zero Infect creatures, but I think it might be worth it for the surprise factor. It can really screw up combat math for an opponent, who is expecting you to attack their life total, not poison them out. It can just end a game out of nowhere just as your opponent is starting to stabilize and looks to be clogging up the ground for your attackers. You pretty much have to kill them in one attack if you do cast it, otherwise you basically just skipped that turn, but that’s the appeal of Triumph: that card usually does end the game upon resolution.


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