If you have been participating in MTG Pioneer RCQs then chances are you have run into different kinds of Humans deck lists. These are a new archetype that has been opened up by recent printings and bannings. Because of the novelty, there is a lot of unexplored space here. People are still figuring out how aggro or midrange to be, what colors to play, and which “engine” cards work best for the archetype. In order to defend my crown as number one tribal Humans expert, I will break down all the major versions of these new Pioneer archetypes.
These Humans decks have jumped up in popularity for a few reasons. The first big change to the format was the banning of Winota, Joiner of Forces. I talked about this in a previous article, but I will quickly reiterate. Winota pushed out normal creature decks because it demanded instant speed interaction. It also did the job of creature aggro better than other decks in that space. Not only were you weak to Winota, but it was a better version of the deck you wanted to be! Now that Winota isn’t placing restrictions on the format, you are free to play other creature aggro decks in Pioneer.
The second big reason Humans became more viable was the printing of Secluded Courtyard. This new land lets you build mana bases that let you cast some of the more powerful Humans. Currently, Pioneer has very restrictive mana for aggro decks. When building Humans, you are always going to be base white. From there, you can easily splash black and red thanks to Inspiring Vantage, Concealed Courtyard, Battlefield Forge and Caves of Koilos. However, there is no Seachrome Coast, Razorverge Thicket, Adarkar Wastes or Brushland. This means that you cannot easily curve out with green or blue Humans. Now that you effectively have access to eight copies of Unclaimed Territory, you can play cards like Experiment One, Werewolf Pack Leader and Reflector Mage, that you previously were unable to cast reliably.
I’ve grouped these two color combinations together because they have a lot in common. These versions are pretty much straight White Weenies. They go wide with lots of one-drops, they pump the team with Luminarch Aspirant and Thalia’s Lieutenant, and they both use Mutavault to help prevent flooding.
One thing that I really learned to appreciate was the synergy between Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Luminarch Aspirant and Extraction Specialist. In the right matchups, this pair of two-drops are basically a must-kill. They generate too much advantage for your opponent to leave in play. It makes it even more backbreaking when you slam a Specialist the following turn, reanimate your two-drops and put them right back in the squeeze. On top of that, you also have Dauntless Bodyguard as additional protection.
You might think that black splash is a big cost, but there are enough BW dual lands that you can make your mana base something like 16 dual lands, four Mutavault and one or two Plains. You might take some damage from your lands, but you will be able to cast your spells. In exchange for taking some damage, you get access to some pretty powerful cards such as General Kudro of Drannith, Bloodsoaked Champion and Dire Tactics. Meanwhile, the no-splash version plays cards like Brutal Cathar and Brave the Elements. These are a bit more situational, but can be backbreaking in the right circumstances. In the dark, I prefer the black splash as you’re not sacrificing consistency. If you expect matchups like Mono-Green Devotion, Humans mirrors or Mono-Red, you will want to switch to the mono-white version. Brave the Elements really shines in all these matchups.