Deck Highlight: Making Humans Elite in Modern with Strixhaven

With the release of Strixhaven, Humans got some sweet new additions, one of which is Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa himself (as Elite Spellbinder). Let’s take a look at what post-STX Humans might look like!


Modern Humans by Luis Scott-Vargas

4 Aether Vial
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Horizon Canopy
1 Island
3 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
4 Meddling Mage
2 Elite Spellbinder
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Plains
4 Reflector Mage
2 Silverquill Silencer
4 Thalia's Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Unclaimed Territory
1 Waterlogged Grove
3 Auriok Champion
1 Elite Spellbinder
2 Dismember
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Magus of the Moon
2 Plague Engineer
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Skyclave Apparition


Header - The Game Plan

Pressure the opponent with a massive army of Humans while disrupting them with all the various hatebears.

This deck is known for its speed and disruption, with a ton of interlocking pieces that really make the opponent’s life difficult. The combination of Kitesail Freebooter, Meddling Mage, Silverquill Silencer, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elite Spellbinder (not to mention Phantasmal Image) makes it nearly impossible to get off the ground and Mantis Rider finishes the job very quickly. 


Header - Key Cards

Aether VialNoble Hierarch


These are the two best cards to start with, and Aether Vial is the strongest of the two by far. This is very much a Vial deck, and the games where you have it go much more smoothly.



These are your tax/Duress effects, and they all stack very nicely. Freebooter and Spellbinder let you see their hand (and steal/delay cards), Meddling Mage and Silencer name the cards you see (or cards you’re scared of) and Thalia makes it all more expensive for them. If you haven’t tried to resolve spells against Humans before, let me assure you – it’s a bad time.


Phantasmal Image


This one is worth mentioning because it lets you double up on any effect you need, including some pretty devastating ones. It can play as disruption or pressure, as copying Mantis Rider or Thalia’s Lieutenant can also be great.


Mantis RiderChampion of the ParishThalia's Lieutenant


These are the enforcers, as they end the game very quickly. Rider hits for a ton of damage, and the other two put a ton of stats onto the board. Look to combine Thalia’s Lieutenant and Image for the finishing blow.


Header - Opening Hands

It’s rare that you’ll keep a hand without a one-drop, though there are 12 of them. Past that, you want a nice curve and some disruption, but any hand with Humans is likely to provide that.


Example Hand 1: Mull - Plains, Cavern of Souls, Reflector Mage, Mantis Rider, Champion of the Parish, Waterlogged Grove, Ancient Ziggurat


Having your weakest one-drop and no two-drop is not acceptable for this deck.


Example Hand 2: Keep - Aether Vial, Horizon Canopy, Kitesail Freebooter, Elite Spellbinder, Phantasmal Image, Mantis Rider, Meddling Mage


This is peak Vial right here, as you get to Vial in multiple disruptive elements plus a Rider. One-land Vial hands are basically always great.


Example Hand 3: Keep - Noble Hieararch, Noble Hieararch, Cavern of Souls, Ancient Ziggurat, Thalia's Lieutenant, Phantasmal Image, Horizon Canopy


You’re missing a little action, but double Noble and Image gives you a lot to work with, and the Lieutenant means any Human puts a lot of pressure onto the board. Plus, Canopy cycles in a pinch.


Header - Tips and Tricks

  • When you have a Vial in play, you’ll often want to play Thalia’s Lieutenant and Vial in a creature in response to the trigger, for maximum +1/+1 counters.
  • Phantasmal Image opens up tons of possibilities – consider all the things you could copy and try and disrupt the opponent as much as possible with it (just don’t try and copy Thalia).
  • Elite Spellbinder still keeps the card exiled even if it dies, which makes it an ideal Image target against removal-based decks.


Header - Are They Humans, Or Are They Dancers?

Well, you name “Human” with Cavern of Souls, so I guess that settles that. This deck is a powerful one, and the new tools it’s gotten could help give it a boost in the ever-competitive Modern format. Good luck, and may you always have a turn one Vial.


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