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How to Upgrade the MTG Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger 2022 Deck

Dropping on November 4, the Pioneer Challenger 2022 Decks feature four unique archetypes: Izzet Phoenix, Gruul Stompy, Dimir Control and Orzhov Humans. Each Challenger Deck offers a different approach to the Pioneer format based on your play style, and you can play these straight out of the box without much issue. As these products are so well thought-out by Wizards of the Coast, the Pioneer Challenger Deck accommodates those who want to enter Pioneer on a budget while also delivering an ideal gateway into the tournament scene at a local level. With the emphasis on tabletop play in Regional Championship Qualifiers and the upcoming Pro Tours, these Challenger Decks can act as a starting point for your competitive journey.

 

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Pioneer Challenger Deck 2022 - Orzhov Humans

Out of the four Challenger Decks available, the Orzhov Humans is the most streamlined and competitive out of the box. The two-color mana base is stable enough to offer solid color distribution while encouraging a straightforward and assertive game plan, making this ideal for new and upcoming Pioneer players. Often when entering a broad eternal format such as Pioneer, adopting an aggressive approach enables you to gain an understanding of the format while not absorbing too much bandwidth in complicated play patterns. Being able to cast creatures and turn sideways fortifies your combat math and the fundamentals when playing Magic: The Gathering – which Orzhov Humans deliver in abundance. Another significant reason Orzhov Humans is competitive out of the box is due to the success and popularity of the Humans archetype in Pioneer. Mono-White Humans is one of the best aggressive strategies in the format, with other flavorings in Bant and Four-Color cropping up favorably in Magic Online Pioneer Challenges and various tabletop Regional Championship Qualifiers. 

Today, I’ll be breaking down the Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger Deck and how you can upgrade the strategy into Mono-White Humans or an optimized version of Orzhov while maintaining a decent budget without losing the competitive edge. 

Pioneer Orzhov Humans Out of the Box

Before we begin the upgrades, let’s take a look at the contents of the Orzhov Humans Challenger Deck.

Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger 2022 Deck

 

Out of the box, Orzhov Humans combine tribal synergy with early aggression and twelve one-drop creatures, with plenty of ways to slow down the opponent’s game plan. Both Bloodsoaked Champion and Dauntless Bodyguard can kickstart the early aggression, then curve into disruptive threats such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or going for additional damage output with counters in Thalia’s Lieutenant. As for noncreature spells, Bloodchief’s Thirst feels incredibly cumbersome in an aggressive strategy such as this, as you rarely want to tap out to cast sorcery-speed removal spells, especially when accounting for Thirst’s kicker cost. However, the pair of Dire Tactics is acceptable given the Human synergy while being an instant.

Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenDauntless BodyguardThalia's Lieutenant

The same is true for the sideboard where Sunset Revelry feels a little lost despite the potential of creating two 1/1 Human tokens in specific circumstances. The life gain also feels unwanted against Burn or other aggressive archetypes as Orzhov Humans is a go-wide creature strategy. However, Containment Priest is an excellent option against Indomitable Creativity, Abzan Greasefang and Izzet Phoenix while also being a Human. If you want to keep the Challenger Deck upgrade-free, demoting Bloodchief’s Thirst to the sideboard and adding the pair of Sungold Sentinel to the main deck is recommended. Sentinel is an aggressive two-mana value creature that can consistently interact with the opponent’s graveyard while supporting the overall game plan Orzhov Humans is looking to achieve. 

Godless ShrineMutavaultPortable Hole

Overall, the Orzhov Humans Pioneer Challenger Deck is decent but does fall short in some areas. Despite the questionable sideboard and mainboard options (along with some unusual card quantities), this Challenger Deck is easily the best to play out of the box without any upgrades. Orzhov Humans remains robust and offers a solid tribal synergy making it easy to pilot for newer players. In addition, there’s some significant monetary value in Godless Shrine, Mutavault and Portable Hole, where these cards are featured in other Pioneer archetypes, promoting additional card mileage. With a few adjustments and figuring out which flavor of Humans you want to play, you can turn this already solid Challenger Deck into something more competitive for those Pioneer FNMs and Regional Championship Qualifiers. 

Upgrading Pioneer Orzhov Humans

First, let’s look at upgrading to a more optimized version of Orzhov Humans since there is already a solid foundation. Remember, we’re keeping things relatively budget, where Godless Shrine will be the only high-value cards in the upgraded list. 

Pioneer Orzhov Humans (Upgraded)

While there are plenty of changes, I recommend going through the upgrades from top to bottom and focusing on the mana base first. 

Mainboard Changes

Sideboard Changes

As mentioned earlier, improving the mana base first allows you to cast those spells without much issue. Plus, it makes things a little easier when you incorporate the upgraded nonland cards into your Orzhov Humans build. Brightclimb Pathway from Zendikar Rising should be your first port of call as these are affordable, flexible and generally excellent for Pioneer. Then, picking up three Godless Shrines will complete your dual land configuration – running a playset of Caves of Koilos, Concealed Courtyard, Godless Shrine and Brightclimb Pathway gives you plenty of ample and clean ways to cast your spells. 

Out:

Secluded CourtyardSecluded CourtyardSecluded CourtyardSecluded Courtyard

Unclaimed TerritoryUnclaimed TerritoryUnclaimed TerritoryUnclaimed Territory
Plains (279)Plains (279)

In:

Brightclimb Pathway // Grimclimb PathwayBrightclimb Pathway // Grimclimb PathwayBrightclimb Pathway // Grimclimb PathwayBrightclimb Pathway // Grimclimb Pathway

Godless ShrineGodless ShrineGodless ShrineMutavault

Eiganjo, Seat of the EmpireEiganjo, Seat of the Empire

As Orzhov Humans is a two-color strategy, you have some wiggle room for utility, so adding a couple of Mutavault is ideal here. I’m reluctant to run the playset as it will cause tension in the mana base, but three is a decent number for when you want to continue the aggression and gives you a lifeline against those powerful sweepers. While not essential, I like adding a pair of Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire as an interactive spell to remove opposing threats with incidental discount from Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kytheon, Hero of Akros or General Kudro of Drannith if they are in play.

Out:

Rally the RanksRally the RanksRally the RanksRally the Ranks

Kitesail FreebooterKitesail FreebooterKitesail FreebooterKitesail Freebooter

Thraben Inspector (Timeshifted)Thraben Inspector (Timeshifted)Thraben Inspector (Timeshifted)Thraben Inspector (Timeshifted)

Giant Killer // Chop DownGiant Killer // Chop DownBloodchief's ThirstBloodchief's Thirst

In:

Extraction SpecialistExtraction SpecialistExtraction SpecialistExtraction Specialist

Brutal Cathar // Moonrage BruteBrutal Cathar // Moonrage BruteBrutal Cathar // Moonrage BruteBrutal Cathar // Moonrage Brute

Kytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-ForgedKytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-ForgedGeneral Kudro of DrannithGeneral Kudro of Drannith

Archfiend's VesselArchfiend's VesselDire TacticsDire Tactics

Speaking of creatures, you’ll want to bolster the aggression and disruption that makes Orzhov Humans such a strong strategy. Adding Extraction Specialist, Brutal Cathar and Kytheon, Hero of Akros gives you ways to remove creatures, gain additional value from your threats and mana-efficient ways to deal combat damage. Then, as mentioned earlier, finishing off the playset of Dire Tactics gives you surefire ways to remove creatures without the life-loss penalty. 

Out:

Sunset RevelrySunset RevelrySunset RevelrySunset Revelry

Giant Killer // Chop DownSungold SentinelSungold Sentinel

In:

Selfless SpiritDuressFatal PushFatal Push

Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard GluttonGraveyard Trespasser // Graveyard GluttonGraveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton

Shifting towards the sideboard, Graveyard Trespasser is a nuisance in Pioneer but offers decent graveyard maintenance in Orzhov Humans, where the card also comes with the all-important Human typing. Then, adding a couple of Fatal Push, another Duress and a single Selfless Spirit strengthens your disruption package coupled with some protection against removal-heavy matchups. 

Adeline, Resplendent CatharHopeful InitiateThoughtseize (Timeshifted)

If you want to take Orzhov Humans further, adding Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and Hopeful Initiate will give you better ways to maintain aggression while offering some built-in enchantment and artifact removal in a pinch. To do this, take out the Archfiend’s Vessel and General Kudro of Drannith to accommodate the Innistrad cards. As for the sideboard, switching out Duress for the Pioneer-staple Thoughtseize will give you a solution to removing problematic nonland cards from the opponent’s hand at the exchange of two life. 

Shifting into Pioneer Mono-White Humans

Instead of keeping things Orzhov, stripping away the black cards unlocks the ability to turn the Challenger Deck into Mono-White Humans, which is already a successful and streamlined Pioneer strategy. Admittedly, shifting towards Mono-White will require more changes, but you have Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thalia’s Lieutenant, Dauntless Bodyguard and Luminarch Aspirant, which is already a decent starting point. 

Pioneer Mono-White Humans (Upgraded)

 

Once again, prioritize streamlining the mana base and remove the black cards to ensure the transition into Mono-White is as smooth as possible. 

Mainboard Changes

Sideboard Changes

As this variant of Humans is a mono-white strategy, you can remove the black mana sources and replace these with basic Plains, Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, Castle Ardenvale and Shefet Dunes to give you options to mitigate mana flood. Castle Ardenvale is a nice way to trigger Thalia’s Lieutenant and Shefet Dunes comes with a one-time anthem effect to facilitate the aggressive game plan.

Out:

Secluded CourtyardSecluded CourtyardSecluded CourtyardSecluded Courtyard

Caves of KoilosCaves of KoilosCaves of KoilosCaves of Koilos

Godless Shrine

Unclaimed TerritoryUnclaimed TerritoryUnclaimed TerritoryUnclaimed Territory

Concealed CourtyardConcealed CourtyardConcealed CourtyardConcealed Courtyard

In:

Eiganjo, Seat of the EmpireEiganjo, Seat of the EmpireCastle ArdenvaleCastle Ardenvale

Shefet DunesShefet DunesShefet Dunes

MutavaultMutavault

Plains (279)Plains (279)Plains (279)Plains (279)

Plains (279)Plains (279)Plains (279)Plains (279)

As there aren’t any demands with the mana base, running the complete set of Mutavault is necessary. Also, Mutavault offers synergy with Thalia’s Lieutenant – if you respond to the Lieutenant’s cast trigger by activating Mutavault, the land gains a counter as it is all creature types and stays on the card even when activated again.

Out:

Rally the RanksRally the RanksRally the RanksRally the Ranks

Bloodsoaked ChampionBloodsoaked ChampionBloodsoaked ChampionBloodsoaked Champion

Dire TacticsDire TacticsBloodchief's ThirstBloodchief's Thirst

Giant Killer // Chop DownGiant Killer // Chop Down

In:

Brutal Cathar // Moonrage BruteBrutal Cathar // Moonrage BruteBrutal Cathar // Moonrage BruteBrutal Cathar // Moonrage Brute

Soldier of the PantheonSoldier of the PantheonSoldier of the PantheonKytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-Forged

Elite SpellbinderElite SpellbinderElite SpellbinderElite Spellbinder

Brave the ElementsBrave the ElementsBrave the ElementsBrave the Elements

Extraction SpecialistExtraction Specialist

As for the creatures, most of the changes are similar when upgrading to a more powered version of Orzhov Humans, but there are some notable differences. The first is the inclusion of Soldier of the Pantheon, a one-drop threat that ignores Dreadbore, one of the better removal spells in the Pioneer format. In most cases, the Human Soldier will be a cheap yet aggressive threat, but the protection clause will crop up on occasion.

Elite Spellbinder is another card that supports the disruptive plan while also packing evasion. Gaining information on what your opponent has in their hand is noteworthy, especially for a strategy that wants to reduce the opponent’s life to zero as quickly as possible. The reason Mono-White Human is so well-positioned in Pioneer is how favorably Brave the Elements is against other archetypes, and incorporating four here will give you a fantastic answer against sweepers. In addition, you can proactively cast the card to deal absurd amounts of unblockable damage! 

Out:

DuressDuressDuressGiant Killer // Chop Down
Sunset RevelrySunset RevelrySunset RevelrySunset Revelry

In:

Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector's ShieldReidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector's ShieldAnointed PeacekeeperAnointed Peacekeeper
Declaration in StoneDeclaration in StoneDeclaration in StoneDeclaration in Stone

Lastly, the sideboard features two Anointed Peacekeeper and two Reidane, God of the Worthy to support the disruptive package in post-board games. While Portable Hole is a remarkable removal spell, adding a complete set of Declaration in Stone gives you the tools to clear the board to push through damage. Alternatively, a couple of Fateful Absence is also an acceptable alternative if you prefer something more reactive during the opponent’s turn.

Adeline, Resplendent CatharHopeful InitiateWedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity

To fully optimize Mono-White Humans, adding a playset of Adeline, Resplendent Cathar will synergize well with the rest of your Human cards. As there’s a solid counters synergy within the build, adding a set of Hopeful Initiate will give you plenty of ways to remove enchantments and artifacts to the battlefield. Note: you don’t need to remove counters from only Hopeful Initiate to activate its ability – you can remove counters from other creatures you control on the battlefield to help pay the costs (this also includes an activated Mutavault).

Wedding Announcement is one of the best sideboard cards for Mono-White; the enchantment comes with incredible value featuring card draw, token generation and an eventual buff effect when flipped into Wedding Festivity. Lastly, adding a couple of Rest in Peace and Thalia, Heretic Cathar shores up against graveyard-focused archetypes such as Abzan Greasefang, with Thalia acknowledging the mirror. Cutting Thraben Inspector, Elite Spellbinder, Reidane, God of the Worthy, Sungold Sentinel and Anointed Peacekeeper can accommodate these powerful cards while giving you an optimized build of the popular Pioneer strategy.


Overall, the Orzhov Humans Pioneer 2022 Challenger Deck is excellent. Despite some shortfalls, the product offers an affordable foundation while providing the basic tools to play Pioneer competitively. Humans are one of the most supported tribes in MTG, with the creature type seeing new cards in every release. In particular, the upcoming release of The Brothers’ War will incorporate the Soldier subtyping as a new archetype for Standard. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see cards such as Recruitment Officer and Fortified Beachhead impact Pioneer as many of the meaningful Soldier cards come with the Human typing.

 

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