Modern Creature Feature

Hey everyone!

I’m back from SCG Cincinnati and I learned plenty about the Modern format. Today, I will share my updated Bant Company deck as well as some updated sideboard plans. In addition I have been brewing with teammate, Stu Parnes, on various iterations of Humans strategies. Collins Mullin took down the tournament with nearly every spell in his deck being a creature. He admitted in the deck tech to not being familiar with every human possible so I think there’s some room for innovation.

SCG Cincinnati

I’m a man of my word and I played Bant Company at the SCG Open. It was off by one card that I wrote about a couple weeks ago:


Courser of Kruphix
The only change I made was cutting the second Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy for a Courser of Kruphix. I was very happy with this change because each of my card advantage creatures generates value with high diminishing returns. I don’t want to draw two copies of Jace, Tireless Tracker, Courser of Kruphix, or Scavenging Ooze in a game unless the lack of mana to generate cards makes up for the downside of drawing two copies.

I changed my approach with Collected Company in the last couple of weeks for the better. There were a few games I lost in a local Modern event where I was ahead on board only to lose because of a weak Collected Company. Going forward I will try to play out the creatures and Chord of Calling that guarantee some sort of advantage ahead of casting the powerful instant due to the variability.

Fellow RIW Teammate, Raja Sulaiman, had a cool sideboard card in Sigarda, Host of Herons to protect from Liliana of the Veil and All is Dust. The hexproof aspect is also great against Jeskai Geist. Something to consider moving forward.

The first day of the tournament went extremely well for me. Here’s a quick recap:

Round 1 Affinity 2-0 (Camera feature match)
Round 2 Elves 2-0
Round 3 Jeskai Geist 2-0
Round 4 Mono-Blue Turns 2-0
Round 5 Mono-White Eldrazi 2-0
Round 6 Jeskai Geist 2-0
Round 7 {B}{G} Tron 0-2
Round 8 Mardu Bedlam Reveler 2-1
Round 9 Five-Color Shadow 2-1

I didn’t drop a game until round seven where {B}{G} Tron gave me some trouble. The matchup seems difficult for me, but the combo still gives me a chance. I took plenty of mulligans during the day which I attribute to my good finish. If you’re unsure of the matchup, it’s best to make sure there’s a good chance of killing by at least the fourth turn or at least have a Spell Queller to interact. Hands with Vizier of Remedies or Duskwatch Recruiter into a random 3-drop will not cut the mustard. Collected Company can catch you back up on cards, too.

I tried a new way of approaching the Death’s Shadow matchup after sideboard that has worked well for me. Here’s how I boarded:

Early mana acceleration is not part of my game plan anymore, nor is the Devoted Druid combo. Since they have so much hand disruption there’s no point in filling your deck with acceleration only to have your payoffs killed. I also keep a lot of hands after sideboard even if they are slow. Path to Exile can kill their large threats and your 3-drops will be doing the heavy lifting. I kept a hand in round 9 against 5-Color Shadow with Eternal Witness, Chord of Calling, and five lands. This is a bad hand, but I will likely be Thoughtseized anyway so I will have to play off of the top of my deck.

The four players piloting this version of the deck all made day 2 which was cool to see. Even when there’s a breakout deck in a tournament there’s usually someone that falls on the wrong side of variance. That was not the case this time and we all made some money.

The wheels fell off in day 2. I didn’t get enough sleep and it cost me. It’s hard to get enough rest because I’m so wired after playing Magic for nine hours at a high level.

Round 10 Abzan Company 2-0
Round 11 Storm 0-2 (Camera feature match)
Round 12 {R}{G} Valakut 1-2
Round 13 Burn 0-2
Round 14 Grixis Shadow 2-1
Round 15 Abzan Midrange 2-1

My curse of losing a feature match only to get a deck tech immediately after continues. That’s always fun to talk about your deck right after you get crushed.

I ended up in 17th place good for $200.

Moving forward I would play this version of the deck if I want to win a Modern event:


Reflector Mage
I’ve been very impressed with the maindeck Reflector Mage against the removal-heavy decks. All I want to do is get a couple turns off from being attacked by Tarmogoyf, Death’s Shadow, and Gurmag Angler. Reflector Mage was also a way to dig back into games where I was being pressured by Liliana of the Veil. He clears the way of a blocker and threatens loyalty.

Courser of Kruphix was way better than I expected because the card advantage wasn’t a mana sink. I can’t say the same for Tireless Tracker. The 4 toughness helped stabilize against aggressive decks, too.

Since I am adding creatures with more power and toughness, Gavony Township becomes more powerful. A ¾ Reflector Mage and ⅗ Courser of Kruphix are very annoying for opponents fighting fair. If I didn’t have the second township I would experiment with +1 Island -1 Forest. If you make this switch it’s possible to play a single Vendilion Clique.

Fauna Shaman helps in the case where I pass with a lot of mana open to cast various instants and flash creatures. It’s a 2-drop that helps me find the combo which is useful in the first game. I can also create a chain of Reflector Mages that can win a game by itself.

I cut down to two Eternal Witness in this version because I have never cast it on turn two unless I was hit with a discard spell. This also rarely happened as Eternal Witness would be the first spell discarded.

I didn’t board in Qasali Pridemage often enough against Grafdigger’s Cage to justify the second copy. The second Pridemage is probably the 17th best sideboard card.

The third Unified Will only came in against combo decks so I replaced it with Eidolon of Rhetoric. I can search for it with the Fauna Shaman sometimes and is more impactful when drawn. Storm can play Pyroclasm and Lightning Bolt in the sideboard so I like Eidolon more than Ethersworn Canonist.

I’m excited to give this version a try as I still believe the archetype is strong enough for me to play at the upcoming Modern Pro Tour. A big thanks to everyone who has helped move the deck forward and R.I.W. Hobbies for being a great sponsor.

Humans

Now let’s get some new iterations of Humans strategies as I’m excited to try all sorts of shenanigans. For reference here’s the deck Collins Mullin used to dominate SCG Cincinnati:


Meddling Mage
This deck packs plenty of disruption and hits hard with Mantis Rider. Since Death’s Shadow is the primary fair threat of choice Reflector Mage is very well-positioned. Meddling Mage, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Kitesail Freebooter ensures you don’t die against wild combo decks.

Since Collins Mullen crushed the SCG with this deck I need to figure out just how good it actually is. Collins is a great player and has been doing quite well lately so he likely outplayed many opponents. The surprise factor of not even playing Collected Company or Path to Exile got him some free wins, too. How do we adapt moving forward?

I’ll mention that Humans won the SCG Classic in Washington D.C. last weekend. The deck as it currently stands definitely has staying power. Matt Ling chose to add Dark Confidant to the sideboard which I love.

I went back and watched the film for the tournament and saw Collins was having trouble against swarm decks. Affinity and Merfolk looked to be challenging matchups. There is the risk of drawing too many cards of the “wrong half of the deck” in certain matchups as Meddling Mage and Freebooter aren’t always great. Collins was taking mulligans where he drew too many creatures from the wrong half because he had a vision of which threats were necessary to win a given matchup. Make sure you have a good idea of your plans of how to win against each archetype ahead of time.

Meddling Mage is a very interesting card because you need to be prepared to name a card in any matchup. This is even more complicated at a large event where each opponent is a new face. If your opponent only has a random fetch land in play and the mage is your only 2-drop what do you do? Collins had the advantage of knowing what to name in his Top 8 rounds ahead of time. He even won on turn two in the first game of the finals by naming Grapeshot against Storm on the play.

If I were to play Humans, I would design the deck to look more like a Modern deck. The 2-drop hate bears gives me a feeling of playing Legacy and I don’t like that against fair decks like Grixis Shadow. Now that the cat is out of the bag on what Collins was up to, I think a huge edge was lost.

Aether Vial and Ancient Ziggurat are two cards that make it easy to cast any human regardless of color commitments. It looked like Collins was mana flooded in nearly every game I watched. Merfolk plays better with Aether Vial because they have Mutavault to activate. Death and Taxes can activate Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, and Horizon Canopy while they are putting creatures into play for free.

If I were to take the Vial approach to the deck I would try something like this:


Mirran Crusader
Unfortunately the core of the deck is inherently weak to sweepers such as Anger of the Gods and Supreme Verdict. I don’t like Xathrid Necromancer because it doesn’t create zombie tokens from Anger because of the exile clause.

The main idea of this version is to add more creatures that win the game on their own to tax removal. Dark Confidant must be killed quickly or it will get out of control. The more cards you draw the more ways you can pump all humans so the 2/1 can actually attack. I prefer playing less than four Dark Confidant as you rarely want to reveal a second copy with his ability. It’s almost legendary, in a way, and we can play a small amount to minimize the drawback.

Mirran Crusader is very strong against Death’s Shadow. Double strike is a very powerful ability with all of the creatures that pump humans and Noble Hierarch has exalted. In my mind I can play a fourth Reflector Mage or a second Mirran Crusader since I primarily want the mage against Goyf and big Black creatures. I may as well play the more proactive threat in the maindeck; the creatures that pump your humans are great with double-strike.

Sin Collector and Auriok Champion are strong sideboard options Collins chose not to play. A 2/1 that can exile a sweeper seems better to me than Tireless Tracker given the small amount of lands in the deck. Auriok Champion is good against Burn and Death’s Shadow. I want to play 2-drops in the sideboard when I can because the 3-drops are generically powerful outside of Reflector Mage which means my curve will be clunky.

The question on my mind is if it’s worth it to play all five colors. I think Green and White are essential, Blue provides Reflector Mage, and Black has Kitesail Freebooter. Mantis Rider is nice, but we can find other good 3-drops that hit hard like Mirran Crusader. Izzet Staticaster out of the sideboard is nice, but we could play Orzhov Pontiff instead. The only unique Red effect I want is Magus of the Moon, but only if I’m Naya.

Collected Company and Path to Exile are so powerful that I wonder if a more classic Humans approach still has legs in this format.


This deck has some more staying power against removal because Collected Company is so powerful. While I’m not playing a ton of 3-drops the earlier threats have an immediate anthem effect on attackers. It can be a challenge to know how many blockers to leave back when a Collected Company has the potential to hit Mayor of Avabruck or Thalia’s Lieutenant.

Since I don’t have Blue for Meddling Mage the number of Sin Collectors in the sideboard stays at three. Kitesail Freebooter and Thalia are the lone creatures to prevent combo from winning too fast. Reflector Mage gets the axe in favor of Path to Exile and Fiend Hunter.

Aether Vial doesn’t play well with Collected Company. The top of my curve is the powerful instant which I can’t cheat into play. I would rather play Avacyn’s Pilgrims because I need four mana to cast Collected Company. The 21st land is a Gavony Township as I no longer need to worry about casting Mantis Rider and the pilgrims can help me activate it in the mid game.

Esper Reveilark

As I was writing the first draft of this article, inspiration struck. Humans has the fishy tools to take down combo decks, but falls short against fair strategies. My favorite card in Standard nearly ten years ago was Reveillark which is great against midrange so perhaps it can make a comeback.


Reveillark
The Humans shell is surprisingly still together, so I can play Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory to help fix the mana. Reveillark’s big issue was combo decks while creatures were easy to defeat. Reflector Mage, Venser, Shaper Savant, and Kitesail Freebooter will help Meddling Mage be strong against any opponent.

Mirran Crusader helps the Death’s Shadow matchup which should be quite good. Mulldrifter combined with Reveillark will ensure you have more cards than you know what to do with. The drawback of humans was that I was always afraid of sweepers, but not with Reveillark on my side.

Wall of Omens isn’t a human, but it’s yet another anti-creature spell. Blocking is important when you draw too many of the weak yet disruptive creatures.

The non-human creatures cost at least four mana so I don’t need to worry about Cavern and Unclaimed Territory putting me off-balance. Celestial Colonnade works well because I need more mana for Glen Elendra Archmage, Reveillark, and Mulldrifter.

The sideboard has some all-stars. Stony Silence, Fiend Hunter, and Sunlance will help against Affinity. Relic of Progenitus is the answer to Dredge despite its negative interaction with Reveillark. Negate is a way to keep Tron’s large threats in check while you attack them with hate bears. Sin Collector has the additional payoff of being Black, providing another way to attack the opponent’s hand and make Meddling Mage strong after sideboard. Orzhov Pontiff is a catch-all against the bad matchup- swarm decks.

This deck is a fun alternative to the typical humans strategy. It fits my playstyle because I don’t like being so heavily affected by sweepers. It also gives me an excuse to dust off my Mulldrifters!

Modern continues to be a diverse format and it shows no signs of settling. Storm was quickly ascending the ranks only to be knocked down by Humans. No deck seems too powerful to beat and I’m happy about that.

Thanks for reading!

—Kyle


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