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Humans in the Top 8

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Hey everyone!

I’m back writing to you earlier than usual because I made the top eight of SCG: Pittsburgh. Since my job has been becoming busier I’ve played less large events recently. It feels great to be back in the winner’s circle.

No matter how complicated my non-Magic life becomes I always find myself back at a big tournament, the pressure of feature matches with the cameras glaring at my every move, taking down a difficult opponent who spends countless hours honing their craft, clinching the win-and-in for Top 8, and letting myself know every once in a while that I still got it. That’s why it’s hard to truly get away.

If you ask any veteran of tournament Magic they will say people are the most important aspect. It was a whopping 50% of the poll shown above. The friends I’ve made over my eighteen year Magic career is most certainly great. This is what makes team tournaments special to me. It’s not the money, because the top 8 teams only walk away with $300 each. We’re battling it out for the good times and the Twitter clout.

My original team was going to be Max McVety and Andrew Elenbogen. After Andrew returned from the Arena Mythic Championship he was burned out and needed to take a week off. This is understandable since he has been invited to many of the high equity tournaments that feature the Magic Pro League (MPL) competitors and had more on the horizon. I was eager for a high finish so I appreciate his honesty of needing to sit this one out.

Max is a true, blue grinder. He will fly to compete in Magic Fests to battle it out for unneeded Mythic Championship invites due to pro level. No pro points awarded either? No problem. This is why the standard team of Max, Andrew, and Tyler Hill have been dubbed, “the Delta Flyers.”

Max and I scrambled for a third teammate the week leading up to SCG: Pitt. We had some big shoes to fill. It was a roller coaster of emotions as we were close to locking in many potential options including Corey Burkhart, Shaheen Soorani, Tim Aten, and Ray Perez.

After many near misses we couldn’t convince anybody to come out on such short notice. That is if you don’t count this guy:

Marcus is a big mood from northern California. The picture above features him skewering draft commons with a sword owned by Max. Why is this happening? I can’t say.

He’s also responsible for bringing the Cardboard Live team together that featured Andrew. Even though I had only met Marcus for a total of twenty minutes before this event it was a great time. Since he had plenty of experience working with Max and Andrew in the past it made this a natural fit.

Did I mention he was also on a heater and made the Top 8 of Magic Fest: Seattle one week prior? Marcus has been putting in the work and got paid off with back-to-back top eights.

With our powers combined we are the Beta Flyers:

It’s always nice to do R.I.W. Hobbies proud with yet another top eight. Michigan Magic means serious business.

Marcus was testing Hogaak for the week leading up to the event. It was the clear deck to beat and we wanted one copy in our archetype portfolio. Since it’s still a new deck it was a safe bet that not everyone in the room would be prepared. Once we got to day two everyone would have good practice and the wins would not come so easily.

This ended up being a good prediction as Marcus won the first eight rounds in a row. It wasn’t until round nine he would finally be defeated. Day two featured a much worse record for Hogaak as most teams had come prepared with the full twelve Leyline of the Voids on their squad.

If you’re familiar with Max McVety then it wouldn’t come as a surprise he played Infect. It is the Modern deck he used to take down an SCG Invitational after all.

The Hogaak matchup was close. Max’s Hogaak opponents were afraid as the die roll was very important. ur Phoenix was also a close matchup which ended up being a popular choice for the weekend. At the end of the day Infect is Max’s bread and butter; he only lost a few matches throughout the event.

I played my trusty Humans deck. The Friday before the event I was getting cold feet. This is natural for both weddings and Magic tournaments. I stuck with my guns because I spent 3,000 words writing about the deck a couple weeks ago.

Humans is a deck that inspired great confidence leading up to the tournament. The Hogaak matchup was acceptable. Meddling Mage, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Reflector Mage provided disruption for any Modern deck. They cover all of the bases well. Noble Hierarch has rarely steered me wrong in the past.

Here’s the list I played:


This deck is identical to what I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

The maindeck was stock, but didn’t disappoint. Deputy of Detention exiled more Hogaaks than Altar of Dementia. It provided a great curve-topper either way. I was worried about messing up my mana to cast Mantis Rider, but rarely named “Wizard” on Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory.

Four Leyline of the Void were the most important cards in the sideboard. I faced Hogaak six times over sixteen rounds. Game 1 was difficult, but managed to win three times, or 50%. If I won Game 1 the match would end in my favor because I would mulligan to Leyline of the Void and catch them by surprise for the second game. If there was a third game it was more difficult on the draw when they come equipped with Wispmare or Nature's Claim.

Two Collector Ouphe was the perfect number. Many of the popular artifact decks are based around Urza, Lord High Artificer which made the Stony Silence effect less pronounced. It’s still a powerful effect in the matchup, but they have many angles of attack and plenty of removal after sideboard; Dead of Winter being the scariest.

Tron and Hardened Scales were nowhere to be seen this weekend. This is where the Collector Ouphe truly shines. Our team faced a single Tron deck out of our combined 48 rounds and zero Hardened Scales. This will change with the London Mulligan as they both benefit.

Grafdigger's Cage was a singleton because I thought there wasn’t a non-Hogaak deck I could justify a second copy. This ended up being false as I wanted a second Grafdigger's Cage against ur Phoenix. My only change to the deck is swapping the Ravenous Trap for a second Grafdigger's Cage.

I lost three times in sixteen rounds. Twice to Hogaak and once to ur Phoenix in the Top 8. In the swiss I beat Phoenix 2-0. Game 1 was about keeping Thing in the Ice in check because they only have six removal spells. Four Reflector Mages and two Deputy of Detention did a good job at preventing it from flipping.

After sideboard my primary game plan of deploying Militia Buglers into removal was a success. They didn’t want to use Lightning Bolts on the Buglers while I continued to stockpile answers to Thing in the Ice.

Once I have some Buglers in play the next phase of the plan is to play Thalia's Lieutenant in order to make your 2/3s survive Anger of the Gods.

I didn’t face any Burn decks, but two of my friends in the Sunday Classic crushed it with the help of the Auriok Champions in the sideboard.

Thalia's Lieutenant turned out to be more important after sideboard because Plague Engineer was very popular to fight off zombie hordes and I caught some splash damage. If I had many x/1s on the battlefield I would name Plague Engineer with Meddling Mage against any deck with Black mana. Luckily Plague Engineer should be less popular with the recent banned & restricted announcement hitting Bridge from Below.

Bridge from Below being banned came as a surprise to me because I think the London Mulligan will help other decks more. It’s much easier to find Leyline of the Void with a bunch of seven card hands. It’s typically the WOTC style to wait and see in situations like this.

Despite the Hogaak deck losing Bridge from Below I’m still afraid of whatever the next degenerate graveyard deck will be. Dredge was a very powerful deck before Modern Horizons and Hogaak can now potentially be in the picture, too. Humans was already weak to Dredge so I prefer to keep the graveyard hate until further notice.

If you want to play less graveyard hate some potential options are Selfless Spirit against uw Control or a third Collector Ouphe. Since these aren’t humans they have a serious drawback.

After playing many rounds here’s my updated sideboard guide. If you don’t see a matchup below refer to my last article.

Humans:

I played against Jon Hobbs in the Humans mirror and the Aether Vial was even more important than I thought. There was a decent hand I shipped to search for Vial and it paid off. The Kitesail Freebooter in Game 1 worked well since my hand contained many Meddling Mages and Phantasmal Images. Sometimes you just need to peek at their hand. Not a pretty win, but you have to do something with your hate bears Game 1.

The London Mulligan makes me want to mulligan more hands to find Aether Vial in the future.

Mono-Red Phoenix:

ur Phoenix:

I like Mantis Rider in the matchup, but I can’t afford every 3-drop in my seventy-five. Since the rider gets hit by Abrade, Lightning Bolt, and Anger of the Gods I move two to the board. It’s also embarrassing that it just trades off with Arclight Phoenix. Deputy is important to reset Thing in the Ice and Aria of Flame.

Champion of the Parish is very lackluster against Lava Dart and Gut Shot. The velocity of humans I deploy after sideboard slows which makes it more difficult to get around Anger of the Gods.

Aether Vial helps redeploy threats if Thing in the Ice flips. I might even prefer the Thing to flip if I went the route of deploying many Militia Buglers. The Vial will then be able to reflect at instant-speed post flip. I’ll also be able to slide in a Thalia's Lieutenant to stop Anger of the Gods from killing Buglers. It also helps cast spells through Blood Moon.

I’ve been a bigger fan of Kitesail Freebooter compared to Meddling Mage after board. Both hatebears will die to removal, but the Freebooter will guarantee trapping a removal spell. I leave in some Meddling Mages and name Lightning Bolt unless my hand is weak to Thing in the Ice and will name that instead.

Overall I like the matchup despite losing in Top 8. My final draw was anemic and the main evidence for wanting to cut a couple Champion of the Parish. I want to fight a longer fight.

Golgari Midrange/Jund:

Again, I’ve been more impressed with Kitesail Freebooter after the removal suite diversifies compared to Meddling Mage. Thalia and Freebooter are able to protect from a turn three Liliana; either one are scary.

Thalia’s legend rule prevents me from wanting four after sideboard. She dies to Plague Engineer which is a dealbreaker, too. The ground will be gummed up which means she may not have a target on her head leaving the excess copies useless.

I would cut Aether Vial from the Game 1 matchup, but Militia Bugler makes me want it post board. Since I have Buglers I can find more Thalia's Lieutenants to play around Plague Engineer.

I had an interesting line that included attacking with Mantis Rider and then reflecting Tarmogoyf on second main phase to play around Fatal Push being revolted after damage was already dealt.

Grixis Urza:

The Ouphe with Aether Vial is a non-bo, but Reflector Mage is the real stinker. I don’t want to bounce Urza and only hitting the token is medium.

Since Whir isn’t a guaranteed four-of I would rather name Urza with Meddling Mage. He can generate infinite life, cards, mana, and tokens with the combo of Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek.

Do not try and fight the Thopter/Sword combo with graveyard hate; just shut it off with Collector Ouphe. I wouldn’t bother mulliganning to Leyline of the Void and Grafdigger's Cage doesn’t stop artifacts from returning to the battlefield. Urza’s activated ability first exiles and then plays the card which means it doesn’t come straight from the deck unlike Experimental Frenzy.

They sometimes only play a single Ensnaring Bridge which makes that a challenging name with Meddling Mage. Remember Noble Hierarch can always attack under the bridge with exalted. If your plan is to win with exalted damage casting Thalia's Lieutenant might make her too big.

I’m not very afraid of the bridge because Militia Bugler can find Deputy of Detention to exile once you have many creatures on the battlefield. If they only have one in the deck there isn’t a worry of them simply Whirring for a second.

The removal Game 1 is sparse, but they bring in two Fatal Push, two Galvanic Blast, and a Dead of Winter.

I think of this matchup as two prison decks squaring off. The Bugler helps me find my lock pieces and I need to protect them against removal when possible. Urza and Sai, Master Thopterist are strong enough to break the prison if left unchecked.

There’s a lot to worry about in the matchup, but I think it’s favorable.

I haven’t seen any cards from Core Set 2020 I’m interested in playing yet. This appears to be more of a set for Standard. The London mulligan also doesn’t affect my card choices yet, but the metagame will shift in the coming weeks.

That’s all I have for today. I’m so happy to be playing Humans in Modern; now to find out what I’m going to do for Standard…

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle