Humans is an exciting but flawed deck in Commander. You’re playing efficient, disruptive creatures that band together for victory; but a handful of three-drops just don’t cut it against Torment of Hailfire or Expropriate. As a whole, Human strategies suffer from a lack of direction compared to other creature decks.

In my previous article, we talked about what holds Humans back in Commander. Today, we’re going to get into some ideas over what the strategy could use. Ruthless Regiment got us moving in the right direction, but Humans decks need more support to become a force in the format.

There’s no shortage of commanders to choose from. All of them seek to answer the same handful of problems found across all Human decks: a lack of disruption that scales into multiplayer, as well as a lack of evasion, finishing speed, and a loose overall direction. Each shores up a few of the problems while exposing their weaknesses as well. Out of the two dozen top Commanders, only a quarter provide an actual tribal subtheme. Most of the decks would improve by adding other creature types.

Because of these challenges, fans of Humans are left in a confusing spot. The human theme often plays a supporting role, since it lacks the strength needed to stand on its own. But what if we could have more humans that are relevant in Commander? The following are some ideas of to bolster Humans as a deck in Commander.

Repeated ETB Triggers

In Modern and Legacy, Human strategies win through powerful enters-the-battlefield effects. Non-human Phantasmal Image joins these decks specifically to generate another copy of a key ETB like Thalia’s Lieutenant. But Commander needs more repeatable effects—cards like Soulherder, Eldrazi Displacer, and Deadeye Navigator.

Could we eventually see a human version of one of those added to Commander? Flavorwise, such a human could be a drill instructor to train your army, helping your humans master ther triggered abilities through repetition. Restricting flicker targets to other Humans can prevent infinite shenanigans with Cloud of Faeries or Peregrine Drake. You can get enough value flickering Reflector Mage, Palace Jailer, or Venser, Shaper Savant.

More Taxes

Outside of ETB effects, Humans excel in the hatebear category. This term is derived from small creatures, typically two mana, that inhibit the opponent’s gameplan. These low-cost, high-impact creatures win games in other formats after a critical mass is assembled to lock an opponent out.

When it comes to these inhibitors, there are a swath of Humans to choose from. They can inhibit spellcasting by using Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Glowrider, or Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Or they can stop certain spells altogether, through cards like Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Sanctum Prelate, or Drannith Magistrate.

Getting more of these effects would definitely bolster the human tribe. Green-based ramp decks aren’t slowing down anytime soon, so having extra taxes in the format would help keep the likes of Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, Tatyova, Benthic Druid, and Thrasios, Triton Hero in check. But for Commander, we’d need to see beefier, higher taxes to pay that scale past the early turns of the game. The current assortment of tax effects are scaled for 1v1 play, but lose their potency once cards like Nyxbloom Ancient, Doubling Cube, and Extraplanar Lens hit the board. To keep up with the rate at which mana accelerates, we could see steeper taxes tacked on to higher-cost creatures.

On the other end of the spectrum, humans can protect their controller with static effects: Grand Abolisher, Aegis of the Gods, and Baird, Steward of Argive. They help insulate the Humans player, and allow them to navigate the game more safely. Granted, with having these sorts of inhibitors stapled onto creatures, they run the risk of dying to any of the numerous board wipes found in Commander. Because we’re putting our eggs in the creature basket, it becomes imperative to run “sweeper insurance” cards, like Flawless Manuever, Boros Charm, or Heroic Intervention. More of these creatures would definitely help, though, and increase the value that Humans gets as being a creature toolbox deck.

One area for growth comes in the realm of mana-inhibiting effects. Magus of the Moon and Thalia, Heretic Cathar punish decks that play lots of nonbasic lands—and in Commander, who doesn’t? What if there were more along this line? Whether it be through slowing down the effectiveness of lands, or destroying them outright, Humans has some untapped potential here. As referenced in Kristen’s recent article, Keldon Firebombers offers an interesting way to police ramp decks.

Mass land destruction walks a fine line in the format. Some groups may be okay with it, others may not. However, this unspoken clause of the social contract was created long before green got such a big push when it comes to ramp, so it may warrant revisiting as the format grows. We probably won’t see the human form of Armageddon or Ruination, but we could see a version of Tsabo’s Web, Hall of Gemstone, or Price of Progress.

Bigger Haymakers

More high-impact Humans would give the deck can a stronger foothold at the table, especially for closing out long multiplayer games. Humans currently do this by employing other creature types—a very human solution to be sure—or by jamming big mana spells like Insurrection. But Humans doesn’t have an equivalent Commander along the lines of Ezuri, Renegade Leader or Aurelia, the Warleader. An updated version of Marton Stromgald or a legendary Hero of Bladehold would be welcome. You could also just make Aurelia your Commander, but it would be nice to have an actual human to do that job.

This doesn’t have to come solely from high-mana cards, though. Rather, they could also take the form of low-cost creatures that have expensive activated abilities—think Valakut Invoker, but better. For instance, you could have a three-drop that if you sink enough mana into, it could give your team the benefits of True Conviction for a turn. Flavor-wise, it’s a human realizing their maximum potential through training or experience.

Another avenue could be how humans interact with noncreature permanents, like auras and equipment. Humans are naturally inventive, finding ways to use their environment to their advantage. Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale and Siona, Captain of the Pyleas are two recent nods in this direction. As far as haymakers go, we might see a functional reprint with a name like Magus of Replenishing.

Human Card Draw

Species Specialist recently joined Mentor of the Meek as a way to get cards off of creatures. Monarch cards like Palace Jailer and Queen Marchesa also work, and could provide new design space for Humans. These are a far cry from spells like Rishkar’s Expertise, or even Painful Truths, but they can still bring incremental advantages.

It’s been talked about before, but Humans would benefit from seeing Inspiring Commander printed into paper. At the moment, it’s on Arena only, preventing Humans and monowhite decks from taking advantage of this engine. Call the Coppercoats goes from a token spell to way of refilling your hand. But if you think that might be a bit too powerful for Commander, look no further than what The Locust God decks can do with Kindred Discovery.

Fly My Pretties, Fly

Frontier Warmonger and Riders of Gavony are two cards that give your team evasion, but Humans still struggle to get in for damage. From a design perspective, you don’t see many humans sprouting wings to fly over their enemies. Skymarcher Aspirant would be nice as a human, and we do have Wingcrafter, but most human creatures fight on the ground.

Avenger of Zendikar drops a lot of blockers, so Humans need more ways to be elusive. Flavor-wise, this could be accomplished with a Human that can guide your team through the Rogue’s Passage, like how the Persian army surrounded the Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae. By finding tricks to become more evasive, Humans decks can close out more games. After all, who really wants to spend a game hoping that they topdeck Cavalry Pegasus? Maybe we can bring back Horsemanship? Why not train all your Humans in Riding the Dilu Horse?

Murderers’ Row

Reclamation Sage, Knight of Autumn, and Deputy of Detention have all been honorary Humans in Modern, but getting a Human version would be fantastic. The current human versions, such as Manic Vandal and War Priest of Thune, are less impressive. Removal stapled onto ETB effects is a common way to tackle this challenge, but there are other directions that can be taken.

We could also see cards that rely on tapping your unused creatures. For instance, Sanctuary Lockdown is a recent nod in this direction, but it’s a far cry from cards like Glare of Subdual or Opposition. Skirk Fire Marshal and Catapult Master exist for other tribes, but that’s not to say we can’t someday see one for Humans. Devout Chaplain is heading in the right direction, but in order to make a real impact on the game, the card needs to be useful the turn it comes in. This means we can’t cast something and hope that it survives a whole go-around the table; we need to get value out of it immediately.

Final Take

Despite enjoying success in nearly every constructed format, Humans still frequently come up short in Commander. R&D has pulled the tribe in all sorts of directions, without a tried-and-true way for it to stand on its own in multiplayer. They’re frequently left relying on other tribes to get across the finish line, like with Winota, Joiner of Forces. Or they’re slotted into an Aristocrats strategy; an archetype that prefers not to have a tribal theme at all. Outside of Angel of Glory’s Rise combo, Humans lacks that push to get it to the next level. Personally, I believe that Humans is best-positioned as a “ETB’s matter” deck, it just needs more tools to explore that direction.

R&D has to be careful when it comes to printing them, though. Human creatures see play in every format, so changes for Commander can affect more places than we might think. The hatebear category is a delicate one for Commander, as Drannith Magistrate has already gotten a few groans from players. If we were to see a Winter Orb or Stony Silence human, then we could see players cutting those cards from their tribal deck for fear of being targeted too early, or being labeled as the “fun police” of the table.

Humans can still change for the better, though. The pieces are right in front of us, we just need the glue to put it all together. My ideas here aren’t the exhaustive solution, but rather a path in which the deck can find its way.

Travis is a Virginia-based player and writer, who has been turning things sideways since Starter 1999. He primarily plays Commander, Pauper, and Legacy, and has a passion for introducing new players to the game. When he isn’t making people pay the Thalia tax, he can be found mountain biking or playing the guitar. You can follow his exploits here on Twitter and Instagram.

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