Last weekend I went 10-5 at Grand Prix Charlotte with a Mardu deck I brewed earlier in the week based around Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant. Mono-White Humans has been popping up ever since the printing of the new human lord, but I wanted to play a slightly more interactive variant on the theme that would allow me to play cards like Lightning Bolt, Dark Confidant, and Inquisition of Kozilek.

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Every creature in the deck is a human, as are the tokens made by Gather the Townsfolk. I think I cast Gather the Townsfolk with fateful hour approximately three times throughout the tournament, including in a round four feature match that was very likely the most epic comeback of my entire 20-year Magic career and certainly worth sharing as a way to show off what the deck is capable of.

The Most Epic Comeback of my Career

It's round four of Grand Prix Charlotte. I'm playing a feature match with my brand new deck I brewed days before the tournament. My opponent is playing Naya Zoo. It's game three and my opponent is ahead 15 to 3 on life totals, and has on the battlefield: four lands, two Loxodon Smiter, and a 4/5 Tarmogoyf. On my side of the battlefield I have a Sacred Foundry, a Godless Shrine, and no other permanents since I've been stuck on two lands the whole game. Things are looking pretty hopeless and even the table judge is eyeballing the match result slip, expecting me to extend my hand in defeat at any moment.

Instead I play an Arid Mesa, sacrifice it, going down to 2 life and fetching a Mountain. I then tap my three lands and play Timely Reinforcements, going back up to eight life and making a trio of 1/1 soldiers.

My opponent attacks with his three creatures. I chump block the Tarmogoyf and one of the Elephants, taking the other 4 damage to drop to 4 life.

On my next turn I cast a second Timely Reinforcements, going back up to 10 life and adding three more soldiers to the one remaining from the previous Timely Reinforcements. I also play a Marsh Flats. The opponent then cracks back in with his three creatures. I chump block the Tarmogoyf with one of the soldiers and take the two Smiters, falling down to two life. On his end step I crack the Marsh Flats, going to one, to find a tapped Blood Crypt.

I then untap and cast Sorin, Solemn Visitor. I use the +1 ability to give my three remaining soldiers +1/+0 and lifelink until my next turn. The opponent again swings in with his three creatures. I chump block the Tarmogoyf and double block one of the Loxodon Smiters, netting two life (going to three) and killing one of the Elephants, but losing all of my creatures in the process.

On my next turn I use the -2 ability on Sorin, Solemn Visitor to make a 2/2 flying vampire and pass the turn. My opponent attacks me with both his creatures. I chump block the Loxodon Smiter with the Vampire Token and kill the Tarmogoyf with Go for the Throat. My opponent plays a Noble Hierarch and passes.

On my turn I use the -2 ability on Sorin again to make another vampire, putting Sorin down to one loyalty, and I play Flame Slash targeting my opponent's Loxodon Smiter, leaving him with only a Noble Hierarch and lands. My opponent then plays a second Noble Hierarch and attacks me for two. I take it, leaving me at one life but with a live Vampire Token and a Sorin, Solemn Visitor at one loyalty. He then plays a Tarmogoyf and passes.

On my turn I cast Gather the Townsfolk to make five 1/1 Human Tokens, +1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor to give all my creatures +1/+0 and lifelink, and attack with the flying vampire for three, putting my opponent down to 12 life and bringing me up to four life. My opponent attacks with Tarmogoyf. I chump block it with a Human Token and go to six life.

On my turn I +1 Sorin again and attack with the vampire and the four Human Tokens. My opponent chump blocks two of the Human Tokens with Noble Hierarchs and takes seven, dropping to five life, while I go up to 17 life. My opponent draws another blank and I kill him on the following turn, prompting the table judge that was eyeballing the match result slip a few turns ago to say, "wow, that was quite the comeback, sir!"

Explanation of Card Choices

The premise of the deck is to play out a bunch of humans, pumping Champion of the Parish and being pumped by (and/or pumping) Thalia's Lieutenant. Gather the Townsfolk is also a big payoff card for running a human theme, allowing for explosive early starts or big finishes (under fateful hour). These are the three synergy-driven cards that tie all the pieces of the deck together. Beyond these lynchpins, the deck is just a combination of efficient disruptive spells and powerful creatures, most of which provide card advantage.

The average mana cost of cards in the deck is almost exactly one (22 lands, one Sorin, Solemn Visitor, 18 one-casting cost cards, 19 two-casting cost cards). This means on average Dark Confidant's upkeep trigger will only cost one life per turn. This also means that Abbot of Keral Keep can almost always be a two-for-one on turn four if there are three lands on the battlefield and another one in hand.

Grim Lavamancer and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are disruptive creatures that punish opponents for play cheap creatures or spells. Path to Exile kills large creatures, Lightning Bolt kills small creatures, and Inquisition of Kozilek allows the deck to sculpt a game plan around what the opponent has while also taking their most important card in hand.

The 12 fetches fill the graveyard for Grim Lavamancer while providing any color mana since they can each fetch any of the three shock lands or two of the three basic lands. Mutavault has synergy with Thalia's Lieutenant and fits nicely into the deck since all our two-casting cost cards have a colorless mana in their mana cost. This means a second turn Mutavault isn't a deal-breaker.

I chose not to include Cavern of Souls because the deck needs three colors of mana to cast Inquisition of Kozilek, Lightning Bolt, and Path to Exile. Four Mutavault plus Cavern of Souls would be too many colorless lands and the deck definitely doesn't want a 23rd land. It needs all three basics and all three shock lands to fetch for. And each fetch can get five of the six, so cutting a fetch for a Cavern of Souls makes the mana worse. And Mutavault is the big payoff for running all two-drops with colorless in their mana costs since it gives us more offense and synergizes with the lieutenant, so I don't want to cut any of those for Cavern of Souls. Also Cavern of Souls is not a powerful enough sideboard card just to have against Spell Snare and Remand, so Cavern of Souls is simply weaker than every card in the deck even though in theory it would fit and be decent. It just gets edged out by everything else.

I also chose not to include AEther Vial in the deck because I only ran 21 actual creatures. The deck feels like it has more creatures because of four Mutavault and four Gather the Townsfolk, but AEther Vial doesn't help those enter the battlefield. Much like Cavern of Souls, AEther Vial would be a decent card in the deck, but it's not as effective in the deck's overall game plan as the cards chosen over it.

One card I would consider adding to the deck, either in the main deck or in the sideboard, is Kolaghan's Command. Getting back a Dark Confidant or Abbot of Keral Keep while killing an opposing artifact or creature has a lot of utility later in the game. It will help us against Affinity, against Inkmoth Nexus out of Infect, and against specifically problematic artifacts such as Ensnaring Bridge and Torpor Orb.

Another card to consider for the 75 is Return to the Ranks. It returns all 21 of our creatures and if you hit it off Abbot of Kerl Keep you can cast it for the convoke cost to help reduce the cost. This card would be useful against decks that wipe our board or pick off our creatures unless they also have Scavenging Ooze or use Anger the Gods as the board wipe. It might also open us up to getting randomly blown out by Grafdigger's Cage, so I'm not entirely sure it's correct but it's certainly worth considering.

Matchups and Sideboarding

Since there are so many different decks in Modern, I'll focus on each card in the deck and should generally board it in or out instead of making a specific sideboard guide for each matchup.

Champion of the Parish can come out on the draw against aggressive creature decks since we would rather cast Lightning Bolt or Inquisition of Kozilek on the first turn in these matchups and play the more controlling role. It's otherwise your best turn-one play, especially on the play.

Dark Confidant comes out against R/G Aggro and Burn since the life loss is critical. Bob is great in any of the matchups that go long.

Grim Lavamancer can come out against anything without small creatures, though I often leave it in as a recurring source of direct damage. It's your all-star against Infect, Affinity, Elves, and basically anything with little dudes.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben comes out against decks that play more creatures than spells. She is outstanding against decks with sweepers or against most combo decks.

Inquisition of Kozilek pretty much always stays in.

Lightning Bolt can come out against Jund or against decks without creatures, assuming there are enough relevant cards to bring in.

Path to Exile comes out against creature-light decks (Ad Nauseam, Emrakul combo decks, Scapeshift, etc). Leave it in against Tron. It's one of our best cards against a lot of decks.

Blood Moon comes in against Tron, Scapeshift, Lantern Control, and any deck heavily reliant on non-basics that can't operate off mountains. I also bring it in against Jund in hopes of keeping them off double black for Night of Souls' Betrayal because that card is an absolute beating.

The second Sorin, Solemn Visitor comes in against Burn, any type of Zoo deck, and also the midrange decks (Jund, Abzan, Jeskai, etc). I'm strongly considering moving the second one to the maindeck.

In addition to Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Timely Reinforcements is our trump against Burn and other aggro decks that run Lightning Bolt. Given the amount of sideboard hate we have against Affinity, I don't bring it in there, but that could change if the rest of our sideboard changes.

Slaughter Games is mostly for combo decks such as Scapeshift or Lantern, but I also bring it in against Jeskai to name Nahiri, the Harbinger. Be careful not to bring this card in too often. It's not worth it unless it's going to be backbreaking for the opponent. The cost of a four mana spell in this deck is steep and not worth it just to gain some marginal amount of value.

Forked Bolt comes in against Affinity, Infect, Elves, anything with Birds of Paradise, and I'll often bring in 1 copy against aggro zoo type decks.

Flame Slash comes in against Zoo, Burn, Infect, Elves, Merfolk, Affinity, Melira, Jund, and pretty much anything with creatures that have four toughness or less. Given the way the metagame is shifting, I might replace the second Forked Bolt with a second Flame Slash.

Go for the Throat comes in against Jund, Elves, Melira, Zoo, and anything with big non-artifact creatures. Be careful not to side in too many removal spells and dilute the tribal theme of the deck. I'll often just upgrade my removal spells, such as replacing Lightning Bolts with Go for the Throat and Flame Slash against Jund.

Grafdigger's Cage comes in against Jeskai to stop Snapcaster Mage and Nahiri, the Harbinger. I also bring it in against any of the Collected Company decks (Kiki Chord, Melira, Elves).

Stony Silence comes in against Affinity, Tron, and Lantern. I'll also bring in one copy against AEther Vial decks such as Merfolk, Hatebears, or Eldrazi Taxes. This might change if we add Kolaghan's Command to the 75.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar comes in against any of the midrange decks since those matchups tend to go long, especially in post-board games. It's also our best answer to Night of Souls' Betrayal against Jund since we can emblem to effectively counter the effect of the legendary enchantment. It's much more useful than a card like Wear/Tear in that matchup since it's great as a planeswalker even if they don't draw their Night of Soul's Betrayal. Wear/Tear would otherwise just rot in our hand.

Wrap Up

I had a lot of fun piloting this deck in Charlotte. I finished Day 1 at 8-1 before going 2-4 on Day 2. I had lots of close matches that very easily could have gone the other way. If you love those close, highly interactive games of Magic, this deck certainly has that. If you love exploding out of the gates with tribal synergies, tokens, and +1/+1 counters, this deck has that too. Finally, if you're like me and you just can't resist packing every card named "Thalia" into your deck, well… this deck certainly has that too!

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life