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Modern Five Color Humans Primer

Table of Contents:
I. Stock Decklist – Page 1
II. Mainboard Card Selections (and why) – Page 2
IIa. The Aggressive Package
IIb. The Control Package
IIc. The Consistency Package
IId. Mana Base
III. Sideboard Card Options (and why) – Page 5
IV. Mulligan’s (situational) – Page 8
V. Board State (situational…when to over commit or play cautious) – Page 9
Va. Aggressive Matchup
Vb. Removal/Control Matchup
VI. Meddling Mage Guide – Page 10
VII. Matchup’s, Strategies, and Sideboarding (based on below decklist) – Page 11
VIII. Tips & Tricks – Page 18

I. Stock Decklist:

*Updated August 6, 2018*

4 Champion of the Parish


4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
4 Meddling Mage
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Thalia's Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
3 Reflector Mage
3 Militia Bugler
4 Aether Vial
1 Plains
2 Seachrome Coast
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Unclaimed Territory

SB: (this varies quite a bit between player preference and meta)

1 Reflector Mage
1 Militia Bugler
2 Gut Shot
2 Auriok Champion

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2 Izzet Staticaster
2 Reclamation Sage
2 Kataki, War's Wage
3 Sin Collector

II. Mainboard Card Selections (and why):

IIa. The Aggressive Package

* Champion of the Parish

Champion of the Parish is arguably your best turn 1 play if you plan to finish the game as
quickly as possible. The other considerations would be Aether Vial or Noble Hierarch.
Champion of the Parish can get out of hand very quickly if the card is not answered within the
next two turns.

* Mantis Rider

Mantis Rider is everything humans wants to be doing. Mantis Rider consistently shows up and
gets the praise it deserves as the best card in the deck. Flying is a mechanic that most decks have
not been able to match with their own creatures, leaving their only out to have removal in their
starting hand or to top deck it. Not to mention, this card is a 3/3 for 3 and comes with Flying,
Vigilance, and Haste tacked onto it. In addition to all of its upside, this is the most common card,
in addition to Thalia’s Lieutenant, as the target to copy with Phantasmal Image.

* Thalia’s Lieutenant

Thalia’s Lieutenant is an absolute beast and can blow the roof off of any game at any point,
especially if you have Vial sitting on 2. Thalia is a great follow-up card to pump your entire team
before combat or after blockers have been declared via Vial on 2. Thalia is also a very popular
card to copy with Phantasmal Image either before combat or after blocks. There is a nice trick
with Thalia’s ETB trigger that I will cover in the Tips and Tricks.

* Aether Vial

Aether Vial could easily go under every category in this guide, but I have chosen to put it under
the Aggressive Package. This card competes with Champion of the Parish as the best play on
turn 1. Having an Aether Vial early means you can flood the board with 2+ creatures every turn
from turn 2 on. In addition to deploying threats, answers, and surprise pumps, Aether Vial has a
lot of possibilities thanks to the instant speed cast that will be covered in the Tips & Tricks.

IIb. The Control Package

* Kitesail Freebooter

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Kitesail Freebooter is arguably your best turn 2 play as it can set up your following plays and
your game plan after seeing your opponent’s hand so early. The flying text is also nothing to
scoff at on this card. The biggest downfall of this card, which seems to be often, is when you see
multiple removal spells in your opponent’s hand that will try to take down your Kitesail.
Fortunately, a lot of players ignore the Kitesail for a few turns, which will allow us to follow-up
with a Meddling Mage, naming the other threats we saw in their hands.

* Meddling Mage

Meddling Mage has our biggest upside and downside of the Humans deck. There are multiple
instances where Meddling Mage is incredible, completely dead in hand, and simply very difficult
to play. It is easily the most hated and overrated card in our deck from our opponent’s
perspective, and for good reason. Shutting down their next play can really set them back on their
game plan, although it doesn’t always work out that way. Depending on whether or not you
played Vial on turn 1, Meddling Mage (following a turn 2 Kitesail) and Mantis Rider are usually
your best turn 3 plays.

* Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a complete bomb in some matchups. Although, I do not feel it is
a better turn 2 play than Kitesail Freebooter in most matches, it certainly has its arguments in a
lot of the meta. Decks like Control, Burn, Affinity, Storm, and Tron (and plenty more) really
dislike seeing a Turn 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

* Reflector Mage

Reflector Mage not only set’s your opponent back a turn, it disrupts their very next turn as well.
In addition to being a real nuisance, Reflector Mage can often bounce the only real threat or
relevant blocker on your opponent’s side and allow you to completely over take the game. There
will be countless games where you absolutely need Reflector Mage as he is your closest card to
meaningful removal. The new decklists have been running 3 Reflector Mage in favor of making
room for a 3rd Militia Bugler, but you’ll hear no arguments from me if you decide to run 4
Reflector Mage. The card was banned during its time in Standard, and rightfully so.

IIc. The Consistency Package

* Noble Hierarch

Noble Hierarch is extremely versatile and completely justifies its price tag. If you plan to build
some form of Humans, make sure you include this card. Noble Hierarch could have easily gone
under The Aggressive Package but due to its versatility, I placed in in the Consistency Package.
Noble is able to give you a turn 2 Mantis Rider, which is incredibly relevant in numerous
matchups, which I will cover in the Matchup guide. Noble and Vial are often the only reasons
you would consider keeping a starting hand with only 1 land. Being able to deploy big threats
early and multiple spells on turn 3 make Noble an absolutely play set in every decklist.

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* Phantasmal Image

Ahh, good ole Phantasmal Image! This card is secretly the dark house / best card in the deck, in
my opinion. In the right deck, I am not sure if you can find a more versatile creature in Magic
than Phantasmal Image (get outta here Deathrite Shaman). This card literally does it all and is
insane when paired up with an Aether Vial on 2. Phantasmal Image goes under the Consistency
Package due to its ability to give you what you need when you need it. Image will give you the
ability to copy any creature in the deck and give you the advantage you need in every situation,
as described in this Primer. Copying Thalia’s Lieutenant for power, Mantis Rider for a 2-mana
monster, Kitesail and Meddling Mage to lock your opponent out of the game, Militia Bugler for
card draw, or Reflector Mage to pave the way, this card is simply amazing.

* Militia Bugler

Militia Bugler came at the exact right time for Humans with the release of Core Set ‘19. As the
meta shifted towards UW(x) Control, Tron, and more, Humans saw themselves struggling for a
couple weeks due to the insane amount of different board wipes being played all around the
format. Militia Bugler allows you to commit numerous threats to the board and get in for real
damage when prior you would have had to play a little more cautious due to sweepers. Following
up a board wipe with a Militia Bugler, often leads you into finding Phantasmal Image or more
Militia Buglers and can return your board state to 3+ creatures in one turn (using Aether Vial and
lands). Also, Militia Bugler allows you to find the exact card you need in most situations to close
out the game. Whether its Image to copy an answer you already have or a Reflector Mage to
bounce the last creature blocking your winning path, Militia Bugler is a new staple in Humans
that should be here to stay as long as Control is widely played in the format.

IId. Mana Base

* Cavern of Souls

What can I say about Cavern of Souls that hasn’t already been said? This card is amazing,
period. Along with Vial, it will force in your creature spells without having to worry about
having them countered. Also, it can play any creature card in our deck with the exception of
Phantasmal Image if played incorrectly.

* Unclaimed Territory

Unclaimed Territory is simply another playset of Cavern of Souls without the ability to stop a
counter spell. Affordable and very powerful set of cards that are a must in Five Color Humans
builds.

* Ancient Ziggurat

Ancient Ziggurat is another must have playset that allows us to cast any creature we have in our
deck. Ancient Ziggurat comes with its upsides and downsides. You have the luxury of not having
to name a creature type, which allows you to play Image and whatever sideboard tech you decide

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to play. Unfortunately, you cannot sacrifice Horizon Canopy or cast Aether Vial off of Ancient
Ziggurat, but that’s a minor issue.

* Horizon Canopy

I see a lot of people having the conversation on the correct number of Horizon Canopy to run in
Five Color Humans. I believe it is a no brainer to run an entire playset. Not only is Horizon
Canopy one of our very few outlets to drawing cards, the damage from Horizon Canopy really
has no effect on our game plan. After deploying multiple threats per turn, we need to replenish
our hand. Also, by the time you have multiple lands out to crack the Horizon Canopy, you will
have 1+ Aether Vials in play at that time which will help you cast your creatures instead of using
the land you just tapped.

* Seachrome Coast/Plains/Islands

Although I believe the correct 60 cards should include 2 Seachrome Coast and 1 Plain, the
argument is very valid in running 1 Coast, 1 Plain, and 1 Island. Depending on how afraid of
Blood Moon you are, feel free to run the 1 Island. I have not had any issues personally, and the
Island turn 1 is significantly worse than a Seachrome Coast.

III. Sideboard Card Options (and why):

NOTE 1: This section will cover commonly used sideboard cards in Humans and why they are
needed. Sideboarding per matchup will be in the Matchup’s, Strategies, and Sideboarding
section. I will keep this and the Sideboarding section briefish as it would be exhausting
explaining what and why to sideboard certain cards for every matchup in Modern. If you agree
or disagree with a sideboard guide, just use your best judgement.

NOTE 2: I will not be discussing the common sideboard cards used in every deck that may be
good in humans but not necessary such as: Grafdigger’s Cage, Stony Silence, and Rest in Peace.
I can tell you from experience, it is very tough to play non-creature colored spells in the
sideboard.

NOTE 3: I will not be including outdated sideboard tech that will never have its place in the 75
again due to better options. Example: Vithian Renegades over Rec Sage and Lantern Scout over
Auriok Champion.

* Reflector Mage/Militia Bugler/Phantasmal Image

Depending on how you decide to build your main deck, it is wise to keep the 1 copy of either of
these cards you cut in the sideboard. There will be plenty of matchups where you simply have
multiple dead cards but nothing particularly great in your sideboard. Most notably when you take
out the 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and 4 Meddling Mage.

* Gut Shot

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Gut Shot is our only source of non-creature damage in the entire deck. This card is absolute gas
in any matchup where they have 1 toughness creatures that you need to get off the board. Some
examples: In the Humans Mirror the card is great vs. Noble Hierarch (especially if they lead off
with it), Thalia’s Lieutenant, and Phantasmal Image. The card is also good vs other difficult
matchups such as Elves and Affinity.

* Kataki, War’s Wage

Most of the community swears by Kataki, although I recently cut this card for Damping Sphere.
Kataki is great against KCI, Affinity, Tron, and others (REALLY good against Affinity). But,
not only do you already have multiple hate cards in the sideboard for these matchups, a more
common matchup in the current meta has been Tron. I feel Damping Sphere is simply better in
the board than Kataki at the current time. Once Affinity sees an uptick, absolutely make sure this
card is in your 75.

* Sin Collector

UW(x) Control looks like it is here to stay in the Modern meta. With that being said, 2-3 of Sin
Collector is a must addition to the Humans sideboard. Pairing this with Kitesail and Image
copying, you can completely dismantle controls attrition. This card is also viable in matchups vs
Burn, Death’s Shadow, Mardu Pyromancer, Storm, Titanshift, and more.

* Auriok Champion

Burn will always be a part of the Modern meta. In addition to that, Mardu Pyromancer, Death’s
Shadow, Hollow One, Humans, and Jund, are clearly here to stay. The protection from black/red
or life gain are very important in the aforementioned matchups.

* Izzet Staticaster

This card can be difficult to use at times but it can also completely take an opponent by surprise.
Gut Shot on a stick, that stays around, and hits multiple creatures is very powerful. Look to bring
this card in vs decks like Affinity, Elves, Humans, and Mardu Pyromancer.

* Reclamation Sage

Reclamation Sage is an important sideboard piece for our deck. There are a lot of decks using
Enchantments and Artifacts that we do not like seeing on the board. The main reason to run
Reclamation Sage is our arch nemesis, Blood Moon. The card is also good against Affinity,
Bogles, Eldrazi Decks (all flavors), Humans (if you care about vial), Burn (if they bring in
Ensnaring Bridge), KCI, and Tron.

* Qasali Pridemage

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Qasali Pridgemage will have the same reasons as Reclamation Sage. The main reason some
choose to run 2 Pridemage or a 1-1 split is due to the worry of Torpor Orb in Bogles. Other than
destroying cards that stop ETB triggers, there isn’t much more a reason to play one over the
other unless you plan to keep your vial on 2 and use a remaining mana to crack Pridemage.

* Kessig Malcontents

Kessig Malcontents is one of the most argued cards for being in the main board. Originally, it
was a 1-of in the main that did some major damage to your opponent. Lately, the meta has turned
to so much removal, we were flooding the board and overcommitting just to have a long set up
with Kessig. Currently, this card does not seem worth it but is absolutely viable in the future.

* Damping Sphere

Tron. Moving on. Seriously though, Tron and Storm are the real reasons to play Sphere. Other
matchups it happens to be decent against are Eldrazi Decks (all flavors) and KCI.

* Fourth Bridge Prowler

Although most players prefer the phyrexian mana on Gut Shot, this is a perfectly acceptable
replacement attached to a creature.

* Riders of Gavony

This card used to see play in Five Color Humans early days. Protection from creatures is nuts
against Bogles, Humans, Merfolk, Elves, and any Tribal deck. I believe we will see this card be
added back into the list as the meta turns but should definitely be a consideration depending on
your current local meta.

* Kambal, Consul of Allocation

This card also used to see play in Five Color Humans early days. There really is nothing wrong
with this card as it is very good against Control. The main reason you won’t play this is because
Humans wants to be proactive and take away Controls answers (incoming Sin Collector) as
opposed to making them take 2 damage as they just remove this creature.

* Dismember

This card is preference. Honestly, it feels bad not having any significant removal in the Humans
75, but I feel the Gut Shot is sufficient enough. Our plan should be proactive and forcing them to
answer our creatures, not using a Dismember to stop their threats. This card does not do enough
for me but I won’t argue against someone who wants to use it.

* Selfless Spirit & Xathrid Necromancer

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Both of these cards were incredible in Humans until Jeskai Control turned into UW Control. The
meta has turned into exiling our creatures via Terminus and Settle the Wreckage. Until we see an
uptick in spot removal from Control, I wouldn’t put these in the 75.

* Dire Fleet Daredevil

Dire Fleet Daredevil is also based on preference. The card is complete gas vs the control
matchups as you can use their spells and get them out of their graveyard. I believe there are
better options vs control but once again, I won’t argue with someone who wants to use DFD.

* Gaddock Teeg

Gaddock Teeg is the newest addition to the Humans sideboard and the biggest hurdle for most
players based on its price tag but MAN is it good! This card hoses Tron, Control, and Hollow
One especially, and disrupts so many other decks. If you can justify the price tag, pick this baby
up!

* Phyrexian Revoker

Also, one of the new additions to a very few Humans lists, is Phyrexian Revoker. Having the
ability to flash this card in vs. KCI and Tron is a big deal. Revoker also has its place vs Eldrazi
Decks (all flavors) and Elves.

* Chalice of the Void

Chalice is the type of card I didn’t plan on covering because it’s obvious what its upside is. But, I
feel it should be mentioned as our Cavern of Souls and Vials get around our Chalice. Although it
is most likely in the binder for now, Chalice can very well become a necessity based on your
meta and shines vs Affinity, Bogles, Hollow One, Infect, Jeskai, KCI, Lantern, Living End,
Death’s Shadow, Storm, Tron, and SO much more.

* Misc. Stragglers include: Anafenza, the Foremost, Hostage Taker, Mirran Crusader (need more
Jund), and Heron’s Grace Champion. Although each of these cards have their value, I do not feel
they have any place in the 75.

IV. Mulligans (situational):

This one is a very tough call and should be ACTIVELY decided upon each Matchup and
situation you are in. Being on the play or draw vs certain decks has HUGE impact on your
decision making.
As bestowed upon us by our Wizard and Savior, Tanner Chase (founder of the Humans FB
group), I present to you, a very loose Mulligan guide that you should take with a grain of salt!
Example: It is completely okay to keep a hand of 7 without a 1-drop in game 2 & 3 if you know
your matchup. Having a turn 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is perfectly acceptable vs. Control
on a keep of 7 cards.

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On 7 cards:
* Keep 2-3 lands and a 1 drop spell you can cast.
* Keep 1 land and two 1 drop spells you can cast.
* Mulligan nearly all other hands unless you have 2 & 3 drops you know are good in the
matchup and the lands to cast them.
On 6 cards:
* 1-3 lands and a 1 drop spell you can cast.
* 2-3 lands and two 2 drop spells you can cast.
* Mulligan most other hands depending on matchup.
On 5 cards:
* 1-3 lands and two spells you can cast
* Mulligan most other hands. We can win on a Mulligan to 4.

V. Board State: (situational…when to over commit or play cautious)

NOTE: This is also another tough category that should be taken with a grain of salt but is a good
rule of thumb to follow based on the matchup. I will cover the basics; any advanced play will be
in the Tips & Tricks section.

Va. Aggressive Matchup

Keep your foot on the gas during aggressive matchups. You very rarely need to leave back more
than 1-2 chump blockers. Remember, your opponents need to answer your threats too, you are
the best aggressive deck in the format. Lean on your flyers in Kitesail Freebooter and Mantis
Rider. You will find yourself in common situations where you are leaving back the ground
creatures to chump while winning the match in the air. Champion of the Parish is an extremely
important turn 1 play in the Aggressive Matchups, especially the Tribal vs. Tribal matchups as
most do not much of any removal. The only other turn 1 play that I would advise over Champion
in an aggressive matchup would be turn 1 Noble Hierarch if you are able to follow-up with a
Mantis Rider on turn 2. An unanswered Champion of the Parish or Mantis Rider should be
enough for you to win any aggressive matchup. Note: Turn 1 Vial is obviously fine.

Vb. Removal/Control Matchup

This is where it gets tricky. If you are playing an opponent with a bunch of spot removal but not
many sweepers (like Jund), just keep your foot on the gas like you would an aggressive matchup.
Much like the aggressive matchups, you will overwhelm your opponent with multiple ground
creatures and flyers in Kitesail and Mantis Rider. The difference here is, they don’t have
anything to stop your ground creatures. The biggest threat you want to look out for in the Control
Matchup is Terminus, Wrath of Gods, Damnation, and Settle the Wreckage. You should
absolutely judge your attacks and plays around these cards, actively, the entire game. Playing a
Kitesail on their draw step and following it up with a Meddling Mage is a strategy you should
live and die by. Your ultimate goal is to get them on an even clock. If you are swinging for 9

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damage and putting them down to 2 health, that is probably over committing for no reason. You
should aim for a consistent clock just in case they are holding up a Settle the Wreckage.
Determine what life total you want them to be at and hold back your other threats.

There are two exceptions I would make to the guide above:


1. If you can get them down to 3 or 4 life exactly. In that situation, a timely top deck of
Mantis Rider (and Noble Hierarch if 4 life) can result in you winning the game via haste.
2. If you are holding a Militia Bugler in hand. You should have all 4 in your main after
sideboarding and this card can completely give you freedom to pressure your control
opponent. Many times, after an all-out attack for lethal or nearly lethal, your opponent
will hit you with a board wipe. You can follow up with a Militia Bugler which will have
a very high chance to hitting another Militia Bugler or a Phantasmal Image. With all of
the land/vials you have in play, just continue to copy the Militia Bugler and rebuild your
board state for a follow-up winning swing that has your opponent relying on top decking
another sweeper.

VI. Meddling Mage Guide:

What to name with Meddling Mage (in order of importance):

NOTE: This is almost impossible to answer if you play Meddling Mage blind on turn 2 but you
usually won’t go wrong naming spot removal based on their mana choice. i.e. Blood Crypt …
name Bolt or Fatal Push.

NOTE 2: Obviously, if you have a large number of Meddling Mage in hand, just name other
cards, I’m not going to list the entire enemy decklist. Also, you rarely need to put two Mage’s on
the same card.

NOTE 3: I am going to base these answers on our opponent’s main deck only! It would be
WAY too large of a list if I included sideboard.
Affinity – Cranial Plating, Bogles – Path to Exile, Burn – Bolt, Lightning
Galvanic Blast Daybreak Coronet, Spirit Helix
Mantle, Rancor
Death’s Shadow – Fatal Eldrazi – All is Dust, Karn Elves – Ezuri, Renegade
Push, Inquisition of Kozilek, Liberated, Walking Ballista Leader, Collected Company,
K-Command Chord of Calling
Hollow One – Hollow One, Humans – Unless you UW Control – Path to
Lightning Bolt, Collective Kitesail and see multiples of Exile, Terminus, D-Sphere.
Brutality a scary card like Mantis, You should be removing
name Grislebrand! their 4-5 mana cards with
Kitesail.
Jeskai Control – Lightning Jund – Lightning Bolt, Fatal KCI – Pyrite Spellbomb,
Bolt, Path to Exile, Push, K-Command, EE, KCI
Lightning Helix Scavenging Ooze

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Mardu Pyromancer – Storm – Grapeshot, Titanshift – Lightning Bolt,
Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, Remand, Gifts Ungiven, Anger of the Gods,
Inquisition of Kozilek, K- Unsub Scapeshift, PrimeTime
Command, Collective
Brutality, Blood Moon
Gx Tron – O Stone, Karn, Free Win Red – Anger of Ad Nauseum – Angel’s
Ugin, Ballista, (just bounce the Gods, Ensnaring Bridge, Grace, Ad Nauseum
Wurmcoil with Reflector) Anger of the Gods, Slag
Storm, Blood Moon
Goblins – Lightning Bolt, Living End – Living End, Amulet Titan – Amulet of
Blood Moon Beast Within Vigor, PrimeTime, EE,
Walking Ballista
Grishoalbrand – Goryo’s Merfolk – Spreading Seas, Blue Moon – Bolt, Remand,
Vengeace, Through the Echoing Truth, Dismember Blood Moon, Cryptic, Thing
Breach in The Ice
Ponza – Blood Moon, Stone Spirits – Path to Exile, Eldrazi & Taxes – Path to
Rain, Lightning Bolt, Collected Company, Exile, Wasteland Strangler,
Inferno Titan Supreme Phantom, Drogskol Thought-Knot Seer
Captain
Counters Company – Dredge – Faithless Looting, Infect – Blighted Agent,
Devoted Druid, Collected Conflagrate Become Immense, Vines of
Company, Chord of Calling Vastwood

VII. Matchup’s, Strategies, and Sideboarding: (based on the decklist provided)

NOTE: Believe me, I acknowledge there are decks that I will miss in the Meddling Mage and
sideboard guides, but I am going to focus on relevant decks that see some play or give us a really
hard time (i.e. Free win red). I will edit and add important decks as they become known/played.

* Affinity

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 4 Meddling Mage, 2 Phantasmal Image


In: 2 Kataki, War’s Wage, 2 Reclamation Sage, 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 1 Reflector Mage

Affinity mainly plays creatures, which is why we are taking out the Thalia. They will most likely
cast their non-creature spells for zero mana way before we have a chance to play her. Meddling
Mage is just bad in the matchup outside of Cranial Plating, which you can take with Kitesail
Freebooter. Phantasmal Image is an easy backup card to cut as you don’t want to copying too
many of their creatures. Affinity will play zero board wipes, so lay on the gas as fast as possible.
Your win is to grow your creatures faster than they do and lean on your Vial on 3 to flash in Rec
Sage when they animate their Infect land or an infect creature flying over.

* Bogles

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Out: 3 Reflector Mage
In: 2 Reclamation Sage, 1 Militia Bugler

This is where the backup Militia Bugler is good just to find you the gas you need to win the
game. Your game plan is to win this match as fast as possible! Meddling Mage the Daybreak
Coronet and Spirit Mantle otherwise you won’t be blocking the entire game and you WILL lose
the race, especially if they have life gain.

* Burn

Out: 1 Meddling Mage, 4 Phantasmal Image


In: 3 Sin Collector, 2 Auriok Champion

Your goal is to race Burn, as is everyone else’s goal. Sin Collector may be a slow card but it will
always have a target to hit. The Auriok Champion is a complete bomb in this matchup and
should result in a victory if you get it onto the battlefield. Image is particularly bad in this
matchup as you have limited targets to copy on their side.

* Death’s Shadow

Out: 4 Aether Vial, 2 Thalia’s Lieutenant


In: 3 Sin Collector, 2 Auriok Champion, 1 Reflector Mage

This is the same as the Burn matchup. Sin Collector and Auriok Champion are just great cards to
play vs Death’s Shadow. You are removing the Aether Vials because they should be playing K-
Command and your other cards are too important. The matchup overall is pretty good for us due
to the amount of pressure we put on and having access to Mantis Rider 3/3 haste. Keep the gas in
this matchup and do your best to swing in while keeping 1-2 blockers for chumping duty.

* Eldrazi (all flavors)

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben


In: 2 Reclamation Sage, 1 Reflector Mage

You want to try and out race this matchup while dodging All is Dust and Karn, Liberated. Be
sure to lock those two cards down with Meddling Mage while you are beating face. The
Reclamation Sage and Reflector Mages are both good cards to bring in as they will clear the path
and act as your only removal in the matchup.

* Elves

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 1 Kitesail Freebooter


In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster

This matchup is pretty tough for us. You will need the Gut Shot to take care of their early
creatures and slow them down. Once you are able to slow them down, Izzet Staticaster is a

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bomb. You should be able to handle the rest of the deck with timely Meddling Mages. Thalia and
Freebooter are coming out because of how narrow they are in the matchup.

* Hollow One

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben


In: 2 Auriok Champion, 1 Reflector Mage

This is one of those matchups where you need to be aggressive while answering their threats.
You should be able to beat face and follow-up with a Reflector Mage to bounce Hollow One, but
multiple Hollow One’s will be a real problem you’ll need to answer with Meddling Mage. Their
Turn 1 Burning Inquiry can be a real problem for us also. Although they play plenty of non-
creature spells, we are taking out Thalia because it is more important to be reactive in this
matchup than proactive as they can easily miss their 50/50 hits.

* Humans

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 4 Meddling Mage


In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 1 Reflector Mage, 2 Auriok Champion

If you have two competent players, this matchup comes down to who can draw the best and win
the die roll. Meddling Mage is complete garbage in the matchup as it names your cards as well.
Same with Thalia as she simply doesn’t slow them down. The Gut Shot should be used early to
take care of their Champion of the Parish or Noble Hierarch. At its worst, Gut Shot will kill their
1/1 Thalia Lieutenant. Reflector Mage is great when their Champion is huge and the life gain off
Auriok Champion is worth the board in. Personally, I feel bringing in Reclamation Sage isn’t
worth blowing up their Vial.

* UWx Control

Out: 3 Reflector Mage, 1 Phantasmal Image


In: 3 Sin Collector, 1 Militia Bugler

This has been arguably our worst matchup for quite some time. Personally, I’ve done very well
in the matchup by just playing reactive while presenting a board state. Use Kitesail and Sin
Collector often to take their board wipes and spot removal. Once you are confident or they don’t
have 4 mana open, begin to swing in aggressively. Be sure to hold back your attacks if you can
kill them in a 2-3 turn clock. There is no reason to clock them at 1.5 turns until lethal, that is a
trap that will get your board wiped via Settle the Wreckage. If you do NOT have Militia Bugler
in hand, feels free to just deploy 3-4 threats and keep the other cards in your hand, replacing 1 by
1. If you have Militia Bugler in hand, you are a little more free to commit more and more to the
board as Militia Bugler can single handedly replenish your entire board state by using your extra
lands and Vials to Bugler in which will often find another Bugler or Image to copy him and
repeat.

* Jund

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Out: 4 Meddling Mage
In: 2 Auriok Champion, 1 Reflector Mage, 1 Militia Bugler

Jund just has too much spot removal for Meddling Mage to really be viable in the matchup.
Auriok Champion will help you stabilize with some life gain and be a pain for them to remove it
from the board. The Reflector Mage is a great card to play and copy with Image as it will bounce
their Goyf and give you room to swing in and kill them or their Liliana’s.

* KCI

Out: 3 Reflector Mage, 1 Militia Bugler


In: 2 Kataki, War’s Wage, 2 Reclamation Sage

In this matchup you want to be beating you enemy as soon as possible. You should be able to
win the matchup with Kitesail and Meddling Mage, but you still want to keep your foot on the
gas. Reflector Mage comes out due to its limited targets and Bugler just slows down what you
want to be doing. Kataki, War’s Wage and Reclamation Sage will have an impact on every card
they play.

* Mardu Pyromancer

Out: 4 Meddling Mage, 3 Reflector Mage, 1 Phantasmal Image


In: 3 Sin Collector, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 2 Auriok Champion, 1 Militia Bugler

This is a really hard matchup for us. The matchup forces us to be extremely aggressive while
also worrying about losing all of our creatures to removal. They have too many cards for
Meddling Mage to keep up with, Reflector Mage hits nothing meaningful, and Phantasmal Image
is just an easy 1 to cut. The Sin Collector and Kitesail should be able to pick apart their hand if
they kept a removal light hand. The Izzet Staticaster will put in work vs the Young Pyromancer
tokens while Auriok gains you a bunch of life. Militia Bugler will be a key card as you try to
rebuild the board state often.

* Storm

Out: 3 Reflector Mage


In: 3 Sin Collector

Contrary to when Five Color Humans first broke out onto the scene, this is not as easy of a
matchup as we believe. The way we win is to Kitesail their threat, play Meddling Mage on
Grapeshot, Remand, and others, while using our additional Sin Collectors to take their spells on
their draw step. This matchup will come down to how well you draw as they will be playing
multiple spells to combat your Meddling Mages, especially after the sideboard is in.

* Titanshift

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Out: 3 Reflector Mage
In: 3 Sin Collector

By this point, you may be realizing how good Sin Collector really is in our sideboard and why
we are playing 3 copies. Reflector Mage hits exactly PrimeTime, which we don’t really want in
their hand anyway. This matchup is one of our hardest matchups as they are almost always 1 turn
faster than we are. You have to slow yourself down and hope that Meddling Mage hit’s all of
their removal. On top of that, they will be able to use lands to bolt all of your creatures until they
win. This game relies on them drawing very poorly.

* Mono-Green Tron

Out: 3 Reflector Mage, 1 Phantasmal Image


In: 2 Kataki, War’s Wage, 2 Reclamation Sage

Turn 2 Mantis Rider is your best play in this match. If you can lead off with a Noble Hierarch
and turn 2 Mantis Rider, you should be on your way to winning this match. After the sideboard,
Reflector and Image are bad cards in the matchup as they have limited targets. The Kataki’s
should prove to be a pain for our Tron opponent as they are forced to tap their very important
mana every upkeep, which will slow them down greatly. This will give you a chance to play
Meddling Mages, name their threats, and build up an aggressive board and finish them off.

* Ad Nauseum

Out: 2 Militia Bugler, 3 Reflector Mage


In: 2 Reclamation Sage, 3 Sin Collector

This is one of those matchups that we should just win pretty easily. Barring some insane draws
on their end and terrible draws on your end, you shouldn’t have to worry. Play Meddling Mage
on Angel’s Grace and Ad Nauseum and you should be on your way into the next round with a
Win.

* Amulet Titan

Out: 3 Reflector Mage, 2 Phantasmal Image


In: 2 Kataki, War’s Wage, 2 Reclamation Sage, 1 Militia Bugler

This matchup is one that I am not particularly familiar with but feel it could be struggle due to
the amount of different answers they are running in their 75. You will need to Meddling Mage
their combo pieces and try to out race their deck. Kataki, War’s Wage will help slow them down
greatly, Reclamation Sage will blow up a lot of their combo pieces, and Militia Bugler will help
you find the aforementioned pieces.

* Blue Moon

Out: 3 Reflector Mage, 3 Phantasmal Image

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In: 1 Militia Bugler, 2 Reclamation Sage, 3 Sin Collector

This is a pretty tough matchup for our deck as they have multiple removal spells to deal with our
creatures and we can’t do anything about Thing in The Ice. You will need to be very reactive to
what they are doing and try to disrupt their game plan using the cards you are bringing in from
the sideboard all while staying aggressive.

* Spirits

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 2 Militia Bugler


In: 2 Izzet Staticaster, 2 Gut Shot, 1 Reflector Mage

I feel we are very favored in this matchup. They are able to answer our flyers and they are
playing multiple lords, but our creatures should be pumping a turn earlier. Keep a Vial on 2 for a
surprise Phantasmal Image or Thalia’s Lieutenant to blow out their creatures when they decide to
block. Gut Shot and Izzet Staticaster will be great cards to play before their lords are put in play.
Guardian does nothing vs this matchup and Bugler slows us down.

* Counters Company

Out: 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, 2 Militia Bugler


In: 2 Izzet Staticaster, 2 Gut Shot, 1 Reflector Mage

If we can leverage Gut Shot and Staticaster to remove their creatures, we can out race this deck.
You have to keep an extremely fast starting hand or you will lose as we don’t play much
disruption for their infinite combos. Guardian does nothing vs this matchup and Bugler slows us
down.

* Dredge

Out: 4 Phantasmal Image, 1 Militia Bugler


In: 2 Auriok Champion, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 1 Reflector Mage

We should have the advantage in this matchup thanks to Meddling Mage naming Faithless
Looting and Conflagrate. They have limited resources to deal with what we are doing and our
Auriok Champion will be gaining us a lot of life while Izzet Staticaster will continue to remove
their board while we swing in.

* Free-Win Red

Out: 4 Thalia’s Lieutenant, 1 Phantasmal Image


In: 1 Militia Bugler, 2 Reclamation Sage, 2 Auriok Champion

Talk about an impossible matchup. This will fall into the same category as Skred Dragons. This
matchup will completely rely on having a fast start, avoiding sweepers while over committing,
and hitting a Reclamation Sage. Our best chance to win this matchup is to clearly present lethal

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on their board and blowing up Ensnaring Bridge right before we attack, which is much easier
said than done. Multiple Ensnaring Bridges out at the same time is game over for us.

* Goblins

Out: 3 Militia Bugler, 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben


In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 2 Auriok Champion

Honestly, if we can avoid Blood Moon, we should be able to win this matchup pretty easily. Our
Gut Shots and Izzet Staticaster can kill everything on their side and sometimes act as a board
wipe while our creatures will be much bigger than theirs and we are gaining life off of Auriok.

* Grishoalbrand

Out: 3 Militia Bugler, 1 Thalia’s Lieutenant


In: 3 Sin Collector, 1 Reflector Mage

Militia Bugler slows us down too much in this matchup. We need to kill them as soon as possible
and get our Meddling Mage out asap! The additional Sin Collectors and Kitesails will help us
stay consistent in interrupting what they want to do.

* Ponza

Out: 3 Reflector Mage, 2 Phantasmal Image


In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Reclamation Sage, 1 Militia Bugler

This matchup isn’t as lopsided as many people will make you believe. If you can get out a turn 1
Aether Vial and follow up with Gut Shot to kill their mana dorks, you’re already way ahead. You
will need to present a high number of damage while using your Militia Buglers to find
Reclamation Sage to be more consistent in getting around Blood Moon. If Ponza untaps with 6-
mana, you will be blown out by Inferno Titan.

* Infect

Out: 1 Thalia’s Lieutenant, 3 Militia Bugler, 4 Phantasmal Image


In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 3 Sin Collector, 1 Reflector Mage

This is an extremely hard matchup for us but you need to try and out race infect ….Uh, Yeah.
You will need to leverage your Gut Shot and Izzet Staticasters on the stack. Vial in Sin Collector
on their draw step and hope to snatch their only pump spell. It is also important to have a
Reflector Mage in hand to bounce a massive infect creature on attacks. You won’t want Bugler
because it will slow us down and Phantasmal Image does not want to be copying a bunch of
1/1’s.

* Merfolk

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Out: 4 Meddling Mage, 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 2 Reclamation Sage, 1 Reflector Mage

Meddling Mage and Thalia are largely irrelevant in this matchup. You will be looking to slow
down the Merfolk deck with Gut Shot and Izzet Staticaster. Be sure to have an Aether Vial in
your starting hand because you will be hit by Spreading Seas. Ideally, you’ll be able to cast
Reclamation Sage knocking out their Aether Vial which should put them back far enough behind
that they won’t be able to race our deck.

* Eldrazi & Taxes

Out: 2 Meddling Mage, 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben


In: 2 Gut Shot, 2 Reclamation Sage, 1 Reflector Mage

Surprisingly, this is a hard matchup for us although you only really need to place Meddling
Mage on Path and Wasteland Strangler. The fact is, their Aether Vial giving their creatures flash
is a huge problem for us in addition to their 4 Ghost Quarters blowing up on lands. Be sure to
have an Aether Vial in your opening hand and hold a Gut Shot in hand when possible as they
will be flashing in creatures such as Flicker Wisp to bounce your Aether Vial and provide a 3/1
blocker. Reclamation Sage will be extremely important as the mana base for Eldrazi & Taxes is
very difficult to play their threats without an Aether Vial in play.

* Bridgevine

Out: 3 Militia Bugler, 4 Kitesail Freebooter


In: 2 Auriok Champion, 2 Gut Shot, 2 Izzet Staticaster, 1 Reflector Mage

This deck is up and coming. Although I feel we have a pretty decent matchup with Bridgevine,
we have plenty of answers in our sideboard. Gut Shot and Izzet Staticaster should do a good job
of keeping their small creatures at bay. Champion and Mage should do a good job of stifling
their early clock while we grow our team.

VIII. Tips & Tricks: (This is meant for people with a basic understanding of the deck. Many
instances with Aether Vial also work with Phantasmal Image but should be obvious if I forget to
mention Image.)

• If you cast Thalia’s Lieutenant using your mana and he resolves, you can
respond with the ETB trigger on the stack and vial in a second Human. This will
trigger both text boxes on Lieutenant and give him a counter. Then his ETB
trigger will resolve and put a counter on the creature that you Vialed in. Keep in
mind, if you have a Vial on 1 and a Champion of the Parish in hand, you don’t
necessarily gain more counters by doing this trick. In that situation, you have to
decide if you want 2 counters on Champion or 1 on Thalia and Champion.

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• Meddling Mage naming does not go on the stack. If your opponent allows
Meddling Mage to resolve, you immediately name the card you don’t want cast
and they cannot cast it until Mage leaves the battlefield.
• When you tap your Aether Vial, you need to give your opponent a moment to
respond. If you have Vial on 2 and you plan to put Meddling Mage into play, your
opponent will need to respond to the Aether Vial activation. If your opponent says
the Aether Vial activation if okay, you can immediately put Meddling Mage into
play and name a card without any interaction in between. This scenario works
with many other cards including Pithing Needle, Phyrexian Revoker, and
Phantasmal Image.
• You can active Aether Vial on your upkeep in response to its trigger. Example: If
your starting hand has two 1-drops but no 2 drops, you may want to tap down
Aether Vial on your upkeep (turn two) to flash in a 1-drop Human in your hand,
then tick the Vial to 2, then draw your card for turn.
• You can respond to graveyard interaction using Aether Vial. Example: If your
opponent casts Snapcaster targeting a spell in their graveyard, you can respond
by activating Vial on 2 and flashing in Meddling Mage to name the card they are
targeting, which will render the card useless.
• Opponent's will often leave up a fetch land as their only mana when passing back
to you (for revolt on Fatal Push or simply Bolt and Path). With Aether Vial on 2,
you can Vial in response to the fetch and put Thalia, Guardian of Thraben,
Kitesail Freebooter, or Meddling Mage onto the battlefield to prevent the
upcoming spell. They of course cannot just cast it in response as the fetch ability
is still on the stack
• Ancient Ziggurat is your main source of mana to cast Phantasmal Image but
sometimes you will find it necessary to name “Illusion” with Cavern of Souls and
Unclaimed Territory.
• If you cast a Kessig Malcontents and it resolves, with the trigger on the stack,
you can Vial in a Phantasmal Image to copy the Kessig Malcontents. Both
creatures will have their trigger resolve while seeing each other to net you an
additional 2 damage to your opponent (1 extra from each Kessig).
• You may still activate your Aether Vial at any point during the game whether you
have something to play or not. It is wise to active your Vial on your opponents
End Step regardless of your hand in the hopes of getting them to play a spell
earlier than they want to as they will want to respond because they might believe
you are going to play a Meddling Mage or Kitesail Freebooter.
• If your opponent taps out to play a cascade spell, you can respond by Vialing in
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben to make the “free” cascade spell cost 1.
• If your opponent casts a Cryptic Command in response to your attack phase in
order to tap down your team, after the spell has resolved, you can activate an
Aether Vial on 3 and play a Mantis Rider. The Mantis Rider will not be tapped
down and you will be able to attack with it.

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• It is wise to keep your Aether Vial on 2 vs Control matchups. You have the ability
to Aether Vial a Kitesail Freebooter or Meddling Mage on their draw step to see
their hand or name a card you know they are looking to top deck.
• If you have an Aether Vial on 2 and your opponent reveals a card with Miracle
cost, like a Terminus, you can respond by activating the Aether Vial to either play
Kitesail Freebooter and take the Terminus out of their hand or play a Meddling
Mage and name Terminus. Also, you can cast Phantasmal Image and copy
either of the aforementioned creatures if they are in play.
• Keep an open mind when playing Phantasmal Image. There are plenty of
instances where copying your opponent’s creatures is simply the better play.
• Before a card with suspend is cast, you can play a Meddling Mage to name that
card and render it useless.
• Cards that shut off ETB triggers do not have any effect on Meddling Mage.
• Using Aether Vial on 2, you can play Thalia’s Lieutenant in response to blocks or
no blocks in order to pump your team and either crush your opponent’s creatures
or get in for more damage.
• You cannot Vial in Meddling Mage in response to spell that is already cast, the
spell will still go on the stack.
• If your opponent has a Bridge From Below in their graveyard, you can play a
Phantasmal Image and copy nothing so it will become a 0/0 and die while exiling
their Bridge.

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