Last year at GenCon, a rather unusual 4-color Human deck made Top 8 in the Vintage event and garnered quite a bit of attention for some of its odd choices. Steven Stierman’s unusual aggro deck looked like he had to fill the last few deck slots by pulling fun mythics out of his Standard trade binder. Huntmaster of the Fells? Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch? It certainly looks a bit silly compared to some of the things people are doing in Vintage. But there’s nothing funny about a Turn 1 uncounterable Thalia if you’re a blue mage, and thanks to Moxen and Cavern of Souls, that’s just one of the powerful early disruptive plays the Humans deck is capable of making.
With the online metagame being extremely biased towards blue decks, Sphere effects are particularly good right now. Of course, you could just play actual Sphere of Resistance and run Workshop Stax. But there is a ton of hate pointed right at you as the Shops player. Creature hate, on the other hand, is relatively light in Vintage, certainly so as compared to Legacy. Some players, including MTGO user Coopes, began to have success in the daily events a couple weeks back with variations of the Human deck. The rarely-seen Oath of Ghouls even made an appearance, recurring Ingot Chewers. And surprisingly, Exava had made the cut in at least some builds, playing the role of human Slash Panther against Jace decks.
The logic of Exava in the deck is that she can be cast off a Cavern naming Human. Her first strike matches up well against pretty much any blocker the blue decks may have, and she can tangle with Lodestone Golem — though I doubt she’s there for the Shops matchup. The downside is that she doesn’t have evasion. Against a Jace deck you are occasionally facing a stray Dark Confidant or Snapcaster Mage. So I took my own stroll through the “Awesome Standard 4-drops of 2013″ folder for a different option, and found the unlikely hero of today’s videos: Falkenrath Aristocrat.
Aristocrat is unlikely to meet much resistance in the air. The deck is packed with Humans for her to munch on, and Noble Hierarch even offers a nice exalted trigger to the mix. With Aristocrat, you aren’t just fighting a Jace, you’re fielding a real threat to just win the game outright. Also, being a sac outlet, you can get rid of your own Bobsin a pinch. Occasionally you can even use her to swing your entire team into an opposing Griselbrand for an alpha strike, sacrificing whichever creature he blocks to prevent the life gain. During my early testing I encountered multiple games that went long where a topdecked Aristocrat would easily have won the game, which convinced me to add a second copy to the sideboard. As you’ll see in the videos, Aristocrat performed fantastically, and proved herself to be a fun and powerful addition to the Human aggro shell.
One of the other MVPs of this deck is Orzhov Pontiff. Various decks built around Young Pyromancer are quite popular online, and Pontiff is a great way to fight them. Those decks often include other x/1′s such as Bob or Snapcaster, so the potential damage to your opponent’s board can be extreme.
For the rest of the creature suite, the focus should be on disruption. With the popularity of Oath, I ran three Aegis of the Gods in the maindeck, and a fourth in the board. I included a small Trinket Mage package, buoyed by the two black tutors as well. The result is a maindeck that has some potential to interact with any deck in the format, certainly on the play. To help on the draw, the deck has three copies of Mental Misstep. That won’t always be enough to counter a busted start from a combo opponent, but if it counters a Voltaic Key or Dark Ritual you may have time to set up your hatebear and survive.
Here is the list I played for today’s videos:
The Aristocrats, Act V by RexDart
In the videos for this week, you’ll see the deck face off against BUG midrange, Mountains Win Again, and Grixis Pyromancer.
The mana base for this deck is one of its definite weak points. Cavern of Souls does a lot to hold things together, but it doesn’t help cast Abrupt Decay, and the whole deck is vulnerable to Wasteland and completely dead to Blood Moon. Consequently, you are leaning on the mana dorks quite a bit with this build. As you saw in the videos, I was fighting my own mana base more than once.
One card I did not include, but which has made the cut in other builds over the past year, was Mayor of Avabruck. I suspected that, aside from being a lord for your many Humans, he might be decent against Shops. If you cast him Turn 1, you can generate an endless stream of 3/3 tokens even if you get locked out by Sphere effects. The tokens are conveniently large enough to handle a Lodestone Golem. Unfortunately, I never was able to test the card against Shops, and I wound up cutting it because it did nothing disruptive to the decks I was actually facing. If you have any experience with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
I hope you enjoyed this week’s deck. I’m having a blast testing out Vintage decks. The online Vintage community is exceeding all my expectations so far, and on this past Sunday night they maxed out a Vintage Premier Event thanks to a big push from guys at the Mana Drain forums. This resurgence of Vintage does have one hurdle: the V4 transition. Within a day of this article’s publication, V3 will be permanently offline, and all players will be forced to use the new client. We all hope the transition is smooth and stable, but I think it’s natural to expect some hiccups. It would be a shame if we lost the momentum this fledgling online Vintage community has gained so far. The good news is that with all this momentum, it seems likely that players will try to make the best of it and learn the new client. Vintage is so sweet, it’s worth a few headaches.