Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Orzhov and Mardu Humans Theorycraft
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is a world where humans and monsters are battling each other, and fittingly enough the new expansion brings us some Human tribal synergies to play around with. The Human creature type is a very broad one, and we just might have a critical mass of playable cards to make it competitive in Standard. It also helps that Throne of Eldraine also brought us some Knight synergies, and a lot of them happen to be Humans as well!
Standard has access to some nice Human Token generators, with the most popular one being Hero of Precinct One. It has been most prominent in Esper Hero decks that players always love to make work, but the issue with the deck being competitive is that a Midrange / Tempo deck could not keep up with the aggro decks featuring Embercleave and the ramp decks that go over the top much better and is resilient to minor disruption. That means our decks have to consider being hyper aggressive to match or have a really good late game strategy. Can the new cards in Ikoria help with this? Let’s find out!
The New Cards
Today we will be focusing primarily on the White and Black Human archetype, and we’ll discuss Winota, Joiner of Forces at another time in more detail since there are some more interesting synergies there that we want to delve into. Here, General Kudro of Drannith supported by General’s Enforcer is the main incentive to play Humans. Looking at both of their abilities, we can see that both cards do a fine job at hating out the opponent’s graveyard. This means getting rid of Escape cards (i.e. Uro, Kroxa, Woe Strider, etc) as well as preventing things from coming back with Elspeth Conquers Death. Dire Tactics is also a strong removal spell also nullifies effects when creatures die such as Anax, Hardened in the Forge and Midnight Reaper. So that solves one problem.
There are a few more strong Human cards in Ikoria. Lavabrink Venturer is a flexible card that you can control (unlike Haktos) and especially so if you are familiar your opponent’s decklist. Drannith Magistrate will at least be a strong sideboard card (if not maindeckable) that takes care of Escape, Adventure, the new Companion mechanic and card specific cases where you can cast cards from exile or the library (e.g. Robber of the Rich, Thief of Sanity, Experimental Frenzy). The two enchantments I am the least sure about since we don’t want to go too heavy on the three drops, but worth some consideration.
Orzhov Humans Theorycraft – Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Standard
4 Giant Killer 4 Law-Rune Enforcer 4 Tithe Taker 4 General's Enforcer 4 Imperious Oligarch 3 General Kudro of Drannith 4 Lavabrink Venturer 2 Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis 2 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord 3 Agonizing Remorse 4 Dire Tactics 7 Plains 7 Swamp 4 Godless Shrine 2 Castle Ardenvale 2 Castle Locthwain
This is where I want to start with an aggressive Humans build. Lavabrink Venturer is my favorite card in this deck that acts as a finisher to squeeze in the last few damage when needed. The deck is starting out to be more proactive than reactive, so avoids cards like Unbreakable Formation or Conclave Tribunal. It excels against creatures but has a difficult time dealing with Planeswalkers. Agonizing Remorse and Sorin are definitely more flex spots that can be substituted for those cards if it ends up being a bigger issue.
Mardu Humans Theorycraft – Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths Standard
4 Giant Killer 4 Hero of Precinct One 4 Stormfist Crusader 4 General's Enforcer 4 General Kudro of Drannith 4 Judith, the Scourge Diva 2 Tajic, Legion's Edge 2 Haktos the Unscarred 4 Dire Tactics 4 Angrath's Rampage 2 Mountain 2 Plains 2 Swamp 4 Sacred Foundry 4 Blood Crypt 4 Godless Shrine 4 Savai Triome 2 Fabled Passage
Adding Red is when it gets really spicy. There’s more Humans and even better, they are Legendary to work with General’s Enforcer. Judith and Stormfist Crusader bring everything together really well and Hero of Precinct One may not even be necessary. The deck turns into a more midrange deck since we have better curve toppers and ways to end the game. There’s definitely no shortage of sweet removal spells in these colors – such as Bedevil, Despark, Heartless Act, Mortify, and more that you can mix and match. We will also be experimenting this deck by adding some Embercleave since the card seems too good to pass up if you are in Red and are playing lots of creatures (maybe instead of Haktos or Angrath’s Rampage).
As stated above, Winota, Joiner of Force fits perfectly in this shell but obviously we will need some non-Humans to activate her ability – there are cards like Haazda Marshal and Skyknight Vanguard which are Humans themselves but generates non-Human tokens which make for some fine interactions. We think Winota is worthy of a separate article on its own, and will be discussing it another time.
While we’re at it, if you wondering whether it’s worth adding Green for Chevill, Bane of Monsters, the answer is no: Do not waste your Mythic Wildcards on it yet until proven results! The card on surface, looks decent enough against creature vs. creature combat such as Mono Red Aggro, but that seems to be the extent of it. A 1/3 defensive body for 2 mana does not really help end games and even then you have to wait until your next turn to put a bounty counter on a creature. After that, you have to kill them one by one and exiling does not work especially since you are likely playing Dire Tactics. If Chevill himself dies, then the bounty counters don’t do anything either. So in conclusion: If you want to draw cards, Midnight Reaper seems like just a better card.