Thursday, 4 October 2012

PUNY HUMANS!! The first steps in building a Human deck

[Another oldie going out there. Obviously the numbers are off in this kind of article and this post, more than than others, is going to feel truncated.]

>opens Gatherer<
>types Human<

.......1369 results. Okaaaaay........

>clicks [back], selects "Legendary" filter<
>curses at Gatherer<
>clicks Advanced Search<
>selects "Legendary", "Creature", "Human", wonders why same search doesn't work from front page<

189 results. Hum.

Did anyone else know that "Human" is far and away the most represented creature type among Magic's Legendary community? Strange, in a game where everything is about the Sphinx, Dragon, Elf or Zombie of preference, that Human makes up for almost a full third of all Legends. A lot of that is down to the Portal legends and the early Legends who were overwhelmingly human (or became human after "Legend" became a type and each Legend needed an actual sub- or creature type).

With the upsurge of Humans and "human matters" cards in recent sets, I have a hankering to look at what the race can offer in terms of tribal support for an EDH deck. My first step to make a tribal deck would usually be to find a general and build from there. 

As I've mentioned before, I really like Tribal-deck Generals that care about their tribe. Boosting is good, tribe only abilities is even better. Zombies is a disappointment as there's not a single Zombie Legend that has a Zombie in its rules text: They just don't care. Balthor's reanimation ability is about the closest I can get thematically. Dragon Legends care: Scion, Karrthus and Bladewing all want lots of dragons in the game and you to be the (eventual) controller. Elves Legends care: there's 5 that help or create elves. What are those Human legends up to?

>clicks back, adds "human" to rules text<

Humans, unsurprisingly are selfish egotistical bastards: they don't give a damn about other humans. What am I going to do in my deck? I want a human who feels like a leader. Soldier feels a bit too much like "follower", there are no higher ranks in the subtype line and, surprisingly given that there is "Adviser", there's no "King" subtype. What about "Knight" or "Warrior"?

>clicks back, cuts "human" from rules text<
>adds "or" "Knight" "or" "warrior" to subtype<

Daakon Blackblade.....
Jor Kadeen..

Ok, there's some stuff I can work with in there. I have to be honest, when I finished this search, I saw the guy I want leading my army right off the bat, mostly by eliminating the cards I didn't want or didn't own. In a choice between Jor Kadeen's RW and the UWG knight, Rafiq wins out every time. My old Rafiq deck, made to weather the Annihilator storm with the release of Rise of the Eldrazi has been retired for a while. He could do with a good dusting off.


>Clicks back, adds "Human" into rules text and cuts "Legendary" & "Human" from type & subtype fields<
>after clicking search, facepalms, clicks back and adds "not" "red" and "not" "black" to colour filter

"Not" is always better in this search. If you just do "or" "UWG" you won't find any lands or artifacts that care about humans. Took me a while to figure that one out but it's the most efficient way to do this kind of search.

What I starting out doing is looking at "human matters" creatures in my colours. Only 23 creatures out of 1368 Humans actually mention the word "Human" in their text box and only 10 of those are in Bant.

That's not a lot.

Here is my second big choice that needs making: Is this a strict "Humans only" deck or can I add either relevant human related non-humans (like Grave Titan in Zombies) or totally unconnected good cards in my colours. Where possible I avoid the third option, I could just make a good-stuff deck if I wanted to. The first is extremely restrictive that stops you using some really relevant creatures just because of the type line. Take Angel of Glory's Rise from the up-coming Avacyn Restored [You guessed it: this is an old article!]: it's an angel that loves humans BUT it's an angel, not a human. How strict is that deck-building line? I think humans need a to believe in something greater than themselves to spur them on to greater feats of valour so thematically the Angel could easily get the nod.

When I don't have a particular theme for a deck outside of a particular tribe, finding an identity can be annoying at times. There's a couple of options with someone like Rafiq. One, the longest is slogging through the CMCs one by one (with 1369 Humans there's a lot to slog though so you're better off breaking it down into managable parts) until your've filled out each CMC with playables and start cutting from there:

>Click's back, removes "Human" from subtype line, adds "CMC =1"<
>Click's back, removes "CMC=1" from subtype line, adds "CMC =2"<
>Click's back, removes "CMC=2" from subtype line, adds "CMC =3"<

and so on.  

[And here is where I finished before that huge chunk of RL intervened. 

This post reflects one of the two major approaches I use when building decks: slogging through Gatherer for days in a more or less systematic manner until I see what I have to unearth from my boxes and binders. The more a deck sticks to a theme, the more I will build in this manner. Obviously I have a jumping off point, generally when cooking, "working" or driving; a moment of clarity where it becomes obvious that, in order for my life to be complete, I must build the ultimate Squirrel deck. Or whatever. Here it was humans and a deck that eventually never got built. Go figure.

The other deck building process that I regularly employ is a good stuff approach trawling through my binders because I want to use X Legend or Y card in a deck. Gatherer generally figures somewhere in the mix in order to find that obscure instance of a creature that has this specific triggered ability, that particular land that bounces back to your hand or something along those lines.

Feel free to share your personal deck-building tic, your tips for a more complete Gatherer experience or whatever cookie recipe you're brandishing at the moment.*]

*Shortbread base, caramel fudge layer, dark chocolate topping and, occasionally, I can be tricked into sprinkling mini-marshmallows on top while the chocolate is still liquid.


  1. :o) Thanks guys.

    I have a couple more on the burner but they'll take a little longer to update.

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