Ikoria Spotlight: Standard Humans


Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths does contain a lot, in both size and number, of the eponymous behemoths. So what could be more appropriate than to look at the tiniest denizens of the world? After all, Human tribal gets some support from the set as well, headlined by one General Kudro of Drannith.

Preview season is always so much fun. As a matter of course, there's talk of power creep, speculation as to whether fetch lands might see another reprint or whether some insane commander gets to see the light of day … New mechanics, and how they might work, and invariably how "that idea" will never work. But by and large the hype is always about the big beefy monsters in the set.

This is why we're completely ignoring all of the above and looking instead at the true heroes of Magic: The Gathering. Humans. Who was it that tried to kill Nicol Bolas, before he became the draconian — no pun intended, this is deadly serious — monster that we all know? Why, humans of course! How many would still be with us today had it not been for the Elder Dragon turned planewalker? Not even the original gods of Amonkhet, slain and displaced by the villain himself, know.

Spoiling for a Fight

general kudro of drannith
Lisa Kudrow's Army Dad: "Smelly leonin, smelly leonin, what are they feeding you?"

With the full card list now out, we can see that more than a few cards stand out as having great utility in the current metagame. General Kudro of Drannith first and foremost amongst them.

general kudro of drannith anafenza, the foremost
Anafenza maybe now the secondmost?

It's 3/3 for 3, it's an anthem, it can help clear graveyards, and fill them … with the corpses of those damned dirty Dino-Apes! Kudro slices, Kudro dices, all without the actual Slice and Dice, although that would have been a fitting inclusion for Ikoria as well.

benalish marshal withered wretch apostle of purifying light
Better than all of these? Probably …

In order to take advantage of this utility, of course, we need width. There are some token generators available to us: Castle Ardenvale and Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis both create specifically Humans. Standard Mono-White usually employs Healer's Hawk and Alseid of Life's Bounty as their early drops, but if we're to stick to theme, then Hunted Witness is where we begin. Some Giant Killers as well, as they have further use if drawn late.

Our starting point looks something like this:

Low to the ground, the top end is 4 mana. The early drops replace themselves while our "monster" package is there to allow us to attack with impunity, knowing that our creatures are either coming back bigger and better than ever, or can at least be recast from the graveyard.

Drannith Magistrate is effectively pre-boarding against Uro and Kroxa decks, because right now these are everywhere. This won't stop Cauldron Familiar recursion, but since we too have an amount of recursion we're not overly worried about this. The removal suite, limited as it is, is exile, not destroy, and will almost never have a drawback. We've got access to onboard removal in Kudro's ability if needed, and won't mind throwing away Hunted Witness and Imperious Oligarch, since these not only return with Luminous Broodmoth in play but also leave some 1/1s behind on top.

drannith magistrate luminous broodmoth

Kudos to Kudro, the many, many Humans entering the battlefield should clear the opponent's graveyard before long. So the Magistrate won't have to worry about Uro anymore, but it may still stop a companion or a Lovestruck Beast.

We have a solitary Blast Zone in the mana base, useful of course for removing noncreature permanents such as Lucky Clover or Teferi. But it also enables a trick with Broodmoth in play, where we destroy all our own 2-drops at end of turn to get the party started all over again … or quickly wrap things up with a flying alpha strike.

Can We Build It? Yes, We Abzan!

Siona, Captain of the pyleas

For something a little more ambitious and and a little more fun — we're only human, after all — I wanted to make use of the tokens created by Siona, Captain of the Pyleas. Siona is great in certain decks, but if we're to run this card, we also need Season of Growth to take full advantage. In truth, the result is more about finding space for Kudro in an Aura deck than building around Kudro, but the outcome is more than fair.

We gain access to additional black cards such as Mogis's Favor, which doubles as removal and hopefully as a token generator/card engine. Under the right circumstances we can put this on a Human token and not only replace the token but draw a card. Very Skullclampy.

The global +1/+1 effect isn't as pronounced here, seeing as how only Siona and the tokens are Humans. On the plus side, however, these tokens feed Kudro's removal capability where needed and provide enough bodies on the ground to keep our larger creatures free to attack. Fourteen Auras plus four Blessing should be enough to go from power 3–4 at the start of a turn to 9–10 as we enter our attack step. Vigilance and trample are great friends indeed.

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