This decklist was submitted by Jacob Collins.
In a world dominated by control, sometimes we need to bring in a bit of creature beats to put them back into their place. And there are few decks that can do that as effectively as Mardu Humans.
This is kind of a facetious title, as pretty much every card in here is a creature card.
This deck runs a play set of Dauntless Bodyguard and a full play set of Hunted Witness. Both of these creatures are great answers to board wipes or removal in the current meta, as they have some sort of answer tacked onto them. Bodyguard allows us to protect our more important creatures by sacrificing itself in order to give a creature previously chosen indestructible until end of turn, thus skirting the more impactful creature away from removal. With Hunted Witness, we see a similar thing where whenever our creature dies, we get a 1/1 with lifelink.
We also have a similar effect with a couple of our 2 drops as well. A full play set of Tithe Taker and a full 4 of Imperious Oligarch also have a similar effect with the Afterlife mechanic, both providing a free 1/1 flying spirit whenever they die. On top of that, we also get some added benefit with Tithe Taker, prevent our opponents from doing things on our turn by taxing the effect; feels good man.
We also have a few other powerful 2 drops in the list, both of which I love. Knight of Grace and Fireblade Artist both see a full play set in this deck. There is a lot of black based removal at the moment, and Knight of Grace sneaks past most of it. No longer do you need to worry about a Ravenous Chupacabra, Cast Down, or even a Tyrant's Scorn. Having Hexproof against black is an incredibly powerful ability, not to mention, having a 2/2 with first strike for 2 that grows itself whenever a black permanent is on the battlefield is powerful. Speaking of black permanents, Fireblade Artist is a great inclusion in this list. It comes down early, and swings in a couple of damage every turn. On top of that, once we get to the late game, it can help provide us reach by allowing us to sacrifice our creatures to deal 2 damage to our opponent or to help shoot down a planeswalker.
Fireblade Artist also works pretty great with one of our 3 drops, Judith, the Scourge Diva. Not only do all of our creatures get a mini anthem, but making it so our nontoken creatures deal additional damage when they die can help us fight through board states or deal more damage to our opponent. Judith is powerful, but I wouldn't just run her out if you can afford it. Instead, hold her back as a precombat combat trick once you've run out your other creatures.
Speaking of 3 drops, we are also running a couple others in here to really pressure our opponents. 3 Tajic, Legion's Edge makes its way into the deck, and I don't think its a card people see coming. Not only does he have mentor but haste as well, not to mention you can pay RW to give him first strike until end of turn. The secret sauce (besides a surprise 3-4 damage out of no where) is that he protects your other creatures from damage based removal spells. Say goodbye to Lightning Strikes, Shocks, and Enter the God-Eternals (although, they'd still get their 4/4 etc.). The only target for those are going to be Tajic himself. But late game, they likely will want to try to kill Judith or a pumped up Knight instead of Tajic but unable to due to his ability.
The second 3 drop is a full play set of Benalish Marshal. This card is good. Its powerful. Its hard to cast. We need WWW in order to play it, which can feel like a tall order sometimes. But once he's down, he's a threat that needs to be dealt with. Giving an anthem doesn't seem like a super powerful ability, but it is. Providing that +1/+1 can provide us with game winning swings, and can be devastating to our opponents.
We also are running a few things to push through additional damage. We are running a full play set of Heroic Reinforcements. This card is exceptional, and its surprising that its only an uncommon. For 4 mana, we get 2 1/1 soldiers, an anthem, and granting haste to everything. Talk about giant swings. And if we already have other anthems out, this damage is just super overwhelming. To further our damage game plan, we are also running a pair of Law-Rune Enforcer. Late game, being able to pay 2 mana to tap down our opponent's largest creature in order to prevent them from blocking (or attacking for that matter) can be the extra sauce we need to finish our opponent off. I think the 2 copies are the right number here. We don't want a ton of these, but having the flexibility is nice.
We also see 2 Radiant Destiny in the main. The ascend will likely not take much of an effect on the board state (as we want to really be winning by turn 4 or 5). But against a slower opponent, having an additional anthem that we can get down could be what puts us over the edge. Just remember, if you do get the ascend to fire, the soldiers created from Heroic Reinforcements are not humans so they won't get the vigilance or the anthem effect.
The Sideboard Plan.
We actually have a relatively small sideboard plan. Full playsets of Dire Fleet Daredevil, Knight of Malice, and Tocatli Honor Guard sit in the wings, ready and waiting. We also have 3 Impassioned Orator. Dire Fleet Daredevil comes in against any sort of control. Being able to steal our opponent's spells from the graveyard is very powerful, and provides us with a ton of great flexibility. Knight of Malice is a great answer to the Teferi's in the format as well as some of the other white based removal, given its Hexproof to white. Tocatli Honor Guard is absolutely fantastic against the GB explore package, and just completely shuts them off of their game plan. Impassioned Orator gives us life whenever a creature enters the battlefield under our control, helping us push past mono red or RB aggro.
What I'd Change.
There are a few considerations to make for a list like this. I am a little wary about not having any removal at all. Angrath's Rampage could be a pretty stellar option and grants us a lot of flexibility. We don't need to worry too much about instant speed shenanigans as the majority of our deck is sorcery speed. I'd also consider creatures like Kitesail Freebooter, Isareth the Awakener, Hackrobat, Dire Fleet Poisoner, Militia Bugler, or Rix Maadi Reveler. Some of these are good main board, while others are better in the side.
I think there could be some argument to be had that we run Hackrobat, Militia Bugler, Rix Maadi Reveler, and maybe even Dire Fleet Poisoner in the main.
Here's my thought process:
Militia Bugler is a great way for us to provide on board presence while also finding an addition creature to put into our hand. The only creature we won't be able to hit off of it is Tajic. Providing card advantage can be important in an aggro list, especially if the game goes long. So in addition, Rix Maadi Reveler shouldn't be ignored. For 2 mana we can get a 2/2 while also rummaging for a more impactful card. Late game, we can deal damage to our opponent, pay 4, discard our empty hand and get a half grip of cards. I really like the thought of that.
I also really like Hackrobat, we can often times play it on turn 2, and it becomes a creature that can deal a ton of damage to our opponents, becomes a lightning rod for removal, or can remove bigger creatures by giving it deathtouch. I think its also placed really well against our Esper or Grixis opponents as it has a natural 3 toughness which skirts around Cry of the Carnarium. Lastly, for main deck consideration, I wouldn't be opposed to trying Dire Fleet Poisoner. Its a combat trick that most opponent's won't see coming, and can prevent them from swinging in with certain creatures so long as you hold up the mana for it. The deathtouch on it is very impactful and can prevent your opponent's from blocking as well. Not to mention, being able to flash it in at the end of our opponent's turn can help us skirt past their sorcery speed removal and to provide us with a surprise attacker they weren't expecting. I really like the idea of adding in deathtouchers to the mix, as it helps us punch in damage but use them as removal if needed.
For the sideboard, I'm also not opposed to running something like Kitesail Freebooter or Isareth, the Awakener. Freebooter is a duress on a stick, allowing us to get in flying damage while also being a lightning rod for our opponent's removal allowing us to keep our better creatures on the board for longer. I also like that curving out turn 2 Freebooter into a turn 3 Tajic provides us with several turns to grow our Freebooter with Tajic's mentor ability. As for Isareth, I find a list like this makes her really sing. We have a ton of 1 drops and 2 drops that will die often. Being able to re-utilize those dead creatures while also keeping more action in our hand I think would be very impactful. Oh hey, and more deathtouch, so that's good.
The only other thing I'd consider is a little bit of additional removal, or perhaps something like Chance for Glory. Playing Chance for Glory fairly seems actually pretty decent in a list like this, as it grants all of our creatures indestructible indefinitely and can be a great trick against wrath heavy decks allowing us to swing for lethal the next turn.
Well, that's the list! What do you guys think? Have you played a Mardu Humans variant yet? Do you think my suggestions add or take away to the overal strength of the deck? I had a lot of fun play testing it, and getting huge swings of damage when you curve out on your opponent is amazing. It is possible to win on turn 4 with the right draws. Give this list a try, there are a ton of pieces and a few opportunities for upgrade. Just play your land, and say go.