It's hard being a Human these days.
The living dead walk the earth, looking to devour the flesh of the living. Our own kind scavenge the grafs for body parts for their manufactured abominations. Vampires stalk them for their very blood, while the Wälder are the hunting grounds of the werewolves.
As if all this wasn't enough, the disembodied apparitions of their own dearly departed are returning with alarming consistency.
And if they thought the had a handle on things, that a sort of detente had been established that broke things more or less even, well... it's about to get a whole lot harder when Dark Ascension hits in a short few weeks.
Before that happens, however, we'll be taking a look at the Repel the Dark Intro Pack, a Green/White Humans tribal deck, to see how we might help the Humans improve their chances. Over at Ertai's Lament, we call these projects "Meddlings," and, in keeping with that spirit, we'll be employing the same two guidelines we have whenever we deckbuild from a precon.
Rule #1: No added rares or mythics.
The point of meddling with a deck is to improve the core values and underlying themes of the deck, rather than gut it and stuff it full of expensive chase cards. If you have a couple copies of Mikaeus, the Lunarch lying about and want to stuff them into your deck, by all means do so! But this feature is aimed to include those players who might not have access to a lot of those cards.
Rule #2: No cards from other sets.
Like Rule #1, this is in place to keep the deck accessible. Towards that end, we'll only be looking at cards from sets already represented in the deck, in this case Innistrad and Magic 2012.
To get a sense of what our beleaguered Humans have to work with, let's first begin with a look at the deck's stock list.
So... what to cull and what to keep? Let's assemble the forces and see what's available.
Avacynian Priest: We have an interesting trade-off here to consider when deciding upon a tapping option for the deck. Tappers like this have some solid utility on both offense and defense and are worth inclusion in a creature-based combat deck. The Priest has a non-Human restriction on its targeting, but is very flexible in its mana payment for the ability. Its Core Set equivalent, Gideon's Lawkeeper, demands White mana to activate, but gives you unrestricted tapping. Given the preponderance of Human-based decks in fashion at the moment, the Lawkeeper is probably the safer play.
Avacyn's Pilgrim: A look at the mana curve for the deck shows that, while Repel the Dark peaks at the 2-drop slot, it still has a sizable number of one-drops and three-drops bracketing it with some pricier noncreature spells backing it up. Although not purely aggressive in a Goblins sort of way (not least because it's a two-colour construction), the deck still wants to hit its drops right out of the gate and apply some early pressure. [card Avacynian Priest]Avacynian Priests[/card] not only help that strategy, but as Humans themselves they bring some tribal synergy along for the ride. We'll not only be keeping the pair here, but we'll be adding more.
Benalish Veteran: The Veteran isn't terrible- a 3/3 for three mana on the attack in a deck that wants to do precisely that. The problem with him isn't that he's a 2/2 otherwise, but rather that he has a lot of competition in his drop slot- and most of it better than he is.
Elder Cathar: I don't love the Cathar- another three-mana 2/2 Human- but he serves enough of a purpose here that he's worth a look. Repel the Dark doesn't have a lot of ways to deal with large creatures, and the ability to permanently pump up one of your own once he's headed for the Blessed Sleep can make your first strikers especially lethal.
Elder of Laurels: One of the risks in playing swarm decks is that you tend to run out of things to do later in the game. For these decks, mana sinks like this guy offer tremendous efficiency. He's also one of our two rares and his spot on the bench is uncontested.
Elite Vanguard: A workhorse of preconstructed Magic, he's come quite a ways since his earliest incarnation as the rare Savannah Lions. Although his 1 toughness marks him as brittle, two power on the opener is nothing to sneer at.
Fiend Hunter: This is obviously one of the strongest cards we'll have recourse to, being an automatic two-for-one and a solid tempo play. As an uncommon, we're free to add more- and most certainly shall.
Hamlet Captain: As a 2/2 for two mana, he's right on curve as you'd expect from Green, and his battle cry-esque power pump can add considerable threat to your Human army. A keeper.
Jade Mage: Although the Saproling tokens this lass produces don't really synergise with the rest of the deck, they are not without purpose. They're an easy and reliable way to trigger extra cards off the Mentor of the Meek, and can help flood the board with tokens- just the thing to drape an Overrun atop!
Mentor of the Meek: The deck's other rare and another three-mana 2/2. Swarm decks don't often have much recourse to card advantage, so when an opportunity like this comes along to keep gas in the tank, you'd be silly to turn your nose up at it.
Slayer of the Wicked: Any time you can get a two-for-one that leaves a body behind, it's a hard one to resist. That said, the Slayer loses some of his shine when compared to the Fiend Hunter. Outright destruction is preferable to a reversible exile much of the time (though that shifts a bit in a graveyard-based set like this one), but the Slayer is an overpriced whiff if your opponent isn't playing with "monsters." Cutting these reduces the risk of being stuck with an overcosted card in hand, and trims the overall mana curve of the deck.
Thraben Purebloods: These reskinned Siege Mastodons are a fine pick for the defensive-minded player, but we're looking to go in the opposite direction. In addition, they're a fine thematic inclusion as man's best friend, but there's a certain advantage that comes with every single creature being a Human here. Gonzo.
Unruly Mob: Like the Slayer, these are another conditional risk/reward play. Draw one early, and you can watch it grow to unstoppable proportion over the course of the game, a sort of grow-your-own closer. Their value drops precipitously, however, with each successive round they're not in play. Of course, the way to ensure that you have the best-possible chance to play one early- include a full playset- is also the best way to ensure that you get shafted drawing one late in the game. With an eye towards consistency, we're cutting them their walking papers.
Those are the creatures, all twenty-three of them. We'll come back to the beaters shortly as we start adding and subtracting with real numbers, but first let's take a look at the noncreature support.
Blazing Torch: This card rates in Limited because its removal in an environment where there really isn't all that much of it to go around, but here we can be a bit more selective. The blocking restriction is cute, but will likely be a whiff most of the time.
Bonds of Faith: Removal when you need it, and a creature boost when you don't? Getting mileage out of both halves of a bi-modal card is an enticing proposition, even if auras tend to suffer from an almost inherent risk of card disadvantage. This one's a keeper.
Bramblecrush: Often in Green and White precon decks, you'll find a singleton Disenchant or Naturalize effect, an out on offer just in case something truly odious shows up on the board. Bramblecrush gives you all sorts of options, but can't reliably deliver utility. If you're facing a simple combat deck, the things this can kill aren't exactly in abundance, and that's not even saying that if/when they appear they'd even be something you'd be happy spending a card and four mana to kill. We'll cut this and take our chances, as we don't expect the precon meta to be packed with planeswalkers.
Butcher's Cleaver, Sharpened Pitchfork, Silver-Inlaid Dagger: It's hard to imagine a weenie/swarm deck these days without their equipment, and Repel the Dark is no exception. All the better that these particular artifacts work extra hard in the hands of our intrepid Humans. We'll be keeping all three, as they have a natural progression on the mana curve (costing one, two, and three mana to deploy).
Overrun: Yes, yes, oh sweet Avacyn yes! The triple-Green mana cost is a little off-putting, but by the time you get to a point where you'd want to cast it anyway (read: have enough creatures to make it worthwhile), more often than not you should be there.
Smite the Monstrous: It's always interesting to see how cards are valued within a set. This one is much worse than Reprisal, but in Innistrad it's still a cost t you'd consider paying and be happy to do so from time to time. Unfortunately, creatures that it can solve usually won't be appearing until later in the game, when what Repel the Dark is really after is clearing the lanes of the red zone early to help its beaters get through. Cut.
Spare from Evil: This is another conditional card that will try and lure you in with tempting visions of blowout alpha strikes as you skip through endless ranks of Zombies, Dragons, Beasts, Oozes, and whatever else. Against Humans, however, it's as good as a dead card, and it takes up space that can better be used elsewhere- like real removal.
Titanic Growth: What's a combat deck without its Giant Growths? The applications for this are abundant, from combat trickery to piling on that last bit of damage to a wounded opponent. On pedigree alone these Titanics are unsinkable.
Time to Build
Culling out the chaff from the above list gives us plenty of room to grow. We want to have a solid start most opening hands, so we'll fill out the one-drops with two [card Gideon's Lawkeeper]Gideon's Lawkeepers[/card], four [card Avacyn's Pilgrim]Avacyn's Pilgrims[/card], and a trio of [card Elite Vanguard]Elite Vanguards[/card]. We'll also be keeping the pair of [card Jade Mage]Jade Mages[/card] for our two-drops.
Our three-drop complement is where the real muscle of the deck lies. The pair of [card Elder Cathar]Elder Cathars[/card] are staying put, as is the Elder of Laurels.
We'll round out to a full playset of [card Fiend Hunter]Fiend Hunters[/card], as that will be one of the deck's workhorses to keep the red zone relatively free of obstruction. We'll also add another Hamlet Captain, bringing the total up to three. Cards like the Captain, which improve the ones we're already playing, are a definite plus in this sort of deck.
And of course, there's the Mentor of the Meek.
In our revamp of Deathly Dominion, we threw in a bit of unconventional tech that supported the deck's theme of sacrifice by including a Crumbling Colossus, which was a bit of damage as well as a death trigger for morbid all in one. On a similar note, we'll be adding a curveball to Repel the Dark as well: the Thraben Sentry // Thraben Militia. There often comes a point in swarm decks where you start to realise you're running out of steam on the board.
Maybe you haven't drawn your removal as much as you like, or maybe you got off to a slower than usual start. Often it's once your opponent begins dropping creatures in the 3/3 range when you realise that you're going to fall just short of being able to kill off your opponent, as they can start to profitably block you and stall the board out. The Thraben Sentry is your ace in the hole here, since you can virtually be assured that something on your half off the board is going to die and gift you with the Thraben Militia.
As for supporting your attackers, the biggest change here is bringing in a playset of [card Oblivion Ring]Oblivion Rings[/card]. Removal in Magic 2012 and Innistrad isn't as good as it's been in the recent past for White, but these catch-all enchantments are about as good as it gets.
We'll then add a second Overrun to double your chances of drawing it- without having so many in the deck that they risk holding you back with a virtual mulligan when they appear in your starting seven.
As for the rest of the deck, we'll keep the pairs of Bonds of Faith and Titanic Growths, as well as the equipment package. Our land suite (10 Forest, 14 Plains) will also remain unchanged. Overall, this should give you a good, aggressive early-to-midgame deck with plenty of avenues for play early, and some places to sink your mana later on.
You can find the final decklist over at Tappedout. Naturally, different folks build different decks, so if there's a different route you might have taken this deck, let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for tuning in and helping to give the Humans a fighting chance.