Mono White Humans Sideboard Guide

Ben "ILOVEAZORIUS" joins us to share their own personal sideboard guide after their recent succenss with Mono-White Humans

Deck Choice and Initial Testing

Hey all, it’s data guru ILOVEAZORIUS here. I have some good news and bad news for you all. The bad news is that I abandoned my love – Azorius Control. The good news is that I got 52nd place playing Mono White Humans instead at Dreamhack Dallas for the US Regional Championship!

I chose to play this deck because I was unable to find an Azorius list that I felt had solid matchups vs both Green and Rakdos. I had been playing with Humans to great success in the months leading up to the event, and ended up with a 64% match win rate and a 58% game win rate over 127 matches and 323 games, mostly on MTGO Leagues and practice sessions with my friends. (As a side note, these were just about my exact stats for the event, though I did have a higher match win %) I averaged a total of 2.54 games/match, meaning matches with this deck were going to game three more often than not, so I knew it would be extremely important to iterate over the last few sideboard cards, even more so than aggro decks usually do.

In testing, I ended up having the worst win rates against Abzan Greasefang, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Izzet Creativity variants, so I mostly had these decks in mind when finalizing my 75. Rakdos Midrange was another matchup that I had on my radar, as I knew it would be the most played deck at the event. However, my win rate against Rakdos in testing was especially high post-board as I had been running a version with four Wedding Announcements and two Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for quite some time. I also knew that I had a solid game plan for Devotion with Brutal Catharand Ossification being able to attack their devotion pips and Brave the Elementsas a trump card.

I became convinced to run Humans due to the results from LEC Valencia in which Álvaro Santiago piloted the deck to a first-place finish.

I liked many aspects of Santiago’s list, and something that really stood out to me was the four mainboard copies of Invasion of Gobakhan. This kind of effect can be really powerful to make good tempo plays and the information this card provides can be extremely powerful for a good beatdown player to have. In my opinion, battles are usually very bad because you have to spend creatures, damage, and at least one combat step to flip them. This loss of damage is felt especially hard in creature decks like Humans. However, Lightshield Array giving your attacking creatures a +1/+1 counter every turn makes up for that lost damage quite quickly, and the protection it gives is especially useful when your deck contains powerful but fragile cards like Adeline, Resplendent CatharThalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Brutal Cathar Finally, I knew that I wanted multiple copies of this effect in my mainboard for this weekend, as Invasion could help catch some of the hate directed towards Boros Convoke that might also be effective against Humans.

Santiago’s list is a little more creature-heavy than the average Humans list, which is fine and not particularly unexpected. You certainly have an upper limit on non-Creature spells you can run when you are choosing to register Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in your deck.

In assembling my final deck for Dallas, I started with Santiago’s list and combined it with my lists that I had been testing for a few weeks at that time. The influence of Santiago’s creature base can be seen in my final creature base, in particular.

The general strategy of this deck is fairly straightforward – play a bunch of Humans that increase their collective strength. You can play go-wide or go-tall depending on your opponent’s deck and how your draw lines up, which is some necessary flexibility. Additionally, cards like Thalia or Invasion of Gobakhan can disrupt your opponent’s effective interaction, locking them out of the game. Many of your cards are or will become must-answer threats quite quickly, and this deck also has surprisingly good staying power – especially post-board.


One large change that I made from Santiago’s list was re-adding Ossification to the mainboard. I generally dislike Brutal Cathardue to its vulnerability to removal spells such as Stomp, so I figured Ossification was a card I would be interested in despite it potentially having non-synergy with Thalia. Being able to hit planeswalkers was also something that I considered relevant enough.

Another change that I made was not particularly popular with Humans players, but one that I am sure was correct looking back. This choice was adding the 23rd land to the main deck. In testing, I found that I was losing many more games to not hitting my third land drop and stranding Adeline in my hand, than I was to flooding out. The deck has many mana sinks, such as Recruitment Officer, Castle Ardenvale Mutavault, and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, that I wasn’t particularly scared of flooding. I decided to add Shefet Dunes as another land that has utility and can help me hit my land drops without having to worry about mana flood. Finally, I had been playing with Gideon and Wedding Announcement in the sideboard for a long time by that point, so I knew my postboard plan was to go bigger most of the time.

My most controversial change has to be the removal of Rest in Peace from the 75 entirely. Rest in Peace is a common inclusion in Humans sideboards that I greatly disliked. I felt the two-mana investment to shut off all graveyards was too little impact for the cost and often an entire turn two. RiP is a card that is good against Gearhulk Creativity, Greasefang, and other random graveyard-centric decks. I found in testing that I would often drop a Rest in Peace on turn two against these decks and just end up losing to them playing a fair one-for-one plan since I essentially wasted my entire turn two not pressuring them. I decided that Invasion of Gobakhan was a better plan in these matchups as it could disrupt them from doing something unfair early on and then convert into pressure AND protection later in the game to get me across the line.

Finally, the change that I am the most proud of was adding Lyra Dawnbringer to my sideboard. This card might seem like a strange inclusion given it is expensive at five mana and not a human, but is precisely why I decided to include it. I knew that an expensive curve-topper was something that I’d potentially be interested in, especially to bring in against Rakdos Sacrifice which is a nearly unwinnable matchup. Lyra being an Angel dodges Power Word Kill, and being five mana lets it dodge Claim the Firstborn and Fatal Push as well. Lastly, her Flying evasion was crucially important because that is something that the rest of my main deck lacks access to. 

I give full credit for this slot to Gerrick Alford, who is a great control player, and one of the highest-finishing control mages at the event. Gerrick initially suggested Baneslayer Angel since she has protection from Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin and Mayhem Devil. However, I was eventually told that Mayhem Devil is actually a devil (shocker) and therefore Baneslayer was vulnerable to it. I then looked towards Boon-Bringer Valkyrieas a way to give evasion to my other creatures, but this card failed the Rending Volley test. I briefly considered Archangel Avacyn but figured the chance that she wipes my own board too high and not having lifelink was a big mark against her as well. Finally, I realized Lyra Dawnbringer was exactly what I was looking for, given she passed all of the above tests and had extra synergy with my deck, discounting the price of Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, as well as giving Mutavault lifelink, which ended up winning me a match against Boros Convoke.

The rest of my sideboard is pretty much adding extra copies of each card that was included in the mainboard and is only situationally good, allowing me to customize my main deck by taking out those flex cards that are bad in any given matchup and bring in each card that is good there.

With all this said, this is the list I landed on for the event:


Remember that any sideboard guide is not to be followed religiously and you should be changing the way you sideboard depending on any number of factors. These can be things such as the overall metagame, your opponent’s exact decklist if you are playing in an open deck list event, or the cards you saw in games one and two if you are playing in a closed deck list event, as well whether you are on the play or on the draw.

Even with this in mind, there are some general rules you should look to follow when playing Humans:

  1. Given you are an aggro deck, if you are stuck between two cards and are not sure which one to cut or which one to bring in, you should choose whichever card is more proactive and gets your opponent dead faster.
  2. You should think about the way games are going to play out while you are sideboarding. If your opponent is a combo deck, you should be looking to bring in cards that speed up your clock or maximally disrupt them. If your opponent is looking to Fatal Push or Go for the Throat every card you play, you should be looking to bring in more expensive cards and cards that generate two-for-ones to have some shot at beating them at their own game.
  3. You should generally look to be more proactive when you are on the play with this deck and more reactive on the draw, and should be sideboarding accordingly.

With that said, here are some general sideboarding plans:

Vs Azorius Control

Your role: Classic Beatdown

Their best cards: Temporary Lockdown, Regal Caracal, March of Otherworldly Light

Postboard matchup feel: Highly Favored, Fairly unfavored if they draw Regal Caracal

Classic aggro vs control matchup. You are just looking to kill them before they can pivot with their expensive threats. Early game you should be looking to get onto the board quickly and set up lock pieces like Thalia or Invasion of Gobakhan. On any turn they have access to mana to cast Temporary Lockdown, you should look to not deploy any more threats to the board if they cost two or less mana. You should look to hold cards like Wedding Announcement or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to slam them post-wrath in order to accrue some card advantage to end the game with. Never swing Gideon into open mana unless you are holding a Brave the Elements Brave the Elementsis only okay against them, but is a necessary evil in order to push through a Wandering Emperor or especially a Regal Caracal. Destroy Evilis similar in role as a counter to Temporary Lockdown.

+4 Wedding Announcement-4 Coppercoat Vanguard
+1 Brave the Elements-1 Hopeful Initiate
+2 Destroy Evil-2 Brutal Cathar
+2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar-1 Giant Killer
+1 Invasion of Gobakhan-2 Ossification

Your role: Midrange Beatdown

Their best cards: Graveyard Trespasser, Fatal Push, Noxious Grasp

Postboard matchup feel: Slightly Unfavored, better if you draw Wedding Announcement

This matchup is really interesting, as you boarding into more of a midrange plan can do work against their plan to one-for-one you with removal spells before sticking a big guy and riding it to victory. There are certain hands you can draw where their best way to win is to try to aggro you out and there are certain hands they can draw where your best way to win the game is to aggro them out, and vice versa. I think Graveyard Trespasser is their best threat against us (despite what I have heard from my friends who play Rakdos) because it is capable of racing us alone and can be hard to efficiently remove due to its ward ability). You should look to deploy cards you care less about early on, such as Hopeful Initiate or Thalia to soak up their early removal spells or interaction, before deploying one of your two-for-one value pieces (Gideon or Wedding). At a certain point in the game they will begin deploying their own threats, such as Graveyard or Sheoldred. Look to sandbag a removal spell or two to use on those and you should generally be able to ride whatever leftover crap you have to victory.

Notes* If you are playing open decklist and see they are on more Power Word Kills, you can bring Lyra in on the draw. Track their removal spells capable of killing her appropriately.

The proper way to SB vs Rakdos depends on their deck version and SB plan. Change appropriately vs their exact decklist if playing with open decklists. Thalia is definitely a double-edged sword in this matchup.

+4 Wedding Announcement-2 Brutal Cathar
+2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar-1 Brave the Elements
+2 Destroy Evil-2 Hopeful Initiate
+1 Giant Killer-1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
+1 Ossification-1 Coppercoat Vanguard
-3 Invasion of Gobakhan

Vs Mono-Green Devotion

Your role: Beatdown Combo

Their best cards: Haywire Mite, Old-Growth Troll and Polukranos, Karn, Cityscape Leveler

Postboard matchup feel: Favored, unless they can get an early Karn or combo you out

This matchup is generally pretty straightforward, you want to put as much power on board as you can while removing their devotion pips before swinging for lethal with a Brave the Elementsto make your creatures unblockable. The games where you don’t draw Brave the Elementsfeature some more interesting and varied gameplay, but are also usually the ones that you lose. As a general rule, you should look to be attacking for the first few turns, even into an untapped elf, as they tend to need as much mana as possible to pay for Thalia tax and to have enough mana to cast and downtick Karn for a relevant colorless card or a Restorative Burst to gain life. Haywire Mite is their best card and it’s not even close. A colorless chump blocker that turns off future Ossifications or frees multiple pips of Devotion from a resolved Ossification is extremely good against us. Hands with a curve and some creative removal (Cathar being the best of the bunch) generally get there against all but their best draws.

+2 Brave the Elements-3 Invasion of Gobakhan
+2 Destroy Evil-2 Recruitment Officer
+1 Brutal Cathar-1 Hopeful Initiate
+1 Giant Killer-1 Castle Ardenvale
+1 Ossification

Vs Rakdos Sacrifice

Your role: Beatdown

Their best cards: Claim the Firstborn, Mayhem Devil, Cauldon Familiar

Postboard matchup feel: Highly Unfavored

This matchup is miserable to play from the Humans side. I was fortunate enough to not run into it all weekend, except one game in the Friday 1pm Pioneer event that I did to warm up. In that event, my opponent got mana screwed on two lands for five plus turns and I still was not even close to winning. Your best way to win is to draw multiple anthems on curve or land an individually powerful threat and protect it with Brave the Elements You have to pray to whatever deity you believe in that they don’t draw too many Claims or Mayhem Devils, as you generally cannot win if they do.

+4 Wedding Announcement-2 Brutal Cathar
+2 Brave the Elements-1 Giant Killer
+2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar-3 Invasion of Gobakhan
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer-2 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
+1 Ossification-2 Dauntless Bodyguard

Vs Abzan Greasefang

Your role: Beatdown

Their best cards: Skysovereign Consul Flagship, Esika’s Chariot, Ray of Enfeeblement

Matchup Feel: Even

This matchup is generally not great as you are vulnerable to their combo plan, while generally also being a dog to their fair plan. However, I think my version of the Humans deck at least has a plan to work towards when playing vs Grease, which other Humans decks rarely have. Hopeful Initiate can be really effective at beating a fair Esika’s Chariot plan or preventing Parhelion II from attacking you. If you draw a copy of Invasion, you are generally able to disrupt their early combo or at least slow them down. If you don’t, you have removal spells such as Destroy Evilor Chop Down to hold up after setting up a board to pressure them with. Lyra Dawnbringer is only cleanly answered by them getting a boat into play and attacking with it in the same turn (you are probably losing anyways if they are in a position to do this) and can straight up beat an active Parhelion II if you have some life points to work with. Your best way to win this matchup is to pressure them and hope they lose to themselves, as Greasefang is prone to doing.

+1 Brave the Elements-2 Ossification
+2 Destroy Evil-3 Dauntless Bodyguard
+1 Giant Killer
+1 Invasion of Gobakhan

Vs Boros Convoke

Your role: Varies, but generally Beatdown

Their best cards: Reckless Bushwhacker/Regal Leosaur, Venerated Loxodon Rending Volley

Matchup Feel: Slightly Unfavored

This matchup is another one that has some play to it, as either player can realistically be the control deck. This matchup really rewards doing combat math correctly and anticipating what combination of cards your opponent could have, what combination of cards can kill you depending on how you attack, and squaring these factors. I think the Convoke deck generally has inevitability in this matchup, as given enough time they will loop Knight-Errant of Eos’ into more guys and a Bushwhacker-type effect to kill you in one go. As the Humans player, you should be recklessly attacking them for the first few turns, as they generally cannot chump block or trade, needing guys on board to convoke with. As they land their first Convoke guy, you should begin taking more of a defensive role until you draw a trump card of some variety. This trump card can be a removal spell for their big guy to push more damage, a lord to force unfavorable or chump blocks, or a Brave the Elementsto push lethal in one go. Generally, the player who has to begin chump blocking is hard pressed to put together a combination of cards to get themselves back into the game, so you should be looking to establish a board state where they need to be chump blocking ASAP. Certain cards, such as Lyra Dawnbringer, can reverse this heuristic though. It is crucial to check which cards they have in their sideboard for this matchup, as this can inform your own decision making and sideboarding.

One of my losses this weekend was to Max McVety, who effectively played a control gameplan vs me in game three of the match. Be careful of overattacking, as well as underattacking!

+2 Brave the Elements-4 Coppercoat Vanguard
+2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar-3 Invasion of Gobakhan
+2 Destroy Evil-1 Recruitment Officer
+1 Brutal Cathar
+1 Giant Killer
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer
+1 Ossification

Vs Lotus Field Combo

Your role: BEATdown

Their best cards: Arboreal Grazer SB wraths, SB big creatures such as Dromoka

Matchup Feel: Favored

This matchup is generally a very good matchup for Humans, as you provide a good mix of disruption and pressure that combo decks are vulnerable to. You generally should most matches when playing Humans in this matchup and are really only vulnerable to Arboreal Grazergame one and their SB cards, as you are usually just too fast. Postboard, you are generally just deciding which situationally good removal spells you want and which wraths they may or may not have are worth playing around. Flipping Lightshield Array is generally just game over, unless they are on Languish or can land a Zacama, so you should look to prioritize doing so. Sandbag a removal spell for Lier or Dromoka and you are good to go!

+2 Destroy Evil-1 Castle Ardenvale
+1 Invasion of Gobakhan-2 Brutal Cathar

Vs Gruul Vehicles

Your role: Beatdown

Their best cards: Bonecrusher Giant Migolz Maze Crusher, Mutavault

Matchup Feel: Highly Unfavored

Go next. This matchup is almost completely unwinnable. They have efficient removal for your small humans with Bonecrusher Giantand their entire gameplan is to get big guys out ahead of schedule with elves to accelerate. Even their ‘bad’ cards such as The Akroan War can be huge beatings in certain spots. Your best plan in this matchup is to hope they stumble and set up a board where you can protect an important creature such as Adeline or Lyra with a Brave the Elementsor use Brave the Elementsto counterattack them for lethal.

One of my losses this weekend was to Bradley Schlesinger, the eventual tournament winner, who just completely ran me over both games. I have some more thinking to do about sideboard cards to improve this matchup and am strongly considering temporarily retiring Humans as more people pick up Bradley’s deck if I’m unable to find anything reasonable.

+2 Brave the Elements-3 Invasion of Gobakhan
+2 Destroy Evil-2 Hopeful Initiate
+1 Giant Killer-1 Brutal Cathar
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer

Vs Izzet Creativity

Your role: Beatdown

Their best cards: Fiery Impulse, Indomitable Creativity, Spikefield Hazard

Matchup Feel: Unfavored

This matchup isn’t great for Humans in general, but can be okay if you draw well. A big advantage is we simply don’t care about many of the cards they run that other decks have trouble with, such as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Additionally, they tend to be pretty material-heavy, needing to stick creatures of treasures to play the game, so we have draws that can just run them over. Adeline’s 4 toughness can be very annoying for their deck that is playing a lot of 3-damage effects. You need to play differently depending on the payoff they are playing, being more aggressive if they are an Atraxa or Wurm version and a little more grindy if they are playing a Gearhulk version. Invasion of Gobakhan is probably your best individual card against them, but don’t put too much emphasis on flipping it as they often can take advantage of the extra time it buys them to flip it. Knowing when to defeat an invasion to have protection for a future alpha strike and when to ignore it to increase your clock is a crucial skill to have in the matchup.

*Destroy Evils and Giant Killers are less good vs Wurm plan, but still alright to have a plan to “fog” the Wurm and then Brave past the tokens.

+2 Brave the Elements-2 Brutal Cathar
+1 Giant Killer-2 Ossification
+2 Destroy Evil-4 Coppercoat Vanguard
+1 Invasion of Gobakhan
+2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Vs Spirits 

Your role: Beatdown

Their best cards: Rattlechains, Supreme Phantom, Shacklegeist, Katilda

Matchup Feel: Slightly Unfavored

I have not played against Spirits that often, so take my advice with a grain of salt. In the matches I have played, you generally just want to execute your gameplan of putting guys on board and then racing them. Their best way to win is by having a Rattlechains flash guys in, landing multiple lords onto the board, or racing you by using Shacklegeist.

+1 Ossification+1 Giant Killer
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer-3 Invasion of Gobakhan

Vs Bring to Light

Your role: Beatdown

Their best cards: Chained to the Rocks, Omnath, Hostage Taker, idk like their whole deck

Matchup Feel: Highly Unfavored

This matchup is very rough, as they have hard-to-answer threats that generate value such as Omnath or Elesh Norn and cheap 1-mana unconditional removal spells such as Chained to the Rocks and Leyline Binding. They also have Bring to Lightto fetch up sweepers or set up a Fable + Hostage Taker lock that prevents you from playing the game. Your best way to win is to hope their hand is slow and curve out on them. Thalia does work taxing their threats, but is also a double edged sword as you need to remove their threats on sight to ensure they don’t generate too much value.

+1 Giant Killer-1 Brave the Elements
+2 Destroy Evil-2 Hopeful Initiate
+1 Invasion of Gobakhan-3 Coppercoat Vanguard
+1 Ossification
+1 Brutal Cathar
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