Ryan Grainger | 8th January 2019
Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s Tribal Tuesday!
I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season and made the most of it! Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and the relaxing must stop. Whilst that does mean we’ll be returning to work and the real world, it does mean for some people, article writing can once again continue! After Tribal Tuesday took a little 2 week break, we’re back and boy are we starting 2019 off with an awesome tribe! Just as a recap, before the holidays we looked at a Christmas themed deck, and that was Gifts! Whilst that’s not strictly a tribe, all the cards centered around one theme and it turned out really sweet, giving away creatures and other permanents that we don’t want to win the game is a super unique was of playing a game of Magic. This week, thanks to a newly spoiled card for Ravnica Allegiance, the Hydroid Krasis (have we ever seen a combo of creature types cooler than Jellyfish Hydra Beast?) we’re going to be looking at the Hydra tribe!
A quick reminder for anyone new to the series, Tribal Tuesday is all about checking out some of the overlooked tribes in magic history and having some fun brewing in different formats. With that out of the way, let’s get onto the Hydras!
The Hydra was originally a Greek and Roman mythological serpentine water monster. It had many heads, and when one head got cut off, two more takes it’s place. In Magic, Hydras are normally Green creatures, although there are many sub-types of Hydras in the world that they have spread to almost all colours. To represent the indefinite number of heads in game, they usual have ‘X’ in the mana cost and then enter the battlefield with +1+1 counters equal to X. The first creature to bear the type was Rock Hydra in Alpha.
As if we were going to play any other commander than Progenitus. Probably the most famous of all great threats in the Magic Universe, it really has become an iconic card. The main upside to playing Progenitus is having access to all 5 colours. Because of the way Hydras play in game, we need the a little bit of all play styles to make things work, being able to ramp hard, manipulate counters, draw cards, removal and protection are all vital to making it work so the 5 colours are crucial. Plus, if we get Progenitus on the board, there’s a good chance he isn’t going anywhere else soon!
Because Hydras have a ‘X’ mana cost they typically get bigger the more mana we put into them. With this being the case we want to try and get as much lands out into play during the early game, this will allow us to drop big Hydras that will slowly grow to big for opponents to deal with. Quick side note, because of the flexibility of the ‘X’ mana cost, don’t be afraid to drop 1 or 2 Hydras early for some early game plays and defense, we have plenty more! Take the Primordial Hydra for an example, playing it as a 1/1, will still grow very quickly doubling it’s counters each of our upkeeps.
We also have some early game plays including other non-Hydra creatures that will help with our game plan later on. For our actual ramp spells, they fall into 3 categories. The creature/artifact mana producers, the ramp spells that put lands into play, and finally, mana doubling abilities.
For artifact mana producers, of course we’ve got the good ol’ Sol Ring, but we’ve also got a lot of other artifacts that produce 1 mana of any colour. The reason I chose this other cards like Thran Dynamo, is because we’re playing a 5 colour deck, and whilst having an artifact that produces 3 colourless other 1 coloured may be better for pure Hydras, we’ll often find ourselves pinched out of a certain colour a lot of the times. Darksteel Ingot and Manalith are good examples of great ramp in our deck. Commander’s sphere is another great card, as our commander is 5 colours, the sphere will make 1 of any of the 5 colours.
For traditional ramp spell, green is the colour to go and is why the deck is primarily this colour. Cultivate, Explosive Vegetation, Kodama’s Reach and Rampant Growth are the go-to’s in the deck and honestly, we really want one of these in our opening hand. These allow us to pick out basic lands, preferably of a colour we don’t have access to yet, and put them into our hand/the battlefield, depending on the spell. This makes sure we’re not unable to play any cards due to some tricky mana costs and gives us a boost on the number of lands in play.
As for the doubling effects I mentioned, there aren’t too many, but the ones we’ve gone for our Zendikar Resurgent and Mirari’s Wake. These cards double the mana a lands produces, so one basic land will produce two mana. This ability sky rockets the amount of mana we can produce and let’s us make X = a whole bunch of mana.
As previously mentioned, most Hydras have an ‘X’ value in their mana cost and enter with that many +1+1 counters, pretty simple. Whilst most Hydras follow this, there are some that have some extra utility attached or don’t follow this rule quite the same as others. As there’s no point me highlighting 5 different Hydras that do the same, I’ll cover these unique ones then list some of the more generic Hydras.
Starting at the top of the alphabet we have Apocalypse Hydra. Following the theme, this Hydra enters the battlefield with a number of +1+1 counters equal to the cost of X, however, if X is more than 5, it enters with twice as many. It doesn’t stop there though, Apocalypse Hydra also has a 2 mana walking ballista type effect, being able to remove a counter to ping any target for one damage.
Hydra Broodmaster is perfect for a more go-wide approach. The weakness to Hyrdas is that we invest a lot of mana on just one big creature, and if that creature was to die to removal, that’s a lot of wasted mana. The Broodmaster allows us to counter this slightly. This Hydra doesn’t have X in it’s mana cost, but it does in it’s monstrosity cost to keep with the Hydra theme. Once we got Monstrous, we make a number of Hydra tokens equal to the cost of X. This allows us to have multiple threats out on the board so we don’t get shut down by single target removal.
Hydra Omnivore is just full of flavour for multiplayer game. A 6 mana 8/8 is nothing to laugh about, and when it attacks one player, it deals that much damage to each other opponent. Never get blamed for picking on one person ever again! And rake in those political points as you’re hitting everyone equally 😉
Kalonian Hydra is the team player of the group. When it attacks, it doubles the number of +1+1 counters on each creature you control. Even if it just hit’s one other Hydra with 4 or so counters, that’s an extra 4 damage just in that turn as the trigger happens before combat damage is dealt, this is the card that really starts making the Hydras into 20/20 monsters that never get answered.
For Utility Hydras, the last one I’ll mention before I get carried away is the Lifeblood Hydra. When this guy finally gets brought down, maybe blocking another big threat, we gain some valuable life and draw some cards. As we’re a big mana deck, we often take a lot of little blows early on in the game as we’re busy ramping. This bit of life gain is often enough to stop us from dying out of nowhere to a combo of some sorts.
As mentioned, we have a ton of Hydras in this deck so please check them out, otherwise I’ll get carried away writing them all!
The Card Draw
Whilst we’re more of a creature based, big mana deck and we don’t have many direct card draw spells, we do have some. Most of the card draw, like you’ve seen, is embedded onto cards like the Lifeblood Hydra, and that’s the theme we carry on with. Prime Speaker Zegana takes advantage of the +1+1 counters we have flying around. As well as becoming a big threat herself by mimicking the amount of +1+1 counters on our biggest creature, it also draws cards equal to this number. There aren’t many cases where this card draws less than 5 others which will often keep you going for a big majority of the game
Along the same vein as Zegana, Fathom Mage, with it’s evolve mechanic, will continue to grow bigger and bigger as we’re generating more mana, making bigger Hydras, and drawing cards along the way. Whilst not as explosive as Zegana, this is a steady card draw engine as the game goes on.
The +1+1 Manipulation
Just a quick glance at some of the Hydras in the deck and you’ll see, we really are a counters deck, and in Commander, there are some really fun ways to manipulate them. You may be familiar with some of the cards in this section, like Hardened Scales and Doubling Season, being able to get more counters than we payed for, but there are some real off the wall cards here as well.
The simplest one, and kind of the whole idea of this section is encapsulated in the card Bioshift. For 1 mana you can move any number of counters from one creature to another! About to make an unfavourable trade? Move the counters! What to double the amount of counters on one creature? Move counters from another before you double for even more counters! This card works really well with some of the Hydras abilities are is probably the best card in the deck.
Forgotten Ancient is another card all about the moving of counters. It starts off as a relatively early play and being used in a multiplayer format, it will often gain 3 or more counters when you untap with it. Then like Bioshift, being able to move those counters onto a big Hydra, whilst sadly not at instant speed this time, is still a huge affect.
Worried that all your counters are going to die with your creature? Not with Reyhan, this basically gives your counters indestructible as long as there’s another creature around. Being able to hold onto the counters stop us from having a huge tempo loss when one of the creatures die.
The Other Big Boys
As well as being able to move counters around, we still make a huge amount of mana, and it would be a shame if we didn’t have some huge creatures alongside the Hydras. Having a lot of lands in play allows us to play cards like Avacyn, Angel of Hope without it being a stretch to reach. These cards also provide some good utility to the Hydras so they fit very well in the deck. Remember, our Commander is also Progenitus as well, we’d like to cast him at least once during the game 😉
We play 2 of the ‘Bring of the___ Dawn’ cards. There were five Bringers, all concepted as manifestations of the energy of the five “suns” (moons) of Mirrodin and all cost (7)MM, could be played for WUBRG, had trample and another powerful affect. Being all 5 colours we can easily include these guys. The Blue Bringer draws us two cards on upkeep so we never run out of gass and the Black Bringer can tutor up a card for 2 life on upkeep, so we can find exactly what we need.
The Wrap Up
So, if you like playing flexible creatures, big creatures late game and messing around with +1+1 counters this is the deck for you. The thing I like so much about this deck, is the depth of it. For new players, it’s an easy deck to pick up, playing huge creatures and swinging away but at the same time for more experienced players, the moving and manipulation of +1+1 counters can make for some really deep game play and interesting puzzles. After writing about a new tribe in Commander, it always hits the top of my ‘To-Build’ list and this tribe has been no exception. I love the flavour and theme that the Hydra cards carry with them.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read, anything I missed? And as always, what tribe should we cover next, got any underloved favourites? Let us know!