The Japan Metagame Diaries: Hail Hydra!

Cut off one head, 2 more shall take its place! Hail Hydra!

The Red Skull, Captain America




It’s not every day that you get to attack for 30+ damage on one turn. However, when you do it feels pretty damn good. For those of you that have been reading my blog for a while, the title of this article might seem similar to one I posted before about a year ago. While they share some of the same cards, this deck is very different from the previous one. After the release of Born of the Gods, Journey into Nyx, and M15, Hail Hydra has transformed into a whole new beast, or in this case, Hydra.

Hail Hydra!
75 cards, 15 sideboard
1 Mana Confluence
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Mountain
8 Forest
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Stomping Ground

24 lands

4 Burning-Tree Emissary
3 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Genesis Hydra
4 Gyre Sage
2 Hydra Broodmaster
3 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Elvish Mystic
3 Courser of Kruphix

26 creatures

3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Domri Rade
2 Setessan Tactics
2 Xenagos, the Reveler

10 other spells

1 Nissa, Worldwaker
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Pithing Needle
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
1 Bow of Nylea
2 Reclamation Sage
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
3 Mistcutter Hydra

15 sideboard cards

The metagame has changed a lot since when Theros was first released, and now it’s come full circle. GR devotion was one of the first decks to really surprise people during Pro Tour Theros, but sadly the speed of mono blue and the removal of mono black devotion kept it down.

No longer.

Hail Hydra at its base is a GR devotion deck with a lot of ramp effects. Between Elvish Mystic, Gyre Sage, and Courser of Kruphix, you’ll have no problem getting the mana you need to power out a huge threat early. I decided that Gyre Sage would be better in this deck than Sylvan Caryatid because in testing the 0/3 just didn’t do what I wanted it to do. I’m not hurting on getting the correct mana on turn 3 most of the time, and later in the game it’s absolutely garbage. Gyre Sage, on the other hand, can be played on turn 2 and become both a great source of mana as well as a threat if left alone.

Burning-Tree Emissary also allows you to get those incredibly unfair turn 3s from time to time. Playing multiples of them and then activating a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx means you could easily play a Polukranos, World Eater or even a Stormbreath Dragon if you played an elf on the first or second turn. Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler were at the core of previous Colossal Gruul builds, and that’s no different from now either. Domri is absolutely amazing on turn 3 or earlier. He gets you card advantage while also acting as removal.

Genesis Hydra

Genesis Hydra

We all know how Colossal Gruul did in the past. We knew it was a powerful deck. It was half combo, half midrange. However it lacked something to make it a threat against control and decks with a lot of removal. Wizards gave us an answer in the form of Genesis Hydra. This card is simply amazing and I’m surprised it isn’t a $7 card yet. In a deck like GR Devotion you can easily play it for 4 or more mana and the larger you play it, the better it becomes. There are two things I want to point out first if you haven’t absorbed what this card does yet:

1) Even if the card is countered, you still get to exile cardsand dig to another threat

2) You can put a nonland PERMANENT into play. This means a Planeswalker, creature, Enchantment, etc.


The advantage that this card gets for you in a match is unbelievable. Not only do you get a 3/3, 4/4, or 5/5 + creature, you also get another card for free. You’ve heard of 2 for 1s, right? Your opponent takes out two of your cards with 1 card of there’s. Well, this card makes sure that doesn’t happen any more. Just an example of how powerful it can be. I was playing against Jund monsters, had a Xenagos God of Revels on the battlefield with a Courser of Kruphix and BTE, I cast Genesis Hydra for 5, find a Stormbreath Dragon and put it into the battlefield, double the Hydra’s power with Xenagos, use Nykthos to activate Stormbreath Dragon’s monstrous, then attack for 27. This card does unfair things, and it will continue to do unfair things until October 2015.

Hydra Broodmaster is another fun card in this deck. I find that 2 is the right amount because you really want to be spending mana on its monstrous ability instead of casting more of them. This deck has both mana creatures and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, so this card can easily get silly in standard play. Last weekend alone I made three 3/3s, four 4/4s, and seven 7/7s during my games. Aside from an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion -3 or a Supreme Verdict, there is simply no way that an opponent can deal with those in one turn. What’s better is that you can do it at the end of your opponent’s turn where they can’t even react with those cards.

As for removal (aside from Polukranos, World Eater and Domri Rade’s -2), both Mizzium Mortars and Setessan Tactics are great. Both can be cast relatively early and can wipe an opponent’s board. I especially like Tactics because it can act as a combat trick to ensure your creatures survive a mirror match, while also letting you 2 for 1 opponents. There are enough large creatures going around to get the job done against anything your opponent can throw against you.


The Sideboard

After a challenging weekend that pitted the deck against just about every match up in standard right now, I feel like the sideboard is almost perfect.

  • Nissa, World Waker – I tried her in the mainboard, but she wasn’t that great as a one off, and also didn’t really help with all those Scry lands and non-forests. I side her in against control decks.
  • Chandra, Pyromaster – I like Chandra’s +1 a lot. I have big creatures, and I don’t want you blocking so I’ll make sure you don’t. I like this in the mirror match ups, but also against Junk and Jund midrange decks. The 0 ability is also good against mono black and control to help you get card advantage.
  • Pithing Needle – a must have against control decks, especially Esper (BWU). Jace, Architect of Thought is no problem, but you really do want to shut down Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Aetherling with these.
  • Xenagos, God of Revels – he can cause control decks a lot of problems, but I would side him in against black/x devotion decks and Jund too. It puts a lot of pressure on your opponent to have removal every turn or else they are going to get hurt.
  • Bow of Nylea – Nobody wants your Stormbreath Dragon to get blocked by a Hornet Queen, so why not snipe the little bugger down with a bow before it deals damage? Good way to keep your threats alive. I use this against Green devotion, but also isn’t bad against the mirror/other green midrange decks to make your Polukranos a really nasty threat when he attacks.
  • Reclamation Sage – Great way to get rid of Detention Spheres in control match ups while putting a body on the ground too. I think it’s also good against any other enchantment heavy deck like mono black aggro. Might not be a bad idea to get rid of mono black devotion’s Underworld Connections either.
  • Anger of the Gods – Against fast aggro decks, such as mono red or white weenie, you’ll need this. Your creatures will survive most likely, theirs will not.
  • Garruk, Caller of the Beasts – Not really sure if I want him or another Xenagos, God of Revels in the sideboard. I’d bring him in against control just to dig to my win conditions, while also letting me get around counterspells.
  • Mistcutter Hydra – he’ll absolutely destroy mono blue devotion decks, but is also pretty good against Esper control. UW control has a really hard time killing it without a Supreme Verdict.

While it’s not perfect, here is a sample plan for sideboarding:

  • Control: -2 Setessan Tactics, -3 Mizzium Mortars, -4 Gyre Sage, -1 Courser of Kruphix, -1 Burning-Tree Emissary / +3 Miscutter Hydra, +1 Nissa, Worldwaker, +1 Xenagos, God of Revels, +1 Chandra, Pyromaster, +2 Pithing Needle, +1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts, +2 Reclamation Sage
  • Aggro: – 2 Hydra Broodmaster, -1 Stormbreath Dragon, -1 Xenagos, the Reveler  /+3 Anger of the Gods, +1 Bow of Nylea
  • Mono black devotion: -2 Setessan Tactics, -3 Mizzium Mortars/+1 Chandra Pyromaster, +2 Reclamation Sage, +1 Xenagos, God of Revels, +1 Bow of Nylea
  • GW midrange/Jund monsters/Junk midrange: -3 Mizzium Mortars / +1 Bow of Nylea, +1 Xenagos, God of Revels, +1 Chandra, Pyromaster 


The Japan Metagame


Players in Nagoya are slowly getting back into standard as M15 cards start to find their way into decks. There are a lot of people playing Modern, and I don’t expect there to be a standard explosion until GP Kobe is over at the end of August. However, those that play now will have a definitely leg up on the competition at the World Magic Cup Qualifiers happening at the end of August and in September.

In my first foray into M15 standard at a local FNM, I ran into a lot of aggro decks and ended up going to 2-1 with an early build of my GR hydra deck. I lost to mono white aggro (the eventual winner of the event), but won against Izzet Doom Engine (a deck that uses Ensoul Artifact on Darksteel Citadel and uses Generator Servant to play an early Scuttling Doom Engine) and mono black devotion. In both wins my GR deck was able to put out threat after threat and simply overwhelm my opponents. During the second week of M15 standard (from 7/25), a slightly rebuilt version of my GR Hail Hydra deck went 4-0 for first place at FNM. I beat a UG evolve deck, Jund monsters, Red devotion, and Rakdos aggro. Aside from one game loss to the UG Evolve deck (he blew me out with Cyclonic Rift), I beat all my other opponents 2-0. My mana creatures powered me into an overwhelming lead in each game, while providing me with blockers later on. 

At a slightly larger 27 person event the following day, I went 3-2 with GR Hydras. I found the Esper control match up somewhat hard and lost to it in my first match, but I battled back and beat a BUG tempo, mono black devotion, and BR aggro deck to make it to the top table. In my last match I ended up losing to mono green devotion thanks to mulligans to 5 both games, but it was definitely winnable had that not happened. The winner of this deck was GW aggro, and another RW and GW aggro deck also finished in the top 5. 

Today (7/27) was another small event in town, but it gave me an even better gauntlet to play against. I had a problem with mulligans to 5 in both games of round one and lost against junk midrange, but I blew out Esper control, Jund monsters, and GW midrange in the following 3 rounds to finish 3-1 on the day for 3rd place. There were A LOT of midrange decks, and I feel like that might be where the metagame is heading in the following few weeks. The winner of this event was Jund monsters, but BW midrange and Junk midrange also did well. 

Since I started using this deck, I’ve gone 12-4. I think the deck is really strong and incredibly resilient against a wide range of threats. It can be fast when it needs to, it hits very hard, and the planeswalkers make it really hard for control to gain an overwhelming advantage. The hardest thing about the deck is keeping an aggressive hand. Luckily, you should have no problems getting a bomb or planeswalker in your opening hand, but being able to play it quickly is going to take some practice. Once you sleeve it up and play a few games with it, you’ll see what I mean about how strong the deck can be.

Just remember, that when one card falls, two more shall take its place!