Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Hydras in Magic?
In magic, hydras are a powerful creature subtype that generally belong to the green faction. Hydras come in many shapes and sizes, often possessing variable mana costs that let you adjust their power to fit your current resource production.
The more fuel you pump into your multi-headed reptile, the more +1/+1 counters it'll receive (boosting power and toughness), and hydras often further support your team with abilities like trample and reach. But with dozens of scaled legends, which beasts reign supreme?
These are the ten best hydra cards in Magic: The Gathering!
- Ramunap Hydra
- Protean Hydra
- Mistcutter Hydra
- Ulvenwald Hydra
- Hungering Hydra
- Khalni Hydra
- Gyrus, Waker of Corpses
- Primordial Hydra
- Kalonian Hydra
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 10
This hydra avatar not only costs a whopping ten mana, but demands two stem from each color. To bypass these intimidating requirements, use cards like "Norwood Priestess" or "Defense of the Heart" to field your boss monster for free!
However, once he's out, Progenitus wields a daunting 10/10 power and toughness as well as protection from everything, making him invulnerable to targeting removals. Plus, since he's legendary and possesses all colors, he's a solid choice as commander for EDH structures wishing to include every hue, but note he shuffles himself into your deck if ever sent to the graveyard, so you won't be able to gimmick-revive him with cards like "Reanimate".
9. Ramunap Hydra
As both a hydra and a snake, Ramunap enjoys synergies with two creature subtypes, and he costs less than most hydras. 3/3 stats aren't bad for four mana, especially since Ramunap bears vigilance (letting him attack with tapping), reach (letting him block flyers), and trample (bleeding excess combat damage through blockers to hit your opponent).
As if that weren't enough, he also gains +1/+1 if you control a desert land and +1/+1 if you have a desert in your graveyard, potentially amassing 5/5 stats! Since many wastelands like "Desert of the Indomitable" bear cycling abilities that let you discard them to draw, it's pretty easy to mill one into your graveyard and empower your already-formidable soldier.
8. Protean Hydra
CMC: 1 + X
Like many hydra, Protean lets you spend as many mana as you like for its mana cost's X value. You could have X as zero, but since Protean gains +1/+1 counters equal to X's value, and his base stats are 0/0, he'd immediately die, so you'll definitely want at least one.
When Protean gets hit, he prevents the damage but removes a corresponding number of counters. However, for each lost counter, he'll gain two more at the next end step! Basically, as long as he survives the blow, Protean actually gets stronger whenever he takes damage, making him a great long-term warrior.
7. Mistcutter Hydra
CMC: 1 + X
Similar to Protean, Mistcutter Hydra enters the field with as much power and toughness as you crank into X, so use green's numerous mana-ramp tools to satiate his hunger. He also bears the handy haste trait, letting him avoid summoning sickness and attack even on the turn he's cast.
Even better, Mistcutter serves as a great check against annoying blue decks. Not only is he immune to their vast array of counterspells, but he also wields protection from blue. Thus, island-dwellers can't negate, damage, target, or block him, helping break through their irritating defenses. I particularly favor Mistcutter in EDH, where blue is more prevalent.
6. Ulvenwald Hydra
Variable mana costs are usually helpful, as they let you adjust how much resources to allocate to your units, but they have a downside. Whenever you play a variable creature for free with cards like "Mosswort Bridge" or "Aether Vial", you have to assume the X value is zero, meaning most hydras would simply die on entrance when fielded this way.
Thankfully, members like Ulvenwald avoid this penalty with their fixed mana costs. He also bears reach, letting him block aerial attackers, and his power and toughness each become equal to the number of lands you control. This strengthens him as your game progresses and combos great with his final ability, which lets you play a tapped land from your deck when he enters the field! This ups your resource production in future turns, and note that it works even on nonbasic lands like "Maze of Ith" or "Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx".
5. Hungering Hydra
CMC: 1 + X
Like many of his kin, Hungering Hydra improves his initial 0/0 stats by as much energy as you pump into X, scaling along with your resource production. Additionally, he can't be blocked by more than one creature, making it hard to land a finishing blow on him.
This is especially useful for Hungering since he gains an appropriate number of +1/+1 counters whenever he takes damage—assuming he survives. Since damage wears off at the end of every turn but counters last indefinitely, Hungering will continuously power up as long as he can endure each strike.
4. Khalni Hydra
At first, Khalni seems rather expensive, not only costing eight mana but demanding that they each be green. However, he reduces his mana cost by one forest symbol for every green creature you control, often reducing the price to four or less and possibly even zero! Once out, this monogreen hydra wields fierce 8/8 stats as well as trample, bulldozing pierce damage through blockers.
Plus, you can use Khalni's numerous green symbols to your advantage by advancing your devotion to green (which tallies the number of forest icons in your permanents), perfect for cards like "Karametra's Acolyte" and "Nylea, God of the Hunt".
3. Gyrus, Waker of Corpses
CMC: 3 + X
Gyrus needs at least one mana from the black swamps, green forests, and red mountains, but he's a rare case where you can actually have his X set to zero. You see, Gyrus gains +1/+1 counters equal to the total mana spent casting him, not just X, so he'll survive whether you kick him or not. This also makes him a powerful commander by using the increased mana costs of commander recastings to your advantage.
Best of all, when Gyrus attacks, you can exile a creature with less power from your graveyard to create a duplicate token of that unit that's tapped and attacking. Even if the token survives, it's exiled at the end of the combat phase, but this still adeptly rejuvenates your vanquished units for one final strike.
2. Primordial Hydra
CMC: 2 + X
You definitely want Primordial's X factor to be at least one so he won't join with zero toughness, but don't feel pressured to crank it up too high. After all, Primordial doubles his +1/+1 counters during your upkeep phases, continuously increasing in size as the match progresses!
As if that weren't lethal enough, he also gains trample as long as he has ten or more counters, so your opponent can't simply sacrifice weak defenders to thwart his gargantuan assault.
1. Kalonian Hydra
Like Primordial, Kalonian Hydra can potentially double his counters, but his set mana cost makes him superior for revivals and free castings. When entering the field, he automatically gains four +1/+1 counters and bears the ever-useful trample. Best of all, Kalonian doubles the number of +1/+1 counters on all your creatures whenever he attacks!
This amazing benefit empowers not only him with every strike, but also your other troops, even if they aren't swinging alongside Kalonian. For a reasonable mana cost, he manages to combine a heavy beatstick with an impressive support unit, and despite his fierce powers, he's a surprisingly affordable monster, costing well under ten dollars!
How to Support Hydras in Magic
We've tackled the strongest hydras around; here's a quick list of cards to supplement your mythical beasts. Since so many rely on +1/+1 counters, anything that can add more helps, like "Doubling Season". Not many hydras come with haste, so the artifact equipment "Lightning Greaves" will help them attack faster, also bestowing shroud as a bonus to prevent being targeted.
Some hydra automatically harness trample, but give it to those that don't with trample boosts like "Rancor" and "Ring of Kalonia". Remember that reviving hydras is generally undesirable since it sets X as zero, so do your best to guard them with indestructible, protection, hexproof and other defensive tactics. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of powerful hydras, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Chris on May 19, 2020:
I have a White/Green bolster/counter deck with Avatar of the resolute, Managorger Hydra, Harden The Scales, and Kalonian Hydras. I also have some cheap white creatures that give creatures with +1/+1’s flying, first strike and/or lifelink (Abzans) - I also threw in the ever so cool Gleam of Authority enchantment that gives vigilance and -“enchanted creature gets +1/+1 for each 1/1 counter on other creatures and Elite Authority that bolsters 2 and taps an opponents creature for every attacking creature with a +1/+1 counter on it.
Sprinkle in some mana producing small creatures and by the 4th or 5th turn you can have multiple 10/10 creatures with flying and trample or first strike and trample while tapping other creatures. It’s sick. With Gleam of Authority attaches to a creature with trample - an Abzan that gives flying and then the hydra that doubles the counters on all creatures when it attacks - the game is over in 4 or maybe 5 turns. I can run my deck with 2 or 3 lands (whisper of the wild and birds of paradise for extra mana) ;-)
Geniuskid on December 22, 2019:
I created a Wurm/Hydra deck, consisting of many of these above. I also use many of the best wurms. They are all very costly, but I use cards like Circuitous Route and Map the Wastes. One of my mains is Primordial Hydra, but I also use Phytohydra, which is exactly like Hungering Hydra, but it doesn’t have can’t be blocked by more than one creature, but it is a 1/1 to start.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on December 22, 2019:
Genesis Hydra is interesting. Not in my current EDH deck since I use a lot of free creature effects ("Elvish Piper", "Mosswort Bridge", etc.), and those don't work well with X-cost creatures, but still a viable play in the right builds.
You might also consider "Genesis Wave" for a stronger version of Hydra's effect packed into a sorcery.
Soldancer on December 19, 2019:
I really like Genesis Hydra for Commander, as it usually gives you a free spell and then is a threat in its own right.
Guy who likes milling on December 15, 2019:
I agree with person. Heroes’ bane is quite powerful and for four mana you can pretty much double his counters. Also, if you combo him with a card like Borrowed Hostility he can gain many counters. The two problems I have with him is that he costs 5 mana and he doesn’t have trample.
Sam on August 14, 2019:
Bioessence hydra can easily become incredibly powerful in planeswalker decks. As well as solid starting stats, he gains power almost every turn, and also has trample.
Person on June 15, 2019:
Heroes' Bane is a very powerful Hydra too,
Put X 1/1 counters on it, where X OS it's power.