Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Hydra Creatures in Magic
In Magic, hydras are powerful creatures usually found in the green faction. Many have flexible "X" costs that let you adjust their power based on your current mana, and they often carry trample or reach.
Several hydras gradually amass +1/+1 counters, strengthening as the game progresses—which reign supreme? These are the 30 best hydra cards in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Nessian Wilds Ravager
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 6
Ravager needs a large amount of six mana, entering with sturdy 6/6 stats. Additionally, when he arrives, an opponent has to either give him six +1/+1 counters (making him a 12/12) or let you have him fight another creature, each dealing their power as damage to the other.
While it's unfortunate that an opponent get to choose instead of you, both are nice effects, either doubling Ravager's size or providing creature removal.
29. Phyrexian Hydra
For five mana, Phyrexian Hydra has tempting 7/7 stats plus infect, dealing damage to creatures as lasting -1/-1 counters and players as poison counters (you lose when you get ten).
However, Phyrexian has a weakness; when he takes damage, that damage comes as -1/-1 counters, meaning he similarly becomes permanently weakened when engaged in battle.
28. Hungering Hydra
Hungering Hydra requires one green mana plus X more, entering with X +1/+1 counters. He also can't be blocked by more than one creature, and whenever he's dealt damage, you place that many +1/+1 counters on him (if he survives).
Despite not being a dino himself, this effect blends well with the dinosaur tribe (who specialize in damaging themselves to activate effects).
27. Polukranos, World Eater
For just four mana, this legendary hydra has impressive 5/5 stats. Any time after entering the field, his monstrosity effect lets you once pay a green mana plus two X values to give him X +1/+1 counters.
Admittedly, that's an expensive effect, but you can use it at instant speed. When activated, Polukranos also deals X damage among any number of opposing creatures, although they hit him back with their own power.
26. Hydra Broodmaster
Hydra Broodmaster is like a bigger version of Polukranos, enjoying hefty 7/7 stats. He has the same monstrosity cost, needing one green mana plus two X values. Not only does this empower Broodmaster, using it also creates X X/X hydra tokens, so try to charge that X value as much as possible.
25. Oran-Rief Hydra
Best used in mono-green decks, Oran-Rief offers a 6/6 trampler. However, he gains a +1/+1 counter whenever a land enters your field, but if the land is a forest, he gets two counters instead. Left unchecked, this quickly scores vast amounts of piercing damage, especially considering green's numerous extra-land spells.
24. Heroes' Bane
Bane arrives with four +1/+1 counters. Now, a 4/4 with no static abilities isn't great for five mana, but Bane's activated effect lets you pay four mana to give him X +1/+1 counters, where X is his power. You can even use this multiple times in one turn, doubling Bane's size with every trigger.
23. Scourge of Skola Vale
Vale enters with two +1/+1 counters, offering a 2/2 trampler for three. Again, not great, but Vale can tap and sacrifice a creature you control to gain +1/+1 counters equal to that creature's toughness.
Since you can do this at instant speed, it's a great response to removals that would eliminate units anyway, and it works well with high-toughness wall creatures.
22. Voracious Hydra
Voracious Hydra needs two green mana plus X more, arriving with X +1/+1 counters. Additionally, when he enters the field, you pick between doubling his +1/+1 counters or having him fight a creature you don't control.
This offers a smaller and more versatile version of Ravager, now placing the entrance choice in your hands instead of an opponent's.
21. Ramunap Hydra
For four, Rampunap gives you a 3/3 with vigilance, reach, and trample, quite a heap of added bonuses. He also gets +1/+1 if you control a desert (a land subtype), and also if there's one in your graveyard.
This means you could potentially have a 5/5 with three static traits, and as icing in the cake, Ramunap also has the snake subtype.
20. Mistcutter Hydra
A great anti-blue tactic, Mistcutter needs one green mana and X more, entering with X +1/+1s. He's one of few hydras to have haste (letting him attack immediately), he can't be countered, and he has protection from blue, thwarting many of blue's removal options.
19. Sprouting Phytohydra
Sure, 0/2 stats are atrocious for Phytohydra's size. But whenever he's dealt damage, you can create a token copy of him (and the token will create another copy if damaged)—even if the damage is lethal. He's also got the plant subtype, occasionally useful alongside cards like "Avenger of Zendikar".
18. Hydra Omnivore
Omnivore's pretty situational since his ability only works in multiplayer. He lacks any static effects, though his 8/8 stats impress. Additionally, when he deals combat damage to an opponent, he deals that much damage to each other opponent.
Save this for multiplayer games to spread the pain, and give Omnivore trample with cards like "Ring of Kalonia" to help ensure his damage.
17. Gyrus, Waker of Corpses
Gyrus requires one red, green, and black mana, then X more if you like. He enters with a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the mana spent to cast him, which means he strengthens when recast as a commander in EDH format.
More than that, when Gyrus attacks, you can exile a creature with less power from your graveyard and create a token copy of it that's tapped and attacking. The token is exiled at the end of combat, but it's a great way to score extra damage and play off black/red self-milling effects.
16. Ulasht, the Hate Seed
Ulasht arrives with a +1/+1 counter for every other green creature you control and every other red you control—creatures with colors provide two counters. This can provide enormous stats in red/green Gruul themes, and Ulasht can spend a mana and remove a counter to either create a 1/1 saproling token or deal one damage to a creature.
An unusual hydra that requires white mana, Phytyhydra has terrible 1/1 stats, but if he would suffer damage, he instead gains that many +1/+1 counters. This makes him a fantastic blocker who works well with dinosaur decks. He's also got the plant subtype, making him viable in several themes.
14. Hooded Hydra
You've got two ways to cast this snake hydra. You can either pay two green mana and X more to have Hooded arrive with X +1/+1 counters, or you can cast him face-down for three mana, turning him face-up for five when you're ready.
When flipped face-up, Hooded gains five +1/+1 counters, but no matter how you cast him, he creates a number of 1/1 snake tokens equal to his +1/+1 counters when he dies, an excellent exit effect.
13. Honored Hydra
Another snake-hydra blend, Honored Hydra offers a solid 6/6 trampler for six mana. Considering his two tribal synergies, that's a decent deal, but he really shines with his embalm effect, letting you exile him from your graveyard for four mana to create a token copy of him (with the handy zombie subtype to boot).
This infamous legendary needs two mana of each color. He's got fierce 10/10 stats and protection from everything, making him unblockable and immune to anything that targets.
That's a powerful effect, but remember that it doesn't mean he's invincible; Progenitus can still be destroyed by field-wipes as long as they don't target him and destroy rather than deal damage. You also can't gimmick him into play from the graveyard; he shuffles himself into your deck if he enters it.
11. Ulvenwald Hydra
Ulvenwald's power and toughness become equal to the number of lands you control, and he's got a terrific entrance effect, placing any land from your deck tapped onto the field. Not only does this boost his stats, it doesn't restrict you to basic lands like many land tutors.
Ulvenwald also has reach, letting him block aerial opponents and compensating for green's own lack of flyers.
10. Savageborn Hydra
Savageborn requires one green and red mana, then X more, arriving with X +1/+1 counters. You can also spend two mana at any time you could play a sorcery (your main phases) to give him another, an excellent outlet for leftover resources.
Better yet, Savageborn wields the coveted double strike ability, letting him deal damage at both first strike and regular speed, essentially hitting for twice the pain every turn.
9. Bioessence Hydra
Needing at least some blue and green mana, Bioessence offers a 4/4 trampler who also has the mutant subtype. On arrival, he gains a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the number of loyalty counters on your planeswalkers. And whenever one of your planeswalkers acquires moreloyalty , Bioessence Hydra gains that many counters.
Used in decks with several planeswalkers, Bioessence's stats can very easily enter double-digits, and he works great with blue/green's numerous counter-based effects (like "Simic Ascendancy").
8. Whiptongue Hydra
Whiptongue's lizard subtype doesn't have much tribal support, but hey, better than nothing. His 4/4 stats are weak, but when Whiptongue enters the field, he destroys all creatures with flying and gains a +1/+1 counter for each.
This makes him a pseudo-field wipe that will probably leave your own board unscathed, and since he has reach, he'll help block flyers that arrive after himself.
7. Kalonian Hydra
Kalonian arrives with four +1/+1 counters and trample. But his amazing ability doubles the number of +1/+1 counters on all creatures you control when he attacks! This means he'll swing as an 8/8, then a 16/16 and so on, strengthening your other troops with counters (even if they're not attacking) along the way.
Kalonian's a big threat to opponents, so try to shield him from removals by equipping him with spells like "Lightning Greaves".
6. Protean Hydra
Protean takes one green mana plus X more, adapting to fit your resource production. He gains X +1/+1 counters, and if he would be dealt damage, you prevent it, but remove that many +1/+1s. However, whenever Protean loses one, he gains two more at the end of the turn, so as long as he survives the damage, he'll heal up stronger than ever.
5. Managorger Hydra
Managorger is a puny 1/1, but he has trample and quickly strengthens, gaining a +1/+1 counter whenever anyone casts a spell. This triggers even if the spell is countered, and since it includes opposing plays, it only takes a few turns for Managorger to become an enormous powerhouse.
4. Hydroid Krasis
Krasis has jellyfish and beast subtypes in addition to hydra; kinda weird, but the more the merrier. Anyway, he needs one blue and one green mana plus X more, arriving with X +1/+1 counters. But not only does Krasis have flying and trample, you also get half (rounded down) X draws and X life, making him a versatile tool.
3. Gargos, Vicious Watcher
Many hydra are independent and don't necessarily need to be used together, but Gargos rewards you for devoting to their theme, making your other hydra spells four mana cheaper! That's an enormous discount, and it can be used to strengthen flexible X values.
Plus, Gargos himself is a menace, offering an 8/7 with vigilance, and whenever a creature you control becomes the target of a spell, Gargos can fight a creature you don't control. This punishes foes for targeting your army, and you can activate it yourself by attaching aura enchantments to your monsters.
A staple in my own green commander decks, Gargos is surprisingly cheap for such a powerful rare, costing only a single dollar!
2. Khalni Hydra
Similarly to "Ghalta, Primal Hunger" (one of my favorite dinosaurs), Khalni Hydra offers a massive creature with a potentially-discounted cost. He's an 8/8 trampler, but his hefty mana fee reduces by one green for every green creature you control—you can potentially cast him for free if you swarm enough elves or saprolings.
And those green mana symbols work wonders with green devotion, letting Khalni empower cards like "Primalcrux" and "Karametra's Acolyte".
1. Primordial Hydra
Primordial takes two green mana and X more, arriving with X counters. But feel free to cast him with a low value; Primordial automatically doubles his +1/+1s at the start of your upkeep.
So whether you cast him for three mana or ten, Primordial will soon grow to epic proportions. He also gains trample while he has ten or more counters, preventing his onslaught from being fully blocked.
Supporting Hydra Decks in Magic
Hydras may not have many tribal supports, but those they do wield (like Gargos) drastically reduce their prices. Proliferating helps multiply their +1/+1s, and you'll probably want auras or equipments to shield them from removal.
Be careful with X costs when using spells like "Primal Surge" (X will be 0 when played this way), but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of hydras, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on November 18, 2019:
All good my friend! Activating Bane's effect that many times would presumably require either several turns (which gives opponents many removal chances) or infinite mana (which takes some effort), but you're right that when it works, it works.
Rex H on November 17, 2019:
Once again, you out-evaluate my opinion. Although in this case, his true strength doesn’t lie in his battle prowess. Consider this: if you use his ability 5 times, his stats are already at 128/128. This will be very unsettling for your opponents. If you use it 8 times, it is at the insane 1024/1024. By this point, your opponents start acting like a cornered animal. When you use his ability 12 times, he is a 16,384/16,384. Now your opponent is having a mental meltdown. They haven’t lost yet, but they act like they’ve lost. FYI, this is how I think when I play Magic. Battle Prowess is your specialty, and this is mine
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on November 17, 2019:
Definitely a strong card, but the lack of innate trample or defenses and only-decent starting stats slightly hold him back for me. Then again, I'm always glad to hear your thoughts and am glad to see an uncommon hydra rival the rares/mythic rares.
Rex H on November 16, 2019:
I think Heroes Bane deserves a higher rank. I’ve boosted his stats up to ten thousand, two hundred something. Great for excesses mana. Equip him with trample, and, well...