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Budget Magic: $84 (9 tix) Hydra Stompy (Standard, Magic Arena)


Xewani, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! We'll start exploring sweet new Modern Horizons–influenced decks soon, but for this week, we're heading once again to War of the Spark Standard, this time to see if we can turn Bioessence Hydra into a one-shot-kill hasty attacker with the help of a bunch of somewhat janky planeswalkers! The idea of Hydra Stompy is simple: we ramp into planeswalkers and Bioessence Hydra as quickly as possible and hopefully have enough loyalty counters on the battlefield to turn Bioessence Hydra into a hasty 20/20 trampling attacker that can kill our opponent in a single attack! Otherwise, we can try to grind out value with random planeswalkers and maybe even pick up a win or two as a budget-friendly superfriends-style deck. Does Bioessence Hydra have what it takes to jank people out in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Hydra Stompy

The Deck

Hydra Stompy is a strange deck. It falls under the superfriends heading but rather than trying to win with planeswalkers, it's a superfriends deck that's trying to win with creatures, using planeswalkers as support cards. That said, we do win some games by overwhelming our opponent with planeswalker value. Probably the easiest way to break down the deck is to walk through the plan step by step.

The Hydra

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Bioessence Hydra is the Hydra in "Hydra Stompy." Our primary plan is to stick a Bioessence Hydra with a bunch of planeswalkers on the battlefield, making it into something like a 15/15 or even 20/20 trampler that can win the game with just a single attack. Apart from growing our Bioessence Hydra, our planeswalkers also give the plan some additional support, like giving Bioessence Hydra haste to avoid sorcery-speed removal, protecting it from removal, or giving us extra mana to ramp into our Bioessence Hydra. Otherwise, there isn't really a whole lot to say about our namesake card other than if we can get some planeswalkers on the battlefield before we cast it, Bioessence Hydra has the potential to be the biggest, baddest threat in all of Standard.

Ramp

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Since Bioessence Hydra (and many of our planeswalkers) is fairly expensive, we need to speed up our deck with some fast mana for our Hydra Stompy plan to work. For this, we turn to Llanowar Elves, Paradise Druid, and Incubation Druid, all of which give us an extra mana to get Bioessence Hydra and our planeswalkers onto the battlefield a turn early. With a Llanowar Elves on Turn 1 and another ramp spell on Turn 2, we'll have enough mana to cast Bioessence Hydra on Turn 3. And then we can follow this up by playing planeswalkers to grow our Bioessence Hydra into a lethal threat. 

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While our creature-based ramp is great, probably the best ramp spell in our deck is Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner since it gives us a ramp spell that also grows our Bioessence Hydra. Although it is a bit awkward that Bioessence Hydra itself is the only creature in our deck to trigger Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner's static card-draw ability, the planeswalker makes up for this by giving a legitimate nut draw of Turn 1 Llanowar Elves, Turn 2 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, Turn 3 untap a land with Kiora to play a 10/10 trampling Bioessence Hydra (and draw an extra card)!. While it's possible our opponent will have a removal spell, if they don't, Bioessence Hydra will be lethal in just a couple of attacks. It's also worth mentioning that one of the reasons this plan works well right now is that many of the tier decks are light on hard removal. Mono-Red decks can never kill a huge Bioessence Hydra, while many of the control decks are leaning on planeswalkers over hard removal like Cast Down or Vraska's Contempt, which makes it very possible for a Turn 3 Bioessence Hydra to jank out an unsuspecting opponent.

Other Planeswalkers

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Beyond Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner ramping into Bioessence Hydra, our next most important planeswalker is Samut, Tyrant Smasher, which gives our Bioessence Hydra haste. In a world where a lot of decks are using various Teferis as their primary removal spells, a hasty Bioessence Hydra is a massive threat, dodging sorcery-speed removal and potentially killing our opponent with just one attack. The biggest downside of Samut, Tyrant Smasher is that it's really bad at protecting itself, so we often can't play it on an empty board or it will just die to our opponent's creatures. But the explosiveness Samut, Tyrant Smasher adds to Hydra Stompy more than makes up for the drawback.

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Next, we have a couple of defensive planeswalkers that can also do some sweet tricks with Bioessence Hydra. The main purpose of both Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor is to flood the board with tokens, which gives us chump blockers to keep our planeswalkers' loyalty (or our life total) high while we are setting up for a huge Bioessence Hydra. Saheeli does this by making tokens as we cast our other planeswalkers, while Kasmina does this directly with her 2 (which also allows us to loot through our deck to find Bioessence Hydra

Beyond just making tokens, both planeswalkers have some additional upside. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer can turn a random Servo into a copy of Bioessence Hydra until end of turn, and while the copy won't have all of the counters on the original Bioessence Hydra, it does gain Bioessence Hydra's abilities, so if we can play a planeswalker or otherwise add loyalty counters to our planeswalkers, we will end up with a massive Servo token even once it returns to its original form. Meanwhile, Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor makes it a bit harder for our opponent to kill our Bioessence Hydra (or our planeswalkers) by adding a tax of two mana to any spells our opponent would use to target them.

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Next up we have Tamiyo, Collector of Tales, which is mostly in our deck to help us find our Bioessence Hydra (or our other support planeswalkers). Tamiyo's +1 is good at digging through our deck to find our Bioessence Hydra, while her 3 can get a Hydra back from the graveyard if our opponent happens to find a way to kill it. Otherwise, the static ability does give us another form of protection, fizzling Thought Erasure and edict effects like Angrath's Rampage or Liliana, Dreadhorde General's minus. Plus, Tamiyo is a fairly high-loyalty planeswalker, so it provides another way to help grow our Bioessence Hydra into a lethal threat.

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Finally, we have Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Ugin, the Ineffable, which are our backup-plan planeswalkers. While the rest of our planeswalkers are good at supporting our Bioessence Hydra plan, Nissa and Ugin give us a way to win if something goes wrong with Bioessence Hydra—Nissa by making our lands into 3/3 beaters and Ugin by making a steady stream of 2/2s that draw us cards when they die. Nissa, Who Shakes the World also works well with Bioessence Hydra by doubling our Forest mana, which allows us to play several planeswalkers in the same turn to grow our Hydra, while Ugin, the Ineffable gives us a (mostly) unconditional removal spell to deal with opposing planeswalkers or blockers. Both are especially scary when they come down early thanks to our stream of mana dorks, with a Turn 3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Turn 4 Ugin, the Ineffable sometimes being enough to win the game all by itself.

The Mana

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While most of our lands are for casting our spells, we do have a couple of powerful utility lands worth mentioning. Mobilized District is one of our best backup plans for winning the game, often being a 3/3 attacker that's free to activate thanks to the number of planeswalkers in our deck. This makes it great for attacking our opponent's life total or picking off opposing planeswalkers. Meanwhile, Karn's Bastion helps us keep our planeswalkers' loyalty high while also have some cute synergy with Bioessence Hydra. When we proliferate with Karn's Bastion, we don't just get to add a counter to our Hydra itself but to all of our planeswalkers, which then triggers Bioessence Hydra's "whenever a loyalty counter is added" ability. This means a single Karn's Bastion activation often ends up putting three or more counters onto our Bioessence Hydra!

Wrap-Up

All in all we played five matches with Hydra Stompy and ended up going 4-1. While we did play against one janky brew (in Standard Dredge), we also managed to beat Command the Dreadhorde, Esper Control, and Bant Midrange along with a Nexus of Fate deck, all of which are top-tier decks in Standard, which is pretty impressive. On the other hand, we might have gotten a bit lucky to dodge aggro. A deck like Mono-Red has the potential to give Hydra Stompy trouble since it can easily kill our mana dorks and casting planeswalkers fairly on Turn 4 and Bioessence Hydra on Turn 5 will usually be too slow for the matchup. On the other hand, Mono-Red can't really beat a huge Bioessence Hydra, so if we get a fast hand, we can just stomp them quickly before they can kill us with burn spells.

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As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, there really aren't many. Breeding Pool would go a long way toward improving the mana base, especially since it counts as another Forest for Nissa, Who Shakes the World, but a playset is creeping up toward $60, which makes it impossible to fit under the budget. Another possible addition is Entrancing Melody as removal. One of the drawbacks of being Simic is that we aren't great at answering creatures in the early game, and while Mass Manipulation helps, it's so expensive that we can still get run over by Legion Warboss or Thief of Sanity if we have a slow draw. A copy or two of Entrancing Melody might help to fix the problem.

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As for Magic Arena, the deck currently has 25 rares and no mythics, although a big chunk of the rares are in the mana base, with playsets of Mobilized District and Hinterland Harbor plus the copy of Karn's Bastion, while a few more are in the sideboard. If you're looking to trim back on the number of rare wildcards it costs to make the deck, the easiest cuts are Incubation Druid (for something like Druid of the Cowl), Karn's Bastion (for a basic land), and maybe Mobilized District (although it's really, really good and will make the deck meaningfully worse if you cut it). Trimming back on cards like Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Nissa, Who Shakes the World is another possibility, although the deck needs planeswalkers to support the Bioessence Hydra plan and the replacement planeswalkers (like Dovin, Hand of Control) represent a pretty big drop in power. All in all, you can probably get the deck down to 15-ish rares, especially if you playing best-of-one and don't need the sideboard cards, but losing Mobilized District would hurt a lot and take away one of our best ways to deal with planeswalkers and best backup plans for winning the game.

In the end, Hydra Stompy was a lot of fun. While some of the planeswalkers from War of the Spark are starting to feel a bit oppressive, it is pretty sweet that it's possible to build a budget superfriends deck with more than 20 planeswalkers and keep the price well under $100. Bioessence Hydra is really powerful if unanswered, and it's pretty unexpected, which makes Hydra Stompy good at janking out free wins by surprise! If you love playing planeswalkers but don't want to splurge on Lilianas, Teferis, and Karn, Hydra Stompy seems like a fine budget option that can win a reasonable amount of games against the top decks in Standard.

Getting Hydra Stompy down under $50 is pretty easy: we trade Incubation Druid for Druid of the Cowl and Hinterland Harbor for Woodland Stream. While losing Incubation Druid isn't a huge deal, adding another tapped dual land can be problematic, forcing us to play off-curve and slowing down the deck. Still, there isn't really another good option to get the deck down under $50 since most of the other cards in the deck are already fairly cheap, and the ones that are somewhat expensive (like Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Ugin, the Ineffable) are only two-ofs anyway (and pretty important to the plan of our deck).

For our non-budget build this week, we splash into white for Bant Hydra Stompy. There are two main reasons to add white to the deck. The first is Teferi, Time Raveler, which is a great way to slow down our opponent in the early game and, more importantly, to protect our Bioessence Hydra. With a Teferi on the battlefield, our opponent can't counter Bioessence Hydra or kill it with instant-speed removal, which means our odds of getting in at least one big, hasty attack will go up significantly. The other reason is we get real removal in the sideboard, which should help against some of the aggressive creature decks in the format. Wraths like Cleansing Nova and Settle the Wreckage and targeted removal like Baffling End and Prison Realm make sure that we don't get run over when we play against Mono-White, Gruul, Mono-Red, and the other fast decks of War of the Spark Standard, which was one of the potential weaknesses of the budget build.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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