5, May, 24

Underrated MTG Hydra Helps Unique Gruul Counters Shell Flourish!

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Article at a Glance

Recently, we got a to see how Pro Tour Outlaws of Thunder Junction unfolded. While Domain ramp ultimately won the event, the main talking point was the sheer domination of Esper midrange. Esper midrange made up over 31% of the field, which is a bit astonishing.

On top of that, there were very few innovative archetypes being shown off. One player managed to put up a strong performance with a unique Orzhov Caustic Bronco build, but the vast majority of players were simply playing well-established archetypes with minor Thunder Junction upgrades.

This weekend, the Regional Championship in Montreal, Canada has been taking place and a couple rather intriguing decks have made it to day two. Today, we are going to focus on a cool Gruul counters shell that managed to begin the tournament on a hot five match win streak. Does this deck have legs in the format or is it just a flash in the pan? Let’s take a look at what this deck’ all about.

An Artifact Subtheme

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire

The primary goal of this deck is to maximize the power of Ozolith, the Shattered Spire. This card functions similarly to Hardened Scales in Modern, but with a couple key differences. The obvious downside is that it costs two mana instead of one. The upside, though, is that you can use Ozolith to put counters on your Creatures at will. Both Ozolith and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron threaten to make even your smallest Creatures into massive threats.

In order to truly harness Ozolith’s power, almost every Creature in this deck either enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters or can gain or distribute +1/+1 counters over the course of the game. Some cards like Iron Apprentice are unassuming at first, but actually fill both these roles nicely.

It can gain extra counters with Ozolith, and when it dies, it puts more counters on one of your stronger Creatures. Even moving those counters onto an evasive Gingebrute can be problematic for the opponent. If you manage to exile Gingerbrute with Soul Cauldron, your Creatures become nearly impossible to block.

Thanks to the high density of Artifacts available, this deck gets to utilize a couple efficient Creatures with immense Artifact synergy. Most notably, Teething Wurmlet is an awesome inclusion. Teething Wurmlet accrues counters quickly, and the life buffer it provides is a nice bonus against aggressive decks. Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender is nice as well, growing when your other Artifacts go to the graveyard.

Interestingly, all of these cards have existed in Standard for a while. In fact, zero cards from Murders at Karlov Manor made the cut! As such, it may be surprising to see the deck getting some love. Luckily, one Thunder Junction card in particular makes it all worth it.

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Goldvein Hydra Makes its Mark

Goldvein Hydra

Goldvein Hydra is a potent threat that scales well into the late game. With both Trample and Haste, if you can get its power up high, this card can hit for a lot of damage in a short time frame. The problem with Goldvein Hydra in most decks is that you need to sink a lot of mana into it before the card becomes scary. In this deck, though, that is not necessarily the case.

If your opponent can’t remove Hydra right away, you have a ton of tools at your disposal that can buff it once it’s in play. Of course, Ozolith itself is excellent with Hydra. Both Iron Apprentice and Quirion Beastcaller can put their counters on Hydra when they die, potentially growing its power significantly. Sentinel of the Nameless City and Inti, Seneschal of the Sun can fuel Hydra even further.

However, no card is a better follow up to Hydra than Voldaren Thrillseeker. Voldaren Thrillseeker not only gives Hydra multiple +1/+1 counters when it enters, but you can then fling the Hydra at your opponent for a boatload of damage. If that weren’t enough to end the game, your slew of Treasure tokens can help you dump your hand on the following turn.

Speaking of Treasures, these tokens do more than just ramp you towards your next play. With Teething Wurmlet out, you’ll gain one life for each Treasure that enters the battlefield. If you get to untap with those Treasures and Syr Ginger, Syr Ginger will grow every time you sacrifice a Treasure. If you’re lucky, you can sink this extra mana into yet another copy of Goldvein Hydra to close the game. Hydra’s role in this deck just cannot be overstated.

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Gruul’s Position in the Field

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Overall, what’s nice about this Gruul shell is that it matches up well against some of the common archetypes. Goldvein Hydra is particularly impressive against Esper midrange. Meanwhile, Ozolith and Cauldron ensure that all of your Creatures can become large threats on command.

Your Creatures naturally hit quite hard, giving you a good shot against control and Domain ramp strategies. Goldvein Hydra’s presence as a Hasty monster means you aren’t just cold to Sunfall, either. At the same time, the size of your Creatures enables you to brick wall aggro decks, assuming you can stabilize. This isn’t always easy considering the deck’s lack of removal, but the longer the game goes, the more you’ll be able to gum up the ground.

Where not having much removal likely hurts the most is against four-color legends. Inti, Rona, Herald of Invasion and Slogurk, the Overslime generate so much value if uninterrupted. The Honest Rutstein combo finish gives the four-color legends deck inevitability, so you have no choice but to try to race and hope it’s good enough. At the Regional Championship, two of the Gruul pilot’s losses have been against four-color legends, which doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

Still, given how popular midrange and domain strategies are, Gruul counters doesn’t seem like an unreasonable metacall. It’ll be cool to see if the deck picks up steam in the coming weeks after its solid Regional Championship performance. The Orzhov Bronco deck definitely became more popular after its breakout Pro Tour performance, so perhaps Gruul will follow in its footsteps.

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