Last updated on November 17, 2022

Gargos, Vicious Watcher - Illustration by Mathias Kollros

Gargos, Vicious Watcher | Illustration by Mathias Kollros

I’ve had the opportunity to play dozens of different Commander decks in my Magic career. I’ve piloted decks of just about every corner of the strategy spectrum, and while I’ve found my love for control and combo decks, there’s nothing like accelerated green stompy.

One of those big mono-green strategies focuses on hydra tribal with Gargos, Vicious Watcher in the command zone. I’ve built such a deck to show you just how you can get your opponents on their knees muttering, “hail Hydra” before you finish them off.

Get your head(s) in the game!

The Deck

Genesis Hydra - Illustration by Peter Mohrbacher

Genesis Hydra | Illustration by Mathias Mohrbacher

This $200 decklist brings together all the things that mono-green does best: it’s got big creatures, fast mana ramp, creature-based removal, and surprisingly good interaction. This iteration of the deck is meant to be somewhat high power, so it’s great for casual pods with experienced players who enjoy powerful strategies.

Don’t get me wrong, this absolutely stomps a preconstructed deck into the ground. It also gets stomped upon by any remotely high-power competitive EDH deck. This deck is strong and meant to be played against other strong decks, but you won’t see any glaringly infinite combos or turn 3 one-shots here.

Creature strategies are relatively underpowered in certain matchups, but this deck attempts to get ahead of that by being fast and big. It brings together green’s mana acceleration with the large, big-body hydra creatures into a style that makes every one of your creatures a large threat to others. Board wipes may get you down, but you can turn the tide in your favor by refilling with even one creature like Hydra Broodmaster.

The Commander

Gargos, Vicious Watcher

Gargos, Vicious Watcher weighs in at six mana, so you’re probably deploying this on turn 4 or 5, acceleration permitting. Gargos is a relatively powerful hydra on its own as an 8/7 with vigilance.

But it’s the other abilities on this card that should interest you. It notably has a passive cost-reduction effect that reduces the cost of your other hydras by . This puts a massive target on this creature’s back, no doubt, but untapping with it even once spells disaster for your opponents.

The icing on the cake is the last ability, which has Gargos fight another creature you don’t control whenever a creature you control becomes the target of a spell. You can basically clap back at opponents whenever they attempt to remove your commander or something else with that.

It turns a one-for-one (their removal for your creature) into a two-for-one (their removal and some creature you fight and kill for your creature). That card advantage can make up for green’s naturally poor card draw.

Ramp

You need some excellent ramp spells in this deck, and I include slightly more acceleration engines than you might expect for a few reasons.

This deck’s primary engine of acceleration is also its commander. That commander has an incredible and often game-winning ability that puts a comically large target on its back once everyone at the table reads the card. If it goes down you can still deploy threats and beat down your enemies, just at a drastically slower rate. You want to be able to cast you bad boy multiples times, and having extra acceleration is like an insurance plan.

This deck is all about big creatures, many of which have limitless potential with in their casting cost. Costing less is great, especially for fixed-cost cards like Hydra Broodmaster and Hydra Omnivore, but it’s never enough to sate your hunger for power when it comes to cards like Lifeblood Hydra or Steelbane Hydra. The sky is really the limit.

This deck runs the full suite of mana dorks when it comes to actual ramp. That’s Arbor Elf, Boreal Druid, Elvish Mystic, Fyndhorn Elves, and Llanowar Elves. These give you a relatively decent chance at finding a turn 1 dork to play, which greatly increases this deck’s potential. Wild Growth is also in there with the mana dorks in a way and is much harder to remove.

CultivateNissa’s Pilgrimage

Cultivate and Nissa’s Pilgrimage provide some sorcery-based mana acceleration. They’re just great in whatever kind of green deck you’re playing.

Sol RingEmerald Medallion

There’s also some artifact ramp in Sol Ring and Emerald Medallion to round things out.

Removal

Every deck needs removal. Green doesn’t necessarily have premiere spot removal for some things, but it has some creative workarounds.

Krosan Grip

Krosan Grip is the main spell for artifact and enchantment removal. It’s got split second, so it’s faster than instant speed and great at cutting off combos. Feel free to add in other removals if you see more enchantress or artifact decks in your pods.

Beast Within

Beast Within is handy in just about every situation. You’re really just trading the artifact or enchantment for a 3/3. I don’t normally like this card much, but it’s good for a creature-focused deck.

Kenrith’s TransformationSong of the Dryads

Kenrith’s Transformation is like Beast Within except you get a card out of it, which helps tilt the balance in your favor. Song of the Dryads is also pretty sweet. You give them a land, but it’s usually just a single colorless mana that your opponents might not even use.

Some removal is built into your creatures. Most notably is the ability on your commander, Gargos, Vicious Watcher, to fight other creatures when your creatures becomes the target of a spell. There are plenty of combat tricks and pump spells to make this happen consistently, including Blossoming Defense, Giant Growth, Mutagenic Growth, Ranger’s Guile, and others.

Polukranos, World Eater

There are a few other removal abilities across your hydras. Polukranos, World Eater, for instance, deals X divided however you’d like when it becomes monstrous. That even pairs well with the bountiful excess mana you plan to accumulate.

Enchantments

Green may excel at destroying enchantments, but it also has some interesting and powerful ones in its own arsenal.

Rancor

Rancor is the king of cheap and aggressive enchantments. It sticks around for the duration of the game.

Season of Growth

Season of Growth is a cheap card advantage engine that synergizes greatly with your commander and overall game plan.

Garruk’s Uprising

Garruk’s Uprising is a beefier version of Season of Growth, offering even more consistent card advantage and giving all your creatures trample.

Snake Umbra

Snake Umbra provides some welcome protection for your commander and even gets in there to draw you some cards.

Greater Good

Greater Good is an absolute powerhouse for mitigating the effects of removal spells. It allows you to sacrifice a creature at instant speed to draw cards equal to its power, and then forces you to discard three cards. It won’t help against board wipes that knock out your mana dorks, but those are really the only creatures with three or less power.

Zendikar Resurgent

Last is Zendikar Resurgent, a 7-mana enchantment that doubles the mana from your lands and turns every creature spell into a cantrip. You’ll be in a fantastic and probably winning spot if you manage to resolve this and keep it around.

Planeswalkers

Despite being hydra tribal, there are still a few powerful green planeswalkers floating around in the 99 to add some spice.

Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

Vivien, Champion of the Wilds is the cheapest planeswalker in the deck, but it comes with an incredibly powerful effect of giving your creature spells flash.

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Nissa, Who Shakes the World is a 5-mana bomb that doubles your mana from Forests, animates your lands, and even has the potential to tutor out your entire deck’s worth of Forests.

Nissa, Worldwaker

Last but certainly not least, Nissa, Worldwaker is another 5-mana Nissa walker that animates lands, untaps Forests for extra mana, and tutors out all your basic lands.

Tribal Pieces

Hydras don’t really need much tribal support like other tribes such as merfolk and elves. They’re one-man powerhouses, but there are still two incredible tribal artifacts you don’t want to miss.

Vanquisher’s Banner

The first is Vanquisher’s Banner. It slightly buffs up all your hydras, but it also has the effect of making your creatures into cantrips. That keeps the engine fueled up, allowing you to continue to apply pressure even through the most efficient forms of removal.

Coat of Arms

The other is Coat of Arms, which gives your hydras +1/+1 for each other hydra on the battlefield. That’s an unparalleled combat stat increase that you don’t want to turn away. With so many creatures and ways to get trample, this can easily turn your board into a one-shot-kill for multiple opponents in one combat step.

The Mana Base

This is a mono-green deck, so there isn’t too much to talk about. There are 32 lands along with all the accelerants and mana dorks. Of those lands, 30 are Forests with two nonbasics.

Castle Garenbrig

Castle Garenbrig is a simple untapped land (on turn 2) that can effectively turn four mana (plus tapping) into six. It’s not much, but it’s basically free and there isn’t a reason not to sometimes have one extra.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can pump out massive amounts of green mana for just and tapping. You have so many green pips on your permanent (especially on the bigger hydras like Khalni Hydra) that failing to include this would be one of the biggest deckbuilding mistakes.

The Strategy

The strategy for this deck is like any traditional creature beatdown deck you’ve picked up before. The advantage here is that you have the full power of green’s mana acceleration to back you up. Part of this deck’s strength is its ability to deploy your threats one, two, even four turns ahead of schedule.

Players aren’t prepared to face big hydras that early. Even if they have removal you’ll still overwhelm them by continuously deploying other threats while they haven’t had the time or mana to play their first.

One of the more important tips for piloting is to think of your combat tricks and pump spells more as removal than burn. They work incredibly well as a conventional combat trick, but also as instant-speed removal or pumping on your commander.

If you opponent blocks your commander with their less-important creature, you can use your pump spell to fight the other and have enough power to kill the first. That’s an easy two-for-one that you need to capitalize on.

Combos and Interactions

Gargos, Vicious Watcher

The primary interaction to be aware of is between cheap pump spells and Gargos, Vicious Watcher. You have incredibly easy ways to remove problematic creatures, but also to invalidate an opponent’s combat tricks and get easy two-for-ones. All of those sound great and allow you to press the advantage even further.

There are no infinite combos outside of that, nor are there any remotely complex interactions. This is good ol’ fashioned green stompy, plain and simple.

Rule 0 Violations Check

There are no major Rule 0 violations in this list. There are no infinite combos, no one-shot-kills that require zero prep, and no hyper-efficient tutors.

If you’re looking for a simple way to describe this to a tentative group, say something like “this deck has no infinite combos or generic tutors, can’t win at instant speed with protection, and will win around turn 7 if left to its own devices.”

Budget Options

This deck is already relatively cheap given its power level and build, but $200 is still a lot for some cardboard. Here are some good suggestions if you’re looking to cut down the price a bit.

Coat of Arms is very powerful, but it’s still one of the most expensive cards in the deck. You can live without this effect just fine. Something similar can be said for both Song of the Dryads and Khalni Hydra.

If those aren’t enough then the target on Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx grows larger. I’d rather you cut the other most expensive cards first because Nykthos brings unparalleled mana ramp and power to the list. That said, it’s always better to be able to play the deck without the card than to never have played the deck at all.

Other Builds

I wouldn’t recommend any other builds for Gargos, Vicious Watcher specifically. This card is meant for hydra tribal, and there’s a very limited range of wiggle room within that strategy for this kind of deck.

If you’re looking for other hydra tribal commanders there are some alternatives that also bring a slightly different style along with them.

Zaxara, the Exemplary is powerful and popular. It gives you access to black and blue, which makes up for the lack of hydra creatures with plenty of removals, interaction, and card draw. This gives a slower and more control style of play, which may be preferable.

There’s also Rosheen Meanderer. While not a hydra itself, Rosheen greatly synergizes with the theme since a lot of hydras have in their casting costs. This taps for four, and that mana can easily be dumped into hydras earlier on. It may even draw less attention than Gargos, Vicious Watcher or Zaxara, the Exemplary at first.

Commanding Conclusion

Ironscale Hydra - Illustration by Brian Valeza

Ironscale Hydra | Illustration by Brian Valeza

That wraps up hydra tribal with Gargos, Vicious Watcher. This was fun to write and test, and I promise this deck delivers if you’re looking for green and stompy.

What do you think of my list? Have you had a chance to pilot Gargos yet? Have you seen it in a pod before? If so, what did you think? Stick your neck out and drop a comment below or come chat about it in the official Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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