Hymn, Hymn, I Stomp

Posted in Serious Fun on March 30, 2010

The subtle reverberations of magic rippled across the gardens. It wasn't a gentle roll of calling, but one of forceful command—a powerful summons that couldn't be ignored. The melody itself wasn't unpleasant or harsh but, like most religious rituals, gave a sense of reverence and peace. It was a curious combination of urgent, rhythmic song that flowed more than it floated as it drove through the landscape.

The symbols of circles drawn around each of the druids served as a visual guide to the ritual, though each was too far engrossed to be using them anymore. Rote repetition of the sing-song voices was slowly and surely melting into the very fabric of the flora and fauna. Never before had the gardens experienced this much activity.

Of course, never before had the gardens been so threatened.

It began with just a low groan. As if the very earth itself were protesting, the guttural growl grew rapidly, a shearing sound that cut through everything else. Tremors unlike anything from the Roil began to percolate through the root-laden soil. Just as the voices of the druids hit a crescendo, blending into the natural energies around them, so too did the jumbling strikes of the earth.

Then they stopped completely.

The druids fell silent simultaneously.

Everything, for just a moment, was still across all the gardens. Everything from the birds above to the grubs below were still for a breath-taking moment. And, just as startlingly suddenly, the synchronous, atonal cries of the heads of the hydra bellowed.

And there was much rejoicing.

If you somehow missed swinging by yesterday, welcome to the first week of Rise of Eldrazi previews! There is quite a bit going on, and I can't even begin to get a handle on how much my mind has been blown.

The Eldrazi are the very definition of badass.

That said, to merely point to the Eldrazi and say, "That's all there is to see. Move along!" is to sell everything else abhorrently short. The Eldrazi are certainly splashy and big (and deserve the spotlight treatment), but Zendikar hasn't been sitting still for eons. After taking a beating thousands of years beforehand, the very nature of the plane changed, morphing into the volatile haven of a monstrous ecosystem. Beasts of great proportions serve as a frontline of savagery against any threat, great or small, that would rise up.

Of course it had to be the greatest possible threat that decided to show up.

    There Goes the Neighborhood

There's a lot to be said for making preparations. Having a plan in the event of a crisis can certainly help minimize the damage such situations present. But mitigating preparation not the only way to handle a crisis. As movies and childrens' actions shows would have us believe, responding to an aggressive affront with escalating power is an acceptable alternative: fight fire with fire. When you're talking about big creatures and massive damage, you're speaking a green mage's language.

Green's affinity for getting big is easy to see: Terastodon, Terra Stomper, and Kalonian Behemoth are all recent, powerful options. However, there is a slightly more subtle option for green for creatures of size. They sometimes start smaller but grow bigger over time. They can reshape and become stronger after damage.

Or sometimes they join you free of charge:

If Lorthos, the Tidemaker had a green brother, this would most certainly be it. Let's look at what's going on here:

Khalni Hydra – So we know what it is and where it's from. There are Khalni druids who live in Khalni Garden, and are the nature-loving, green-mana-using forest-folk one might expect. They wanted to bring this monstrosity out since, well, that's what green mana users do. If you find one, come prepared.

Eight green mana – It's not going to be an easy monster to share color space with. While this isn't the only word on Khalni Hydra's cost, it's clear that you're going to be using quite a bit of green to have the Hydra join you.

An 8/8 – It squishes things flat.

Trample – It makes squishy things squishier. Does anything more need to be said?

Here is the meat to the potatoes. Last week Mark Rosewater tweeted (via @maro254) about "A little something you might open in your ROE Booster: An 8/8 green trampler that you can play for free." Clearly this is the guy. An 8/8 trample for just eight is nothing to sneeze at, but getting it for cheap or free makes it a lot more intriguing. The cost reduction is driven by the number of green creatures you have on the battlefield—something that green mages never have, right?

Khalni Hydra isn't just a warm hug and protective beatstick; it's a lean, mean, popping-out-quicker-than-whit green Hydra of awesomeness. Like any good protector, the more you have "at risk" on the battlefield, the easier it is to rouse for its duties. Consider the following cards from Zendikar and Worldwake:

Having a few green creatures out there is easier than ever these days, and being rewarded for something I was planning to be doing anyway seems like a fine idea!

The Proposition

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Let's make a deal: You make some small fries and get a little damage in. I'll make lots of mana and send crushing waves of creatures your way later on. Deal? Deal.

There's some strange things going on here with Khalni Hydra. Other than an opponent playing a Maelstrom Pulse on Garruk, there isn't anything to trip the trap cost of Cobra Trap—so why throw it in? It's an instant. I can drop some sneaky Snakes at the end of my opponent's turn and put me halfway to a fully discounted Hydra. Add in the odds of having a mana generator or tokens from a Bestial Menace, and it's clear that I'm not going to be paying retail price for my giant fatty—discount green creature outlet for me.

While the idea of plopping out free trample dudes is pretty appealing, I can get even more use out Khalni Hydra when I look back further. Here are some partners in crime you could consider for our friendly neighborhood Hydra:

If you have a severely discounted dude it can be riotous to drop it onto the battlefield whenever you want to. Scout's Warning lets you cast a creature—any creature—at instant speed and Winding Canyons does the same but sticks around to do it again next turn if needed. While these have a storied history with "enters the battlefield" trigger creatures (like Mulldrifter and Nekrataal), dropping Khalni Hydra should be a real shock to anyone who was sending in their troops. The biggest upside of slipping this in on another player's turn? Getting to attack with your fresh new Hydra once your turn rolls around again.

Kelly Digges once previewedPrimalcrux in what feels like an age long lost, and let me tell you a little secret: people forget what Primalcrux does. Well, they still vaguely remember that its power and toughness are a reflection of the green mana symbols collectively placed on your side, but most brains aren't geared towards rapidly calibrating its fluctuating size on a moment's notice. Khalni Hydra has a seriously funky mana cost that, alongside Primalcrux, isn't the first thing that will cross other player's minds.

Let's see: a five-mana enchantment that can make seven Saprolings the moment it hits play. A three mana enchantment that gives all creatures haste and can be sacrificed for a small creature pump. I wonder how these could possibly—OH SNAP IT'S A 10/10 TRAMPLER AND SEVEN 1/1'S ATTACKING ME OUT OF NOWHERE!

For those of you at home counting that's 17 offensive damage as early as turn five. Seems okay I guess.

Mean Green Offensive Machine

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It looks and feels just like a Primalcrux deck—now with the added bonus of Nissa's Chosen and Leatherback Baloth being green-mana critters that weren't around for Kelly—with the the ability to completely go on a tear thanks to Fires of Yavimaya. Crop Rotation lets you grab a Winding Canyons (for instant speed shenanigans) or Oran-Rief, the Vastwood (because big green creatures are never big enough) whenever you need it. And, like a solid partner planeswalker, Garruk Wildspeaker can untap your lands while ramping up to his Overrun ultimate.

These decks, though, are just the things that excite me. What about you? How will you be using your free 8/8 trampler? Show me by this Thursday, and I'll share the most interesting idea next week. I'll see you then!

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