Monday, July 11, 2011

CCDD 071111—Royal Hydra

Cool Card Design of the Day
7/11/2011 - In honor of 7-Eleven's birthday, I welcome you to Hydra Week (but you're going to have connect the dots yourself). Since Hydra are the recently elected iconic creature type for green, joining the Angels, Sphinxes (Sphinges?), Demons and Dragons of the world, we're going to be seeing a lot more of them in the future. Here are all the Hydras printed so far. Most have an X in their mana cost (Feral Hydra) and/or size-affecting counters on them (Phyrexian Hydra) and those that don't are either just straight up huge (Hydra Omnivore) or have a splitting effect (Sprouting Phytohydra). They are also almost all rare.

Today I bring you a very strong uncommon. In fact, the true reason for Hydra week is that I want to try a new design strategy I have a lot of trouble with: Designing Powerful Cards (of which, Ken Nagle is the patron saint). As as an amateur Magic designer, I'm so used to having to do my own development, that I tend to be very conservative with my numbers and effects. In R&D, that's not actually a useful trait because Development will be testing and tweaking all the numbers anyhow, so a designer might as well be optimistic and let his/her card tickle some Spike sensibilities.

There's nothing terribly innovative about Royal Hydra's design.
The current wording may be a touch clever for uncommon, but it's just as easy to template this with X+1 counters or as a 1/1 with X counters. That's not the point. Royal Hydra is the most efficient, versatile creature ever to grace the uncommon rarity. At 3/3 for 3, 5/5 for 5 and 7/7 for 7, it's strictly better than Centaur Courser, Silverback Ape and Duskdale Wurm to the mono-green player. Is it too good? Not my problem.


  1. I think it's fine. It hardly out classes those cards considering it's only counting the Green mana spent, so appropriate counter examples are Leatherback Baloth or Rushwood Elemental. It's a very good build around me in an uncommon slot, strongly rewarding a monogreen drafter. It's also one of the more elegant cards posted for a CCDD, nice design.

    From a development point of view, it's only fine to mediocre in a set that doesn't provide the tools for monocolored limited decks. In constructed, it's hard to see this guy fitting in many decks, as a vanilla trampler isn't very exciting anywhere in the curve. I'm not worried about this guy being too powerful, honestly I'd be more concerned with him being too weak.

    That said, it's an elegant card. Heck, it'd be a pretty fine card without the mono green requirement. Ivy Elemental would be completely safe to print as an uncommon, it'd probably even be safe with trample or it it was a 1/1 instead of a 0/0. Krakilin was an uncommon and, while good, didn't destabilize limited.

  2. Hydra week! Hell yes! I'm a huge fan of the Hydra and I'm glad that MaRo has finally set it to rest that it is, in fact, green's new Iconic.

    I don't think this card is too good at all, for what it's worth. Since it forces you into mono-green to get the most out of it, it's not "strictly better" than any of those things; Leatherback Baloth is the more apt point of comparison. I think this card is exciting and I'd be very happy to see it in a printed set.

    I'll see what Hydra stuff I can come up with myself... and hopefully something that gets away from the "X" cost and/or +1/+1 counters. Some more diversity that still feels like a Hydra, if possible.

  3. I'd be somewhat concerned that even though the text seems perfectly intuitive, the general nature of X-spells may confuse players who don't anticipate the required G in the cost to count.

    It's a small concern, but something to think about.

  4. Unhinged Hydra 7GG
    Creature - Hydra (R)
    Unhinged Hydra enters the battlefield with as many +1/+1 counters on it as you can fit in the card.

  5. Man, I missed something. Where'd it get confirmed that hydras will be the new green icon?


    MaRo has had a Tumblr account for a while now, and he answers questions there fairly often. They're usually pretty quick answers but there's the occasional interesting or informative one.

  7. You forgot to mention it being strictly better than Wood Elemental!

    Looks like a fine card; I wonder if templating it as a 1/1 Trample for G with multikicker of G for a +1/+1 counter might be a bit cleaner (in a set that included multikicker).

  8. multikicker for two +1/+1 counters would work even better, both flavor-wise and gameplay-wise.

  9. Looking back on this, "X+1 counters" is just so much closer to what a player is expecting to read here and just as functional.