Hydroid Krasis is everywhere!
Week one of the new Ravnica Allegiance Standard format has now completed at the SCG Tour Open in Indianapolis and the big story of the event was Hydroid Krasis. Everywhere you looked people were tapping all of their lands to play huge jellyfish hydras, whether those lands were Breeding Pools, Watery Graves, Hallowed Fountains, or Simic Guildgates. And this is only the beginning.
Hydroid Krasis is the endgame in Standard right now. It asks for nothing but mana and time, and in return gives you a never-ending stream of cards and threats while being a huge threat itself. Because the card draw and life gain effect is a cast trigger, and thereby uncounterable, the usual answer for "large card advantage x-spell" is not available to us. As such, you have two options:
- Play a strategy that doesn't care about Hydroid Krasis
- Tune your deck with cards that are specifically good against Hydroid Krasis
Options for ignoring Hydroid Krasis put us on the extreme ends of the spectrum - either go really fast and kill them before it matters, or do something stupid and broken like taking all of the turns with Nexus of Fate. Both of those options are fairly obvious and explored at this point, so today we will be looking at cards that are uniquely good against Hydroid Krasis.
- They are almost assuredly going to be tapped out, meaning they won't have any mana to interact with you.
- They will have a decent-sized to large flying creature in play on defense, in addition to whatever else they have.
- It is likely they will have already traded off a good number of resources, either by playing interactive spells or gumming up the board with creatures.
- They're going to have gas for next turn as well, by virtue of the extra cards they have drawn. Another Krasis is possible.
The first part is the most important, as because they are tapped out you will have free reign to fire back with whatever your chosen answer is. Otherwise it's a lot to deal with. They've got probably the biggest creature in play and a refueled had, with the threat of another bigger Krasis looming. As such, we are going to want cards that answer the Krasis in play with some major upside, or answer it in a unique and efficient way. It's also important to note that Hydroid Krasis having an X in its cost means that is converted mana cost while in play is only two. This interaction will come up in a number of our answers.
Planeswalkers are the easy first stop, as ones that can kill the Krasis outright while staying in play to gain advantage over the next few turns are excellent.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained is one of the more exciting options, as not only do you get to kill their Krasis and put a planeswalker in play, you get to attack them with it! Midgame, Krasis will usually be quite large and if you are applying other pressure the Krasis they cast to stabilize may actually just end up killing them. Even when that's not the case being able to do significant damage while killing their Krasis or maybe even attacking one of their planeswalkers is fantastic, and Angrath is already good against Wildgrowth Walker and midrange decks in general.
Simliar to Angrath, the Flame-Chained, Vraska, Golgari Queen gets to exploit the low converted manacost of a Hydroid Krasis that's in play. Usually Vraska, Golgari Queen can only kill small things, but being able to take out a Krasis, put a planeswalker in play, and likely have mana for something else is an excellent tempo swing. Vraska isn't the best planeswalker in Standard, but in decks that can make use of her she's a good answer.
On the other hand, Vivien Reid is one of the best planeswalkers in Standard. There's really not much to say, as Vivien Reid is often seen holding hands with Hydroid Krasis and is one of the key cards in any sort of Hydroid Krasis mirror match. She finds your Krasis, kills their Krasis, and is one of the best possible card advantage engines. There's nothing new or exciting to see here; Vivian is a pillar of the format.
Vraska, Relic Seeker is similar. It can do the same 'come into play and kill Krasis' routine, while also giving you a little extra mana for your trouble so your next Krasis is bigger. Vraska shines in decks that don't want to play many creatures, which makes them not really interested in the usually superior Vivien Reid. Not many decks will want Vraska over Vivian, but the ones that do will be thankful she is available.
Killing a Hydroid Krasis with something like Cast Down or Conclave Tribunal feels pretty bad. They've already gained the life and drawn the card, and unless your removal spell is setting up a lethal attack they're now far ahead on mana and resources, with the next Krasis looming to put the game completely out of reach. Ixalan's Binding looks to solve the problem of the Krasis on the table, as well as the next one by simply not letting them cast the card anymore. While this can be soft to enchantment removal like Vivien Reid, at least the Krasis that is bound comes back as a 0/0 and dies and their Vivian isn't drawing them more cards.
The basis of the deck I played at the SCG Tour Open in Indianapolis, the Goblin Chainwhirler + Status combo is exceptionally good against Hydroid Krasis midrange decks primarily because of what the post-Krasis turn looks like - they're going to have a big Krasis, maybe a few other creatures, and will be tapped out and unable to interact. That sounds like a perfect time to execute a two card combo that kills all of their creatures. You must be applying pressure and/or have a follow up to handle the next Krasis, but it's exactly the kind of backbreaking play that takes the sting out of them drawing a few cards.
I'm not a big fan of Deputy of Detention, but the biggest drawback of your opponent getting their creature back at an inopportune time is negated because again Krasis will come back as a 0/0. It's not great, but with Deputy of Detention usually being played in more aggressive decks hopefully you will be able to use it to push through that last turn or two of damage to end the game before the next Krasis comes down.
While Deputy of Detention isn't that exciting, Hostage Taker is extremely exciting. With a more relevant body and the same protection of Hydroid Krasis coming back as a 0/0, Hostage Taker already feels like a good option. But if your opponent can't kill it before you untap? You get to cast your own Hydroid Krasis! The ceiling on Hostage Taker is through the roof, and because the floor is simply just killing their big flyer and getting a 2/3, Hostage Taker ends up being one of the best cards in the format against Hydroid Krasis.
As we've seen, killing Hydroid Krasis with a one for one removal spell isn't ideal. It's straight card disadvantage and not a battle you're going to win often unless you are applying very heavy pressure. However, spending four mana to kill their Hydroid Krasis and then putting your own huge flying creature into play? That's a little bit more exciting. If you thought Ravenous Chupacabra was nice as a 2/2 that killed things for four mana, think about how exciting an actual Control Magic is.
One of the most annoying parts of Hydroid Krasis is that there isn't really a clean answer to it other than just ignoring it. We can kill our opponent before they cast it, but otherwise we can't really interact. We can't stop them from casting it, nor can we defend ourselves with counterspells. With time and mana, they will have a large jellyfish and a handful of cards. Thought Erasure is one of the only cards in the format that can trade one for one with Hydroid Krasis, doing so as a reasonably powerful Magic card as well. Don't be surprised to see midrange and control decks turning to discard over counterspells to try and stop the Krasis
Hopefully it doesn't come to this. Cranial Extraction effects are never very good unless they are completely removing a deck's ability to win, however if we devolve into a point where all that matters in midrange mirrors is playing Hydroid Krasis after Hydroid Krasis this is a possible option. It's also an option for control decks, which are typically very good against midrange decks but have a hell of a time with the cast trigger on Hydroid Krasis neutering their counterspells.
It's A Hydroid World...
...and we're just living in it.
Week one of this Standard format was the coming out party for Hydroid Krasis.
Week two is going to be all about the Hydroid Krasis arms race.
While all of the cards we discussed today are good to very good against Hydroid Krasis, nothing can really answer it reliably on a one for one basis. It is very possible that Standard devolves into finding the best Krasis deck to beat other Krasis decks, but I'm not ready to concede that point yet.
We're just getting started with Ravnica Allegiance Standard, but rule number one is set: Have a plan for Hydroid Krasis!