Great Gorgons! Introducing Hythonia

Editor's Note: This article was a joint effort by both Jules Robins and Carlos Gutierrez. Looking for more Hythonia action? Check out CMDR Deck's video article featuring Hythonia in Commander.

Gorgons have always been an iconic element of Greek mythos. Traditionally, Gorgons have been feminine reptilian monsters, covered with scales, featuring snakes for hair and hands of brass. Then there’s the whole meeting-their-gaze-turns-you-to-stone thing. All of these facets combine to make a pretty sweet monster, and it makes the Medusa and Perseus myth one of the more compelling pieces of Greek mythology.

Unfortunately, it took a little longer for Gorgons to hit their stride in Magic. Infernal Medusa feels very much like a Gorgon, but it has the same issues as many older cards: overcosted relative to its impact on a game. The next attempt at a Gorgon didn’t happen until Odyssey block; Masked Gorgon was really a step back from Infernal Medusa. You have a reasonable body for the cost, but she should be turning green and white creatures into sculptures—not giving them protection.

Onslaught gave us Visara the Dreadful, who is probably the most powerful Gorgon we’ve seen to date. Still, flying doesn’t really fit with the flavor, and destroying creatures isn’t quite like turning them to stone. Gorgon Recluse is a cool throwback to Infernal Medusa, but madness really doesn’t change the card especially much. Sisters of Stone Death is a fine Magic card, but it’s a little expensive for what it does. This combination of abilities feels a little more like a Siren than a Gorgon, but that’s not a huge issue.

Xathrid Gorgon is the card that captures the idea most effectively. Deathtouch is a reasonable ability for a creature with snakes for hair, and petrification is exactly what Gorgons are supposed to do. But we’re still talking about just good cards; there’s nothing that feels as epic and monstrous as Medusa does. At least there wasn’t until now. Let’s introduce you to Hythonia the Cruel.

Now this is a Gorgon. A 4/6 deathtouch for 6 is a perfectly respectable rattlesnake in a multiplayer game. Hythonia seems pretty innocuous at first. She holds down the fort while you continue to develop your board until you hit 8 mana, and suddenly, you are able to wrath the board and have a 7/9 deathtouch. Oh, and by the way, you can wrath at instant speed, and Hythonia can attack the turn she grows monstrous. This is not a Gorgon you want to mess around with.

So, what can we do with Hythonia? The more fundamental question is how we’re going to consistently put her into play and activate her effect. Having 6 mana followed by 8 isn’t exactly easy to make it to, so our first concern has to be our mana base. Ideally, we want to try to curve from 2 mana to 4, then from 4 to 6, and then from 6 to 8. This means somethings like Everflowing Chalice are especially valuable because they fit into two critical spots on our curve. Let’s look at some of the options:

Everflowing Chalice

So, now what? We can put Hythonia into play, but what then? The most straightforward plan just involves activating her, attacking, and casting backup Hythonias or Clones. With the Magic 2014 rules in place, we can just choose to keep the new copy and grow monstrous all over again. If we can manage that a few turns in a row, perhaps backed up by some pump or burn, our opponent is just dead. Let’s take a look at what that deck might look like:

The game plan here is pretty direct: Ramp into Hythonia, wrath, and attack. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Netherborn Phalanx, Profane Command, and Haunted Fengraf serve as additional copies of Hythonia to help ensure you never run short. Solemn Simulacrum and Crypt Ghast do double-duty, making sure you have the mana to get your engines running and gaining buying you some time in the midgame. Liliana of the Dark Realms sort of does it all in this deck. She helps you hit land drops and picks off key creatures early on. As the game goes on, she can speed up your clock by a turn with Hythonia or let you burn people out with Profane Command. You can even set up a board with double Gorgons using Netherborn Phalanx to tutor up Visara.

Visara the Dreadful by Brad Rigney

But what if we’re looking to do something a little flashier? You don’t want to just wrath the board, you want to get some value—go bigger and better. Let’s think about some cards that care about creatures being dead or dying—that seems like a pretty reasonable place to start. Here’s what we came up with:

Some of these are a little tricky to build around. Salvaging Station triggering a bunch of times isn’t exactly going to close out a game after all. Still, there are a few interesting ideas here. If you can expect your opponents to play enough creatures, you can create a dominating board presence by using Endless Whispers. The issue here is that all kinds of things can go wrong when you use Endless Whispers in multiplayer; thankfully, that’s what Lim-Dul and Grave Betrayal are for. Let’s take a look at what this deck might look like:

Let’s start with the mana base. Swamp count matters here. Our first deck didn’t really need to hit more than 8 mana to win a game, but this one wants to go way bigger, so we need Cabal Coffers. The mana base leans toward Deserted Temple rather than Coffers because we want our lands to cast spells even if we don’t have a high Swamp count yet. Our ramp spells all tutor up Swamps to help power Coffers, and we have Expedition Maps to help assemble the pieces.

We can use Mutilate and Liliana along the way to buy us time, tutor up our Cavern of Souls against control decks, and then start jamming our threats. Lim-Dul and Grave Betrayal help us set up positions where we steal all the creatures and only give our opponents one turn to answer our board position. The awesome thing about this build is that it naturally scales up with the number of players since more players means more creatures. The awkward thing is that your engine is so expensive and ungainly that it makes it very difficult to assemble all of the pieces without being disrupted.

Grave Betrayal by Lucas Graciano

So, why don’t we go for something less mana-intensive and more focused on killing our opponents rather than doing something flashy. Let’s see if we can kill our opponent with Blood Artist and Hythonia. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Here’s the most important question we have to ask: What if our opponent isn’t playing creatures? Let’s take a look:

Vesuva, Thespian’s Stage, and Deserted Temple all serve double duty here, allowing us to either generate absurd amounts of mana with Cloudpost or cover the board in Forbidden Orchard tokens. Finding the proper balance will mean our opponent’s imminent demise, as we can activate Hythonia with a lot of tokens and Falkenrath Nobles onboard.

But thus far, we’ve ignored a critical piece of Hythonia the Cruel’s power. Her monstrosity trigger doesn’t have to be Damnation; it can be Plague Wind! All Hythonia asks is that we play with some Gorgons.

This deck will spend the first few turns setting up with Grisly Salvage, Mulch, and Life from the Loam to ensure a steady stream of land drops and a full graveyard. Eventually, we’ll find either a Patriarch’s Bidding or Eternal Witness to recover one that we binned and be able to return a few beefy Gorgons, at which point, Hythonia can annihilate whatever creepy crawlies the rest of the table brought back. Once our graveyard grows a bit fuller, we can use another Bidding to build a bigger board, and the new legend rule will allow us to keep a nonmonstrous Hythonia to play cleanup.

But sometimes, a few Gorgons aren’t going to be enough to take down the table, and we’ll need to combo off. Eternal Witness can return our singleton Essence Warden and Carnival of Souls so that each Patriarch’s Bidding generates mana; then, Mirror Entity can turn everyone into Gorgons to survive Hythonia’s wrath, but what is Hagra Diabolist doing in here?

With Twilight’s Call, we can return both Hythonia and Eternal Witness and reuse our Twilight’s Call. Then, Hythonia kills Eternal Witness, and the cycle starts again. If enough creatures are bouncing in and out, Carnival of Souls pays for the cycle and will allow us to generate as much mana as we want while Hagra Diabolist kills our opponent. But Blood Artist would do the same, and surely that would be a better card on its own, right?

Well, there’s a second way for this deck to combo off: Choose Shaman with Patriarch’s Bidding. Then, we can activate Mirror Entity for 0 to kill off our board and keep looping the Diabolist.

Mirror Entity by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

That certainly fulfills our Johnny quota for the day, but this wouldn’t be much of a preview article for our newest legendary Gorgon without a deck that fits her flavorfully. So now we must ask: What does it mean to be a Gorgon?

Well, any time you try to hang out with someone who’s not a Gorgon, that someone turns to stone. That means you don’t end up with too many friends, but in short order, you’ll acquire an enviable sculpture garden. Of course, you’ll need to revel in death or the whole thing becomes rather depressing and you have a lot of quiet alone time—perfect for reading. Inhabiting your domain ends up feeling something like playing with this deck.

First thing’s first: What is Reaper of the Wild? It’s another new Gorgon spoiled on the Spanish site last Friday. Today, it should be in our spoiler, but here’s what the English version should look like:

So, how does the deck play out? We sit around curating the statue collection for a while until we have enough mana for one of the Gorgons to come out and play. Either Reaper of the Wild or Damia, Sage of Stone will help us find Hythonia the Cruel, and then, she can clear the board, and all of our mana rocks can join the assault force. Phyrexian Totem, in particular, becomes a force to be reckoned with once the blockers have left the building.

As you can see, Hythonia the Cruel is well-equipped to do cool things, but she has one more important quality we didn’t make full use of here: She’s legendary. Combined with her late-game capabilities, that makes her prime Commander material, so if you’re interested in that end of things, make sure to check out the other half of our exclusive spoiler extravaganza: CMDR Decks’s take on Hythonia as a commander!

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