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This is a new trend in MAGIC the GATHERING. Instead of playing against each other the players are asked to play against
a pre-determined deck that operates with its own rules, and in this case, on its own playing board.

The Hydra deck comprises of one monster - the infamous Hydra of Greek mythology - and several spells that have been or
fantasised as being associated to the Hydra.

This card shows one of the Hydra's heads. Heads can regenerate and even bring other
heads into play, or adversely remove heads from play depending on the situation.

Lands   0


The SLAYER card was given to players who won against the Hydra in a launching tournament. It is a legal card and one of at
least 5 Hero cards that will be made available for the Theros block.


The back of the Hydra deck is not the same as the back of regular MtG cards which makes it easy to sort the cards out after each
game. Because of the shuffling of the cards and the randomness of them being drawn, and because each game can be played by
a different number of players, games are different even though it becomes possible for the players to know the opposition deck
and of course to understand the way the deck will be played. Surprisingly though so far this hasn't been an advantage, nor has it
made the games we have played similar to the point of boring.

If you play with a regular deck solo against the Hydra your chances of victory are not great. Two or three players can make a difference
but the Hydra designer has set up the Challenge deck in such a way that it isn't simply a case of overwhelming a single deck by ganging
up on it. Many cards in the Hydra's deck do damage to ALL players. This is what makes it such so far unique in the world of MtG.

The Hydra deck has its own set of rules which are implemented and activated by the instructions on the playmat. Players can use
any standard deck against the Hydra, standard meaning either a bought deck or a built deck that is legal under tournament rules and
specifications. It would be interesting for any accomplished player to build a deck specifically to defeat the Hydra once the cards
and special rules/instructions are known. That could be quite a challenge, building such a deck, or even building decks together
with friends so that they compliment each other towards the defeat of the Hydra. Of course once you have managed that then you
would only play versus the Hydra deck once, but hopefully by the time you have constructed such a deck or decks the next THEROS
Challenge deck will be available. The Realm or Plane of Theros is heavily linked with Greek mythology so there are numerous
fabled creatures, the Minotaur for instance immediately springs to mind, that Challenge decks can be made specific to.
Creatures  18
Hydra Head     4 Ravenous Brute Head     1 Savage Vigor Head     1 Snapping Fang Head     1 Shrieking Titan Head

Sorceries  42
Disorienting Glower            5 Distract the Hydra              4 Grown from the Stump     4 Hydra's Impenetrable Hide
3 Neck Tangle                         4 Noxious Hydra Breath        2 Strike the Weak Spot         5 Swallow the Hero Whole
4 Torn Between Heads          6 Unified Lunge

As a player of collectible/trading card games I am not surprised that Wizards of the Coast have taken this route as the designers
of one of their rival games, World of Warcraft tcg, have been publishing similar boxed sets for years, though in the case of WoW
the Monster or Lair deck is usually played by another player whereas the Hydra deck plays itself.

As the first CHALLENGE Deck, Face the Hydra is a great example of how Magic the Gathering can continue to expand and grow
in new ways and gather new players en route.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021