Gargos, Vicious Watcher - Hydra Tribal and more

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Post by worldsaverinc » 7 months ago


My name is Worldsaverinc and I love tribal decks. I have built some tribal decks in commander, standard, and modern. One of the tribes that I love is Hydras. Hydras are big splashy creatures normally. They are also now Green's Iconic Creature, but recently they have had some intriguing designs such as Gargos, Vicious Watcher, Steelbane Hydra, Thunderous Snapper, and Hydroid Krasis (just to speak to some in standard).

I, originally, started a hydra tribal deck using Progenitus as it is the Hydra Avatar. However, it was purely a casual deck with ETB lands due to budget reasons that focused generally on getting all the existing hydras in a deck to cast them. Much of the deck was focused on putting down at least one land a turn and card draw (generally when a creature enters the battlefield with power greater then 3 or 4, draw a card). However, with the printing of Gargos, Vicious Watcher. We are in a whole new territory of Hydra Tribal strategies, mono-Green with an actual Tribal commander.

Gargos, Vicious Watcher, I feel, can be made in several different ways. I have made in 2 ways, but plan at least 2 other ways which maximize some or all of his text.
1. Hydra Tribal is the most obvious way to build Gargos and was my first attempt at a Gargos, Vicious Watcher deck.
2. Voltron - is an interesting way to build Gargos that stemmed from trying to maximize his fight ability after witnessing the power of it when playing as Hydra Tribal.
3. Control - This is an interesting build to Gargos that would also utilize his fight ability to great effect while also having more creatures in play that may need to get removed as they offer deathtouch or just value or other measures beyond Gargos himself. This is using Gargos as a good, but supplementary affect. This build I have the least comfort in building as it isn't tribal oriented.
4. Hybrid Gargos - This build would probably have a small hydra package, a small voltron or targetted package, and some other green elements to create the "best" Gargos, deck. (ie. most competitive). I am not certain of this build, but I am reviewing and thinking about it.

Why play Gargos, Vicious Watcher
- You like Hydras
- You like Fighting
- You like to build around your commander
- You like to become the late-game Archenemy
- You like to play decks with a clear, simple game plan
- You want to go BIG or go HOME

Why you may not like Gargos, Vicious Watcher
- You like to play expensive, some what easily removed commanders
- You don't like Green.
- You like playing complex decks
- The deck can be repetitive

Notes: I sold most of my cards, so cards that I have listed are cards that I own perosnally, but I also welcome suggestions to improve any and all builds.

Gargos, Hydra Tribal

Hydra Tribal is the most obvious build for Gargos. It will never be truly competitive, but it has a lot of things that make it really darn good in casual and 75% commander. The play pattern is pretty similar for each game of Hydra Tribal. You ramp until Gargos and then you make a choice....tall or wide. The choice depends on game state, supportive permanents, and specific hydras in hand. Each of these variables effect how you play out your next few turns.

- The x-casting cost hydras promote a go tall game plan.
- The 6 (or less) CMC Hydras promote a go wide game plan.
- Card-draw support permanents generally support a go-wide game plan.
- Protection permanents support either, but for example Akroma's Memorial with haste can support a tall strategy.
- Fight spells promote 1 or 2 more creatures to maximize interaction.
- Ramp/Lands promote either
- Card Draw spells - promote going tall

- Blue? - Go Wide unless Mistcutter Hydra
- Lots of Creatures - Wide (if you are in danger), Tall (if you can get a winning trampler)
- Need to Kill certain creatures, perhaps 1-2 creatures
- Playing decks with wraths (depending on card draw supporting permanents), go Tall

Obviously as our win condition is turning sideways, wraths and a ton of removal as well as counterspells can be a problem especially on Gargos himself. My experience is that opposing players are going to try to remove gargos at first opportunity they can either with a wrath or a targetted removal spell. There is also good reason for that. Gargos does ALOT. Gargos can be a highly threatening commander for casual and 75% groups as a late-game monster. Also, since we are in green, Gargos tends to be resiliant as Green has a lot of tools to rebuild after boardwipes as Hydras are generally threatening and powerful on their own. So, even if Gargos is priced out of returning at the moment, BIG creatures will follow or he will be back with reinforcements soon enough.

There are 4 areas for Hydra Tribal decks to focus on which my decklists include to a greater or lesser degree. Budget decks can get by without these tools, but they can assist to make it more powerful. All of these 4 areas are available in some form or another in cheaper ways then some options I have chosen so Gargos is budget friendly, but money can make him more powerful and more consistent.

- Early Game
- Mana Doubling
- Counters
- Fight Spells
- Protection Spells
- Mass Card Draw
- Good Hydra
- Not So Great Hydra
- Mass Card Draw
- Incremental Card Draw

There are other good cards in here that I have included for protection (Asceticism) or helping combat (Akroma's Memorial) that are good cards in decks like this, but don't need to be there.

Gargos is MANA-Hungry. You are generally tapping out each turn or keeping up mana for protection I have found. If you aren't using your mana every turn, it can be because it is has failed to fire correctly. There are 2 phases of your ramping. The first phase is to get to six as fast as possible. The second is to start doubling your mana to recast Gargos and big hydras. With enough ramp and doubling, there can be points where Gargos has been cast 5 or 6 times with big hydra back ups.

It is a balancing act. I am not quite sold on the ratio I have in my current build. Suggestions are welcome.

- Early game ramp - This consists of ramp using spells (Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, Nissa's Pilgrimage, Skysrhoud Claim), Land/Turn (Exploration, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Oracle of Mul-Daya), Lands (Blighted Woodland, Myriad Landscape, Castle Garenbrig, Temple of the False God), and Creature/Artifact ramp (Llanowar Tribe and Soul Ring). As you noticed, I have tried to focus save for some of the land ramp on cards that provide 2+ for 1. I have found that we are so mana hungry that just ramping up for one is a little too slow and possibly inconsistent. We want to be casting big spells as soon as possible and then keep casting those spells (which is why I try to focus on lands rather than artifacts or creatures when it comes to early game ramp). Llanowar Tribe gets us to six the next turn, it is super good for the price of one card.

- Mana Doublers - As we near the mid-game and late game - the Hydras are hungry for mana. We want BIG or LOTS of Hydras. Gargos is expensive and will most likely get removed some how or way, so we will need to recast him to get our Hydra-Explosion on which is how we win games. To accomplish that, Land Ramping isn't enough. We need to find ways to greatly increase our mana production. The best way that I know of is to get some mana doublers out that don't effect other opponents and that provide at least some value to our plan. Zendikar's Resurgence, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Caged Sun, and Gauntlet of Power are the ones I am using, but if you have better ones or different ones, please feel free, I would like to get Mana Reflections). The +1/+1 of Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power are nominal, but can still be good. Zendikar's Resurgence is the best mana doubler thanks to the card draw attached to that which we will get to later.

- Counters - As we want our creatures to be big, another way to achieve a type of ramp is to increase counters on existing creatures. Doubling Season and Unbound Flourishing help to provide those large boosts in power that simulate ramping. Doubling Season also has secondary benefits to Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Evolution Sage, Vigor, and The Great Henge which increases their effects as well as certain Hydra abilities such as Vastwood Hydra, Managorger, Feral, and others.

Any targetted spell is a fight spell, 'nough said. Some targetted spells are worth more than others if you are playing more then 1 creature. With this, Gargos can become more interactive to the current boardstate then red, black, or white players. Even removing Gargos from the game gets a free creature kill. Gargos is the mono-Green commander to keep opposing creature decks at bay.

- Fight Spells
So, one of the most surprising things about Gargos is how interactive you can be with creatures in the game. Green has a problem generally dealing with creatures, but Gargos is an 8/7. Gargos kills most creatures in the game with fighting while surviving. Especially against commanders or other creatures which might hurt Gargos style of game play. The best fight spells are ones that target multiple creatures like Combo Attack and Band Together. Together these spells can kill 3 creatures, sometimes sacrificing your commander to remove say a Maelstrom Wanderer and 2 other smaller creatures is worth it. I recently used Combo Attack to kill 2 key goblins from a Krenko player (including Krenko) and then used the Combo Attack target on a Acidic Slime that was played.
- Protection Spells
I don't play a lot of protection spells in this build, but they are valuable. I will talk more of them in the Voltron list. I am currently playing Withstand Death, but hexproof, indestructible, regeneration, and totem armor are all valuable.
- Mass Card Draw
These spells come into a couple categories. The clearest are Hunter's Insight, Hunter's Prowess, Warriors' Lesson, and Soul Majesty. These provide creature kill with most likely more than 1 card in hand to refresh if Gargos is on the field. However, even if Gargos is not, you can cast these spells targetting any creature that you control to gain these effects and they are fantastic effects in filling up your hand after a boardwipe or in preperation for a boardwipe or finding needed answers/hydras/protection etc.
- Targeted Repeatable Spells
I don't have them here, but they are fairly good which include Elvish Fury, Rancor and Whip Silk which can provide repeatable fight effects and combined with enough mana can wreck havoc on a board state.

This wouldn't be a Hydra tribal deck without hydra. However, not all Hydra are created equal. There are some you can't play due to being mono-green and there are others which are fine, but not the best. Each Hydra can be a threat on its own especially with enough mana and support such as with trample.
- The Best Hydra are ones that you would want to play even in a Hybrid deck. Genesis Hydra, Hydra Omnivore, Kalonian Hydra, Lifeblood Hydra, Managorger Hydra, Phyrexian Hydra, Polukranos, World Eater, Primordial Hydra, Steelbane Hydra, Ulvenwald Hydra, Voracious Hydra, and Whiptongue Hydra. Each of these brings utility (card draw/advantage, creature kill, etc.) or just a game ending threat to the table in a few turns.
- The ones that aren't the greatest include Domesticated Hydra, Ramunap Hydra, Clockwork Hydra, Sprouting Phytohydra, Oran-Rief Hydra.
- The rest are generally fine and dandy creatures. There are really very few BAD hydra. I might still run the bad Hydra. They aren't the worst save for Ramunap is probably the worst amongst the mono-Green Hydra.

Every Commander deck wants velocity and to not stall out. Due to the mana requirements, the likelihood to be Archenemy after Gargos comes down, the amount of boardwipes that will happen. We will need the capacity to rebuild from essentially nothing to something. To be able to do that, we will need CARDS. There are 2 types of card draw that this deck would like. Cards upon our creatures entering and mass cards. Incremental Card draw isn't enough sometimes to recover from boardwipes and other effects.
- Mass Card Draw
I have added more mass card draw effects. Some of these effects are also targetted spells to increase value. Hunter's Insight, Hunter's Prowess, Soul's Majesty, Rishkar's Expertise, and Greater Good with Lifeblood Hydra are meant to provide a lot of cards in my hand. Gargos generally provides 8 drawn cards for some or more with trample. You can use them on smaller creatures if you are stuck. I have used them on Polukranos and even used a Hunter's Prowess on a Llanowar Tribe to get cards in my hand to meet land drops or action.
- Incremental Card Draw
This type of incremental card draw allows you to provide additional resources generally without needing to discard to handsize. (probably should put a Reliquary Tower in). Play a Hydra, get 1 or more cards is generally not a bad deal. Garruk's Packleader, The Great Henge, Elemental Bond, Sylvan Library provide the tools to get you that incremental card advantage as can Oracle of Mul'Daya to help dig through the deck. I have had Lifecrafter's Bestiary and Vanquisher's Banner in here as well and may include them again as they were very good to help me get ahead and stay ahead. Draw a Hydra, play for 2 mana thanks to Gargos, draw a card is a great rate of return even with the X-Spelled Hydra and keep doing that if you have 14 mana ready to be used. You can go from one creature, to a ton of creature with a full hand of cards. This is also why I play Azusa, Oracle, and Exploration for the extra lands you will draw.

Other Spells - Whatever other spells you play can help enhance your strategy. I am currently playing Finale of Devastation (ends games), Beast Within (removal), Force of Vigor and Krosan Grip (removal), Heroic Intervention (board protection), Vigor (fight protection). High Market (protection). Akroma's Memorial (win games).
Approximate Total Cost:


I am not saying that Gargos is the best Voltron Commander. There are others like Thrun with built in counter and targetted removal protection or Omnath that could just get bigger. However, Gargos is the most interactive mono-Green Voltron commander. Every Aura, Instant, or Sorcery that targets Gargos is another creature death.

This list has several weaknesses. I understand that it isn't the best Voltron Gargos, but an example of how extreme a creatureless Gargos Voltron deck would look. You can take cute stuff out and put in more creatures and other power cards. This is also my first attempt at Voltron. The other weakeness is that you need to get Gargos out ASAP. No ramp, so sorry, come back again. The third weakness is Gargos doesn't have trample, you will need to supply it somewhere.

Green though has tools to provide trample and provide trample in ways that are recurring and nearly everlasting.

Almost all the Aura's, Instants, and Sorcery's are here due to Protection and Card Draw as noted above, so I don't want to go into them again too much and will let the list speak for themselves. Season of Growth is just a no-brainer.

I did add good equipment for Gargos. I focused on equipment that could provides Protection primarily Indestructible or Keywords -Trample and Double-strike. Grafted Exoskeleton is a one-hit kill. I want to highlight Ksuari-Gama as it is a one sided boardwipe for Gargos. Kusari-Gama says DEFENDING player which means it doesn't have to be you that attacks, but any defending player on any turn and Kusari-Gama can wipe their board if Gargos fights something. I don't have enough targetting instants in the main build to justify this.

The land destruction is for lands that would suck as I am only running one creature. Tempt with Discovery is due to the fact that in some matches I will need specific lands to counter a strategy whether it is Cavern, Land Destruction, Scavenger Grounds, Rogue's Passage, High Market, or Homeward Path.

I added more ramp because Gargos getting out faster is even more important in this build. I don't need mana-doublers as much as straight ramp to 6.

I am not quite as skilled in creating a control shell for the deck or a Hybrid version of any of these themes or all of them.

I think though that a base deck would probably the some or all of the good hydras, plus most of the card draw and ramp package of Hydra plus some of the better green creatures for Commander like Acidic Slime, Bane of Progress, etc.

With this base, it is 84 cards. 16 cards for control which maybe primarily creatures. There might be also too many utility non-basics as well. I am not sure all of these cards have a place, but I think it is a good start to any deck.

Thank you!

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