We’re back with the second review of our special Magic: The Gathering feature. Today we have a new product from Wizards of the Coast, the Face The Hydra challenge deck from the new Theros expansion, which allows players to practice their skills and strategies by playing against what would be best described as an ‘AI’ opponent. Read on for our impression of this new product!

Face the Hydra is a special, pre-built deck with specific rules and instructed centred around its use. It allows a player, or players, to face off against an opponent who doesn’t exist in reality, and is guided by a series of special rules and an intricately constructed deck of custom cards, produced particularly for this product. In the small box, you get the challenge deck itself, along with a playing mat which details all the rules and instruction associated with facing the Hydra.

Face the Hydra focuses on Greek mythology, and is based around the Hydra boss in the Magic the Gathering story. The deck is custom created, and the cards within will not be found in a normal deck, and cannot be used officially in any way other than in the hydra challenge deck. They even have a unique back-design to distinguish them from standard cards in the Magic game. The deck has only heads (which are both the Hydra’s defence and life-source) and spells, which are the basis of the game between you and the Hydra.

Each head has a certain number of life (normal heads have 3) and these heads are where you will direct attacks. At the start of the game you choose how many heads the Hydra will have, and once you defeat all these heads, the Hydra loses the game. On each turn, the top card is taken from the Hydra deck. If it is a head, it is played, if it is a spell, it is casted by the Hydra. When you destroy a head, you gain 2 life, however, the Hydra gets to take the top 2 cards from the challenge deck, and any heads that appear are played. Spells are discarded (although you can alter these rules, as well as the number of heads, to increase difficulty).

The Hydra relies solely on the damage at the end of the turn and spells to destroy you and your creatures. You can use your arsenal of powerful cards to attack the hydra, or use spells on it. Note, however, that any cards focusing on discarding or drawing do not effect the Hydra. Any of your cards that move a creature (in this case, head) to any zone other than than graveyard assumes the effect of sending the Hydra Head to the graveyard, as there are no other zones. The heads will be the targets of any attacks or activated cards/effects.

The Hydra is balanced by including some self-inflicting cards in the deck. For example, one of the cards removes two heads from play if five or more are in play. Some of the cards, however, involve adding heads to the field and others have very powerful effects against you or your creatures. It is quite an ingenious system, I have to say. The team behind this really did a great job of balancing out the deck to allow players of all skill levels to play, without making it too easy.

Overall, Face the Hydra is a great way for experienced players to test the skills, but also for new players to practice getting into the game in anticipation of competing in events or other Magic competitions/casual tournaments. It is available for just £9.99/$14.99 and is a limited run, so, make sure you get it while it lasts! A lot of retailers seem to be charging more than this, however, I found it available at these prices.

Thanks for reading our review, please stick with us for more MTG content!