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Scourge of Skola Vale – A Magic the Gathering Card Review

The Hydra tribe in Magic the Gathering has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. Scourge of Skola Vale from Born of the Gods might not be the most exciting Hydra creature card, but it is one of interest. It has a casting cost of 2G (two generic, one Green), has Trample, and it enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it.  

The Scourge has an interesting tap ability, as well, with no additional cost. This ability allows you to sacrifice another creature and put a number of +1/+1 counters on Scourge of Skola Vale equal to the sacrificed creature’s toughness. 

In theory, this is a pretty good card, as most likely you’ll sacrifice creatures that would serve as chump blockers or otherwise die to some form of removal. This Scourge can become a big trampling beater. The problem is, only having two toughness to start with, it’s more likely that this Hydra dies long before it becomes a threat. 

There are some nice interactions to be had with this card, but there were more playable, competitively relevant Hydras in the Standard meta-game alongside it, including Mistcutter Hydra and Genesis Hydra. So, while the Scourge was a solid play in Theros/Born of the Gods Draft and Sealed Limited tournaments, would it have any further value, or would it become little more than a bulk rare?

The Rise of Hydra Tribal and Its Scourge on the Commander Scene

Scourge of Skola Vale was never going to be worth much, and while it would see fringe play in Standard, it was never part of any top contender. Notably, the Scourge did appear in the sideboard of a Hydra Tribal Deck in an odd, gimmicky Modern tournament that allowed only Tribal decks. 

In its early days, Scourge of Skola Vale found a few random homes in the Commander format. It was welcomed by some players of Varolz, the Scar-Striped and his legion of Scavenging creatures throwing about +1/+1 counters like they’re going out of style. Experiment Kraj would sometimes recruit the Scourge in order to coper its ability to sacrifice creatures to gain +1/+1 counters. 

Finally, with the printing of Gargos, Vicious Watcher in the Magic 2020 Core Set, a Hydra tribal deck was finally viable in Commander. What made Gargos such a game changer is that when the Watcher is in play, Hydra spells you cast cost four generic mana less to cast. This made Scourge of Skola Vale cost a single Green mana to cast. 

Unfortunately, as more Hydras would be printed over time, the Scourge soon tended to find itself cut for bigger and better Hydra creatures. However, builds that focus on +1/+1 counters, a sub theme found on many Hydra cards, Scourge of Skola Vale finds itself still quite useful. Fortunately, even as the Scourge’s play in Gargos decks fell, another Hydra Tribal Commander would arrive in 2023. 

In the March of the Machine set, Polukranos Reborn offered a brand new way to play Hydras. On the surface, the three-mana Green Hydra with Reach doesn’t look like much. But, once it transforms, it becomes an Engine of Ruin. This Engine feeds off of non token Hydras you control that die, creating two 3/3 Hydra tokens in their wake, one with reach and the other with lifelink. 

Scourge of Skola Vale fits well into this Engine of Ruin strategy as it’s cheap to cast and therefore well worth serving as tribute to the Engine. Plus, the Scourge’s tap ability can give you a way to sacrifice other Hydras while benefiting itself. So far, Skola Vale’s Scourge has never been at home as much as it is in this White-Green Hydra Tribal strategy. So, while it has found a few homes in Tribal decks, this Scourge just never had the power level to be viable in Constructed and barely hangs onto its niche in Commander.

~ Amelia Desertsong

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy. Personal Website: https://www.thephoenixdesertsong.com

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