Epic Experiment – Protean Hulk

(Protean Hulk | Art by Matt Cavotta)

Epic Preparations

Hello EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.

For this experiment, we’ll be straying away from legendary creatures. Instead we’ll be building around one of the most infamous creatures in the format: Protean Hulk

When Protean Hulk dies, search your library for any number of creature cards with a total converted mana cost 6 or less and put them onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library

Observation 1:

Hulk’s ability to fetch creatures is extremely powerful; it’s far too easy to grab a game-winning lineup.

Observation 2:

He needs sacrifice outlets, otherwise he is vulnerable to exile-based removal.

Observation 3:

Be careful against permanent graveyard hate, because Protean Hulk actually needs to go to the graveyard for his ability to trigger.

Observation 4:

There are ways to play it as a value engine, especially in low-to-the-ground creature-based decks.


The Old Formula

Let’s check out the usual habitat where Protean Hulk can be seen:

As we can see, black is a very common color associated with Hulk strategies. The fact that the Golgari color pair not only offers a great creature tutor suite but also has the necessary sacrifice outlets to enable its death trigger makes it very desirable for Hulk players (although they tend to play many colors).


The Epic Ingredients

With Magic’s entire creature pool at our disposal, how can we break Protean Hulk in a way that hasn’t been discovered yet? How about an army of zero-drop creatures? Let’s say we get our Hulk destroyed and grab a bunch of zero-drops plus Purphoros, God of the Forge and Corpse Knight? Or Zulaport Cutthroat, Corpse Knight, and Viscera Seer? With enough tiny creatures, those little cuts will all add up to one big blowout!


Possibility Storm

Now that we’ve established our combo, let’s see which commanders can help us the most. With the above pieces, we’re in four colors (black and white from Corpse Knight, red from Purphoros, God of the Forge, and green from Protean Hulk). Given the self-sufficient nature of the combo and the color-heavy requirement for its pieces, our commander choices won’t directly affect our main gameplan. This leads us to look for alternatives that either will indirectly support our strategy, like a draw engine, or will provide an alternative win condition in case we need it.

The partner combination of Tymna, the Weaver and Tana, the Bloodsower, while not very splashy, could help us smooth out our curve with a lot of card draw and early aggression. Considering everything we’re trying to do, though, Tana, the Bloodsower, is not all that impressive. In games where we have a slow start, she could help out with some early tokens. Tymna, the Weaver, on the other hand, is a great option for creature-based decks that want to convert those early drops into cards and can be quite useful in slow starts too. Ultimately, though, I think we can find something a smidge better.

Expanding into all five colors, we have Sliver Queen. She isn’t directly necessary to the Hulk combo, but she does provide some alternative combos that we could use with some of our pieces. Nah, I still think we can find something else that fills the holes in the strategy…

Here we go: Scion of the Ur-Dragon is a crazy card. He can provide a one-time wheel effect by transforming into Dragon Mage, and even a one-shot kill with the classic combo of Moltensteel Dragon and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon (more on that later). He’s a good middle ground between support to our combo while also being a self-sufficient combo engine on his own.


The Mixture

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This is a tutor-heavy deck. Its main goal is to find Protean Hulk ASAP, along with some way to sacrifice it. As such, we’re running a diverse tutor suite, with repeatable options like Prime Speaker Vannifar and Fauna Shaman, plus one-shot catch-all tutors like Vampiric Tutor. Luckily for this strategy, there’re plenty of options that pull double duty by also being a sacrifice outlet, like Diabolic Intent and Natural Order.

Speaking of sacrifice outlets, we’ve got plenty! Most of them abuse the stack so we don’t give our opponents the chance to respond by exiling our Hulk before we can kill it. Burnt Offering and Culling the Weak can help us hard cast Protean Hulk by sacrificing one of our creatures. Altar’s Reap and Costly Plunder are both good ways to trade some extra creatures on board for cards.

For our Scion package, we have Dragon Mage, a standalone card that can wheel us out of a bad hand. The second is the Voltron option.We can strike our enemies down with either Infect or with commander damage. If we attack with Scion, we can activate its ability hold priority, then activate it again. The first activation finds us Moltensteel Dragon and transforms Scion into it. Scion loses its original activated ability, but remember: we still have that other transformation activation on the stack. Before we let Scion transform again, we can use its new firebreathing ability provided by Moltensteel to pump up its power. Then we let the second transformation activation resolve, turning Scion into either Skithryx, the Blight Dragon or Atarka, World Render. Despite the transformations, Scion still registers as our commander, and even though his base power and toughness might change, the firebreathing power increase still applies to whatever he finally ends up being, meaning you’ll either poison an enemy to death or double-strike them into oblivion, depending on which dragon you chose.

All this is is a backup to the Hulk plan. We have many ways to find Hulk, including a full Birthing Pod chain of creatures that can lead right up into it, but if all else fails, Scion will help us combo out another way.


Methodology

I’m not gonna lie, we need to mulligan aggressively with this deck: there are a lot of “dead” cards here with all the Hulk-combo-specific zero-drops. Keeping a seven-card hand with three Kobolds is worse than keeping a random six-card hand.

For our early game, only play out creatures that provide value, such as Coiling Oracle and Farhaven Elf. In general, we want to hold off on playing our zero-drop creatures like Memnite and Co. for as long as possible: they’re the win conditions when we stick a Purphoros, God of the Forge or Corpse Knight, after all.

By the mid-game we should have found a tutor or two which will allow us to start looking for ways to combo out. Around this time, having our commander wheel out bad hands by transforming into a new Dragon can be pretty useful – as is the threat of the one-shot kill – but we have to be sure that we’re making the right choice each time we activate Scion because once that last activation of the turn resolves, we’re stuck with our last decision until the end of the turn.

We’re very dangerous in the late game; the threat of a sudden Hulk is high, especially when we have the mana to hard cast it. Our main problem will be the potential to have drawn too many of the zero-drop creatures to stall us out in our search for the Hulk. However, once we stick Hulk and find our ping-the-table-to-death cards, we can just play all those no-mana creatures for free anyway!


Epic Results

If you’d like to try out some variations on the above list, the first thing that comes to mind is adding what I refer to as a “graveyard Scapeshift” package. Using massive reanimation spells, like Rally the Ancestors, we can assemble the same combo, only coming from the graveyard instead of our library. For this to work, we need a self-mill engine (like Hermit Druid or the Basalt Monolith and Mesmeric Orb combo) to get all our targets into the graveyard. Investing more in wheel effects can also work, but some redundancy is advised in order to not being stuck with a bad hand because of a combo piece. Scroll Rack is also a great addition to a list that has so many dead cards that we don’t always want to draw.

That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Did we break Protean Hulk in a new way? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!

Bernardo has been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.