At one time, there was speculation that the Hydra could be pretty good as a big beater in a deck fueled by Whisperwood Elemental and Mastery of the Unseen. Being able to manifest it and flip it for only 2 green mana for a 5/5 seemed like awesome value. It seemed like a good candidate to find a place in the Hardened Scales decks that were a thing in Standard for awhile. Neither scenario emerged, though. By February 2016, Hooded Hydra became a $1 card, an all time low price, around which it has stayed since.
So what makes this a good buy at $1 or less? We’ve seen how good getting X tokens for X +1/+1 counters can be. Hangarback Walker is a perfect example. While obviously not as splashable as Hangarback Walker, it doesn’t take much of a mana investment for this to be good. Plus, if it enters as a Morph creature, it gets an additional 5 +1/+1 counters when it’s flipped face-up. The Hydra will always at least replace itself.
The good news for Hooded Hydra is that it’s very Commander playable. Since he creates Snake tokens for each +1/+1 counter he has when he dies, he’s become a staple in Kaseto, Orochi Archmage EDH decks. Being a Snake tribal deck, more Snakes are always welcome. Rosheen Meanderer, a Red/Green Commander who loves Hydras in their X casting cost, loves this Hydra too. The Giant’s ability gives 4 colorless mana to pay for any X casting costs. That makes Hooded Hydra at the very least a 4/4. Other commanders that can use Hooded Hydra on a regular basis include Seshiro the Anointed (Snake Tribal), Ulasht, the Hate Seed (Hydra Tribal), and Vorel the Hull Clade (+1/+1 counter mayhem.)
With even foils around $3, Hooded Hydra is a pretty good pickup just based on how playable it is in Commander. While it could be quite a long time before it ever sees a jump in price, it’s a safe buy if you plan to play him in Commander.