Today, we want to move from decklists to creature lists with the top seven one-drop creatures ever printed.
So why top seven? It was initially a top five list, but ties emerged. We felt that having creatures “tied” for slots was disingenuous to a top ten list. Furthermore, cutting pairs to make it a top five list also seemed wrong. So, Top Seven is is.
There are three cards that we feel deserve the nod. And they are Goblin Welder, Goblin Lackey and Nettle Sentinel.
Lackey and Welder fall into the same camp: in a deck that wants them, they are the best enablers. No other cards do what they do, and the deck would not be as good without their inclusion.
Sentinel plays the same roll to a point (comboing-off well with Heritage Druid or Birchlore Rangers) but also finds homes in Mono-Green Stompy lists for which the untap clause is often irrelevant - the 2/2 body for G is all they need. And it is this presence in stompy decks that earns it a spot here rather than Druid or Rangers, since those are exclusively played in elves.
The reason none of these cards make the list is that the strategies they enable are narrow - the decks that want them are few and far between. As you will see shortly, they have a hard time competing against the all-stars on our list!
Spot Seven/Six: Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch
Hey look, a card from Alpha!
Mana dorks have been present since the beginning, and for all that time they have been playable. Among these, Birds of Paradise soars above its companions. Not only does Birds let you cast a three drop on turn two, but it also fixes your mana, letting you more easily play other colors.
The Flying is also surprisingly relevant. Once equipment was printed in Mirrodin block, having your 0/1 flyer pick up a Sword and swing in for damage has been a very viable strategy, as has using it to block and prevent damage from a very large creature that happened to have flying (and potentially annihilator 6).
Given all of that, Noble Hierarch seems underwhelming. Not only can it not produce red or black mana, but it lacks the intrinsic evasion. But what it trades those stats for is Exalted, which means if you attack with another single creature it makes them bigger. Given that you rarely attack with your one-drop creatures, the ability to boost other creatures in combat can be fantastic, and it allows Hierarch to attack on an empty board as a 1/2.
So why did they only eek onto this list? Well, honestly it’s because unlike spots Five and Four, the deck that wants this effect often only wants about four copies. While a deck can play both, often builders will evaluate which effects they value more, and only run that one due to their low impact in the late game. Regardless, for creatures without power, their power is undeniable.
Spot Five/Four: Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear
Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear are the best at what they do, and that is “beat you in the face repeatedly starting on turn 1”. The two show up often in tandem in Burn lists in Legacy and Modern, and pretty much any other aggressive deck that has the space.
Deciding which deserved the higher spot was, to us, an impossible task. In a spell-lite deck or a deck with Goblin synergies, Goblin Guide’s natural two toughness make it a better beater. In spell heavy decks, like U/R Prowess, Swiftspear often deals or can threaten to deal far more than two damage per attack, and the extra toughness is extremely relevant.
But as the answer to “which card is better” normally ends with “why not both?”, I think their placement together on this list is fitting. So the next question is, why not higher?
The answer comes down to the “one drop problem”, which is why you generally don’t see a deck with exclusively one drop creatures: they get out classed. A Swiftspear is amazing on turn one and two, but it often just can’t get through a 3-drop creature. In contrast, every creature remaining on this list has the potential to take over not just the early game, but the late game as well.
Given what has come before, guessing our top three is likely not difficult. But in what order will they appear? Perhaps we will surprise you? Either way, return next week for the second half of Wizardry Foundry’s Top Seven One-Drop Creatures List!
Written by Robert Trueblood