One-mana counterspells are always interesting. Usually, they’re so narrow as to be widely unplayable, or have drawbacks that otherwise render them useless. The newest one, An Offer You Can’t Refuse, is interesting as a kind of reverse Spell Pierce: rather than having to pay two mana, you get two mana instead. Is it good enough? Only time will tell if it’s got the chops to join all of Magic’s other top-tier one-mana counterspells – and there have been a fair few of them!
10. An Offer You Can’t Refuse
I’m including An Offer You Can’t Refuse on this list in the optimistic hope that it can do some actual work. While Spell Pierce is a rock-solid card in the early game, it falls off late, and An Offer You Can’t Refuse is the exact opposite. In the early turns, countering something with AOYCR is a huge liability, ramping your opponent by two turns. In the late game, however, when both players have a ton of lands out, two Treasures don’t do all that much. I’m looking at this card as a way to win counter wars in control mirrors, much like… which spell?
Dispel! Often the final say in counter wars, Dispel is an unassuming but extremely useful piece of sideboard technology when you expect to play against other counter-heavy decks. In such matchups, it often comes down to who can sandbag and then cast the most counterspells once threats start hitting the stack, and it’s no good having you hand full of Cancels when that time comes. For just one mana, Dispel is a way to make sure you come out on top, whether that’s countering your opponent’s counter countering your threat, or you countering your opponent countering your counter countering their threat.
TL;DR: Dispel is a lot better than it looks.
8. Stubborn Denial
Oh man, being blown out by Stubborn Denial feels terrible. Commonly played in Standard before making the jump to Modern in Grixis Death’s Shadow, they somehow always managed to have Stubborn Denial when it mattered. A first-rate tempo card, Stubborn Denial protects your beefy threats with no questions asked, and a one-mana Negate with no downside is always welcome when you’re looking to close out a tempo-based game. Stubborn Denial is, much of the time, exactly that, and it never feels good to get got by it.
7. Swan Song
Speaking of one-mana Negates, Swan Song comes very close, and has been used in formats as far back as Legacy as a way to both offensively deploy a lethal combo or protect yourself from a range of different threats when the chips are down. Sure, giving your opponent a free 2/2 flyer isn’t nothing, but it’s better than them, you know, winning the game on the spot because you don’t have a hard counter that deals with everything from Sneak Attack to Doomsday. Swan Song doesn’t see as much play as it used to in today’s competitive formats, but for awhile there it put in the work.
6. Mana Tithe
There’s no greater feeling in Magic than getting someone with Mana Tithe. People don’t play around white counterspells, and being able to fly from the top rope with a color-shifted Force Spike is just magical. Sure, it’s a pretty bad card in the abstract, and often rots away in your hand when your opponent just doesn’t tap out, but that’s not the point. The point is that when the planets align, when the time is right, when this card hits – there’s nothing else quite like it. Get tithed, nerd!
An essential piece of technology in older formats, where it’s useful not just against Storm decks but also as a Dispel-type counterspell for counter wars. The longer the counter war goes on, the better Flusterstorm becomes, and it also stops Storm decks dead in their tracks, preventing any copies of the Grapeshot, Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens from resolving. Since being added to Modern, Flusterstorm has also seen a bit of play in sideboards there as well, especially recently with the rise in popularity of decks based around Murktide Regent.
4. Red Elemental Blast/Pyroblast
Both Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast are basically the same card – yes, I know that technically Pyroblast can be better in some situations like if you have Dack Fayden and want to target something that isn’t blue, yes yes, you’re very smart. Both REB and Pyroblast are critically important cards in formats overrun by the color blue, namely, Legacy and Vintage. They’re commonly played as clean answers to everything from a resolved Delver of Secrets to an Ancestral Recall on the stack, offering versatile, cheap interaction against blue decks.
3. Spell Pierce
Spell Pierce just will not quit. First printed in original Zendikar, it immediately entrenched itself as a premier piece of cheap interaction, particularly good in aggressive blue-based decks that were looking to gain tempo by protecting cheap threats. Since then, it has come in and out of Standard, usually powering up aggro decks when it did (such as Mono-Blue Tempo with Pteramander), and it’s back once again with a reprint in Neon Dynasty. And – just like any good counterspell – they always seem to just have it.
2. Veil of Summer
While this card doesn’t technically counter a spell, everyone knows it’s essentially just a one-mana Cryptic Command in green. Veil of Summer is busted in half, to the point that it was banned from both Historic and Pioneer, and it’s still a huge part of Modern. “Countering” an opposing counterspell by making your spells uncounterable, in addition to fizzling opposing interaction like Thoughtseize or a removal spell – all while drawing a card as you do so – makes Veil of Summer one of the most absurd anti-interaction pieces the game has ever seen.
1. Mental Misstep
But nothing on this list comes close to Mental Misstep! Banned in every format outside of Commander and restricted in Vintage, Mental Misstep demonstrated just how good free spells can be, particularly in fast formats where average mana values are low. Mental Misstep – like Phyrexian mana in general – was just too good, and the fact that you could counter an opposing Misstep with one of your own, without anyone spending any mana, was just so far over the top that the card couldn’t stick around, in essentially every single competitive format. RIP Mental Misstep – although generally speaking, you’re not missed all that much.