Magic is full of iconic creatures of all kinds, large and small. Given this, I wondered to myself what the most iconic creature at each stat line and mana value is – so I decided to do my research and try to come up with definitive lists for each creature with square stats (1/1, 2/2, etc.) with equivalent mana values! This time around, we’re looking at the best one-mana 1/1s!
As much as I – and I’m sure many others reading this article – despise the card, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that Slippery Bogle is one of the most famous one-mana 1/1s ever printed. It’s certainly the most frustrating, along with Gladecover Scout – I don’t think that race is particularly close!
Slippery Bogle is the namesake card and mechanical lynchpin of the Bogles archetype, which first rose to prominence in Modern. Bogles-type decks, unfortunately, exist in other formats, too – Historic has “Auras”, which, while lacking hexproof creatures like Slippery Bogle, is just as frustrating to play against.
In Bogles, the idea is simple – play a cheap hexproof creature, suit it up with Auras and sail to victory while the opponent fumes behind their hand of useless removal spells. With cards like Ethereal Armor, the Umbras and of course Daybreak Coronet, this deck is so hard to contest outside of sweepers or hand disruption – and it all revolves around playing a little one-mana 1/1.
Having a stat line of 1/1 isn’t the sort of thing you’d expect of a standout card in an aggressive red deck, but of course old mate Dragon’s Rage Channeler doesn’t stay as a 1/1 for long. Modern and Historic aggro decks are filled with this card – affectionately nicknamed “Darcy” by some, thanks to its initials, and boy does Darcy pack a punch.
It’s not difficult to have this card get in as a 3/3 flyer very early on, dumping a bunch of cards in the graveyard to send it into the air and then into the red zone. Between things like fetchlands and Spellbombs in Modern and technology such as main deck Soul-Guide Lantern in Historic, delirium is soon enabled and Darcy is soon enraged – it even has surveil to help you get the four necessary cards in the bin!
Dragon’s Rage Channeler has helped to redefine what aggressive decks look like across multiple formats, and is continuing to do incredible work as a cornerstone of red aggro in both Modern and Historic.
Mother of Runes is an old but iconic card that used to be a key card in old Legacy Death and Taxes lists, but I was somewhat surprised to see that it has been supplanted by a more recent “tribute” to this old staple: Giver of Runes. Giver of Runes has almost completely eclipsed Mother of Runes. Ironic – Mother of Runes could save others from death, but not herself.
Wait, no, that’s Giver of Runes‘ ability. I’m confused.
In any case, the apprentice did become the master, as Giver of Runes is now the one-mana 1/1 of choice for Death and Taxes style decks – not to mention the role it plays in other Modern lists like Hammer Time and various Stoneforge Mystic builds. Giving creatures protection from colorless seems to be well worth the downside that it can’t protect itself!
Delver of Secrets is all the rage once again – as I’ve talked about before on Riley Ranks, this card ran roughshod over Standard a decade or so ago, then remained the premier threat in Legacy ever since before being back in action with a Standard reprint that has thrust it into Historic. The Historic ladder is full of blue-red Delver decks, all ready to blind-flip their Delvers and cheese their way to victory.
Of course, without being flipped, this card is just a Wandering Ones, a Flying Men with downside. Walking Men, perhaps? As a one-mana 1/1 that lets you regretfully look at the top card of your library every turn and curse your misfortune, Delver of Secrets isn’t that impressive. But seeing as Historic decks these days can upkeep-stop-into-Opt-or-Consider and flip it into a 3/2 flyer, it’s not so bad. It’s no Brainstorm, sure, but it’s still pretty good.
Delver of Secrets is such a feast or famine card – it’s either incredible or garbage. It crushed Standard and dominates Legacy, but has never really been good in Modern. It’s great in Historic so far, but it won’t take too much for the card to be rendered unplayable, and if so, its downfall will be swift rather than gradual. Still – you can’t argue that Delver is Secrets is a powerful and iconic card, especially amongst one-mana 1/1s!
Llanowar Elves has to be the most famous one-mana 1/1 of all time. Dating all the way back to Alpha, all the copies of this card around the world have probably produced billions and billions of green mana across the decades. Hopping in and out of Standard every now and again, Llanowar Elves is still heavily played in Elves decks from Legacy to Historic, representing one of the scariest starts those decks are capable of. Not bad, for a 1/1!
There are imitators, of course – Elvish Mystic and Fyndhorn Elves are a functional reprints, while cards like Elves of Deep Shadow, Avacyn’s Pilgrim and virtually every other one-mana mana dork live in its shadow. Llanowar Elves is the mana dork, rivalled only perhaps by Birds of Paradise, or – on a good day – Noble Hierarch.
Despite these pretenders, Llanowar Elves remains relevant and popular, almost 30 years after it was still printed. As an iconic Elf, mana dork, Alpha card and 1/1, Llanowar Elves is right up there with cards like Lightning Bolt and Counterspell in terms of recognizability and history. It is, for my money, the single most famous and one of the best one-mana 1/1s of all time.