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 three-mana 3/3s!
When the original Innistrad block came out, a ton of cool new Werewolves were printed, and naturally people wanted to build Commander decks around these sweet new double-faced cards. But as there was no legendary Werewolf to act as a commander, as time went on disappointed werewolf EDH brewers instead had to rely on options like Xenagos, God of Revels for their commander.
Then Shadows over Innistrad arrived, bringing with it the legendary Ulrich of the Krallenhorde – and still, disappointed EDH brewers instead had to rely on options like Xenagos, God of Revels for their commander. Ulrich just… wasn’t that good as a Werewolf commander, but there were so few other choices! Until now, that is – already, Tovolar, Dire Overlord outnumbers Ulrich on EDHRec six-to-one as the preferred Werewolf commander.
Unlike Ulrich, Tovolar grants a bonus to all your Werewolves, and offers a way to keep them flipping back and forth, just as you’d want them to. He even threads the needle when it comes to backwards compatibility with old pre-daybound/nightbound Werewolves, too! Werewolf EDH players finally got the commander they wanted – it only took, what, almost a decade?
Rampaging Ferocidon holds the dubious honor of being one of the only cards in Magic’s history to be preemptively banned. In January 2018, with Energy decks completely dominating Standard, Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner finally got the chop (along with Ramunap Ruins, which was making red decks a little bit too resilient in the late game with an uncounterable source of reach). Rampaging Ferocidon was also banned, despite not seeing much more than occasional play.
Why? Wizards R&D was confident that had Ferocidon not been banned, it would have gone on to dominate Standard in red aggro decks, even without Ramunap Ruins. Hosing both token and life gain strategies in one card is a pretty good deal for mono-red – particularly on an efficient, evasive body – and Ian Duke’s in-depth explanation of the ban even recognized that it was a surprising move.
It’s difficult to evaluate its effectiveness or necessity, given that Rampaging Ferocidon was never really given a shot in Standard, but as there wasn’t another Standard ban until late 2019, perhaps it was the right call after all. Oddly – and a little tragically, perhaps – Rampaging Ferocidon was unbanned a few weeks before it rotated out of Standard, when it was too late for it to do anything. From preemptive ban to pity unban!
Speaking of bans, Deathrite Shaman was once among the best – or perhaps even the best – card in Legacy, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest was a big part of that particular equation. In the four-color “Czech Pile” – so named after it was made famous by the Czech Ondrej Strasky – Deathrite Shaman was a critical component in keeping a greedy, four-color mana base actually hold together.
This deck looked to cast Leovold alongside, you know, Lightning Bolt and Kolaghan’s Command, no big deal. The mana was stretched to breaking point, but the deck somehow worked and ultimately necessitated a ban on the Shaman – because that was the card that enabled a turn-two Leovold, a backbreaking play in Legacy, a format ruled by Brainstorm.
But that’s not the only ban Leovold has played a part in – Leovold itself is banned in Commander! There, just as in Legacy, a turn-two play that prevents people from drawing extra cards is just too oppressive, and Sultai EDH decks have no trouble ramping their mana to keep up with Commander taxes when he’s killed (usually drawing an extra card in the process). He might not look like much as first blush, but Leovold is an absolute house.
Goblin Chainwhirler was a different kind of oppressive. For the length of this card’s tenure in Standard, one-toughness creatures were nigh-unplayable, given the fact that red decks were everywhere and they all played four copies of this card. Reasonably cheap, extremely aggressive, very difficult to block – Chainwhirler was the ideal three-drop for decks that were getting ahead with cards like Experimental Frenzy.
The restrictive casting cost wasn’t a factor, of course, in a mono-red deck, and the Chainwhirler was a mainstay for as long as the deck was in Standard. It almost played out like a burn deck, with Wizard’s Lightning and Skewer the Critics, and it wasn’t just Goblin Chainwhirler than dinged the opponent on its way down – Viashino Pyromancer did so, too.
These days, Goblin Chainwhirler has largely retired from active duty, although you sometimes – rarely – still see it on the Historic ladder in aggressive red decks. I can’t say I’m too disappointed by this, however, especially as I argued vehemently for the card to be banned.
Mayhem Devil began an illustrious career in Standard as a key piece of sacrifice decks, rewarding people who combined Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven with a repeatable source of targeted damage that could be used to either manage the board or, conversely, close out a game with reach. It was a critically important part of the deck, usually able to unload three or more damage in pings alone each turn. Talk about a payoff.
Since it rotated out of Standard, it has done a masterful job of transitioning into Historic, where it remains a relevant force to be reckoned with there. Its interaction with Call of the Death-Dweller is particularly disgusting, as giving Mayhem Devil deathtouch means it kills any creature it damages, with just one damage. Has science gone too far?
Mayhem Devil is still getting work done in Historic, make no mistake. Sacrifice decks in Historic are able to churn through permanents with cards like Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Bolas’s Citadel, and – these days – Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, and all these decks run the playset of Mayhem Devils. This card is still able to tear both boards and life totals to shreds at a moment’s notice.