The Power of 1/1’s

1/1’s: the little guys – the cards in every Magic set that are often overshadowed by their physically superior, more robust kin.

Today, we’re going to pay tribute to the many incredibly influential 1/1’s that help keep strategies alive.

While many of these creatures aren’t very useful in combat, have lackluster stats at best, can die by almost any removal spell, and are good for only chump blocking in combat, they do sometimes have abilities and types that help various strategies become immensely more competitive. Many played 1/1’s not only have useful abilities and powerful effects, but also employ very low casting costs, helping to smooth the curve of their respective decks.

1/1’s not only act as chump blockers in sticky situations and smooth out deck curves, but they also can help a deck push through damage when necessary. An opponent’s completely empty field (with no blockers) is an opportunity, and one damage every turn left unchecked does, in fact, matter, especially in formats such as Modern and Legacy.

So, without further ado, let’s check out some amazing 1/1 creatures.

Elvish Mystic has been a long-played mana dork throughout Magic’s history. It’s  been helping Green decks for years, acting as the very first play to get a deck’s engines going. Like Elvish Mystic, many other mana dorks are 1/1’s, all of them serving as the foundations decks have been built upon.

Mother of Runes has quite literally enabled a strategy to be competitive in Legacy – that strategy is, of course, Death and Taxes. While the deck would still be good without her, it would be by no means as powerful. Many players have adopted her as an automatic four because of her usefulness. She is, in many ways, the ultimate toolbox card. Mother of Runes can:

  • Push through one damage (which is very important in Legacy)
  • Effectively counter a removal spell
  • Set up soft locks with cards such as Ethersworn Canonist
  • Make a creature unblockable (additionally making a creature indestructible)
  • Effectively give a creature shroud from a color

One 1/1 that enables entire strategies is Cursecatcher. In the Modern scene, Cursecatcher is almost always played as a four in Merfolk decks. It not only substantially smooths out the decks’ curves, but its spell pierce-like ability helps out with combo and midrange. Often leaving an Aether Vial on one, flashing in Cursecatcher and sacking it right away to counter a spell can be detrimental to an opponent’s turn.

There are some 1/1’s that don’t do much on the battlefield, but instead act as incredibly powerful spells on sticks. Imperial Recruiter is arguably one of Red’s most powerful creature tutor spells. The card has enabled various strategies throughout Magic’s history, including Aluren and Imperial Painter.

One of EDH’s premier 1/1’s, Animar has the ability to sweep entire games (under the correct pilot. It not only has the ability to play a fast-paced, Voltron style game, but also lets a player go wide and play a bountiful amount of creatures. Craterhoof Behemoth, anyone?

And yet, there are also 1/1’s that enable combos. Viscera Seer was an integral card in Modern’s Pod (and podless Pod) deck. This card allowed players to easily sacrifice Kitchen Finks, with Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit on the field to infinitely scry their deck, searching for Murderous Redcap, and then winning the game by playing the Redcap and sacking it to deal infinite damage.

A very interesting 1/1 that, while not being inherently influential, has allowed various decks in Modern and Legacy to pull off several different tricks.

Delver of Secrets has enabled an entire strategy in multiple different formats. It’s played in Pauper, Legacy, and Modern, all various “delver” decks. Every format it’s played in has a relatively top tier deck named in its name. This card is just good.

While not strictly a 1/1, Wild Nacatl has been a powerhouse since it was first printed. Being heavily played in its Standard environment, rampaging Legacy for a short time, and being an integral part of Modern Zoo (even being banned for a bit). Wild Nacatl is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Infect has been a powerful archetype in both Modern and Legacy for many years, the deck’s signature creature being Glistener Elf. This little guy has powered the deck into multiple Tier One positions, making Infect a true contender.

While many people look to the biggest and blingiest creatures in Magic when discussing influential contenders, the 1/1’s of the MtG world almost influence meta games more than the win conditions – in some cases, even being the first card a deck wants to play, or smoothing out a deck’s curve while providing incredibly relevant abilities. 1/1’s are definitely a useful and powerful force in the Magic world.

Did we miss any creatures you think should’ve been on this list? Feel free to leave a comment below telling us what you think!

And, as always, happy gaming, everyone!



Sylvan Studies Team
- A swords a day keeps the goyfs away.

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