There was a time when a two power one casting cost creature was thought to be the death of Magic, though to be fair, just about everything has been the “death of Magic” at one point or another. Perhaps it’s befitting from either the direction that Magic’s taken or from the actual lore of Dragons of Tarkir that everyone is looking over Zurgo Bellstriker. Here’s what the latest printing of [mtg_card=Duress] has to say. “Sarkhan was eager to take vengeance on Zurgo until he saw how lowly his old foe had become.” Let this be a lesson, time travel isn’t all fun and games.


While being demoted from Helmsmasher to Bellstriker might be quite the downgrade in clan Mardu, Zurgo Bellstriker is way more likely to see constructed play as a mostly no-nonsense two/two than his beefy five casting cost seven/two former self. In that spirit, let’s take a look at a few other red one drops that have shaped the course of Sligh, Burn, Goblins, Red Deck Wins and other decks playing Red past and present.

[mtg_card=Kird Ape] – Arabian Nights


[mtg_card=Kird Ape] is one of those cards that’s simply gotten better as time has gone on. Before you had depend on simple luck in order to have [mtg_card=Mountain] into [mtg_card=Forest], or a [mtg_card=Taiga], to turn on [mtg_card=Kird Ape]’s ability. But these days, depending on the format, you’ll have access to [mtg_card=Stomping Ground] and plenty of fetch lands in order to give really good odds that you can ensure you’re always casting a two/three [mtg_card=Kird Ape]. [mtg_card=Kird Ape] has been a staple of various format’s Zoo and aggressive decks going back to the 90s and continues to see a little play in extended formats today.

[mtg_card=Jackal Pup] – Tempest


Arguably the card that started it all, two power for one mana with no conditions or qualifiers. Granted [mtg_card=Jackal Pup] has a pretty big drawback if your opponent is interested in blocking or using damage based removal on your creatures, but if you were playing Magic in the late 90s this little pup was all over the place. [mtg_card=Jackal Pup] helped lead to a surge in fast aggro decks in response to decks using powerful cards like [mtg_card=Survival of the Fittest] and [mtg_card=Recurring Nightmare]. The years have not been kind to this little guy however, creatures have simply gotten better, so it’s rare to see [mtg_card=Jackal Pup] outside of anything but singleton formats. [mtg_card=Jackal Pup] did get a recent reprint of sorts with [mtg_card=Firedrinker Satyr] though.

[mtg_card=Goblin Lackey] – Urza’s Saga


Despite being around since the late 90s, it wasn’t until 2005 that [mtg_card=Goblin Lackey] started to make its mark. Cheating creatures into play is always good, but it took a while before [mtg_card=Goblin Lackey] found a sufficient suite of friends in order to be good enough. You’re not getting ahead much by putting say a [mtg_card=Raging Goblin] into play. Combined with cards like [mtg_card=Goblin Ringleader], [mtg_card=Goblin Matron], or simply slapping down a [mtg_card=Siege-Gang Commander], [mtg_card=Goblin Lackey] has become a swift inclusion in Goblin decks across several formats.

[mtg_card=Goblin Welder] – Urza’s Legacy

When most people think Red one drops, they think aggressive decks, but not every Goblin needs to beat down. This may come as a big surprise, but many of Magic’s most busted cards are artifacts. From all the fast mana, like Moxes and [mtg_card=Black Lotus], to various combos like [mtg_card=Time Vault] + [mtg_card=Voltaic Key]. [mtg_card=Goblin Welder] ensure that even if your artifacts are getting blown up, you can always swap them out as needed. This might be to get back a key combo piece like the [mtg_card=Painter’s Servant] + [mtg_card=Grindstone] in Legacy or you might simply using it for value by breaking up a [mtg_card=Wurmcoil Engine] to get back a [mtg_card=Batterskull] back in Commander.

[mtg_card=Grim Lavamancer] – Torment


You know, you could make a pretty solid argument around [mtg_card=Grim Lavamancer] being one of the most versatile cards ever printed. For the simple cost of chewing up your graveyard, [mtg_card=Grim Lavamancer] gets to toss out [mtg_card=Shock]s every turn. This might be to simply eek a little more damage out of those [mtg_card=Lava Spike]s you’ve already burned your opponent with or or you could use it to shoot any little pesky creatures that get past your counterspells. Also, don’t ever be too proud to attack for one damage. If you’re going to be using that mana and the way is clear, it’s often correct to get in whatever damage you can. [mtg_card=Grim Lavamancer] has been seeing play across the board for years now, lately it’s most often seen in burn or Modern [mtg_card=Splinter Twin] decks.

[mtg_card=Spark Elemental] – Fifth Dawn


Sometimes your deck just really really wants another [mtg_card=Lava Spike]. The obvious drawback is that [mtg_card=Spark Elemental] is a [mtg_card=Lava Spike] that your opponent can block and use creature removal on, but that didn’t stop this baby [mtg_card=Ball Lightning] from being a burn and Red Deck Win staple for a few years. Lately though [mtg_card=Spark Elemental] and his friend [mtg_card=Keldon Marauders] have been pushed out by cards like [mtg_card=Goblin Guide], [mtg_card=Grim Lavamancer], and [mtg_card=Eidolon of the Great Revel].

[mtg_card=Figure of Destiny] – Eventide


[mtg_card=Figure of Destiny] still counts, it’s Red. What those other White decks are doing with it is their own business. Obviously the big selling point on [mtg_card=Figure of Destiny] is its ability to scale with the game. It can be played on Turn One, buffed up to a decent size on Turn Two, and then you can play from there are the game requires it. While the goal for most Red decks is to end the game quickly, [mtg_card=Figure of Destiny] gives you an out in the late game of going unanswered and stealing a win. Also, unlike the level up creatures that we saw in Rise of the Eldrazi block, [mtg_card=Figure of Destiny]’s ability can be activated at instant speed allowing you to hold up other spells. The recently [mtg_card=Warden of the First Tree] was a very similar feel.

[mtg_card=Goblin Guide] – Zendikar


Perhaps the gold standard when it comes to Red one drops these days. [mtg_card=Goblin Guide] is everything you’d ever want in a deck that’s looking to close the game out quickly. A [mtg_card=Goblin Guide] on Turn One can often get in for six or more damage, making it one of the most efficient returns on your investment of a card and a single mana. Certainly all this upside must come at a pretty big penalty? Well there’s the big secret behind [mtg_card=Goblin Guide], it’s not punitive enough and in some light can be see as a positive. Giving your opponent free cards is certainly not great for you, but the whole point of any deck with [mtg_card=Goblin Guide] in it is to finish the game before your opponent gets to play all their spells any ways. So a lot of the time [mtg_card=Goblin Guide] just gets you a nice little preview of what to play around. [mtg_card=Goblin Guide] has been a auto include in many decks across formats since its release and I don’t ever see WotC printing something to unseat it.

[mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler] – Return to Ravnica


As great as [mtg_card=Goblin Guide] is and the heavy amount of play it sees, it’s the only card on this list to come close to being as prolifically played as [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler]. Granted that has a lot to do with [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler] dual colors along with the popularity and viability of various Red aggressive decks during [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler]’s life in Standard. I for one miss bloodrushing [mtg_card=Ghor-Clan Rampager] and playing [mtg_card=Hellrider] along with this little devil. [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler] was just a simple no frills card. Sure, it got a little awkward when you were forced to play out a one/one in order to make a chump block, but it was otherwise a two/two in decks that really were not worried about blocking. Like 15 minutes of flame or Icarus flying to close to the sun, [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler]’s life was short and sweet as it hasn’t transitioned to other formats were cheap removal is prevalent.

[mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear] – Khans of Tarkir


[mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear] is the latest card to really mix up Red decks outside of just Standard. You’ll often see [mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear] in Burn decks where its prowess effectively picks you up an extra point of damage on all your burn spells, which gets even better in multiples. Got two [mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear] on the field? Now that [mtg_card=Rift Bolt] is a [mtg_card=Lava Axe]. This growth potential also makes it tricky to block [mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear] alleviating issues that might have faced other cards. [mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear] may have crested when [mtg_card=Treasure Cruise] was legal in the older formats, but don’t count it out completely. It’s still seeing playing in Modern Burn, along with a smattering in Standard. Also, a few folks are trying to keep the dream alive in Legacy with UR Delver using [mtg_card=Dig Through Time] instead.

PS [mtg_card=Vexing Devil] is a bad Magic card.


Leave a reply

You may also like