1 Drop Creatures for Commander: Red
This week we carry on the series of 1 CMC creatures for Commander with the colour with the biggest roster of one drops, Red. Other formats, whether the be constructed or limited love an efficient one drop red creature. Aggressive 1 CMC creatures can make or break an entire deck sometimes and can be powerful enough to impact the strongest of formats. Just look at Monastery Swiftspear in Standard and Vintage or Goblin Guide in Modern. Format and deck warping creatures for just one mana!
Commander tends to not favour these creatures however, for all the reasons that make Commander great. So you might think (and admittedly I did before researching for this article) that red wouldn’t be a very strong colour for EDH one drops. Wrong – dead wrong in fact. Red offers arguably one of the strongest staples of little dudes out there especially when dealing with tribal decks or specific strategies.
First up we have some 1 CMC creatures that are good in any deck. Dragonmaster Outcast is definitely one of the best one drops that you don’t want to see on turn one. It’s sort of a six drop that doesn’t come with a full mana cost. It’s like dragons on an instalment plan, not only because of the cost and tempo, but because you do have to wait until your next upkeep which can be a long time in a game of EDH. If your Dragonmaster does manage to stick around though, look out. Pumping out 5/5 flyers is a quick way to end any game.
Aside from the Dragonmaster, there aren’t a ton of stand alone creatures that fit into any deck in red. Spikeshot Elder, for example needs a reliable way to pump it up and Slumbering Dragon benefits from a way to force attacks or double counters. Figure of Destiny remains a decent choice for some commander decks, but even it requires a hefty mana investment to become relevant.
Ubiquitous creatures may not be the strong suit for red’s collection of one drops, but when it comes to tribal playables, there are a lot of excellent options across a few different tribes. Naturally Goblins are well represented with key creatures like Goblin Lackey, helping you cast your bigger gobs for free, the aforementioned Spikeshot Elder getting pumped up and tossing damage around like a yet to be made pizza, and Legion Loyalist making blocking your goblin army a full-on nightmare. Alternatively there is also Skirk Prospector for a great sac outlet and mana boost Goblin Chirurgeon for another sac source but this time in order to save your best goblins and finally Goblin Bushwhacker who does his best impression of a tiny red version of Craterhoof Behemoth that can often achieve similar results.
Goblins are not the only tribal option when it comes to key red one drops. Vampires have some essential entries with Stromkirk Noble leading the aggressive charge and the recent Falkenrath Gorger steering the vampire deck towards a Madness strategy. We also get a great sliver in Striking Sliver (first strike) and the best tutor around for the 5 colour elemental deck, Flamekin Harbinger.
I said red is one of the best 1 CMC creature colours (if not fairly narrow in its options) and I wasn’t kidding. In addition to all the great tribal synergies, artifact decks get some great options, including one of the best artifact manipulating cards ever printed – Goblin Welder. The beauty of Goblin Welder is that not only can it trade your smaller artifacts for larger ones in your graveyard, it can do the opposite for your opponents. Also a quick mention here for an underrated artifact-themed card, Slag Fiend which can be a real monster in Daretti, Scrap Savant decks.
Then, we come to the weirder and more rarely desired cards that are still playable in some decks. For red, cards like Rift Elemental are great for a Jhoira of the Ghitu deck while Scorched Rusalka is a great sac outlet in decks like Omnath, Locus of Rage. Also, although I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, Soldier of Fortune and Obstinate Familiar both seem like weird tech to combat specific problems in a meta or even work with a col strategy we haven’t seen yet.
Finally the two actual commander options for red 1 CMC creatures are Zurgo Bellstriker (Dash tribal?) and the classic coward and ETB abusing general Norin the Wary. Zurgo is a little more straightforward in his abilities but Norin is a fun deck that attacks from a different angle then most mono-red EDH decks and is a ton of fun.
4 colours down in the series and only one to go! Stay tuned in 2 weeks as we’ll tackle the one drops for Black and complete the cycle! In the meanwhile happy deck building and never someone out just because they’re smaller (and cheaper)!