Too-Specific Top 10 - One for One

(An Offer You Can't Refuse | Art by Dallas Williams)

{U} Got It?

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Guttural Response is the only nonblue hybrid mana Counterspell?)

Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no doubt that counterspells are an institution in Magic. That's certainly also true in Commander, where as much as there are some general grumbles when "That Guy" shows up with his Talrand, Sky Summoner deck, there's also pointed looks that go at the blue player when someone starts comboing off, tries to take extra turns, or in general just plays a card that is going to win them the game.

In other words, we need counterspells, especially when it comes to high-powered play.

So, as you might expect, when a new one-mana counterspell came out of Streets of New Capenna, some eyebrows were raised. Combine that with its awesome on-theme name, and there are enough folks interested in getting their hands on An Offer You Can't Refuse that the uncommon has been selling for over a dollar despite being freshly printed.

Which, of course, got me wondering: what are all these new $1, one-mana counterspell offers going to be replacing?

Top 10 One-Mana Counterspells

Usually, when it comes to these top ten lists, the thing that surprises me are the cards on them, or where they appear within that list. This week, however, there was an entirely different surprise once I got into this list, and that's just how many of these cards are seeing huge amounts of play. I had some idea of which one-mana counters saw play in the broader casual meta, and which of them were probably contenders for some Competitive EDH play, but even with those numbers combined most of this list blew my inclusion expectations out of the water.

So, with that in mind, this week I'm going to cater my commentary around the EDHREC pages of each of these cards, paying specific mind to which commanders and broader strategies are playing these cards, and why. Let's dig in!

Criteria: One-mana cards that can counter a spell, with no additional mana required to counter said spell. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Stubborn Denial

(10,681 Inclusions, 2% of 560,901 Decks)

Starting off with a one-mana counter that is seeing play in 2% of all blue decks, we have Stubborn Denial! Despite being able to easily wrap my mind around why a low-to-the-ground Kefnet the Mindful deck would want a one-mana Negate, where are the other 9,900 inclusions coming from?

Well, the answer, as it will be for most of the cards on this list, is this: scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel when playing Competitive EDH. In fact, even a good number of the Kefnet decks appear to be coming from that well of attempting to brew a fun, unique, and hopefully cheaper answer to hanging around in a Competitive EDH meta. The majority of them probably never make it, but there are nonetheless a good number of bites at the apple.

So what unique angle does Stubborn Denial bring that raises it above your average Force Spike? Well, essentially it's an upgrade to precisely that card, if you have a commander with four or more power. Sure, you won't be able to hit creatures, but you'll be saving a mana off Negate!

9. Mana Tithe

(11,983 Inclusions, 2% of 501,798 Decks)

I'm actually less surprised by 2% of white decks including a one-mana counterspell than I am with 2% of blue decks. Why? Because it's kind of the only playable counterspell out of the only five available counterspells in this color. What surprises me even less is seeing that the most popular decks for Mana Tithe are mono-white commanders that would get you hated straight off of the average table and possibly even kicked out into the parking lot. Hokori, Dust Drinker is the quintessential white Stax commander, and likewise, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite can be built as a fairly powerful Hatebears brew or a clunky-yet-still-mean Kormus Bell and Urborg combo deck. Either way, you're going to find yourself in need of a means to get your plan (or even just your commander) down, and what better way than a white Force Spike?

8. Miscast

(24,999 Inclusions, 5% of 534,308 Decks)

We've found it, the never-ending tweaking of the Partners-based Competitive EDH meta, writ large across the bottom of a situationally better Spell Pierce.

For those not aware, Partners are seen as a good fit for Competitive EDH for two reasons: one, they usually allow for access to more colors, which in turn allows for more access to more powerful cards; and two, Partners essentially allow you to start with an eight-card hand, so even if that eighth card is little more than a creature you can play down as a blocker, that could be the difference in a game where Stax has run rampant and no one has any resources left.

Which pretty much tells the story of our above Kraum & Tymna build, in the same way that the story will be told below with Thrasios & Tymna, Tana & Tymna, and Rograkh & Silas Renn.

What's more interesting, however, is our 43 decks of Malcolm & Rograkh. Pirate tribal is not the average brew you would expect to see at a Competitive EDH table, so props to the brewer who at least attempted this crazy idea of a list.

7. Spell Pierce

(25,061 Inclusions, 4% of 560,901 Decks)

While I am tempted to keep on gushing about that cool Malcolm-Rograkh-Polymorph-Buccaneer build, Spell Pierce actually also sees play in a more relevant amount of Edric, Spymaster of Trest decks. Edric has always been a great commander at the higher power levels, basically playing down a ton of Flying Men and Triton Shorestalkers which in turn draw you a ton of cards. Once you have that going for you, some builds lean into pump spells, like Overwhelm, and others go for extra turn spells to just keep on taking turns until they've killed the entire table with hordes of unblockable 1/1s. For either case, you really, really need your Edric in play, as he's what makes the entire deck work. In other words, once you've put in your Force of Will, your natural next step is to put in a few one-mana counters to make sure that your Edric sticks after you've played down a Mana Crypt and a Llanowar Elves on turn one.

6. Mental Misstep

(40,281 Inclusions, 7% of 560,901 Decks)

If you're looking for another free counterspell besides your Force that isn't going to lose you the game on turn two, then there's Mental Misstep. The antithesis of Counterspell, Mental Misstep is the most selective counter in the game. It's more or less only good at handling one thing: the spells on this list. Although, if you're feeling feisty, you could always pre-bolt the bird or counter someone's Sol Ring, I suppose.

5. Dispel

(48,654 Inclusions, 9% of 560,901 Decks)

Given the extremely large number of efficient instants that see play in cEDH, it's no surprise to find Dispel beating out Miscast by almost double the inclusions. Sure, it'll miss some of the slower combo pieces, like the Rograkh Polymorph trigger to go find Glint-Horn Buccaneer, but those aren't exactly at the top of the meta anyhow, and it'll still work in a pinch to win a counter war over a game-winning combo.

4. Flusterstorm

(52,157 Inclusions, 9% of 560,901 Decks)

Speaking of ending a counterwar over a combo in progress, it's Flusterstorm! This Whirlwind Denial has been a mainstay of competitive play for years, as the ultimate "No, no, and... no" to a complicated stack procedure in progress. Barring an opponent having all the mana in the world, Flusterstorm will always come out with all of your things resolving, and all of your opponents' not.

Just keep in mind that you're going to have to rely on other Counterspells when it comes to those pesky permanents.

3. Pyroblast

(53,210 Inclusions, 10% of 537,102 Decks)

Probably the first nonwhite card on the list to see significant play outside of cEDH, Pyroblast is the poor man's Red Elemental Blast. Or at least it was, until it actually ended up being reprinted less than REB, and people realized it was technically the better spell. If that's not a rabbit hole you've fallen down yet, allow me to explain:

Both Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast appear to do exactly the same thing, but there is a slightly different wording: "counter target blue spell" as opposed to "counter target spell if it's blue". That may seem like an innocuous difference, but if you think about how things work in the rules, there's a huge difference between the two spells. REB, designating its target must be blue, can't target a nonblue spell or permanent. Pyroblast, not having a designated target, but rather a posthumous check to see if its target is indeed blue, can target nonblue spells and permanents. It of course won't do anything to them, but it can still be legally cast as a legal spell, even if all it does is destroy an Illusion or add to your Storm count.

It's a small difference, but it's enough that you can proudly declare that Pyroblast is strictly better than the more well-known Red Elemental Blast.

2. Red Elemental Blast

(54,989 Inclusions, 10% of 537,102 Decks)

However, REB also costs an extra $4, and isn't the household name. The distinction also doesn't matter much, as any deck that wants one of these effects probably wants two of them, Storm count or no Storm count.

1. Swan Song

(120,154 Inclusions, 21% of 560,901 Decks)

However, all of the one-mana counters cower before the might of the Bird. Swan Song isn't just a cEDH staple, it's a true staple of the format. If it weren't for its $15-$20 price tag, it would no doubt see almost ubiquitous play outside of everything but the truly hipster or Battlecruiser decks, perhaps surpassing Counterspell itself.

This is precisely why there's so much buzz about An Offer You Can't Refuse. It's yet another one-mana hard counter, but this time it's an uncommon, meaning that no matter how much play it sees, it will probably stay fairly inexpensive for its entire lifespan, barring an extremely long lifespan and very limited reprints like we've seen with the "common" Rhystic Study. There is still the question of just how good two Treasures is compared to a 2/2 Bird, but even that downside can easily be turned into an upside if you've got a ton of cards but not enough mana while you're trying to Storm off.

In short, I don't think I'm overstating things to say that An Offer You Can't Refuse is at least a contender to knock off Swan Song in the EDHREC rankings, although we won't know for at least a couple of years.

Honorable Mentions

There are actually a lot more one-mana counterspells than I would've guessed, but there's still quite a bit of a nosedive when it comes to playability. Still, that doesn't mean there's not some diamonds in the rough:

Siren Stormtamer and Autumn's Veil actually would've been numbers nine and ten on our list if they'd met the criteria. Alas, Autumn's Veil, despite doing a great impression, is not actually a counterspell, and Siren Stormtamer, despite being the only hard counter attached to a one-mana creature, technically costs two mana to actually counter a spell. If you are looking for a one-mana Counterspell that will just counter any spell, no questions asked, however, then might I suggest Abjure? It's probably a bit risky to be playing outside of mono-blue, but if you have synergies with sacrifice and are running low to the ground, it could definitely be the spell for you.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

One thing that was a subtext of much of today's list that I never actually got into was the price of Competitive EDH. With proxies not being permitted in sanctioned tournaments, a cEDH deck you can actually play in a legal tournament costs between $1000 and $20,000 dollars, meaning that much of the brewing that goes on in the meta is to find budget cEDH decks that may not be able to outright win a big tournament, but could at least not get embarrassed.

Which, for me, raises the question: is there a market for budget cEDH as its own format?

Finally, what's your favorite one-mana counterspell? Do you play it outside of cEDH? Do you think the format overall is getting fast enough that more of these efficient spells are warranted? Do you think An Offer You Can't Refuse is going to supersede Swan Song as the most-played one-mana counter?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the four tiny rolling tables we can put together for a game. It's efficient, see?

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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