Dreadhorde Arcanist | Illustration by G-host Lee
At time of writing, Magic officially had 2,574 2-mana creatures. Some of the most iconic cards in the game’s last 15 years have been 2-drops and today I’m presenting you a list of what I believe are the top 2-drops in Magic’s history.
Let me tell you that this is not an exhaustive list and I had to cut dozens of very strong cards from this list.
Den Protector | Illustration by Viktor Titov
When we say 2-drop, we simply mean a creature with a mana value of two. All kinds of decks need good 2-drops. In many ways, two mana is where creatures start to get interesting. We start to see abilities that are powerful enough to build entire decks around. This list is filled with some of Magic’s best-ever cards, let alone the best 2-drops. We have a lot to get through, so let’s jump right in.
Ok, my bias might be showing on this one. Coiling Oracle is my favorite card in Magic. It does everything I want a card to do. It draws you a card, it can ramp you, it has relevant creature types, it can be flickered. It’s been a while since it saw much in the way of competitive play, but I played it in my first-ever competitive deck and I’m always looking for opportunities to play it.
Den Protector was one of the best cards in Standard when it was around. Alongside Deathmist Raptor, it gave midrange decks a whole range of options and a ton of inevitability, especially when you started looping one to get back another and so on.
This is one of the reasons that we call enchantment-themed “Enchantress” decks. While other cards like Sythis, Harvest's Hand might be “better” overall, it’s still worth remembering the origins of this deck with the classic Argothian Enchantress.
We’ve had several Soul Warden variants that have seen varying amounts of play. Auriok Champion has been the bane of my existence for much of the 2010s, especially in Modern. Protection from black and red dodges nearly every removal spell that midrange decks typically play. It hasn’t seen play recently, but only because of a new creature with protection from red and black that we’ll see further down this list.
Burning-Tree Emissary is an incredibly simple card. It’s effectively free, but only if you can follow it up with something else. It has given a variety of decks some really big high roll potential, including zoo aggro and ramp combo decks based around Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Duskwatch Recruiter is one of the best non-rare cards we’ve ever seen in Limited. It can transform into Krallenhorde Howler immediately if your opponent misses their 2-drop. It can also continually draw cards, which can be taken advantage of by decks with infinite mana combos.
Goblin decks are capable of filling the board with tons of small goblins, but sometimes they need a way to close out the game. Goblin Piledriver has often been exactly that card in Legacy, coming in swinging for a ton of damage turn after turn.
We’re used to angels being huge creatures, so the tribal decks have often struggled with finding things to do earlier on in the game. Enter Giada, Font of Hope, which is not only a cheap angel but also an incredible tribal mana dork. It’s made its mark so far as a key part of an aggressive angel tribal deck in Pioneer/Explorer and as a Commander.
Faerie tribal has been a top-tier competitive deck in a variety of formats and Spellstutter Sprite has often been the biggest reason for that, especially in Standard and Pauper. Traditionally, leading with a turn two Bitterblossom would let you leave this open on the following turn and counter a 3-drop. Similarly, a 1-drop faerie lets you leave this open to counter a turn-2 play. It then synergizes with ninjas and all sorts of other cards to make a standout creature.
Conclave Mentor managed to take the legacy set by Winding Constrictor up a notch, particularly by being in better colors. This is a huge part of the Heliod, Sun-Crowned/Walking Ballista combo that sees play every now and again in Modern.
Thalia's Lieutenant has been one of the biggest reasons why human tribal decks pop off the way they do. Growing your team while also becoming a big threat in its own right makes this a staple of the archetype.
Chris Pikula’s classic Invitational card, Meddling Mage has seen play across multiple formats thanks to its reprint in Alara Reborn. You can name whatever card you’re scared to play against and completely shut your opponent off from using it against you. This is something that has proven to be very useful in many decks.
Board sweepers and removal are the bane of any aggro deck’s existence. Selfless Spirit has provided spirit tribal decks with an excellent way to protect against those cards while also being a cheap and aggressive flier.
The classic Atog has seen play here and there over the years, but where it truly shines most recently is in the obscenely powerful affinity decks in Pauper. So much so that it had to be banned to give other decks a chance, and it’s not likely to come back any time soon.
While Baral, Chief of Compliance has some really cool text, the first ability is the most relevant part. Alongside Goblin Electromancer, Baral has been a key engine card for Modern storm combo decks, where it gives you a ton of extra mana when you cast your ritual spells.
Combining Devoted Druid with Vizier of Remedies creates an incredibly easy infinite mana engine that can power out all sorts of nasty cards. This has been a force to be reckoned with in Modern for many years and while it has fallen out of favor, it could definitely make a comeback at any time.
Dockside Extortionist came seemingly out of nowhere and took Commander by storm. If competitive formats had access to a 2-mana spell that gave you ten mana back, that card would be banned in no time, and that’s often what this card amounts to due to the number of artifacts and enchantments in every Commander deck.
Rampant Growth is a powerful Magic card that WotC has decided is too powerful for Standard, so the creature version that is almost strictly better is bound to be just as good. We’ve seen “Steve” in all sorts of competitive decks, particularly ones based around Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.
Goblin Engineer is another combo enabler. There are a variety of combo decks centered around an artifact that you don’t mind having in the graveyard and this is the perfect 2-drop to set that up.
There are fewer payoffs better than creating creature tokens and fewer themes as popular as casting instants and sorceries. Young Pyromancer combines these elements perfectly and has seen play in several formats over the years as a result.
Rattlechains has been one of the best go-to staples for tribal spirit decks. These decks want to play at instant speed already, so being a nice trick to counter a removal spell as well as giving flash to all of your spirits makes for a very potent combination.
Lavinia, Azorius Renegade is likely a creature you’ve never seen in play. It’s something that has little to no impact on most Magic formats, but it can be absurdly powerful in Legacy and Vintage. It says opponents can’t cast Black Lotus, Moxen, Force of Will and all sorts of other cards. It’s also good against storm combo and Tron in Modern. We’ll see more devastating hate-bears later, but the fact that it has a substantial impact in these older formats really makes it deserve its spot on the list.
If you’ve played Standard in the past two years, you are guaranteed to have played against this monster. Bloodtithe Harvester has been absolutely dominant in all of the Rakdos-based midrange decks that have been so prevalent across both Standard and Pioneer, as well as enabling any strategy that likes to discard cards, such as reanimator.
I do love killing creatures with black and red spells, so I’m not the biggest fan of Sanctifier en-Vec. It’s undoubtedly a powerful card that does a great job of screwing over all sorts of different decks and its tenure in Modern has seen it do exactly that.
There are fewer mana dorks with the high roll potential that Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary has. Legacy is way too fast for it, but it’s banned in Commander and one of the most dangerous cards you can see across the table from you in a cube draft.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy took everyone by surprise. Early opinions seemed to make it out to be no more than a Merfolk Looter, but it played out much better than that. Jace has seen play in a variety of decks over the years, most notably in the dominant Standard deck centered around Rally the Ancestors.
Thing in the Ice is one of the best spell payoffs we’ve ever seen. Casting four spells when most of them draw a card is relatively simple. In Standard, it saw so much play that it was actually relevant that Awoken Horror couldn’t bounce other copies of itself. It’s often been used as a powerful threat in Eternal formats, particularly in Arclight Phoenix decks.
Infect decks need cheap, aggressive creatures to function. It got its two best creatures out of New Phyrexia, between Glistener Elf and Blighted Agent. They’re still the best option to this day and Blighted Agent even headlined the Blazing Shoal combo deck which sought to make it a 10-power creature on its first attack.
Back in Alpha, Magic set the pace for what would later become its focus on various creature tribes. Lord of Atlantis was the blue tribal lord and is the one that has stayed relevant ever since, always keeping merfolk at least in the conversation.
For as long as I’ve been playing, Cephalid Breakfast has always been a combo deck that has been available in competitive Legacy. It combines Cephalid Illusionist and Shuko to mill your entire deck, and from there you can put a win together. The combo was always inconsistent and frankly bad, but some recent innovations have pushed it right into the top tiers of the format.
Null Rod and Stony Silence are extremely powerful sideboard cards and Collector Ouphe is just as dangerous. It has the advantage of being a creature so it fits into a few more decks than its noncreature counterparts.
Artifacts that restrict your opponent’s plays have a long and storied history in Magic. As a sort of Pithing Needle on legs, Phyrexian Revoker has seen play in all sorts of decks ever since it was printed, particularly in Legacy and Vintage.
I have been very impressed with Dauthi Voidwalker in Modern so far. It’s very underrated in my opinion and should probably be played more. A 2-mana 3/2 “unblockable” that also has a Leyline of the Void attached would already be a solid card, but you also get to steal your opponent’s cards. This card is absolutely nuts and has seen a good amount of Modern play. If the format slows down in the future, its power level will go way up.
Elvish Visionary is such a simple card, but it’s a huge bonus to the Legacy Elves deck. Thanks to Wirewood Symbiote, this 2-drop is extremely easy to bounce and replay, which this deck takes advantage of to great effect.
Very few Bloodghasts actually get played for two mana, as we mainly play this to get it out of the graveyard with a land drop. It has been used in all sorts of big competitive decks including Hollow Vine and Dredge.
This is one of the newest cards on this list, but Patchwork Automaton has really been pulling its weight. From Hardened Scales decks in Pioneer all the way down to Mishra's Workshop decks in Vintage, it’s a hard-to-kill threat that gets very big in just a few turns.
While Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath got all the attention out of this pair of titans, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger still hits really hard. It immediately became a powerful threat in Modern Jund () decks while also slotting right into a ton of decks in Standard, Pioneer, Historic and even Legacy. Kroxa just does a lot of good things that the right decks are definitely happy to have.
Pyrostatic Pillar was already a busted sideboard card for Legacy burn decks, so turning it into a creature was bound to be problematic. Eidolon of the Great Revel immediately revolutionized burn decks in every format and is still a dangerous threat to this day.
Tarmogoyf was once widely regarded as “the best blue creature ever printed” thanks to its splashability. It was the most played card in Modern for several years, being the central threat in Jund midrange decks, a splashable win condition for mono-blue control decks and an aggressive creature for zoo decks.
The legendary Bob Maher, one of Magic’s best-ever players, got the chance to design his own card for winning an Invitational tournament. Many Invitational winners’ cards faded into obscurity, but the legend of Dark Confidant has prevailed to this day. For a long time, this was basically the best 2-drop in the game (in fact, eight of the next nine cards were printed after this) and everyone simply knows it by one name: Bob.
Everyone thought Ledger Shredder was likely to be a bulk rare, but it quickly became one of Magic’s best 2-drops. The Izzet () tempo decks that dominate Modern and Legacy immediately picked it up, as did Arclight Phoenix decks in Pioneer, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for now.
Baleful Strix made a huge impact on Legacy when it was printed and a lot of people speculated that it might be okay to print in Modern. WotC’s answer was to print Ice-Fang Coatl, which was one of the many reasons to have a snow theme built into your midrange decks. It ended up even better than Strix when you could build around it.
Speaking of Baleful Strix… This card has been awesome. It’s just such a clean design and it works really nicely in Legacy. It trades for a Murktide Regent or Delver of Secrets, which makes it a priority kill for your opponent. But it already replaced itself, so you’re also happy for it to trade for removal. Strix has been around for well over a decade and has pretty much always been relevant.
In all my years playing Magic, I don’t think I've ever known a more frustrating card to play against. Arcbound Ravager sits on board, basically invalidating all of your removal. You should obviously target it first, but then they can sacrifice some things to grow it, then sacrifice itself to stack a bunch of counters on something else. It had to be banned in Standard and for a long time it seemed like it needed to be banned in Modern too. The card is just phenomenal.
Thassa's Oracle has reinvented what it means to be a combo deck in Magic. A ton of mediocre combo decks in a variety of formats got a huge breath of fresh air when this was printed, including Ad Nauseam in Modern and Doomsday in Legacy. It even created a new combo deck in Pioneer alongside Inverter of Truth, which needed to be banned shortly after.
Caw Blade is one of the most dominant Standard decks of all time, thanks almost entirely to Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull. There was one Grand Prix where 70% of the Day One metagame and 85% of Day Two was this deck. It has done significant work across Legacy and Modern and has even picked up a new, more broken equipment in Kaldra Compleat. Stoneforge has been one of the most powerful creatures in all of Magic, let alone 2-drops.
Death and Taxes decks basically exist because of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. This kind of effect is very annoying for most Magic decks to deal with, and when it’s not relevant you still have a 2/1 first strike to beat down with. This simple fact is what makes Thalia so much better than classic cards like Sphere of Resistance or Thorn of Amethyst, and it’s one of the scariest cards to see on turn two.
When Tiago Chan won his Invitational and designed this, one of his goals was to be the next Dark Confidant. He unequivocally accomplished that with Snapcaster Mage. It’s one of the best blue creatures ever printed, and even though Modern and Legacy seem to be playing it less nowadays its impact on Magic history across a wide range of formats can’t be underestimated.
It didn’t look all that impressive at first, but it didn’t take long for Dreadhorde Arcanist to dominate in Eternal formats. Turns out all of the best spells in Legacy and Vintage cost one mana, including Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain, Lightning Bolt, Thoughtseize, Swords to Plowshares and even Ancestral Recall. This led to a very quick banning in Legacy and it still does well in other formats like Historic and Modern.
Stoneforge Mystic (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Rebecca Guay
Did your favorite 2-drop make the list? Of course, mine did, because I made it work. Let us know in the Draftsim Discord channel.
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