The Daily Shot: Ten On Three

How many good creatures have there been for three mana? What other three-mana creatures have influenced environments? Can we count them on one hand, or maybe two? Is this as silly as I think it might be?

Magic is a game where the true fan can revel in the minutiae.

What we have here, in this hobby of ours, is a big pile of stats and pictures and about eight years of history to go with them. That’s a lot of nooks and crannies for a wandering mind to explore, and they often do. Don’t feel foolish when you jump into that discussion about whether or not Rofellos could have kicked Eladamri’s ass in a fight, and don’t hesitate to throw in your two cents when the good ol’ boys down at the store ask the question, “What Were The Top 5 Black Enchantments Of All Time?”

It’s arbitrary, but it’s fun. I don’t mind being a hardcore player when the time is right – but at the same time, I can’t resist the allure of the masterful brushstroke and the cool flavor text. Magic is a game of fantasy and whimsy, and it has a rich and flamboyant history. Let me tell you – you ignore those things at your own peril. What I mean is, it’s easy to let the simple pleasures pass you by while you’re trying to break the format. Once the big event is over, you’ve still got to have a good time with your magical kards.

There is no shame in thinking about arbitrary things. Arbitrary discussions are the reason that”The Big Book Of Lists” sells so well. I write every day, and there will be plenty of time in any given week for a long treatise on OBC Psychatog, or for another tournament report. We’re lucky, you and I – we have the rest of the time to sit back and muse about whatever we wish.

And so we will.

I was thinking about Psychatog today. He’s a sinister little lizard with a big set of choppers, he costs three mana, and he can end a game. A good creature for three mana… Hmm.

How many good creatures have there been for three mana? What other three-mana creatures have influenced environments? Can we count them on one hand, or maybe two?

So here it is. Famous creatures for three mana. Here’s my list.

Ball Lightning

A 6/1 haste creature, part of some of the fastest aggressive decks in the history of the game. A turn three play to be feared. I remember playing with Ball Lightning back when Rath Cycle was legal – I was playing a deck that Dave Price had used at a whole string of PTQ events. Mogg Fanatic was legal, Jackal Pup was legal, Fireblast was legal, Ball Lightning was legal, Cursed Scroll was legal, and it was a heyday for mono-red. You’d throw in some Incinerates and Shocks and you’d have a deck – it was pretty cool.

The presence of Ball Lightning in so many red decks just goes to show that sometimes a card with no utility can be strong just because it does a ton of damage. All this card does is deal six damage and then hit the graveyard, and from then on the game is in the hands of the supporting cast.

You can almost feel the impact when the Ball Lightning hits for six. THUD. No card since has duplicated the tooth-rattling force of a 6/1 trampler on turn 3.

Phyrexian Negator

Bad drawbacks don’t mean squat when your opponent has no hand, no land, no permanents, or some combination of those three. Chairman of Unfair Starts, the Phyrexian Negator has long been one of the most dreaded first-turn plays in the history of the game. They’re easy enough to side out for Bottle Gnomes or the like, too, if you happen to be playing against someone who is sporting some burn.

I say first-turn because wherever broken 3CC black creatures may go, Dark Ritual is sure to follow… Until someone bans it. In Type 1 they haven’t yet, meaning that Monoblue and other control decks often have to deal with first-turn Negators. Powder Keg is too slow, Unsummon’s too narrow. Thank god for Force of Will.

Hypnotic Spectre

There have been a ton of newfangled Spectres printed since Alpha, and none have come close to the ridiculousness of the original. The ultimate in disruption, a Hypnotic Spectre hitting more than once is probably game over if you’re playing a control deck. The”random” part of the discard is the detail that puts this card over the brink. It hits, often on turn 2, and your best-laid plans are null and void. There goes your Abyss. There goes your Mana Drain.

Blazing Spectre was just as fast on the first hit, but an opponent could throw out junk and then wipe it out. Doomsday Spectre was too expensive and too conditional. Abyssal Spectre is just a toned-down version. Ditto with Chilling Apparition.

Beta Hypnotic Spectres are, in my opinion, the perfect card. Great art. Great flavor text. The typefaces are even the correct size, in contrast to many Beta cards where the text is inflated to”See Spot, See Spot Run”-like proportions.


Speaking of creatures that win the game once they start hitting, what about this guy? If an Ophidian hits twice for you, you should probably win. It’s the same card advantage as two Spectre hits, and the Ophidian is easier to cast and has greater toughness. Shadowmage Infiltrator just isn’t as good, simply because it doesn’t work as well with Mana Drain, and it requires a shakier manabase.

I hope they reprint Ophidian in 8th Edition. Thieving Magpie is too slow and too color intensive. Shadowmage Infiltrator, as mentioned, makes you play black.

Strangely enough, I never played a Forbiddian deck in T2 – I was playing Cuneo/CMU Blue as my deck of choice, and those decks used Whispers Of The Muse for card drawing, since they would just Disk away their own Ophidians.

Frenetic Efreet

Call it in the air! This guy was all over Mirage Block when it first appeared, and it even spent some time on the banned list – for block, at least – as a result! It’s still notorious as one of the peskiest beatdown creatures ever, and also has the distinction of being the only good coin-flip card ever printed.

The reason Frenetic Efreet is good is that anything that would kill it only has a 50% chance of doing so. Anurid Brushhopper is essentially the same card, with a few tweaks. It hits harder, and the ability is guaranteed… But you have to give walking papers to two cards. The ability was free on the Frenetic.

2/1. It swings every turn. No Wrath or Plow or Jokulhaups is a sure thing. Good deal! Will R&D ever print another good coin-flip card?

Steel Golem

The original 3/4 for three mana, and an artifact creature to boot, this guy saw play in control decks and Pox decks alike. Before Morphling was Superman, this card was known as “The Man of Steel,” and his butt-ugly mug was plastered all over the Dojo.

A 3/4 on the third turn used to be a surefire way to slow down those aggressive decks. With Wild Mongrel running rampant, things will never be the same again. Sometimes I yearn for the more simple days of Magic, when men were men and sheep were nervous.


The most recent and currently the most notorious.”Dr. Teeth.” This card is the one with the Ivan Drago stare. The best finisher ever to grace the 3CC slot, Psychatog can bust through for the win almost out of nowhere. It’s a good stopper, too – a potentially huge blocker that can put the boots to anything that a beatdown deck might send into the red zone.

You know all there is to know about Psychatog. I don’t have to tell you anything more.

Serendib Efreet

A 3/4 flyer for 2U, this is Wormfang Drake without the whole “crap, I need another creature for this to work” deal going on. You take one damage on your upkeep, but so what? Your opponent is going to take three during your attack phase, and even a suspect mathematician like me can see where that is going to lead.

(The Revised Serendib Efreet is probably the most infamous misprint in Magic history. It ended up green, with the art from”Ifh-Biff Efreet.”)

Spike Feeder

Spike Feeders was seeing its most serious T2 play during an era where people were Stroking each other for 1,000 to end most matches… So it doesn’t jump immediately to mind when you think about prominent 3CC creatures. An important part of decks like Oath, SGD (does anyone out there remember that deck? Wildebeests, Weavers, Feeders, etc etc?) and Living Death, the Feeder is probably Green’s best 3CC creature ever.

It’s nice when the”big dumb creature color” gets a man that can do something besides turn sideways. You can move counters around and gain life. You’ve got options. You can actually pull tricks yourself instead of waiting around for other people to interrupt your attack phase with some chicanery.

Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero

Booooooooring. Still, she deserves her due. When the card pool is small enough and the Rebels are around, they are probably going to come to the forefront. I remember playing Flores/Senhouse Junk and seeing Lin-Sivvi come out and just rolling my eyes.

“Here we go again. I hope I draw my Reverent Mantras.”

What a snoozefest. She goes and gets a Defiant Vanguard, again and again and again and again and if you give her one turn of free time, you’re staring down a Jhovall Queen or something equally ridiculous. Brutal.

Let me see…. I think those are the Top Ten – the most influential, powerful 3CC creatures in Magic History. This has been another installment of the Daily Shot, and today we’ve answered a question that no one even asked. Why?

Well, because it’s fun. You can’t break the format all the time. You can’t hammer your head against the OBC brick wall forever. You’d go insane.

I’ll see you guys tomorrow, and we’ll have a good chuckle – I’m going to try to find the worst 3CC creatures ever. I should just check my draft decks.

Geordie Tait

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