What is the most Important Guitar Effect?

Players often wonder what the most important effect or pedal is and I'm here to tell you that the most important thing in your arsenal is simply this: active imagination. After that, tape-style delay; I'll make my case below.

An active imagination get's you half way to home with good ears, healthy hands, and rational practice making up the next 40% and equipment and gear making up, maybe, the last 10%.

Beyond your electric guitar, a cable, and an amp wondering about the 'best' pedal is like worrying about which one is better: blonde, redhead, brunette, etc. There is no 'best.'

Which might be more indispensable, given that they are all more or less unnecessary accessories, is another question.

Cranking your amp should, if it is a good amp, get you the distortion and compression you crave. Place your amp in a room and your ambience (reverb) should be taken care of.

Chorus is a dated effect, used to excess in the 80s so I would consider that totally secondary.

Ring modulators and other crazy stuff like pitch shifting and drastic filtering (wah) is useable a few times per night and everybody gets sick of hearing that stuff rather quickly.

If I could only have one pedal I'd have to go with a tape delay or a digital model of a tape delay. I could pretty much live with just that. Why?

A tape delay is more flexible than you might imagine: you can drive the input and output and use it as a boost; you can turn down the delays and use the device as a preamp to create a smoother, silkier sound; my Strymon El Capistan, for example, also has a spring reverb emulation; and with controls for all kinds of tape and mechanical degradation, lush modulations are possible as well. And, you can also use it for sound on sound and basic looping. What a powerhouse in one compact pedal.

Of course, there are many alternatives on the market and Fulltone makes an actual tape delay....or was supposed to at some point.

Anyway, that's my bid more most indispensable effect. What's yours?