Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How Does Proliferate Work in Magic?
Seen across all card types and colors (especially blue and green), proliferate is a powerful Magic ability that selects any number of permanents and/or players, then adds a counter of a type already present on them. This has numerous uses, from increasing the +1/+1 counters on your units to the -1/-1 counters on enemies. It can even replicate poison counters on your opponents (who lose when they collect ten) or increase the power of your planeswalkers (measured in loyalty counters)!
Planeswalker-proliferate decks are so infamous that fans dub them "super-friends" for their insane rate of triggering planeswalker ultimate effects. But with dozens of counter-multiplying spells, which reign supreme? These are the ten best proliferate cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Contentious Plan
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
For just two mana, Contentious Plan draws a card, replacing itself in your hand, then proliferates, adding another of any already-existing counters you like. That's one of the cheapest proliferate effects available, and it's a quick way to get a sorcery in your graveyard (useful for spell mastery effects).
For one extra mana, you'll also find an instant-speed variant in "Steady Progress".
9. Karn's Bastion
Compared to basic lands, Bastion only provides less-useful colorless mana. However, its secondary ability lets you instead tap it and spend four resources to proliferate, giving you a nice play whenever you have excess mana without an outlet.
And since this occurs at instant-speed, it can catch unsuspecting opponents off-guard once attackers are cemented in combat.
8. Tezzeret's Gambit
CMC: 3 or 4 (see below)
To play Gambit, you need three mana of any type, then you can fulfill its last phyrexian symbol with either a blue mana or two life, letting you adjust your cost based on available resources (this also means you can cast it without needing any specific color).
Either way, Gambit draws you two cards, then proliferates. While draws themselves don't stack with proliferate, replenishing your handy is crucial to any deck, making this a potent two-for-one combo that's an easy pick for my own commander decks. Best of all, Gambit is remarkably cheap, costing well under two dollars!
Even for his low cost, Thrummingbird is a weak 1/1 with lackluster subtypes (bird and horror). However, his flying trait limits who can block him, letting him easily trigger his effect, proliferating whenever he scores combat damage on a player.
You can also use blue's numerous unblockable tools to rig the effect, or instead employ the even-better...
6. Grateful Apparition
Apparition is a color-shifted Thrummingbird, costing the same amount of mana and having 1/1 stats plus flying. However, his proliferate can trigger from dealing combat damage to players or planeswalkers, and his spirit subtype has more support than Apparition's tribes.
5. Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
Roaslesk's green/blue Simic colors emphasize +1/+1 counters, and he's a sturdy 4/5 with both flying and trample. Additionally, when he enters the field, he gives another creature you control two +1/+1 counters, and when he dies, you get to proliferate twice!
While I wish his subtypes were better (human and mutant), it's hard to complain when you have both entrance and exit effects on top of a prime combatant.
4. Sword of Truth and Justice
CMC: 3 (2 to equip)
One of the renowned "Sword of" equipment artifacts, Truth and Justice requires three mana to cast, then two more whenever you attach it to a creature. The equipped recipient gains +2/+2 and protection from both blue and white. Plus, when they deal combat damage to a player, you can place a +1/+1 counter on any creature you control, then proliferate.
These effects stack well, letting you replicate the counter you just placed, and the two protections make it easy to land direct combat damage since neither blue nor white foes are able to block Truth's bearer.
3. Contagion Engine
Demanding a hefty six mana, Contagion Engine works well with spells that discount artifacts, like "Metalworker" and "Mishra's Workshop". When it arrives, it places a -1/-1 counter on all creatures a target player controls, debuffing their entire army.
From there, by paying four mana and tapping, Engine proliferates twice! Four mana is more than fair for reusable double-proliferates, and you can multiply the -1/-1 counters you just placed, quickly ravaging your target's troops.
2. Contagion Clasp
Clasp offers a weaker but much cheaper version of Engine. For any two mana, it places a -1/-1 counter on any creature. Then, by spending four mana and tapping, Clasp proliferates. This effect only proliferates once, not quite duplicating Engine's prowess, but Clasp's substantially lower price make it much more accessible.
1. Atraxa, Praetors' Voice
Arguably the best commander of all time, Atraxa impresses even without proliferate. She accesses the four colors generally considered ideal for EDH and carries formidable 4/4 stats alongside flying, deathtouch, lifelink, and vigilance!
That would already be a monstrous card, but Atraxa lets you proliferate at the end of your turns, continuously adding counters to whichever permanents or players you like. For a competitive EDH deck you can develop in several routes, I highly recommend testing Atraxa, and her angel subtype offers the occasional white tribal synergy.
How to Support Proliferate in Magic
From charge counters to energy counters to -1/-1s and +1/+1s, proliferate benefits nearly any strategy in the game and remains a fan-favorite mechanic. You can increase the number of counters placed with green cards like "Pir, Imaginative Rascal" and "Doubling Season", but for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of counter-increasing spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill