Top 10 Proliferate Cards in Magic: The Gathering

Updated on November 14, 2018
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy casts spells in-between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

How Does Proliferate Work in Magic?

Seen across all cards types and colors (especially blue and black), proliferate is a rare but powerful ability in Magic that lets you select any number of players and/or creatures, then add 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 dubbed the strategy "super-friends" for its insane rate of triggering planeswalker ultimate effects. But with dozens of spells that can multiply counters, which members reign supreme? These are the ten best proliferate cards in Magic: The Gathering!

Spread the Sickness
Spread the Sickness

10. Spread the Sickness

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5

Spread the Sickness simply destroys a creature, then lets you proliferate any counters you wish. Both are nice effects, but you can attain creature removals and proliferate with better, cheaper cards. A reduced price or instant speed status would help Sickness stay competitive; as is, it's a mediocre but sometimes-useful removal.

Use the black's factions abundant infect and wither to apply -1/-1 counters that you can proliferate, drastically hinders your opponent's army.

Inexorable Tide
Inexorable Tide

9. Inexorable Tide

CMC: 5

This pricey enchantment simply lets you proliferate whenever you cast a spell; does Inexorable Tide trigger itself? Sadly, no, the effect doesn't activate until after Tide enters the field, which is past the point of your casting it.

This lowers its potential, but it's still a useful tool if you play enchantment supports or run decks with several low-cost spells (letting you activate Tide's benefit multiple times in a single turn).

Steady Progress
Steady Progress

8. Steady Progress

CMC: 3

Steady Progress functions at instant speed, and while it's not a counterspell, keeping some islands untapped will often trick your opponent into thinking that's your upcoming play, potentially causing them to cast weaker spells (which are less devastating to lose against counters).

Mind games and bluffing aside, Progress simply lets you draw a card and proliferate, a handy pairing that refills your hand while populating your +1/+1 and loyalty counters as well as your opponent's -1/-1 and poison counters.

Volt Charge
Volt Charge

7. Volt Charge

CMC: 3

Volt Charge offers a superior removal/proliferate combo. It needs just three mana, operates at instant speed, and slams any target for three damage (similarly to "Lightning Bolt"). Then, you proliferate.

A useful pair of effects for a reasonable price, Volt Charge's only weakness is that it belongs to the red faction, the one hue missing from the color identity of the most infamous proliferate commander (who we'll later encounter).

Fuel for the Cause
Fuel for the Cause

6. Fuel for the Cause

CMC: 4

Fuel for the Cause takes a sizable four mana, making it an expensive yet useful counterspell. It can negate any type of spell without fail, then proliferate, making it a great mid-game tool.

Other than planeswalkers, the blue faction doesn't often work with counters; be sure to partner with colors like green or black who can make good use of your proliferate.

Contagion Engine
Contagion Engine

5. Contagion Engine

CMC: 6

Demanding a hefty six mana, Contagion Engine works well with spells that can cast artifacts for free or lower their price, like "Metalworker" and "Mishra's Workshop". When it arrives, it places a -1/-1 counter on all creatures a target player controls, handily debuffing their entire army.

Then, by paying four mana of any type and tapping, Engine can proliferate twice! Four mana is a fair sum, but two proliferate effects at once? Coupled with the counters you just placed, this severely detriments your opponent's surviving troops while boosting your own planeswalkers to enormous heights.

Grim Affliction
Grim Affliction

4. Grim Affliction

CMC: 3

Grim Aflliction offers a handy, quick-play combo, first placing a -1/-1 counter on any creature, then letting you proliferate. Thanks to the counter, you can indefinitely weaken an enemy by -2/-2, indefinitely crippling them if not killing them outright.

A fierce benefit on par with Volt Charge, taking the advantage thanks to its better synergies with black's camp.

Contagion Clasp
Contagion Clasp

3. Contagion Clasp

CMC: 2

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 can proliferate.

This effect only proliferates once, not quite duplicating Engine's prowess, but Clasp's substantially lower price make it much more accessible to most decks, and it's an easily-fielded relic to empower spells that strengthen based on the number of artifacts you control.

Tezzeret's Gambit
Tezzeret's Gambit

2. Tezzeret's Gambit

CMC: 3 or 4 (see below)

Gambit offers a great alternative to Steady Progress. To play it, 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 what you can afford.

Either way, Gambit only works as a sorcery (playable on your main phases), but it lets you draw two cards, then proliferate. 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 proliferate decks. Best of all, Gambit is remarkably cheap, costing well under two dollars!

Atraxa, Praetors' Voice
Atraxa, Praetors' Voice

1. Atraxa, Praetors' Voice

CMC: 4

Arguably the best commander of all time, Atraxa impresses even without her proliferate. She accesses the four colors generally considered ideal for EDH and carries a respectable 4/4 stats as well as flying, deathtouch, lifelink, and vigilance!

That would already be a monstrous card, but then Atraxa lets you proliferate at the end of your turns, continuously add counters to whichever permanents or players you like. For a competitive EDH deck you can develop in several routes, I highly recommend testing Atraxa as commander; she even synergies with white's angels and the rarely-seen horror cards thanks to her subtypes.

Which card do you prefer?

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How to Support Proliferate in MTG

Green's focus on counters stacks well with proliferate; use the counter-bearing hydra creatures for easily-boosted monsters. Additionally, the infamous green enchantment "Doubling Season" needs five mana, but doubles the counters on cards entering your field (including planeswalker loyalty!) as well as the number of tokens you receive, adeptly comboing with your theme.

From charge counters to energy counters, proliferate benefits nearly any strategy in the game and remains an excellent competitive tool. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of proliferate-bearing cards, vote for your favorite spell and I'll see you at our next Magic countdown!

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    © 2018 Jeremy Gill

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