MTG proliferate rules and best cards

Your one-stop Magic: The Gathering guide for the MTG proliferate keyword - including the best cards to add to your Commander decks.

MTG proliferate card, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice (image by Wizards of the Coast)

The MTG proliferate keyword offers Magic: The Gathering players a vast range of strategies and synergy. Able to add counters of all kinds to the game, a clever player can use proliferate to completely change the battlefield, put pressure on an opponent – and score some seriously satisfying wins.

Here you’ll find out exactly how proliferate works, as well as which cards use the keywords best. Before we get started, though, here are a few other handy Magic: The Gathering guides from us. We can tell you everything coming up in the MTG release schedule, as well as what’s in the latest MTG Arena decks.

The best MTG proliferate cards are:

What is MTG proliferate?

MTG Proliferate is a keyword that allows you to choose any number of players and/or permanents with counters on them and add one more counter of each kind already there. It was first introduced in 2010’s Scars of Mirrodin MTG set, and its card list expanded further in releases like War of the Spark, Modern Horizons, and Phyrexia: All Will Be One.

Proliferate is a hugely versatile keyword that can trigger and be triggered in all kinds of scenarios. You could do something as simple as adding an extra -1/-1 counter to an enemy creature, or you could really ruin someone’s day by doling out poison counters at an alarming rate. Better yet (or worse, depending on who’s asking), you could do both and more to multiple targets, all at once.

There are proliferate cards available for all MTG colors. However, black, blue, and green get the lion’s share. 

MTG proliferate card, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice

First printed Commander 2016
Mana cost 1G, 1W, 1U, 1B

Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice has become almost synonymous with the proliferate keyword. It’s still one of the best MTG Commanders there is – partly because of its ability to proliferate after each of your turns.

It’s the flexibility of the proliferate keyword that makes Atraxa such a versatile Commander. The card is perfect for poison decks, a range of MTG creature type decks, and decks stuffed with MTG planeswalkers.

If that range isn’t enough to impress you, Atraxa happens to have plenty of other tasty keywords. Flying, vigilance, deathtouch, and lifelink all make an appearance too. Considering the relatively few words on the card, Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice packs a lot of power. 

MTG proliferate card, Contagion Engine (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Contagion Engine

First printed Scars of Mirrodin
Mana cost 6C

Contagion Engine is one of the original proliferate cards, and it still sees plenty of play. That’s for good reason, as this artifact gives you the chance to proliferate twice in one go – if you’ve got the mana to spare.

When Contagion Engine enters the battlefield, it automatically adds a -1/-1 counter to each creature a target player controls. Then, if you spend four colorless mana and tap the card, you can “proliferate, then proliferate again.” Play your cards right, and you’ve automatically dealt one player a heap of mean counters.

Contagion Engine is, understandably, fairly expensive to cast and use. But the amount of proliferate potential makes it worth it in the right decks. 

MTG proliferate card, Contagion Clasp (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Contagion Clasp

First printed Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret
Mana cost 2C

Contagion Clasp is just Contagion Engine on a budget. It costs four less mana, but it only puts a -1/-1 counter on one creature when it enters the battlefield. Plus, for four mana and tapping the card, you’ll only get to proliferate once.

Contagion Clasp may be less OTT than its sibling, but it’s handy if you want to proliferate a little earlier. Keep it on the battlefield long enough, and you’ll get some decent value-for-mana. 

MTG proliferate card, Thrummingbird (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Thrummingbird

First printed Scars of Mirrodin
Mana cost 1C, 1B

Thrummingbird is cheap to play, so it doesn’t come with much punching power. What this puny 1/1 does have is a flying keyword that makes it hard to block – and a proliferate ability that triggers every time it deals combat damage to a player.

Thrummingbird is an excellent early play for anyone who’s in a hurry to proliferate. Playing Thrumminbird on turn two comes with an added price in Commander games, though. Everyone knows you’re planning to proliferate, and they might start gunning for you. 

MTG proliferate card, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

First printed Modern Horizons
Mana cost 2C, 2B

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is a card with many tricks up its sleeve. Need to spin the wheels of the sacrifice mill? Need card draw or -1/-1 counters to debuff enemy creatures? What about protection from humans? Yawgmoth has it all – including the proliferate keyword.

You’ll need to pay two black mana and discard a card for the privilege, sure. But we’re glad Yawgmoth forces us to fork out for the keyword – it’s a great addition to the many kinds of decks this card could feature in. 

MTG proliferate card, Evolution Sage (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Evolution Sage

First printed War of the Spark
Mana cost 2C, 1G

One of our favorite green proliferate cards is Evolution Sage. This 3/2 MTG elf lets you proliferate any time an MTG land enters the battlefield under your control. As long as you’re not getting mana screwed by your card draw, this is a pretty consistent way to proliferate.

Combine it with cards like Life and Limb, Sporoloth Ancient, or anything that lets you play more lands per turn for maximum value. Evolution Sage isn’t the most potent proliferater, but it’s a must-have for a green deck looking to use the keyword. 

MTG proliferate card, Vraska, Betrayal's Sting (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting

First printed Phyrexia: All Will Be One
Mana cost 4C, 1B, 1Bϕ

Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting takes advantage of the truly horrible combo that is poison and proliferate. If you manage to trigger this planeswalker’s -9 loyalty ability, you can automatically give a player nine poison counters. One more, and they lose.

This, of course, is a costly loyalty ability, but Vraska has plenty of other value to offer. At -2, you can use Vraska to turn a creature into a treasure artifact – which can in turn be sacrificed to create one mana of any color.

Plus, Vraska’s 0 loyalty ability lets you proliferate and draw a card in exchange for one life. Loyalty counters are affected by proliferate, so this is super helpful if you’re going for gold and want to use that -9 ability. 

MTG proliferate card, Sword of Truth and Justice (image by Wizards of the Coast)

Sword of Truth and Justice

First printed Modern Horizons
Mana cost 3C

When equipped to a creature, Sword of Truth and Justice gives that card +2/+2 and protection from white and blue. This is nice, but it’s not all the card can do. Surprise – this card has a proliferate ability, too.

Whenever a creature equipped with Sword of Truth and Justice deals combat damage to a player, you can add a +1/+1 counter to a creature under your control. Then you can proliferate.

Sword of Truth and Justice always ensures you’ve got at least one counter to copy. Plus, with the ability to give a creature +2/+2 over and over, you’re going to have a seriously buffed battlefield.

For more trading card game keywords, here’s all you need to know about MTG hexproof, MTG mutate, and MTG indestructible. Plus, we can point you to all the latest info about MTG Arena codes.