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Prowess in MTG – Rules, Best Cards + Decks!

Prowess is an ability keyword in Magic: The Gathering. When a creature has prowess, whenever you cast a noncreature spell, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn. In this article, I look at what prowess does in MTG with examples, the best prowess cards, how to prowess, and cover a fantastic prowess deck that can win you the game in four turns!

MTG card Dragon-Style Twins. Image: Wizards of the Coast. Artist: Wesley Burt.

Prowess MTG Rules

What does the MTG reminder text say about Prowess?

Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

See Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules 702.108. “Prowess” for more information.

If a creature has prowess, it gets +1/+1 whenever you cast an instant, sorcery, enchantment, artifact, or planeswalker spell.

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The prowess keyword was introduced as the mechanic for the Jeskai Way faction in Khans of Tarkir set, and it immediately reappeared in Fate Reforged. As blue needed a new combat keyword, prowess was made evergreen in Magic Origins.

However, because it is a complex ability with limited design potential, prowess was phased out of being evergreen in Hour of Devastation. It is still used though, and it recently appeared in Core Set 2021.

Prowess is still a primary ability in blue, but it is only a secondary ability in red and tertiary in white. Red already has other versatile combat keywords, while white doesn’t focus much on generic noncreature spellcasting.

MTG Prowess Examples

MTG cards, Seeker of the Way and Adherent of Hope. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG cards, Seeker of the Way and Adherent of Hope. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

For example, I control prowess creature Seeker of the Way. Because it has prowess, whenever I cast a noncreature spell, it will get +1/+1 until end of turn. The type of the spell doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t a creature.

As such, if I cast an instant, such as Absorb Identity, my Seeker of the Way will get +1/+1. Casting instants is arguably the best use of prowess, as it means I can buff my prowess creatures during combat or even during my opponent’s turn.

Because I’ve cast a noncreature spell, Seeker of the Way is buffed from a 2/2 to a 3/3. This is very helpful, as not only will it deal extra damage now, but it has better survivability too. As such, if it was blocking a 2 power creature like Adherent of Hope, it’ll now survive.

Prowess triggers for each noncreature spell I cast that turn, too. So if I cast another instant, Seeker of the Way becomes 4/4 until end of turn. An artifact, and it gets another +1/+1, bringing it up to 5/5. 

Of course, the prowess creature will go back to its default power and toughness at end of turn. As such, it’s a good idea not to waste spells unnecessarily if you need the buffs for your creatures later on.

Prowess vs Counterspells

MTG cards Heartfire Immolator, Bronze Sword and Cancel. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG cards Heartfire Immolator, Bronze Sword and Cancel. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Even if my noncreature spell is countered, my prowess creature will still get +1/+1. This is because the countered spell is still cast, even if it doesn’t resolve. As such, countering spells isn’t an effective way to play against prowess.

For example, imagine I control the prowess creature Heartfire Immolator while I cast the noncreature spell Bronze Sword. Prowess automatically triggers and Heartfire Immolator gets +1/+1. However, my opponent counters Bronze Sword with Cancel.

Heartfire Immolator keeps the +1/+1 it got from Bronze Sword, even if it is countered. The ability had already triggered, so what happens to that noncreature spell now is irrelevant.

Casting counterspells will trigger prowess as they are still noncreature spells! As such, if I cast Cancel myself while controlling Heartfire Immolator, it’ll get +1/+1 no matter what I target to counter. This can be a sweet way to block an opponent’s surprise boosts during their attack while also simultaneously increasing the power and toughness of your defending creatures!

Prowess vs Protection

MTG cards Feat of Resistance, Jeskai Elder and Academic Probation. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG cards Feat of Resistance, Jeskai Elder and Academic Probation. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

What if your prowess creature has protection from the spell you cast? That doesn’t matter. Prowess still triggers. It only checks if a noncreature spell is cast, not whether it targets the prowess creature itself.

So, let’s say that I cast Feat of Resistance targeting Jeskai Elder and choose to give it protection from white until the end of the turn. Firstly, because Jeskai Elder has prowess, it automatically gets +1/+1 as Feat of Resistance is a noncreature spell.

 

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Then, suppose I cast another white noncreature spell, such as Academic Probation. Even though Jeskai Elder now has protection from white so I can’t target it with Academic Probation, prowess will still trigger and give it another +1/+1 because I cast a noncreature spell.

Prowess + Double Strike

MTG cards Mistral Singer and Embercleave. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG cards Mistral Singer and Embercleave. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Prowess plus double strike is a powerful combination. It effectively gives prowess creatures +2/+2 every time I cast a noncreature spell. Casting multiple spells per turn gets out of hand incredibly fast.

For instance, I control the prowess creature Mistral Singer, and I’ve equipped it with Embercleave so it has double strike. Now, if I cast a noncreature spell, Mistral Singer gets +1/+1 as normal.

But when Mistral Singer attacks, it now deals its damage twice, once as first strike damage and then again as regular combat damage. This means this +1/+1 from prowess applies twice. Double strike makes prowess twice as effective!

What happens if I cast a noncreature spell after the first time my double strike prowess creature deals damage? Well, its regular combat damage still gets +1/+1. However, its first round of damage does not retroactively get increased by 1.

Prowess + Trample

MTG cards Shipwreck Dowser, Rune of Might and Faerie Guidemother. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG cards Shipwreck Dowser, Rune of Might and Faerie Guidemother. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Trample is a useful ability to give to a prowess creature. This pair of abilities allows you to make the best use of the prowess buffs by allowing your creature to deal excess combat damage to your opponent.

Say I control the prowess creature Shipwreck Dowser, which starts as 3/3. I enchant Shipwreck Dowser with Rune of Might, so that it gets +1/+1 and has trample. I cast another noncreature spell too. Prowess triggers twice, giving my creature an additional +2/+2.

Now I attack with the 6/6 Shipwreck Dowswer. My opponent blocks it with the 1/1 Faerie Guidemother. Usually, the excess 5 damage would just be wasted. However, trample allows me to deal that damage to my opponent, while prowess has increased the total amount of damage my two.

Prowess is also a good way to stop the effects of trample from happening. By casting noncreature spells, I’m able to raise my prowess blocker’s toughness high enough that I won’t take excess damage from any trample attacks. My creature might even survive combat entirely.

Best MTG Prowess Cards 

Monastery Mentor (Prowess White Creature)

MTG card Monastery Mentor. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG card Monastery Mentor. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Not only does Monastery Mentor have prowess, but it also makes prowess tokens! This quickly snowballs into a huge amount of damage, as each noncreature spell you cast boosts the mentor and its tokens, as well as creating another token for the next attack. Nice!

Elsha of the Infinite (Prowess Blue/Red/White Creature)

MTG card Elsha of the Infinite. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG card Elsha of the Infinite. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

Elsha of the Infinite lets you look at the top card of your library. As long as it’s not a creature or a land, you can cast it whenever you want. This buffs Elsha, as it has prowess, and it also makes your deck nearly impossible to predict and gives card advantage!

Monastery Swiftspear (Prowess Red Creature)

MTG card Monastery Swiftspear. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG card Monastery Swiftspear. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

A famed red one-drop, Monastery Swiftspear has both haste and prowess, as well as 2 toughness. Play this with the burn spells of your choice for over 5 damage on turn two. Its prowess allows it to survive combats other one-drops never could.

Stormwing Entity (Prowess Blue Creature)

MTG card Stormwing Entitiy. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG card Stormwing Entitiy. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

If you cast an instant or sorcery spell, then Stormwing Entity only costs two mana to cast for the rest of the turn. Yes, that’s right. For the cost of a Storm Crow, you get a 3/3 flying prowess creature, and you scry 2. Needless to say, this is absolutely phenomenal.

Soul-Scar Mage (Prowess Red Creature)

MTG card Soul-Scar Mage. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG card Soul-Scar Mage. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

With Soul-Scar Mage, all your burn spells deal damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters. Not only that, Soul-Scar Mage is another red one-drop that’s a 1/2 with prowess, so you can run a second playset of Monastery Swiftspears in your Red Deck Wins.

Goblin Wizardry (Prowess Red Instant)

MTG card Goblin Wizardry. Image: Wizards of the Coast
MTG card Goblin Wizardry. Image: Wizards of the Coast.

The first noncreature prowess card, Goblin Wizardry is deceptively powerful. It makes two 1/1 goblin wizard tokens which have prowess. As such, that’s a total of 4 power the next time you cast another noncreature spell, and it’s at instant speed too!

MTG Prowess Decks 

Prowess is most common in blue and red. As such, if you want Standard-legal prowess, buy the appropriate Core Set 2021 theme boosters, as well as boosters from the Khans of Tarkir block for white prowess creatures. 

Mono-Red Prowess Burn – Modern

The modern burn variant is easily the strongest prowess deck. Utilizing cheap prowess creatures like Soul-Scar Mage and Monastery Swiftspear, this aggressive build manages to get additional value out of its already-intimidating burn package.

Of course, being a modern burn deck, Mono-Red Prowess runs a playset all the obligatory burn spells, including Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, and Lava Dart, as well as copies of Rift Bolt and Burst Lightning. All these cards buff the prowess one-drops as well.

Other attackers in Mono-Red Prowess include Kiln Fiend and Runaway Steam-Kin, both of which also get boosted by casting this deck’s instants and sorceries. Runaway Steam-Kin also provides mana, so you can keep on casting burn.

Lastly, the deck also runs copies of Bedlam Reveler. This fierce 3/4 prowess creature can come out for as little as two mana if you’ve got enough instants and sorceries in your graveyard. Bedlam Reveler also discards your (hopefully empty) hand to draw you three cards when it enters.

With all of these great cards, it is no surprise that Mono-Red Prowess burn is a top-tier deck that can end games on turn four. Its fast-paced and easily to learn as well as, most importantly, fun to play!

How to play against Prowess 

Use Removal on the Prowess Creatures

As annoying as they are to play against, prowess creatures don’t have hexproof, ward, or protection by default. As such, they’re vulnerable to removal. So instead of using your burn to attack their opponent directly, rather kill their prowess creatures with it.

Similarly, prepare your killspells, tap abilities, and hand attacks. Prowess is only dangerous when the creature is on can attack and block. Make sure it can’t.

Combat tricks are also effective. Instead of being the one who gets surprised when your opponent casts an instant and boosts their prowess creature, cast your combat tricks to buff your own creatures.

Remember to choose the right targets for your removal, though. Don’t just immediately destroy everything you see with prowess. A cunning opponent might try and bait out your counterspell so they can cast a more threatening spell of their own later on!

Limit Your Opponent’s Spellcasting

Certain cards limit the number of spells a player can cast per turn or reward you when your opponent casts a spell. This interferes with prowess as your opponent can no longer freely spam noncreature spells, buff up their creatures, or benefit from those spells’ effects.

Playing these cards will also ruin your opponent’s larger strategy. Most prowess cards synergize well with control, burn, or tempo. All these decks need to cast many spells per turn to win. Stop them.

Trinisphere, Angelic Arbiter, Thorn of Amethyst, Elspeth Conquers Death, and Dovin, Hand of Control are all examples of cards that interfere with your opponent’s spellcasting. Run them if you don’t like playing against prowess, or with that person ever again.

MTG Prowess FAQs 

Is Prowess a Trigger?

Prowess is a trigger. Specifically, it is a triggered ability that automatically activates when its condition is fulfilled. For prowess, that is whenever you cast a noncreature spell.

This means that you can’t deactivate prowess. Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, prowess will automatically give your creature +1/+1. You don’t have a choice here.

Does Prowess Stack?

Multiple instances of prowess on the same creature do stack, yep. So, if you manage to give a creature prowess twice, it will get +2/+2 for each noncreature spell you cast.

However, prowess does not trigger for each noncreature card type a spell has. So, if you cast a card like Bow of Nylea, which is an enchantment artifact, your prowess creature still will only get +1/+1. This is because prowess only checks if the spell isn’t a creature, not what else it actually is.

Does Copying a Spell Trigger Prowess?

Even though it’s a powerful ability, copying a spell does not trigger prowess. This is because you aren’t actually casting the copy, which is what prowess cares about. Instead, a copied spell is put directly onto the stack without you paying mana to cast it.

Do Enchantment Creatures Trigger Prowess?

Enchantment creatures don’t trigger prowess. Even though they have a noncreature card type (enchantment), they are also creatures. As such, they won’t trigger prowess.

A noncreature spell will trigger prowess even if it creates creature tokens or can turn into a creature later on, though. Because of this, feel free to put cards like Krenko’s Command, Answered Prayers, and Gideon Blackblade in your prowess deck.

Do artifacts trigger prowess?

Artifact creatures don’t trigger prowess. Even though they have a noncreature card type (artifact), they are also creatures. As such, they won’t trigger prowess.

A note: Prowess MTG

In summary, prowess is a triggered ability keyword that gives a creature +1/+1 whenever you cast a noncreature spell, such as an artifact, enchantment, instant, sorcery, or planeswalker. This ability quickly gets out of control when you play multiple prowess creatures or cast multiple spells per turn!

Prowess is most common in blue and red, although a few white cards have it too. Many red prowess cards are used in the powerful Mono-Red Prowess Burn deck, while the blue ones are typically used to supplement control builds.

As such, it’s no wonder many current decks use prowess cards. Not only are they powerful and impressive, but they’re helpful too, just like this article! So, add some prowess to your deck today!

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