MTG Keywords Explained: Prowess

Card Kingdom Strategy

There are many ways to build an aggressive deck in Magic: The Gathering. Some players load their decks with as many efficient creatures as they can, sometimes taking advantage of creature type synergies. Others try to knock an opponent’s life total down early with creatures and finish the job with burn spells.

These latter strategies — like Burn and Tempo decks — succeed thanks to cheap creatures with valuable abilities. In fact, some of these creatures benefit when you fill your deck with instants and sorceries. We’ll cover them today in a lesson on their signature keyword: Prowess!

What is Prowess?

In 2014, Magic released Khans of Tarkir: a set featuring five warring clans. One of these clans, the Jeskai, are a collective of monks and martial artists who excel in combat. The Jeskai mechanic, prowess, allowed these creatures to gain +1/+1 until end of turn for each noncreature spell you cast. While these creatures may have seemed small, they could deal damage surprisingly quickly.

Prowess was so popular that it’s since become an evergreen keyword. You’ll primarily see it on blue cards, as well as red and white.

Prowess triggers whenever you cast any noncreature spell. While most decks built around the prowess mechanic tend to utilize instants and sorceries, it’s important to remember that artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers count, too.

Most importantly, prowess will trigger when you cast a noncreature spell, regardless of whether it resolves. However, your opponent will have a small window to respond while the prowess trigger is on the stack; keep that in mind if you think your opponent wants to Lightning Bolt your Monastery Swiftspear.

Examples of Prowess

Prowess is such a powerful mechanic that it’s made waves in formats like Modern, Legacy, and Vintage! Here are some of the most popular prowess creatures out there.

Monastery Swiftspear

One-drops this good don’t come around very often, and Modern Burn has been happy to have Swiftspear in its ranks. It isn’t always the size of a Goblin Guide, but sometimes it’s even larger!

Soul-Scar Mage

While it may not be as fast as Swiftspear, Soul-Scar Mage can hit just as hard. This red one-drop was printed in Amonkhet, and it’s legal in MTG Arena’s Historic format!

Monastery Mentor

This monk has seen play in Vintage, where it can create tons of 1/1 tokens thanks to cheap spells like the Power 9.

Stormwing Entity

One of the newest additions to the prowess family is Core Set 2021‘s Stormwing Entity. Flying and a conditional casting cost reduction give this elemental a huge edge, and it’s made appearances everywhere from Standard to Modern.

Elsha of the Infinite

Of course, prowess isn’t just useful in competitive play! Elsha of the Infinite is the first commander with the prowess ability, and she’s an excellent headliner for a spell-based deck.

LEARN MORE

Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers:

Banding
Companion
Cycling
Deathtouch
Equip
First Strike & Double Strike
Flash
Flying & Reach
Haste
Hexproof
Indestructible
Kicker
Lifelink
Mutate
Phasing
Prowl
Trample
Vigilance