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.
This monk has seen play in Vintage, where it can create tons of 1/1 tokens thanks to cheap spells like the Power 9.
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.
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.
Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers: