Dragon Throne of Tarkir | Illustration by Daarken
Pump spells are one of the most common kinds of cards, strategies, and abilities, and they’re a key strategy for creature decks in Constructed and Limited. Players who master the timing and technique of using pump spells have huge advantages over their opponents.
I could write for weeks if I were to cover every pump spell in the game. Heck, Wizards might release a new set by the time such a list were published. You’d be reading it for days. So I’m only going to focus on the absolutely best of the best.
Hopefully, these spells will put some air in your deck’s tires by the end. Ready? Let’s get into it!
Vampire’s Bite | Illustration by Christopher Moeller
A “pump” is a slang term for modifying a creature’s power and/or toughness through spells or abilities. There are pump spells in every color, and each color has its own flavor for these effects. Green makes huge creatures, white gives creatures counters, and black reduces enemies’ power and toughness.
That makes for lots of variety, so I’ve focused on spells that boost creatures’ stats until the end of the turn.
A great pump spell is usually one you can play at instant speed. Sorceries are often clunky and leave you vulnerable.
Great Teacher’s Decree can be an exception because it has the rebound keyword. It also allows you to attack and clear out an opponent’s blocker and then swing hard on the next turn to finish them off. This is a decent card to consider in your aggressive white decks.
Sometimes you just need a simple pump or protection for your decks. Not every card has to be a bomb card, and sometimes you need cheap answers to work with your bomb cards.
Fight as One can protect and pump one human and one non-human creature for the low cost of . This is a great and cheap card to consider with your bigger overall strategy.
The rebound ability takes pump spells to another level. Artful Maneuver is a great combat trick pump that comes back for another attack. This is a simple but great pump spell to consider for your aggressive decks, and it has massive value in Pauper.
You can pump all your creatures +1/+1 for three mana in the eternal formats. The value of this card is its cheap casting cost and the fact that you can activate the pump as many times as you can afford to.
Some bomb pump spells come as a final move to destroy your opponent. Charge Across the Araba is one of these final effort pump spells.
You can pump your creatures +1/+1 for each Plains you return to your hand. If you go wide on the board this is a card that your opponent may have no defense against.
I wouldn’t feel good about a pump spell list without mentioning planeswalkers. Once planeswalkers resolve a lot of them can pump your creatures in ways that won’t take any extra mana.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a great planeswalker that can increase your board presence or pump creatures when you need to. Its +1 loyalty to give a creature +3/+3 and flying is an amazing way to swing with your valuable creatures.
Ajani would be proud of this cat warrior. Jazal Goldmane has an exponentially increasing pump the more creatures you use to attack. It’s only legal in eternal formats, but it’s fantastic in white Commander decks.
Leonin Lightscribe is a great creature to pump your entire board.
If you can get a few cheap creatures on the board then any of your instant or sorceries pump your creatures to threatening sizes. I personally miss this card in Standard, but I’ll just have to play it in all the other formats.
Mirror Entity is a slightly different type of pump spell. You aren’t adding power and toughness to your creatures, just changing their base power and toughness. This may be slightly different, but it’s still effective.
You have a chance to turn your tiny creatures into huge ones every turn. This also has value in changing your creature’s creature type into whatever you need it to be.
I know this pump spell goes a little bit against my description of what I’m looking for, but I felt like I had to include it. Unbreakable Formation is an absolute staple for white decks in non-Standard formats.
You have the chance to give your creatures indestructible at instant speed, and you pump your creatures with a counter and vigilance if you choose to use it at sorcery speed. This is a fantastic card for the white aggressive and creature builds.
This probably isn’t worth consideration for competitive decks, but why not highlight one of the blue pump spells that don’t take power or toughness away?
Rebound keeps coming back to add tremendous value. Distortion Strike can make a deadly threat unblockable for two turns!
The sorcery speed isn’t ideal, but this is an awesome pump spell for blue decks for one mana.
A spell that pumps a creature +1/+1 and gives flying for one mana is worth consideration for attacking blue decks. Aerial Formation also gives you the option of pumping more than one creature for three mana for each extra target.
This card can help with some aggressive blue decks and also has late game value.
Soulblade Djinn is a great mass-pumping creature that’s legal in almost every non-Standard format. I like that this pump is for all noncreature spells and not limited to instants and sorceries like prowess.
The 5-mana cost makes it a bit of a burdensome curve buster. But you’ll be doing massive amounts of damage quickly if you can pump some of your creatures that also have prowess.
Sprite Noble gives you a static and an activated pump for your flying creatures. Blue creature decks often employ the strategy of flying over their opponent’s big creatures and chump blockers.
This pump spell embraces this strategy and allows you to pump those flying creatures when you need to strike hard!
Infect is a nasty way to take down your opponent and their creatures. Tainted Strike is a sneaky way to turn a smaller creature into a problem for your overly confident opponent. Doling out poison counters is also a sneaky way to snag a win.
You know exactly what you’re getting with Howl from Beyond. You can pump a creature by the amount of mana you can spend at instant speed. Hopefully you have enough mana when you play it to come out victorious.
This card is legal in Pauper and eternal format.
The six mana value is expensive for a 3/4 creature, but the landfall pump may be worth the price.
Don’t want to build your decks around the shade creature type? Why not turn your other creatures into shades?
Shade’s Breath is an instant that allows all your creatures to individually pump themselves up for every Swamp you tap. This could be a good way to end a game after blockers have been declared, but I personally only see value in Commander.
This card is a must in Pauper, and it has a ton of value in Modern and eternal formats.
Some of these eternal format pump spells are just fun. Hatred is an expensive instant-speed pump spell that can easily ensure victory if used correctly.
You could swing for potential dozens of damage at instant speed after blockers are declared if this is paired in a lifegain deck.
Blighted Shaman is the type of card that gives opponents fits. You can swing with all your other creatures and wait for your opponent to make decisions. It then allows you to pump the creatures you need by sacrificing Swamps or other creatures.
This is a great black combat card that’s legal in eternal and Penny formats.
A planeswalker that has two mana loyalty abilities is useful, but it isn’t overly powerful. The middle -3 loyalty pump ability on Liliana of the Dark Realms gives you the option to pump one of your or an opponent’s creatures up or down by the number of swamps you control. That’s a solid middle loyalty ability, but the -3 cost is chunky.
On the other hand you can also get lands with the other loyalty abilities to help your other spells.
The black pump section wouldn’t be complete without at least one of the shade creatures. The shade type is known for paying to pump themselves up, and Dread Shade has a great starting toughness and power.
It’s legal in most non-Standard formats, and it can be pumped +1/+1 for every Swamp you want to tap.
Sometimes you just need a last-ditch effort before your opponent’s advantages start to overtake the match. Fatal Frenzy doubles a creature’s power, but you have to sacrifice it after combat.
Use this card at the exact right time to give opponents a Fatal Frenzy. See what I did there?
The pump spell strategies were made for the red and green colors. Brute Force is a 1-mana +3/+3 pump to take out your opponent’s blockers or do even more damage to an opponent.
There’s nothing more to say other than this is a great pump spell!
There are a lot of 1-mana pump spells in MTG and on this list, but Reckless Charge has more value because you can use it again with flashback. This is a great card for the aggressive and storm deck builders in Modern, Historic, and eternal formats.
Man, all the Cavaliers from the Core Set 2020 are studly cards. Cavalier of Flame allows you to pump and give all your creatures haste.
At five mana this is an affordable and great addition to midrange red decks.
Creatures that can pump themselves for one mana are always worth consideration. Moonveil Dragon can pump all your creatures repeatedly for one mana.
The mana value forces it into red-heavy decks, but it’s a solid card for midrange creature decks.
Instead of paying the cost you may exile a red card from your hand. The exiled card’s mana value is the value of X, and this could easily be the lethal damage you need at instant speed. It’s banned in Modern but legal in eternal formats.
I love planeswalkers with three (or more) loyalty abilities that can give me an advantage. Zariel, Archduke of Avernus can give a pump, provide a decent blocker, and add an extra combat phase.
This card is a great addition to red and multicolored decks that use small creatures and dying effects.
The wording on Purphoros, God of the Forge makes it a fantastic card to build around. A devotion of five red mana is easy to satisfy, you deal damage every time a creature ETB, and you can pump your creatures.
This is my favorite version of Purphoros and a great card if you want to build around red in Pioneer, Modern, and eternal formats.
Enlarge is a solid sorcery pump spell that’s legal in most non-Standard formats. You get a ton of value for five mana.
This gives a creature +7/+7 and trample, and it has to be blocked. At sorcery speed it’s susceptible to removal spells, so be careful with your timing. Also, who doesn’t love the art of this card and the kitty?
Berserk is a 1-mana spell that doubles a creature’s power and gives it trample. This is the kind of pump spell that you put in your deck to save for the game-winning swing.
This has serious value in the eternal formats, especially Commander.
Ezuri allows you to regenerate an elf, and it also pump all your elves +3/+3. This is a specific tribal card and should only be used in an elf tribal deck.
Overrun is a sorcery that you also save for the right game-ending moment. You pump all your creatures +3/+3 and give them trample for five mana.
You know exactly what you’re getting when you want to use this card. It’s a great mass creature pump that may not be as useful as some of the other instant-speed pumps spells.
Searching for a creature from your library and putting it on the battlefield is a great ability. Finale of Devastation allows you to fetch a creature with X value. You can also pump your creatures by +X/+X if you can pile up the mana and the value of X is 10 or more.
This card takes a lot of investment to be the bomb card you need. Give this a roster if you can gather a massive amount of mana.
Green often gives the biggest pumps. White pump spells pump around +2/+2, red often gives +3/0, and green pump spells are usually around +4/+4.
Invigorate is a great instant-speed pump spell that gives +4/+4. The value of this is the fact that you can cast it for three life instead of paying its cost. This is a pump spell that needs to be rostered in the eternal formats.
This card fits perfectly into creature-centric green decks in Modern, eternal formats, and even Pauper.
Triumph of the Hordes is a sneaky pump spell if you have a lot of creatures. This card pumps all your creatures +1/+1 and gives them trample and infect. I believe the value of this card is the infect keyword. You may be able to give them enough poison counters to win if you can’t do enough damage to defeat your enemy.
You need to get 10 damage through for the victory with this. This is the goal, and this is how you can build your deck around this card.
This fits perfectly in decks that ramp small creatures, mill cards, or use spells often.
I think that playing a planeswalker for three or four mana is often overpowered. You can start to counter aggressive decks before they get too deadly or ramp up your own advantages.
Garruk, Unleashed’s +1 loyalty ability gives a creature +3/+3 and trample, which forces your opponent to start using unwanted blockers or removal spells early. This is a great planeswalker for the green aggressive creature decks in most non-Standard formats.
Take a look at the green end-game bomb for creature-centric decks! When Craterhoof Behemoth enters it pumps your creatures by the number of creatures you control. The 7-mana cost seems daunting, but green spells have some great mana support with cards like Sylvan Caryatid and Birds of Paradise.
This is the bomb creature you should be looking for in the big creature decks that are in or splash green.
Primal Might is an absolute staple in mono-green decks. It was a menace in Standard, and it’s now available in most non-Standard formats.
This gives you the ability to pump your creature by X and also works as a removal spell. You’ll start to do lethal damage if your opponent can’t keep up with your creature advantage. Primal Might is a perfect card for the aggressive green or Gruul () players.
Arlinn Kord is a decent planeswalker for Gruul decks that want to pump their creatures to pressure their opponents. You may pump one creature with Arlinn, or all your creatures with Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon.
You can find better planeswalkers and pump spells for your Gruul at four mana with some chunky loyalty abilities.
One of my favorite combat tricks is spells that untap a creature. Your opponent isn’t expecting it and it can often change the board advantage.
Gerrard’s Command allows you to untap a creature and pump it up +3/+3 for only two mana. Pump spells are often superb additions in Pauper, and this Command is just that. It also has decent value in the eternal formats.
I don’t have a lot of complaints about this card except it’s only legal in eternal formats.
Gahiji, Honored One is the creature-centric deck’s great pump creature to roster. Whenever you attack with a creature, that creature gets +2/0. This can make all your creatures deadly and hard to handle.
It’s a shame that Gahiji is limited to eternal formats because I love the value of a creature that can pump other creatures.
I love the pump spells that also give a creature trample. You don’t want a chump blocker to ruin your good time, so run them over.
Colossal Might is a great 2-mana Gruul pump spell. You get a big attack that goes through with trample and some defense to make sure your creature lives.
Sometimes you just need a simple pump to several creatures to change the advantage or pull out a win. Seeds of Strength can distribute +1/+1 to one, two, or three different creatures, but you need to distribute three total +1/+1 pumps.
I like the versatility of this card. It has a lot of value in Pauper, and it also some value in Modern and eternal formats.
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice can pump your creatures, but it can also mentor them! Don’t we all need a good mentor?
Aurelia pumps one of your creatures and gives them a keyword depending on the creature’s color at the beginning of combat on your turn. This is a great addition to many Boros () decks in non-Standard play.
I’ll start by saying that I love Huatli, Radiant Champion’s +1 loyalty ability. You can get a ton of creatures on the board and a ton of loyalty points to use with a Selesnya () deck.
You can pump a creature by the number of creatures you control with those loyalty points. Huatli is a fantastic planeswalker for Selesnya creature lovers.
You need to be careful about removal spells interrupting your fun, but at least you can have two chances to play this. It’s legal in every format except Pauper, so let sparks fly!
I always like versatility and options when evaluating cards. Collision // Colossus is a great dual card to take your Gruul deck to another level. You have the great option of removing a big flying threat like Murktide Regent or a big pump spell.
With both options at two mana, this is a great dual instant for Gruul or Jund () players in most non-Standard formats.
This is a decent equipment depending on your build, but you can probably find better equipment and pumps.
Eight mana is an expensive cost for an activated ability, so it better be worth it. Tower of Champions is a massive pump for a targeted creature at the cost of eight mana.
This seems straightforward: you get a pump, but your creatures play more slowly. I think it’s interesting when you steal other players’ creatures or have a lot of ETB triggers.
Scroll of the Masters is one of those rare cards that require a bit of balance in your deck development. You want noncreature spells to add lore counters, but you also want creatures to be able to pump.
You could have a significant pump ability on your hands if you can achieve this balance.
You won’t often attack with a single creature if you have other options, but Altar of the Goyf gives you a reason to attack alone. Your lone attackers get pumped by the number of card types in all graveyards.
The “all graveyards” point often gives you the extra power your lone hero needs.
Leonin Sun Standard is the epitome of a great white pump spell. You can get it out early and may pump as many times as you can afford.
I love the fact that you can apply pressure on your opponent by keeping your mana untapped. You can play your other spells on your second main phase if they decide to do nothing. Leonin Sun Standard is an all-around great card for white creature decks in Modern and eternal formats.
Leering Emblem is an equipment card that pumps a creature alongside your other pumps. This is an incredible equipment to place in a storm or pump-themed deck.
The casting and equip costs are both reasonable, and it’s not as easily removed as enchantments or planeswalkers. This is a killer equipment that’s sadly only legal in Modern and eternal formats.
Obelisk of Alara gets you all the color-activated abilities you can handle. It gives you tremendous versatility and the ability to gain advantages.
The cost is steep at six mana, but each of the activated abilities amazingly only costing two mana. You’ll have a nice pump for a creature each turn if you decide to splash green with this.
Dragon Throne of Tarkir is an interesting equipment with tons of different possible interactions. The equipped creature gains defender but it can tap to pump all your creatures by its power. This could be a massive pump for all your creatures, making them unstoppable.
Another interesting interaction is if you equip a creature that benefits from being tapped and not attacking. The Throne might pair well with cards like Magda, Brazen Outlaw, Emmara, Soul of the Accord, and Radha, Coalition Warlord.
Make sure your creatures have great keywords to maximize your pump spells abilities. Divinity of Pride, Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas, and Etrata, the Silencer are options to maximize your pump spells’ potency.
Reckless Rage | Illustration by Steve Argyle
Having gone through that, are you pumped for pump spells? You may be wondering, “what about this pump spell?” I didn’t want to bore you all with the “1,000 pump spells of MTG” (editor’s note: Thank you). I’ve made my choices for what I believe are the best pump spells in each color, and I hope it helps you in your deckbuilding.
Did I miss any temporary pump effects? Which do you use to beef up your creatures? Feel free to leave a comment below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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