Last updated on December 15, 2023
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. Token decks love mass pumps and the ultra competive decks want low-cost instants and soceries. This list is for all those inbetween.
Players who master the stack, 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, blue is defensive or evasive, white gives creatures counters, and black and red focus on power first.
That makes for lots of variety, so I’ve focused on spells that boost creatures’ stats until the end of the turn.
#37. Aerial Formation
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.
#36. Vampire’s Bite
This card is strong in Pauper, and it has a ton of value in Modern and eternal formats.
#35. Become Immense
This fits perfectly in decks that ramp small creatures, mill cards, or use spells often.
#34. Distortion Strike
The sorcery speed isn’t ideal, but this is an awesome pump spell for blue decks for one mana.
#33. Mizzium Skin
#32. Blighted Shaman
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.
#31. Seeds of Strength
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, or you may choose the same creature as a target multiple times.
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.
#30. Gaea's Gift
I don’t see many instances in which giving Gaea's Gift to your opponent’s creature makes sense, but bestowing it upon your creature could make sense in a great many ways, even if you only need one of the keywords abilities to matter.
Now that I mention gifts, this could be the crowd-pleasing white elephant gift you’ve never thought of: lots of ways to use it and at and less than $1, certainly within the gift limit. You might want to supplement with some other Magic gifts or accessories. Seriously though, have you seen a more versatile buff that’s not a command spell?
#29. Gerrard’s Command
One of my favorite combat tricks is a spell that untaps a creature. Your opponent isn’t expecting it and it can often change the board advantage.
Gerrard's Command is often a superb addition in Pauper, and this Command also has decent value in the eternal formats.
#28. Garruk, Unleashed
Once planeswalkers resolve a lot of them can pump your creatures in ways that won’t take any extra mana. 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.
Green often gives the biggest pumps.
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 is banned in Pauper.
#26. Elspeth, Knight-Errant
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.
#25. Lunar Frenzy
Here’s an X spell that could help you out. Lunar Frenzy allows you to pump a creature’s power and give them the deadly keywords of trample and first strike, and make the combat damage steps work in your favor.
#24. Fists of Flame
Maybe I’ve been burned by too many instants that grant trample, but the floor on Fists of Flame is decent, and if you’re playing wheel effects, or have an infinite draw combo, this is a win condition.
#23. Liliana of the Dark Realms
A planeswalker that has two mana-related loyalty abilities is useful, but it isn’t overly powerful. The -3 loyalty 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 but chunky ability.
#22. Fatal Frenzy
Sometimes you just need a last-ditch effort before your opponent’s advantages 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?
#21. Fires of Yavimaya
I don’t have a lot of complaints about this card except it’s not a surprise.
#20. Howl from Beyond
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. Make sure it's unblocked and you can treat it like a Blaze, add your creature's power and make sure you have enough mana when you play it to come out victorious.
#19. Undercity Upheaval
The Undercity Upheaval is a great late game swing that can take over, or really help you stabilize. Self-milling is a way to maximize this, but if X equals four or better you should feel good about the value here.
#18. Colossal Might
I love the instant 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 toughness to make sure your creature lives.
#17. Pollen-Shield Hare
Getting a great big attack in while maintaining a wide board is what Pollen-Shield Hare does best. This hare is so aggressively costed you’re bound to have mana for another trick or creature. It is right at home with Selesnya strategies of going tall and wide at the same time.
#16. Tainted Strike
Infect is a nasty way to take down your opponent or 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.
#15. Junkyo Bell
Junkyo Bell is a nice artifact for creature-heavy and creature token-creating decks. I believe this effect is especially deadly with creature token decks with cards like Bitterblossom or Scute Swarm. If you don’t care about sacrificing your creatures after they attack then pump away!
#14. Arlinn Kord / Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
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.
#13. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
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.
#12. Elusive Otter
(In British nature-documentary narration) “The Elusive Otter bides its time to make use of the Grove’s Bounty. Notice its flexibility to make another creature tall, or to support a wide family of would-be attackers. All before you bring it back from its adventure to bask in the warm forest’s light and benefit from pump spells and kill its prey.”
#11. Huatli, Radiant Champion
I’ll start by saying that I love Huatli, Radiant Champion’s +1 loyalty ability. Selesnya decks give you a ton of creatures and thus, a ton of loyalty points.
You can pump a creature by the number of creatures you control with the second loyalty ability. Huatli is a fantastic planeswalker for Selesnya creature lovers.
Enlarge is a solid sorcery pump spell. You get a ton of value for five mana.
The chunk of +7/+7 and trample, and it has to be blocked, basically guarantee it will eat a creature. At sorcery speed it's susceptible to removal spells, so be careful with your timing. Also, who doesn’t love the art of the kitty on this card?
#9. Collision // Colossus
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.
#8. Tyvar's Stand
Tyvar's Stand is a flexible spell with a combination of aspects of cards we’ve seen before, and puts all together and can quickly save your game or win you the game. A good question for deck building is: Would rather have this or Heroic Intervention?
#7. Altar of the Goyf
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 attacker gets pumped by the number of card types in all graveyards. Exalted decks often need the extra power to succeed with a lone hero.
#6. Ruinous Intrusion
Punishing is the word that comes to mind with Ruinous Intrusion. The ceiling is so high on this card. Blow up the biggest thing that you would’ve used Naturalize on and turn it into a huge, permanent pump for your creature, which could be timed for combat, or cast at your opponent's end step, when you're about to untap – both situations can lead to massive swings.
#5. Angelfire Ignition
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 almost every format, so let sparks fly!
#4. Leering Emblem
#3. Embercleave / Uncaged Fury
Do you believe in the ‘cleave? Put yourself in the declare blockers step: Did you look at the attacking 4/4 and think my nine life is safe? Here's what happens, you ultimately can spare your token and declare a 1/1 chump blocker and then the attacker gets Embercleave and represents 10 damage, game over.
Thone of Eldraine brought us Excalibur and is a blast to play, though it is a permanent pump, it often only needs to affect one turn and win games. Embercleave often ends up costing two or three mana, much like and Uncaged Fury which is also one of my favorite game-winning plays.
#2. Blazing Shoal
Instead of casting that big red spell, you exile it from your hand and this could easily be the lethal damage you need at instant speed. It’s banned in Modern, and has only been reprinted on The List.
#1. Primal Might
This gives you the ability to pump your creature by X and remove an opponent's creature. You’ll start to do lethal damage if your opponent can’t keep up with your creature advantage. Primal Might is a perfect card if you're playing aggressive and can at least splash green.
Best Pump Spell Payoffs
Good pump spells are often better when targeting good creatures. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, Atarka, World Render, or any creature equipped with Dragon Throne of Tarkir are just a few of the many great creatures to target.
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.
Tyvar's Stand – Illustrated by Kieran Yanner
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 Magic, 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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