Proliferate is a mechanic which debuted in Scars of Mirrodin block. It recently returned in War of the Spark and has now come back again for Phyrexia: All Will Be One. The reminder text for proliferate states: “Choose any number of permanents and/or players, then give each another counter of each kind already there”. In other words, Proliferate lets you put more good counters on your cards which already have good counters on them, and put more bad counters on your opponent’s stuff with bad counters.
There are many different kinds of decks that want to run cards with proliferate. Planeswalker focussed “Superfriends” Commanders like Carth the Lion will want them to give their walkers more loyalty counters. +1/+1 counter Commanders, for example Hamza, Guardian of Arashin, use proliferate cards to buff their creatures. Poison counter Commanders like Fynn the Fangbearer want proliferate cards to help them get their opponents up to 10 poison counters to close out the game.
Whatever sort of counter-based Commander you’re building around, the cards on this list should be helpful.
9. Norn’s Choirmaster
A new card from the Corrupting Influence preconstructed deck. Norn’s Choirmaster is both a relevant threat, as a five mana 5/4 flyer with first strike, and has a repeatable proliferate effect. Norn’s Choirmaster lets you proliferate whenever your Commander enters play or attacks. Remember the Choirmaster doesn’t need to attack itself for its ability to activate, so you can hold this card back to ward off your opponents’ attackers with 5 or fewer toughness, whilst still proliferating away.
8. Evolution Sage
Chances are you’re going to be playing a land on most of your turns, potentially multiple lands if you’re in Green. Evolution Sage allows you to proliferate whenever you play a land, rewarding you for an action you would be undertaking anyway. This card has been reprinted in three different preconstructed decks, once in Zendikar Rising, once in New Capenna, and again in Phyrexia: All Will Be One. It’s easy to see why any counter-focused deck that’s in Green would benefit from the presence of an Evolution Sage.
7. Staff of Compleation
6. Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting
One of the new compleated Planeswalkers from Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Vraska, Betrayal’s Sting has a selection of powerful abilities. She can proliferate, whilst drawing you cards and use her -2 to remove threats.
This card forms a powerful combo with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. If you play Vraska whilst Vorinclex is already in play, then she enters with twice as many loyalty counters and can immediately use her ultimate. This will actually finish off an opponent immediately as Vorinclex will cause Vraska to generate twice as many poison counters, giving an opponent with none 18, rather than nine.
5. Sword of Truth and Justice
Part of the iconic sword cycle which began in 2004 with the cards Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow in Darksteel. Sword of Truth and Justice keeps the equipped card protected from White and Blue. These are useful colors to have protection from, White especially because the creature won’t be targetable by removal effects like Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile. This card both gives you a +1/+1 counter and then allows you to proliferate, functionally giving you +2/+2 and ensuring that you will always have at least one counter to proliferate.
4. Inexorable Tide
Earlier on this list we discussed Evolution Sage a card that lets you proliferate every time you play a land. Inexorable Tide gives you even more opportunities to proliferate, activating every time you cast a spell. You can proliferate an absolutely absurd number of times every turn by playing this card alongside Tekuthal, Inquiry Dominus (a card which was sadly ineligible for this list, as it only doubles proliferate effects on other cards and doesn’t actually proliferate itself). Counter-based Commander decks in Blue should definitely consider this card.
3. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
The father of machines and the founder of Phyrexia, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is a great sacrifice Commander with a useful Proliferate effect. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician allows you to pay life and sacrifice creatures to spread -1/-1 counters around and draw cards. This card also lets you proliferate at the cost of two black mana and discarding a card. Using a few reanimation effects also enables you to get back either the creatures sacrificed to Yawgmoth’s first abilities or discarded to activate his second.
2. Contagion Engine
Proliferating once is good, but proliferating twice is even better. Contagion Engine gives every creature controlled by one opponent a -1/-1 counter and allows you to proliferate twice at the cost of four mana. This card is useful because it enables itself. Even if you have no other counters in play when you bring out your Contagion Engine, it provides a large amount of -1/-1 counters which you can then multiply using its proliferate effect. Use flicker effects to bring the engine in and out of play, to give multiple opponents boards full of -1/-1 counters and reuse its proliferate effect.
1. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
The most popular Commander of all time according to EDHREC data. More than 17’000 Atraxa decks have been logged online, despite the card’s $40+ dollar price tag. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice has a huge host of impactful keyword abilities and allows you to proliferate at the end of every turn. At the start of this article, we talked about the wide variety of different decks that want Proliferate effects. The secret to Atraxa’s popularity is that this card is a fantastic Commander for any kind of counter-based deck. There are Atraxa Superfriends builds, Atraxa poison decks, and Atraxa +1/+1 and -1/-1 counter builds. You can even attempt to mash all of these different strategies together into one powerful Phyrexian proliferating counter deck.