Creature pumping

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Creature pumping is a slang term used by Magic R&D to describe spells or abilities that modify the power and/or toughness of creatures. Each color has its own way to this.[1][2]

+N/+N[edit | edit source]

White[edit | edit source]

White's pumping by instants is usually +2/+2 or smaller, but it most often will grant an ability as well. The one exception for white is that it can get larger pumps if restricted to blockers.

Blue[edit | edit source]

All colors have access to Auras that grant +N/+N. Blue usually doesn't do much more than +1/+1.

Black[edit | edit source]

Black is primary in straightforward pumping by activation costs on creatures. This is mostly seen on Shades and usually requires black mana. Black will occasionally get smaller buffs by instants, usually with an ability added.

Green[edit | edit source]

Green is secondary in straightforward pumping by activation costs on creatures. These often are unlimited but usually only when the activation cost is high enough that multiple activations don't happen until the late game. Green is primary in one-off pumping, the almost exclusive Rootwalla-ability. The most common use of pumping by instants is Giant Growth–like effects, usually +3/+3 but it can vary a little. Green is the one color that regularly grants +3/+3 and above on auras.

+N/+0[edit | edit source]

On creatures[edit | edit source]

This ability, as a repeatable activation, is what referred to as "firebreathing." It's primary seen on red creatures. White tends to get one-time upgrades of usually +1/+0. Green gets +N/+0 when it's not intended for it to survive the fight.

On spells[edit | edit source]

Black and red are the two colors that tend to pump power as a spell without also pumping toughness. White does it occasionally as a combat trick but usually never more than +1/+0.

On auras[edit | edit source]

Red is the color most often to have just power-pumping Auras (including "firebreathing" Auras). White and black do it occasionally with white tending to go no higher than +2/+0. Blue and green do it on rare occasion with blue, like white, sticking at +2/+0 or lower.

+N/-N[edit | edit source]

On creatures[edit | edit source]

Blue tends to use this mostly on Elementals and Shapeshifters, flavored as shape-changing. Black and red use this on occasion to play up their reckless side.

On spells[edit | edit source]

As this is mostly used as a kill spell, the ability resides mostly in black.

On auras[edit | edit source]

These tend to be flavored as "push your luck" cards that can double as creature kill. Black will go up to -3 on the toughness, whereas red tends to stop at -2. Blue will do a "make me a shapeshifter" flavored Aura from time to time.

-N/+N[edit | edit source]

On creatures[edit | edit source]

This is also used in blue on Elementals and Shapeshifters, often on the same cards with the +N/-N. White, on rare occasion, will have an activation that uses this defensively.

-N/+N[edit | edit source]

Almost never seen, but primary in white on spells and auras.

-N/-0[edit | edit source]

In blue, this is shrinking its target. In black it's usually some form of torture.

+0/+N[edit | edit source]

White used to do this quite a bit, but R&D has backed off because it tends to just clog up the board. Green also uses this on occasion.

Team pumping[edit | edit source]

White is the color most likely to pump its team, most often with +1/+1, but it will occasionally go up to +2/+2. Green's team pump starts at +3/+3 and often also adds trample. Team pump that only pumps power is most often done in red, usually affecting attacking creatures. White will sometimes pump its team's power without pumping toughness (although it more often pumps both).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mark Rosewater (May 18, 2015). "Modern Mailbag". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.