-1/-1 counter

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-1/-1 counter
Use: Power and Toughness alteration
Placed On: Creatures
Introduced: Arabian Nights
Last Used: Amonkhet
Gatherer search for "-1/-1 counter"

-1/-1 counters are the second most common counter type in Magic, following +1/+1 counters. They were introduced on the Arabian Nights card Unstable Mutation.[1]

Description[edit | edit source]

Punch card from Amonkhet with -1/-1 counters

-1/-1 counters appear in all five colors, but are primarily in black and secondarily in green. Flavorwise, putting -1/-1 counters on a creature usually indicates a character being scarred or infected.

For ease of comprehension, blocks tend to focus on only a single type of counter on creatures. -1/-1 counters are used less often than +1/+1 counters because they have less available design space, due to their similarity to +1/+1 counters[1] and their capacity to kill creatures and thereby simplify the game state.[2]

As a further concession to mitigate complexity, +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters are the only power/toughness altering counters used in new products.[1] Additionally, they are never used in the same block, to minimize confusion in limited play.[3][4] A small handful of cards from the earliest sets still use other, obsolete counters.

At least one set between 2015 and 2022 was expected to use -1/-1 counters,[5] and they are currently ranked at a 2 on the Storm Scale.[6] The set was later revealed to be Amonkhet, which features creatures that come into play with -1/-1 counters and shed them off each turn for an effect.[7]

Cancellation With +1/+1 Counters[edit | edit source]

When both +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters are present on the same creature, they are immediately removed in matched pairs until only one or the other remains.

From the Comprehensive Rules (Aether Revolt (January 20, 2017))

  • 121.3. If a permanent has both a +1/+1 counter and a -1/-1 counter on it, N +1/+1 and N -1/-1 counters are removed from it as a state-based action, where N is the smaller of the number of +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters on it. See rule 704.

Mechanics[edit | edit source]

Because +1/+1 counters are the default creature counter,[8] -1/-1 counters have been used by far fewer mechanics. There are currently three keyworded mechanics using -1/-1 counters, all of them from Lorwyn–Shadowmoor block or Scars of Mirrodin block:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Mark Rosewater. (February 11 2008.) “+1/+1 Size Fits All”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater. (August 14 2014.) "Why are -1/-1 counters so infrequent?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  3. Mark Rosewater. (November 15 2014.) "Wither and undying in the same set?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  4. Mark Rosewater. (June 9 2015.) "Wouldn't the rule...", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  5. Mark Rosewater. (April 11 2015.) "When are -1/-1 counters coming back?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  6. Mark Rosewater. (2017-02-18.) "Once upon a time, you rating -1/-1 counters at 1 on the Storm Scale. Should they be ranked higher, since they're deciduous, rather than evergreen?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  7. Dave Humpherys. (April 4, 2017.) “Developing Amonkhet”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Mark Rosewater. (September 26 2005.) “+1/+1 For the Road”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.