-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
-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 and their capacity to kill creatures and thereby simplify the game state.[1][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] That 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.[6] -1/-1 counters are currently ranked at a 2 on the Storm Scale.[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 (Commander 2018 (August 10, 2018))

  • 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. Dave Humpherys. (April 4, 2017.) “Developing Amonkhet”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. 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.
  8. Mark Rosewater. (September 26 2005.) “+1/+1 For the Road”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
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