Last updated on May 11, 2022
Streets of New Capenna captured Magic players’ attention with its flashy new keywords and, most importantly, its new counter with unique abilities. The shield counter, the counter and mechanic unique to the Bant-aligned Brokers faction (), opens up some interesting strategies. A lot of players can see the obvious benefit to proliferating multiple shield counters, effectively making your creatures impossible to remove.
While brewing just such a deck with Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice at the helm, of course, I stopped to think, “What other sorts of weird counters could Atraxa proliferate? Would any of them be useful?”
I’ve made it my mission to find all the weirdest counters in Magic. Let’s jump right in and see what odd things we can unearth from Magic’s past!
Luxior, Giada’s Gift | Illustration by Volkan Baga
Before we get too far, I have to set some ground rules as to what constitutes a “weird” counter. A weird counter is any counter unique to a single card or cycle of cards that doesn’t interact with other counters in the usual ways. It usually only appears in a single block and often only a single set within that block. They’ll also have few to no support cards e.g., there are no cards that make or move Zendikar’s quest counters.
I’ll basically be omitting all of the standard counters in the game including +1/+1 counters, -1/-1 counters, loyalty, saga, energy, and charge counters. Each of these counters make regular appearances in your local EDH pod, and Atraxa decks with these themes have been done to death.
And these also have to be weird counters that you can proliferate with Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, so no red cards (this time).
I’ll be ranking these weird counters by their power, utility, and payoff when proliferated. The best weird counters benefit the most from proliferate or have the best outcome when a certain number is reached.
Venarian Gold is the only card in the game that makes a sleep counter, a convoluted attempt at making blue’s signature tap-down effect work in Magic’s early years. In the magical Christmas-land scenario this list demands, proliferating sleep counters could turn this almost-unplayable card into a sub-optimal one!
Two cards make gold counters, but you’d only want to proliferate the ones on Dragon’s Hoard. Aurification can turn opponents’ creatures to gold with a Midas touch-esque ability but it takes all the counters it makes with it when it dies, so proliferating them won’t make them stick around any longer.
Verse counters appeared on a cycle of enchantments in Urza’s Saga. Each enchantment in the cycle puts a verse counter on itself during your upkeep and has an activated ability that requires you sacrifice it for a pay-off scaled to the verse counters.
Hoofprints of the Stag is an enchantment that lets you exchange four hoofprint counters (generated by drawing a card) for a 4/4 flying elemental creature. For an extra three mana. And only during your turn. This enchantment still falls flat to the likes of Luminarch Ascension, even if you count on proliferating every hoofprint counter you need.
Ominous Seas is a fairly recent card from Ikoria that creates foreshadow counters when you draw cards. Eight of these counters can be exchanged for an 8/8 Kraken creature token. Assuming you can quickly proliferate those counters you might be pumping out quite a few of those Kraken tokens each turn.
Fallen Empires and Mercadian Masques both played with the idea of storage counters on lands, with Time Spiral completing the cycle with two color lands. Each land effectively “banks” one mana in storage and lets you remove as many counters as you need later for the same amount of mana.
They’re slow to build up, but a proliferated storage land could grant you a ton of mana right when you need it for that big Exsanguinate.
Unlike storage counters, depletion counters are on their lands as they enter the battlefield. The depletion lands also add two mana for each depletion counter, but they’re sacrificed when they run out. These lands are a smidge better than the storage lands since the extra mana doesn’t have a downside if you never run out of depletions.
It might look like Endless Scream doesn’t make counters at first glance, but it actually needs to generate scream counters to track what the caster paid for the X cost because of some wonky wording from its Tempest printing. Proliferating a single scream counter only gives that creature +1/+0, so it’s a fairly low payoff for what could amount to a significant mana investment.
It’s fun to say “scream counter” though, so I’d still run it.
There’s a single card that creates a music counter, and its Ice Age’s Musician appropriately enough. It effectively gives a creature an upkeep cost equal to the number of music counters it has on it.
This can swell from being a minor annoyance to a slightly larger inconvenience by quickly proliferating those counters. The counters remain after Musician leaves the field, too, meaning you won’t have to over-invest in its own cumulative upkeep cost.
Icatian Moneychanger is the only source of credit counters in Magic. Another of Fallen Empire’s weird ones, the Moneychanger banks three life for you when it enters the battlefield, generates one credit counter per turn, then returns your life with interest for each of those credit counters. It’s a fairly slow lifegain tactic, but you could see this pay off in as little as two turns with an aggressive amount of proliferation!
Three cards make wish counters: Djinn of Wishes, Ring of Three Wishes, and Wishclaw Talisman. Each has a powerful effect with a hard limit on how many times it can be activated. But proliferating those counters can easily mitigate that restriction.
Strixhaven Stadium introduced the point counter to Magic. It’s a fun and thematic game-ender; score 10 goals on your opponents and you win! You won’t be able to finish off more than one player at once without some significant pre-combat proliferation, but it’s not completely impossible.
There was only one card that used the omen counter until recently: Celestial Convergence. This prophecy enchantment effectively sets a seven-turn clock on the game, giving the win to the player with the highest life total. It’s a classic win condition for a lifegain deck, but you typically want to remove the counters from it rather than proliferate them.
Crimson Vow released two new omen counter cards: Foreboding Statue and Soulcipher Board. Foreboding Statue is a mana dork that becomes a 5/5 after it counts up three omens, and Soulcipher Board lets you surveil through your deck until it loses all of its omens and then transforms into a 3/2 flier. Proliferate only helps the statue transform, not the board, so these are both mid options at best.
Leaving this card unanswered turns everyone’s board into a threat. Even those lowly Llanowar Elves will have enough power to inflict some serious damage on a wide open player after a few turns.
Three cards use flood counters in Magic. The first, Bounty of the Luxa, ramps your mana or draws a card and starts counting flood counters. Proliferating the flood counters on Bounty unfortunately does nothing of real value since the mana gained isn’t cumulative to the flood counters removed.
The other two make use of the flood counters in a more traditional way. Aquitect’s Will and Quicksilver Fountain turn lands into Islands by placing flood counters on them. This is a classic way for blue players with lots of islandwalking creatures to sneak out a victory. But placing multiple flood counters on a single land won’t make any mechanical difference. It won’t become the mythical “Island Island” and tap for two blue mana or anything fun like that.
I know it shouldn’t but sometimes it feels like a personal attack on me when WotC has to errata some text on one of my favorite old cards. Dissension’s Palliation Accord used to be the only card to create shield counters, but they just had to take that away from us and give it to the new kids on the street in New Capenna. Palliation Accord will have to remove palliation counters from itself to prevent damage for now.
Who could forget Helix Pinnacle? A favorite wincon of big mana decks, this eventide enchantment is the only card to generate tower counters, which are, of course, proliferate-able!
Pinnacle’s shroud ability is also great in this case. Proliferate doesn’t need to target to increase the counters so it’s’ safe from removal while still benefiting from Contagion Engine and Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice.
Five artifacts from Amonkhet create brick counters. They’re all appropriately great architectural structures: Oracle’s Vault, Pyramid of the Pantheon, Edifice of Authority, Luxa River Shrine, and Hour of Devastation’s Sunset Pyramid.
They’re all pretty good choices for proliferation, too! The brick counters are meant to count the number of times their weaker abilities have resolved, building up to a more powerful second ability. You can skip that second and third activation altogether and go straight into free spells from your library with Oracle’s Vault with proliferate.
Fade counters, later reworked into time counters with the vanishing mechanic, are removed one at a time at the beginning of your upkeep. The permanent dies when the last one is removed.
While you’ll actually want to remove every last time counter from some permanents, like Reality Acid or Chronozoa, most are more valuable if they can stick around. Waning Wurm and Ravaging Riftwurm are undercosted powerhouses that can warp a board if they stick around for too long.
Both Stronghold’s Pursuit of Knowledge and Innistrad’s Grimoire of the Dead need three study counters to activate. And they’re strong effects. Grimoire works like a 5-mana Rise of the Dark Realms while you never have to skip more than one draw to start generating study counters on Pursuit.
Fungus creatures have been spitting out spore counters since all the way back in Fallen Empires. The humble Thallid and its successors can pump out a Saproling creature token for every three spore counters they get.
I’ve always loved the thematic synergy between these gross little guys. Tending my lovely garden of plants and fungus until it’s ready to rise up and devour my enemies, Plants vs Zombies style.
Books are a fairly common appearance in Magic card art, so it should come as no surprise that more than a few make page counters. Mazemind Tome, Private Research, and Barrin’s Codex are all fine cards, but Tome of Legends is the definitive page counter king. It’s easily repeatable card draw built special for Commander, so it’s hard to beat.
But Gutter Grime has some potential. Access to proliferate means you can grow your Oozes without having to sacrifice another creature to the sewers.
Rise of the Eldrazi’s “level up” creature mechanic was short-lived. Some of the level up creatures like Lighthouse Chronologist and Lord of Shatterskull Pass are super strong when leveled all the way up. Others, like Kabira Vindicator and Student of Warfare, take way too much mana for very little payoff. The best way to use level up creatures is to bypass that mana investment and just proliferate that first level up counter.
I’m sure you’re as heartbroken as I am to learn that the Class enchantments from Forgotten Realms do not use level counters. In fact, they don’t use counters at all despite being visually similar to sagas, which do use counters.
Zendikar and Worldwake each included enchantments that were thematically linked to adventures. They represented heroes delving for treasure (Quest for Ancient Secrets), seeking out new lands (Khalni Heart Expedition), or realizing their full potential (Beastmaster Ascension). Proliferating the quest counters is a cheeky way to skip the requirements needed to get full access to each of these powerful enchantments.
For example, Luminarch Ascension is already a very fast route to pumping out a 4/4 angel on the cheap. You could see Ascension’s second ability become available as soon as the next opponent ends their turn with access to the right instant-speed proliferaters.
Now that I’ve burdened you with this unnecessary knowledge, allow me to show you an outlet for all that pent up distress!
Luxior, Giada’s Gift
Luxior, Giada’s Gift is the real reason behind this whole list. My mind whirled with the possibilities of what horrendous combinations I could make on my little mousepad rectangle with my little cardboard rectangles.
Luxior is the lynchpin holding this fantastical exercise together. With a little bit of elbow grease you can have a lot of fun with this equipment. Animate The Ozolith with Ensoul Artifact or use Starfield of Nyx to animate your Beastmaster Ascension, then go to town beating your opponents down with the most immersion-breaking experience ever.
Deepglow Skate is the essential counter doubler and patches the hole that a lot of these weird counter cards suffer from. Not generating them fast enough, that is.
Khalni Heart Expedition | Illustration by Jason Chan
Let me be clear: nobody asked me to do this. A list of every possible weird counter we could proliferate with an Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice isn’t particularly useful, but it is a fun exercise to show the inconsistencies of Magic’s design throughout history.
What do you think? Are there any important weird counters I left out? And what sort of weird counters can we proliferate in red? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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