Last updated on October 26, 2022
Doubling Season (Ravnica City of Guilds) | Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Counters on creatures and players are the love of many Johnny and Timmy players since you can do ingenious stuff with them and have a lot of powerful creatures. We get more options on cards that hold counters along with different counters to put on your cards with each new set.
But is doubling the counters effectively doubling the fun? I’ll answer that question today and rank the best cards that double counters on your permanents.
What Are Counter Doublers in MTG?
Biogenic Upgrade (Ravnica Allegiance) | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek
Simply put, counter doublers are cards that let you double the number of counters already on a permanent. This ranges from +1/+1 counters on a creature you control to -1/-1 counters on a creature you (ideally) don’t control to planeswalker loyalty counters, charge counters on artifacts, level-up counters, etc.
It seems like Wizards is always giving us new counters to play with these days, like flying and lifelink counters, or even ghost counters (though not all are worth doubling). Most cards only let you double the number of +1/+1 counters, like Kalonian Hydra, since they’re the most common kind, while others let you double any type of counter.
With that in mind it’s time to rank the best cards that double counters in Magic. I’m also considering cards that say ”if you would put a +1/+1 counter on a certain creature, put double the amount of counters instead” for these rankings.
Three mana for an aura that puts a single counter is bad, even for Limited, so Hydra’s Growth is really bad if you don’t have synergy. The enchanted creature also needs to survive a turn to double the counters.
Definitely skipping this.
You get at least two +1/+1 counters at instant speed with Invigorating Surge, and much more if you’re doubling counters that are already on the creature.
#17. Evolution Vat
You basically spend seven mana to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature and then double the number of counters. That’s really slow, but Evolution Vat does the trick if you have infinite mana. It can even be used as a bad tapper.
You get a lot of power with Biogenic Upgrade provided that you have at least one creature that already has some +1/+1 counters.
You get lots of counters overall, but six mana and sorcery speed is usually in the “good for Limited” range.
You can double the number of counters on equipped creatures with Sword of Hours depending on your dice-rolling skills. The card is good, but you unfortunately have a 1-in-12 chance to double counters. That’s why the card has such a low ranking.
Here you have your first counters build-around card on the list. Corpsejack Menace was designed to work well with scavenge in Limited and Standard, and it’s a good card to play in your Golgari () or Sultai () counters deck.
Branching Evolution is the same effect as Corpsejack Menace but on an enchantment, which is harder for your opponents to deal with. Not to mention that its color identity is green, so it can’t be used in multicolor EDH decks.
#11. Tanazir Quandrix
Tanazir Quandrix, besides being a 4/4 flier for 5-mana and a possible Simic () commander, doubles the number of +1/+1 counters on a creature when it enters the battlefield.
There are a lot of things helping Solidarity of Heroes be good. It’s instant speed, targets multiple creatures, and gives you a powerful force on offense and defense.
#8. Primal Vigor
Primal Vigor is almost like Doubling Season except it won’t work for planeswalkers entering the battlefield. That said, a lot of green decks are interested in this for doubling tokens and +1/+1 counters, like Selesnya () and Simic.
Gilder Bairn has a strange line of text, but let’s read it together: “For each counter on target permanent, put another of those counters on those permanent.” This basically means doubling the number of counters as they come in. The effect still applies if the permanent has different counters.
The First Tyrannic War is a Temur () saga that the Warhammer EDH decks brought us. You put a creature on the battlefield for free and then double the number of counters on a creature you control twice.
A 4/4 that hits as an 8/8 is usually good before you even consider everything else you get.
Vorel of the Hull Clade is a popular Simic commander. It’s cheap to cast and very versatile in what you can do with it. You can build it as a merfolk or hydra tribal commander, even just as a generic +1/+1 counters commander.
Deepglow Skate doubles any number of counters on the battlefield when it enters. The effect is only applied once, but it’s likely going to be very relevant depending on the battlefield.
This is basically the same effect as untapping Gilder Bairn, but applied to everyone.
Suddenly your opponent’s sagas aren’t advancing, and their planeswalkers aren’t upticking.
Finally, the doubling godfather. There’s a lot of stuff that Doubling Season does from doubling tokens, counters in general and even +1/+1 counters. One of the best applications is to cast a planeswalker and ultimate on the first turn since the counters are doubled on ETB.
Best Counter Doubler Payoffs
Even Mark Rosewater is a fan of doubling since putting counters on creatures is a well-supported mechanic, so there’s no shortage of cards that benefit from doubling counters. The best examples are in the Ravnica Simic cards, which usually have a theme that benefits from manipulating counters.
The first place to look is on creatures that gain +1/+1 counters and benefit from getting them, like Fathom Mage. You draw that many cards whenever you put counters on it. Benthic Biomancer is a similar card that also allows you to loot.
Champion of Lambholt makes it so that your creatures are extra hard to block as long as it’s a pile of +1/+1 counters.
Strionic Resonator can copy the triggered ability if you’re doubling counters all around.
Zaxara, the Exemplary lets you make gigantic hydras if you have the means to double the +1/+1 counters on creatures.
Not every permanent with counters is a creature. Planeswalkers benefit greatly from extra counters, and there’s a reason why Doubling Season and similar cards haven’t been reprinted in a Standard-legal set. Every single planeswalker that has a powerful ultimate is deadly with Doubling Season.
Yes. If you have a creature with two +1/+1 counters on it and you double the number of counters with Vorel, the Hull Clade, you basically put two +1/+1 counters on the creature, which matters for cards like Simic Ascendancy.
Yes, but only if you cast the planeswalker when you already have Doubling Season in play. The rules say that when you cast a planeswalker, say, Jace the Mind Sculptor, you put three loyalty counters on it as it enters play. Doubling Season says that you put double the counters whenever you would put counters on a permanent. So, Jace enters the battlefield with six loyalty counters.
But what happens if you use Jace’s +2? You add just two counters on your blue planeswalker because activating a planeswalker’s ability isn’t the same as putting counters for Doubling Season. When you use a planeswalker ability it gains or loses counters, but Doubling Season only doubles the number of counters that the planeswalker enters the battlefield with.
Zaxara, the Exemplary (Commander 2020) | Illustration by Simon Dominic
That’s all for today on counter doubling. I think counter doublers are double the fun indeed, and it’s a fun theme to build an EDH deck around, be it a Simic Vorel of the Hull Clade or mono-green Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider deck.
What’s your favorite doubling counters card? What card are you most inclined to double counters? Let me know in the comments section below or in the Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: