+1/+1 Counters

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+1/+1 counters are a mechanic in Magic that have enough cards that synergize with each other to be used an an Archetype. Each counter increases both the power and toughness of a creature they are on, and therefore in enough numbers can turn any creature into a major threat.

Cards that focus on +1/+1 counters are primary in green and secondary in blue, black and white.

Popular Cards & Commanders

Examples of +1/+1 Counter cards include:

Popular +1/+1 Counter commanders include:

Strategy

Go Tall

Vorel of the Hull Clade, Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, The Ozolith, Deepglow Skate, Gilder Bairn

Go Wide

Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Cathars' Crusade, Felidar Retreat, Thrummingbird

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

Go Tall

  • Many +1/+1 counter decks have the capability to put a large number of counters on their commander and attack using commander damage. Because commander damage allows a player to deal only 21 damage instead of a full 40, they can reduce the amount to time that is traditionally required to defeat an opponent.

Go Wide

  • +1/+1 counters on a mass of creatures can act as a permanent overrun style effect, granting a much wider window for lethal attacks (i.e. not just one turn) while many cards that care about those counters can grant evasion and may be more permanent or recurable than other sources of evasion

Weaknesses

Go Tall

  • Go Tall +1/+1 counters decks are often vulnerable to removal spells, generally putting all of their eggs into one basket, rather than spreading their +1/+1 counters across multiple creatures, meaning a single pinpoint removal spell not only removes the creature, but may drastically weaken many cards on the deck whose effectiveness is based on the power of their strongest creature. Rebuilding from that point can sometimes be very difficult.
  • Like most aggressive strategies, +1/+1 counters decks rely almost entirely upon the combat step. This means their play patterns tend to be predictable, which allows other players to predict their actions more easily and take steps to prepare for them ahead of time. A single large creature may be restricted to focusing on one player at a time, and therefore not able to eliminate multiple enemies at once. Reliance upon combat can also make it difficult to circumvent hyper-defensive decks such as Pillowfort strategies, especially those that use Fog effects.
  • Many +1/+1 counters decks create an intentionally large threat on the battlefield, which can have the unintended consequence of turning that creature's controller into the 'archenemy', or Public Enemy Number 1. Other players, even those that the +1/+1 counters player does not intend to attack, may strongly fear that player and decide to eliminate the threat before it becomes impossible to deal with. The general lack of hidden information, combined with the large threat they put onto the battlefield, can invite removal from all other players at the table, and removal from multiple players can be particularly tough to overcome.

Go Wide

  • Like most aggressive strategies, +1/+1 counters decks rely almost entirely upon the combat step. This means their play patterns tend to be predictable, which allows other players to predict their actions more easily and take steps to prepare for them ahead of time and can make it difficult to circumvent hyper-defensive decks such as Pillowfort strategies, especially those that use Fog effects.
  • Decks that use a large number of creatures with +1/+1 counters decks are often vulnerable to board wipes. Needing to commit a large number of creatures to the board to help ensure victory, they risk overcommiting and having no backup plan if they lose all their creatures in a single board wipe, which may also drastically reduce the effectiveness of certain effects such as proliferate, which are predicated on already having creatures with counters. Rebuilding from that point can sometimes be very difficult.

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