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I'm building a deck with Hangarback Walker and Hardened Scales, and I was wondering if I could cast Hangarback for X=0, and it would activate Hardened Scales. Just a thought.

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No, and for a very straightforward reason: Hardened Scales requires that at least one counter be placed on the creature before it adds any additional counters:

Hardened Scales

The key text here is 'If one or more'. You're trying to put zero counters on the Hangarback Walker, and so Hardened Scales never processes.

  • Oh! Thank you, I guess I wasn't paying attention to the full ability. – Erik Dec 3 '15 at 2:12
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Casting Hangarback Walker for 0, and it will enter the battlefield with zero +1/+1 counters. Since Hardened Scales requires "one or more" +1/+1 counters to be put on the permanent to trigger the replacement effect, Hardened Scales won't trigger. Hangarback Walker will Enter the Battlefield as a 0/0, and die due to state based Actions.

If you want to play Hangarback Walker for free, there are options:

  1. Have a permanent in play that provides an anthem effect to your creatures of at least +0/+1.

  2. Have it enter with a +1/+1 counter for Free. Zameck Guildmage or Master Biomancer.

Graft is not an option. Though the triggered effect of the creature will happen, state based actions will kill the 0/0 Hangarback Walker before the trigger can be placed on the stack.

  • While relevant, this is tangential and not actually answering the question. – doppelgreener Dec 3 '15 at 5:54
  • Actually, he answered the question and then provided additional relevant "tangential" information. Nothing wrong with that. Going on a tangent myself, the answer wasn't any different than the preceding answer and the additional info should, IMHO, just have been added as a comment to the accepted answer. – Steve Mangiameli Dec 8 '15 at 16:10
  • The answer was initially solely tangential, to provide the effect desired by the Question. It was than edited to address the specific question asked. – Drunk Cynic Dec 8 '15 at 19:08
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I would just like to add to Steven Stadnicki's answer that even if it was a triggered ability that put counters on creatures when they enter the battlefield it still will not work.

State base actions would see a creature with zero toughness and it would be put in the graveyard before the triggered ability gets a chance to put any counters on it.

So lets say for instance instead of the scales you had Aquastrand Spider it still would not work for the reason I stated.

  • This is tangential, and doesn't actually answer the question. – murgatroid99 Dec 3 '15 at 17:23
  • Ability is triggered, but it isn't put on the stack. – Drunk Cynic Dec 3 '15 at 21:08
  • Notice that Hardened Scales effect is not a triggered ability but a static replacement effect. – sinsedrix Jan 28 '18 at 17:32

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