First off, let me preface with that I do know that +1 and -1 counters cancel out.

Now, the cards for this play are:

1 : Arcbound Worker(or any modular 1 critter)
1+: Hardened Scales
1 : Cauldron of Souls.

To set the field, all are in play, and Arcbound worker has 2 +1/+1 counters on it. (Achieved when it was brought into play, triggering Hardened Scales)

The question is, if I give the Worker persist, have it swing, and try to bring it back from the grave, does it come back with a -1/-1 counter and a +1/+1 counter, and an additional +1/+1 counter thus resulting in a possible loop? Or do the counters cancel out before I can say Scales triggers?

  • 4
    It's not a loop in any case, as you'd have to activate Cauldron of Souls every time Arcbound Worker re-enters the battlefield to give it Persist again, and nothing you described allows you to do this. Sep 30, 2016 at 13:29
  • 2
    What is the actual question that, if answered, would help you determine whether the cards involved cause an infinite loop? That's the question that you should be asking.
    – Rainbolt
    Sep 30, 2016 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


The Arcbound Worker will return with 2 +1/+1 counters and one -1/-1 counter on it, resulting in one +1/+1 counter after state-based actions.

Hardened Scales' ability is not a triggered ability. It is a static ability with a replacement effect, so while it is in play, the Worker will always enter the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it; the game will never see the Worker with a single +1/+1 counter on it before state-based actions or other effects are processed.

Therefore, when the Persisted Worker returns to play with Hardened Scales on the battlefield, the Worker will have 2 +1/+1 counters (from Modular and Hardened Scales) and a -1/-1 from Persist. State-based actions cause the -1/-1 and a +1/+1 counter to cancel out, resulting in a Worker with one +1/+1 counter on it before a player gets priority.


Hardened Scales creates a replacement effect. The event of Arcbound Worker receiving one +1/+1 counter is replaced with it receiving two +1/+1 counters. Once a replacement effect has replaced an event, it does not apply again to the resulting event:

614.5. A replacement effect doesn’t invoke itself repeatedly; it gets only one opportunity to affect an event or any modified events that may replace it. Example: A player controls two permanents, each with an ability that reads “If a creature you control would deal damage to a permanent or player, it deals double that damage to that permanent or player instead.” A creature that normally deals 2 damage will deal 8 damage—not just 4, and not an infinite amount.

Since the second +1/+1 is part of the replacement effect, it is not replaced. You just get two counters, and there is no loop.

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