When a creature with undying comes back on the battlefield, does it get a +1/+1 counter or is the counter already on it?

For example: I have a Strangleroot Geist, a Hardened Scales and an Animation Module. My Geist is destroyed and comes back "with" a +1/+1 counter on it, does the counter is "placed" so it triggers Hardened Scale or Animation Module?


There is an ambiguity on counters that are placed and cards that come with the counter already on it... are they "placed" anyway?

Does Winding Constrictor behaves as a replacement effect like Hardened Scales and do they cumulate?

Does Walking Ballista +1/+1 initial counters behaves like on undying?


1 Answer 1



Counters are always placed onto objects (they never exist without having been placed).

121.6. Some spells and abilities refer to counters being “placed” on an object. This refers to putting counters on that object while it’s on the battlefield and also to an object that’s given counters as it enters the battlefield.

A ruling on Hardened Scales (similar cards such as Doubling Season and Winding Constrictor have similar rulings) clarifies this:

“Placed on a creature you control” includes that creature entering the battlefield with +1/+1 counters on it.

When undying triggers and returns a creature to the battlefield, that creature is entering the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.

702.92a Undying is a triggered ability. “Undying” means “When this permanent is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner’s control with a +1/+1 counter on it.”

As a technical note, Hardened Scales does work (resulting in the additional counter) but doesn't trigger ("trigger" has a specific meaning in Magic) because it's a replacement effect, not a triggered ability. This means it modifies the way something happens as it happens. Triggered abilities are placed onto the stack as a reaction to something happening and then resolve separately.

Added information:

Winding Constrictor and Hardened Scales both provide replacement effects. When an event occurs that they would replace, you choose which one happens. Because the replaced event still places counters, the other one will still happen afterwards. Each replacement effect can only modify an event once, so you don't have an endless chain. You'll get one extra counter for each Winding Constrictor and each Hardened Scales.

For Walking Ballista, as detailed earlier in the question, counters on an object always get there by being "placed". Yes, Walking Ballista is given counters as it enters the battlefield, which is part of rule 121.6.

  • I don't understand what you mean by does work but doesn't trigger. Can I place an additional counter on the Geist with Hardened Scales? Can I pay {1} to create a Servo with Animation module?
    – sinsedrix
    Feb 3, 2017 at 10:52
  • Hardened Scale doesn't trigger, it creates a replacement effect. That is necessary so you don't create an infinite loop with just 2 Hardened Scales on the field. The Geist does trigger Animation Module, with or without Hardened Scales.
    – Hackworth
    Feb 3, 2017 at 10:57
  • 1
    Yes, you can do both. The word trigger has a game meaning in MTG which describes what happens with Animation Module but not with Hardened Scales. There's a bit too much for me to go into in comments, but AM has a triggered ability (it causes something to try to happen after the triggering event) and Hardened Scales has a static ability that provides a continuous replacement effect (it floats around, changing the game rules about how certain things occur).
    – Samthere
    Feb 3, 2017 at 10:59
  • 1
    @sinsedrix Also, if it was a triggered ability, it would cause itself to trigger again and again. Triggered abilities trigger every time the condition is true (so every time a counter is placed). As a replacement effect, it applies only once.
    – Rainbolt
    Feb 3, 2017 at 14:04
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    @sinsedrix I've added more information to help your understanding of the situation. However, in general, if you want to ask other things, it's better to ask a new question than to invalidate answers from your existing question. If you'd like a more detailed understanding of how multiple replacement effects interact, and find that your answers are being closed for having duplicates, ask for an explanation in chat. :)
    – Samthere
    Feb 15, 2017 at 10:02

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