So my brother play Aetherborn Marauder. He wants to move three +1/+1 counters from a 4/4 with no previous interaction with any +1/+1 counters. I insist that a +1/+1 counter must have been put on it first, and that its base P/T are not applicable due to the use of the word "counter".

Anyone able to quote the rulebook for this one?

  • 4
    Yes, you can't MOVE counters from a permanent without counters obviously. Finding this in the comp rules might be harder. Commented May 11, 2017 at 8:12

2 Answers 2


From the rules :

121.5. If an effect says to “move” a counter, it means to take that counter from the object it’s currently on and put it onto a second object. If the first and second objects are the same object, nothing happens. If the first object has no counters, nothing happens; the second object doesn’t get a counter put on it. If the second object (or any possible second objects) is no longer in the correct zone when the effect would move the counter, nothing happens; a counter isn’t removed from the first object.

Your Aetherborn Marauder doesn't get any counter if the target of its ETB ability doesn't have counters when the ability resolve.

  • I didn't see "target" in the phrasing of its ETB. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:08

A creature's power and toughness aren;t counters in and of themselves, they are characteristics of the 'Creature' card type. From the Comprehensive rules, ad 302:

302.4. Power and toughness are characteristics only creatures have.

302.4a A creature’s power is the amount of damage it deals in combat.

302.4b A creature’s toughness is the amount of damage needed to destroy it.

302.4c To determine a creature’s power and toughness, start with the numbers printed in its lower right corner, [...]

These can then be altered using enchantments, instants, sorceries, abilities of sources such as other creatures or planeswalkers, and artifacts/equipment. Most of these effects are temporary in that they only last until end of turn (Giant Growth, or while the source is in play (Glorious Anthem). And sometimes this boost is done using counters which stay with the permanent when its source leaves play (Bond Beetle).

Counters are governed by their own set of rules:

  1. Counters

121.1. A counter is a marker placed on an object or player that modifies its characteristics and/or interacts with a rule, ability, or effect. Counters are not objects and have no characteristics.[...]

And onwards...

In conclusion, you can only move a counter from a permanent when that counter is there in the first place, and base P/T are not counters.

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