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When Progenitor Mimic creates a copy of a creature like Nimbus Swimmer, will Progenitor Mimic copy the counter that creature has on it?

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No, counters are not copied. The Progenitor Mimic, when copying a Nimbus Swimmer, would enter the battlefield as a 0/0 creature and immediately go to the graveyard.

The Progenitor Mimic copies the Nimbus Swimmer's ability. However, X is zero everywhere except on the stack, so it will enter without +1/+1 counters and go to the graveyard the next time a player would gain priority.

107.3f If a card in any zone other than the stack has an {X} in its mana cost, the value of {X} is treated as 0, even if the value of X is defined somewhere within its text.

The spirit of 107.3f is mirrored in the rules for copying objects. The value of X can be copied, but only when it's on a spell or ability on the stack.

706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object's characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether it was kicked, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The "copiable values" are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, color indicator, card type, subtype, supertype, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by its face-down status, and by "as . . . enters the battlefield" and "as . . . is turned face up" abilities that set power and toughness (and may also set additional characteristics). Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied.

  • As a matter of fact, the original progenitor mimic will die on entry too and never survive to make copies. – doppelgreener Mar 20 at 20:55
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The easy way to understand copy abilities that a friend of mine explained to me once is to use the "Xerox rule". The Xerox rule can be simply stated as: If you took the card (the physical card, the piece of cardboard) and put it through a Xerox machine (or your favourite photocopier brand I don't judge), what would come out the other side? That's what you get when you use a copy effect.

In your specific case, the counters on the creature are not part of the physical card, and thus when you put the physical card through the Xerox, you wouldn't get counters out the other side. Therefore, no, you don't get the counters.

Note that the Xerox rule is transitive. That is to say, if you control creature A, and then cast spell B which copies creature A, then B will become (as per its card text; e.g. for Clone, it will become..., or for for Cackling Counterpart it will create a token which is...) a Xerox-copy of A (as defined above). Then if you cast spell C which copies B, then C will be a Xerox copy of A (and not a Xerox-copy of B).

There are a couple small exceptions to this rule which fall very far outside the realm of the question you are asking so I'm not going to go super deep into those here, but this should be enough to get you started with this and similar situations.

  • That's not a very good rule of thumb though. If the creature you copy has itself copied another creature, that copy effect will also be copied. Example: Clone is a blue 0/0 creature. It copies a red 1/1 goblin. Another Clone enters and copies the first Clone. The second Clone will also be a red 1/1 goblin, not a blue 0/0. – Hackworth Mar 20 at 20:39
  • My apologies, I forgot to mention that this rule is transitive. Updating the answer now. – Ertai87 Mar 20 at 20:41
  • C doesn't become a copy of A, it becomes a copy of B with its copying effects in effect. For instance, suppose you have Hill Giant and Artisan of Forms in play. You cast a spell that targets Artisan of Forms, and you choose to have Artisan of Forms become a copy of Hill Giant. Then you cast Clone copying Artisan of Forms. Clone is now a Hill Giant with Artisan of Form's ability. – Acccumulation Mar 25 at 16:41

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