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I'm new to proliferate and my friend was playing a proliferate deck. He had a creature with 3 +1/+1s on it and he played a Bloom Hulk. He said that his creature gained 3 +1/+1s because of proliferate and I thought that was weird.

We looked it up and it said you gain 1 for each kind of counter, so does that mean he gets 3 for each +1/+1 counter already on the creature or just 1 +1/+1 counter?

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  • Proliferate gives you the opportunity to choose different types of counters too, placed on different permanents or players; and each of these counters will increase by one unit thanks to the proliferate ability. But under no circumstances is it possible to increase the number of counters, placed on each permanent / player chosen,by more than one unit. – ManoFromBerlin Feb 3 at 10:16
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    @ManoFromBerlin "But under no circumstances is it possible to increase the number of counters [...] by more than one". That's usually true, but not quite always the case. Some cards create a replacement effect for adding counters to objects. Consider Hardened Scales, which replaces the number of +1/+1 counters you would place with one more. It's not a triggered ability but a replacement effect, so technically the Proliferate is putting two +1/+1 counters on something. – Aetherfox Feb 3 at 16:48
  • Yes, Aetherfox, my "under no circumstances" is excessive. But I just meant to proliferate "on his own": that is, without adding other cards that create effects of various kinds - eg, the cards you mention in the comment above - you can't add more than one counter to a permanent. Which, moreover, seems to me the exact situation described in this question. Don't you think? – ManoFromBerlin Feb 4 at 16:32
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It gets only one +1/+1 counter. The creature has three +1/+1 counters, but each of those fall into the same kind of counter - the +1/+1 counter kind.

There are other counters. For example, Haphazard Bombardment places "aim counters". You could proliferate those too, although in this particular case it wouldn't have any practical effect. Other examples of counters are planeswalker loyalty counters, age counters (from cumulative upkeep cards), and so on.

MTG Gamepedia has a full list of all counters.

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Proliferate's rules read as follows:

Choose any number of permanents and/or players, then give each another counter of each kind already there.

So note here as emphasized above:

  1. It's the permanent/player that is being chosen, not the counters on the permanent/player.
  2. It's a counter of each kind already there.

So the creature he selected only had one kind of counter on it (+1/+1 counters), so it would get one more +1/+1 counter, not 3.

If it happened to have some other kind of counter (say, a feather counter), it would get another one of those as well.

Cards like Doubling Season, Winding Constrictor and Hardened Scales can increase the number of counters given by Proliferate, if this is something your friend wants to do and they're legal in the format you play.

This is more relevant when targeting players, especially in formats like Commander, who may have -1/-1 counters, energy counters or experience counters simultaneously; it's rare for other permanents to have more than one kind of counter on them (I believe this is by design, as otherwise it gets confusing).

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