Consider the following (unlikely) scenario in a game of Magic the Gathering:

  • You have X permanents on the battlefield, none of which have any counters on them (initially).
  • There are no static effects in play which interfere with the abilities of your permanents (aside from any caused by your permanents themselves, if relevant).
  • Neither you nor your opponents are casting any spells or playing any abilities from cards in hand.
  • Your libraries are any finite size...you and your opponents can take any finite number of turns without the concern of milling yourselves out.

Given this scenario, what is the minimal number of permanents, X, which are collectively capable of creating a copy of each of themselves within a finite number of turns? (X must be greater than zero)

As an example, and an upper bound, considering the following set of permanents, giving X=10 :

Helm of the Host
Karn, Silver Golem
Mirage Mirror
Mirror Gallery
4x Blinkmoth Nexus
2x Inkmoth Nexus

With 6 mana at our disposal, any of the lands can animate themselves and have the Helm equipped. So in 6 turns we've copied all our lands. Using Karn's animate ability, Mirage Mirror and Mirror Gallery can be copied the same way. Karn can be copied without needing to animate. Finally, to copy the Helm itself, we

  1. Have Mirage Mirror become a copy of the Helm (which does not die because the Mirror Gallery is suppressing the legend rule),
  2. Animate the original Helm with Karn, and
  3. Equip the Mirage-Mirror-Helm onto the original Helm.

I'm certain we can do better by being more creative with the mana base. But how low can we bring it? And perhaps there's an entirely different mechanic that would meet the conditions?

  • Is it acceptable if, during one repetition, some permanents are copied more than once? Must each permanent be copied, or is it acceptable as long as you have twice as many as when you started? – Arthur Jun 5 at 17:26
  • Clarification: I meant "twice as many of each", not just twice as many. – Arthur Jun 5 at 17:36
  • What would your rules be regarding pre-existing copy effects? For example, say I want to have a Phyrexian Metamorph that is a copy of a particular creature, but the original creature is no longer on the battlefield. Could I could that as just one permanent? – murgatroid99 Jun 5 at 18:11
  • @murgatroid99 I would allow that, since I have no rule that precludes it. Although I will be obliged to accept mreux's answer with X=1, I am still very interested in your setup! – Qami Jun 5 at 22:58
  • @Arthur: Yes. As long as, in some finite number of turns, each of the original permanents has been copied at least once, you're free to operate as you wish in the meantime. I am interested in seeing what you come up with! :) – Qami Jun 5 at 23:00


Chronozoa completes the first iteration in 0 turn thanks to the 1st rule, then each other iteration in 3 turns.

  • I am disappointed that the answer is this simple. – murgatroid99 Jun 5 at 18:17
  • Kind of same, but not surprised! – Qami Jun 5 at 22:50
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    I don’t think this works according to the technical rules in the setup. According to the rules, your Chronozoa doesn’t have any time counters on it... Vanishing only triggers when the last time counter is removed, which isn’t happening here. Either it was already removed before the starting point of the puzzle (and the triggered ability countered), or something else prevented the time counters from ever being placed on it. Either way, you can’t just assume that the last counter removed trigger is already on the stack during the puzzle setup. – GendoIkari Jun 6 at 4:38
  • Despite @GendoIkari's accurate point about the technicality, this answer was the quickest and gave the lowest possible number, so I'm accepting it. (It's still in the spirit of the question, too--the "no counters, initially" rule was intended to maintain the self-sufficiency of the permanents in their action, and Vanishing creatures supply their own counters...) – Qami Jun 16 at 15:56

A solution with X=3:

One Mechanized Production is attached to Mycosynth Lattice, and the other is attached to the first Mechanized Production, which is legal because it is an artifact thanks to Mycosynth Lattice. At the beginning of the next upkeep, the two triggered abilities create a new copy of each of those permanents.

  • But the second mechanized production never gets a copy. – eyeballfrog Jun 6 at 22:25
  • You can get two copies of Mechanized Production, by waiting two turns. In game, there's no tracking of which specific object something is a copy of, so I don't think it makes sense to make that distinction here either. – murgatroid99 Jun 6 at 22:27
  • 1
    Alternatively, the first copy of Mechanized Production can be attached to the second Mechanized Production, and then on the following turn, each original Mechanized Production is copied. – murgatroid99 Jun 6 at 23:55
  • 1
    What I love about this one is that it would explode really fast! Although, I suppose the game would end really fast, too. – Qami Jun 7 at 13:18
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure it just ends up doubling each turn, except a little less because one Mechanized Production is stuck making Mycosynth Lattices. Other solutions have the same or greater growth rate. – murgatroid99 Jun 7 at 17:00

X=1, but with two cards:

Mirror-sigil sergeant with Sea-Dasher Octopus mutated onto it to make it blue.

Works with any blue mutate creature.


X=1 solutions can be accomplished in a couple of ways:

Giant Adephage, Mist-Syndicate Naga, and Spawnwrithe can each simply attack and deal damage to the opponent, and they will create another copy of themselves.

Progenitor Mimic that is a copy of any vanilla creature (and many other creatures) will create a copy of itself each upkeep.

  • From the puzzle setup, there are no vanilla creatures on the battlefield for Progenitor Mimic to copy. You control X permanents, and after a number of turns, you need to have a copy of all of them. – Hackworth Jun 6 at 22:03
  • In the comments on the question, it was clarified that pre-existing copy effects are allowed. The setup I'm describing isn't "a Progenitor Mimic entering the battlefield as a copy of a vanilla creature", but rather "a Progenitor Mimic already on the battlefield, having copied a vanilla creature, which is no longer present." – murgatroid99 Jun 6 at 22:06

A solution with X=4:

Each turn, Brago attacks and exiles one of the permanents, then when it returns, pay for the Mirrorworks trigger using the mana from Sol Ring. Specifically, the turns go as follows:

  1. Copy Sol Ring.

  2. Copy Mirage Mirror.

  3. Turn a Mirage Mirror into a copy of Mirrorworks, then flicker and copy the original Mirrorworks. That all costs 4 mana, paid for with the 2 Sol Rings.

  4. Turn a Mirage Mirror into a copy of the Brago, then flicker the Phyrexian Metamorph Brago, have it enter as a copy of the Mirage Mirror copy of Brago, and then copy it with Mirrorworks.

    Alternatively, flicker the Mirage Mirror, have it copy Brago in response to the Mirrorworks trigger, then copy it with Mirrorworks.

This solution relies on rule 706.9b:

Some copy effects modify a characteristic as part of the copying process. The final set of values for that characteristic becomes part of the copiable values of the copy.

This means that we can chain Phyrexian Metamorph and Spark Double to get an artifact non-legendary copy of Brago, and any further copy of that permanent will have those same characteristics.

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