Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
+1/+1 Counters in Magic
Most Magic games are decided by a player's life hitting zero, usually accomplished by swinging enough beefy creatures at them. Aiding this strategy, +1/+1 counters increase power and toughness, useful for both offense and defense.
Most found in green and white, these counters remain indefinitely, strengthening your army throughout your match—how can you best buff your units? These are the 30 strongest counter-giving cards in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Forgotten Ancient
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Ancient starts weak at 0/3, but he's easy to splash, has elemental synergy, and gets a +1/+1 whenever anyone casts a spell. Then, during your upkeep, he can give any number of his counters to other creatures, ensuring you can proliferate your entire army.
29. Light of the Legion
While mana-taxing, Legion arrives as a fierce 5/5 angel with flying. She also has mentor, giving a fellow troop with less power a +1/+1 when both attack, and if she dies, you give a +1/+1 to all your white creatures.
28. Llanowar Reborn
Here's a card for basically every green commander deck. Llanowar taps for green just like a basic forest, but enters tapped. In exchange, graft means it arrives with a +1/+1 (even though it's not a creature), which you can move to a creature as it enters the field.
27. Gavony Township
Gavony's only real drawback is that it provides colorless mana, but it enters untapped and ready to use. Plus, its alternative effect lets you spend four (including green/white) and tap it to +1/+1 your team. That's a nice outlet for excess mana, especially at instant speed and in the colors that best support counters.
26. Fangren Firstborn
Firstborn's green reliance and lack of trample are unfortunate, but when he attacks, he gives all attacking creatures (including himself) a +1/+1, meaning he's really swinging as a 5/3. Protect him with other cards if needed and he'll soon reward you with an ever-evolving army.
25. Metallic Mimic
While weak at 2/1, Mimic declares a subtype on entry, gaining that type and giving your other units that share it a +1/+1 as they enter the field. This makes him an easy pick for any tribal theme, especially ones that swarm low-cost creatures, like merfolk or goblins.
24. Steel Overseer
While frail at 1/1, Overseer quickly gains strength, tapping to give all your artifact creatures (himself included) a +1/+1. In blue or colorless artifact decks, that's an invaluable boost that helps compete with stronger combat colors, and since it's instant, you can catch opponents off-guard with the block-tap maneuver.
23. Curse of Stalked Prey/Curse of Predation
Here we see two aura curses you enchant onto a player. Stalked Prey gives a creature that deals combat damage against them a +1/+1, while Predation gives the counter just by attacking them.
Both useful bonuses for aggro decks, and they incentivize opponents to focus on others in multiplayer.
22. Cazur, Ruthless Stalker
Cazur partners with blue/black Ukkima Stalking Shadow, meaning when one enters the field, you can tutor the other from your deck. Ukkima's a fun card that can't be blocked and gives you life on death, but Cazur is most relevant today, offering a solid 3/3 who gives a +1/+1 to your creatures that directly hit your opponents.
21. Vivien, Arkbow Ranger/Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
These planeswalkers share several similarities, including cost, starting loyalty of four, and a +1 that distributes two counters. Ajani has to give them to different creatures, with Vivien can give them to the same one if desired, plus trample for the turn to boot.
And by empowering your squad, it's hard to defeat these planeswalkers since you'll have buffed units to defend them. Of course, they also have other effects; Vivien can have your creature deal its power to opposing units and tutor creatures from your sideboard, while Ajani can revive fallen allies and make a token-creating emblem.
20. Ajani Steadfast/Ajani, the Greathearted
Here's two more four-cost Ajanis that focus on +1/+1s through their shared -2, which gives one to all your creatures and a loyalty to your other planeswalkers. Steadfast can also +1/+1 to give a creature temporary +1/+1, first strike, vigilance, and lifelink, while Steadfast grants your whole team vigilance and uses +1 to get three life.
19. Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
As we see here, blue gets much more +1/+1 focused when paired with green. Roalesk himself is a fierce 4/5 with flying and trample, and on entry, he gives two counters to an ally. From there, if he dies, you get to proliferate twice, which can really edge planeswalkers towards their ultimates.
18. Primeval Protector
Protector works best in mutliplayer, as his hefty fee is reduced by one per opposing creature. Thus, he's far cheaper than he looks, entering as a massive 10/10 who gifts a +1/+1 to your other creatures on entry.
17. Oran-Rief Ooze
When Ooze arrives, he gives one creature a +1/+1. Think carefully who to distribute it to; you often want it on himself because when Ooze attacks, he gives all attackers who already have a +1/+1 another. And since Ooze isn't legendary, you can control multiple and stack their effects.
16. Decree of Savagery
While expensive, Savagery's versatility compensates. At instant speed, it grants four +1/+1s to your battalion. Or, you can cycle it for six to just give the counters to one creature. This is often the better route, as it's cheaper and nets you a new card in hand, but both options deserve consideration depending on the situation.
15. Mayael's Aria
This enchantment requires three different colors but has several stacking effects. At your upkeep, you give your creatures a +1/+1 as long as one has at least five power. Then, if one has 10 or more, you get 10 life. Finally, if one has 20 or more power, you win. Sure, the second and third effects are hard to obtain, but they're devastating when you pull them off.
14. Oath of Ajani
Ajani's legendary enchantment +1/+1s your army on entry; from there, it hangs around to reduce the cost of your planeswalkers by one. Perfect for "superfriends" decks that rely on both +1/+1s and loyalty counters.
13. Song of Freyalise
This saga's great for both ramp and buffing. Its first two effects (triggering on entry and the following turn) both let your creatures tap for one mana of any color until the next turn, so Song often pays for itself.
Then, with the third and final trigger, your creatures all get a +1/+1 plus temporary vigilance, trample, and indestructible, leading to a brutal combat phase.
12. Oran-Rief, the Vastwood/Ruins of Oran-Rief
Each Oran-Rief land enters tapped, but empowers certain creatures. Green's Vastwood is the star, tapping for either one green or to +1/+1 all green monsters that entered that turn.
Ruins isn't quite as good, tapping for colorless or to +1/+1 a single colorless creature that just arrived, but both are worthy recipients when you have a little extra mana.
11. Loyal Guardian
Guardian starts off strong as a 4/4, and at the beginning of your combat, he gives a +1/+1 to all your creatures if you control your commander! That works great with trample, and it's easily triggered if using two partner commanders (controlling either activates it).
10. Necropolis Regent
Regent's a rare black counter-supporter, and thankfully a great one. She's a formidable 6/5 vampire with flying, and whenever your creatures deal combat damage, she gives them +1/+1s equal to the damage they dealt.
This means she can buff your attackers the turn she arrives, and if Regent herself lands an attack, she'll become a lethal 12/11 who can continue growing.
6/6, trample, and elemental support already draw the eye, but Vigor provides one of the game's best defenses to your other units, preventing damage that would be dealt to them and giving them a +1/+1 for each.
This makes it devilishly tricky for opponents to block and even protects against non-combat damage. Just remember Vigor himself isn't shielded, and he'll shuffle himself into library if he hits the graveyard.
8. Luminarch Aspirant
Excellent in both standard and commander, Aspirant sets up early-game threats like no other. Starting off puny at 1/1, she gives one creature you control a +1/+1 at the start of your combat, demanding a fast answer.
But eliminating her isn't easy thanks to white's wealth of cheap defensive creatures, like Selfless Savior (for standard) or Mother of Runes (EDH).
7. Kalonian Hydra
Kalonian Hydra arrives with four +1/+1s plus trample. More than that, when it attacks, you double the number of +1/+1s on all your creatures! This absolutely demands an answer; give Hydra haste and shroud with Lightning Greaves to let you attack immediately and defend against targeting removal.
6. Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Heliod's an indestructible 5/5 enchantment god, but he won't count as a creature until your white devotion reaches five (so you need four more white symbols among permanents).
But whether a creature or not, Heliod gives a +1/+1 to a creature or enchantment you control when you gain life, one of the best lifegain supports in the game. Plus, he can spend two mana to give another creature lifelink for the turn, replenishing your health and granting them a counter (two if they have double strike).
5. Collective Effort
Here's a criminally-underrated spell perfect for any EDH deck. Effort lets you pick between destroying an enchantment, a creature with four or more power, or +1/+1ing your army.
However, for each of your untapped creatures you tap while casting it, you can also pick other effects, so you get all three just by tapping two. This also works well with white's commonly-seen vigilance trait, and you can nab your own copy for around a dollar!
4. Felidar Retreat
Retreat activates one of two effects whenever a land enters your field, and both are tempting. The first creates a 2/2 cat token, the second grants a +1/+1 and vigilance to your creature until end of turn.
Use the former if you don't have many creatures, and the latter when you do, for easy and reusable token fodder. Not many standard decks run much enchantment removal, so Retreat was a staple of its era, especially since it's so easy to splash.
3. Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Mikaeus needs X mana plus one, entering with X +1/+1s, a versatile cost that adapts to your current production. Plus, he can tap to either gain another counter, or tap and remove one from himself to give one to your other creatures.
This means Mikaeus has something to do whether you're ready for a wide swing or if he's standing alone, and ensures your team can all benefit from proliferating.
2. Sword of Truth and Justice
CMC: 3 (2 to equip)
One of the best color-protecting blades, this sword equips for a +2/+2 boost on top of white and blue protection. Additionally, when the equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, you add a +1/+1 to one creature, then proliferate.
This means you're basically getting at least two counters with each trigger, and likely many more thanks to the proliferate.
1. The Great Henge
Boy is this one a staple in green commander. Henge's big price decreases by the power of your strongest creature, and since it taps for green (and two life), it can pay for itself on entry if you have a creature with at least seven strength.
From there, you've got some extra mana and life each turn, and whenever a non-token creature enters your field, they get a +1/+1 and you draw a card. What else could you ask for; between life, mana, power, and draws, Henge offers basically every resource in the game.
+1/+1 Supports in Magic
Today, we examined the best counter-providing spells in the game, but remember to support their ranks with cards that proliferate (like Atraxa Praetors' Voice), adding counters to permanents and players that already have one.
Or, increase the number of counters placed with Conclave Mentor and Doubling Season, but for now, vote for your favorite +1/+1 spell and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2021 Jeremy Gill