I ran into this situation while playing some kitchen table Magic with my buddy. He's running a pretty mean Evolve deck that, for giggles, also includes Cauldron of Souls for protecting his creatures, and he insists that when persist triggers his creatures will return to the battlefield with the +1/+1 counters they already had, and I'm not entirely unsure he's wrong.
As an example, lets say all of his creatures have at least one +1/+1 counter on them. Then I play Wrath of God or a similar wipe spell. He taps the Cauldron and gives them all persist. His logic says that the -1/-1 counters they would get cancelled out by their +1/+1 counters immediately, so the net result is really that instead of his creatures getting destroyed you just remove a +1/+1 counter from them. Of course this would only work if they would keep their +1/+1 counters upon returning to the field, which I'm not convinced is correct. I always understood persist (and undying for that matter) to reset the creature and then put the counter on it. But I've always been uncomfortable with dealing with these mechanics so I'm not completely sure. Can someone clarify this for me?
when a card changes zones it forgets everything it was before
it will not keep any counters, auras or encoded cards
It works for counters too, then? That's what I suspected. So then the combo isn't as broken as I thought. XD Not like its hard for him to put +1/+1 counters back on his creatures and keep it rolling. Thanks!
he can keep it rolling
when it undies it returns with a +1/+1 counter
if it persists it returns with a -1/-1 counter
if he alternates the returning method he can keep his creature "forever"
Now that I'm thinking about it, I may have misunderstood his logic. Now, I think he believes that the creatures don't actually hit the graveyard. Which is wrong, because you can exile them with something like Tormod's Crypt when they die to prevent persist or undying from triggering. I'll have to show him that.
Undying (When this creature dies, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield under its owner's control with a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Dies means when this ___ goes to the graveyard from the battlefield.
These abilities trigger and go on the stack when the creatures die.
Note, that even if you cast a spell/use an ability to remove the creature cards from the graveyard, persist and undying have already triggered and will resolve doing as much as possible, which just ends up to be nothing. But they are still on the stack and will still resolve, which might matter in some rare cases.
Also, if he brings back his evolve creatures with persist, the chances are high, that many of them will die immediately again, without a chance to save them, because many evolve creatures only have a natural toughness of 1, which the -1/-1 counter reduces to 0 and SBAs will put those creatures back into the graveyard before anyone gets priority to do anything about it. They may still trigger evolve of other creatures (even ones that die alongside them), though. Surviving evolvers may thus get +1/+1 counters due to this.
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