Putting counters on cards

January 13, 2012

Putting counters on cards is common in most competitive trading card games, e.g. YuGiOh and Magic: The Gathering. Placing counters on cards has long been adopted by YuGiOh players at various levels and in almost every metagame.

This post highlights some issues which are being overlooked regarding placing counters on cards in YuGiOh.

To begin with, a common misconception has to be addressed. It is the difference between counters and tokens. Players use these terms interchangeably which sometimes lead to unnecessary misunderstanding in the game.

(Source: Official Rule Book)

Markers that are required to place on some cards to keep track of things like the number of turns, or a card’s power level. Small objects like glass beads can be put on these face up cards as counters.

Monster Tokens
 Tokens are used to represent monsters that are created by card effects. Any object used for a token needs to have two distinct ways to place it that can clearly indicate the monster’s battle position.

After understanding what counters are in YuGiOh’s context, let’s move on to the basic ruling for counters.

(Source: Official Rule Book)

You may need to place these [counters] on cards for some card effects. You cannot place counters unless a card effect allows it.

This post revolves around the second sentence, “You cannot place counters unless a card effect allows it”.

This leads to the next question, how do we know if a card allows you to place counter(s) on it? It is usually clearly stated on the card, and often include the type of counters. E.g. Spell Counter or Clock Counter.

For example, Breaker the Magical Warrior‘s effect allows Spell Counter to be put on it, and the maximum of counters can be placed on it is stated as well (Max. 1). At the same time, the type of the counters is specific, and for this case – Spell Counters. One can use Apprentice Magician to place a Spell Counter on it, but not on a monster card which does not state that it can carry a counter, for e.g. D.D. Warrior Lady.

If a card does not state anything about placing counters on it, then no counters should be allowed to be placed on it. The above points are simple and easy to understand. There is a clear right or wrong.

After much reference to the rules on counters, the core of this post is about placing counters on cards for the purpose of marking a gamestate. In this case, “marking a gamestate” is not because the effect of a card requires counters to be placed on it. For e.g., Gladiator Beast Laquari has been tagged out, and hence it gains its effect of having 2100 attack. It is a common act for players to put a counter on it to indicate that. So is it right or wrong to place counter on it?

My interpretation on the ruling regarding “not being able to place counters unless the card’s effect allows it” is that it is referring to the example I used above involving placing a counter on D.D. Warrior Lady through Apprentice Magician’s effect. Therefore, by placing a “counter” on a tagged Gladiator Beast Laquari is a form of a “marker”.

According to the above definition, these “counters” are not exactly counters in the context of YuGiOh. It is hard to judge if it is right or wrong. There is no proper documentation on this topic. (In fact, YuGiOh does not have a comprehensive documentation on many important game mechanics, e.g. implementation of different effects.)

So you may ask, what is the problem with this then?

The problem is the inconsistency on the usage of such “counters” which confuses opponent. For instance, I had come across a player who placed a counter on Legendary Six Samurai – Shi En to indicate that its negation effect has not been activated on that turn. On another day, the same player, placed a counter on Legendary Six Samurai – Shi En to indicate that it has used its effect. There is no official way to indicate and mark that effect, which makes it hard to judge the above example. However, the bottom line is that it is down to the individual to remember and understand the current gamestate. Then is it alright to confuse the opponent with such gamestate mechanics?

I had lost a match because of such inconsistency issue years ago. In the third duel, I declared attack with my Caius the Shadow Monarch on a Gladiator Beast Hoplomus which has been tagged out before. This move costed me the match because I allowed my opponent to tag for free and made a come back. For all three duels, we had a common understanding that placing a “counter” on a Gladiator Beast indicated that it had gained its respective Gladiator Beast effect. However, in that specific scenario there was no “counter” on it. Although understanding the gamestate is down to the individual, is it alright to knowingly or unknowingly use such gamestate mechanics to trick opponent?

It makes me wonder if there is a solution to prevent such inappropriate trick. Is it possible for one player to disallow the other player to place any form of counters on a card unless it is necessary for effects which involves counters? This argument is based on the above ruling regarding placing counters on cards only if its effect allows. However, one may also argue that those are not “counters” by definition anyway, it is just a form of “markers”. Of course, if both players have a common understanding on a specific use of “markers” for certain effects, then there should not be any issue with it. Again, it is hard to have any official reference to conclude this topic.

Share your view.



  1. I have a question regarding counters and negated effects. If my opponent decides to remove one of two Spell Counters on Arcanite Magician and I respond with Effect Veiler to negate the effect. Is the remaining Spell Counter removed because the effect stating that Arcanite Magician can carry Spell Counters negated?

    • If you use effect veiler on arcanite’s initial summon, that prevents him from receiving counters. If you use effect veiler after arcanite is summoned and successfully gains his 2 counters, using effect veiler will not negate him from receiving counters.

      Arcanite’s effect: When this card is Synchro Summoned, placed 2 Spell Counters on it. This card gains 1000 ATK for each Spell Counter on it. You can remove 1 Spell Counter from a card you conrol to destroy 1 card your opponent controls.

      If he already has 2 spell counters and you use effect veiler, the only thing you negate is his second effect, which is to use a counter from his side of the field to destroy 1 card on the field. Using your effect veiler when he already has counter does not prevent his first effect of gaining them during his initial summon.

  2. I never let anyone use counters unless it requires it ex. Breaker the Magical Warrior

  3. I believe that putting on cards is just a guide line for your opponent, not you. Thus, reading the game via counters/Markers your opponent place is a risk you put yourself in.
    You are given the benefit of doubt to ask your opponent as to what his counter mean before doing anything or any card plays.Thus, the way different people use their counter is not really an issue.

  4. So what if you have to place two different kinds of counters on the same card? Like, if you have Breaker the Magical Warrior with a Spell Counter, but your opponent activates Venom Swamp, so you have to place a Venom Counter on it too. How do you place two kinds of counters on a card? Especially on Duelingnetwork?

    • this is why the idea of counters is BS, esp with spellcounters and spellcasters that is arguably one of the only monsters where specific spellcasters can gain spell counters but because spell counters is so specific to a certain spellcaster, they may or may not be able to receive other counters.

      It’s even more bs that spell counters can only be placed on monsters like breaker/defender. Spell counters should be able to be placed anywhere or else the magical cannon that deals effect damage only works if the counters exists primarily on your side of the field.

  5. what kind of counters you put to the monster?

  6. I have a really weird question vijam the cubic seed which in the latest cubic deck recently has an effect of putting counter on monsters that battle with it so if that monster is raidraptor- ultimate falcon which is unaffected by card effect can I still be able to put a counter on it

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