Discrepancy in Mandantory Payment when Declaring Attackers vs. Casting Spells

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Recently, I have stumbled over some kind of inconsistency within the Comp Rules. It is not that something doesn't work the way it is supposed to or anything, they work just fine. However, they seem to unnecessarily differ in different situations, although the wording of cards may be exactly the same.
I'll try to be as clear as I can from the start, because last time I had a discussion like this here, it took about 10 pages before the dust settled...and I ask you to read it carefully, because it is really annoying if people don't get the point and argue about something completely different.

#1 Demonstration
1. Player A controls a Wild Evocation. During his upkeep, he randomly reveals a Fling. The effect of the Evocation forces him to "cast it, if able". If player A controls a creature, he is forced to cast Fling. He announces Fling and sacrifices the creature.

2. Player A controls a Norn's Annex and a Gideon Jura. He uses Gideon's first ability targeting Player B.
During Player Bs combat step, Player B is forced to "attack, if able". I am assuming Player B has plenty of life. Player B has the life to pay for his attacking creatures, he can pay the cost of Norn's Annex. He is not forced to attack.

#2 Relevant Rules
Basically, the only relevant rules to handle situations like this are the following two:


  • 508.1d The active player checks each creature he or she controls to see whether it’s affected by any requirements (effects that say a creature must attack, or that it must attack if some condition is met). If the number of requirements that are being obeyed is fewer than the maximum possible number of requirements that could be obeyed without disobeying any restrictions, the declaration of attackers is illegal. If a creature can’t attack unless a player pays a cost, that player is not required to pay that cost, even if attacking with that creature would increase the number of requirements being obeyed.
    Example: A player controls two creatures: one that “attacks if able” and one with no abilities. An effect states “No more than one creature can attack each turn.” The only legal attack is for just the creature that “attacks if able” to attack. It’s illegal to attack with the other creature, attack with both, or attack with neither.

  • 117.3c Activating mana abilities is not mandatory, even if paying a cost is.
    Example: A player controls Lodestone Golem, which says “Nonartifact spells cost more to cast.” Another player removes the last time counter from a suspended sorcery card. That player must cast that spell if able, but doing so costs . The player is forced to spend if enough mana is in his or her mana pool, but the player isn’t forced to activate a mana ability to produce that . If he or she doesn’t, the card simply remains exiled.

  • 608.2d If an effect of a spell or ability offers any choices other than choices already made as part of casting the spell, activating the ability, or otherwise putting the spell or ability on the stack, the player announces these while applying the effect. The player can’t choose an option that’s illegal or impossible [...]


#3 Clarification


Okay, so first of all, 117.3c does not even find application in the above examples, but it is kind of important nonetheless because it is actually the most close part of the ruling to the explanation of why you have to cast the Fling in this spot, especially the Example. Why isn't there a ruling to exactly say that? It isn't needed. The card simply does what is written on it. You cast the card "if able". What does that mean? Well, if you are able to pay the cost, you have to pay it. Easy and intuitive, right? 117.3c simply explains that you don't have to take any indirect action like activating abilities to be able to pay it. If there is anything intermediate between the situation and you being able to pay the cost, you do not have to do that. However, if you are exactly in the situation to pay, you have to pay, because, well, you are able to. So far, so good, right?


Now we move on to the second example. It basically works the same, but this time, 508.1d kicks in. Player B is in his declare attackers step, and he has to meet as many requirements as possible, as usual. He is forced to attack with his creatures, if able. He is able to attack in the sense of the word, and there is, as already said, no further rule implication concerning the "if able" clause; it simply does what is says in its very sense. So does Player B has to attack with his creatures by paying {W} or 2 life (as he chooses)? No he does not. Why not? Because of rule 508.1d says so. Why does rule 508.1d says so? There is really no reason for it. It both violates the understanding of what the card tries to do, and also works completely diametral to other rules, like the rule 608.2d. It basically creates an exception to the rule when no exception whatsoever is needed. To clarify, another example.


3. Player A controls a Ghostly Prison, Player B controls a creature with no abilty and a creature with "This creature attacks each turn, if able".
Now, Player B moves to declare attackers. Lacking mana in his pool, he obviously is not forced to attack with anything. However, if he wants to attack with the creature without an ability, he can simply pay {2} and attack with that creature, leaving the creature that has to attack if able back.


This example that is very similar to the one given in 508.1d itself, and it should preferably work in the same way, yet it works completely different. It would even be an "illegal attack" in the sense of 508.1d itself if it weren't for that last clause that says you may ignore any requirements that involve a cost. However, there is no reason for this exception. It would be much more intuitiv and clearer if, in this situation, if you want to attack, you have to pay for those creatures who have to attack first, before being able to pay those without requirements.


#4 Proposal


I propose a change of the last clause of 508.1d, exchanging
"If a creature can’t attack unless a player pays a cost, that player is not required to pay that cost, even if attacking with that creature would increase the number of requirements being obeyed."
with something among the lines of
"If a creature can't attack unless a player pays a cost, that player is required to pay that cost, if able, as long as attacking with that creature would increase the number of requirements being obeyed."
Just to make it clear again: The rules to explain how to proceed in this scenario are already there, 508.1d simply created a hindering exception to an otherwise fine working system. The rule already cover things like "You can pay for some requirements but not all" - you simply do as much of the effect as you are able to, as always.
This would change the gameplay, although it rarely ever comes up, and it would change it for the better, because with this change, "if able" would actually mean "if able", and not "if the influenced player wants to", which is...I guess a much closer realization of what the card tries to do than it is currently.


thanks for reading, and, I hope, understanding my point,
cheers,
seraph

Norn's Annex is not a very good example, because even if the cost was mandatory, the player could get around it, because the player determines the total cost before they pay. The player could announce that they intend to pay the corresponding coloured mana cost for each of those symbols then fail to pay.


Exalted Dragon is a better example.

3. Player A controls a Ghostly Prison, Player B controls a creature with no abilty and a creature with "This creature attacks each turn, if able".

Now, Player B moves to declare attackers. Lacking mana in his pool, he obviously is not forced to attack with anything. However, if he wants to attack with the creature without an ability, he can simply pay {2} and attack with that creature, leaving the creature that has to attack if able back.


This example that is very similar to the one given in 508.1d itself, and it should preferably work in the same way, yet it works completely different. It would even be an "illegal attack" in the sense of 508.1d itself if it weren't for that last clause that says you may ignore any requirements that involve a cost. However, there is no reason for this exception. It would be much more intuitiv and clearer if, in this situation, if you want to attack, you have to pay for those creatures who have to attack first, before being able to pay those without requirements.


Such a situation could still occur. If a vanilla creature needed {W} to be able to attack, and a creature that attacks each turn if able needed {U} to be able to attack, a player could attack with just the vanilla creature and choose not to pay the cost for the other. The rules cannot force a player to activate abilities to generate enough mana to pay a cost.

Norn's Annex is not a very good example, because even if the cost was mandatory, the player could get around it, because the player determines the total cost before they pay. The player could announce that they intend to pay the corresponding coloured mana cost for each of those symbols then fail to pay.


Exalted Dragon is a better example.



Good point. Yeah, something that Exalted Dragon is probably a clearer example. Not sure if Norn's Annex wouldn't work at all

3. Player A controls a Ghostly Prison, Player B controls a creature with no abilty and a creature with "This creature attacks each turn, if able".

Now, Player B moves to declare attackers. Lacking mana in his pool, he obviously is not forced to attack with anything. However, if he wants to attack with the creature without an ability, he can simply pay {2} and attack with that creature, leaving the creature that has to attack if able back.


This example that is very similar to the one given in 508.1d itself, and it should preferably work in the same way, yet it works completely different. It would even be an "illegal attack" in the sense of 508.1d itself if it weren't for that last clause that says you may ignore any requirements that involve a cost. However, there is no reason for this exception. It would be much more intuitiv and clearer if, in this situation, if you want to attack, you have to pay for those creatures who have to attack first, before being able to pay those without requirements.


Such a situation could still occur. If a vanilla creature needed {W} to be able to attack, and a creature that attacks each turn if able needed {U} to be able to attack, a player could attack with just the vanilla creature and choose not to pay the cost for the other. The rules cannot force a player to activate abilities to generate enough mana to pay a cost.


Correct, but that doesn't change the matter at all. I don't want the rules to force players to use mana abilities or anything (which would really only lead down some shady Word of Command route anyways and is pretty awkward in general), I just want to synchronise the rulings on being forced to cast something and being forced to attack.
In your example of different costs, its not really a problem. The player never was able to attack with the creature that has to attack in the sense of the rules.
I assume this was generated because of this thread in rules Q&A, so I'll add what I wrote there.

The problem is that casting a spell is different to just choosing whether or not to pay a cost. If you have an effect that says "Pay 2. If you don't, you lose 1 life" there's just one window to pay the cost, and you're not obliged to generate mana if you don't have it. Same with whether or not to pay costs for attackers. Then you're done. But to decline the payment for a spell means you've already started casting it... which means it will rewind.

So you are saying you are "not able" to cast it because you intend to decline to generate mana in the window of opportunity if you did cast it. Hopefully I'm not the only one who sees that isn't right? On one hand it's been ruled you have to pick an option that you "are able" to cast, which I assume would be the 5 mana for Lightning Axe if you have no card in hand but have 5 untapped lands.. But by the same token you can say you're "not able" to cast it by the same method, because you intend to decline to generate mana.

I think the ruling for this doesn't make sense, and the rules don't make sense either. It needs a rethink.
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Erm, some more stuff I posted...

If you have no card in hand but do have 5 untapped land, then this ruling (not rule!) should theorietically apply:

If the mandatory additional cost includes a mana payment, the situation is more complex. If the player has enough mana in his or her mana pool to pay the cost, that player must do so. If the player can't possibly pay the cost, the card remains uncast in his or her hand. However, if the player has the means to produce enough mana to pay the cost, then he or she has a choice: The player may cast the card, produce mana, and pay the cost. Or the player may choose to activate no mana abilities, thus making the card impossible to cast because the additional mana can't be paid.

I have a big problem with this ruling. I don't see how the second option is allowed. If you "choose to activate no mana abilities" then you have already started casting the spell. This means you fail to cast it, and must rewind, putting you back in exactly the same situation. So to prove its still impossible, you'd have to start casting it again, and so on. So the game wouldn't progress until you chose to generate the mana.

Again the problem comes down to this: to decide whether you are "able" to cast a spell, you have to decide before starting to cast the spell at all. And only if a decision of "not able" is reached are you allowed to skip casting it. But what is the criteria for "being unable"? I believe this is missing from the rules. It should in my opinion be an extension of the current rule:

117.3c Activating mana abilities is not mandatory, even if paying a cost is. If you are required to cast a spell but it requires payment of mana as part of the cost, you may decline to cast it if you don't already have the required mana in your mana pool.

Fact is, you are making a choice (as stated in the gatherer ruling, but not in the rules), declaring yourself "unable" to cast the spell because of your intention to not generate mana. Equally you "are able" because you can generate the mana. So I think this choice has to be laid out as I've suggested above. This isn't just the same as declining to generate mana for a one time payment (as per my previous post).
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I assume this was generated because of this thread in rules Q&A, so I'll add what I wrote there.


Actually no, I didn't read that thread, I'm not active in this forum. Interesting thread though, read through it. Definitely gave me some insights on this matter.

The problem is that casting a spell is different to just choosing whether or not to pay a cost. If you have an effect that says "Pay 2. If you don't, you lose 1 life" there's just one window to pay the cost, and you're not obliged to generate mana if you don't have it. Same with whether or not to pay costs for attackers. Then you're done. But to decline the payment for a spell means you've already started casting it... which means it will rewind.


Yes, that is true. However, I don't think it makes any difference depending on how you interpret the "if able" clause. A bit more on that later.

So you are saying you are "not able" to cast it because you intend to decline to generate mana in the window of opportunity if you did cast it. Hopefully I'm not the only one who sees that isn't right? On one hand it's been ruled you have to pick an option that you "are able" to cast, which I assume would be the 5 mana for Lightning Axe if you have no card in hand but have 5 untapped lands.. But by the same token you can say you're "not able" to cast it by the same method, because you intend to decline to generate mana.

I think the ruling for this doesn't make sense, and the rules don't make sense either. It needs a rethink.



Erm, some more stuff I posted...

If you have no card in hand but do have 5 untapped land, then this ruling (not rule!) should theorietically apply:

If the mandatory additional cost includes a mana payment, the situation is more complex. If the player has enough mana in his or her mana pool to pay the cost, that player must do so. If the player can't possibly pay the cost, the card remains uncast in his or her hand. However, if the player has the means to produce enough mana to pay the cost, then he or she has a choice: The player may cast the card, produce mana, and pay the cost. Or the player may choose to activate no mana abilities, thus making the card impossible to cast because the additional mana can't be paid.

I have a big problem with this ruling. I don't see how the second option is allowed. If you "choose to activate no mana abilities" then you have already started casting the spell. This means you fail to cast it, and must rewind, putting you back in exactly the same situation. So to prove its still impossible, you'd have to start casting it again, and so on. So the game wouldn't progress until you chose to generate the mana.

Again the problem comes down to this: to decide whether you are "able" to cast a spell, you have to decide before starting to cast the spell at all. And only if a decision of "not able" is reached are you allowed to skip casting it. But what is the criteria for "being unable"? I believe this is missing from the rules. It should in my opinion be an extension of the current rule:

117.3c Activating mana abilities is not mandatory, even if paying a cost is. If you are required to cast a spell but it requires payment of mana as part of the cost, you may decline to cast it if you don't already have the required mana in your mana pool.

Fact is, you are making a choice (as stated in the gatherer ruling, but not in the rules), declaring yourself "unable" to cast the spell because of your intention to not generate mana. Equally you "are able" because you can generate the mana. So I think this choice has to be laid out as I've suggested above. This isn't just the same as declining to generate mana for a one time payment (as per my previous post).


I don't think that you are actually declaring yourself unable, but the game does.

Here is my interpretation on how this cards work or are intended to work:
First of all, the game is pretty smart. It knows whether you are able which costs or not in this current situation (this includes, for example, if you have an Merfolk in your hand for Silvergill Adept). It does not account for any potential matters, like lands producing mana and other similar stuff.
Now, you have to cast a spell. You announce it and declare how you are going to pay for it. If you have a certainly payable cost (like Lightning Axe with a card in hand), you may only choose the mana payment if you are actually making sure you are able to pay for it. I don't see why the ruling for impossible actions shouldn't apply here, as, while we are casting a spell (where this rule doesn't apply), we are currently performing an effect of an ability (the Evocation/Norn's Annex, whatever). We may not choose an impossible action if there is a possible one available. You choosing to pay the mana then not being able to pay for it is a sequence of choices you are not allowed to take considering the possibility of another option. I do agree this is awkward and should be changed.
Moving on, if you have different possible ways of casting this spell, you decide for one of those and proceed, with mana payments only being a possible way if you intend to and are able to actually fulfill them. Then you cast the spell/cost, done.
If you have no possible action to casting the spell, or mana payment being the only one (w/ not enough mana in the pool), you simply choose one (neither is "more possible" than any other), walk it down, end up with an illegal spell, or you actually still pay the additional cost with mana and are now suddenly able to cast it. Either way, you cast it with newly generated mana or it is illegal; the effect is done, seeing you try with a maximal possible attempt to fail.

This interpretation would need clarification at two points - one, the whole "mana payment becomes a legal choice only if you pay for it". I actually only see three options to fix this:
1.) It is not a legal choice anymore. This would mean you would always have to cast Lightning Axe by discarding a card if cast through Wild Evocation if you can. Awkward.
2.) Explicitly formulate a rule that explains this occurrence. It is probably going to end up being rather complex in explanation, but would do the job.
3.) Change the procedure of casting spells (and attacking with creatures, if that gets changed as I hope), too. Just make players able to use mana abilities before determining the cost. Might be in addition to being able to pay later, too (in which case there is almost no chance this would change any functionality for the "normal" procedure of casting spells), and rule that you can only choose the mana option if you have the mana in your pool by that point; or might be instead of being able to use mana abilities later. This would screw some things up though, for example, the whole chromatic sphere+affinity interaction. Probably not worth it for such a corner case.

The second clarification needed would be as what counts as "if able"; if a player in his best effort ended up with an illegal option, is that it? This would probably be enough, "in his best effort" does seem to be a rather awkward thing to imply in the rules, but it is what "if able" should mean, so I think that would be fine.


As for the original matter at hand, about synchronising the attacker payment with spell payment, it still holds true in the same way. It is just that it turns out it isn't even very clear for the whole "casting spell"-business, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be the same. The ruling for casting spells if able should be clarified, and the ruling for declaring attackers if able be changed accordingly.
If you reavel Silvergill Adept with Wild Evocation and you have a Merfolk in your hand, the current ruling is that you have the resources to pay that cost so you must cast the spell, but you cannot prove whether or not you have a certain card in your hand, and the game cannot force you to reveal hidden information. The only way you would be forced to cast the spell is if there was a judge involved to check your hand.
If you reavel Silvergill Adept with Wild Evocation and you have a Merfolk in your hand, the current ruling is that you have the resources to pay that cost so you must cast the spell, but you cannot prove whether or not you have a certain card in your hand, and the game cannot force you to reveal hidden information. The only way you would be forced to cast the spell is if there was a judge involved to check your hand.


Yeah, I think this works among the lines of some brainstorm/Sylvan Library interactions...your opponent can't really check if what you're doing is legal, so there might be a judge needed. If your opponent reveals a Silvergill Adept and does not want to play it, you probably would need to call a judge to check whether he really is not able to cast it.
If you reavel Silvergill Adept with Wild Evocation and you have a Merfolk in your hand, the current ruling is that you have the resources to pay that cost so you must cast the spell, but you cannot prove whether or not you have a certain card in your hand, and the game cannot force you to reveal hidden information. The only way you would be forced to cast the spell is if there was a judge involved to check your hand.


Yeah, I think this works among the lines of some brainstorm/Sylvan Library interactions...your opponent can't really check if what you're doing is legal, so there might be a judge needed. If your opponent reveals a Silvergill Adept and does not want to play it, you probably would need to call a judge to check whether he really is not able to cast it.



This is quite problematic. No card/combination of cards should need thrid party verification. I'd go with the Suspend rules. (He won't be forced to play it.)
This is not my sig.
The rules could definitely be improved and clarified regarding casting/playing if able.

Would he have to cast Silvergill Adept if it was already revealed in the hidden zone?
eg. Telepathy or Zur's Weirding

I'm thinking that he would have to.

The principle seems to be that you are not obligated to take additional actions other than those specifically present in the cost (such as activating mana or revealing hidden cards), but if the card is already revealed or the mana is already generated then presumably you would have to cast it.

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I do wonder if "casting if able" is just a bad idea, template wise. If I were to make the decision I'd probably errata the 2 cards (just 2 I think?) that use the phrase, along with the suspend rule, to become "may cast". I don't think this would impact the cards too much. Being forced to cast something you don't want to because it happens to be the card you flip over is just a case of bad luck rather than bad play, so it's strange to be punished for it. Almost all the time you're going to choose to cast things anyhow.

But yes, I think there needs to be a new rule clearly defining what "cast if able" means because right now I think it's wildly open to interpretation because it's such a lengthy and involved process.
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Well for Wild Evocation, I think the flavour of casting if able is intended. Who's knows what you'll cast?

Not so sure for Omen Machine or the suspend rule whether the if able is intended.

Personally, I love the random nature of it especially when it works aginst the opponent.

"Oh look you revealed Spirit Mantle and you have no creatures, but I do"

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Not so sure for Omen machine or the suspend rule.

A few suspend cards use the fact that casting is mandatory as a drawback. For example, in exchange for having cheap powerful effects, Phthisis and Restore Balance might come back to bite you if the gamestate changes. I suspect this design was intentional.
Yeah, good point. I think those probably were intended as possible drawbacks.
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Is there someone actually looking into this? The rules here are in no particular need of change, but they don't make sense, either.

At this moment, if you have to "cast a Silvergill Adept if able", you are required to reveal a Merfolk from your hand if you have one. Is this intended? It does make sense to me.

In general, how does the whole "cast if able"-mechanic work? Why/how does it fail, i.e. making the player unable to cast something? The problem is, you have to choose which cost you pay before you actually pay it, and you don't have to be able to pay it at the time you choose it (you can choose the additional mana cost, and then later tap lands and pay for it). In short, the game definitely has some trouble identifying how "able" the player is to do something, especially for casting spells or activating abilities.

After this problem is resolved, we can return to my original complaint about the completely unnecessary difference between "casting xx if able" and "attacking with xx if able", a difference that I don't like at all, especially because there is no particular reason for it (see opening post).

Is there anyone official that is looking into this? :x
The original topic for this thread is not a high prioriy issue for us, and no one official is thinking about it at this time. We do appreciate all the informed conversations that go on in this forum, even though we may not have time to participate more fully in them.

Rules Manager Matt Tabak will, of course, review this forum when he sits down at the end of March to deal with the Avacyn Restored Comp. Rules update. In the meantime, Matt is hard at work as lead editor on his first fall expansion (codenamed "Hook") while still keeping an eye on rules stuff for everything else in the pipeline.

The "cast if able" wording will continue to be used when that's the best way to implement Development's intent for what a specific card should do. See Chandra Ablaze and Galvanoth for recent examples where Development decided to make casting the card optional. Development did not want Wild Evocation or Omen Machine to be optional, and we will continue to respect that choice.


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The original topic for this thread is not a high prioriy issue for us, and no one official is thinking about it at this time. We do appreciate all the informed conversations that go on in this forum, even though we may not have time to participate more fully in them.

Rules Manager Matt Tabak will, of course, review this forum when he sits down at the end of March to deal with the Avacyn Restored Comp. Rules update. In the meantime, Matt is hard at work as lead editor on his first fall expansion (codenamed "Hook") while still keeping an eye on rules stuff for everything else in the pipeline.

The "cast if able" wording will continue to be used when that's the best way to implement Development's intent for what a specific card should do. See Chandra Ablaze and Galvanoth for recent examples where Development decided to make casting the card optional. Development did not want Wild Evocation or Omen Machine to be optional, and we will continue to respect that choice.




Thanks for the answer.
I wouldn't want the removal of the "if able" clause, that was even discarded by those that thought it was a good idea; I mean, I don't see a reason to bar the door for cards that force people to cast spells.
The rulings are just not very clear on how those things work exactly, which makes it hard to argue about something even further down the line, like the issue brought up in this thread.

Well, anyways, I appreciate your answer
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