Legion Warboss and Baird: Restrictions vs Requirements

Welcome one and all, and goodness there are a lot of you today. I wonder if that could be because it’s Warboss Wednesday here at Boros Week, and I am so glad that I finally get to make an alliterative title! Nothing starts with W. It’s sad. But in any case, on with the show!

As you may have gathered from my meandering introduction, today we will be talking about Legion Warboss. For two generic mana and one red, this Borosian (Borosi? Borosite?) bruiser is a 2/2 with Mentor who, at the beginning of combat on your turn, creates a 1/1 Goblin token (with a free dose of haste until end of turn), which must attack that combat if able. Specifically, we’re going to be looking hard at those last two words: “If able”. When isn’t the token forced to attack?

Some examples are obvious. If the token becomes tapped somehow- for example, if your opponent has a Kinjalli’s Sunwing out- then it’s not able to attack. Tapped creatures can’t attack. But what if your opponent somehow flashes out Luminous Bonds onto your token? It both can’t attack and must attack! As you’ve probably guessed, Luminous Bonds “wins” and the token won’t attack, but the reason is quite interesting. When deciding whether your declaration of attackers is legal, there are two things you need to keep in mind: “Restrictions” (basically, anything saying “this can’t attack” and variants thereof, like “can’t attack alone”) and “Requirements” (“attacks each combat if able” and variants). When you’re declaring your attackers, you have to fulfill as many REQUIREMENTS as you can, without violating any RESTRICTIONS. If there’s a setup that fulfills 3 out of 3 requirements but violates 1 restriction, and another that fulfills only 1 requirement but violates zero restrictions, only the latter is a legal attack. This is also true of declaring blockers (which is why your Relentless Raptor doesn’t have to block your opponent’s fliers- it can’t!), it just comes up much less often.

There’s a wrinkle to this, though. Enter Baird, Steward of Argive. Baird has an interesting line of text on him: “Creatures can’t attack you or a Planeswalker you control unless their controller pays {1} for each of those creatures.”. Because this effect is preventing attacks, it’s a restriction, but there’s a way to turn it off. You can fulfill both the requirement and the restriction here by attacking and paying the one mana… but you’re also allowed to just not pay and not attack at all. This seems a little counter-intuitive, but the basic idea is this: You can never be forced to pay a cost if you don’t want to. You have to fulfill all restrictions, which means either you must pay up the mana or you can’t attack with the goblin token, but you can’t be forced to pay the mana cost, so even though it would let you obey more requirements if you did, you’re not forced to. You can simply decline to pay, and then your Goblin won’t have to attack at all!

Of course, this is the Boros Legion we’re talking about. One mana is a small price to pay for the opportunity to punch your opponent in the face, so have at them! Hope you’ve found this interesting, and see you next time, Sunhome!

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Alistair Crook

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