My opponent has Goblin Brigand on the battlefield. It says: "Goblin Brigand must attack each turn if able"

I control a Norn's Annex. My opponent is unable to produce white mana, but can (of course) pay for the attack with his life.

The question is:

Is the Goblin still "able to attack" since my opponent has no other option (in this particular game) than to pay for the attack with his life? Is my opponent "forced" to pay 2 life for the attack?


From rulings of Norn's Annex you can clearly see your answer. The answer is:

If you control Norn's Annex, your opponents can choose not to attack with a creature with an ability that says it must attack.


You are mistaken about the lack of another option: He has the option of not paying the cost, since it's an optional cost ("unless you")[1].

If he doesn't pay the cost, the goblin isn't able to attack, so it doesn't attack[CR 101.2].

You are never forced to meet any requirements. If you don't have enough mana to cast a spell, you don't have to play that land that would allow you to cast it. If Norn's Annex prevents your Goblin Brigand from attacking, so be it. This is supported by a ruling

If you control Norn's Annex, your opponents can choose not to attack with a creature with an ability that says it must attack.

  1. He might also have the option to sacrifice the Brigands, to destroy the Annex, etc.

The effect of Norn's Annex can be interpreted as follows:

  1. Creatures can't attack you or a planeswalker you control.
  2. A creature's controller may pay (W or 2 life) at a given attack step for that creature to be exempt from this restriction for that attack step.

So as far as the game is concerned, Goblin Brigand is not able to attack. The fact that a player could choose to pay a cost which would make Goblin Brigand able to attack is not relevant.

The comprehensive rules that support this interpretation are

508.1d ... 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.

and more generally,

117.12a Some spells, activated abilities, and triggered abilities read, "[Do something] unless [a player does something else]." This means the same thing as "[A player may do something else]. If [that player doesn't], [do something]."

I think it's a fairly general rule of thumb that players are not required to pay costs to make things possible.

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