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I am trying to figure out rule 508.1d - I initially got down this path whilst trying to figure out Fiend Binder's requirements.

Fiend Binder's text says:

Whenever Fiend Binder attacks, tap target creature defending player controls.

My friend and I cannot decide whether this reads as an implicit "must" (since most cards will say "may" when something is optional), or an implicit "may." I argue that if all my creatures are tapped, or if I have no creatures on the battlefield, he cannot use Fiend Binder to attack with; he argues otherwise.

To resolve this we turned to the rules, and I find 508.1d:

The active player checks each creature they control to see whether it’s affected by any requirements (effects that say a creature attacks if able, or that it attacks 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.

... so far so good, but then it says:

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.

Which is downright weird...

  1. If there is a cost for attacking, the player doesn't have to pay that cost and can proceed anyway? What's the point then?
  2. the rule doesn't specify "mana cost" but I presume that is what it means, as opposed to a requirement, like "sacrifice a creature"?

Is there any extra rule or resource that can add clarity?

I really wish the card instructions conformed to RFC-2119 ...! :-P

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    This question has become a little muddled, because the answers show that the rule you quoted is not relevant to the ability you asked about. If you still have questions about that rule, you may want to ask them in a separate question that doesn't have the Fiend Binder baggage. – murgatroid99 Jul 21 at 16:01
  • If there's no ':' in the ability description, it has no cost unless the ability itself states otherwise. The ':' is hard to see sometimes if it's a mana or tap cost because of how the font used on the cards is kerned with respect to the icons, but it is there. This means that Fiend Binder's ability has no cost, because there is no ':'. – Austin Hemmelgarn Jul 21 at 23:18
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    Note that nothing stops you from using this ability to tap a creature that's already tapped. This could be important if, for example, your opponent had an illusion creature that said "When this creature becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it." – corsiKa Jul 22 at 7:10
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You're getting combat requirements mixed up with triggered abilities.

Triggered abilities:

603.1. Triggered abilities have a trigger condition and an effect. They are written as “[When/Whenever/At] [trigger condition or event], [effect]. [Instructions (if any).]”

Now, you know that if there isn't any targets, there's a problem, but that's handled by:

603.3d The remainder of the process for putting a triggered ability on the stack is identical to the process for casting a spell listed in rules 601.2c–d. If a choice is required when the triggered ability goes on the stack but no legal choices can be made for it, or if a rule or a continuous effect otherwise makes the ability illegal, the ability is simply removed from the stack.

So, if your opponent has no creatures, the ability triggers, but since there are no legal targets, it's immediately removed from the stack.

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    Aha... looks like I'll need to re-read those sections' intros then.... thanks – taifwa Jul 21 at 13:42
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    @taifwa You may wish to give a little time for someone else to chime in. Could be a better explanation than mine. Also, do you want me to elaborate on rule 508? – JonTheMon Jul 21 at 13:43
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    The second part of this answer isn't correct in this situation. Tapped creatures are legal targets for Fiend Binder's ability since there's no targeting restriction (i.e. "target untapped creature"). 609.3 seems more relevant here: If an effect attempts to do something impossible, it does only as much as possible. The effect attempts to tap an already tapped creature, and so it simply does nothing. – Miles Budnek Jul 21 at 14:48
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    @MilesBudnek I'd say the second part is incomplete, not incorrect. If he has no creatures, there are no legal targets. I never said anything about only tapped creatures. – JonTheMon Jul 21 at 16:15
  • "So, if your opponent has no creatures, the ability triggers, but since there are no legal targets, it's immediately removed from the stack." - It seems like there should be a clearer/more concise way to put this. Something like "triggered abilities are ignored when they have no valid targets", maybe? – aroth Jul 22 at 13:04
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Fiend Binder's ability is not a combat requirement or restriction. It is a triggered ability that happens as a consequence of attacking. You can attack with it if your opponent controls only tapped creatures, or even no creatures at all.

Your question has a number of incorrect assumptions:

First If a creature can't attack because of one of its abilities, it's called a restriction, not a requirement:

508.1c The active player checks each creature they control to see whether it’s affected by any restrictions (effects that say a creature can’t attack, or that it can’t attack unless some condition is met). If any restrictions are being disobeyed, the declaration of attackers is illegal.

A requirement is given when an effect says that a creature must attack:

508.1d The active player checks each creature they control to see whether it’s affected by any requirements (effects that say a creature attacks if able, or that it attacks if some condition is met). [..]

Second Since Fiend Binder's ability is neither a restriction nor a requirement, its ability can't be a cost for attacking or defending either.

Third Fiend Binder's ability is a triggered ability. It goes on the stack whenever its trigger event happens.

603.1. Triggered abilities have a trigger condition and an effect. They are written as “[When/Whenever/At] [trigger condition or event], [effect]. [Instructions (if any).]”

Whether a triggered ability can't go on the stack, is countered, or resolves without taking effect has no influence whatsoever on the event that triggered it, because that event has already happened, it's in the past.

A few things can happen between the triggering event and the ability actually doing something. A triggered ability might not go on the stack at all, because an effect says so (e.g. Hushbringer), or it's immediately removed because it lacks a valid target:

603.3d The remainder of the process for putting a triggered ability on the stack is identical to the process for casting a spell listed in rules 601.2c–d. If a choice is required when the triggered ability goes on the stack but no legal choices can be made for it, or if a rule or a continuous effect otherwise makes the ability illegal, the ability is simply removed from the stack.

This would apply to Fiend Binder if your opponent controls no creatures, or none of them could be targeted by Fiend Binder.

The ability could be countered, e.g. Disallow).

Finally, if Fiend Binder targets an already tapped creature, it will resolve but nothing happens, because, as you correctly note, a tapped creature can't be tapped. However, this is inconsequential, since in this case, tapping is an effect, not cost.

701.20a To tap a permanent, turn it sideways from an upright position. Only untapped permanents can be tapped.

609.3. If an effect attempts to do something impossible, it does only as much as possible.

So in essence, you may freely attack with Fiend Binder, without any restriction. If you do attack, and your opponent has any creature that you could target with Fiend Binder's ability, you have to do so. If not, nothing happens, and your Fiend Binder keeps attacking.

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    Reading the referenced rule 609.3 regarding impossible things, did I get it right that the targeting part will still happen even if the tapping part cannot? As in, if opponent's only permanent is a tapped Ashenmoor Liege, you might still die from attacking with your Fiend Binder? – Bass Jul 21 at 22:33
  • @Bass Yep, targeting is part of putting the ability on the stack, while tapping is part of its resolution. That resolution doesn't happen until the ability has been on the stack for a while, and other abilities or spells could have triggered/been cast and resolved in the meantime. Your example is a good one: the Binder's ability triggers fully and goes on the stack, then the Liege's ability triggers and goes on the stack, then the Liege's ability resolves and you lose 4 life and maybe the game. All this happens before it's decided whether the Binder's ability can tap the creature or not. – David Z Jul 21 at 23:39
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If there is a cost for attacking, the player doesn't have to pay that cost and can proceed anyway? What's the point then?

First, that's not relevant, as this is not a cost. Costs are things that must be paid to do something, not something that happens as a result of something. (If a card says "When this enters the battlefield, sacrifice a land", for instance, then sacrificing a land is not, for rule purposes, a cost, even though the card "costs" you a land in the plain English sense.)

Second, this doesn't mean you can attack with a creature even if you don't pay a cost required for it to attack. It means you can refuse to pay the cost and then not attack. For example, Trove of Temptation has the ability "Each opponent must attack you or a planeswalker you control with at least one creature each combat if able." Propaganda says "Creatures can't attack you unless their controller pays 2 for each creature they control that's attacking you." If you have both Trove of Temptation and Propaganda on the battlefield, your opponent can refuse to pay 2 and not attack you with any creatures, even though that means that they are unable to satisfy Trove of Temptation's requirement.

the rule doesn't specify "mana cost" but I presume that is what it means, as opposed to a requirement, like "sacrifice a creature"?

Sacrificing a creature can be a cost. It's important to distinguish between when sacrificing a creature is a cost or an effect, since if it's a cost, you generally can refuse to do it (though you then don't get the effect that it's a cost for).

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