If an untapped creature is targeted with an "untap target creature" spell or ability, will it be considered becoming untapped?


No. There must be a transition. As per the English definition, "to become untapped" is "to begin to be untapped".

In fact, the ability you mentioned won't even try to untap it. It's impossible untap a permanent that's already untapped. That's why you can't activate an ability with the untap symbol ({Q}) in its cost if the source of the ability is already untapped.

Similarly, it's impossible to tap a permanent that's already tapped. That's why you can't activate an ability with the tap symbol ({T}) in its cost if the source of the ability is already tapped.

This wouldn't stop you from casting a spell that would try to do these impossible actions. The spell will simply do as much as possible, and skip over the impossible instruction. e.g. Gerrad's Command on an untapped creature would effectively become "Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.", and Crippling Chill on tapped creature would effectively become "Target creature doesn't untap during its controller's next untap step."

  • Is an untapped creature still a legal target for the example spell in the question?
    – Colin D
    Jan 14 '14 at 18:54
  • 1
    @Colin D, Depends on the wording, but all that matters is the targeting condition. If it says "target creature" and it's an creature, it's a valid target. (e.g. Gerrard's Command) If it says "target tapped creature" and it's an untapped creature, it's not a valid target. (e.g. Soldevi Golem)
    – ikegami
    Jan 14 '14 at 19:09
  • @Colin D, Examples for tapping rather than untapping: 1. Crippling Chill can target a tapped creature. It won't tap it, but it will stop it from untapping. 2. Traitor's Roar can't target a tapped creature.
    – ikegami
    Jan 14 '14 at 19:09

Unless specified as part of the target (e.g. "target tapped creature"), targeting doesn't check or care whether that thing is already tapped, so you can target an untapped creature with Savage Surge. That's why cards like Devout Invocation and Clock of Omens specify that those permanent must be untapped.

However, if a trigger looks for something that "becomes untapped" like the new inspiration cards, it require a change in the tapped/untapped status, just like cards like Brink of Disaster or Chronic Flooding (Compare with Bramble Elemental and its "becomes attached" trigger).

  • @ikegami You can still target the creature, it just won't do anything (I believe it's countered on resolution or something). The point is it's a valid spell target. I'll admit your answer is better, I just wanted to cover that edge case in your original comment. As for Urza's Contact Lenses (and you know you're reaching when you go to UNGLUED for your rules examples, right?), I'm not sure that's correct. After all, Arena can "tap" a tapped creature. I think it is acceptable to clap your hands twice without turning the Lenses off. Tapping as a cost is different to tapping as an effect.
    – deworde
    Jan 15 '14 at 16:56
  • UCL has you chose one of two actions: Tap UCL or untap UCL. You can't choose to perform an impossible action, so you must choose the only possible action. Arena simply has your opponent choose a creature. It later tries to tap that creature, but can't. I had to reach into Unglued since UCL is the only card that has been erratad to "you may tap or untap it" (e.g. Twiddle). This gives you a choice of three actions: "do nothing, tap it or untap it", allowing you to maintian the status quo.
    – ikegami
    Jan 15 '14 at 17:08
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    @ikegami "You can't untap something that's untapped, and you can't tap something that's tapped." You can't tap them further, but you can still target them with abilities that would (un)tap, like [mtg:Wavecrash Triton] (that's what rule 609.3 is about). The targeting part was referring to stuff like [mtg:Traitor's Roar], [mtg:Assassinate] or [mtg:Surrakar Banisher].
    – Circeus
    Jan 15 '14 at 21:50
  • @Circeus, Considering I already explained all that before you answered, I know all that, and it has nothing to do with what I said. You said the spell doesn't check or care, but that's not true. Targeting doesn't care sometimes, but the spell does. You said the spell doesn't care or check, but it does because it can't untap something that's untapped (which means it doesn't become untapped, which answers the OP's question).
    – ikegami
    Jan 16 '14 at 4:26
  • @Circeus, There, fixed.
    – ikegami
    Jan 16 '14 at 4:29

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