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This is a question I've seen come up in several circles now, including a game I just played.

From the Unstable FAQ, we know that we can activate X's tap ability in anyone's hand to move him to anyone else's hand, from question 6 in X's section:

In multiplayer games, can I move X from one opponent's hand to another's?

Yes, you can. While X is in an opponent's hand, you can activate its middle ability. This is unusual, as normally tap abilities can't be activated from a player's hand. But X's first ability says you can, so you can.

So X is tapped and moved to someone else's hand.

When does he untap? Does he untap in the untap step of the person who owns X, or the person whose hand X is in?

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The tap symbol in X has no significant meaning while X is in a player's hand.

This is based on the comprehensive rules dealing with "tapping":

701.19. Tap and Untap

701.19a To tap a permanent, turn it sideways from an upright position. Only untapped permanents can be tapped.

701.19b To untap a permanent, rotate it back to the upright position from a sideways position. Only tapped permanents can be untapped.

107.5. The tap symbol is {T}. The tap symbol in an activation cost means “Tap this permanent.” A permanent that’s already tapped can’t be tapped again to pay the cost. A creature’s activated ability with the tap symbol in its activation cost can’t be activated unless the creature has been under its controller’s control continuously since his or her most recent turn began. See rule 302.6.

A couple things here. Note that the idea of tapping as a general concept only applies to permanents. There is no reason to think from the comprehensive rules that a non-permanent can become tapped.

So how can you activate the ability? Well, you can still pay the cost of "tapping it", it's just that paying that cost will have no effect on its state; it won't become tapped. So tapping a permanent causes it to become tapped, but tapping a card in your hand doesn't.

Also, even if it did somehow become tapped; there's nothing in the rules from tapping it again to pay the cost... 107.5, which prevents you from paying the tap cost if its tapped, only refers to tapped permanents.

Since X in a player's hand is not a permanent, the regular rules regarding it being tapped or untapped simply don't apply.

Finally, if it somehow were tapped, there's no reason in the rules to think that it would ever untap (until it becomes a new object by changing zones, or some spell/ability untaps it). The only thing that causes untapping normally is this rule:

502.2. Second, the active player determines which permanents he or she controls will untap. Then he or she untaps them all simultaneously. This turn-based action doesn’t use the stack. Normally, all of a player’s permanents untap, but effects can keep one or more of a player’s permanents from untapping.

As this rule only applies to permanents, the card in your hand wouldn't get untapped during the untap step.

Considering that these cards were creating primarily for the humor of seeing what silly things can be done, it would not surprise me if one of the reasons for having "tap" in the cost of the ability is simply to add to the silliness of the idea of taping a card in someone's hand. Though that is of course just speculation.

  • Un-rules allow a number of things which are normally forbidden (see the fact that X is in an opponent's hand). I think that hand-tapping might be one of them. – Arcanist Lupus Dec 16 '17 at 17:12
  • @ArcanistLupus Regular MTG rules allow for card text to break any regular MTG rule, and having X be in an opponent's hand is spelled out on the card text. Tapping or uncapping a card in the hand is not part of the card text. – GendoIkari Dec 17 '17 at 5:25
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X enters a person's hand untapped, so we never actually have to worry about a "when" for untapping him. (This means, if you have the mana available, you can just pass him between peoples' hands repeatedly in quick succession.)

This is because X changes zones. When a card changes zones, the typical rule is 400.7 in the rules for Zones:

400.7. An object that moves from one zone to another becomes a new object with no memory of, or relation to, its previous existence. There are nine exceptions to this rule: [none of them apply here]

So when X enters a new hand, the fact it was tapped in a different hand doesn't matter anymore: it's now untapped, since that's the default state of cards in hands.

This is the same rule that lets us flicker a permanent and see it enter the battlefield untapped again.

(It's weird that when it comes down to it, I and others have forgotten about this rule. It seems X just does something so absolutely, fundamentally weird, we totally forget about zone-transition rules for a while in discussing this situation.)

In case of being stuck in the one hand...

Spells like Stifle and Disallow can counter abilities, which would leave X in the hand they were in — and if we follow the symbol, they're in that hand and tapped.

There's two primary approaches we can go with:

  • X untaps in the untap step of whomever's hand it is. This is just like how they'd untap all permanents they control, whether or not they own them — a permanent they stole or that was Donated to them untaps in their step, not the owner's.
  • X never untaps. The untap step doesn't instruct us to untap things in our hand, so we don't untap X ever. The owner will be limited to either (a) casting X out of that hand to put it in someone else's, or (b) only using X's second activated ability in that hand.

Since this is the silver-bordered world, and Maro advises us to prefer to do awesome things when we can, I suggest using the first of those options.

  • @murgatroid99 good point, I've added that. :) – doppelgreener Dec 13 '17 at 18:37

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