You can activate the ability, but it won't do anything.
January 8, 2017 6:02 p.m.
Maybe this will also help:
- 602.2. To activate an ability is to put it onto the stack and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. Only an objects controller (or its owner, if it doesnt have a controller) can activate its activated ability unless the object specifically says otherwise. Activating an ability follows the steps listed below, in order. If, at any point during the activation of an ability, a player is unable to comply with any of those steps, the activation is illegal; the game returns to the moment before that ability started to be activated (see rule 717, Handling Illegal Actions). Announcements and payments cant be altered after theyve been made.
January 8, 2017 6:10 p.m.
The artifact in question does say 'may'. Therefore you have the option not to imprint.
January 8, 2017 11:56 p.m.
@darkmatter32x: That was never asked - the question was whether you can activate the ability without a card imprinted on it. That could happen as you describe by never imprinting one in the first place, or by some Processor removing it from exile, for example.