This is Not a Pipe: Magic the Gathering edition

Pedro Fernandes's "This is not a pipe" Magic: The Gathering card is all kinds of clever. Fun fact: Hasbro claims a patent on "tapping" cards in gameplay (that is, turning a card sideways in the course of play).

This is Not a Pipe (via Super Punch)


  1. …Ah, reminds me of the old Space Gamer, when they issued the Python expansion set for Nuclear War.

  2. Cannot untap when? During the next untapping phase? Can’t untapping effects apply?
    It should be implemented via tokens…

  3. Not very impressed with this photoshopped M:TG card. In fact, it completely ignores the philosophical intention of ceci n’est pas une pipe and therefore, the mechanic of the card does not employ the potential of a good joke.

    This is not a pipe is an empirical conundrum: it looks like a pipe, but it’s not a pipe: it’s a drawing of a pipe.

    1. No, I think the saying still applies. It’s not a drawing of a pipe, it’s a picture of a pipe, which is still not a pipe.

      They selected a nice pipe here.

  4. I’m not very familiar with Magic beyond what i’ve heard from friend’s conversations and whatnot. Either way i’m quite amused by this card because of the artistic reference.

    I am a bit confused. Is this a real card or just something someone made as a joke?

    1. Grey Devil: ceci n’est pas une carte de Magic, The Gathering.

      C’est une image d’une carte….

      /doesn’t know if Breton really spoke english.

  5. Making custom magic cards has been a popular hobby ever since the game made it big… Seen better, seen worse.

  6. Warning: Magic geekery ahead

    Cute, but this card is not only poorly worded but BROKEN, as overly powerful cards are often called in the informal jargon of the game. The card does not specify the pipe’s return to a non-real state. Does the Real Pipe remain perpetually in play or only until the end of turn? Do permanents locked down by the Real Pipe remain tapped until the end of the game? Regardless, with a casting cost of zero this card would be an game-dominating bomb in any format of Magic.

    To conform to the style of Oracle (the official source list of Magic card text), the card ought to read something like:

    X, tap, Sacrifice This is Not a Pipe: Put a colorless token artifact called Real Pipe onto the battlefield and select X tapped target permanents. Those permanents don’t untap during their controller’s untap step while Real Pipe remains on the battlefield.

  7. If the maker ethos does take off, the popularity of M:tg among nerds should really get some of the credit. It’s an amazingly deep subculture.

  8. Attempting to patent a methodology? I don’t think that flies; it was for precisely this reason that Parker Brothers were able to rip off the board game ‘Monopoly’ from the original Georgist creators. Cuff ’em, Cory!

  9. The Me of 1996, who both sold (dealt) magic cards (magic crack) at a comic shop and loved nothing more than an art pun would have killed for this card.

  10. Hmm, for how long can the target cards not untap? As written it appears to be forever. In other words this card is totally broken.

    1. You beat me to it! I was thinking the same. The wording could be fixed to “do not untap during their controller’s next turn”, but that would still be too powerful in my opinion.

  11. As written, I don’t think this card works. When you use the activated ability, the card isn’t coming into play, so it wouldn’t have any effect.

    Funny idea though.

    1. Alasdair’s right. Activation of a text-changing effect on the card title does not count for enters-the-battlefield triggered abilities. I’d say that this one needs to go back to Development for re-templating, but the fact that at first glance this card looks like it does something, but really it does nothing, may very well be part of the joke.

      1. I think it makes sense. The card transforms into a Real Pipe, and therefore “Real Pipe” has now come into play, no? Are there specific rules that say that such a thing cannot count as “coming into play?”

  12. Ha! That’s a ridiculously powerful card. But then, the last time I glanced at some magic cards after a 10+year hiatus, I was astounded by the tremendous power inflation, where even the most common cards were better than the “rares” of my youth.

    Oh, the nostalgia of a nerd.

    1. I believe you to be mistaken, sir. On average, the cards do more (have more abilities and so-forth) but more powerful?

      3 mana of any color for zero, is too good. One blue, draw 3 cards is too good. As is a land that gives all creatures an upkeep cost of 1, or else they’re sacrificed. Those are all old, old cards.

      So… Uh.. Can yall tell that boingboing just tapped into one of my subcultures? >_<

  13. Breton was a surrealist not a dadaist. I hope the person who says the card is ripping off Magrite is sarcastic not incredibly stupid.

    1. True, Andre Breton is a surrealist, and he invented surrealism for that matter, but he was actually a dadaist at first.

  14. “Fun fact: Hasbro claims a patent on “tapping” cards in gameplay (that is, turning a card sideways in the course of play). ”

    Fun fact, Wizards of the Coast, has had that patent for 15+ years (or however long it’s been since M:tG has been released). Or in other words, old news. If I recall correctly, the patent only covers tapping a card if you refer to it as tapping and/or use one of their various symbols for tapping. Other card games (munchkin for instance) don’t call it tapping but do allow a player to turn cards they’re “carrying” but not using sideways.

  15. The patent covers rotating a card only in a certain context, this being when players create their own deck, AND players create an initial hand by randomly drawing from their own deck, AND players take turns playing, AND a turn involves taking one or more cards from his hand and placing them on the table, AND selecting one of those placed cards, AND the turned card is the selected card.

    If any one of those isn’t covered by your own usage of rotation, then the patent doesn’t apply to you. Rotation in and of itself is not patented.

    Yes, I agree it’s a silly patent. It’s a patent for a gaming system, for crying out loud. But I just wanted to see what happened if I followed Tridgell’s advice on not believing the Slashdot headline for patents:

  16. I haven’t played Magic for a decade at least, so I myself don’t know the ramifications of the phrase in the current rules, but: Yes, there are almost certainly specific rules that define what the phrase “coming into play” means. M:tG cards are worded in a technical language in which every phrase has a legalistic definition.

    Magic is to law school what paintball is to soldiering. It tries to capture the fun parts of being a lawyer while dispensing with most of the work, scope, danger, pain, and consequences.

  17. @mechfish,

    Unfortunately within the last few sets MTG changed things like “comes into play” to “enters the battlefield” and “remove from play” to “exlie.” Being a magic player for some years now, I think the terminology changes are dumb, and I continue to use the old terminology (mainly out of habit).

    Many a night has been spent “discussing” the rules of magic with my friends (ie: one of us tries to do something questionable, and everyone comes to a consensus over the rules).


    The way its worded, you are tapping a single card, for a single mana; permanently. To make it equally useful and balanced, you would have to sacrifice “this is not a pipe” or create a “real pipe” token; as long as the “real pipe” token was in play tapped cards could not untap during their owners untap steps.


    (3): Put a tobacco counter on target tapped permanent.
    (x), Sacrifice This is Not a Pipe and put a Real Pipe token into play that reads: “As long as Real pipe is in play target permanents with tobacco counters on them do not untap during their owners untap steps.” X is the number of permanents with tobacco counters in play.

    And if we’re going with the latter suggestion, paying (0) for something like that is way too powerful. I’d say (5) or more at least.

    1. Not to mention the idea of sacrificing the card “This is not a pipe” for a token that is called “Real Pipe” that is able to be any arbitrary object used to signify the “Real Pipe” only adds to the absurdity and gives it a little extra Dada.

  18. (X)(X)
    This is not a pipe

    Artifact – Rare

    When comes into play, put a tobacco counters on X target permanents

    You may choose not to untap during your untap step.

    X,(tap): Tap all permanents with tobacco counters. As long as is tapped, permanents with tobacco counters do not untap during their controllers untap step.

    – consider the card unbroken and printable –


    Here’s a version that actually works:

    “This is not a pipe”
    Artifact – 0
    – X, T: “This is not a pipe” is now named “Real Pipe”. Put X dada counters on it.
    – Whenever “This is not a pipe”‘s name changes to “Real Pipe”, choose X target tapped permanents, where X is the number of dada counters on “This is not a pipe”. Those permanents cannot untap.

    Not the same in that you could pay more for X than the number of possible targets and the first ability would still go through, whereas the card probably intends something along the lines of this:

    – X, T: “This is not a pipe” is now named “Real Pipe”. Also, choose X target tapped permanents. Those permanents cannot untap.

    1. “something along the lines of this:
      – X, T: “This is not a pipe” is now named “Real Pipe”. Also, choose X target tapped permanents. Those permanents cannot untap.”

      Congratulations, you just remade stasis. They haven’t reprinted that card for a reason. To make it somewhat balanced for its zero casting cost, you would have to change the last line to read: “Those permanents do not untap during their controllers next untap step.”

  20. A patent on a gameplay mechanism is a fucking asinine idea. That’s like trying to patent “moving a game-piece forward one square.” Hasbro can go eat a brick.

    1. @24: Explain how a patent on a game is different from a patent on any other useful object. I’ll be waiting.

  21. “I agree; the cards have gotten less powerful. Even the mana elves got nerfed.”

    I would disagree (I’ll see your mana elves and raise you a Noble Heirarch, and an Elvish Archduid). Having played on and off for…jeez, 17 years now (and currently on), the last few sets have increased the power curve tremendously. Getting a second turn 20/20 indestructible creature is now quite common (in extended play). Consistent 4th and 5th turn wins in Standard are common.

    This card would be probably done now as (if a one time use)

    X, T: Exile “This is Not a Pipe.” Place a Pipe token onto the battlefield and place X “Not a Pipe” counters on X target tapped permanents.

    [pipe token includes the text “Permanents with “Not a pipe” counters do not untap during their controllers untap phase]

  22. I’ve been going through the comments and i’m amused that some commenters are trying to come up with a working version of the card, which is rather cool, but i think that in the spirit of the art the pipe card should really do nothing.

    It is meant to confuse and to make the person on the receiving end doubt what they are seeing or what they think they see. So if you were to make this a functional card, it would be inline with the painting if this were to have a function of deception or confusion.

    1. Along that lines of thinking, this function might be more appropriate:

      (X), Choose X target non “pipe” permanents. They are now pipes in addition to their other card types.

  23. ‘”I agree; the cards have gotten less powerful. Even the mana elves got nerfed.”

    I would disagree ‘

    Me too. The original set and the first few expansions didn’t have a lot of inherently powerful cards; they just ended up producing some unbalancing combinations as a result of players buying a lot more cards than Richard Garfield anticipated. But for every Black Lotus, there are thousands of Pearled Unicorns, Grey Ogres, Hurloon Minotaurs, and Sea Serpents.

    The cards have, however, become less *interesting.* However unsuitable for tournament play it may have been, Chaos Orb was tons of fun to play with, even if I was on the receiving end of my friend’s “Chaos Orbs and Plague Rats” deck more times than I can count.

  24. Hey people!
    I am the creator of this card.
    Just wanted to get this cleared out… Erm… I never thought about consulting René Magritte (sure), MTG pros, nor English (not my native lang) teachers just to create a joke.

  25. This is not a house fire. In the event of an actual house fire, stop playing cards and exit immediately.

  26. This reminds me of Alfred Korzybski’s metaphor about the map not being the territory. Those who are pointing out that ‘This is not a pipe’ is not a pipe are correct. It only represents a pipe. Nothing more.

  27. I used to be a certifified Magic judge. I’m rusty, but here is my take:

    When a magic card refers to a card of the same name as itself, the rules state that it is referring only to itself.

    So spending X and tapping the card causes the card itself to change name.

    The second clause says when the card itself comes into play, a tapping effect occurs. This is called a triggered effect.

    But the card is not coming into play. It is merely changing name. So the triggered effect is not triggered.

    As written, the card does nothing except allow you to tap it and spend mana. It will never cause any other cards to tap, because the triggered effect will never be triggered. It can’t be triggered when it comes into play, because it is not called Real Pipe when it comes into play.

    Perhaps doing nothing is the point.

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