Am I The Bolas? - A Deck Experiment Flops

Mike Carrozza • May 24, 2023

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn | Illustrated by Mark Tedin

Hello, and welcome to Am I the Bolas?

This column is for all of you out there who have ever played some Magic and wondered if you were the bad guy. I'm here to take in your story with all of its nuances so I can bring some clarity to all those asking, "Am I the Bolas?" Whether it's because of a mean play or even just getting bored with your playgroup, I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email!

I'm Mark Carbonza, and it's my birthday!

I don't know when these things come out.

This week's story is about letting friends try things out and hesitating to give them honesty.

(Edited for clarity, brevity, spelling, italicizing, style guide elements, etc. If you're reading this, thank you! This might not be the place for it, but if you want to listen to my comedy album Cherubic, give that a spin!)


Let me start with some context. There were two other players in this game, I'll just call them Player 1 and Player 2. Player 1 had played with me a number of times, and Player 2 had played a couple of games with me, but I didn't know them super well.

Player 1 told me before the game he would be running an Eldrazi deck helmed by Emrakul, the Aeons Torn that was completely made of proxies. I was okay with it, as most of the big Eldrazi decks cost a lot, and I didn't mind them. I was also running Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and wanted to copy some of the big creatures. The table gave a thumbs up.

When we each start to take out our decks, Player 1 takes out a pile of very low quality proxies. They were printed paper with the picture of the card on the front, with a completely white back cut into varying sizes, completely unsleeved. This was his first time using proxies, so I didn't say anything.

When we start shuffling to play, Player 1 is double checking he has every card in his deck. By the time me and Player 2 finish, he is double checking them twice, pulling out duplicates. At this point I asked him if he wanted to use my Atarka deck instead, and he declined.

When we finally start the game, more problems. Player 1 is very disorganized, making mistakes like shuffling his hand into his deck, misplacing his graveyard, and shuffling taking an extremely long time. At some point he finds another duplicate in his deck he forgot to take out, only after he draws it.

The game was at an extremely slow pace, and at some point Player 2 gives up (while having the lead), citing time. I end up losing to his big Eldrazi, and we finish the game after almost 2 hours. He's very happy about how his deck played, and I'm just feeling "meh" after the whole thing is done.

The game itself was fine, but the slow pace and the rectifying of mistakes lead to an extremely boring game. I'm thinking about asking Player 1 to change decks to something easier to use if we play again. Am I the Bolas for not letting my friend play a deck he likes again because disorganization is too much of a problem?



PS: I really love the article series, it's what's convinced me to start having conversations before every game about what players should and should not expect. It's improved my Magic games a lot. All the best!


Hi, Harold!

First of all, thank you so much for the kind words! Thank you for confirming that I've achieved what I set out to do with this series: start a chat that will improve the experience of folks who play Commander. Thank you so much! I appreciate your story and I have some thoughts.

There are a few things that raise my eyebrows here, so let's get into it.

Using a banned card as a commander? Hey, fine. If you guys all said yes to it, welcome to the party, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. As you stated, if the Emmy was a problem, there was an agreement to swap out the commander for another. That's not an issue to me! This is a great example of things going well, actually! Way to go!


No problem! Hey, I love me a double-face card placeholder card with Sharpie on it personally for cards I don't want to buy twice. Serra's Sanctum is in two of my decks and the one copy I have is in my staples binder, but I don't always travel with that. As long as it's legible, I haven't had complaints. Proxies are dope!


When I proxy, the cards are the same card stock or similar enough that they fit in sleeves and are indistinguishable from each other. I have had friends take a stack of basic lands, print off card images, and glue them to their basics. Then they sleeve them up in an old stack of sleeves and get to playing. It was a dream! This friend hadn't played in a while and didn't want to spend a ton of money on cards. We were just happy to have him!

If he had shown up with just the unevenly cut-out paper print-outs, I'd be less stoked as those aren't really great for shuffling, as you know. "Eldrazi get shuffled into their decks when they die for a lot of them" is the first thought I had with this story.

I think it's fair to ask that Player 1 not play this version of the deck if it was the dexterity element of the whole affair that was a problem. I would recommend suggesting a method like one outlined above. Even without the glue, it works great!

I don't think you're the Bolas for asking not to play against this iteration of the deck. A two-hour game that's made longer by pieces of paper being a hurdle isn't great. But hey! Your friend got to try out the deck. Did they like it? Are they thinking of building it outright? Are they looking to commit a little time to slip those sheets into sleeves with Jungle Hollows or basic lands or even tokens!

Thanks again for writing in!

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Mike Carrozza is a stand-up comedian from Montreal who’s done a lot of cool things like put out an album called Cherubic and worked with Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane, and more people to brag about. He’s also been an avid EDH player who loves making silly stuff happen. @mikecarrozza on platforms