Am I The Bolas? – A Reasonable Rift

Mike Carrozza • December 15, 2021

Cyclonic Rift Illustrated by Chris Rahn

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 markcarbonza@gmail.com!

Who am I?

I’m Mark Carbonza! An astronaut who loves carnival games! What?! There hasn’t been a new spoiler in a while, give me a break!

This week, a table turns!

(Email edited for anonymity, brevity, and clarity)

SO WE MEET AGAIN, MARK!

Hello, Mark.
Here’s what happened. Five-player pod.
The player who was playing Winota, Joiner of Forces dealt 23 damage to me in one turn, bringing me down to 7 life. The player who was playing Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow attacked with Yuriko and 2 other creatures with Conspiracy on the board.
So I cast Cyclonic Rift so I don’t lose the game.
Get this – the other two players scoop and say, “This isn’t fun!”
The only things I had on my board were Swiftfoot Boots, Thada Adel, Acquisitor, and a Sol Ring that I took from the Yuriko player.
My brand new Runo Stromkirk deck had won one of the five or so games we had played earlier. The Yuriko deck has always been an issue at the table as it deals tons of damage out of nowhere and his stuff is usually unblockable. This game, Yuriko had a bunch of small evasive creatures that were all Ninjas thanks to his enchantment.
The Winota player was going to outright kill me with almost 30 damage until one of my other friends convinced him not to, so I only took a “measly” 20 damage. The Kresh the Bloodbraided deck turned his commander into a 13/13 beater and also threatened to kill me until I managed to convince him that I had a board wipe (without saying which) and that he would die on the crackback if he killed me. I went through my turn, got the Sol Ring from the Yuriko player, and passed the turn and fired off the Cyclonic Rift before Yuriko actually dealt combat damage saving the table from multiple Yuriko triggers… and that’s when all but one other player complained and the game ended. While I was trying to convince everyone that it was absolutely necessary to do and they shouldn’t scoop, I was told that, “Cyclonic Rift just isn’t fun,” and when I asked, “Well, what should I have done then,” one player responded, “You should have just lost.”
Am I the Bolas for playing Cyclonic Rift to save myself from losing?
Best,
Fairest Rift

FAIREST RIFT, WE’RE NEIGHBOURS, WE MEET EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME!

Hello, Fairest Rift.

First, I’d like to thank you for this story. It will allow me to discuss a few things, and I appreciate you sharing.

Secondly, I would like to say as someone who has removed Cyclonic Rift from all but two of my blue decks (out of a possible ten decks), I agree with your name – this is the fairest way to play Cyclonic Rift I’ve heard of.

Cyclonic Rift is flexible interaction. I think it’s a very strong card. No, wait – I KNOW it’s a strong card. How many people do you see on Reddit or Twitter or Facebook calling for this thing to be banned all the time? This story is another example of people who have internalized that thought and have applied it to this scenario in which, I contend, it is used the most fairly.


Let’s get this out of the way: “Blah, blah, blah, Yuriko deck should have had a Counterspell, they’re in blue!”
Who is that? The buncha dorks who think it’s fun to pretend the game isn’t high variance by design. Every time I post a story of gameplay, somebody feels the need to chime in with, “That would’ve never happened if they had (THE PERFECT CARD FOR THIS SCENARIO IN THEIR HAND WITH MANA AVAILABLE) in their deck! What amateurs!

Knock that stuff off. What do you get out of commenting that???


But I digress.

A lot of the scenarios I hear people complain about are the ones where someone is ahead or really close, maybe even dominating a table, then slamming down a Rift like a nail in the coffin. It can come out of nowhere and it’s a real step-on-necks move that makes some give up. That can feel unfair and unfun. If you’re building a board state and the person with everything in the game says, “Nah,  start back from the top,” that’s not going to feel great or like it’s worth the time spent to play the game.

That said, in this case, Fairest Rift had the least developed board and managed to pull off a defensive Hail Mary by convincing Kresh not to go for the kill (excellent politics move, by the way, well spotted and totally correct) and then snapping the Rift only thanks to the Sol Ring from the most dangerous player at the table. Using the Rift to not only save yourself but potentially the other players from the Yuriko trigger was great. You’d have to stabilize at 7 life and try to pillow fort somehow. This is such a fair use of Rift.

You know what isn’t fair? Having totally developed boards with a kill on the table and being salty that your stuff got interacted with.

Look. I know a thing or two about being salty. I love when my decks do what they’re built to do. I love setting up all the pieces and watching the dominoes knock each other down. It rules. Big ol’ Johnny with a splash of Timmy and a hint of Melvin over here.

But when someone destroys my Ashnod’s Altar in my Thalisse, Reverent Medium deck because they can see the engine get started, that’s the right move. I might huff over it for a second, but it’s the right move. And that’s when I don’t even have the win on board.

Celebrate the players you play with for doing cool things and playing well, too. I can understand Yuriko player being salty, but the others? You just came in clutch and saved them from losing the game. I doubt you’d be much of a threat once the turn came back to you based on your board especially since you’d have to turtle at SEVEN FRICKEN LIFE, BUD! WHAT IS UP WITH THIS PLAYGROUP? ALSO, WINOTA AND YURIKO ARE INCREDIBLY POWERFUL COMMANDERS THAT ARE CEDH-TIER DECKS! BUT CYCRIFT IS TOO MUCH???

I love it when people do stuff and if they make big plays at clutch moments, that makes for great stories. While I am someone who thinks Cyclonic Rift can be too strong, I am totally in favor of it here.

Finally, the last thing I have to say is that if 60% of your playgroup think a card is not fun, it’s time to discuss an in-house banlist. If they disagree to the banning, well then we’ll have learned that they don’t dislike the card – they just wish they were the one who cast it. I would love to know if the Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow player packs a Rift in the 99. And if they do? Shame.

In all seriousness though, maybe chat about the cards that make people feel this way. Three out of five players scooped to a single card used in quite literally the least oppressive case I could imagine, maybe it’s house ban time for ol’ CycRift.

My Verdict?

Not the Bolas. Pretty clearly been on your side this whole time. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was me writing in to myself. That’s not to say I haven’t been the Bolas. It’s just that in this case, I wouldn’t have been. Because Fairest Rift isn’t the Bolas.

Thanks for writing in, FR! If you have your own story you’d like me to weigh in on, please email markcarbonza@gmail.com

What do you all think about this take on Rift? Is it fair all the time? Is it worth a ban? Have we already had this conversation a million times? Sound off in the comments below!



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