Am I The Bolas? - A Spoonful of Stax

Mike Carrozza • April 3, 2024

(Torpor Orb |Illustrated by Svetlin Velinov)

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?"

I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email! You might see your story in the column. You might even hear it on the podcast. Which podcast? 


I'm Mark Carbonza, and I wanna know what this guy's up to on the YeeHaw plane!

Imagine trying to lasso up this demon.

This week, more stax talk!

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and to get rid of all the Wingdings! What the hell, Doug!)


One of my more high-powered but not crazy decks is Samut, Voice of Dissent, where the theme is "Untap Shenanigans". Samut is basically a Thousand-Year Elixir on a stick by giving all my creatures haste, and what with it being a more high-powered deck, I made the decision to include every copy of Torpor Orb it can play, which at this point is Torpor OrbHushbringerHushwing GryffTocatli Honor GuardDoorkeeper Thrull, and Strict Proctor.

Suffice it to say, the ability shows up in more or less every game, and it receives some bristles. What's even worse is a lot of decks don't actually mind much, but for others, it shuts them down completely. This means that often, when it's ruffling feathers, it's doing so for one person specifically, which can cause some even more severe salt.

Still, it's not a Stax deck. It's a deck that plays exactly one kind of a card that could be classified as Stax, because, well, it's a good card in the deck. So Am I the Bolas for my limited Stax?

Also, this is Doug from EDHREC!




First of all, thank you for writing in! Without folks writing in, there is no column. So, thanks, Doug!

Also, if you, the reader, have a story or see a Reddit post or something you'd like me to write up on Am I The Bolas? or chat about on Am I The Bolcast?, please send it over to

Now, let's talk about Torpor Orb


It's safe to say that I'd be one of the players hosed by a Hushbringer especially: I talk about loving a creature strategy, most of my decks revolve around death, and what I'd consider my "signature" decks are absolutely all about the graveyard.

That said, if it's right for your deck, running a few of these effects to keep control of the table in a high-powered game feels fine. 

The moment we get into describing the games as high-powered, the discussion of Commander faux pas is less about what cards you can or can't play and more about etiquette.

"Play the strategy you want to play, we're being competitive." You play to your strengths, and if your deck will benefit more from Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines's second line of text, then power to you. In a high-powered environment, play the strongest and most synergistic pieces for your strategy; you're going up against three other decks doing the same, and if you give them a hurdle to jump over or a puzzle to solve, you're enriching their experience if they can make it and beat you. 

I've mentioned this story before, but I played my Prosper, Tome-Bound deck against a land destruction deck and by saving my commander, I was able to climb my way back into the game. While I still lost, I feel really good about and proud of the ways I found to keep myself around. I think back on that game so fondly. The land destruction was in a Iroas, God of Victory Voltron strategy where board wipes and land destruction keep the ways open to end the game. This is totally in line with pushing the strategy to the best it can be. 

Think about it this way: if there's a deck that is a late starter and needs some time to set up before it can get going, then something like Blind Obedience or Thalia, Heretic Cathar feels like it should be good for your deck. It slows down opponents, and that might ruffle some feathers, but you're blunting the assault from coming your way. 

Here's a personal example.

I've been playing The Ninth Doctor/Clara Oswald Grixis upkeeps for a few months now (THAT'S RIGHT, WAY BEFORE Obeka, Splitter of Seconds!). While I wouldn't say this deck is a "high-powered" deck, it certainly can perform like one if it gets going, so I only tend to break it out in trusted pods or in high-powered games where I won't be heartbroken losing. 

I made the decision to include a few cards I knew would be lightning rods.

Rising Waters is a sort of Stasis effect that only keeps lands tapped down, but in my deck, with enough upkeeps, I don't feel the slow down as much. Breaking that parity allows me to set up and deploy toward a win. 

Recantation and Rumbling Crescendo. These two cards can be mass land removal. In the deck, if I get to five upkeeps, the threat of popping the Crescendo slows players down or forces them to use removal on an enchantment that isn't doing anything otherwise. Setting back the frontrunner or stripping the control player of resources so that all of my upkeep effects don't get removed makes it worth it. This is me playing to within the deck's theme while keeping defences up. 

It all comes down to where you're playing this deck and whether or not the table is on board.

If you bill this deck as a high-powered deck, you mention the effects being in the deck, and everybody gives the okay, I'd say you're in the clear. No Bolas. 

If you surprise the table with Strict Proctor after everybody rallies and celebrates their collective efforts to remove your Hushwing Gryff, that's cold. If the table has a laugh, great. If they groan, whoops!

Ultimately, as with many, many, many, many, many, many, manymanymanymany, many Am I The Bolas? articles, it all boils down to being honest and having a conversation with your playgroup or your pod. 

Not the Bolas. Everybody check out Doug's article series Too-Specific Top 10!


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