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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
Who am I?
I'm Mark Carbonza! The guy who got turned down for a teaching position at Strixhaven.
"What do you mean you don't want a course on the history of farts. There needs to be at least one blowout class!"
This week's email was very interesting. Definitely a discussion about power. Here goes.
(Email edited for brevity and to conceal identity of the person submitting.)
I just found out about your article series from Reddit and wanted to ask for your thoughts on my situation.
I've had the same playgroup for nearly 10 years now. We started playing together at a Local Game Store that started small but grew into a good close group. The LGS had 20 or so regulars and growing. Unfortunately, the LGS closed a couple years back so we moved to a new shop. That environment is way different from what we were used to at the old LGS. The new shop fosters a competitive mindset and while they don't play cEDH decks all the time necessarily, they play as if winning is the entire point of the game.
My philosophy is to make the most out of the one night a week I get to play a game, have fun, catch up with friends, let fun goofy stuff happen.
A little while ago, I got a message from the LGS owner saying that he and a few others didn't want me playing there anymore. When I asked why, he said "your decks aren't up to snuff." I offered to tune up some decks, but then was told that my "politicking at the table is out of control" which was very upsetting to me.
The event that preceded this email exchange was the following. I will begin with saying that my politics in a game aren't anywhere near even what happens on Game Knights. I was accused of trying to manipulate the table because of this story:
I was playing one of my budget jank decks, my friend was playing a token deck, LGS owner, and another player were playing an 8 on the power scale. My friend is relatively new to Magic and doesn't always see the lines of play that could lead him to a win or an advantage. I pointed out that if he were to kill the LGS owner and his friend instead of me, he'd have a better chance at winning since I had no cards in hand, was low on life and only had my commander out. His board would crush me no matter what card I pulled. But the owner and his friend both were tapped out. They convinced my friend to take me out instead and the owner won the next turn.
I realized after talking with the owner that I wouldn't be able to change his mind so I've been playing with friends at our kitchen table. And we have a lot of fun. There's another LGS that'll be fine to have us when things open up again, but I keep thinking of this and it's really been bumming me out.
Am I the Bolas for not playing higher-powered decks with this group or for helping my friend with "politics"?
Either I'm missing something or this LGS owner is a big ol' honking dummy. You and your buds migrated to a new LGS because your LGS of choice shut down. LGS culture is just going with whatever works, get in a bunch of games. Some pals show up, make new friends, etc. The metas in those environments get shaped by the players, but this seems to be pushed by the LGS owner? I don't know.
If I'm being completely honest, screw that place, bud. If this guy thinks showing a newer player how to map out the game better and embracing a new learning opportunity is unforgivable politicking, I say deuces up baby, time to dip.
I'm lucky that I've had experiences with multiple LGSs and only one was upsetting. It was similar to this where the culture was "win at all costs" and was encouraged by staff there. When I found my new LGS when I lived in Toronto (shoutout A&C Games on Spadina) and started going to game nights, I made a point of leading with conversations of game expectations. Having multiple decks allowed for different games and accommodating different pods, but sometimes you just want to run your friggin jankiest dumb new deck and you don't feel like going up against tunedand lists. I don't think that'll be the feel good experience you're shooting for when you turn up for that kind of night.
From the full email, I understand your deck building and play style. "Here's a big, weird combo that basically absolutely requires Magical Christmasland." When it does, hell yeah. When it doesn't, you got to play a game you love with friends while you tried. I appreciate this playstyle, but definitely can see how it could be trouble trying to hang with higher powered decks.
There's a missing piece somewhere around here... Is there a chance that you might subconsciously politic to keep some of the combo pieces and point out that you're maybe not much of a threat? Yeah possibly. But that's a part of the game! A fun part of the game at that! That said, threat assessment is also part of the game.
I don't know, man. Honestly, this one upset me. Very very much. This is a person is using their position of power to keep you from playing in their space. Their tipping point was you helping a friend see a line of play to help them appreciate a game more and secure a W for the first time?
Forget that place. Vote with your dollar, my guy. I'm glad you and your pals are having fun together though. (Reeeeeeaaaaaally hope you're all being safe about things though, still a pandemic, please please please help us get back to normal, I gotta get back to telling jokes on stage.)
That said, start buying singles from the LGS you're all moving to once this is all over.
As if you even need to ask, no you're not the Bolas. And with a group of friends like yours sticking with you and having a good time, no way you can lose. Take care! 🙂