Am I The Bolas? - Bolas' Clutch-22!

Mike Carrozza • July 6, 2021

Ghost of Ramirez DePietro by Greg Rutkowski

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!

Who am I? 

I'm Gyome, Master Chef's dishwasher

This is me after a shift!


This week! A catch-22! A Bolas' Clutch-22! Damned if you do and damned if you don't!

(email edited for brevity and punctuation)


First, I'd like to say I love what your family has done in the Bean department. This feels like a somewhat unique situation because I believe I may be the Bolas, but I don't know which course of action was the Bolas path. I was playing against someone with a "secret commander" deck where their whole gameplan is built around a creature in their deck rather than their commander and their commander is there for colors and some synergy.

Anyway, we had managed to kill the secret commander. I had a Scavenger Grounds open when they tried to reanimate the secret commander and I was left in a tough situation. The secret commander deck is powerful and it took a decent amount of work to kill this creature.  I had a strong feeling that if I didn't exile the graveyards, the three other players would lose over the next couple (2-4) turns. On the other hand, it felt pretty bad to exile this creature the opponent's whole deck was built around. I wouldn't want to get rid of someone's commander permanently given the option so it felt weird doing it to someone's secret commander. Both options felt bad and I did consult the table and the general lukewarm consensus was to not exile the yard and we did end up losing to the secret commander. So I ask you Mark of the Carbonza Bean Moguls which choice was the less Bolasy?


Best Wishes,

Grave-Decision Maker


When asked for further clarification, Grave-Decision Maker had this to say:

This was one of the first games I played in a Patreon Discord so I hadn't played with any of these players before. I wanted to make a decent first impression. The Patreon  focuses on jankier builds but I believe the pod was high synergy even if it wasn't leading to the most broken stuff. I believe the opponent moved to reanimate the secret commander since they were essentially being held hostage by the grounds that I kept untapped with threat of activation at that point so they decided to force the issue.


What a pickle!

In my opinion, this feels more cut and dry than it seems.

Building a secret commander deck already comes with the acknowledgement that at anytime, your strategy could get taken out by a Swords to Plowshares. Unless... OH, WAIT A SECOND, OL' MIKEY MARKY'S NOT ABOUT TO BRING UP RULE ZERO IS HE? - If your playgroup decided it'd be okay for the secret commander to be the legit commander of the deck, or gave the go ahead for a cheeky partner pairing. This could be a question asked of the group at the offset in this case, since it's not a regular pod, but also a question worth asking to a pod you play with with some regularity.

So building a secret commander deck, you've gotta know that it could be over in a flash. Build with that in mind. Commanders are powerful and that means they'll be targeted a fair bit. There's a lot of removal in this format and some is more permanent than others. If you're in white or green, Pull From Eternity and Riftsweeper say "g'day mate!" (Riftsweeper is Australian! Isn't that cool!)

Not to mention, buddy went for the Reanimate while Scavenger Grounds was open and could be activated. That's not asking you to pull the trigger, but at the very least it's begging you to consider it. Especially if you know that's the secret commander (NEWS FLASH - SECRET'S OUT!). You mentioned that the player was trying to force the issue and this may have meant that there was a Stifle maybe coming or even an instant speed back up reanimation spell like Makeshift Mannequin or Back For More.

The discussion at the table does take it a bit out of your hands if you're in a playgroup that values group fun over everything. If I was your opponent playing a graveyard deck, I'd probably be bummed to see my yard go and might campaign to keep it around. However, you pointed out that if you let the reanimation happen, the table would have 2-4 turns at best before the secret commander rips a win.

You're not the Bolas for listening to the table. You would not have been the Bolas for making the play that gave you the best chance at not losing in 2-4 turns. Ultimately, not exiling the secret commander gave them the win.

But, did you have fun? Because that matters most!

I think depending on who you ask, not making the optimal play when it's available would make you the Bolas. On the other hand, exiling someone's commander for good would make you the Bolas to someone else. To me, you're not the Bolas. Your priorities for the game aren't the optimal play and clearly you care about your opponents having a good time because you were concerned about permanently removing one of their important creatures.

This is an interesting question, but ultimately, if you served what the playgroup values most, you're doing the right thing.

Til next time, nerds! I love you!

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