Am I The Bolas? - But I LET you...
Pippa, Duchess of Dice | Illustrated by Simon Dominic Brewer
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!
It's almost December! I'm Mark Carbonza, you know, the guy from the place there, you know who I am, come on, you get it...
I should have worn a hat.
This week, a message about timing! (Email edited for brevity, clarity, etc.)
DON'T LOOK RIGHT AT IT, MARK!
I love the series. But I come here asking if my reaction to an occurrence at a recent Commandfest game makes me the Bolas.
It was a casual pod with no prize on the line. The pre-game conversation was all around the fact that we were playing a casual game. The other two commanders not pertinent to the story were Prosper, Tome-Bound and Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. Prosper is a powerful commander, but the player said it was a less competitive build.
The opponent commander that is of relevance here is Kathril, Aspect Warper. The owner had been clear that if they resolved Buried Alive, it would get pretty spicy.
I am playing Muldrotha, the Gravetide. Before I get yelled at, this is a deck themed around Indiana Jones. I had the card altered to be wearing the Fedora and carrying the whip. It has temples, assorted artifact maps (Treasure Map, Expedition Map, etc.) and the Dungeon/Initiative mechanic. I have included the amazing Bullwhip card and Ark of Blight because it looks like the Ark of Covenant. So it is a pretty janky theme, though I accept that Muldrotha itself is strong.
We shuffle up and everything is going well. Decks are doing their thing. I'm exploring dungeons, etc., Prosper is casting from exile, the Brudiclad deck is stalling a bit.... Around turn five, the Kathril player resolves Buried Alive, putting three creatures in the graveyard that will give Kathril double strike, indestructible, lifelink, hexproof, trample, flying, and some other keywords that I can't remember. All those keywords along with nine +1/+1 counters.
In the spirit of the game, I blow my mana on Kaldra Compleat equipped to a Skeleton, which understandably gets Chaos Warped. However, I deliberately and publicly point out that I could still remove the Kathril graveyard with a Nihil Spellbomb, and while that is technically the correct play, I wanted him to have a chance to do his thing.
Sure enough, Kathril is played and ends up as a 12/12 with these nine keywords and a Swiftfoot Boots for haste. When we point out that Kathril will one-shot whoever he attacks, the Kathril player elects to roll a dice to determine who he will attack. Sure enough, I am attacked and removed from the game.
I react badly to this. Feeling that it was a pretty harsh slap in the face to kill me, given that: a) he only got to do it because I specifically let him and b) he didn't actually have to attack at that point. The other players tried to engineer a rescue, but the only answer was at sorcery speed.
When challenged on the blatantly ridiculous turn of events, his answer was, "Well, the dice decided," which was a further annoyance to me. Pick your target and own it rather than hide behind a small plastic cube.
As I was packing up my stuff, the Prosper player asked for some minor takesy-backsy and the remaining players agreed. It stung that the Kathril player had not even offered to take back the attack. I left the table because I was genuinely angry at the perceived injustice and lack of gratitude from the Kathril player.
But my question is, am I the Bolas for being annoyed at this turn of events? Should I not have just laughed about the randomness of the dice (although using a dice to determine your attack is, again in my opinion, pretty cowardly) and accepted my lumps?
It wasn't an important game, there was no actual impact on me aside from being ejected from a game I was enjoying playing, so maybe I was just being a dick.
But genuinely interested in an external perspective.
IT CAN'T HURT YOU IF YOU DON'T LOOK AT IT, SHORT ROUND!
Hi, Short Round, thanks for writing in. Admittedly, I have not seen many of the Indiana Jones movies and only seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the only Indy movie since turning ten. I'm sorry I don't share your affinity for the franchise, but I hope you like the nickname I chose for you.
I appreciate the kind words about the column and appreciate you writing in! I encourage anybody who'd like me to weigh in on their story to submit them my way and I'll get to them as set review time wanes down. That said, I hope you still like the column after this article, because buddy, I am sorry to say, you're the Bolas.
Let's examine the situation and where I agree and disagree with you. I don't like the dice-rolling for an attack thing, either. I agree that because Magic is a game of skill and decisions, and choosing who you attack is part of that. That said, Magic has plenty of chaos and political cards, and if you want to introduce other elements of that because that's how you enjoy the game, go for it.
However! I dislike a big swing being determined by the die. I think dice-rolling for attack is fine if you've got a little guy at the beginning of the game and everybody's open, but killing a player out of the game should be something you choose. I agree with you there.
HOWEVER AGAIN! Some people don't like that part of the game! Deciding to end someone's game is rough, and being able to defer to the plastic cube is fine.
HOWHOWEVEREVER! I agree with you that deciding with a die sucks.
What I don't agree with is getting upset about the outcome when there doesn't seem to have been a deal to prevent exactly what happened. You made it clear that you could have activated Nihil Spellbomb but did not add a provision for not activating it. If you had said, "I can activate the Spellbomb, but I won't because I think it'd be fun to see your deck do its thing as long as you don't attack me with your commander first," or something to that effect, then you'd have a right to be as upset as you are.
Another thing to note is that the player flat out said if Buried Alive resolves, it's over for the table. You had an answer and they played into it, and while I get that you wanted them to live the dream, this is also bonkers to just let happen without at least being resigned to the fact that you're essentially giving the game to the Voltron player.
The takesy-backsy thing is also not worth getting worked up about because the Prosper player brought it up and the table agreed. You didn't advocate for your own takeback. Are other players supposed to read your mind here? I'm sorry, Short Round, but you've gotta chill. This whole situation was locked in when you didn't offer a deal and let Kathril enjoy the swing. I do think it's dumb that it was decided by the die, but did you speak up before the die roll to say that it should be between the other two players considering you let that happen? And if Kathril's player said no, then would you have asked for a takeback?
If I were in your position and I really wanted to see the Kathril do its thing, I'd have either offered a deal or just accepted that I'm not long for the game. It's very satisfying to see other decks do what they're designed to do, and yeah, it's sandbagging, but the richer experience in my opinion is getting to see something cool. If I'm completely honest, I'd have cracked the Spellbomb and asked the player what he expected to happen and when he says he didn't realize it was in play and wanted a takeback, I'd probably allow it there.
All in all, it's one of I'm sure many games at the Commandfest, and you got to move on to another pod, I'd be willing to bet. As far as slights go, this is so minimal it's not worth working up a sweat over. Express how you feel about it to the player and maybe they'll learn something about the politics/etiquette of such a thing, but hey, the game wrapped up soon after and there's more fun to be had. No need to dwell on this one, I don't think.