Am I The Bolas? - Chatty Drafting

Mike Carrozza • July 6, 2022

Deal Broker | Illustrated by Cliff Childs

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!

I'm Mark Carbonza, the guy who's looking forward to seeing everybody at Commandfest in Montreal!


This week, something a little different.


Hi, Mark.

Longtime fan, I'm thrilled to write in.

Look, I thought about writing this in as an email and going along with it, pretending that somebody else had this experience, but no. I can't do that. It'd be disingenuous. This isn't the first article where I needed to pretend we got an email since we hadn't launched yet. We get plenty of submissions now! (Thank you so much, by the way. Keep 'em comin'! Your stories, your friends, Reddit posts! Thank you!)

This one is my own. I lived this one. Me. Mark Carbonza. Mike Carrozza aka Mark Carbonza.

I went to draft Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate at one of the Local Game Stores I frequent. I brought along a friend who had never drafted ever. He's a fellow comedian who is new to the game, but has a Rakdos, the Showstopper Commander deck that he is stoked on. With the release of CL:BfBG, I thought it'd be fun to introduce him to the world of pre-releases, drafts, and the experience of playing at an LGS all at once.

My friend didn't know the set much beyond the Initiative mechanic and was excited at the prospect of going in blind. We signed up, waited for the pods to fire, got placed in an eight-player group, and began opening our kits. Zak opened a Gorion, Wise Mentor as his promo and was excited because "it says copy, that's good, right?" Zak mentions he doesn't know what Adventures are and the guy next to him began to explain Adventures to him.

Let's call this guy Paul.

Paul explains Adventures to Zak, pulling out an Adventure card called from a previous draft that he had done that weekend. "This is great!" I thought to myself. "Zak's getting the community feel of an LGS, he's getting to experience the fun of making new friends through The Gathering part of Magic."

Over the course of the draft, Zak is a little slow with the packs. He hadn't read any of the cards prior to this, the table knows it's his first time. He's the plug, that's fine. Eventually, Paul, being the only person next to him besides a wall, decides to start peaking over Zak's shoulder and offering advice on what to pick.

Prior to arriving, I asked Zak if he wanted me to help him out with the draft at all and he said that he'd rather give it a go and learn as he goes, but that he wouldn't be shy if he had questions. Paul just jumped into a pack he's not allowed to know about yet and started pointing at cards. "This one is good for your guy. This one is good to have multiples of. You should get your removal set up."

Again, Paul is helpful and that's nice, but he didn't ask if Zak wanted that help. Eventually, Zak began to hold the cards in the next pack closer to him to avoid having Paul over his shoulder. That's when Paul began to openly start chiding Zak and mocking the choices he made once Paul received the pack from Zak.

"What! You left this in the pack? That's insane, this thing is so good for your deck. Why didn't you take it?"

The round ended and we started passing the other way which meant that Paul didn't interact with Zak. I thought it was over. In the second round, a rules question about Auras comes up and Paul answers over someone who had begun answering the question, but - get this - he's completely wrong! And not just wrong like a little mistake, but like wrong in the sense that if you are loudly talking about another player's draft choices, it's embarrassing to be this wrong.

In the next rotation, it started again immediately. The moment Paul said, "How could you leave this in the pack" I asked Zak at the table "Is this fun for you?" and Zak responded really quickly with "Yeah, but not sitting next to him." The table laughed. Paul began to defend himself. "I'm a teacher type, I like to help people learn about the game to help welcome them."

I had had enough. "That's all well and good, but Zak very clearly said that he's not having fun because of you. While your goal is to be welcoming and to foster a fun environment, you have talked over people, you have gotten a pretty basic rules interaction very wrong, and you have alienated the newest player at the table to the point where he has openly admitted that you are the reason he is not having fun because you make fun of his draft choices. Take the feedback and don't let it happen again."

Once pods were broken up, Zak and Paul were paired with two others to play and I could hear Paul keep going. In the second round, I told to LGS owner to make sure Zak and I weren't in a pod with Paul.

Am I the Bolas for dedicating an entire article to calling out someone who ruined a new player's good time?

Look. I got heated. I spoke up on behalf of my clearly annoyed friend and the table who'd eyerolled enough to power a small village.

Is this the best use of my amplified voice here with a column that reaches plenty of people?




I bring up this story not just because it made me mad or because it ruined my friend's first experience to the point where I have offered to buy him into the next pre-release (Dominaria United better be dope).

I bring it up because the entire time Paul was at the table, there wasn't a single question asked about whether people wanted him to do what he was doing. There was no consent, just imposition.

I've been around Magic players enough to know that a fair majority of players in my experience tend to shy away from confrontation. I'm fine with it. I like to speak up when I notice people aren't having a good time or if it seems like someone lacks self-awareness.

Paul's intentions were good, but the desired outcome just wasn't happening. I saw Paul slump in his chair a bit when I told him to quit it. I recognize that I took what he thought was a fun time from him momentarily, but I had hoped that he would learn from the experience. When I could hear him from a few tables away, I realized that some lessons don't stick right away.

So let's all learn from Paul. Helping people is good, but sometimes you can help more if you just ask. If Zak had gotten the chance to say, "I'm good, no thank you," and had that respected, I think he would have come out of this with a more optimistic view of the next time he plays at the LGS. So if you fancy yourself a bombastic type who is quite lively at the table with advice to other players, maybe lead with, "Do you mind if I offer a little bit of advice?" Or if you find yourself speaking on a rules interaction, make sure you know it for sure.

I hope you enjoyed this rant version of the column. We'll be back next time with a regular write-in or a set review depending on when this drops.

Keep sending in your stories! I appreciate it very much, and don't forget to come say hi at Commandfest Montreal!

Love and appreciation,


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