Am I The Bolas? - Cool Combo, Bud. Now What?

Mike Carrozza • December 20, 2023

Eager First-YearIllustrated by Cristi Balanescu

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! 

I'm Mark Carbonza, the guy is still very excited about his NEW PODCAST!

In fact a new episode of the podcast Am I The Bolcast? came out yesterday and it's got Dan Sheehan calling in!

(I promise I won't just plug the podcast up here all the time, but I'm still very excited.)


Something we're going to begin doing on the new podcast is reading your stories! Whether it's a big mail bag episode with the Bolcast crew or it becomes regular ending segment, we would love to have stories you'd want on the podcast. 

Write in to with your story. I'll be getting to it for the column, but that there's also a chance we chat about it on the podcast!

Now, let's get to the story!

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, and brevity again also.)

(Also edited for clarity, brevity, and more brevity by producer Morgan Sanchez of Am I the Bolcast? Because our wonderful CH editor Jake is currently on holiday, and I am permanently stuck in the switchboard room with this weird black card everyone likes).



This happened almost two years ago at my LGS, but my actions have stayed with me so, here I type to you. 

I had been playing Magic for about 20 years at this point. I have tried to make it a point to make new players have fun and let their decks try do their thing. After all, if new players are to stay and continue playing, they need fun experiences in their first few games in order to want to continue.

Two other players at the store are just getting into Magic and just built their first Commander decks. While we're talking about our decks before our second or third game, a fourth person approaches and asks to join. I mention we have two newer players and I am selecting one of my weaker decks. Player 4 says "no problem", and we shuffle up.

Player four, let's call him Mr. Solitaire, begins the game and plays a land, into a Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and Lightning Greaves. A bit aggressive, but it might slow down. I play a land and cast Gravecrawler and pass turn. Our two new players also play lands and pass. Mr. Solitaire plays a land, his commander, and a cheap Dwarf. Now, what I didn't say was what deck he was playing was a Magda, Brazen Outlaw. I had not played against Magda before and I had not realized that a combo artifact engine was well on its way.

My turn: I play another land and then a Zombie. New players 1 and 2 also play lands and then cast a permanent or two. On Mr. Solitaire's turn, he has more draw to replace his hand and starts playing more artifacts and Dwarves. On Mr. Solitaire's next turn, he proceeds to show us a combo that he has assembled.

After he completes the cycle a couple times to show that he does indeed know how the combo works, one of the new players asks if we're dead. I say confirm that the combo deals infinite damage to usI then say something to the effect of, "okay, cool."

Then I ask the new players "would you like to continue the game, since we have not interacted with Mr. Solitaire's board? Other than the combo, he has not interacted with our board (just life totals), we could continue right where we left off and finish."

They both agree that they like our game more and would like to continue it. At this point, the combo player protests that he has won and that the game is over, we should shuffle up and play a new game. While I see his point, I ask him "did you go into this game knowing that an early turn combo kill was his main goal?" and "have you interacted in any way with our board or any decisions that we made up until your combo went off?"

No to both.

It was a low-powered game for the three of us and we didn't have any interaction. Mr. Solitaire is now complaining loudly about how I'm not a good sport, and we need to play a new game. I then say something to the effect of, "If you'd like to show off your new deck, there are plenty of other tables here tonight. But if you are looking to pub stomp new players, I ask that you find another group or store."

Mr. Solitaire leaves our table and finds another group to play with for the night. I am familiar with the other players at his table and they all have higher-powered decks to play with him. He stares daggers at me all night. Meanwhile, we finish our game after about another ten turns with big spells and splashy plays to ooh and aahs.

After the night, I come home still mad about the interaction I had. I know maybe they just built the deck and wanted to play it, but with two brand-new players, that wasn't the place, in my opinion.

Am I the Bolas for technically not following the rules, but for trying to foster a game that the other players were looking for?

Sadly, this LGS has shut down and now I play at another one, but at this LGS, I was known by the staff for a good first experience with new players and EDH.
Another lesson learned, even in my lower-tier decks, I now run more interaction. I also try to find more cards like Secret Rendezvous and Wedding Ring to help usually the last place player at the table to catch up. I like every deck being able to do its thing in a game. 

Azor, Peacekeeper


Hello, Azor! And thank you for writing in! I am thrilled that you enjoy the column enough to submit to it.

I will say that while I appreciate the kindness in the way that you provide new players with a space where they can have their games, I do think that the framing of this story is, much like many stories I get for this column, quite biased.

But I've been there! And I relate to this story!

Players expecting a longer game having their time cut short by someone who didn't match the vibe is a bummer. Usually, that player apologizes and picks a different deck to shuffle up to match the speed everybody else is going. In your recounting of this story, there's no such offer and so the classic move of "let's just pretend nothing happened and keep going" is pulled.

And. I. Live. For. It. 

If a game ends because one person goes off and otherwise has no impact on the game beyond that, then congratulations on the win, buddy, but now it's time to find out who's claiming second place. 

If the so affectionately dubbed Mr. Solitaire had offered to play a game and to match the vibe and speed of the pod, then there'd be a case for you being the Bolas for shutting him out but in the context provided? You did great. 

I don't think you're the Bolas by any stretch.

Thanks for writing in!

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