Am I The Bolas? - Deutsche Königsmacherei!

Mike Carrozza • January 26, 2022

Runed Crown | Illustrated by Randy Gallegos

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! I'm the guy marketing a new energy drink made out of Elementals!

Time to ride the lightning. Ball Lightning.

This week, a message about kingmaking(?) and what that means.

(Email edited for clarity, brevity, and anonymity.)



Hi Mark,

Long-time-reader first-time-writer(?)... mailer(?)... messenger(?)...

I don't know if I'm the Bolas, everybody is the Bolas, or nobody is the Bolas after tonight's game night. I play in a three-player-playgroup via Spelltable with 2 friends since the pandemic started. We used to have quarterly Commander weekends because we're situated all over Germany, but we've since moved to webcam with more regularity.
Three-player games are weird, but today we had two situations where I thought my friends' behavior bordered on spite plays/kingmaking against me. I wasn't really salty about the situations, but to me it was a little salt-inducing when I brought it up and the discussion was dismissed.
The first situation had Friend 1 playing Narfi, Betrayer King at 14 life with a The Scarab God and a few Zombies on board; Friend 2 playing Nethroi, Apex of Death at 80 or so life with Cavalier of Night and Sanguine Bond on the battlefield; I had a 9/9 Whispersilk Cloaked Garza Zol, Plague Queen as a commander and was at 17 life.
It became Friend 2's turn, who was at 12 Garza Zol, Plague Queen damage, and I assured him that I would kill him if he didn't stop me. He played Verdant Sun's Avatar and drained me for 5, then attacked me with the Cavalier, getting me down to 8 overall. At the end of turn, he drew from his Cosmos Elixir and had his Arcane Signet open.
On my turn, I killed him and was killed with The Scarab God and Gary on Friend 1's upkeep.
I said, that was a little kingmakey, because I assume Friend 2 only drained me because I was surely gonna kill him. Friend 2 argued that he could've drawn a card that would have killed me with his Cosmos Elixir. When I first brought it up, I have to admit that I had forgotten about the Elixir draw. So maybe I am the Bolas.
The second situation had Friend 1 playing Silas Renn, Seeker Adept/Prava of the Steel Legion mill at 12 life with his commanders on the board; Friend 2 playing Klothys, God of Destiny with a 9-power Laelia, the Blade Reforged, enough mana to pump her to 18 (I don't remember how), and was at 13 life; I was playing The Ur-Dragon, had a few Dragons, and a Dragonspeaker Shaman attacking Player 1 because they were Goaded by Player 2. I also had The Ur-Dragon attacking Player 2 because I had just played it and it had haste from Temur Ascendancy. I didn't draw any solutions from The Ur-Dragon trigger and thought I'd just go nuclear with a Deathbringer Regent only to realize it only triggers when it's cast from hand. Damn. Then Player 1 kills my Dragonspeaker with his Silas, loses anyways. I can't play another blocker, and I lose to Laelia.
Now, I'm not saying that I couldn't have played it better, but since Player 1 gains exactly zero benefit from my Dragonspeaker dying, I argued that it was somewhere between a spite play and kingmaking. He argued he hadn't counted Player 2's mana, so he didn't know Player 2 was going to kill me, but I don't think that's a valid rebuttal.
I love those guys to death, and there's no bad blood, but I think these situations were sketchy. Maybe they're Tezzerets or, like, Dovin Baans. But maybe I'm the Bolas for making a fly into an elephant (it's a German saying).
I would love your input.
Love the column. Best regards.


Howdy, Merlin! All the way from Germany! This rules! Thank you for writing in!

Let's talk each story individually.

Story #1 - I don't think there was kingmaking here. Friend 2 was digging for a way to kill you off a top deck and was playing optimally to secure a win for himself. He was in survival mode since you were threatening to kill him with Garza Zol commander damage the very next turn. I can appreciate you bringing it up to him from your perspective, but once that explanation is offered up, it's hard to see it any other way. Friend 2 went out swinging is all.
Story #2 - With three-player pods, stuff like this tends to always happen. Spite play or not, in Player 1's position I would likely have done the same: play as optimally as I can, as though I wasn't dying that turn, by making the only block he had. What if Player 2 saved me somehow? What if, what if, what if. The attack wasn't a calculated one, but rather a Goaded one. If there were some politics involved and you had asked Player 1 to leave your Dragonspeaker alone by not blocking with Silas, leading to you winning as a result, would this not also have been kingmaking? Either way, I don't think there are Bolases here. But, if I had to pick one, I'd say that you're on the wrong side, but I can also see your point and why it would feel that way.
Both stories have you mentioning that your friends are kingmakers in situations of three-player games, the types of games that lead to these situations most often, because you're never on neutral footing in three-player games. Three-players left in a game cranks things up in an adversarial way. The game is designed to have a single winner. Maybe a way to feel better about game losses such as this would be to have in-game goals.
I recently had a game where I was not in the running for a win but had two of the Tron lands in play with my Saheeli, the Gifted deck, and if I could get the third one down before the end of the game, I'd feel like a winner... and I did, but then immediately lost after. We all celebrated. It was a fun game! Shout out to Star City Game's Limited Guru Jake Browne, game designer extraordinaire Casey Malone, and The CAG/Commander Sphere's own Rachel Weeks for one of my all-time favorite moments in all my time playing Magic.
Thanks so much for writing in! I hope you guys enjoy many many more games together!
If you have any stories you'd like me to cover, send them in to!

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