Am I The Bolas? - Do I Die By Beater or By Value?

Mike Carrozza • March 22, 2023

Flameskull | Illustrated by Xavier Ribeiro

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, and THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!

That's where that's from right?

This week, a kitchen table Magic player wants some advice!

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, and to remove an insult to my mom!!! Does anybody read this part?)


Hi Mark,

You may be hesitant to write about this because it isn't about a game of Commander, but it is multiplayer all the same.

I was playing "Cards I Own" (not an official format, it involves 60-card anything-goes decks) at my house with a friend and my brother. I was playing a Dimir Rogues deck built off a disassembled Anowon, the Ruin Thief precon, my brother was playing Jeskai Artifacts, and my friend was playing a Jund Skeletons deck. The artifact deck has a reputation for being pretty powerful.

I had introduced both of them to the game so I was the most experienced player at the table. I didn't count how many turns it was, but at some point my brother was just sitting there, stockpiling value with the artifacts deck, I was struggling to keep my footing with the Rogues deck, and my friend had used Hydra's Growth to make his Flameskull the size of a house and no blockers. The Flameskull was out of control and would kill us all if we didn't stop it. No one had removal, but I had lethal on board for my friend with my Rogues. I attacked him with all the Rogues, and he lost.

The game panned out into a long, grindy game which we weren't able to finish. My friend didn't get salty and said afterwards he was cool with it, but I couldn't help wondering -

Am I the Bolas for dealing lethal to my friend because he had no blockers, even though I'd done no damage to my brother all game?

P.S. I love your column.

A Cards I Own player


Hello! Thank you for writing in with your story. Regardless of format, I appreciate anytime anybody submits a story of their own or even a post they saw somewhere that they'd like me to offer insight on. As long as there's a social element, I am in. Thank you for being a reader and loving the column! That feels really nice.

This story is going to be interesting to break down. Ultimately, given that the rules of Cards I Own seems to basically 60-card format rules, I don't really get to make too many guesses about what I can expect from these decks.

What it comes down to is that you checked in with your friend who said they were cool with it. If he was not and lied about it, well, how is anybody supposed to know? You gave him an opening to express himself, I hope he replied earnestly.

That said, I think what's happening here is that you made a threat assessment and decided to shut down the more immediate threat. My only other thoughts are whether or not you had means to chump block or remove the creature and whether that would allow you to neutralize two threats at once: take out the Flameskull and attack your brother.

The game going long and excluding the only other player feels worse to me than the threat assessment. If you hadn't attacked your friend, would have have attacked your brother knowing that you have lethal on board?

What it comes down to is this: you do what you want. This is a game. You have your resources and your spells and in the situation you were in, gunning for a win, you had to make a move. Every decision branches out to new decisions.

But in this case, I think you did fine.

I don't think you're the Bolas. I do think that the game not getting to be finished is a bummer, though. I think you made the call you made and it ultimately might have been the same decision I would make barring trying to make a deal.

I will highlight that I appreciate that you took the time to speak to your friend about his experience. This is something I would like to reiterate as good practice: have a post-game chat.

In EDH, there's going to be long games where things are exciting or not. Whether positive or negative, share what impacted you. Share what you liked and disliked. Having this chat will allow you to work toward making your play experience a better one.

Thanks for writing in Zeke. I appreciate it very much. If you, the reader, have a story of your own to share, please email!

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