Am I The Bolas? - Fathers + Kids

Mike Carrozza • April 5, 2023

Cradle of Safety |Illustrated by Howard Lyon

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 I think we need fewer colors for Omnath.

Come on, man. Scale back down. 

This week's story comes from Reddit courtesy of Zestyclose-Pickle-50.

(Edited for clarity, brevity, spelling, italicizing, style guide elements, forcing the Am I The Bolas line, you know, you're not reading this part...)


I'm a dad with a 14 year-old who plays Magic, but he doesn't play as much as I have or do. He'll miss stuff or not be as savvy to do things in proper order. I appreciate people having patience with him, even if it's a minor trigger he missed and they let him take it back. I also love seeing other dads play with their kids. I will sit at any pod and play with absolutely anyone.

That being said, how young is too young? Last night, I played with a dad and his seven year-old. It was abysmal. He was constantly trying to wrangle his little guy and keep him focused for more than five minutes, and the kid had no personal boundaries. He ran off during even his turn and was almost sitting on everyone's lap looking at their hands asking about cards in hand. Ruffled the whole store. To top that, dad also played a stronger deck than the rest of us (he picked his deck after we picked ours) and killed us, then laid down letting his son kill him to win. I can honestly say it felt like one of the worst game experiences I've  ever played.

So my questions are, will I be the Bolas if I refuse to play with his son? Do you have experiences with younger kids like this better or worse?


First of all, thank you all for submitting your stories or ones you see online. A big thank you to Zestyclose-Pickle-50 for letting me cover your story for this article. Thank you all for reading. It really means the world to me. If you have any stories or see any you'd like me to cover for AITB, please email!

I'd like to get this out of the way as quickly as possible: you're not the Bolas.

Zesty, you had what you describe as one of the worst game experiences you've ever had. I'd not only swear off playing with the people responsible for this kind of experience, I'd also have to take a bit of a break from games altogether.

Magic is a complicated game, and Commander in particular requires an attention span for four players plus knowledge of cards from the entirety of the game's history. It's expected to have some leniency when people are learning how to play.

I think in this case, patience is extended to folks who show the game and its players respect. I know when I play against younger players during pre-release at my LGS, I'm ready to meet them at their level. There's a pair of brothers I play against often who are both at different skill levels. The eldest of the two knows the game and asks questions when there's rules complications. The younger doesn't ask questions, but goes for it. When something goes wrong for either of them, I know that I'm likelier to speak to the younger one about his intentions and offer a takeback if needed.

That said, both players pay attention to the game and the experience.

The seven-year-old in your story running around, hopping onto people's laps and asking about cards they have, revealing information - no.

If this was a friend's home and their kid is curious, that's different.

But I'm just going to be be blunt here to the father you're playing against: I don't know your kid and I don't care to pretend to if he's not going to be invested in the thing we're doing. Not to mention steamrolling an entire table and rolling over to the kid's deck is like when a tiger pretends to be scared or surprised by their cub to encourage their hunting instincts. It's all well and good, but recognize when you're hampering the experience of others.

It's a touchy subject because people want to protect children, but it's fair to have a chat with their father like, "Hey, this isn't fun for everybody involved." It's completely normal for you to not play with people who've ruined your good time. Set your boundaries and live by them. Clearly, the father was trying to wrangle the kid, so he understood that something had to be done.

Here's another little detail that pissed me off, based on your implications.

He picked his deck after everybody picked their decks. Almost as if assessing his opponents and saying, "Okay, this is what will set me up best." Ugh. I'm annoyed by this guy.

That'll do for this week, send me a story!

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