Am I The Bolas? - Goad News and Bad News

Mike Carrozza • December 13, 2023

Besmirch | Illustrated by Mathias Kollros

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 is still very excited about his NEW PODCAST!

It would be really cool if you listened to our podcast Am I The Bolcast? and tell us what you think!


Something we're going to begin doing on the new podcast is reading your stories! Whether it's a big mail bag episode between Michael, Morgan, and I or whether it becomes our regular ending segment, we would love to have stories you'd want on the podcast. 

That said, if you write in to with your story, know that I'll be getting to it for the column, but that there's also a chance we chat about it on the podcast! If you don't want it on the podcast, please make a note of that in your email!

Now, let's get to the story!

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, and for another reason I can't quite remember, hmmmmmm... no wait, that's it.)


Hey Mark!

I love your column and seeing the familiar and unique challenges others players face in this game we all love. I would like your feedback on a game that happened to me about a month ago.

Awhile back I was in a five top playing my Xantcha, Sleeper Agent deck against Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm, Volo, Guide to Monsters, and two others. My Xantcha deck goes heavily down the goad route and I had my eye on both the Volo player, since they would be playing a lot of creatures, but especially on the Miirym player. His deck has a well-earned reputation in our group for just winning out of nowhere before anyone gets their feet under them. Sure enough, not long after the game began, he started to pull ahead at an an alarming rate even without Miirym on the field while the Volo player was still mostly ramping and getting card advantage.

So I assigned Xantcha to him. This immediately upset him, which puzzled the rest of us. He hadn't played Miirym yet because he couldn't draw a red source of mana, but he had a Bloom Tender on the field, so when he took control of Xantcha, I basically fixed his mana for him. Even when we pointed it out, he still was behaving pretty poorly. After that, he sent his Dragons after me, which were thankfully few in number and I didn't take too much damage, but it instantly made him the biggest threat to me, especially since no one else had played many creatures, so on my next turn, I played a Geode Rager, and, when I played my land for turn, I goaded all of his creatures. If he wasn't mad before, he certainly was now. He began to cuss and get aggressive to the point that I actually thought it was a bit he was doing. After all, I fixed his mana base and buffed one of his big Dragons with Shiny Impetus; goading his creatures seemed like not that bad of a trade. So I'll admit that I gave the aggressive language back to him, again thinking it was more of a joke on his part.

That didn't last too long, though, and I realized he was serious. He started being a little rough with the cards I had put in his control and then broadcasted to the whole group that the moment I couldn't goad him, he was going to take me out of the game, so for the next three turns, I goaded only him until I ran out of lands. I was pretty uncomfortable and stayed pretty quiet as he got more and more aggressive. Despite being goaded, his deck was still growing and doing major damage to the other players, so I was going to be dead after my next turn if I didn't do something drastic. Luckily I drew a Mana Geyser and got enough mana to activate Xantcha's ability enough times to take him out of the game. With a few more curse words he tossed my cards back to me, packed up, and left. After that, the Volo player mopped us up and we all went home.

I know that the Miirym player behavior wasn't acceptable, but am I missing something about goad that makes people so salty? When I was learning how to play Commander, I didn't run a lot of interaction because of how much I hated things being removed from my board, but I love the goad mechanic because, while it allows you to interact with other people's boards, it doesn't necessarily just remove their cards. Am I the Bolas for loving to force combat?


The Goad Toad

P.S. The only thing I would add is that, while he has had the strongest reaction to my deck, I've gotten the sense that other players aren't crazy about it either. Even if I'm not goading their creatures, they don't love it when the big creatures must swing at one of them, especially if they've been buffed at all.


Hey, Goad Toad! Thanks for writing in!

If you, the reader, have a story to share, please email in at, and I'll get to it for the column and maybe even the BRAND SPANKIN' NEW PODCAST, AVAILABLE BIWEEKLY!!! (Apple Podcasts and Spotify, available wherever you get your podcasts; not on YouTube yet, but I'm sure that's in the plans)

Let's get right into it: Are you the Bolas for loving forced combat? 

No. This is a valid strategy and is a form of control that has its limitations and its strengths. It can be done really well, which can frustrate players, but no matter what, it puts your opponents in a position to wiggle their way out in different ways. 

That said, for a group of folks who love to play a game, there are a surprising amount of strategies that Magic players absolutely hate. Mill, theft, control, forced combat, sacrifice, these all come to mind. 

The Miirym player was being forced to attack people he didn't want to attack, and I guess that might feel like being puppeteered, but the sooner he gets rid of the other players, the sooner your goading can only come your way. 

All in all, if there's a Miirym at the table, chances are, that's where the biggest threat is coming from, and when that board gets built, it's important to do what you can to get rid of that board or get its attention pulled away from you. I believe your threat assessment in this story is correct.

The anger and frustration from that player is normal, I guess, but I cannot condone the aggressiveness that was displayed. I want to also say that it was probably not a great move to further antagonize or prod at this player with similar language and "joking". 

The other players not being thrilled about the large Dragons coming their way tracks, but therein lies the puzzle of this pod's game. 

You are not the Bolas for liking this strategy, but if someone is getting aggressive the way you described, avoid piling on and pivot to a different deescalation plan. 

Thanks again 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