Am I The Bolas? - I Love Stax, My Playgroup Doesn't

Mike Carrozza • March 23, 2021

Restore Balance by Mark Poole

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!

Who am I?

I'm Mark Carbonza,  the guy at Magic Fests dressed as myself but calling it an OG Clone cosplay. Everybody groans!

This week, we've got a bit of a twist in the email! Check it out.

(Email has been edited for brevity and to mask anything that would give away who this is)


I'll cut to the chase of it. I love stax decks. When I build decks, no matter the commander, I always reach for stax pieces. I find stax decks are interesting. They add new layers and hurdles for everybody which leads to new obstacles to get around and new decision points. 

My playgroup however does not think stax decks are fun. I built a mono-red chaos deck with Etali, Primal Storm but got told that wasn't fun either.

I found out that last week, my playgroup played and didn't invite me. I feel disappointed and upset. I get that they don't like the decks I play, but I thought we were friends.

Am I The Bolas for playing decks they don't like?



Mark's Response

Whoa! I didn't see that coming at all. I honestly was ready to just call you a dick for not being able to make at least ONE non-stax deck. This is a whole other deal.

First of all, from your account your buddies haven't communicated with you that they would leave you in the dust, but them telling you outright that they don't enjoy playing against a particular style many times is a decent warning. It came to a point where you made a different kind of deck that still didn't do it. It looks like there was a miscommunication in that maybe the problem wasn't stax, but rather gameplay that restricts everybody's game plan in a way that isn't just like removal and board wipes, you know? 

I get it by the way. I love mill and discard. People dislike those styles, but there are ways to adapt. You've made many decks, maybe give a token deck a whirl for a bit. That said, did your playgroup at all adapt to you? 

Playgroups are about everybody enjoying a thing together. That means compromising sometimes. It means adjusting to your meta with the choices you make in your decks. It means listening to each other. If your friends tell you they want to get something out of a game of Magic and have repeatedly asked to not have to play against a type of deck, compromise or find another group where you CAN play that style.

Your playgroup is mean, though, for not having a discussion before essentially secretly kicking you out. Real dick move. Having a talk about what you like and want out of a game means maybe they should have decks ready to deal with stax or maybe there's a night for a four-hour stax to the max party time. I don't know, bud. This really sucks. But there's a silver lining here. 

You have a chance to speak to your friends and have a discussion. A reset of sorts, if they're receptive. Or you can find a new group. There are plenty of online pods that welcome all play styles.

All this to say, I think we're in a situation where everybody is the Bolas, but in the way that we kind of empathize with the villain. Does that make sense?

To your playgroup, you weren't listening and were this huge drain on their fun. I don't know how frequently you played, but if it was once a week, to have that one day set aside and not be what you want, that's rough. It sounds like they tried to tell you and you wouldn't listen. What choice did they have?

On the other hand: You love this one play style. You're a part of this playgroup, you are one of them. There should be some security in that. Besides, Commander is a format of expressing yourself and being creative. Who are they to tell you that you can't build a deck that makes your heart flutter?

That said, if these relationships are worth it to you, opening a dialogue is important. People avoid confrontation, but I think confrontation is underused. I'm not saying go in hot. I'm saying confront the difficulty you're faced with in your playgroup and find a way to compromise and come together. There are ways to do this and I hope you find it!

This is the most upsetting of these I've had to answer, to be honest. It's like a break up. This is weird for an EDH column! 

Anyway, I love you!

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