Am I The Bolas? - Ignoring Infinite Combos and Misplays

Mike Carrozza • June 26, 2024

Lumbering Battlement Illustrated by Simon Dominic

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?"

I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email! You might see your story in the column. You might even hear it on the podcast. Which podcast? 


I'm Mike Carrozza, aka Mark Carbonza, or am I?

"This mf spittin'!"

This week, a question about ignoring certain aspects of going infinite. 

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and bo-barity.)


Hi Mark!

I hope you're doing well, I've really enjoyed listening to your podcast 🙂 Also, thanks for running my story in your column a few months back. I didn't expect to be emailing you again so soon, but I had a game last night that I think could make for a good discussion about going infinite.

To set the scene, I've started playing Commander fairly regularly at my LGS with a friend I met there last year. In this game, he was playing his Éowyn, Shieldmaiden deck, and the other two players consisted of a guy relatively new to Magic and someone that my friend and I have had a good time playing with in previous weeks. The former was playing a Thrun, Breaker of Silence Voltron deck, and the latter was playing Niv-Mizzet, Guildpact deck that mostly used all of those cool hybrid coloured Auras from the Lorwyn block. I was playing a Nikara, Lair Scavenger//Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel deck which is all about using a lot of creature-based blink effects to make the Hyena eat my creatures and spread around an ungodly amount of counters to then turn those sideways for the win.

It had been a pretty aggressive game, hence my friend getting eliminated fairly early. Both my and Thrun's life totals were low, and I had the additional joy of being at 20 commander damage from Thrun. Nikara had been a 20/20 threatening to kill anybody on the field but was exiled by Eowyn's Palace Jailer. Niv-Mizzet then swung in and eliminated Eowyn, making him the monarch and returning Nikara to the battlefield as a lowly 2/2.

Here is where things get complicated and Bolas rears his ugly head. On my board at this point, I had Yannik, who had eaten a Lumbering Battlement and a Knight of Autumn. I had Felidar Guardian in my hand. I'd made a deal with Thrun to focus on Niv-Mizzet, who was in a winning position, so I thankfully made it to my next turn. I played Felidar Guardian, which blinked Yannik, returning Lumbering Battlement to the field which ate the Guardian and Knight of Autumn. At this point, it became clear to everyone that I'd gone infinite because, when Yannik returned to the field, he could eat Lumbering Battlement and start the chain over again. Thanks to the third ability on the Knight, I not only could make Nikara infinitely big, I could also gained an infinite amount of life.

Had I not been so overwhelmed by the damn combo, I might have remembered that Nikara *did not* have summoning sickness and swung my infinitely large commander at Niv-Mizzet to eliminate him. After I made Nikara huge, I had the Felidar Guardian blink the Knight of Autumn to kill some scary Auras on Niv-Mizzet's board, consciously choosing to not give myself infinite life.

Niv was clearly more on the ball than I was and insisted that he was going to keep playing as if I had done the loop infinitely and just try to kill me with commander damage. I told him no, that didn't happen and he could kill me however he pleased. This led to a really confusing final round where Niv did win, but through two different realities because of my not remembering I could kill him with Niv. In the first reality, I was killed via commander damage but with infinite life, and another where I was just catapulted into the sun and killed with a tiny life total.

Obviously, I misplayed, but it did rankle me that another player refused to accept me playing sub-optimally for ease of game flow and insist I had done things differently. Are we both the Bolas?

Warmest regards,

Norn's Choirmaster


I appreciate you writing in! Thank you so much for not only writing in the first time, but coming back for more! Without folks like you, there is no column, and I can't thank you enough. If you, the reader, have a story to share or a Reddit post to send my way to comment on, please send it over to

This is an interesting conversation starter, that's for sure. Look, I'm not going to mince words on this: I have no clue what you mean about these alternate universes as you laid them out. To me, it's universe one where you kill with commander damage and universe two where you gain all that life anyway and Niv beats you with commander damage.You pulled off an infinite combo that cleared off some important game pieces on your opponent's commander and made your commander colossal. This combo could have also resulted in infinite life gain which would essentially only allow for mill kill or commander damage slammage.

While I understand why you don't like using infinite combos, maybe you could have set a limit for it that didn't feel like you're putting on the kid gloves. That's ultimately what this whole "holding back on the life gain" feels like while reading this. The Niv player insisting on commander damage as the way out is basically declaring that you weren't giving the game your all and some players can take offence to that. Also, given that you've demonstrated the loop, as long as you have a way to trigger it again, what'll stop you from "correcting" your error and gaining a million life? Niv is thinking practically about how to secure the game. 

Another aspect here is that you call not gaining the life a "misplay" after mentioning consciously not gaining life. The real misplay I can glean from this story that you made is not remembering your commander could have attacked for the win. If there was ever a time for a takeback, this was it. As long as your pod is okay with them, this could have been the moment. I guess what matters is where this decision to not gain life stems from. If it's "I want to give myself a challenge and see if I can do this without the safety net" that's one thing, but if it's "I feel bad, I shouldn't gain all this life", that's another. Framing your decision either way (or another way, however you want) will fall on your opponents differently. If we were playing, I would ask you why you're doing it and hope your answer isn't "I feel bad" and I, too, would insist on playing as though you made the "correct" move and fully played to your outs. 

Niv winning without commander damage is great for them, but for some folks, it could cheapen the win if the idea of "yeah, well, I could have gained all that life" is rattling around their head, so being able to win both ways is fine, but that's something to think about. 

I play Commander to see cool stuff happen, and, no doubt, seeing that combo happen would make me excited, but part of that excitement is wondering how I'm going to make it out of that situation and find a win; or else how am I going to do something as cool as that! If we were playing, I have to say I'd have been similar to the Niv player. I'd protest. I'd say pick a number! If you stuck to your guns, alright, but I hope you have a better reason than "I don't normally like infinite combos". 

You're the Bolas, but it's really just a budding Bolas verdict here. Like your head hurts because horns are beginning to poke out. Nothing crazy. Thanks again for writing in! 'Til next time!

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