Am I The Bolas? - Izzet Stax Experiment

Mike Carrozza • March 29, 2024

(Back to Basics |Illustrated by Andrew Robinson)

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 Mark Carbonza, the guy who started playing Fallout 4 and understands a few of the cards, now!

"There's a settlement that needs your help!"

This week, it's a stax attax!

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and to do a little bit of pizzazz!)


Salutations Mike,

I have a tale to tell about a time I was certainly the Bolas, but might have become the Ugin in the end. It all began with a question: "Can one build a stax deck using Izzet cards?" Yes, one can, and so, one did.

I was trying to brew a stax deck in a color combination different from the usual. My friend Nate and I whipped up a truly devious deck around Niv-Mizzet, Parun. It has everything. Classic combo-enablers, like Ophidian Eye, mana denial, like Blood Moon and Back to Basics, and even the card Expropriate. And this is where the problem hit.

In what small defense I may have, it was the first time I was playing the deck in paper so I did not know how well it would actually work out. I join a pod at the LGS Commander night. Nothing on the line except for one pack to the winner and fun times for all, usually.

I proceed to take all the fun out of the souls of the other three players. I have never looked at a more dejected table. I tried to end the game, but the deck would not give me the cards. I used Snapcaster Mage to recast Expropriate, which you cannot do had I finished reading the card. It was a bad time for everyone, including me.

Long story short, I won easily. It was terrible. I told everyone that if they wanted we could play again and I would not get the pack regardless of the outcome because I made illegal plays and brought a deck that was way too strong for the table. They agreed, someone else won, and I took the deck apart soon after. It now only exists in my dreams and my opponents' nightmares of that day.

So, am I the Bolas?




Hello, Nicholas!

Thanks for writing in! If you, the reader, have a story of yours or that you've found that you'd like to send my way for the column or the podcast, please send it over to There's no column without your stories, so keep 'em coming!

Now, Nicholas, let's talk stax.

If the question is "can stax be played in any color combination?" the answer is yes. In each color, there is something that can toss a wrench into your opponents' gears! Naturally, white and blue get the most stax pieces, like Rule of Law and Stasis. Most importantly, Winter Orb, Torpor Orb, Smokestack, and Tangle Wire all are colorless artifacts! Not to poopoo your experiment, but to satisfy your scientific mind, that's the answer!

Niv-Mizzet, Parun is also notoriously very powerful. It's the most popular Izzet commander, and I've seen it built as cEDH a few times. While a wheel strategy is the groan-inducing theme most built for the Parun, I can't imagine rocking up to a table and saying "This is my Niv-Mizzet, Parun stax deck" is super well-received by the majority of tables. 

I'd like to take a moment here to say that stax can be very fun! In some pods, stax is a welcome challenge for players to overcome more restrictive obstacles to playing their strategies out. When played poorly (i.e., without a win condition, perhaps) or at a table not expecting or open to it, you're less and less likely to have a great time.

Unfortunately, when you basically say "in my defense, it was the first time I played the deck", it fails to take into account that you brought a stax deck to the table, so there are some expectation of fun-soul-suckiness happening. You're playing Blood Moon and Back to Basics in a format where most lands are nonbasic, at least in decks three or more colors. Sure, we're in a time where mana bases are particularly greedy, but doing that deliberately feels like competitively exploiting a weakness.

If you're happy to dismantle the deck, that's great. I'm happy you figured out that the deck isn't your speed. However, I don't know that the deck needed to be if you liked it! This just felt like the kind of thing where the vibe of the pod and maybe the pod itself altogether was just wrong. I bet there's a table where a Niv-Mizzet, Parun deck is exactly the spice to add to the gumbo, but this pod wasn't that pot. 

Exploring deck themes and trying them out does not make you the Bolas. Playing stax also does not make you the Bolas, at least not exclusively. I think this was a matter of a lack of awareness where you were excited to try the deck out but forgot to take into account the effect stax can have on most pods.

Messing up the Expropriate happens. It's a long card to read, but it's also a huge salt-inducer, so I have to imagine the Snappy moment must have been embarrassing and maybe even annoying. Either way, you're not a villain for making mistakes. 

But you are a teeny tiny bit the Bolas for taking a stax deck to a "fun times", good vibes pod. No mention of clearing it with the table which usually comes with these stories so I'm going with the awareness route.

You're the chibi Bolas!

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