Am I The Bolas? – Joining in on the Fun!

Mike Carrozza • December 1, 2021

Join the Dance Illustrated by Raoul Vitale

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! I’m the guy looking forward to the Gordon Ramsay Secret Lair!

It comes together on its own!

This week, we’ve got a good-willed tournament runner who’s afraid of shifting the vibe of his events.


(email edited for brevity and clarity)

Hi Mark,

Really enjoying this series and decided to take the plunge and email you about my current dilemma.

I’ve been running Commander events at an LGS since 2018, including a full year of doing a league setup where players could earn points for winning games and doing other cool stuff. Every season (which was 3 months) I would give away a custom playmat to the top point scorer. We moved to webcam play with a much smaller group while in-person paper play wasn’t possible, but we can play in-person again now. I’ve decided to not go back to the league structure because I enjoyed the more “casual” experience.

One of the things I have found myself doing is worrying a lot about “is it bad for the organizer to win?” I focus a lot on Rule 0 discussions and emphasizing the social aspect of playing. I definitely don’t win at any rate approaching dominance (maybe 1 win per 8-10 games played in a group with good players). I find myself worrying about the newer people who show up and have cool decks and end up sitting there not doing much as the established members beat up on each other. I want folks to come back and play again! I am lucky to have access to powerful cards, but it’s easy to slip into cEDH mode just to make the Spike inside me shut up about “never winning.”

This starts altering my deck choices and card choices in an attempt to say, “See, I am not the Bolas! I just want you to come and play and have a good time”

Am I worried too much or is the secret commander of all my decks the Bolas?



Let’s get this out of the way.
…but also, this is more of an advice question rather than presenting a situation to judge over, so there isn’t really a yes or no here.
That being said, I think you running events at an LGS is dope. I really like that you took over that spot and went for it. Kudos, bud. A custom playmat for the points leader is a really cool prize!
Although, with prizes on the line, things will lean competitive, which is why I hope there are no more prizes for position, but rather maybe a draw or raffle for the prize using a name randomly picked from those participating. With this kind of deal, winning is not important to anyone. The games ARE about social interaction and to some, yes, winning, but in the “casual” environment you’re fostering, winning will not yield any different results at the LGS or in your league. (A note from Chris, after we corresponded further – “This time around I am definitely not doing prizes based on performance. Still trying to think of something cool to do for the folks who show up and see if the store itself is up to giving some things away.”)
I do think you’re overthinking it. If you’re participating because you want to get a couple of games in, buddy go for it! It’s a fun game, nobody can blame you. If you’re out there stomping around real hard all the time, that could be unfun, but that’s also against what you’re setting out for: a casual, non-competitive game environment. Have post-game conversations, maybe even a mailing list survey if you’d like further input. I appreciate how careful you are being with your events.
Let’s also not turn “win” into a four-letter word. In a pod of four, one person will win the game, but if you’re successful in your goal, then everybody “wins” a good time with pals.
I think it’s fine to be aware of your inner Spike, but maybe satiate that bloodlust with some Arena queues, your personal playgroup, or a high-powered pod. I think when you remember your goal of leaning casual and that there’s nothing on the line besides the experience itself, it becomes much easier to remain present and to be attentive to those who have sat down with you to enjoy this game we all dig without focusing on taking home the W.
Thanks again for writing in! If YOU – yes, YOU, the reader! – if YOU have any story or question for me to comment on, please send it in! I’m hungry for your Qs, ready to give you As!
Thank you 🙂 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