Am I The Bolas? - Kicked for Cheating? What?!

Mike Carrozza • March 6, 2024

(Eruth, Tormented Prophet |Illustrated by Ekaterina Burmak)

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 just started Fallout so he can learn what this guy's all about!

Is he a person? Is he a being trapped in a screen? Artifact creature? What's his deal!

This week, let's talk about being kicked from a playgroup.

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


Hey there Mike or Mark,

Longtime fan of your articles. I have been reading since you started on Commander's Herald, but never wrote in.

I have been playing since around Kaldheim with my friends who got me started, and I was immediately hooked. We only played every other week, but as a family man I couldn't go to the shop when they were open. Chance would have it, while I was digging through commons at the shop I struck up a conversation with another player. He invited me to play with his group over Spelltable. I had never played with people I didn't know, or over Spelltable before. It was super fun. We played several times a week, and I even had a group of them over for pizza and Magic in my basement.

After a while, they stopped messaging in their Discord group and we hadn't played in a while. I just figured everyone was busy. I reached out asking if anyone wanted to play and then got kicked from the group. Baffled, I reached out to the player I met at the store. He stated that I was caught cheating in a game months earlier and no one was comfortable playing with me anymore.

Cheating! I was shocked! Never would I ever! The game in question involved my first (and very brief) dive into Izzet. I had made a prowess theme deck using Eruth, Tormented Prophet. The idea was to play prowess creatures, chain a bunch of spells, and swing for big damage. I included a bunch of cards that made me draw and then randomly discard. I thought the idea of being Hellbent and having to rely on Eruth's effect of exiling instead of drawing to be able to keep chaining spells would be fun. Therein lies the rub.

I was very concerned about taking long turns, so I was rushing during the game in question. This was only my fourth or fifth time with the deck and the first time with this group. I was one turn away from losing to card store guy. Only I was within lethal, so in an effort to save my self, I start chaining together spells. This involved a lot of random discard, and I used a six- or eight-sided die (depending on my hand size) to select at random. Then counting left to right picked the appropriate card(s) to discard. I was able to get two prowess creatures big enough to swing in on card store guy and take him out. It was a very desperate kind of funny revenge play on my part. I then promptly lost to the other two because my life total was so low. The game ended with a couple laughs and general good feelings.

They claimed that I wasn't discarding the correct cards to my random discard during that game. I was really upset about it. Took a break from Magic for a few weeks. These guys were growing to being my friends. I definitely felt betrayed. It was seriously a shock. My only guess is that I just got overwhelmed and made a play mistake. Maybe I did discard the wrong one? But if I did, why didn't they say anything during the game?

I suspect that card store guy was upset because I stopped his chance at winning as he revealed after the game that he had the win in hand. Could one of the other players in that game have also been harboring bad feelings towards me? This second player was the de facto rules guy of that group. In an earlier game weeks previous to the Izzet disaster, Player Two had made a mono-black reanimator deck that abused a specific mechanic. I had pointed out to him that he was misplaying it and it didn't work the way he thought it did. He got pretty annoyed and argued it did work that way, but after pulling up some rulings, he was in the wrong. So possibly they were upset with me over that stuff?

Months later, I ran into another member of that group. He asked why I didn't play anymore. I told him that I was banned for cheating. He was really confused and sympathetic.

I still play Magic (though not a whole of Izzet Storm). I grew from that situation, but definitely reach out to strangers less. I also avoid the tons-of-triggers-style decks. I just end up rushing and miss a bunch of stuff or making play mistakes. Overall, I'm a better player now. It would be awesome if that group reads this and writes in their side of the story.

Am I the bolas for making a play mistake? Or for taking out a player in revenge, even if I have no chance of winning? Or for correcting a rules misunderstanding?

Love the column and the podcast. Thanks!

Big Fan,

Family Man


Hey, Family Man! Thanks for the kind words about the column and the podcast! It means a lot that folks are digging it. Please, if you, the reader, have a story to share or a Reddit post caught your eye and you want me to write about it here or chat about it on the podcast, send 'em in at

This is an interesting case, Family Man!

I understand that decks like the Eruth, Tormented Prophet deck you describe are full of triggers and windows of opportunity which can get complicated. That said, these decks can be a ton of fun. I personally love a deck that goes off because five or six pieces are in the action. So first off, while you seem to have sworn off those kinds of decks, I would like to put forth that you can totally build another deck like that if that's something you would enjoy. Ultimately, it seems like the pressure of a long turn isn't your speed, so I wouldn't be surprised if this retirement from this type of deck is for good. It's a playstyle that requires you to know and understand your deck, having goldfish (tested) it a bunch before hitting a table with it. I digress. 

There are two parts for me in this that I would say might be on you.

1. That you introduced a lot of "random discard" effects and "being Hellbent" to the deck's strategy. This, in my opinion, adds a layer of complication that is unnecessary, especially given that an Izzet storm deck is already a lot to deal with, not to mention with a prowess theme even. 

2. When feeling pressured about taking a long turn and having lots of actions to take, it is totally fair to express yourself to the group and let them know that you are feeling rushed and this may lead to suboptimal plays or potential misplays. By telling the group about this, it gives them a window to offer reassurance for you to take the time you need and do things right or rather offer their assistance in figuring out your turn. 

All of that aside, the way some members of your Discord playgroup approached your situation was awful. It's clear that not all of the members of the group knew (thanks to the guy you ran into months later) and therefore there wasn't some sort of poll or vote or conversation around kicking you from the group. The fact that they kicked you without discussion whether in the moment or before kicking you or even, for god's sake, after removing you from the group is ridiculous. 

If someone claims you're cheating, it's something to bring up in the moment and validate there and then. You're powering through long and complicated turns with lots of actions and there was enough trust to let you run with it, but apparently two players (one of whom has been previously vocal) had clocked some sort of "cheating"...and they did nothing? 

I am, once again, for the umpteenth time in this column, advocating for people to directly confront each other. Whether asking a question for clarity or blatantly accusing someone of cheating, speak the (Editor's note: you don't need that word) up. 

Confrontation has a charged connotation to it, I understand, but if you don't say something, you don't get to all of a sudden have people around you reading your mind. You save yourself and your friends a ton of time by speaking up. 

The way they handled your removal from the group was cowardly and sad. It makes me wonder how they handle other things in their lives. 

There's some growth on your end to be had: if you do build a trigger-heavy deck, playtest the hell out of it and ask for the grace it takes to go through your turns correctly and appropriately. 

As for your question, play mistakes happen and you're not a villain for those. Killing a player out of revenge? Maybe. For correcting that player on how to play their deck? Not at all. 

You seem fine, Family Man!

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