Am I The Bolas? - Let's Make This Challenging For You Then!

Mike Carrozza • December 6, 2023

Curse of ChainsIllustrated by Drew Tucker

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! 

I'm Mark Carbonza, the guy WHO HAS A NEW PODCAST!

It would be really cool if you listened to our podcast Am I The Bolcast? and tell us what you think!

This week, a story that came up in a podcast I was a guest on, The Social Contract: An EDH Podcast!


In late November 2023, I was a guest on Mike Almond and Alex Lapp's podcast The Social Contract: An EDH Podcast, a podcast where the two hosts discuss the social aspect of the game with a focus on group hug strategies. 

To contextualize the topic, here's an excerpt from the podcast episode we did:

I have a stax deck. It's a Kykar, Wind's Fury silver bullet stax. I've tried to construct it in as nice a way as possible. The way that I've done that is that all of the stax and hate pieces are so narrow that they're only designed to completely hate out one player. And the reason why I'm running the deck is that a player brought their Urza, Lord High Artificer deck and everyone else is bringing their precons. And they're like, this is the only deck I have! Okay, you can run that deck, that's fine. We're going to run this deck. This deck is going to make it so you can never play your deck, but everyone else still can.
Let me give you a second side. The way this deck works, it is very, very, very, very, very efficient at shutting down one person at the table. I've never seen Kykar come out on the first game. I've never seen Kykar come out on the second game. I have seen Kykar come out on the third game because, all right, you need to be taken down a peg real quick. If somebody has been Bolas for too long, Kykar is the Bolas just to you.
But, crucially, they're not broadly symmetric stax pieces. They're not the kind of stax pieces like Stasis and Static Orb that are going to lock down the table. They're going to lock down one player, but everyone else is just going to have a grand old time.
I don't think I've ever given you this comment for that deck, but it reminds me of the Batman line, "It's not the hero we need, it's the hero we deserve." That deck is very much not the deck the pod needs to have a good time, but it's the deck that that particular player deserves.
Does the person you're going after know?
Oh yeah, I'm extremely clear about it. I'm like, listen, buddy. Your deck is way too powerful.
I've sat at the table with Alex.
"You're not going to play any other deck? We've got other decks. Would you like to borrow a deck? Would you like to play something different?"
>No, I'll play my deck.
"Okay, I would like to play this."
This is one of those that's the last straw and you're about to learn today.
It's not even necessarily a vindictive or hateful thing. I think it's an issue of that they brought one deck, this is the only deck they have. They don't want to play my decks, that's okay. How can we let this person play and also not have the worst Commander night of our lives? The answer for me is Kykar silver bullet.
This is a bit of a grey area, it's very tricky.
The question is - Is Lapp the Bolas for playing a stax deck that only handles one player? 


Since the excerpt didn't get into what I thought, I figured I'd articulate my thoughts a little more here.

The main question I think of is "Does the person you're going after know?" To which Alex responded yes. This is important because the discussion is had with that player and it is assumed that they welcome the challenge of having all the action of one deck pointed at you.

It's explained in further detail the context in which Alex brings out the deck. Let's say you're at your LGS and somebody shows up with an extremely powerful deck, sits down, and wipes the floor with the present pod. Before the next game, the pod chats about power levels of the decks they brought, but that player only has this supercharged, go-hard-or-don't-go-at-all-powered deck. The other players agree to try out one of their stronger decks. The same thing happens. Now what? 

Now, Alex offers up that he's got this deck that will check the strong deck at the table and after those two games, everybody knows who archenemy is. So the player decides yay or nay. 

I appreciate that! It's a deck that's going to ensure that the weaker decks can keep up while presenting a challenge to a strong one. The targeted deck gets to experience some pushback and the potential reward the satisfying feeling of overcoming a hurdle. The decks that haven't been able to perform well get to experience getting off the ground for the first time in the evening. Not the Bolas at that table.

If you whip this deck out when the would-be-targeted player opposes to it or without telling anybody that's what the deck is, that'd be a Bolas move. In the context that the ol' Lapper plays it, I can get behind that.

Thanks for having me on, gang! Thanks for reading! If you've got a story, send it over to! And please, listen to our podcast Am I The Bolcast?

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