Am I The Bolas? – Letting a New Player Win

Mike Carrozza • May 11, 2021

Whelming Wave by Slawomir Maniak

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 markcarbonza@gmail.com!

Who am I? I’m Mark Carbonza, the guy who keeps emailing Gavin Verhey to bring back Volver creature types!

These were MY Power Rangers.

This week’s submission is one I really enjoyed and hope you will too!

(Message edited for brevity and to conceal personal information.)

HOWDY MARK!

Am I the Bolas for NOT targeting a newer player who had a terrifying board state but left themselves wide open, instead choosing to go for the experienced player with a stronger deck but in a weaker position, therefore handing the noob a win?

My rationale is that I thought it would be good for a new player to get a win and feel that excitement in the game, but other people say new players should learn the hard way. Objectively speaking, I chose not to target the correct player. 

New Player was playing dinosaurs and got very excited and swung out, killing Other Player 1. I could have killed the New Player if I overloaded Cyclonic Rift and swung in. However, I thought it would be more fun to play a goofy enchantment. I Cyc Rifted Other Player 2’s commander, then attacked him. That brought him down to enough life for New Player to kill me and OP 2 after slamming down a Beastmaster Ascension.

This was New Player’s second ever game and the deck was borrowed. 

With all that context, Am I The Bolas for king-making the New Player?

Best,

King Noob

BONJOUR, KING NOOB!

I want to start off with how much I love this conversation. It reminds me of (stay with me) parenting philosophies. Is a lesson better learned on their own, is the victory only sweet when it’s truly earned?

I think intention is a huge factor here. My understanding is that you wanted New Player (NP) to be stoked about the game and feel the excitement that comes with not only getting a deck to do its thing but also to secure a win. That’s a pretty powerful way to get somebody to remain engaged and clue them into the potential of it all. 

From our exchanges, it doesn’t seem like there was any backseat gaming or too many interjections regarding “optimal plays” and that NP did actually do the work to secure the win. For all they know, their opponents just really didn’t have the edge in threat assessment. To them, that’s a win they’ve earned. NP made it happen.

That’s huge. That’s a great feeling. I’d be pumped. “Not only did I do it, I did it by myself, with these huge dinos that kicked ass against these enfranchised players I truly did not believe I stood a chance against.” And yet, they stood victorious. Buddy, if that doesn’t get you to want to shuffle up and play again, I don’t know what will.

I love playing Commander. I love seeing people do big dumb things because of my long, long, long appreciation for the game and the format. The things that are possible in Commander make me feel like a jazz musician who laughs at a run of notes in a solo because it was simply unheard of to pull them off in this key, but here it is. Astounding. But to the untrained ear, it’s just music. 

When I started though, it was a whole other story. I’ve gotta win, otherwise I’m not having fun. Now, I love losing to something crazy and fun. But if it wasn’t for learning how the game works at its basics (ie. playing powerful things and taking a win), I would have probably not gotten to where I am now, loving this crazy format. 

While I do think there’s some merit to “learning the hard way”, I also think that NP did everything themselves and unbeknownst to them had a little help. If my 6’3” cousin had guarded me properly while playing basketball as a kid at my huge height of 4’5”, I probably would have hated it and given up. Instead I learned to like playing and eventually my cousin took it less and less easy on me. I learned trick dribbles and got good at 3 pointers, but it all started with enjoying the basic parts of it. 

So no, King Noob, YOU ARE NOT THE BOLAS. You just gave your buddy some headphones and put on some smooth jazz for them to vibe to. They’ll start digging into drummers in no time. 

Thanks for reading!

If you have a story, please send some in! I’d love to write about what’s going on!



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