Am I The Bolas? - Mutual Destruction

Mike Carrozza • December 20, 2022

Mutual Destruction | Illustrated by PINDURSKI

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 wants to remind you to get your gifts for loved ones!

This week, if I'm going down, I'm taking you with me.

(Email edited for clarity, brevity, and to get that thingy where you hover over the card names and they show up all little and stuff so you can read them.)


Hey Mark,

I recently got together with my playgroup for some games and a pretty funny interaction came up I wanted to share. 

We were jamming some precons, and it became pretty clear early on who was pulling ahead. One player was playing Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald and had ramped super hard off a turn-one Sol Ring into a turn-two Cultivate. Another player had a turn-two Arcane Signet into a turn-three Black Market Connections with the Orzhov Party deck helmed by Nalia de'Arnise.

It was pretty clear to me that if me and my other friend wanted to do anything this game we would have to work together to clean up their boards... and fast. 

Luckily, when it got back to his turn, he ripped a Decimate off the top of his deck and was able to do just that. Sol Ring, Black Market Connections, and Faldorn's best creature were all down. He also decided he wanted to target one of my lands to spread the love a little bit. I said, "If you're going to target one of my lands, please hit one of my three Swamps," but he insisted on hitting my best land because he had taken away everyone else's best things.

As soon as he said this I interjected with, "If you hit my three-color land, I can't play Magic for this game," and pointed out it was my only source of red and my second blue source. I was playing Anhelo, the Painter. He jokingly said, "Isn't that the point?" to which I responded, "If I don't get to play, neither will you." Basically handing him an ultimatum that if he destroys that land (thus locking me out of playing four out of the five spells in my hand), I'll make sure he can't do anything either. A kind of nuclear standoff, if you will, threatening mutually assured destruction if he went through with it.

Well, he did end up going through with it, and keeping up my promise, I proceeded to throw the only castable spell left in my hand, Sever the Bloodline, at his commander. The best target was clearly the three or four Wolves Faldorn had made, but I wanted to send a message. If I'm going down, I'm dragging you down with me!

In the end, there were some laughs and jokes as the guy who blew up my land proceeded to play Equipment with no commander to equip to as he missed a few land drops and couldn't recast it. I either passed my turns with nothing to do or cast some mediocre spells because I couldn't really afford to wait around for the right time. 

I did eventually get my red mana I desperately needed, but by then, the game was too far gone and I was too far behind. 

Although we joked about the situation and how little we were doing after our feud, I thought it would be interesting to discuss if this play would be a Bolas play if you were playing with strangers.

In my mind, the fact that I clearly stated my intentions should he go ahead with his desired play made it not a spite play. Ultimately it was his decision in the end to go ahead with it, and then my choice was either follow through with my stated intentions should he decide to hit his red button and start our little feud or to take Faldorn down a few pegs and help him and the other player catch up.

I went with the former rather than the later, keeping my promise and dooming him to the same fate as me. I'm curious what others would do in this situation though.

Thanks for the articles! 



Hi, Niko! Thanks for writing in.

This is a tough one to judge, but I think I've figured out what side of this I fall on.

Let me outline the important details:

  1. Other opponents are running away with the game, and the Decimate player decided to focus on the others, but he still targeted your tri-land to "spread the love".
  2. "Isn't that the point?"
  3. Clearly stated ultimatum: "If you target my (Command Tower - I'm going to say that's the land) with Decimate, I will retaliate and neither of us will be able to play well this game."
  4. Following through with the ultimatum.

Let's start with some spice.

I think the idea of "spreading the love" is absolutely stupid if there are clear threats. I understand why he would target your Command Tower, but if this is under the guise of "spreading the love" when you've been determined to have been falling significantly behind, it's a garbage excuse. "Spreading the love" would be hitting one of your lands, but not hobbling you. This decision is a deliberate hit on your mana availability, especially because you compromised by offering one of your Swamps...which leads me to "Isn't that the point?"

Yes. It is, definitely. You want to win. But this is a free-for-all game where your opponents need to be managed. You need your opponents to be your allies when you cannot manage the table on your own. Two players are behind, maybe give a little "Hey, if I don't Decimate any of your lands, could you promise to aim some removal at their stuff, too?"

Garbagio. You don't get to say "spreading the love" here. You get to say I am deliberately getting rid of the strongest targets and making the decision to remind you that you are also my enemy.

If you had not followed through with the ultimatum, I would not have respected posing it in the first place. It is still a spite play because you are not playing optimally. The second there's a better play and you choose one that will hurt someone because of a slight or previous action against you, buddy, I've got news for you - that's a spite play. 

Literally, the very definition of a spite play.

That said, personally, for the health of the playgroup or your reputation at the table or tables nearby, etc., you had to follow through with it. It's about sending a message. "Don't mess with my stuff. You will get retaliation." This is a fair thing to do. It ultimately sets a precedent that if you're targeted, you repay in kind.

That said, some people don't like that and would call you the Bolas because of this alone.




But, let me tell you a little secret...




I do this in my regular playgroup as well. I have a group of friends I play with regularly. Knowing that I will likely get a few games per hang out a couple of times a month means that if I don't do something about having my stuff regularly countered or removed, it will be something that people think they can get away with. Not on my watch.

Has this led me to losing a game or two? You betcha. But has it led to conversations and deals rather than just having my stuff destroyed? Absolutely.

So I don't know. Yes and no? Yes. Bolas. (Nah, not the Bolas to me...and I'm the one who decides! So, no!)

(Editor's note: Can we get an official ruling, Mike?

Mike Mark: No.

Editor: "No, we can't get a ruling" or "No, Niko is not the Bolas."

Mike Mark: Both.)

Is now a good time to remind you that I am a comedian with a comedy album out?

Thanks for reading!

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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