Am I The Bolas? - Out of Nowhere

Mike Carrozza • February 2, 2022

Shaman en-Kor |Illustrated by Jeff Miracola

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 thinks (insert name of obviously broken Kamigawa Neon Dynasty legendary dragon) is actually pretty good when you think about it!

This week, a low-powered pod!

(Email edited for anonymity, brevity, and clarity.)


My dearest Mike Mark,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. But let's cut to the chase.
Me and my friends have a relatively low-powered pod. It's the same three or four of us playing every time. Half of our decks are modified precons and the other half is often pretty budget.
My favorite deck is a Saskia the Unyielding forced combat deck with a subtheme consisting of ten or so creatures with the Boros Reckoner ability. I also run some damage-based board wipes (Blasphemous Act, Star of Extinction) and big red X spells (Jaya's Immolating Inferno, Earthquake). I'm planning on converting this deck to a Jared Carthalion, True Heir deck and homing in even harder on the Stuffy Doll theme.
One spell that has won me the game a few different times is Arcbond. I love seeing a plan come together where a lowly Spitemare combos with Arcbond and a spell that does 10 damage to nuke the entire table in one big burst.
My deck is hardly optimized in terms of having good card draw, but our games tend to run a little long, ten turns minimum, and I've assembled some form of nuke combo in a fair number of games. The games where I do get some kind of combo often don't result in an outright victory as much as they are just plays that put me ahead.
However, sometimes they do just win me the game. One of my friends has complained about the game ending too suddenly or without warning. It's a grindy, budget, creature-based format where the board can get clogged and then "out of nowhere" I drop a bomb and win in one turn. But of course not all of our games end this way; in fact, he wins more games than the rest of us with his Gavi, Nest Warden deck. But this isn't about him. Am I the Bolas?
-Firstname Lastname


Hi, Firstname! I appreciate you writing in!
Your deck seems totally fair. I also share your excitement for Boros Reckoner-type cards. I have a Sevinne, the Chronoclasm deck that uses every Brash Taunter I could find. I love that deck so much; it's fun as hell. It durdles but can take a table out once it gets rolling.
The fact that you're only pulling ahead by turn ten and it's considered "out of nowhere" confirms your pod is low-powered, which is awesome. Turns and turns of setup isn't "out of nowhere"!
I think it's kind of wild to consider it "out of nowhere" or "too sudden" when it takes double digit turns to get you in striking distance. The way the format's been going for the last couple of years, I'm impressed you guys make it regularly to 10+ turns. It rules. It reminds me of the games I used to play with my playgroup before we all tuned things up. I've found that going for flavor or some other restriction is helpful to edge out staples and use lesser known cards.
That said, if this complaint becomes more common, it's time for a playgroup meeting to chat about game preferences and find out where you all can fit. Of course, your wants and needs should be catered to as well. It sounds like you enjoy this playstyle enough to retool your favorite deck to prioritize it with a new legend swap at the helm of your deck, so I would make sure to mention this in the discussion for compromise. As important as it is to be adaptable to your playgroup, don't forget that you're also part of the playgroup and your wants/needs should be met as well.
Anyway, have you heard of Shaman en-Kor, Toralf, God of Fury, Martyrdom, and General's Regalia? That's some redirect tech for your Spitemare and co. 😉
Not the Bolas!
Thanks again for writing in.
If you have a story that you'd like me to weigh in on, please email!

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