Am I The Bolas? - Outside Knowledge

Mike Carrozza • April 11, 2022

Silence |Illustrated by Wayne Reynolds

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 clumsiest member of the Obscura crime family!

Whoopsy, just targeted my own Raffine, Scheming Seer!

This week, we've got a story of a mixed-experience playgroup.


(email edited for brevity, anonymity, and clarity)

Hello Mark,

Long time reader, first time sharing a story. 
Getting right into it, my wife and I were part of a five-person playgroup (us and three others). Myself and one other person in the playgroup - let's call him Player A - are experienced Magic players, my Wife and Players B and C were very new to Magic and only had a few games under their belts.
This story primarily includes Players A, B and my Wife. My wife and I arrived at our friend's house where we normally meet up to play. Players A, B, and C had started a three-player game while waiting for us. When we arrived, Player A had a bunch of Zombie tokens (10+) on board and a Liliana of the Last Hope that was ready to ultimate next turn. Player B had three 4/4 Rhino tokens on board, and Player C had one Morphed creature, but was tapped out.
Player A swung with all his Zombies and knocked out player C, then passed the turn to Player B. Player B, as I said, was still very new to Magic and still had to be reminded of basic steps and phases. It was clear that Player B was not sure what to do looking at her cards and back at player A's board state.
Player A pretty much had the game in the bag and could very likely win on his next turn. Player B seemed to be running out of options, which is when my wife pointed out to Player B that she could attack planeswalkers if she wanted to. Player B was quite surprised, as she had no idea she could do that. Player A was extremely upset by this and scooped his cards up, stating that it is cheating for someone outside the game to offer advice.
Now, I've played in tournaments before and yeah, in that sort of setting, table talk is a no go, but this was as casual as you can get, with 3 of the 5 players using precons and still learning the game.
Do you think telling a new player about an action they are allowed to take is being the Bolas? What I found especially strange was that Player A seemingly had the game locked down and was basically guaranteed to win.
In case there are any doubts, me and Player A were the ones who basically taught the others how to play, so he was almost definitely aware of their skill level and knowledge of the game and rules. Although Player A was an experienced player, he was somewhat new to Commander and had previously only played Modern. 
We did attempt afterwards to discuss (not argue, I think that's important) what had happened, and Player  A was pretty much unwilling to accept that what happened wasn't cheating. 
So I leave this with you. Hopefully you enjoy the story, and keep up the great content both on and off the stage.


Hey there, NPC17!

First off, thank you for writing in! I appreciate you and people like you who send me their stories. Thanks for asking for my opinion and trusting me with your situation.

That said, WOWEE!

I'm going to lead with my verdict and say your wife isn't the Bolas, but rather Player A is the Bolas and maybe even a real-world word I'd use instead if my editors let me curse the way I want to.

Let's review some things. Player A had a planeswalker in ultimate range and was in a commanding position. That position was aided only because players involved did not know a crucial rule about how planeswalkers work. After your wife revealed that planeswalkers can be attacked and Player B was surprised to hear this, if Player A had been just as surprised that Player B didn't know, I'd be somewhat forgiving here.

It almost feels like Player A was banking on Player B not knowing about attacking planeswalkers and got salty that the jig was up. To blame his scooping on "no outside help" is a cop-out. It's a fair rule, don't get me wrong, but in this case, it feels like BS. It's also not a great rule when there are players still learning how to play in the group. You want them to learn, so having rules explained is a pretty important part of... teaching someone how to play the freaking game?

I don't know. This one is rubbing me the wrong way. I love this game, but teaching someone to play and taking advantage of blind spots that you're aware of is awful. It's just not the spirit of the game. If you're going to teach someone how to play Commander, wouldn't you want them to know how to play the game well if you're going to play them? Doesn't it feel cheap to ult a planeswalker when you find out that the only reason it was able to get so far is because your buddy didn't know it could be attacked?

Come on, man.

If you've got a story, send it in! If you have an opinion, share it in the comments!

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