Am I The Bolas? - Overdraft at the Patience Bank

Mike Carrozza • May 31, 2023

Compelling Argument |Illustrated by Lucas Graciano

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 loves to remind you he's never seen The Lord of the Rings movies.

This seems fine to me!

This week, a story about someone who needs to learn the rules.

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, punctuation, spelling, all the good stuff and whatnot okay thank you for reading!)


Hi, Mark.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I would like to get the opinion from whom I can gladly call a very reasonable person. I have read many of your Am I The Bolas articles and love them.

I play Commander every Friday at my local game store. This last Friday, we had some rough games because one player has some extreme opinions to certain cards.

In the first game, he said he hates when a player takes control of his cards - especially his commander - and would walk out if they did. I was playing Riku of Two Reflections and had Zealous Conscripts in hand. He had a the Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant and played Myojin of Grim Betrayal. I was planning to steal his Myojin and remove the counter but after he said that I did not want to piss him off. So I stayed my hand and decided to use a tutor to dig into my deck. A turn or two later, I make my move. My board was lots of mana dorks, lands, and two other creatures, Riku and Esix, Fractal Bloom.

I cast and copy Chord of Calling where X is 8. I grab Craterhoof Behemoth first and resolve his ability then resolve the second Chord grabbing Hornet Queen using Esix to make the token copies of Craterhoof. Each creature got +52/+52 and trample. I swung to kill everyone in one turn with at least two creatures going to each player which is 100+ damage each.
He tried blocking with his creatures and using his commander death trigger to kill all creatures to stop the trample damage. I explained that all the damage gets dealt at one time and he can't use his commander's ability because he, the player, had lost before the trigger happened. He got mad but we played more games.

In the last game of the night, he is playing Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. He complains he's drawing nothing good and passes through a couple of his turns without playing anything even though he could have played his commander but did not. I am playing Meren of Clan Nel Toth. Using Merciless Executioner and my commander's ability, I clear the other players' fields. Korvold player didn't have anything to sacrifice.

But now that he sees I can make every player sacrifice at least one creature a turn, he plays his commander as the only creature...

Out of kindness, I keep my mouth shut and stop the board suppression. As he starts building back up, I turn it back on and make players keep sacrificing to a Butcher of Malakir. I have a functional sacrifice field going but I am not being mean with abusing it. I could have cleared his field at the cost of mine but did not want to be the Bolas.

When he cast his Mayhem Devil was when I had to act... and be mean. I could not let that last the turn. So in response, before it resolved, I sacrificed a bunch of my creatures to dig into my deck. I found a solution and let it resolve before killing it.

He apparently did not understand how I could do this so I tried explaining. He just got mad and said I was making rules just to make me win. When my turn came about, I declared I wanted to sacrifice five creature tokens and five nontoken creatures in a specific order to get the most out of the sacrifices. He wanted to kill my Syr Konrad, the Grim with Beast Within. I asked where on the stack he wanted to cast it. He said first before I sacrifice anything. I said okay in response I perform the sacrifices in the order I wanted. He flips out and says I am cheating and walks out.

Am I the Bolas for this? I wanted to play and win but not be a massive Bolas, which is why I did not keep forcing the board denial and control intentionally missing a some triggers that would cost a player the card they spent their entire turn playing. That would have made the game no fun. I really don't want to piss players off because the game store I play at is having a real hard time and I don't want them to lose paying customers. The only players there that night were me, him, the store owner and the other employee. But I don't want to just be a punching bag for players to pretend to noob stomp and feel good about themselves. I want my chance to win too. 

Also, important to note: the other players did win against my Meren deck that game when they kept bouncing my entire field to my hand each turn. But we laughed each time. I didn't mind.

I am so sorry this has been such a long story. 

Thank you for your time and opinion.



It means a lot to me that you're a reader of the column. I really appreciate the AITB fans out there whether they'd call themselves that or not. It really means the world to me, week after week, getting more and more stories and I can't thank you enough. If you're reading this and have a story to share, please send it to! Don't be dissuaded by the fact that I get a bunch of them, it's not nearly as many as you think it is, but it's also a little more than the new number you have in your head. Enjoy that one, math/philosophy nerds!

Alright, Donald. Let's party.

I want to begin by saying something right off the bat: sacrifice locks are very frustrating. In pods that can't handle it or have less interaction, it just becomes a "wait for the Meren player to find their combo" situation. I will say that you not sacrificing anything to cause Korvold to be sacked was a kind gesture. Some people might say that you're a predator playing with your food, but really, you're just trying to get people to "do the thing" and present a hurdle here and there. It's the fun of the game. If you want to do the thing on your own, baby, go goldfishing!

On to this player.

I really have a hard time with anybody presented with rules and responding with anger. For example, when you explained that damage happens at the same time and he was certain he could activate Nevinyrral's death trigger and he got mad. I hate that. But when something like this happens, I get that person to explain to me why it works in their logic. This usually opens up a window into where the disconnect is and then you can explain better with their example. For instance, in this case, if he's like "my commander dies and I pay for his trigger" and you can ask "how does your commander die?"

Them: "Combat damage, the Craterhoof attack."

You:  "So, the combat damage that kills your commander and hits you at the same time and kills you puts a trigger on the stack."

Them: "Yeah, then I pay for it."

You: "How do you pay for anything when you are dead?"

Them: "Because my commander dies and he has a trigger."

You: "When you lose the game, everything about you in the game ceases to exist, including anything on the stack."

Them: "I activate my commander."

You: "Sounds like you're making up the rules so you can win."

Ultimately, this player seems to not know some basic rules and few more complex concepts that become internalized as basic. The Stack is a relatively complicated piece of Magic. I understand him not knowing completely how it works, but to fight about it when two other players at the table are there accepting the rules (and potentially assisting with teaching this player, hopefully? I mean, come on, where were they in all this?)...

It's also not your job to teach people the intricacies of the game if they've proven themselves to be combative and indignant. I get that you don't want to drive anybody away, but you also did your best not to. You held that Zealous Conscripts in hand when it would have been good for you only because this player said they don't enjoy theft effects - with an ultimatum of them leaving the game, no less!

I don't know. This player seems like they came in with a cruddy attitude and stuck with it the rest of the night.


I don't think you fully escape being called the Bolas just yet. I think you're mindful of other players' dealbreakers and situations, etc... But having multiple sacrifice locks in place? That's a villain move! That said, not the Bolas, but if your 23andMe breakdown showed up, you'd have, like, 20% Bolas in you.

Thanks again for reading! Send in your stories!

Also, I'm only accepting healthy debate about these articles. If you give me garbage energy, I have no problem giving it right back.

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