Am I The Bolas? - Price Tag

Mike Carrozza • February 29, 2024


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?"

I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email! You might see your story in the column. You might even hear it on the podcast. Which podcast? 


I'm Mark Carbonza, the guy who just got back from Chicago!

Made a lot of pals and now we can all chat from home!

This week, money is a hard topic to talk about, but we're going there today!

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and to do a little bit of je ne sais quoi!)


Hi there,

I'm writing into Am I The Bolas? to find out if I'm the villain for feeling a certain way. 

So I've been playing Magic on and off since 2017 and recently I have picked it up again with a mate of mine. This mate is a great guy and a good fella, but I find myself frustrated playing with him.

For context, I was the one who brought him into Magic: The Gathering and as soon as the The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth set dropped, he was hooked.

At this point of the story, I want to say that between he and I, whilst both employed, he makes a fair bit more money than I do a year. This has naturally impacted his deck building skills.

Slowly but still relatively quickly, his decks were loaded with insanely great cards that all combo well with each other - for example, his Lord of the Nazgûl deck. Naturally, in our pod it is quite frustrating to constantly be facing cards that are out of the collective price range.

More recently, he's been offering to make my decks. He has also started taking an insane amount of time during his turns for all of his Dinosaurs to resolve in his Dino Ramp deck. He usually always wins and while I'm happy for him as a mate, I end up getting a bit stroppy with him as it feels like I'm being cursed by pay to win mechanics.

Am I the Bolas for feeling frustrated with regularly losing to my friends expensive collection?

I dunno.
Love your column btw.
Cheers for listening to me vent,



First, I'd like to thank you for the kind words about the column! I hope you've had a chance to check out the podcast too. The latest episode from yesterday is turning out to be a real "hate it or love it" episode with Cal Jones of Herald's Horn and I'm going to say I love it. Being bold and saying I love my podcast and my guests and my cohosts and the game Magic: The Gathering and Commander the format and also being a real silly goose. I hope folks are digging it. 

Second, if you, the reader, have a story you'd like to submit to the column or podcast, please send it over to Whether it's your story or one you remember from a friend or even a Reddit post you like, send it through, I love it!

Third, time to chat about your story. 

This is a tough topic, honestly. Lots of folks shy away from talking money in general. When we play this game, there are a bunch of high profile cards that are expensive and as folks who brew and buy singles, we know how much they cost. Seeing a foil 7th Edition Wild Growth and knowing that's over $100 - because of its scarcity and former only-foil-printing status - while it remains an accessible common that has been reprinted a ton isn't what we're talking about here. Price doesn't always reflect power so...

Clearly, we're talking about power-driven price tags. Cards that stay in your checkout card for a bit while you negotiate with yourself whether or not it's worth dropping $50 on a single piece of cardboard before deciding that it is. Cyclonic Rift and Teferi's Protection are great examples of amazingly powerful cards that routinely dance between $25 and $60. They are strong cards that jump the power level of a deck by their very inclusion. 

Sometimes, the game is too expensive! Phyrexian Tower is one of my favorite lands and that thing keeps climbing every day. I've got four copies from when they were less expensive. If I include them in my decks, the argument of money becomes moot because I got in early. 

So it seems to address this submission, we must recognize the caveats:

  • Your pal just got into Magic. These aren't expensive cards that were in his collection a while and just spiked. 
  • Your pal is buying these singles and therefore isn't just opening them in packs he got while attending an LGS draft. And because we're talking financials, let's forget trades and such. 
  • It seems like there's been some conversation about it. He's offered to build you decks and that's really kind of him.

With all that out of the way, I have to say I'm happy to see that some steps were taken to speak about your feelings. It's an excellent start! Ultimately, it seems your friend is interested in the game to the extent of brewing and going for it. I think this might be the perfect playgroup to introduce budget brews or another restriction. 

With budget brews, unfortunately, the prices of cards move so much, it's tough to stay in the lines. One day your Vein Ripper fits in your $120 deck and the next it's 25% of your allotted budget because it does great at the latest Pro Tour. But that's Magic, baby! 

The budget restriction is a good one for your group considering this seems to be the barrier you've identified. I would have a discussion with him about it. Is there any interest in your group to maybe proxy cards until you can trade or open them or buy when they're within your means? Or maybe there's interest in the creativity that comes with having some restriction, price or otherwise. 

Asking your playgroup about how they would like to move forward is going to be key to resolving this frustration you're experiencing. Having an honest discussion about it will only uncover more information and maybe you'll find a page to land on. Let's not forget, there are plenty budget brews that can slam. There's a reason Talrand, Sky Summoner gets reprinted as frequently as it does! Great card and there are so many great, inexpensive cards that can make that deck sing. 

Finally, in regards to whether you're the Bolas for feeling this way - no. You feel a discrepancy and you're expressing that you recognize that it might be to blame for your frustrations with the game of late. I think it may be a good idea to examine what part beyond the card price is frustrating. The long turns seem to be the only other thing that came up. Now, think about the things that make you feel good about the game. How do you accomplish that? Is it feasible? Time to try to make it happen, playboy!

You're not the Bolas. Have a chat with the whole crew. Be cool. Remember that this is a game. A silly, little card that also happens to be the center of some of the best times. Remember to have fun. 

Thanks again for writing in!

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