Am I The Bolas? - A Quick Game to End the Night

Mike Carrozza • May 15, 2024

(Thunderbreak Regent by Ryan Pancoast

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 regrets using a pseudonym for this column!

It just keeps coming back!

This week, what are your expectations for that "last quick game" before ending the night?

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and to capitalize some words here and there.)


Hello Mark!

I am writing this to you to ask your titular question "Am I the Bolas?" I really appreciate the column whenever you post, and it really has given me a new view on different places MTG players can come from when rationing morale with regards to gameplay decisions. That said, I know that my own perspective of events might be biased, and I still can't shake the feeling that I had done this group wrong.

For context, this happened with a playgroup at my LGS that I had not normally played with; they all knew each other, so I was the stranger in the group. After the introductions, we had a talk on power level and the group decided to start with a mid-level-power deck game. While I do not remember the exact commander, the first opponent was playing a stax-type deck, another was playing Dr. Madison Li, and the last was playing Pantlaza, Sun-Favored. I was playing my most recent deck, Djeru and Hazoret (DH for short). 

To say the draws were bad on all of our parts would be an understatement. For the next three hours, we could not keep a consistent board state to save our lives. I was constantly missing with DH's ability, Pantlaza had hit ramp cards with EVERY one of his dinos, and the Dr. Lee player just could not get a land drop; it was like ten turns straight of three mana. Although each of us were low on cards at the time, we all felt that we still had a chance if we could just get one good thing to stick. In the end, it was the stax player that ended up winning.

For the second game, I suggested that we play a higher-powered game as I had wanted to do something that would speed up the pace of the game. The other players had agreed, and three of us swapped out decks. The second game was composed of Alistair, the Brigadier, Hylda of the Icy Crown, Pantlaza, Sun-Favored, and my Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm deck.

I had kept a really good hand with quite a bit of ramp and Lozhan, Dragons' Legacy. A couple of turns pass and the Dinos have really come out, the Hylda player has Opposition on the board for constant tapping, and I have Miirym, a Bonehoard Dracosaur, and two Thunderbreak Regents on the board. Then, on my next turn, I drew my biggest card, Earthquake Dragon, and played it immediately after playing Lozahn, making copies of both and giving me 30 burn damage to dish out.

While there were a few Dinos on the field, I was largely worried about the Hylda player's board as they were able to turn every mana into a 4/4, so I sent the damage their way. I had expected them to be able to respond on their next turn, but they scooped in response. They had claimed to have ways of dealing with the Dinos, which I thought was likely a board wipe, but thinking back now, it seems that the Opposition was what they were referring to. After that, the rest of the table didn't really have much in the way of stopping my flying Dragons.

Once that game was over, they very promptly packed their things and made several comments expressing dissatisfaction with the way the game turned out. These comments, while said in a passing manner, fell along the lines of me just being a pubstomper in that second game and unfairly targeting the Hylda player with the large swing of damage early on.

One thing about the second game: it felt like a triangle of each person worrying about another, with me worrying about Hylda, Hylda worrying about Pantlaza, and Pantlaza worrying about me. I don't remember the exact wording of the comments, but they were along the lines of my "threat assessment being off" and "holding personal grudges across games'' since Hylda was playing stax earlier. Then he pointed out that, with my Thunderbreak Regents, he was not likely to target me for anything in a couple of turns regardless and that he was not the biggest threat to me. The comments were focused very heavily on the Earthquake Dragon play by the Hylda player and for the other players about how they have their chances in the game without a good top deck.

So tell me: am I the Bolas for 1) not engaging in enough pregame talk to know what two of the players considered high power, and for 2) targeting the Hylda player with both hits of 15 by Lozahn? 


Patrick, Otrimi's Ever Playmate


Hey, Patrick! Thanks for the kind words about the column, and thank you for writing in. As I mention every article, this column is nothing without the folks who write in, and I'm grateful that people have been sharing their stories with me. If you, the reader, have a story you'd like to share or a Reddit post you spot that you think ol' Mikey would have a time chopping up, send it over to I'll write it up here or we'll discuss it on the podcast! Speaking of which, if you like the podcast Am I The Bolcast?, let me know!

Alright, let's dive in. 

I'll be quick about this one. I think Hylda of the Icy Crown was being a real sore loser. You clocked them correctly as the one who might be able to stop you since you say they hinted at "being able to deal with Dinos" aka probably a board wipe. Your threat assessment was correct considering the information you had. It also helps that Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm is a card that is cracked in half and then cracked again. That card is bananas and a real eye-roller for me. That said, if you're proposing a quick game to end the night and we're going high-power, it's exactly what I'm expecting. 

The way they handled their saltiness is water off a duck's back, Pat. Let it go if you can. You played the right way if you were playing to win, which is the point of the last game, I reckon. Could you have divided the 30 damage to ping two players? Sure. But what if Hylda, as you suspected they might, did actually have a board wipe? Then you wouldn't have the Thunderbreak Regents to protect you from further interaction in a deck that seems to like swinging with creatures and hitting face for damage. 

Not the Bolas, and I'd argue your threat assessment was spot on. Obviously, you mentioned your bias off the top, but taking all of this as fact, no problem, no contest, no question, not Bolas. 

For your first question, you presented the idea of a high-powered game to end the night and got approval all around. Of course, folks could have clarified or asked, but everybody had an idea of what mid-power looked like and had their minds made about high-powered. I would love to see this Alistair, the Brigadier list if it's really meant to be so powered up. I think that it's important to chat with everybody about what they're expecting in a game, but sometimes the conversation is just "everybody cool with playing their strongest deck?" and people agree. Feels more in line with what happened here. The relief of a promise for a quick game rather than a three-hour slog where nobody accomplished anything is very nice. 

I think they were salty. I don't know how else to put it. Hylda was mad at the correct play, Alistair/Dr. Li was bummed about lands, Pantlaza didn't have the night they expected, and you were made to feel bad for it. I don't think that's correct. 

So not the Bolas. 

But why am I still writing?

With the existence of this column, the Am I the Bolcast? podcast, and other content out there like the Howling Salt Mine podcast, it's clear that people have stories about being upset or being the target of salt directed at them. There's no shortage of stories where players are tilted at the events in a game that simply do not go their way and it becomes an emotional outburst of sorts. 

It's fair when you don't get your way to be upset at the reason you didn't get what you want, but if this is who you are, if you see yourself in the Hylda player, commenting as they pick up their stuff about somebody playing poorly, maybe try to take a second and come back to the real world. You're in the game still. You're not recognizing the impact that you can have in the real world. Try to take a breath and not say anything disparaging. Collect your thoughts, and if you still feel that way, have a conversation with a friend, or, if that person is still there and receptive, you can work it out. 

If Hylda had calmly asked why you had targeted them, you'd have been able to say, "You hinted at a board wipe and I couldn't risk that." And that, in this case, would have been all the reason needed, honestly. 

Let's be real, I've been that guy. Upset, rolling my playmat for the fifth time because I can't get it right, frustrated and saying things like, "If I'd known you were playing so much graveyard hate, I'd have planned better, it feels like something that you mention at the-" before walking out to catch my breath. 

It's fine to be invested, it's okay to be emotional, it's okay to be mad that you lost and didn't get to "do the thing". 

Anyway, you're not the Bolas. 

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