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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
I'm Mark Carbonza, the guy absolutely itching for a new Zetalpa!
Wizards of the Coast has the chance to do the funniest thing with the new set...
This week, is it really all or nothing?
(Email edited for brevity, clarity, and I put a little more sugar in there for ya, let me know if you taste it!)
HERE'S A REMINDER, MARK
Hey there Mark,
I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for quite a long time. When my friends started to get into it, I was more than happy to be that guiding light in many cases. This has given me a certain level of influence over the group. I'm the de facto rules judge, but they also generally follow my lead about more opinionated calls like missed triggers and rewinding game actions and such.
I try to use this power mainly for good, but I've had a few people get upset with the rather inconsistent way I enforce certain things. I might remind one person of a trigger one turn and then not the next turn. Or not remind their neighbor of a trigger. Or recommend a rewind when somebody misses ward but not when they don't see menace.
Now, my logic is this: Everyone is entitled to play the game, but nobody is entitled to win. I practice leniency when players are behind, and then try to be more strict when they are ahead. I want to make the game as competitive as possible. And I apply this to myself as well. If I'm far ahead, I'll say "whoops, missed that trigger" and if I'm behind I'll ask if I can make that land drop I forgot.
Some people want me to be more universal. Either remind no triggers or remind them all. Let all rewinds or let none. That might be the best way to run a tournament, but I just don't think it's the best way to play a casual pod.
I guess out of fairness, I am playing in these games and want to win. So the angle of "Reminding them of triggers or letting them rewind things makes me less able to win" is probably rational. It's not really something that consciously goes through my head, but the thought has crossed my mind. Whether you want to add that or not is up to you.
Am I the Bolas?
Familiar Judge's Familiar
THANK YOU, I NEEDED IT!
Hi, Familiar Judge's Familiar, and thank you for writing in. Folks, if you're reading this and want to send me a story of your own, one that you've heard, or a Reddit post you think I'd enjoy writing about, please send them over to email@example.com.
This story is very interesting and very complex. Nobody's perfect, that's for sure, so being held to the "remind of them all or none at all" is a wild standard to set. Also, how frustrating would it be to be at a table with someone who is announcing every single trigger, action, or phase?
When it comes to making decisions on takebacks and rewinds, I feel like the "ahead or behind" system is fair enough, but I reckon what they seem to crave is a system of some kind. Maybe a limit on takebacks or perhaps begin the game with an announcement that there will not be any takebacks and see how they navigate that game.
All in all, people get better at the game the more they play the game. If it's a learning experience, that's wonderful, but part of learning is making mistakes and having the consequences affect you.
Do I have a solution for you here? Not a clean one. I think that because you're the most experienced player, it's totally fair for your group to turn to you for questions, but I do think it might be best to let the crew take the reigns from time to time. It's like when Gordon Ramsey lets a contestant on Hell's Kitchen run the pass. He challenges them with a test or sabotage and if they get it, that's great - "well spotted". If not, it's pointed out. Each game another player of the playgroup is the table's watchful eye and judge.
I don't think you're the Bolas because you're doing your best with a position that, like it or not, is imposed on you.
I think this is the first time that I'm going to explicitly ask readers to please sound off in the comments with what you think would be a great solution here. I really loved this submission!
Not the Bolas.
Thanks for reading!