Am I The Bolas? – Saddle Up, Partner!

Mike Carrozza • June 22, 2021

Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar 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?” 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!

Who am I? I’m Mark Carbonza! You know! The guy! I’m Mark! Carbonza?! We went to school together!

This week is a little different! Not an email but a conversation with a friend ended up sparking this discussion.

What does everybody think of “honorary partners”?

With the preview of Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (I SPELLED IT FROM MEMORY HELL YEAH BUD) and the recent Commander 2021 release of Gyome, Master Chef, declarations on Twitter for folks to be able to build Commander decks based on the two legends as partners have flown around. They’re not the first either. With the release of Hans Eriksson, came similar supportive tweets about partnering the beefcake with his sister, Saffi Eriksdotter.

I’ve made it clear that if it’s a fun idea, not purely based around power, and adds a color or two, I’m for it. Bring on the chef team! Siblings can team up together! Ghoulcaller Gisa and Stitcher Geralf can make gross abominations together…but is this where the lines are drawn? Gisa and Geralf is already a card in the colors. Does that mean I’m against it?

Personally, I’m not. But my friend believes that this pairing is an egregious abuse of Rule 0. “You wanted them to be able to both be in the command zone and they are! On one card! Why would you play both as your commanders separately?”

I think the unique effects are different enough and make a new build altogether, but frankly a cohesive theme or lore piece is what would tip the scales for me to encourage an honorary partnership.

The Bolas question via this conversation comes in the form of my friend saying “I don’t like it when people do that. Am I such a mean person for adhering to the agreement we essentially make when we deck build? It’s the whole (Emo Philips) joke about stealing a bike – ‘I prayed every night for a bike, then I realized that God doesn’t work like that. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness later.’ 

But this isn’t “Am I such a mean person” this is “AM I THE BOLAS?!” *THUNDER CLAP, HOWLING WOLVES, A FLURRY OF BAT WINGS FLAPPING LOUDLY*. 

In our playgroup, we discuss builds we’d like to make. If it gets the go ahead from everybody, my friend will likely give in, but his initial stance is no. However, he was thrilled about Oathbreaker as a format when it started because he’s always wanted to build a Commander deck around a planeswalker (without the “this can be your commander” text on it). When we as a group gave him the go ahead, he said that the restrictions on the format are what breed creativity. But he built the deck with like 6 tutors and a commander he never cast and the planeswalker in the 99.

Now, my friend doesn’t flat out refuse to play against decks with honorary partners, but he does explain how having two cards in the command zone is card advantage and how he is not a fan of building around a deck that is technically illegal. But we play, fun stuff happens and he gets over it.

So is he the Bolas? Nah, he’s a party pooper who realizes he’s wrong later on. He’s more of a Domri.

Oh Domri, you idiot. 

All this said, if my friend shows up at a table (or likely finds an online pod) with strangers and someone asks if they can play a deck helmed by honorary partners, he will say he’d rather they pick another deck. If it’s the only deck this player has or is excited about, he gives it a thumbs up, but grumbles a bit at the beginning. Which sucks and we have told him to cool it. 

With more and more of these designs popping up and more characters from Magic’s past being so connected (Piru, the Volatile beloved of Chromium was just announced in Modern Horizons 2), it feels like this discussion is bound to come up more often. 

There are some pairings that seem to be community-wide accepted, but they are technically not legal. So should anybody decide to build a deck like this, I recommend having a backup deck or backup commander for the deck to swap into the command zone. This is an additional deck building cost. 

Moving forward, I want everybody to know that I love how creative deck building can be. I think honorary partners are fun! But I want to be filled in. Why are they partners? Because it’s silly to have these interactions available to build around? Maybe, why not! Is it because of lore? Bring it on. Oh, just because they’re strong together? Nah I don’t think you can justify Tinybones, Trinket Thief and Tergrid, God of Fright.

As with most of my articles, Rule 0. Talk to your playgroup about your intentions! Get the permission from the people who will be playing with you. Have a back up for if you’re declined. But most of all, make sure that what you’re bringing to the table is fun.

Okay, love you! Byyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee

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