Am I The Bolas? - Scoopitty Poop! Spite Scooping!

Mike Carrozza • May 25, 2021

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim by Joseph Meehan

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'a Mark Carbonza! I'm the guy who PREFERS my foils curled!


This week's email comes from a pal about conceding. 

Hello Mark,

I have a burning question that only world-renowned gad-about Mark Carbonza can solve.

Recently, I hosted an online game playing a Zara, Renegade Recruiter steal-your-creatures deck against a Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, a Nin, the Pain Artist, and an Arjun, the Shifting Flame control deck. Thanks to an early Dockside Extortionist and a few copy spells, I took out the Nin player with their own Darksteel Juggernaut, while the Najeela player deployed their commander and the Arjun player focused on ramp and card draw over creatures. At this stage of the game, I had a Telepathy out so I could see everyone's hands and about 20 treasures, the Najeela player had her in play and one warrior in hand, and the Arjun player had no creatures in hand or on the board. I went to cast a Coercive Recruiter, with the intent of stealing Najeela. The Najeela player threatened to scoop in response to the steal trigger specifically to give the Arjun player a better chance of stopping me. I then quit the game, which because I was the host, ended it for all parties involved, and exited the call. 

To be clear, I did not have an infinite on the board; I had the potential for several, but not infinite extra combat steps, I was planning to spread the damage among both players, and I don't know if the warriors from Najeela would have resulted in a table wipe that turn. Furthermore, if the Najeela had left the game at that point, the game would be essentially restarting, as I didn't have a massive board of creatures and Arjun didn't have anything to do besides play a commander that walled mine. The Najeela player has a reputation for holding multi-game grudges, which I believe was the reason he chose to pull the rug out from under me in that moment, and I decided that I would rather not play with people who hold other people at the table hostage in that way.

So, I the Bolas?


chif_ii of Double Bard Productions


Sounds like a couple of things to address here.

Let's start with the scoop threat. Get this out of the way immediately. Threatening to concede when it would impact the remainder of the game as a means to be detrimental to a player's experience is a garbage tactic that in itself deserves multiple game grudges (WHICH AREN'T COOL EITHER)! Boom, twofer. 

You are not the Bolas for this question specifically. No. The Najeela player is absolutely the Bolas for making that threat. What a way to take the wind out of the sails of a game. The concession brings the game into real life. It's a move that is spiteful, tilted, awful.

The consensus from what I've gleaned online is that conceding should only happen at sorcery speed, if at all. For example, if I've got 3 hours to play a couple of games and we're mid-game, but I've gotta go in 20 minutes, start telegraphing this way ahead of time to go, do your best to end the game. However, if after those 20 minutes, it comes to your turn, you can do the following: untap, upkeep, draw, concede. That's fine. 

If I'm on 2 life, no hand, no open plays, with only an untapped Ancient Tomb and my opponent has an army of tokens with a Whip of Erebos and they swing at me with the army, hoping to get a ton of life, what can I do and what is the effect?

  1. Take the damage and the loss. Opponent gets the life. 
  2. Activate the Ancient Tomb and taking 2 damage, losing the game before my opponent can hit me.
  3. Concede before damage because I'm a friggin loser who doesn't get that this is such a dumb thing to do. 

These are my options. One, is the right thing to do. In the frame of the game, you are losing to your opponent who got an opening and did everything they needed to to get to this point, gaining an advantage from hitting you is what SHOULD happen, that's great. 

Two, is still legal and fine and definitely kind of interesting/funny. If you take yourself out, you're 100% kingmaking or attempting to at least. Therefore, that's not ideal, but in the right playgroup or in the narrative of the game and how it's gone, could be acceptable. 

If you think 3 is in the ballpark of okay, then I'm not about you. Why wouldn't you pick 2? This emphasizes that conceding in response to a game event is, despite entirely accepting a loss, a total power play in the dynamic that remains which is the playgroup. Which is why it isn't cool. 

What if there was no Ancient Tomb and you wanted 3? Booooooooooooo.

There is one exception to the rule of conceding at sorcery speed. If the entire table comes to an agreement that they all want to scoop and award a player the win to shuffle up and play again or whatever other reason they may have, that's okay. Because it isn't about power. It's about equity. 

I've gone on for a little while so I'll make this part quick.

1. Multi-game grudges are not cool. It's one thing to recognize that one player in the playgroup's deck goes off and needs to be in check. That's threat assessment. But if it becomes targeting someone with everything despite them being completely mana screwed just because you got tilted a few games ago, that's poor behaviour, knock if off.

That said, I'm sure this won't be the last time we talk about this on AITB so I'll save it for another time. 

2. Chif-ii rage quitting out of the online event cutting off the Arjun player as well wasn't a great move. I would recommend that should you host another event like that, be sure to keep a way to stay talking even when the cards are put away. You guys are still pals and I'm pretty sure the Arjun and Nin players weren't stoked to get caught in the middle of that either.


In terms of the spite scoop threat? I am very happy to report, you ARE NOT the Bolas. 

By the way this was at the end of the email and worth including at the end of the article. 

(PS: we have since had a mature discussion and agreed that "scooping as an instant" is bad manners and not allowed in our pod)

THIS IS HOW YOU HANDLE STUFF! Perfect! Chef's kiss!

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