Am I The Bolas? - ScreamDH

Mike Carrozza • January 24, 2024

(Screaming Shield |Illustrated by Titus Lunter

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's going to Chicago in a month and can't wait to see the Rat Hole!

It's time to visit the Rat Shrine at Chicago Rat Hole!

This week, keep your voice down!

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and to zhuzh it up a little)


Hey there!

I just read an Am I The Bolas? article and it reminded me of some experiences I've had in the past year joining a new pod. 

So, I joined this new pod in about February of last year, and it's been pretty chill. Most of the time, we vibe, but there are times where a certain player in that pod will go absolutely feral. 

Let's call him Player 1 and the other two Players 2 and 3. Players 2 and 3 are experienced and have been playing the game for a while whereas Player 1 started around 2021. I get sometimes new players can get frustrated easily.

Usually, I'm fine tolerating a sore loser. 

This is different. Player 1 will literally throw adult temper tantrums when you target him at all. Any interaction you play is just "stopping him from playing the game" even though he'll do the most broken stuff you've ever seen. 
He screams and yells at any player that targets him in any way. 

Even if he's winning or the clear archenemy of the table, he will just start losing his mind. I don't want to be a jerk, but I wonder if it might be time to sit him down and be real with him: tell him his behavior makes it unfun to play.

We play casual EDH. We're not at the finals of the pro tour. The stakes are low.

Here's an example:
We're in a three-player pod. Player 1 and I are playing Faerie decks: mine is Alela, Artful Provocateur and his is Talion, the Kindly Lord). Player 3 had a token deck, I think.
As the starting player, Player 1 was able to Dark Ritual and get Talion out on turn two. He chose two for Talion's ability so that Player 3 and I would be netting him a minimum of two cards.

I was able to remove Talion, the Kindly Lord with a Fatal Push from a fetch land activation, and he went off.
"DUDE WHAT THE [redacted]?! You're [redacted] stopping me from playing the game, it's such [redacted]. I don't even get a [redacted] card from Talion. Now I'm just gonna sit here and not play Magic".

I was so uncomfortable I literally retracted my Fatal Push, and offered to Go for the Throat instead on my turn so he could draw a card. He was still pissed I killed it.

What should I do? Am I the Bolas for saying anything at all?

Recently, he's actually been pretty chill and is starting to explore cEDH, which I think is really good for him. He does still have his moments, but they're not as bad as a few months ago. 




Hi, Anonymissio!

First of all, thank you for reading and of course thank you for writing in! I really appreciate it. If you, the reader, have a story you want me to chime in on, I would love to. Email in to and I'll write it up for the column and maybe we'll chat about it on the podcast!

Now, let's get into it. 

Let's be real, if somebody is throwing hissy fits, it's pretty much open and shut. Player 1 is the Bolas. Easily. 

So, why cover this entry? Because Anonymissio asked for advice on how to handle this kind of player, and I hope anybody in a similar situation can use this if they're ever in a similar situation. 

There are different approaches, and some of these might not vibe with some folks. I am a very direct, open, and confrontational person, so of course this is going to be coming from that place; I can only give advice from myself. 

Player 1 needs to learn about how their actions are affecting the other players in the playgroup. 

You have to begin by letting them know that you've identified the pattern. Directly. It's been long established that removal, whether targeted or mass, is part of the game and not just a part but a very necessary one.

You can choose to confront Player 1 in the moment or as you sit down before the game starts. Either way, I recommend a united front if other people in the pod have the same opinion of him.  

"For some time, whenever removal is aimed at your or your cards, you have reacted very strongly to the point where  players have taken suboptimal actions in an effort to compromise with you, hoping it will calm you down. This is unfair and uncomfortable. I am asking you to please mind your reactions when having your stuff targeted. I like to believe that our threat assessment is correct at this table, and we have some examples to back that up."

This is a fine way to talk to someone about their behavior. Did I make it really proper? Yeah. Can you give it a bit of your own spin? Absolutely, but I'd say avoid words with negative connotations as much as you can. Don't say "whenever we destroy your crazy bombs, you blow up and freak out". 

Finally, add consequences. "We're nearing a breaking point, and I don't know that there are many more times I can tolerate this behavior before I ask you not to join us anymore or before I leave this playgroup."

Some people don't respond well to this kind of confrontation, but it comes down to what you're willing to put up with. You're writing into ostensibly a Dear Abby column for advice, so I'd say you're nearing the end of your rope on this. If other players feel the same, talk amongst yourselves about how to approach getting Player 1 to stop doing what's been frustrating you. 

Another route is that, when you're talking to your playgroup without Player 1, you can suggest not inviting them anymore. This is a less confrontational way to do things, it's exclusionary, and will be viewed as shady or poor manners, but hey, buddy's yelling at you for Fatal Pushing a four-drop bomb they got out on turn two; he doesn't get much of a higher ground. 

Finally, one more thing you can do is keep playing through the discomfort and not feeding the beast. Offering to take back the Fatal Push for a delayed Go for the Throat so baby can draw a card is just the wrong move. I don't have any kids, but I've lived a life, I've seen people raise kids and train dogs. I've been a comedian for a long time, and when you want people to stop repeating a behavior, the best strategies are to directly tell them or to ignore them until they realize they aren't getting the response they want.

Because that's what they want: they want you to bend. It might not feel like Player 1 was happy with the Go for the Throat, but that's a compromise that did not need to happen. If he can't handle it when you stick to your guns, he'll have to figure himself out. When he asks why and he chooses not to listen to threat assessment being the reason, I dare Player 1 to defend his outburst. He won't be able to do so reasonably if the example is representative of your experiences playing with him.

Thanks again! Please listen to the podcast!

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