Am I The Bolas? - Sitting Around

Mike Carrozza • February 22, 2023

Stangg, Echo Warrior | Illustrated by Randy Vargas

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!

I'm Mark Carbonza, and I just got a new pet!


This week, a tale of frustration.

(Edited for clarity, brevity, for fun, stuff, you get it.)


Hi Mark, 
Thought I'd send you a scenario I encountered recently and see what you think of what happened and if there was a Bolas, as I certainly felt like there was.
I was in an online pod with a friend and two randoms. This was our second game and I was playing a Stangg, Echo Warrior deck, my friend was playing a Preston, the Vanisher deck, and the two randoms were Tameshi, Reality Architect deck and a mono-red planeswalker deck; I don't quite remember, and it's not important.
What is important is that due to the fact that the Preston player drew nothing but all 3 of their board wipes in the early game, for the longest time I managed to get absolutely nothing done. The two times I managed to summon Stangg, he immediately got killed, and I had drawn nothing else to really do, so I spent the entire game spinning my wheels. What's worse is that even after the final board wipe was played and I summoned Stangg for the third time, he was exiled under a Fiend Hunter, and my only removal was a Decimate with no artifacts on board. Fortunately for me, the Tameshi player dropped a mana rock on their turn, allowing me to play the Decimate and get my commander back.
The turn came back round to me, and finally, finally, I was able to actually do something in the game! I played one Aura, paused for response, nothing. Went for the second... and the Tameshi player hit Stangg with removal.
I immediately protested this, as I just wanted to make an attack with my commander and trigger his ability. (You know, the entire purpose of the deck?) But they insisted that it was fair. I removed their stuff, so they removed my stuff. And they might have still been salty that I popped their Revel in Riches last game so they wouldn't win, I'm not entirely sure. Either way, after 10-plus turns of either playing lands and passing or playing cards that immediately got removed before they could do anything, I was done. And I immediately quit the game and I'm pretty certain I blocked the Tameshi player due to their extremely spiteful play.
Was there a Bolas in this instance? Do you think it's acceptable to get angry at a spite play after ten turns of the game stalling out when I wasn't even the person doing the stalling? Or do you think there was other options I should have taken first before quitting?
Curious to hear what you think.


Hi, Arcantos! Thanks for writing in. I appreciate everyone who writes into the column whether it's to share their own story or a Reddit post that made them think "better show Mark". Thank you!

This submission is a little tricky because it touches on a few things worth discussing.

  1. Spite plays in general
  2. Spite plays as retribution for a game action from another game
  3. Do your opponents owe you a fun time when they're doing what's right for their game?
  4. The ease to disconnect when playing online.

Let's get started.

When people talk about spite plays, what's often left out is the fact that yeah, sometimes you need to send a message and that message is "don't mess with me". (Editor's note: Mike, you know other words exist and I have replaced your favorite one with another more appropriate word.) This is a fair way to use spite plays in game. Retaliation is a deterrent. But you have to be reasonable.

What isn't cool is bringing drama from another game into a new one. It's one thing to note that one player is retaliative or another is a pushover, but to Mental Misstep a turn one Sol Ring because an opponent countered your potentially game-winning Rise of the Dark Realms last game? That's pettiness. And I hate it. Have I done it before? Yeah, I have emotions and sometimes I'm more vulnerable in the wrong ways than I want to be. But it is absolutely not the way to play.

This leads me to the third piece, which is Arcantos getting his commander removed for the fifth time. Arcantos, bud. I feel for you. This sucks so much, especially in what is clearly a glass cannon Voltron commander. That said, that's the risk you run with a commander like this and should be something you expect at a table of players who think you're a threat.

After having played a Decimate and requiring the Tameshi player's artifact to get your plan back on rails, it feels like the table talk probably turned to you saying something like "no hard feelings, I really need this to finally have my commander out for the fifth time to do anything this game"; reasonable.

It is at once the meanest and yet funniest thing to remove your commander again. If it was a game with a bunch of best friends playing and you whined about having you commander removed all game but you finally found a way after having Decimate in your hand as the one way out and then you got it knocked off again, there's no way everybody isn't falling out of their seats laughing. That is the funniest move anybody can pull.

Playing with strangers and blaming the Decimate is such a wild move to me. If this was a spite play for your opponent getting his game-winning Revel in Riches blown up last game, he sucks, is the Bolas, glad you blocked him. If it's literally that there is nothing on the board but your commander that now gets scary because you've been stockpiling Auras and Equipment in your hand all game from not being able to play them, that might just be good threat assessment! Tameshi players be havin' removal, dude. Those cards can feel like they're burning a hole in your pocket and demand to be played. Mind you, this was in response to you playing your second modification on your commander, so that could absolutely be scary.

Let's face a fact, given all the information you've provided: The Tameshi player made the optimal call here.

He made the right call, it seems. And you being upset about it is not his responsibility.

There is a trend in Magic for the last couple of years - a trend this column is based on even - which is that it's important to cultivate an environment in which people can have fun. I agree! I want everybody to have a good time.

I doubt Tameshi was stoked to have sat through the same board wipes that you did from Preston. Then a mana rock gets destroyed, not a huge deal to the recursion guy, but still. The final nail in the coffin is witnessing a commander get suited up knowing that there is a 66% chance they're getting attacked by Stangg or his twin. You have to take care of that if the Twins are getting kitted up! It's the right move. Was it maybe a better call to offer a deal? Yeah, better in terms of the Fun Contract, but in terms of the game? No! He's putting your commander out of reach and making sure he can move toward a win.

Finally, I'll never say you're a villain for walking away when you're upset. I think it's best to remove yourself from a situation if there's no chance of deescalating anytime soon. Some people need conversation and others need space. That's a fair move. Blocking them is fine to because you are in control of who you want to play with. You're not the Bolas. But I think having a think on this situation and taking on their perspective is probably going to make you realize that they aren't really one either.

That's the secret to the column. Nobody's a full Bolas unless they're really being a piece of (Editor's Note: Mike!).

Thanks for reading! Message me your stories at !

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