Am I The Bolas? - Slippery Slope

Mike Carrozza • March 20, 2024

(Pirated Copy |Illustrated by Daarken)

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 and YEEHAW PKEW PKEW PKEW!


This week, probably the most complex email I've gotten in all the years!

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, and even more clarity, jeez Louise!)


Hi. This is the second time I am writing to you.

This time, our Commander group is being shaken up about proxies.

We are a "No b***s***" group. No proxying cards you don't own, no Rule 0, no extra bans, nor any unbans, and no budget limit. We play by the book and only with the official banlist. I love that about our group. I wouldn't have it any other way.

A precedent was set, however, after I pulled a Jeweled Lotus from a Commander Legends booster box. I wanted to run it in almost every deck, so I did, leaving an empty sleeve in every deck and swapping it between games.

Next thing I knew, I did this for shuffle titans, tutors, etc.

They got tired of waiting on swaps, so they told me to proxy them. So I started buying high-quality proxies from an alter artist I knew on Facebook.

Until now, I have been doing this for a LOT of cards. I started buying staples, like Cyclonic Rift, Lotus Petal, Nyxbloom Ancient, Serra Ascendant, and most recently Mana Crypt, knowing I could run them in as many decks as I wanted. Admittedly, it got out of control. To be fair, I am addicted to deck-brewing. The more I did this, the more affordable my brews became. $450 decks became $90. So I leaned heavy into it.

While everyone else was doing it, too, I was doing it more than everyone combined.

That precedent led to another one that I disagreed with. One of the players in our group started building decks around some of the "You can have any number of copies" cards, like Shadowborn Apostle and Relentless Rats. He even already has a Slime Against Humanity deck. 

He'll buy one or a few copies of each and use backwards cards in his sleeves as proxy for all of the rest.

He argues that it isn't different than what we do with other cards and I argue the opposite. I try to explain that if I wanted to take ANY of my decks to a sanctioned event, I could move cards around and make it legal, whereas he cannot. He just says "So what? This isn't a sanctioned event". He's clearly missing the point.

Another issue I take is that all of my proxies are high-quality alts that I paid $4 a pop for. It doesn't feel right to sit across to table from proxies that are just tacky backwards cards or pieces of paper scribbled on.

This isn't about "You didn't pay the money for that". It's about three things.

1) We don't want to play cEDH. We all make roughly the same income. Our financial limitations are what keep our games from turning into what we feel high-end Commander is. We have no budget restrictions, but we also don't want to sit across from true duals or Gaea's Cradles or get Wheel of Fortuned. This is an important aspect of our group experience.

While proxying 30 copies of Shadowborn Apostle doesn't exactly turn our meta into cEDH, it's the precedent that it sets that I take issue with.

2) Sitting across low-effort proxies, like backwards cards or scribbled paper, just feels tacky. Like, it detracts from the immersion of the game.

3) It goes against the very reason we allowed proxies in the first place: so that we didn't have to wait for card-swapping. This is clearly a different beast.

A few weeks ago, I asked him why one of our friends hadn't been showing up very often the last few months. He said that he had talked to him about it a few days before and said that he feels like all of the proxying has gotten out of control and it's kind of ruining it for him.

This is a friend I have known for nearly 30 years. Of all the friends I play Magic with, he's the one I prefer to play with the most.

Up to this point, I had no idea that anyone took issue with the proxying, so upon hearing this, I thought long and hard about the situation and decided to make the decision to stop using proxies altogether.

I took them all out and replaced them with cards from my collection. The power levels of half of them dropped severely. I had really tough dilemmas, like which deck gets to have what cards. Needless to say, my power presence at the table shrank enormously, and it honestly feels crappy.

Things blew up when I announced to the group that I was swearing off proxies or card-swapping. The player who uses crude proxies says he feels I am taking a "high-road" and posturing for him quit proxying, too.

To be honest, I want us all to stop doing it. I want my friend to start coming again, and I'm tired of all of the groans when I turn-one K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth and combo out by turn three anyway. I also don't want to throw most of my decks' power into the trashcan and be the only person there willing to do it.

Am I the Bolas for trying to push my friends to reverse our course on proxy use?




First off, thank you for writing in again! Without folks like you, I don't have a column, so thank you. If you, the reader, have a story of your own or a Reddit thread you'd like me to chat about, send it over to

Alright. Phew. Let's get into this behemoth of an email and question.

I'm going to be blunt immediately: the vibes are off. If you value no BS, I'm happy to give you what you like because, my friend, there are going to be some hard swings from me here. I don't even know where to start.

I'm no stranger to a "staple binder" system. Mine is basically a deck box with some cards I don't care to buy multiple times, like Mox Opal or fetch lands that I run in a couple decks. This is a great way to adhere to your rule of "no proxying cards you don't own". The difference between you keeping a sleeve open and this is that when I play the placeholder card, I dig in the deck box for the card and place it on top of the one in the deck. There's a little advice for you if you want to go back to that system.


This is what I mean by placeholder card, by the way. This and a Sharpie, boom. Done! 

It sounds like you went overboard; how many decks do you have that you've got so many cards overlapping and that you need so many proxy alters from your Facebook artist friend? I mean, Nyxbloom Ancient in enough decks that you need to proxy it a ton? Damn, alright!

While I can empathize and understand your desire to begin proxying your cards after your group insisted, it seems to have been a self-imposed restriction to have the proxies look a certain way or to cost something. It doesn't seem like the group is too torn up about the way they look, as evidenced by the player who uses the backs of cards to represent some cards. 

However, in that case, I totally understand why. At the time of writing, Shadowborn Apostles go for $4 a pop from my LGS. While that's what you're paying for your alters, your friend might not want to spend $120 on 30 copies of the same card that is as easily represented by the back of a card while keeping a real copy in the command zone to show players what it does, not to mention that, sometimes, your vendor of choice might not have enough copies to satisfy your deck's requirements, so having to play with the backs of cards for the time being really doesn't seem like such a massive problem, especially when the group has been understanding of you. Why not show that grace rather than seeming to grit your teeth and baring it? 

Whether you can make your decks tournament-legal or not should be part of your groups rules if you have a problem with it, but at that moment proxies were allowed, and this all started with you acquiescing to the group so you could be allowed to run Jeweled Lotus in more than one deck. 

I don't know what else to say except to comment on this gnawing feeling I had reading this email: It feels more like you want to control your group and that your fun is more important than theirs. There was a similar quality to your previous email where you deliberately built a Sen Triplets deck to "teach them a lesson". While you backed up your suspicion with data that your playgroup was targeting you more than each other, in both emails submitted, there's this oddly pointed tone of controlling or pushing your group toward a direction.

Despite having used proxies for a long enough time that you had been able to commission an artist to send you enough proxies to qualify as "leaning heavy into it", the moment your immersion is disrupted, it's no longer okay. 

I understand you have your reasons for feeling the way you do, but it seems that rather than approach it as an open discussion, you are handing it off like a decree. I don't like that. 

Finally, this attitude of being a no BS playgroup is fine, but you sound like you would benefit from some of what you've categorized as BS! Your complaint about not wanting to veer into cEDH and complaining about seeing true duals, but playing Mana Crypt in a few of your decks feels a lot like you would benefit from a playgroup ban list or even a league of decks at a certain budget. Also, what's this "No Rule 0" so flippantly included in the list as if discussing all of these things in your playgroup already is the Rule 0 discussion. It feels so shortsighted and condescending. You benefit from a Rule 0 discussion! 

Either way, while I understand your friend of 30 years left the playgroup because of the proxying, you can do your part and have a discussion about things, but ultimately, this smacks of Bolas energy. Are you the Bolas for reversing the course on proxies after the group bent the rule to accommodate you, the Proxy Icarus? It's fine to change your mind and your feelings, but there's a layer of hypocrisy here that says you are. 

Two for two, Jeremy! Sorry to say, but I do love some consistency!

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