Am I The Bolas - Split Decision

Mike Carrozza • August 18, 2021

Split Decision Illustrated by Robbie Trevino

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! I wrote the flavor text on Magma Mine

They called me a genius for this one, cut me a check, sent me home, and I've been looking for jobs since!

This week! A bit of a catch-22, but I already used Bolas' Clutch-22 for another article title so I'm going with Damned if you do, Damned if you don't. You'll get why in a sec. Here's this week's email! The author had some fun with it and I cut as little as possible. Enjoy the kind of fun stuff that hits my inbox sometimes 🙂


Dear Mark Carbonza,

Hello! My name is Jemma Rosencrantz, internationally acclaimed remover of bandages, stitches, staples, and other healing-facilitating devices. My strides in the medical field have revolutionized the very important process of recovering from recovering from your wounds.

I know you've dealt with both in-game issues and out-of-game issues in your articles before. This one's a little bit of both. Thought you could use a challenge, y'know?

A few years back, before the panini, I would play a lot with my Aurelia, the Warleader Commander deck (cool angel lady). This deck had the tendency to go... nova. In one turn, after I got to a certain point, I could just wipe out the entire table. I don't find it fun to do that. I tend to hold back and allow opponents a chance to play their decks.

So in one game, against a new player and two other folks, I was doing just that. I had a reasonable board and a damage multiplier in my hand ready for the kill. But I wanted to give everybody a chance to play their deck, so I didn't swing out for the win. During the new player's next turn, though, they ended up saying some distasteful things, which shouldn't be repeated. So I decided that I was done holding back. This game needed to end.

When it got back to my turn, I let the monkeys loose. When I was crowned victorious, however, two of the players expressed their ire, for two different reasons: the first player, the newer one, was mad at me for ending the game before they even really knew what they were doing, which normally is something I am conscientious of, but I don't think they understood what prompted my attack. So I told them, I was holding back for a few turns, and that I decided that the game needed to end.

The second player, a long-time player, was irritated that I was holding back at all, saying that it was patronizing and condescending to do so.

So I ask you, Matt Calibri, who was correct about the outcome of this little standoff? Were one of my actions justifiable, both, or neither? I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, but maybe my finger slipped a little, who knows?

Jaiden Renstimpy, MD ²
(425) 555-0175
Medical Instrument Removal LLC
Stitch Staple Braces Removal - and more!


Ohhhhh, buddy. I have been accused of that second thing when I tell a table that I run Revel in Riches and prefer to ignore the alternate win condition.

First of all, I totally empathize with you. Sometimes your decks can pull way ahead but you still want people to have a good time with theirs. If someone is being indignant and rude, it's fine to not want to play with them anymore. Putting an end to the game is a good way to get your way. So in the case of the new player? Not the Bolas. If they're using language you don't want to repeat, then ending the game puts you in the Not the Bolas camp for sure. In fact, they're the Bolas.

Here's a bonus tip for anybody playing with rude people they'd rather not play with: You can leave. It's your time and your enjoyment. This is a card game we play for FUN! And when someone does something that crosses the line, it's fine to get up and go.

I'm not encouraging salty scoops though. Let me be clear about that. If you sat down with a stax player who cleared the playstyle with the table and everybody else is still in the game, no need to scoop it up because stax is for perverts (shout out The Commander Sphere Podcast). If somebody counters your Craterhoof Behemoth and you scoop, that's salty. But if somebody counters your Craterhoof Behemoth and calls you a stupid [redacted]ing [redacted]wit whose [redacted] could [redacted] his [redacted] [redacted], then yeah. No need to stick around if you don't want to. Things can get spicy with my regular playgroup where we've known each other for nearly a decade and roast each other and call names, but there's precedence and love behind it. But the moment one of my friends in that group says they don't like it, that stops immediately. ANYWAY!

Second player, I understand them a little more. But also, I understand you! Sometimes if someone is taking a long turn and can win the game but chooses not to, there's only so much of that game I can stand to stay in. If it's hopeless, let's shuffle up. HOWEVER! It sounds like you were leaving some openings in a way that allows them to try to get out of it. This leads me back to the Revel in Riches comment from earlier.

I prefer to play Revel in Riches as though I couldn't magically win at my upkeep. That's not fun for me and with all the Treasure production we've been getting, it feels too easy.

In all honestly, alternate win conditions really don't sing to my heart! It's not for me! Sorry! If I played Revel in Riches and my opponent Clever Impersonators onto it then they win with the upkeep trigger, awesome good for them. If I do it, I feel unfulfilled.

However, running Revel in my Thalisse, Reverant Medium deck, I've been accused of "playing with my prey" and it feels like a similar thing here. I believe intention versus outcome is interesting, because you weren't at all intending to be condescending, you value longer games and allowing people opportunities to "do their thing". I'm the same way. But if someone feels like you're being condescending and they vocalize it, then IDK bud, end the game and shuffle up? My playgroup would hate to not have a chance to see what their deck could do in the face of somebody going off so they can learn of new interactions. Someone I played with online though said that, despite giving openings for interactions, it was an exercise in self-flattery (he didn't use such a light euphemism).

I guess what I'm saying is, for new player, definitely Not the Bolas.

For experienced second player, maybe a little? To them at least.

But to me, I feel like you were fair. So like, 25% Bolas?

You only get the face! But I think you did fine.

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