Am I The Bolas? - Suggesting Different Commander

Mike Carrozza • September 29, 2021

Stangg by Mark Poole

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'm the guy who wants a Mortal Kombat crossover product! Come on! Orzhov partners Noob Saibot and Smoke please! They could be Orzhov flickers papas!

Maybe a secret lair reskin of this bad boy!


This week, somebody trying to help, but not feeling appreciated!

(Email edited, details changed to retain anonymity)

Hello, Mark, you handsome devil

I am an active member of Commander Facebook groups and offer advice for others' builds when people ask for it. I have generally had good experiences, but recently, I had an experience that stuck with me. With the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (the D&D set), a lot of group members asked about brewing decks around the new legends. There are many legends that are popular and worth building around like Xanathar, Guild Kingpin or Volo, Guide to Monsters and I feel like I had good suggestions to make for them. However, when someone asked for help with Shessra, Death's Whisper for a sacrifice themed deck, I was at a loss. I could not understand why they would want to brew around Shessra when Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, or even Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest exist. When they explained they wanted a sacrifice reanimation themed deck, I recommended Meren instead of Shessra.

Then I was met with hostility. I was told it was unhelpful to recommend another legend to lead their deck. They hadn't expressed any particular attachment to Shessra and just said they wanted a good sacrifice deck. Am I the Bolas for suggesting a different commander?

Trying to Help

Oh, you flatter me, Trying to Help!

Hello! Thanks for writing in.

I appreciate you helping people out and it mostly being positive! That's nice to hear. I can relate to this question, because it has happened to me! Look at that! I get to use personal experience!

I had something similar happen to me years ago when Masters 25 came out. Someone in a Facebook group saw Stangg and really wanted to build around the Gruul dingus. After clarifying they wanted to build an aggro Gruul deck without really taking Stangg or their twin into account, I suggested Xenagos, God of Revels and they did not care for that at all. Cue the several comments about how they really liked Stangg and because he inspired the build, that's who they want to go with. Ultimately, they said suggesting ol' Xenny for the 99 is a good suggestion, but recommending swapping out the commander when they had already signalled their intention to use Stangg wasn't helpful.

I get that now. Put simply, yeah you might be the Bolas a little here, but with good intentions. That said, there's some etiquette that's arisen in the last couple of years - with the amount of legendary creatures coming out, there really has been more of a push toward creative expression in Magic. It's been there all along, but in my experience in casual Commander Facebook groups, a lot more lately. People are picking (no offence) absolute gaaaarbage legends as their commanders! They do it because they want to, because of the novelty, because of their personal relationship to the card, because of whatever their reason is, they do it. And good for them.

I think moving forward, the etiquette should be when asking for help with a brew, express your desire to keep a commander or a theme, and from the other side, when offering advice, it's alright to ask a question like "are you particularly attached to this commander?" or even "what about this commander inspires you to build around them?" This should keep things a little smoother and will avoid anybody's toes being stepped on.

I'm sure, Trying to Help, you can see where you're the tiniest bit the Bolas, but it feels like a misstep that is easily corrected with an apology and asking some more questions.

Thanks so much again for writing in! It means a lot to me that people do! Please send your stories to 🙂

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