Am I The Bolas? - Taking The Table Hostage

Mike Carrozza • December 6, 2022

Hostage Taker | Illustrated by Wayne Reynolds

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, the guy who came up with the $1000 four-booster 30th anniversary non-tournament-legal, essentially proxies, randomized pack idea.

This week, I get to go into the archives of my inbox and find an email from Streets of New Capenna days. 

(email edited for reasons, obviously, come on, we're professionals here)


Hey, how are you doing Mark, Head of the Cheddar Syndicate? Hope things are going well. I've been looking through my 84 decks. I know, that's a lot, but I am not making one for every commander, and a good amount are precons. But looking through my Naya Dinosaur Tribal, I had this scenario come to mind that would be of interest as a thought experiment.

In this deck, I have Gishath, Sun's Avatar as the commander, but also Marauding Raptor and Polyraptor. The last two can trigger an infinite combo that would force you to end the game due to the rules if played in that order.  If you play Polyraptor first, then Marauding Raptor, the infinite combo won't activate. 

Now, imagine using that deck and everyone is ganging up on you with combat damage. You play the Raptors as a defense, and no one has an immediate answer for this. You then make an offer: on the condition of everyone no longer attacking you, you won't block with Polyraptor, therefore triggering the infinite combo and ending the game right there. You don't use this combo for anything else but to discourage your opponents from making this a game of Archenemy. 

Would utilizing this as a defensive strategy make you a Bolas because you're taking the game hostage? Honestly, I can see that, especially if you aren't playing with your normal group and don't discuss that in the first place before starting. But what if it's with strangers but you do discuss this? Would your answer remain the same?

That's all for the thought experiment. 

Time for me to go lurk in the shadows again and figure out anything else that can make you think.


(Did it like this as a nod to gangsters, and a late nod to New Capenna's crime families)



Hello, Alkora! Thanks for writing in. I appreciate every single one of you who writes in, and I encourage you all to keep them coming. Whether it's situations that happen in-game, out-of-game, thought experiments, Reddit posts, whatever you want me to weight in on, I'll do it as long as it's Magic-related. Message me at and I'll tell you if you or someone else involved is the Bolas.

For this thought experiment about your Gishath, Sun's Avatar deck, I would say Marauding Raptor and Polyraptor being a two-card infinite that produces a board stall without a resolution, ending the game with a tie unless there's something like Impact Tremors, Purphoros, God of the Forge, or the new Witty Roastmaster also in play, you'd better get a sacrifice outlet ready for your Marauding Raptor unless you want a pod of people sighing and grumbling about a boring way to end the game. "But they should have removal" blah blah blah, there's inherent variance in decks and people don't always have removal ready for a two-card infinite.

That said, I feel like playing them in the order that does not trigger the Marauding Raptor on Polyraptor's ETB as a means of holding off attacks coming your way is legit. The set-up as such says "if you attack me without lethal, you are forcing a tie and therefore you will not win." It's fair because if your opponents attack with exactly enough damage to kill you - they must account for your blockers, of course - as long as your opponents don't have first strike or double strike, damage will happen to you and the Polyraptor at the same time and the triggers will dissipate because you are eliminated.

Heck, it's also fair because even slamming down an Archetype of Imagination will get around triggering the Polyraptor which is much easier than all that implied combat math. Otherwise, it's fair to say Anguished Unmaking or Beast Within on either Marauding Raptor or Polyraptor puts the combo away.

I actually prefer this application of the effect way more than playing the Polyraptor second and forcing the infinite triggers. This brings a level of tension to the game that requires further action and decision making. If I'm playing against you in this situation, I need to get around something new if I want to hit you with combat damage. Maybe it's better for me to keep this threatened infinite intact because it's affecting an opponent more than it is you. Maybe there's a way to leverage this combo in your favor.

Ultimately, I would say, it's a problem for the table and likely demands an answer meaning you will be the table's focus. But does that make you the Bolas? Nah.

Thanks again for writing in, Alkora! And thank you, reader! Send in your stories! Keep reading! I'll be back!

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