Am I The Bolas? – Targeted for Commander

Mike Carrozza • October 6, 2021

Hullbreacher by Sidharth Chaturvedi

 

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 markcarbonza@gmail.com!

Who am I?

I’m Mark Carbonza! And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords!

This week, a topic inspired by the discourse surrounding the Golos, Tireless Pilgrim ban (RIP, but also, totally fine) and EDHREC writer Lenny Wooley’s column Power Sink (very good series, I recommend it highly).

(Email edited for content and brevity)

I REQUEST THE AUDIENCE OF MR. CARBONZA!

Hello, Mark. 

I am one of the victims of the recent Golos, Tireless Pilgrim banning. I used to run Golos as the head of my budget Maze’s End deck. The moment he was previewed, I knew he was the perfect commander for the deck…if not too perfect. 

I had already been toying with the idea of swapping him out for Child of Alara again, the original deck’s commander. I had been thinking about it because what had started happening frequently was I’d sit at a table and the pod would agree to target me because Golos is strong. Despite having the pre-game chat and explaining our decks, a lot of pods determine that I am the threat at the table because Golos had a reputation for being overpowered no matter the situation. I was already okay with making the big baby my commander again. Am I the Bolas for being incorrectly assessed a threat?  

I guess my question isn’t whether I am the Bolas, but rather are they? Or were they justified in coming at me?

Thanks in advance,

Peterrr

YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION, PETERRR!

Hey Peterrr.

Sorry for your loss, but also, I’m kinda fine with it. I like that you had already been considering another leader for your deck and that this was just the push to get you there, but I also feel for the folks who put together their Golos, Tireless Pilgrim decks they really liked and wanted him for. I agree with the banning, but banned as commander might be interesting to revisit (shout out Jake Fitzsimmons).

To address this topic, we need to talk about threat assessment. Like it or not, threat assessment begins before the game does. We flip over our commanders and we get information: colors are shown, implications of the build are revealed based on your experience and research. However, you mention the pre-game chat and explaining the deck, yet it seems like your opponents are treating your deck like a bonkers power engine. I’d really have a hard time believing a budget Maze’s End list would be so so powerful that I’d need to target it from turn zero.

I don’t think they’re the Bolas necessarily. I’ve had some pre-game chats before where people haven’t been forthcoming about their deck power or their skill level and I assume that there’s a chance your opponents have also experienced this, which is why I understand their skepticism. However, I would think after hearing the words “budget Maze’s End deck” I would at least wait for something big to happen for me to target you.

Frankly, it does totally come down to your commander! Isn’t that nuts? I’ve seen this happening with my Prosper, Tome-Bound list recently, too. I make it clear the deck can totally win by turn 6 and that I’ve gotten really good at playing the deck. But I also let the table know that if Prosper is gone, the deck doesn’t really hum and there are games where it does absolutely nothing. I understand when I’m targeted after getting a turn one Prosper off a Jeweled Lotus and exile a land off the exile trigger at my end step, but if someone sees me miss another land drop and playing a Cunning Rhetoric to hopefully keep attacks away and I’m still being targeted, I feel like maybe threat assessment is being directed at the base state of my deck (being helmed by Prosper, Tome-Bound) instead of at state of the game (come on, I played a derpy enchantment and can’t cast my commander because I don’t have red mana up, don’t you want to mess with the Chulane, Teller of Tales player, it’s turn 4 and they’ve got 10 mana next turn!).

That said, I already mentioned Lenny’s column and I think this topic is perfect for him. I got to have a chat with him recently over a game with fellow Commander’s Herald writer Andrew Floury, who is also delightful. I reached out to him again for his thoughts on this topic.

(Comments edited for clarity and formatting)

“I guess the thought I’d have to include it that it’s important to talk about it after without malice and while managing your salt. Leave some room for someone to make an honest mistake. Really try to have fun and enjoy yourself beyond winning or losing the game. We’re sharing time playing a hobby we enjoy but we can connect beyond that. I think the problem for most isn’t so much whether you win or lose, but of you felt like you played.

I’m a big proponent of the post-game conversation. I think it’s more important than the pre-game.

With strangers especially, you get the idea of what they’re actually talking about when they say stuff like low, mid, or high power. You can talk about how you felt about the game. Finally, you can collectively unpack what happened because individually we can leave the situation and misinterpret the events.
I had a game recently I think about with my Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate deck. Somebody Chaos Warped a card I had and I flipped Consecrated Sphinx. This was turn four and I had protection for it. It was something I hadn’t planned for. Linvala is good at protecting my stuff, so I kept it for six turns because no one could remove it and I buried them in card advantage. The new players thought my deck was OP but another veteran player helped explain where the game broke down for everyone. To be fair, that deck is tough to beat for newer players, it can be complicated so it’s partly my fault.”

Very interesting points, Lenny. I can definitely get behind the post-game conversation. It happens quite naturally. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had that post-game convo without even realizing it. “When that happened and they did that, that was so sick” or “I knew we were done for when they played that and was like let’s shuffle up already, but it went for another four turns.” But intentionally asking stuff like “how did you feel about that game?” or even “did you enjoy that game?” can be very good questions to ask while picking decks for the next game or to keep in mind while shuffling the same decks for round 2.

I think the part that stands out to me is the element of consideration.

“We’re sharing time playing a hobby we enjoy but we can connect beyond that. I think the problem for most isn’t so much whether you win or lose, but of you felt like you played.”

“Did you feel like you played?” is a great question. “If not, why?” Can’t do anything about mana screw/flood, but if the answer is something the table can adjust to an extent, why wouldn’t you want to make sure everybody has a nice time?

Ultimately, I think this email doesn’t have a full Bolas. Am I bummed people came at you when you had a jank deck because your commander’s a bomb, sure. So Bolas to the folks who don’t take you seriously at the rule zero convo. The game is nuanced and the expectations everybody holds each other to are different which is why I’m with Lenny – have some post-game chats to clear things up and make the efforts necessary to make sure the next one is a good one, too.

 

Later skaters

<3



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