Am I The Bolas? - That'll Show 'Em

Mike Carrozza • July 12, 2023

Overrule |Illustrated by Alan Pollack

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, it's Commander Masters preview season, and I wrote this a week before!

I can't believe they're reprinting THIS!!!!!! WHAT DA HECK!

This week, does EDH need fixing?

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, oogitty, and boogitty.)


Hello. I'd like to talk about an odd experience that I can't stop thinking about.

The first EDH tournament that I ever played in was at a concert for a cash prize and gear from local game stores. I was eliminated in my first game (in which I used a borrowed deck), and while I thought the rules sheet I was given at the time was simply EDH I realized that the event was being run with a large number of odd house rules that dramatically changed the way the games were played.

Victory was decided by a point total that players acquired by outlasting other players or defeating them via combat damage. Not only that, but taking extra turns, getting any sort of infinite combo, or eliminating multiple players on the same turn would actually deduct points from your score, effectively meaning that certain strategies I've come to accept as part of EDH would result in the winning player "losing" and not advancing to the next round. 

For whatever reason, this whole experience has rubbed me the wrong way ever since I've gone to other EDH events. I feel like I was deceived by the tournament organizers, and a few other friends who I've shown this rules list have pointed to unfair and frustrating decks that would be uniquely powerful under this ruleset. The general consensus was that this tournament had failed to create an environment that is more fun or balanced than traditional EDH, and in many ways had hampered decks and strategies that I now enjoy the most.

The concert is coming up in a few months, and I imagine that the same game stores will run the EDH tournament for prizes again. There's a part of me that wants to show up the tournament with the most toxic deck imaginable, bringing in something like Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Winter Orb, mass land destruction, or some discard-focused deck that will make it immensely frustrating for other players to play the game. The intention behind this action would be to show the game store/event organizer that their variant rules don't necessarily fix the problems of EDH, but a part of me thinks I could possibly convey that idea by simply not playing in the event.

The act of deliberately sabotaging a tournament as a callout to the organizer feels like a Bolas move to me, yet it seems like the only way a certain part of my MTG brain will be satisfied. I'm wondering if you have any advice regarding these sorts of deceptive tournaments and how I might make peace with being tricked.



I really appreciate you writing in. Thank you to everybody who's been writing in lately! There's a bunch of variety and every time I think I've seen it all, I get an email like this! If you've got a story - whether you think it'll blow my mind or not - if you want me to weigh in, send it over to

Yowza, this tournament sounds like it isn't great. I'm an aristocrats player through and through, and I win by getting an eight-card engine together and killing everybody I can at once.

I get that there are house rules for some LGS tournaments, but I've never been a fan of those aside from maybe a short in-house ban list. Even then, it's a slippery slope, so it's best not to.

Do these rules offer unique scenarios, like saving an opponent as to not incur some sort of deduction?

I understand where they're coming from to an extent... maybe? It seems like they want to have a competition that isn't cEDH... maybe? I really don't have any context for motivation, but truly, if there are prizes on the line and the rules aren't clearly stated or reiterated at the time of the event, is there merit to any of it?

I don't know; I'm pissed off now, actually. I really hate the idea of invalidating someone's deck in a competitive setting basically based on a playstyle the organizer doesn't like. Does targeting your opponent with a Time Warp mean that your opponent loses a point? If you Emrakul, the Promised End a player, do they...

I'm kind of with you on this one honestly. If you can build a deck that wrecks everybody at the table under their rules and is miserable and they come for you, you can absolutely Rules Lawyer them with their own rules.

But what would that solve?

Would the organizers just add those playstyles to the no-no list, or would they understand your point and make concessions to their rules? I feel like the first option is most likely.

Going in there to win the competition with a miserable deck might feel good to you for making a point and winning the prizes, but there's a bit of villain in there. The competitive aspect of this is what makes this not a complete Bolas move. Ask any competitive player, and they'll say that if prizes are on the line and this is the meta you're supposed to work within, you do what will boost your chances. If that means running Derevi, Empyrial Tactician stax with Stasis, Rule of Law, Winter Orb, and all those other cards, then so be it.

This article is a little stranger than usual because, don't get me wrong: I am egging you on, but it is definitely inching toward chaotic evil. How badly do you want to do this?

There's more freedom in letting go, but the story is in being a Wrecking Ball.

Thanks for such a weird one, QuestionofStax!

Remember, don't be rude in the comments!

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