Am I The Bolas? - Death Trigger Rules

Mike Carrozza • May 1, 2024

(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?"

I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email! You might see your story in the column. You might even hear it on the podcast. Which podcast? 


I'm Mark Carbonza, and I have no idea what to do with myself when there are no new cards being previewed!


This week, advocating for the rules.

(Post edited for brevity, clarity, calamity, and blizammity!)


Hello there, Mark

I've read your articles and listened to your podcast for a while now and thoroughly enjoy them. Today, I have a story from a few days ago at my local LGS.

There was a Two-Headed Giant tournament happening, and my friend and I were doing quite well. We had won our first game and narrowly lost our second, leaving us in first place with a tight lead. I was playing Calix, Guided by Fate, an Aura-copying deck looking to swing for a lot of damage, while my friend was playing an Elenda, the Dusk Rose sacrifice and life gain deck. I can't remember what my opponents were playing or their names, but only one of them really matters for this story.

My friend and I had played our commanders. The relevant opponent disenchanted Calix and I sent him to the command zone. My friend moved to put a counter on Elenda, the Dusk Rose when the opponent told me that because I had put Calix in the command zone, it didn't die. I informed him that it did die and because my commander is switching zone, I could choose to put Calix in the command zone. He continued to disagree.

The store owner was called over and we spent ten minutes arguing over who was right. The store owner agreed with my opponent but said he would look it up. We played as if Calix didn't hit the graveyard. Twenty minutes later, the store owner came over and said that I was right. At that point, it was too late in the game for it to really matter. In the same game, my friend had Elenda, a Blood Artist and Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim, and my opponent had a card that said "whenever a creature dies, you gain one life."

I wiped the board and the triggers happened: my opponent lost life to the Blood Artist and gained it back, but on the Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim triggers he argued that he didn't lose any life and that he gained it back. I said he did. Another twenty-minute argument later, and I was right, he lost the two life from the Elas trigger. Everyone was frustrated and he packed up his stuff and left. Am I the Bolas for arguing rules for minimal value and making everyone frustrated?

Forever a listener,

Amy, Calix player


Hello, Amy! Thanks for the kind words about the column and podcast. Without folks like you, the column couldn't exist, so if you, the reader, have a story of your own or a Reddit post you'd like me to write about, send them over to I'll cover it here or we'll talk about it on the podcast!

Now, on to today's submission!

First of all, it's always okay to call a judge. In fact, I'd recommend calling a judge on anybody who makes you feel any type of way about calling a judge. You are free to do so, and I'm sure if you're calling them, you've got a reason. 

That said, usually, a judge is equipped with the rules to be able to support the players. I think it's quite silly that in April 2024, a store owner running Commander events isn't equipped with what I would consider a truly basic Commander rule. The rule change happened in July of 2020. It is widely accepted - even celebrated - as the most intuitive rules change in a very long time. Not to mention, if you just get onto the Internet's favorite site after Commander's Herald dot com (Google), you could enter "If commander dies mtg" and you'll find this article about the rule change near the top and the MTG Wiki on Commander that highlights what happens when commanders die. In fact, Elenda, the Dusk Rose is a commander that became way more popular after this rule change. I remember she and Roalesk, Apex Hybrid both were finally looked at more seriously as the heads of decks. 

There's a whole event happening with tables of Two-Headed Giant Commander happening; you're telling me nobody a table over had this information ready? The store owner standing in for a judge unfortunately must type with only his pinky fingers and probably went to AskJeeves instead of the Goog. Twenty minutes? Maybe he was busy, but is there no resource you could use online to find this one out on your own either? 

It's something that could have been resolved sooner than it was, and that makes it very frustrating to hear about. You're not the Bolas for knowing the rules and telling people at the table what they are. I wish you had a better way to access the information you needed about the rule, but I guess it is what it is. 

Twenty-minute chats over rules are fine if we're talking about complex situations. This is a basic rule of the format now.

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