Am I The Bolas? - Tip the Scales

Mike Carrozza • June 7, 2023

Sudden Spinnerets |Illustrated by Nicholas Gregory

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 is actually Mike Carrozza!

"I'm me posing as me living as me me, me me mememeemmemememeemmemeemememme!"

This week, a chat about information and intention.

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, adding the thing needed for you to hover and see a preview, but also hi, Stephen, thanks for commenting on every article. It's been real cool since starting the series!)



I hear you're in the market for tales of moral ambiguity.

I was playing Commander with my regular playgroup. My commander was Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, and my opponents were playing Skullbriar, the Walking Grave and Adrix and Nev, Twincasters (the fourth player having already been eliminated).

The Adrix and Nev player was on the verge of winning. He had his commander out along with Esix, Fractal Bloom, 540 Scute Swarm tokens, and two copies of Biovisionary. Fortunately for us, most of the Scute Swarms had summoning sickness and he couldn't make additional Biovisionaries that turn, but the other player and I knew that if he untapped with his board intact, we were dead.

I was next in turn order. I had Alesha out and was holding Fallen Ideal in hand. I knew that if I could enchant my commander, I could fly over and sacrifice enough tokens to kill the Adrix and Nev player with commander damage. Esix, however, also had flying and could block, leaving us dead to an army of Scutes unless we could remove him as a blocker somehow.

I asked the Skullbriar player if he could deal with Esix, but he replied that he couldn't and showed me his hand to prove it. All he had was a useless creature and Sudden Spinnerets. So when the Adrix and Nev player made to skip over combat and pass the turn to me, I suggested he attack with Esix instead since he was unlikely to block with him. I don't honestly know whether I expected him to swing, but we were dead otherwise so I figured I'd at least take the chance.

He went for it and decided to attack the Skullbriar player, since Skullbriar had well over 100 power and only needed trample to kill someone. But the Skullbriar player cast Sudden Spinnerets and gave his commander a reach counter, allowing him to block and kill Esix in combat.

I'd forgotten what was in the Skullbriar player's hand almost as soon as I'd looked at it, but I felt bad about goading my opponent to attack into a trick I should have known about and apologised. Still, the way was clear, and hundreds of Scute Swarms were threatening a win, so when it came to my turn I enchanted Alesha and sacrificed my board to pump her up and swing for 21 commander damage.

But my guilt persisted. Was I wrong to prod my opponent into throwing away their only blocker? I didn't feel I'd pressured him into the decision, but something about it still felt underhanded, as though I hadn't upheld the casual spirit of commander. Was it the fact that I walked Esix into an accidental ambush, or was I wrong to suggest combat at all? Should I simply have kept my mouth shut and hoped to topdeck my way out?

Basically, am I the Bolas?

P.S. I got permission from the Adrix and Nev player to share the story and let him read over it. He thought my description was fair but added 'it didn't ever occur to me that you were trying to goad me to attack. I just thought you were offering me some sound advice as the more experienced MtG player [he's been playing Magic for a little less than a year while I started in 2018]. But it'll be a valuable lesson: never listen to advice from your opponents!'

Help me, Mark Carbonza, you're my only hope.

- Luke


Wowee! First of all, I spared the readership some very, very flattering and kind words from Luke about the column, but I will say I cannot believe just how much people are loving this series. Thank you so, so, so, so, so much for reading and writing in. It means the world to me. Please continue to send over your stories to

Alright, let's get into it, Luke.

I like this submission quite a bit. I think it's the perfect story for AITB.

Are you the Bolas for the Sudden Spinnerets situation? I'm going to say no.

Why? Because as far as you're concerned, Sudden Spinnerets could have been anything. The Skullbriar player flipped his hand over and showed you two cards saying that he had nothing he could do to destroy the Esix and you thought nothing of it. "Oh, well. Two blank pieces of cardboard to prove they're not Doom Blade hiding in his hand!" is what I assume your inner voice sounded like, so telling your other opponent to attack after initially moving to skip combat didn't quite feel like an intentional gotcha. If the Adrix and Nev player were to make that case, I'll admit, they'd have a decent one, but in the PS, they mentioned they thought nothing of it.

Well... sort of.

It was absolutely an intentional gotcha, but not that way. You were hoping to get them to send in their only flying creature so they couldn't block your commander next turn, which is as good as killing it in this instance.

Sneaky, sneaky!

You were trying to use non-game actions to influence the game. Mind games and politics are part of the format, and I appreciate that very much! I would say, in this case, after mulling over their response to you, you did unintentionally leverage your position as a more experienced Magic player to influence them.

In short, are you the Bolas for the Sudden Spinnerets? No. Their fate was sealed the moment they turn Esix sideways.

Are you the Bolas for political trickery? Also, no! That's part of the fun of the game! Some people hate it, that's fair! But if there hadn't been a Spinnerets, it wouldn't have been some sort of dastardly, hee-hee-ha-ha-I-have-hatched-a-plan-and-twirl-my-moustache sort of evil. It'd have been more of a look-over-there level trick.

Where I do think you should be careful is where your experience and relationship to newer players can be used as leverage. Maybe it's not so huge here, but if it comes up again, be aware of it.

Thanks again, everybody!

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