Am I The Bolas? - Tracking the Boardstate
Keep Watch Illustrated by Fred Rahmqvist
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-
HEY HELLO! I WOULD LOVE IT IF YOU SENT IN YOUR STORIES!
When I started the column I was flooded with them and now I am asking for those of you who thought "not yet" to say "yet" and send in your questions to me MarkCarbonza@gmail.com.
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-
WE'RE NOT DESPERATE FOR STORIES BUT I DEFINITELY PREFER ANSWERING PEOPLE WHO ENGAGE WITH THE COLUMN TO SEEKING OUT EDH DISCOURSE OR DRAWING ON MY EXPERIENCE/CONVERSATIONS! I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
getting bored with your playgroup, I'm ready to hear you out and offer advice. All you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Who am I?
I'm Mark Carbonza! The guy who wants you to
PLEASE SEND IN YOUR STORIES.
This week a discussion among Commander's Herald staff around a Reddit post about keeping track of board states. After talking about the post with a few CH pals (shout out Sheep Wave and Christian!), we boiled it down to this question:
"When an opponent asked on the board if there were any fliers, I said no, which was true. But when he attacked, I was able to block with a creature with reach, that I did not remind them of. Does this make me the Bolas? When an opponent asks for information, how much info should I give in order to inform them, while also still playing to my best strategy?"
There were lots of points brought up in our discussion of this question posed on Reddit. Essentially, it boils down to tracking board state, having a clear board state, and announcing your plays.
How many times has this happened to you?
"Does that creature have hexproof?"
"Okay, I'll kill that creature with a Doom Blade"
"Okay, I'll sacrifice this Spirit token to Fanatical Devotion to regenerate it."
"...wait...I didn't see the Fanatical Devotion..."
Commander board states are complicated. It's also part of what makes the game so appealing. Massive things happen in this format that don't in others. This is a format where Storm Herd can shine, for gods' sake! The largest card pool in the game is represented in this format and we have to keep track of as many cards as possible. It's fair for folks to make mistakes.
That's why I am fine with some take backs depending on the context of course.
If it's a competitive environment, say we're playing cEDH - the above scenario is fair game. Swinging into a reacher after neglecting to read the board in a competitive game, sorry pal, that sucks. But if it's a casual game and "does anybody have flying blockers?" gets asked, I'd probably volunteer "no, but this lil dummy's got reach."
BUT HERE'S WHERE THE CONVERSATION GOT JUICY.
Commander is a social format where we hang out with pals or fellow members of a community whether online or at an LGS and we get together to play a game we love very much (Magic: The Gathering in case you forgot).
With a bigger focus on the gathering part of things, some people play a little bit looser with their attention. Some house rules ban taking out your phone or find ways to minimize on distractions. Other playgroups let everybody do what they want and stay very lenient with attention spans. That said, I feel like the respectful thing to do is be present. If you're hanging out with your pals playing Magic, you can pull out your phone to answer an urgent text or check whatever you want to check, but keep yourself in the game. Because let me tell you...
If you reveal that you missed a card in play that was properly announced and it finally has its moment, sorry bud, you should've been paying attention. It's fine to forget it's there, that stuff happens. But if it's because you decided to swipe on Tinder for a sec while Asceticism hit the field, I'm sorry Chris, you chose to play the Counterspell deck, that's on you!
"I want people to play so little that I don't even play!"
"I have a visual impairment" or "I have a memory disorder!"
No worries. If this is your regular playgroup, this is a discussion to have with them on how to best accommodate a healthy game experience for everybody. Chances are that you know each other alright and can be open and honest with each other.
When playing with new people, open the discussion with it. "Hey, I would love if you could announce your cards because I don't see very well. I may ask questions several times because of it but it's because I want to make sure I'm playing the best I can and ensuring the best play experience for all of us."
Whatever works for you to be able to enjoy yourself most while also being clear of what your needs and expectations are, that's the ticket to a good time.
IS THERE EVEN A BOLAS?
No. When discussing a topic this broadly, it's not possible to determine whether or not someone is the Bolas. There are no hard and fast rules. In the same article, I've say "pay attention" but also "it's cool, take it back". Context is important. The game is about what you want from it. Find out what that is before or as you sit down, communicate it, and then get that fun in your system, baby! This game rules.