Am I The Bolas? - Tutoring Up a Goodbye

Mike Carrozza • October 18, 2023

Diabolic Intent Illustrated by Dave Dorman

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, and I'm starting to understand Doctor Who

No, wait... no... I think... I think I need more time...

This week, a chat about surprise infinite combos.

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, a little zhuzh, a little pep, a little zip, a little dip in the ocean, under the moon, Oh, it's the same as the emotion that I get from you, you got the kind of lovin' that can be so smooth, yeah, give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it, etc.)


Hi Mark! I have submission!

A couple of days ago, I was playing a game of Commander on Spelltable with a friend and two strangers (I'm going to call one A and the other B for the sake of conciseness). I can't remember what B was playing, but I was playing one of the combined commanders from MOM: Zimone and Dina Landfall, and my friend was playing Omnath, Locus of Creation. A was playing Tymna the Weaver and Kraum, Ludevic's Opus.

Player A had been the dominant player for the entire game. Player B and I were kind of even the whole game. My friend never managed to get a green mana source and was essentially locked out of the game. 

Around turn nine, my friend got killed with a whole lot of Zombie tokens after A cast an Army of the Damned off of an Aminatou's Augury. After that, the game went around for a few turns with nothing really happening. A gradually gained a bigger board state, so me and B decided to try to team up to take him down. B removed some important pieces on A's board, and then it was my turn.

My board wasn't bad, but it also wasn't anything special: my commander, Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Quirion Ranger, Ethereal Investigator, and a whole lot of lands. My hand was also a lot of lands, but very full. Two bounce lands, Reliquary Tower, a basic Forest, and Diabolic Intent. I top-decked a Sidisi, Undead Vizier. At this point it was, like, turn 13 and this was not a weak table (around eight in power level), so the game should have been over a while ago and I had to leave. 

This is where we get to the main question: Am I the Bolas? 

I had one infinite combo in my deck that I forgot to tell the table about at the beginning. It involves Zimone and Dina, Retreat to Coralhelm, a bounceland, and a card that essentially says 'Landfall: make a creature token'. I had two of them and two tutors in hand. I played the Diabolic Intent, and A just quit and left, probably assuming I was tutoring for a board wipe. (We waited for him to return for at least five minutes). I was actually tutoring for Retreat to Coralhelm. I then used the Sidisi to tutor for Scute Swarm (Sidisi was sacced to its own ability). I eventually drew into Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and won the game. B proceeded to say something under his breath and leave. I feel like at a "power eight" table, an infinite combo with that many interactable pieces is okay. I understand that a lot of people don't like infinites, but I feel like he should have said something at the start.

So to recap: Player A left once I played the first tutor after I said the game was going too long and it needed to end. Player B left after I presented the loop. I felt the game was going on for too long and that I had other things to do, like eat dinner. Nobody had expressed any dislike for combos, and I had told them it was a combo deck, but neglected to mention what the infinite was.

Am I The Bolas?



Hi, Wesley! Thanks for writing in. It always means so much that people do. If you're reading this and you have a story to share or even a Reddit post you want to bring to my attention, please send it to I really appreciate everybody who has and anybody who's thinking about it!

Let's get into it!

I will say that when I read Tymna the Weaver/Kraum, Ludevic's Opus, I thought, "Oh, man, is this a cEDH deck?" Tymna and Kraum are a common cEDH pairing. But playing Aminatou's Augury and Army of the Damned feels like a far cry from cEDH and rather feels like they expect to get to late game with 10+ turns.

It's a shame about your friend not getting green. We can largely ignore him for the sake of this, but I do think the commanders represented at the table are strong.

I think introducing your deck as a combo deck but not outlining exactly what the combo is... that's fine. I think once you told the table that your deck was a combo deck, then I feel like everything that happened is pretty fair game unless they said they'd rather not play against combo decks.

There are a few things to address here that I think contribute to this whole weird storm of events.

  1. You mentioned to the group that you felt like the game had been going long and needed to end.
  2. Player A had been in a dominant position, eliminating another opponent with an army of Zombies.
  3. Player A scooped and left the game when you played the first tutor. Player B left once presented the loop.
  4. The infinite combo loop requires five parts: two creatures, an enchantment, a land, and a means of creating a token when you hit Landfall.

First thing is that the combo loop has five pieces and four of them can be removed and even countered. That said, though, you only had your commander in play at the time, so even if they had been told exactly what the kill loop was, they'd maybe think they were safe because only one piece was live.

Announcing that the game has gone long enough and launching into the tutor when you've said it's a combo deck is basically like saying you're going to end the game then and there, which you did, to be fair. I can see why Player A would want to scoop. Even being in a dominating position and doing a bunch of stuff, it can feel pretty invalidating for any combo to just happen when you've been playing well and you've got your end game in sight. It can sort of feel like you've just had it for a while and decided you've let him have his fun and you're done with it, so chop chop, let's get a move on.

I know that tutors are powerful for this very reason, but this is a scenario that very much digs me in deeper into my position regarding tutors: I don't run 'em. I don't like 'em.

I understand that games can go long and that they need to end, but I can understand where Player A is coming from. Player B sticking it out and realizing the loop means he's done, it's also fair for him to just dip. I get that the two of them left abruptly and I think Player A is a bit of a Bolas for doing it the way he did to the point where you guys waited five minutes for him.

All things considered, I don't think you did anything particularly wrong. I'm hazy on the details of how you mentioned it was a combo deck, but didn't they think that would mean infinite combo? I think the combination of announcing the game had been going on long enough and then tutoring can rub people the wrong way, but I have a bigger problem with Player A conceding abruptly and not making it clear that it wasn't like a connectivity issue or something.

I'm going to say you're not the Bolas, but that you might want to have clearer discussions at the top of the game about the deck. "It's a combo deck, yes, there's an infinite combo in here, and I run tutors." It'll make you out to be a threat sometimes, but then your opponents have no excuses: you told 'em everything they needed to know.

The deck sounds cool as hell, though!

Not the Bolas.

Thanks again!

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