Am I The Bolas? - Worst Game I Ever Played!

Mike Carrozza • April 26, 2023

Brink of Madness | Illustrated by Donato Giancola

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've got a new nickname!

Thank you, thank you, you're far too kind.

This week another Reddit post sent my way by a friend. Thanks for the permission, DW_Wishmaster!

(Post edited for clarity, brevity, bunch o' reasons, if you read this part tweet the words "banana muffin" at me @mikecarrozza)


Good day, everyone, as you can see from the title, this is gonna be a rant.

I am a regular at my LGS, so I have played with most people there. We're all pretty relaxed and mostly play decks that are mid-power (no cEDH, no infinite/I-win-the-game combos, no fast mana besides Sol Ring, pretty much no tutors, etc). I noticed some friendly new faces who mostly play among themselves. On this day, I entered the shop and joined them since we were the only four people present.

They played Shorikai, Genesis Engine, Sythis, Harvest's Hand, and Yarok, the Desecrated. I played my Atraxa, Praetors' Voice deck for the first time. Right after we got done with shuffling and deciding who goes first, the Shorikai player informed me that he runs Paradox Engine. Okay, I guess. Banned card, but I thought he would just play it as a value engine/to give his Vehicles vigilance, but not as a combo piece. My first three turns consist of three lands, Lightning Greaves, and Astral Cornucopia. Then on turn four, I miss my land, so drop my Atraxa, equip and swing at the Sythis player, who attacked me the last turn. On his turn, he destroyed my Greaves and then Oblivion Ringed my Atraxa. Rough turn for me, but fair, I am not gonna complain about interaction.

But then the Yarok player played Acidic Slime. Nice, many good targets, like Shorikai, Sythis, or some of the enchantments on the Sythis board. But he blows up my Cornucopia! This was pretty odd, it just taps for two mana and I didn't even play a land on my last turn, but okay, he is allowed to do that. On my turn, I once again didn't play a land and simply passed. The Sythis player just gains more and more value by playing one-mana enchantments and then played Aura Shards. He then jokes about how he wont blow up any more of my stuff, to which I just respond that there are no targets on my field, the only nonland on my playmat is his Oblivion Ring. After drawing some more cards and destroying insignificant cards from the Shorikai player (i.e., not Shorikai, for some reason), he passes to the Yarok player. He drops Yarok and passes. At the end of his turn (so before my turn), I cast Mythos of Nethroi to destroy the Oblivion Ring to get my Atraxa back and at least have a blocker. So of course the Yarok player casts Rewind. What? Even his friends were confused by this play, but yeah, apparently this was a worthy use of his Counterspell. Next turn, the Sythis player used Aetherflux Reservoir to kill the Yarok player, before the Shorikai player found his Paradox Engine and combos away.

It is hard to explain how bad this experience was, but I will try my best. First of all, the Shorikai deck was nothing but control while trying to win with one of the most busted cards from the last 10 years of the game (that is also banned in the format). The Yarok player was just so unenthusiastic, like he does not enjoy the game at all. I honestly think he is more of a collector since they cracked a booster box as I entered the store. But the worst of them was the Sythis player. He played so sloppily - and I don't mean "Oh, I forgot to gain life from my commander, can we add that please?" -  I mean like playing five enchantments, then add five life to his total, and draw five cards at once. He just played cards without tapping lands, only tapping them after drawing. Instead of placing his Auras under the card they are attached to so that the name of the cards are visible, he would just stack them directly on top of each other so that you had to pick all cards up if you want to read just one of them. And it was impossible to tell how much mana he still had available, since he would just slightly nudge his land in one direction, sometimes just declaring that he has still some mana in his pool due to land enchantments like Utopia Sprawl, etc.

Sorry for this long rant, but I had to get this out of my system, this is the first time where I can confidently say that I was being targeted, because I am not a part of their playgroup/they don't know me. And no, I will not play with these guys again, sitting alone and waiting for others to show up is honestly more enjoyable. Am I the Bolas?*

*no, this isn't in the original post, but it's fun that the name of the column is there.



First, thank you for letting me cover this story! If you have a story of your own or like a Reddit post, you can send it to me to

This entire story could have been three separate articles in this series. I guess the one justification I can make is that Atraxa, Praetors' Voice is a bit of a boogie monster in the format. People sit down against Atraxa and think "okay, that's the big bad of the game." But this table had some of the format's heaviest hitters. It's pretty bonkers for them to Pile On to you. I think the Cornucopia isn't the worst target because once you get your commander back, that's going to be a big boost to your mana.

That said, it's time to dive into the big beats of the story.

First of all, the Shorikai, Genesis Engine player running Paradox Engine is just absolutely buck wild. I get that they cleared it with the table (which is why they aren't the worst of offender), but they have a notoriously banned card in their deck helmed by a commander that will totally run away with it. It's a combo deck using a combo piece that should not be in the 99 of any decks. But yeah, it's fine to have a chat about what is acceptable at the table, I just hope that anybody who wasn't cool with it would have spoken up about it.

Secondly, that Yarok, the Desecrated focusing a ton of removal on you, a player ostensibly "in last place" while holding cards that would have been better suited to hit that Aetherflux Reservoir or hey, maybe the freaking PARADOX ENGINE! I mentioned that the Acidic Slime being used to snag the Astral Cornucopia wasn't the worst target, but there was more out there that should have been smacked. This tunnel visioned threat assessment is just such a bummer.

Finally, the Sythis, Harvest's Hand player missing triggers and not presenting a clear board state is probably the most frustrating and annoying piece of this story. If someone plays an Aura deck, of course they'll have to stack the Auras somehow, but to not do so visibly while differentiating the cards from one another, that's maddening. You shouldn't have to have to ask to see a stack of cards piled under a creature and to request clarification multiple times just to have an idea of what's on the table. Especially when part of the point of the cards is to be recognized visually. Not being clear about the lands and such requires a lot of trust, but pair that with the multiple casts and triggers not following the game's mechanics and order? End the game and never talk to this guy again.

I don't think I would ever play against the Shorikai or Sythis players ever, but the Yarok player might see something different at the table or can learn from experiences. I don't think you're the Bolas here at all. I want you to know that I'd have needed to go out for a smoke afterwards, and I don't even do that.

Thanks for reading!

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