Am I The Bolas? - Would You Use it Against Me?

Mike Carrozza • May 18, 2022

Thought Sponge | Illustrated by Jason Kang

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 markcarbonza@gmail.com!

I'm Mark Carbonza, the guy whose next deck is rule 0 Elder Brain with nothing but Swamps and ramp in the 99.

This week, a message from some European pals who like a good laugh.

MARK, HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT...

(Email edited for anonymity, brevity, and clarity)

Hey Mike, or Mark? or...?

Anyway, big fan of your column. I hope you can help me decide whether I was the Bolas in my story.

The other night I was playing my Zedruu the Greathearted deck in our average EDH kitchen table group of friends. I was doing the typical Zedruu things: exchanging permanents with my opponents to draw some extra cards and gain some life. At this point of the game, the Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver player was in a commanding position with a table full of Zombies ready to attack. The two other players were a bit behind because they were missing land drops and couldn't keep up.

One player, who was playing Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, jokingly mentioned that he needed a second black mana source, as he only had one Swamp in play and all the spells in his hand had two black pips. Bad luck. On my next turn, I drew a Vedalken Plotter, perfect in Zedruu, as this will translate into an additional draw on his next upkeep trigger. When looking over the board for a land to exchange, the Jarad player's only Swamp caught my eye. I play the card and exchange control of his only Swamp with one of my Islands, knowing full well that he will likely not be able to play spells anytime soon.

The play got a good laugh at the table. The hope in the Jarad player's eyes faded away, but after a short moment of silence, he joined in with the laughter, so no hurt feelings among friends.

However, this play made me think. The Jarad player jokingly gave the information away that he is one black source away from playing anything in his hand. He made this comment under the assumption that land destruction is not common in our playgroup; it may happen from time to time that a Beast Within hits a utility land, like Scavenger Grounds, but that's about it. I used this information for a play that I would probably not have made if I did not have information about my opponent's hand.

So the question is: Am I the Bolas for using the information that my opponent so kindly provided to me in good faith?

I might want to add that the play was also not optimal, gameplay-wise, since the Jarad player had relevant interaction pieces, like Damnation, in his deck that could have helped with the threatening board state of the dominant Wilhelt player. I basically did it because it seemed like a fun play and something to joke about with my friends in the future.

In case you are interested: Jarad later drew into a Groundskeeper, which helped him to get Swamps back from his graveyard, so he ended up casting some of the spells from his hand. But it was too late and Wilhelt's Zombie army took the victory.

Thanks and Greetings from Germany,

Timmy, the NotSoGreathearted

...THAT'S A GOOD ONE, TIMMY!

Timmy, let me start by saying thank you for writing in. If it weren't for folks like you, this column could not go on. I appreciate you very much.

Secondly, HAHAHAHAHAHA!

I love this story. It's the kind of story that reminds us that it's all just a game and we're all doing stuff to make it memorable and cool. Vedalken Plotter is a funny little card. I'm sure if it didn't require you to swap one of your own lands, you would have offered to give the Jarad player one of Wilhelt's black sources, especially with Wilhelt running away with the game. But how do you resist this moment? This kind of move reminds me of all the times I've tried not to laugh when you're not supposed to, but trying to suppress it made it worse.

I'm a comedian. I'm not a mean-spirited, roast-everybody, nothing-is-taboo, you-can't-tell-me-what-to-do comedian. I don't like punching down...but if I were in your position, I'd have done the same thing. At the very least, I'd have revealed it as a "hey, check it, should I do this?" to get the laugh from the table. I think playing it made for a memorable moment in your group, and it's a story that is bound to come up over and over when thinking about the funniest or standout plays in your playgroup's history.

Are you the Bolas? Yeah, but, like, come on, that's so worth it. Wilhelt basically had the game in the bag. More of an Oko, the Trickster or Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

Why are you the Bolas? Because it is without a doubt a D[Mike, we can't use that word here] move.

Let me be clear: it's not because you used information that would not have otherwise been obtained by game action. Commander is a social format where politics are involved. Revealing information and bluffing, it's part of the game. Your opponent offered up that information and if you had a Shifting Borders instead of the Plotter and decided to swap one of his Forests for one of Wilhelt's Swamps, he would have benefitted from that. Instead, you all won because, again, what a moment!

I'd argue that revealing that information was the Jarad player's way of communicating to you and the Wilhelt player that he is not a threat, but if there were a way to help him out, he could be an asset. Instead of the other players leaving him alone or helping him, it's a real "kick him while he's down" play that follows.

It's a [Mike, stop using that word] move, but it's very funny.

To summarize, yes, you're the Bolas, but you're the fun Bolas, like if the Elder Dragon played a prank. However, the reason isn't because you used information that you gained via "non-game action".

Once again, thank you for writing in. Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have a story of your own, email me at markcarbonza@gmail.com

<3 love you



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