Am I The Bolas? - Yes.

Mike Carrozza • August 16, 2023

Punish the Enemy |Illustrated by Slawomir Maniak

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, I'll be at Commander Sealed and you should come party!

Get it? Cuz Commander Sealed and it's gonna be fire? Huh? HUH?!

This week, we know you're the Bolas, but how much?

(Email edited for brevity, clarity, bee bah bo barity, etc)


Hi Matt! (lol very funny)

I've got a situation from last weekend where I know I wasn't in the right entirely, but I don't think I was entirely in the wrong either. I was playing a game with three people, let's call them Z, Y, and X. Z is a coworker of mine who I've been getting along with who invited me to Commander night at the local game store. Y is a friend of Z's, and X is a coworker of Z's from another job. This was my first time meeting Y and X and our second game playing.

We agreed during the first game to play Planechase because I had brought my deck with me and they were all familiar with the variant. During the second game, we started off in Grove of the Dreampod for the first couple of turns, getting everyone at least one creature right off the bat. I was playing my Nicol Bolas deck (built around playing my opponents' cards, which I asked if everyone was okay with before picking it) and flipped my Keen Duelist right off the bat turn one. Z and X didn't flip anything notable, but Y flipped a Zetalpa, Primal Dawn. We managed to leave the plane after that, but Y stayed in a dominant position for the whole game as no one could draw exile or sacrifice to deal with the giant Dinosaur.

By my sixth turn, I had put myself down to two life between my Duelist and getting hit once by Zetalpa, and had effectively done nothing the entire game. I played my Chaos Wand with exactly enough mana to activate it after, and made clear that I'd be using it in response to anything that threatened me. Z and Y both continued doing their own thing and didn't throw anything at me, as they both wanted to watch me die to my Keen Duelist. When it got to X's turn right before mine, he played a Sword of Feast and Famine and moved to equip it to his Zombie Master. I responded with my Chaos Wand then as he only had 1 mana open and I knew he had a Gary in hand he wanted to play, having tutored for it last turn and being in lethal range of Y. I got somewhat lucky with a kill spell from player Y's deck, and made an offer to X: "I'll let you pick what this targets if you agree not to do anything that kills me this turn, otherwise I'm targeting your Zombie Master." He argued I shouldn't do that because even if I killed the master he still could kill me by attacking with another creature. He then pointed out that it wouldn't matter because he had the one mana open to regenerate Zombie Master (an error in two ways, one of which I didn't notice until now: Zombie Master grants that to OTHER Zombies).

At that point we had been politicking for about five minutes and the store was near closing anyway so I just said I target another of his Zombies to be done with it. He immediately says okay and moves the other Zombie to the graveyard before Y says, "That's surprising, you still would've tapped the Master." I had completely forgotten how regenerate works and said that I still wanted to target the Zombie Master then. X got upset and said I couldn't because I had already said, "I target Corpse Harvester," which the other players agreed to. I didn't argue that point, though I did accuse X of angle-shooting, because we hadn't specifically discussed playing with takebacks for misunderstanding public information (a standard in my playgroup of mostly new players). X continued to say that me trying to target it again was just a spite play and that I was trying to "scam him out of his turn" after I had won the last game. He then declared the Zombie Master attacking me to kill me.

This last bit had actually upset me as I am a very casual player, and normally avoid paid Commander events for this reason, and all of us were at the game store that night specifically because the store had just opened up and we wanted to support them. I responded by saying it wasn't a spite play because threatening his play was the only way I had to survive to my next turn to possibly do anything this game. I then said, "This is a spite play. Before damage, I'll concede so you don't get your untap trigger."

At that point he also conceded and got up to pack his things, telling Z he'd come play again if he invites people who want to play the game and not be petty. I immediately apologized to the other two for souring the mood at the very end of the night and they said it was fine, just a heated moment. (We did go play there the next day at the free Commander day, absent X).

I know conceding at instant speed is a bad move, but I almost feel partly justified for it here. I think I am a Bolas here, so I guess the real question is "How much of a Bolas am I?"

*thick russian accent*
Your Cousin,
Nico(l Bolas)


First of all, thank you all for keeping up with the column. I needed a bit of a break, but we're back baby!

Thanks to everybody sending in stories and thank you Nico for sending yours.

Let me say this:


You go in telling us that you are for sure the villain. And guess what, buddy: you are!

I think in the context of the story, you're the bigger villain.

Even though the table could have absolutely carried on as if combat damage happened, you said "this is a spite play" and conceded in response to combat damage with the express reason being to deny your opponent's trigger. I understand being heated and it does seem like you came out on top considering you and your pals attended another event without X, but I still think you should have taken your lumps and mentally checked X out of your potential play partners list instead.

Conceding at instant speed is pretty much only acceptable when the table agrees or if you have a hard out and need to leave. It's fine to ask the table at instant speed if you can concede, but it has to be unanimous within reason.

We've covered this.

We've also covered takebacks in casual settings. With everybody being reminded how the rules of regenerating play, there should have been a takeback allowed. It's a shared lack of non-hidden information that change the way a player would have played. I think I would have definitely allowed a takeback, but if the table doesn't agree to one, then play on. X committing to attacking you was spiteful, that much is sure. So was conceding to prevent a combat damage trigger. Regardless, even after the game, did anybody point out that Zombie Master can't regenerate itself?

Regardless, be the bigger person. If you're going to get mad about something like this, try to take a sec and let it ride. There's advocating for yourself and standing up for yourself, but then there's also just being childish. Conceding in response to combat damage is being the kid who takes the ball home from the court because they were faked out even though we're not done playing.

Magic is a good time. We get to play many games and that means getting to wipe a slate clean and trying again.

Don't concede that way again. Especially if they could have just played on, just take the damage and walk away if you really want to.

Later, Nico!

Nicol Bolas


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