Down And Dirty – Mailbox Musings

Read Kyle Sanchez every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Wednesday, September 3rd – Kyle makes the transition to Wednesdays from this week, and kicks off proceedings by answering a few emails he’s received from eager readers in the past few weeks. He shares his views on the State of Magic, the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top, and more!

Hey Kyle

I’d rather you didn’t write anything weird this week. Thing is, we’re shifting you to Wednesday from this week… please, you CANNOT BE LATE with your 6pm EST Tuesday deadline this time). I’ll happily work with you on reworking your latest weird article for the FOLLOWING week, but for this week can we have something less controversial? And on time?

Let me know, I’m on AIM as usual.


Man, Craig… you can’t just jump up and throw the “official deadline” at me. I was planning on being at least eight hours late this time, which really puts a damper on this whole “shifting to Wednesday” dilemma. And now you’re telling me I can’t run the article I wanted to run? I guess I’ll just have to scrounge up some entertaining emails and talk to the folks out there who read me.

I do like this new Wednesday line-up, though. A Southwest-Midwest American duo, with The Talent Of The Gods on one side and a curly-haired buffoon on the other. Are you trying to make me look bad, Craig? And what’s up with putting me on the same day as all the informative writers… Patrick Chapin, Richard Feldman, and now Gerry Terrific?!? Are you trying to tell me something? [Kyle, I’ve been trying to tell you something form months – Craig, amused.]

Yo Sanchez

I’ve been reading your stuff for a while. You’re one of the most entertaining writers on this site. I’m in the military, and I was actually born in San Antonio… my family lives there. I’m on leave and I wanted to get down for a draft, or maybe some FNM, and I figured that since you run the scene down here, you would know where to go.



This e-mail was actually from this past Thursday. KC is a young fella in the Navy, based out of Seattle, and we hung out for FNM. The store also loaned him a Dragonstorm deck to play on Saturday for an upcoming Texas Pro Tour Invitational tournament.

I chose to highlight this email for a couple of reasons. KC hails from Seattle, and it’s always interesting to know what the Magic community is like in other cities. Here in San Antonio I’ve had a lot to do with the watering of the local crop, which has really given the whole FNM crowd a laid-back approach to the game. KC was surprised at how helpful everyone was, and how lax people are on being Rules Lawyers when they don’t have to be. In Seattle, he admitted to a much stricter crowd, dominated by an upper clique into which very few are accepted.

This is a huge problem for the future generations of Magic players. I don’t want to sound like a preacher, but us Magic players really do share a unique bond between us that is very hard to convey to non-Magical members of society. I’m usually very upfront with my non-Magic friends about what it is that I love to do, and many of them, mainly the girls, can’t comprehend the amount of time it takes to play a game or tournament. Often someone will call, and I’ll tell them I’m playing a game, and they just can’t understand why I have to play more than one or two games to be satisfied.

“Well, when you’re done with this one, do you want to go to a movie?”

“It’s best two out of three, and I have a few more rounds to play after this one.”


This is one of Magic’s biggest problems in terms of marketing. Magic is not easily comparable to any other mainstream form of competition or gaming. It’s not as visually appealing as a video game console, nor can you easily explain how to play in thirty seconds, like you can in Poker broadcasts. Magic is much more like Chess than anything else, which then creates the problem of being associated with a “boring” board game.

This is exactly the reason why advertising for our game, the game which we each cherish and hold close to our hearts, resides firmly in our own hands. We have to teach people how to play, give them a suitable environment, and make the game much friendlier than it currently is. With the JSS crop faltering and Pro Tours reducing in numbers every year, it’s hard to say that our game is thriving right now… however, it’s an exciting time nonetheless.

This is where we measure our weight, and this is where the future of Magic will be determined. That may sound a little extreme, but I’d rather fear for its safety than take it for granted and let things play out.

I really have been fortunate to have been born in Texas. We’ve lower taxes, attractive women, and a state-wide forum that unites everyone between the Rio Grande and Red River. In my younger days, I never really noticed the genius of the State message boards; back then we had a group of old players that were really pushing the whole community thing, and I never really realized how important it is for the growth of future players. I’m not sure on the current status of all the Magic-based message boards around the U.S. and in other countries, but I strongly encourage someone who has the means to start one for each state. Advertise it at PTQs, FNMs, Regionals… get people involved, and even get the gaming shops set up on there. It’s a system we’ve been using for years now, and it really does have strong implications on how the community has evolved.

Cutting out the Stairway tournament system was a big goof by Wizards, if you ask me. I’m not sure how other gamers were raised, but there was a time when I had no knowledge of other tournaments except those FNMs and Saturday drafts. When I found out about States, Regionals, a PTQ, or especially a local Grand Prix, it really perked my interest in the game. It created an unknown area of competition where a much larger and different group of players battled. With each step, my knowledge grew, as did my overall respect for the game. Now, looking down at the massive stairwell, I can’t help but feel sorry for future gamers that won’t get to have those gradual increments to keep them intrigued.

The future of the game relies so much more in the hands with which we sling our spells. Neglecting those inquiring minds, clique mentality, and beginner stage hazing will only cause our game to die out that much quicker. This is something that’s been raking my mind for awhile now, but it’s always an awkward topic to talk about since the person talking tends to come off a bit too preachy. It’s still something that needs to be discussed rather than swept under the playmat.

I do believe in giving the beatings to the newcomers, but through a move learned process. Give them treats, then smack them on the nose if they give you those puppy dog eyes wanting more. A rolled-up newspaper is perfect, as it won’t leave bruise marks. And if his/her parents are out of town, you can always punch some staples through to get in a couple extra points of damage.

Hey Kyle,

What do you think about Sensei’s Divining Top being banned?

Drew, from Dallas

I think it was a strong ban. It doesn’t hurt the financial value of Top significantly, as told by Ben Bleiweiss*, and it dramatically reduces the average match time in Extended given that a single Top on one side of the board can add upwards of five minutes of decision making per person. That’s a statistic I entirely made up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was equally high, if not higher.

I think it’s a pretty safe ban… it will cause the format to change drastically given that you don’t have to worry about Counterbalance combos any more. But another fact that I haven’t heard many people talk about is the increase in power for Rock decks. Sensei’s Divining Top destroyed whatever utility you could get out of Cabal Therapy, Thoughtseize, and Duress in the last few seasons, but with Top gone, Thoughtseize will perk up slightly, which will most likely cause a strong Rock revolution. Combo decks can’t stack their libraries, control decks can’t dig out of early game trouble, and whatever aggro decks that were going to use it will get crushed as usual.

It’s definitely not a necessary ban but, given the impact it will have on the format, it was a nice one that won’t ruffle too many feathers.

Dear Sancheez,

Everyone has favorite Pros… who are your favourites, and why? Any good stories to share?


I think Tim Aten might be my favorite all-time pro, but that’s mainly because I started playing competitively when he started winning tournaments. GP: Chicago was one of the first tournaments I remember following. His writings went a long way at getting people interested in the game from an amusing and extremely intellectual perspective, giving the game from my perspective a much less focused look on the details while taking in the big picture of things.

Gabe Walls comes in at a close second. GWalls has a way of making the entire room around him smile. Whether he’s frustrated, angry, happy, drunk, winning, or losing, he always keeps his comical composure of a light-hearted kid. This is remarkably similar to the way I try and live out my days. After Tim and Gabe, Osyp and Billy aren’t too far behind.

Some people have a knack of making everything they touch become classic. They may or may not write words, but their voice and ideas are Magic.

I also believe Sadin to be one of the best people on the planet. He is so sincere, genuine, and moral about everything he does… just being around him, talking to him on the phone, and knowing who he is and what he represents makes me want to be a better person. I still don’t know if I’d have made it out of Japan without him riding shotgun. In fact, I almost assuredly wouldn’t have made it. This means I wouldn’t be writing this article right now.

Fabiano is another remarkable individual… his genius is surpassed only by his ability to turn people’s frowns upside down.


Hey Kyle,

Whatever happened to the Sanchez Gallery? I think it’s time you bring some crazy picture back to SCG!

John B. Fanboy

John sent that awhile ago. And inspiration just hasn’t tickled my pickle recently. I stopped using that Paint application, and don’t usually sit at the computer long enough to remember to keep it up. A lot of the pictures I’d like to do simply wouldn’t make it past the censors either, so that deflated my bubble a touch. I still made them, but they’re for my juvenile eyes only. I think I’ll try to keep it up from now on. I accidentally uploaded them on my iPhone during a sync one day, and a girl who was going through my phone actually liked ’em, so if that’s not a sign…

The Sanchez Gallery

Potty mouth

Sanchez Guide to Girls

Five Mump People

You've Got Gas!

Hello there Mr. Sanchez,

I’m a long time reader… I was just wondering where you come up with the ideas for your articles? I know you got a lot of hate for the hip-hop article you wrote, but don’t let it get you down… you make people smile. This is a gift that not everyone understands sometimes. Anyway, you generally have some off-the-wall concepts. I’m just wondering if you have any on the chalkboard you wanted to share.


Honestly, I have no idea how I come up with an article every week. Sometimes I’ll lie in bed on a Sunday morning wondering what the hell I have to talk about, but I always seem to get at least two-thousand words down.

I have a few articles brewing in the back of my head. I still want to do an entire article in MS Paint for a tournament report. I just haven’t played in an inspiring enough tournament yet. I’d also like to do a guide on Team Drafting, and how to pick the best teammates and target the easy wins. I’d also like to do some videos on Magic, much like Evan Erwin, except I’d put the people I’m interviewing in much more compromising situations.

There’s a ton on the horizon for Magic media, with both Reuben and Erwin on the task force. But I’d really like to see different people give it a shot. Get some cameras and go to your next PTQ/Prerelease. There are multiple stories to be spun at each tournament: conflict, betrayal, struggle, loss, gain, doubt, self-reflection. I really want to make a video format that can turn any tournament into a movie, with key characters and cool tales. I guess that’s my big idea. The vision I have in my head is a format that would be attractive to outsiders as well as eager onlookers.

I just need a camera and superior editing skills.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading and writing.


Top 5 Picks

1) For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder
2) Dear Employee – Papercuts
3) Blunt Ashes – Nas
4) Napalm – Gift of Gab
5) Travis Trot – Merle Travis

* Have you guys been reading his articles? They’re usually short and sweet, with all relevant information towards the changing Magic economy. They’re really nice, and quickly becoming one of my favourite articles of the week.