Down And Dirty – Neutered at Nationals: Force of Savagery

Read Kyle Sanchez every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, August 14th – After the disappointment of posting 3-5 on Day 1 of U.S. Nationals, Kyle Sanchez refused to let the results get him down. Happily, the rest of his trip to Chicago was more productive, and his unstoppable team draft record is chronicled today, alongside many a Sanchez tale of decadence and idiocy. Enjoy!

My purpose shattered and my hopes drained, I wandered around the site aimlessly, looking for meaning in inanimate objects.

The National Champions trophy gawked at me, whispering to the others about my flawed attempt. An inside joke that never made it past the paper. A cruel edict cast away too early to be felt. A shiny exterior taped to stained steel with the reflection of a distorted self. An overly bulbous head with shortened appendages.

A discarded bottle of Mountain Dew AMP tossed haphazardly near the entrance. Was its fate so different from mine? Barely inside the event hall, the bottle tumbled around as various gamers kicked it to and fro. A wasted shell of a product with little direction or purpose, other than to find its way to the inevitable trash can.

But then I turned my head to the rafters.

A balloon high above, unnoticed by the busy crowd. Secluded and at peace, it watched events unfold from lofty heights. Controlled only by the wind that moved it, neither of us had a next round to attend. An envied existential existence. But I had no time to consider whether or when the wind will whoosh my way.

It was time to team draft!

Got my gold watch
And my gold chain
With my fancy car
And my diamond ring

It’s just yea, yea she loves it over here…


“Hi, Kyle? It’s Maggie!”

“Yo Maggie, what’s good?”

“Just roaming the city… wanna hang out? I’m going to the pier and lake today.”

“Well, I’m in the middle of a game. I’m at the Hyatt McCormick center if you want to swing by; we can chill.”

“Cool! I’ll see what’s up and give you a call later.”

“Tight… peace.”

I watched Goodman draft in a 5k Laptop Qualifier, so I threw my name in the hat and hoped for a random drawing. Meanwhile, I took down a team draft before hearing my name called on the loudspeaker.

Kyle Sanchez, please report to the tournament center for your draft.”

Fate had favored me indeed.

The format for the 5k Laptop tournament was a series of eight qualifiers where names are drawn randomly for admission. Winners would advance to a final draft where the winner would receive a smoking hot laptop with all kinds of crazy gizmos attached. The whole point of this operation was to advertise MTGO V3, so we got to play on some really sick computers. It still cost twenty bones, but that was well worth the attempt at an item appraised for the same value of first at Nationals. Perhaps I’d have my trophy after all…

My deck wasn’t so impressive, and if I hadn’t leaned towards Black during the second pack I probably wouldn’t have had enough playables. But I still ended up with a decent Blowfly Infestation deck, with several Tortures, Beseech the Queen, and Incremental Blight. Grim Poppet also made an inspiring appearance, winning me several clutch games before advancing to the finals. My opponent mulliganed several times here (about time!), so I was able to take it down pretty easily, if memory serves right. The point is, I won, and I’d have a 1/8 shot at 5k!

My confidence continued onto the team draft arena, winning a few more drafts, putting me at 4-0 on the day (not including the 5kQ). Team drafting is something that I didn’t really take the time to indulge in for these last few tournaments. It was one of my favorite things to do a couple of years ago, and I’m not sure why I was forgetting to get my time in on the draft floor. It’s such an awesome way to recoup value on the trip, while gaming and remaining competitive.

Gadiel, Cak, Goodman, and Phil Cape left for Gadiel’s a little early, so I opted to catch a cab back after I was done running the tables.

On the ride back, Rage Against the Machine was playing for Lollapalooza in Grant Park, so I asked the cab driver to circle around another time while Fireworks exploded in the sky overhead. The previous cab had only cost twelve bucks, and this one was a bit steeper at twenty, so I gave him twenty-five in good conscience since I asked him to circle the park and loop back.

I don’t remember these buildings, I thought to myself as he sped away. I walked into the address number Gadiel gave me, I didn’t bother buzzing since a couple coming out let me in. I looked at the green walls and started to get a shaky feeling. The walls from last night reeked of fresh paint, and were black as the night sky. After getting to the top I called Gadiel and said I was outside his door. I heard him unlocking the door and opening it over the phone, so I knew I was in the wrong place.

He sent Phil Cape outside to scout for me, but no Capes were to be found. I walked a block up to the nearest intersection and trekked to a Walgreen’s a couple blocks down before Gadiel realized where I was. He instructed me to go down the street next to Walgreen’s, but what he meant was go down the street opposite the Walgreen’s. After another ten minutes of walking I finally made it to base… the freaking cab driver dropped me off at the right address on the wrong street. Luckily it was only a few blocks away.

And now, the tops of buildings… I can see them too.

Food was the next consensus, so it was back to the streets. One block down, three blocks over, and we arrived at a wonderfully closed establishment that had extremely enticing pictures in its windows. We wanted something nice (apparently), so various decent looking places were passed without a second glance. The walk was breezy and refined, with numerous lovely ladies. Chi-town certainly has a distinct filter on its mid-city chicas.

We tried a few nice looking places, but eventually learned the hard way that Chicago’s restaurants won’t let you in past 10 o’ clock if your underage. This knocked Gadiel and myself out, so we had to keep looking for a solid place. The final place we got rejected from offered a place called Weiner Circle several blocks down the street. At first I thought there actually was a place called Weiner Circle, but my hopes were vanishing as the blocks started to pile on, and hatred in my heart started to build.

First off, the guys who gave us the suggestion were shady-looking, and then I started to put a bit too much thought into it.. “Wiener Circle”… WTF?? Were they actually insulting us? Like, we’re a bunch of wieners, and they’re sending us in a circle? I felt like picking a fight, but I decided to wait until the trip back.

We eventually found a place that is best compared to Denny’s and IHOP, with a bit more home style flavor to it. A giant breakfast plate, a plate of ham, chicken soup, and an appetizer sampler plate all found their way to my belly, and the beast was beaten. So much food, it hurt so good.

Got my gold watch
And my gold chain
With my fancy car
And my diamond ring

It’s just yea, yea she loves it over here…

Got my gold watch
And my gold chain
With my fancy car
And my diamond ring

It’s just yea, yea she loves it over here…

Got my gold watch
And my gold chain
With my fancy car
And my diamond ring

It’s just yea, yea she loves it over here…

I missed Maggie’s late night call, but I do have a nice drunk dial voice mail to compensate. I was in no mood to brawl with a banshee tonight anyway, so answering would just entail talking to her for no reason.

On the way back, in my severely gluttonous state, I completely forgot to pick a fight with those door check fools. After some Googling that took place earlier today I found out there is actually a place called Weiner Circle in Chicago, so my grudge is gone with the wind. This forced a brief reflection period during a respite in the talk while walking home. I was so quick to jump out at those guys for simply offering up one of Chi’s best wieners. But really, who names a legit place Wiener Circle?

Back at G Slice’s we sat around a television-free sitting room, exhausted from walking and tired from a stomach full of dead animals. We just sat there and chilled for awhile until Phil Cape passed out; next to go was Cak, and then I blanked out when Goodman started to hook his laptop up to play poker. A pretty sad end, but what can you expect from an early morning?

My eyes crept open to a sprawled-out Cape on the couch, and a Cak half under some covers. Goodman was still going strong playing sit n’ go’s on his laptop, which marked hour 60 or so that Goodman had been without sleep. Some come to shame, and some come to game. I think he’s proved he’s a gamer.

After a long hot shower, I had to dry every dripping inch of my slippery body with a tiny hand towel. Cape grabbed one after me, and we left for the event site with Goodman to catch the Top 8. It was about eleven or so, and as soon as Goodman crawled into the back seat he collapsed and didn’t wake up until we shook him in the parking garage.

Kenji was wandering around, so I recruited him and Herbeezy to win a team draft. They called my name before I started my second round, so I had LSV tag in for me. Thanks, brosef. Then Antonino and I did an Italian dance on a table. That crazy Ant. After that, Cedric Phillips and I took on a mob of oppressive executives attending a conference across the hall. We’re always getting into crazy situations. The Sliver Kids and I then indulged in some fifteenth anniversary cake. It took forever to get cake stains off my crotch. Then I killed away a milli to D. Willi, he’s so silly, it made me illy. After that I wrote up an entire paragraph of random name drops. I just couldn’t stop, the first three dropped, and the momentum kept the flow locked.

My draft deck for the Laptop ended up pretty saucy. A five-color concoction backing on two pair of Devoted Druid and Scuttlemutt, along with a Farhaven Elf to accelerate into an obtusely large five-drop slot. Incremental Blight, Gnarled Effigy, Scuzzback Marauders, and some Wicker Warcrawlers. Lots of big mana fatties that come out early thanks to my accelerants. I also had the standard drops covered, like two-mana two power-guys with abilities to fill the gap.

After building my deck and saving it to the computer like instructed, I jumped up to use the restroom to squeeze that ol’ bladder. I relieved myself next to Michael Jacob before he won the crown. I looked hard into his eyes to make sure he wasn’t staring at lil’ Sanch. While I was looking, I happened upon a rare sight; the eye of a champion… I knew that he’d conquer the day with his Red weenies.

I thought about Jacob’s eyes on my long walk back from the restroom. The two cups of water reminded me of Jacob’s icy blues on my short stretch from the water dispensers to my computer chair. I too would need the eyes of a champion to win my five thousand. I leaned back in my chair and relaxed, took a breath, and prepared myself to allow myself win.

When I maximized the screen I got excited when I found out I won the die roll! Time to win that 5k laptop baby! My opening hand…

Plains, Plains, Plains, Forest, Scuttlemutt, Mine Excavation, Blight Sickle.


I glanced at my deck, and saw some eighty something cards.


Judge! There must have been a glitch or something, my deck has too many cards.

“Yeah, you never clicked the submit button after you saved it.”


Can this be reversed?


I turned around, discouraged but not beaten. I’m still not sure why you wouldn’t click the submit button if you saw me forget to do so. Man, them’s the breaks. Gotta suck it up and allow myself to win. Will myself to win.

I played that game perfectly. Ran my Scuttlemutt into opposing armies with Blight Sickle in hand. Got in a few more beats before retrieving Big Scutts with Mine Excavation for a critical blocker one turn. Cinderhaze Witch got out while he was cut off from Blue, and ended up forcing the discard of five or six spells over the course of the following turns. My opponent discarded Steel of the Godhead and Shield of the Oversoul, which made my Torpor Dusts and other removal look a lot better. His last spell was Twilight Shepherd, which made sense of a random attack earlier. I had Trip Noose active to stop any Shepherd assaults, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. That 80 card deck was a thing of beauty… however, I was a bit mana flooded, but so was he, and Scuttie won the impossible game.

I loaded my saved deck and did a quick look over before submitting. I honestly hadn’t seen much of his deck game 1 other than the usual White suspects.

I start off with a mulligan, then keep a sketchy two-lander with Scuttlemutt. I bought some time by trading two-drops. I get there a few turns later, but he has an answer for Scutty, Last Breath? I get to four and he has a dude with Steel of the Godhead, while I have Gloomlance in my hand. I draw a Torpor Dust down the line, but still don’t have a fifth land so I lose.

Game 3 rolls around and I’m shaking off the pressure. Game 2 was pretty frustrating, but there’s no way I can lose two in a row with this deck after having that miracle game 1. It never goes down like that, I’ll lose next round, or have my luck run out in the finals. Then I considered conceding to him. I mean, my chances are pretty much down the tube. And it’s kind of greedy of me to take his legit chance away. I’d have to think about this over the course of the game, see if he’s a cool kid or not, so I talked to him a bit since he was sitting right next to me.

I think a cool improvement to the online dueling in public stuff would be to set up the computers opposite one another, instead of in a circle. This way you get a battleship-like feel to the game, which makes observing a little more attractive.

My hand for this game was truly spectacular.

Scuttlemutt, Incremental Blight, Wicker Warcrawler, some lands, and a two-drop.

The game played out and I stalled the ground with WWcrawla, then used my Incremental Blight for no reason to kill two dudes and shrink his Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. My eyes went red and Warcrawler started bashing him with some friends. I got him down to eight or so before he dropped two guys in one turn, two turns in a row. It was pretty awkward. Silkbind Faerie shut down my offense, so the board stalled for a bit with both forces looking at each other across a worn battlefield.

Gnarled Effigy showed up to make use of my mass amounts of mana, and I started clipping his team. A random attack had me block his Cavaliers, sending it to the graveyard to be returned to his hand with Twilight Shepherd. I realized how bad I was playing, but still had to keep my head in the game. A Shield of the Oversoul jumped on his Cavaliers and started taking chunks of my life. I got a Torture down to slow the bleeding, but he was inching toward twenty.

I was right behind him, and with Inkfathom Infiltrator providing a consistent source of damage along with Leechridden Swamp, he only had a couple of turns before he was gone. He got in there with his team, and I made some blocks and killed his creature post-combat with Effigy. I had a Torture on another creature, and could have saved a damage if I’d gone with Torture instead. It was my last ditch block, and I should have saved as much as possible. On his second main phase he added an additional attacker aboard his arsenal to throw my math off by one, which cost me the game and the match.

Boo. I really wasn’t going to concede, so it’s not like I have the excuse of “Oh well, I was gonna be a good guy and concede anyway!”

I took my troubles back to the draft floor and took down one with the Blackman n’ Mansfield team. That was the first time I drafted the Red deck all weekend, and boy was my deck absurd. Triple Runes of the Deus, along with the GR Liege and all the other uncommon GR dudes, with all the regular commons including triple Marauders. A gaudy Gruul delight. I dropped them for Kenji after we won.

BDM, Kenji, and I made quite a trio, and I forced the Red deck again, this time after an Intimidator Initiate tabled. I had to hate draft quite a bit in this one, due to a flow of absurdly powered White cards with what I presumed was a White neighbor. I still managed to collect three more Scuzzback Marauders, which actually won a game where they were the only spells cast on my side. This brought me to 7-0 on the weekend in team drafts.

I consulted Adam Yurchick about my lofty accomplishment, and he informed me he was 7-0 too, until his eighth draft went sour and started a three-draft losing streak! That may not seem like a reason to quit while I’m ahead, but Yurchick and I were born on the same exact day in February, only a year apart. And we both have enormous feet and a softcore addiction to the hiphop lifestyle.

It was around this time that Phil Cape and DJ started asking where Goodman was. I told him he was in a room at the Hyatt that he borrowed from somebody, crashed out. His phone is dead and Phil and DJ are his ride home. They ventured to the room and banged on the door for a solid ten before coming back down and verifying his whereabouts. They felt pretty guilty, but with Phil having work in the morning I assured them Goodman would be alright.

Reason enough, so I hung my sets for the day and shadowed a few drafts. I asked if I could crash with Evan Erwin for the night again, and he agreed and gave me a room key. When the Sliver Kids got back I invited them up to hang out and cube draft or something. Erwin hadn’t returned yet from dinner, but I wasn’t too worried since they won a PT and all. A large group of cube hopefuls filled the room as we waited for EE to return. And when he did come back to retire for the night around twelve or so, I bet he didn’t expect a room full of Magic players!

We hung out for awhile before jumping to the bar area downstairs to draft. For some insane reason we decided to do a Two-Headed Giant cube draft, and with The Sliver Kids paired up already, and no other SCG columnists in sight, I took my brother in arms EE to my bosom and rubbed his budda-like head ’til he tooted a rainbow. I felt like Evan had a good idea of what he was doing on the count that I’d never played cube. But his basic concept was sound enough to lead our decks into an aggressive RG deck alongside a supportive control UW deck featuring a Tinker toolbox.

I had to build the decks on my own since some random guy came up to Evan and chatted awhile before asking to buy him a drink. Evan complied humbly… who wouldn’t? So while I’m separating spells, he’s sippin’ Smirnoff. Cruel, cruel world.

With decks in hand and White Castle burgers in stomach curtsy of Dave Williams*, we took on two extremely aggressive decks and got absolutely crushed game 1. I had enough land but no spells, while EE had a grip full of goodness with no gravel. Again, another very frustrating situation. Our opponents had the attack phase down, as they sent their guys into our helpless domes about a dozen times. But their forces weren’t intimidating in the slightest; lots of do-nothing Bears and Ogres, at least to cube standards. With several burn spells, which seemed completely watered down in a 30-life format. Even though 2HG is a one game match, our first was finished extremely fast, so we lured them into another game.

We started out slow again, but eventually the cylinders started clicking and Tangle Wire bought us enough time to get our decks into shape and put up a decent defense while pecking them with some evasion dudes. EE was still a bit mana light, but he drew out of it in time to add some help to my two-player onslaught.

It was about that time that Goodman stumbled downstairs from a six hour nap. He was in the room the entire time they were banging, but due to his lack of sleep on the weekend he was completely dead. I told him DJ and Cape left, but he wasn’t stressing. He had a credit card and a laptop. He left his phone charger in his bag, which Phil accidentally took back to Michigan. A credit card and a laptop are really all you need.

Game 3 was another slow start for us while they came out blazing. EE had mana problems again but Tangle Wire again helped us save some damage. This game their B-Head was almost entirely inactive, evidently mana screwed with a packed hand. Evan drew out of it before B-Head did, but my deck started coughing up more lands. Fortunately EE had enough raw power to overwhelm both of them. The heroes come back from a devastating game one loss!

Nice game details, right? I just don’t remember all the card names, but the basic game concept is still pretty vivid.

After three intense games of 2HG, I was ready to kick back for a bit, so I got my bag out of Evan’s room and put it in Goodman’s. EE had to leave at around six for his flight, so I had to leave his room anyway. We hung out downstairs with Cheon and Fob for awhile and watched them heads up cube draft. It’s funny… the last time I saw that cube was on a flight back from Japan, and we drafted on the plane a couple years back. I never did finish that draft… monkeys didn’t even keep my deck together!

That same guy who got EE Smirnoff made his way over to me and started talking about how he liked my articles, and threw a couple hundred dollars on the table, asking me to come up to his room. He was pretty hammered already, and it came out like a sexual proposition, but he was actually just asking for booze. It was five in the morning and he couldn’t buy any more liquor. We told him we didn’t have any, so he wandered around to other tables inquiring. Cruel, cruel world. Evan catches him while he still has booze, and when he finally makes his way to me he’s got the scrilla but no vanilla.

Goodman points out the hotel bar to the alcohol-craving gamer, and his eyes widen with excitement. He immediately grabs a bottle of Patron and pours three full plastic cups of the intense whiskey. Roughly four shots per cup. He went for a toast with Goodman and I, but drank the entire cup by himself in one glurp. The following facial expression is priceless, almost forcing the vomit back into the safe lining of his stomach.

He wasn’t through… He wanted to shake it. So he started singing Shake It by Metro Station.

He came back around about a minute later and grabbed another cup of Patron. This time I had a cup of water for myself, and while he was downing a cup of Patron I was faking a cup of water. Goodman didn’t realize it at the time, and freaked out at how easily I took it. Cheon and Fob watched along, and started laughing. This guy just did 6-8 shots of Patron in five minutes. He wandered around aimlessly, crashing into Melissa DeTora a couple of times, and eventually losing some weight in the corner of a hotel couch.

He still wasn’t done, and continued to shake it, although he was much less coordinated this time.

“Hey… you’re Paul Cheon!”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Wherwudin Nurok list yare?”

“Excuse me?”

“Where wurd Newyod east yier?”


“Answer the question, Paul!” Billy chimed in, annoyed at the repeated drunken slurs while playing.

“Where were you in New York last year?” he asked again.

“Well, I was in New York,” Cheon humbly answered.

“Yeah you were! Haahhaeh!”

He started asking me to come up to his room again, so Goodman gave him a little more from his cup, and he downed it like a champ.

At this point there was little left upstairs for the poor soul… he started walking into walls and dancing even more. Hotel staff caught on after he walked into a lamp, at which point he started a snail like escape route down the hall. He ran into a table along the way, and just couldn’t make it past until they went to grab him. It looked like he was trying to act cool and play it off, but he completely ruined any chance of appearing sober when he started knocking on a glass window asking if anyone was home. Hotel staff finally cornered him, and security used an office chair to move him around.

I assumed they were going to take him back to him room he had been eluding to the entire night, but apparently he didn’t have one. So the police came and arrested him for public intoxication. Good thing the hotel didn’t know about the stolen liquor or vomit stained couch.

I was beat, so I retired to the room after the lobby died out at dawn. I got a solid four hours before rising, and went through the morning rituals. We went back down to the lobby to check for activity and found Blackman downstairs by himself. Alex Kim crashed with Goodman and I that night, so we had enough to pull of the final draft of the weekend. With the site closed and the lobby relatively clear of Magic players, we had last honors. Goodman and I showed Brett and AKim what it’s like to lose to ringers, and I earned a Force of Savagery title in team drafting.

My weekend regained and Chinese food paid for, I didn’t have to leave until six or so for the subway to catch my eight o’ clock flight. Brett Blackman was staying in Chicago until GP: Denver with Chili Boy. AKim had similar plans to stay with his auntie but opted to add an Asian zing to the Chili Blackman combo. Kyle Goodman, being completely stranded, decided to attend Denver on a whim and test with them the entire week. A new fraternity born, and thirty minutes with food in our bellies we chimed in the new union with a trip to the pool.

We had the perfect method. Ten minutes in the sauna, ten minutes in the pool. It worked so perfectly to pass a pair of hours. A shower, a shave, and I left the Denver-bound crew to sail into my own storm. The Chicago skyline fell under the blanket of night as my subway arrived at O’Hare. A opened my phone to a text message a couple hours old.

Hey Kyle, I have a red eye flight on Monday night so hit me up in the airport if ur bored!


Very nice. But Chicago’s bag check people weren’t so nice as they made me throw away a half-used bottle of leave in conditioner. I found my gate, but apparently some storms were coming through the area and my flight had been backed up ’til 10:30. I thought about asking for a flight tomorrow, then heading back in town to spend the night with the Denver crew, but I was dead tired and didn’t feel like navigating the subway again.

My flight was scheduled to leave at twelve thirty, so I sent Maggie a text saying what gate I was at. She was only a few gates down, so it didn’t make finding her that hard. We talked for awhile before I started to doze off while she was talking. I told her to tell some more interesting stories, but she kept putting me to sleep. At ten or so I told her I was going to find a quiet corner and nap for a bit. She said she’d look after me, and that her flight was pushed back until two.

That storm that I mentioned was actually a tornado, and they instructed people to stay away from the glass. I had just found the perfect nap spot, and of course it was right by the glass. It was about a twelve foot by two feet cubby formed from the space between the glass and the back part of those display counters they have at each gate. A stolen hotel pillow was perfect for one, but when Maggie came over to lie down it got a little awkward. I crashed out somehow. When I left San Antonio I didn’t imagine I’d fall asleep next to a random person I met on the way up, but Magic tournaments always have a way of throwing curve balls at you.

She woke me up at about one thirty, saying I’d overslept. My plane left at 1:10! Man, I’m stupid, but I managed to get a replacement flight at no additional cost, leaving at 10:30. I hung out with Maggie for a little longer before she left on a jet plane, never to return again.

I had eight hours to kill, so I thought about making the journey back to the hotel to have a bed to share and warm faces to talk to, but my pupils got the best of me and closed before I could move from my secret spot. This time I set an alarm on my phone and woke up in time to knock out a Chapter of Watchmen next to Daisy and her Mom Cheryl. Daisy is a model traveling to LA with her Mom for support. She was like a voluptuous Stacy Keebler, with darker roots like Britney Spears from her second album. All in all, no Scarlet Johanson, but definitely in competition for top ten hottest girls I’ll meet in my lifetime.

I guess this one wasn’t so bad. I only overslept my flight, and had to spend an extra thirteen hours in the airport. I guess that’s almost a happy ending.


Top 5 Picks

1) The Adventures of Larry & Tina — Wax
2) Reckoner – Radiohead
3) Tunel Chrome – Chicago Underground Quartet
4) 2 Brother From The Gutter – Percee P
5) Lousy Reputation – We Are Scientists

* Who else would buy a lobby full of drafters a couple hundred burgers?