Motivational Magic

Kyle Sanchez couldn’t make it to FNM, but instead he’s gotten to thinking about what Magic has done for him and his life. What has Magic done for you?

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

I was sick and couldn’t make it to FNM last week to defend my back-to-back crowns. With Worlds imminent as you’re reading this, I expect fish like Snapcaster decks to rise dramatically in popularity. This would create a niche metagame for Mono Red for the brave to sleeve up at Worlds, which would be bad news for U/B Control. In any event, I don’t mind playing against any of those decks, and my Obliterator list from the past two weeks is still the clear best deck in the format.

= P

The turbulent diarrhea of announcements Wizards has dumped on us parallels quite humorously to the NBA Lockout in my mind. One side of me wants to start a revolution, organize a Players Union for Magicians around the World, boycott Wizards, demand player rights along with a BRI split to pay us off for our undying loyalty throughout the years. Demand a new pro player system, reinstating JSS, Worlds, players reward foils, while recruiting Billy Hunter to sit in our corner to have an imposing face to negotiate with.

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” – Thomas Edison

But then reality hits, and I have to ask myself a very important question to figure out my exact beliefs on what’s going on beneath the hoopla of it all. I encourage you to answer these questions yourself as well. I’d like genuine perspectives if you’ve got a second to chime in the forums.

  • What are my intentions by playing Magic; what does Magic do for me?

This is quite a complicated question that not nearly enough mages have honestly evaluated within themselves. We all know Magic as a social outlet, a means to exercise and flex your decision making process, both by playing the card game and the financial management of the cards and accrued expenses.

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” – Seneca

Aside from the obvious responses that would fall under the above categories, I feel like Magic can be the core to a very healthy lifestyle. We are a friendly, peaceful people. Everyone that plays has a certain social stigma about them in one regard or another, but we might as well sit across from a mirror every round because there is a certain type of people that this game attracts. I’m it; you’re it; your playtesting partner is it; the people who made the game are it; and even the greasy with the Mohawk you played last round is it. Admitting our likeness to our peers will get us farther than condemning the smelly, greasy, overweight, and sloppy. They are just the most obvious target to sling our arrows, plus, I’m pretty sure we’ve all been the greaser in the room at some point in our careers.   

“Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

The point I’m trying to make is that we operate in a community where everyone is on the same page, to some degree or another. This is marvelous; we have common ground, a sense of familiarity to anyone that plays Magic anywhere.

I have a theory that Magic heightens your ability to discern right from wrong, a moral code of sorts because our brains have been sculpted by the rules we play. Wiring your brain is a very real effect, especially when we exercise it in such repetition as Magic generates. It’s like Kobe shooting 2,000 jump shots a day; the guy becomes automatic. The same thing is happening every time we make a decision in Magic, except instead of building muscle memory for a jump shot, we build muscle memory in our brain on how to handle given situations legally and efficiently.

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln

Some might feel I give Magicians too much credit; for every person out there who has risen to understand the meaning of what I’m saying—becoming a self-aware Magician—there’s another 20 who have no clue why turn 1 on the play “Mountain, Shock you” is a bad play. This can be an infuriating process to put up with. To put it properly into perspective, I’ve got a story about Patrick Church, a local who might inspire you.

Patrick has been playing Magic for a long time; I remember battling him back around Masques and Invasion block. He is not a self-aware Magician, commonly dressed in nothing more than a vintage, three-sizes-too-small, basketball jersey of Charles Barkley, Hakeem, or David Robinson, matching basketball shorts, white socks rolled up just below his knee, tattered kicks that have many miles on them, glasses nudged up with his index finger up his nose, and partially shaved head to downplay his receding hairline, with a clumsy oaf-like posture. He’s nothing inspiring on the surface for sure, but I’m proud to say I wouldn’t have gotten to know the depth of his character had he not been playing tirelessly for years here in San Antonio.

Patrick has something that the majority of the world lacks and makes up for his social stigmas tenfold by having a caring soul, the integrity of a lion, and a warm fist bump to everyone at the shop when he enters and exits. His DCI rating is currently around 1200; he never wins, ever, but he’s still one of the most positive people in the room! That’s so damn admirable, you’d have to meet him to do justice to the situation. The quality of people you’ll meet playing this game is profound, and oftentimes inspiration can loom in the most unexpected places. There isn’t anyone who plays Magic that deserves your disrespect unprompted; they are our kin, and we need to band together in perilous times.

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are so many cases of genuine, good natured, honest, and respectable people within our game, and I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to actually realize the benefit of having that kind of community. It’s something I really took for granted, and I was able to acquire this perspective after being away and smelling the real filth that is out there.

Our community is something Wizards can never take away from us, and my new intention moving forward is to strengthen the ground I walk on, build a more firm foundation of Magic players in my area by being a vocal voice of experienced affirmation.

The recent changes Wizards made, they don’t affect me. My only advice to the slew of pros that are threatening to disband is this:

“Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn’t go with it.” – Colin Powell

There are a lot of people who live celebrated lives because of what they have worked for through Magic. It’s important not to be so reliant on what you’re working for, rather than having pride in your ability to discern, evaluate, and work. This is a good lesson in life as well. How many ignorant video gamers are cocky d-bags because they can click a combination of buttons a little faster than the guy sitting next to them? A true gamer has pride in his ability to game and use his mind efficiently, not pride in his mind because he games efficiently.

I don’t mean to parallel video gamers to card gamers because that’s pure blasphemy; we’ll always have twenty legs up on those inbred Halflings, but there’s a certain growing disposition among Pro Players who feel scorned by Wizards’ actions that I don’t agree with. They are the hand that feeds you, and while it’s unsettling about the uncertainty of it all, the only thing to do is keep breathing and striving to better yourself as always. The rules have changed, but your game plan is the same. You have already justified your lifestyle; it’s a life worth living to you. What’s a little more sweat and blood? Roll your sleeves up, sleeve your deck up, and keep on shuffling.

“The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success.” – Irving Berlin

This is true enough, how often do you feel entitled to top 8 because you’ve made the top 8 before? You feel betrayed inside when you expect to succeed, then fall on your face when it appears to matter most. It’s very tough to have success, but bearing success is much tougher than the initial success you triumphed. Entitlement runs rampant in our game, and it’s justifiable because everyone gives in to it.

On the other hand, I feel so sympathetic to those around the world who have truly been kicked in the jewels by Wizards removing their play support in low producing countries. It’s a business though; it’s Wizards/Hasbro’s right to trim the fat. You foreigners are the fat*, and if you really want to immerse in Magic you should get up out of your third world and come to the land of opportunity anyway.

The blow to international play probably isn’t as severe overall as the JSS cutback they made three years ago. I’m not sure if the line of thought at Hasbro was, “Well, we already kicked our aged 8-16 market, which was bigger than our entire abroad Nationals system; why not give that the ax too?”, but it does draw a very clear line that nothing is sacred to Hasbro/Wizards. We hold no power over them. We are a small percentage of their market; we don’t drive sales as much as we’d like to think we do; we’re just spoiled rotten because the original company that looked to stretch itself to cater to our small market has now been replaced by a company-eating giant that wants solid numbers without dead return expenses.  

“The World is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” – Rupert Murdoch

“The Empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” – Winston Churchill

Magic breeds fast minds; a short list of mental responsibilities in each game would look something like this:

-Remaining confident

-Resource management

-Cognizance for potential situations

-Cost/benefit analysis

-Moral judgment aka playing by the rules

-Adaptability planning

-Prioritizing of plans

-Remaining emotionally in control

There are many more bullets of specific content within those topics, but even at a glance it’s amazing how all these different responsibilities are organized in our brain, then delivered in our choice of the right play at that given moment. Then another moment passes, and we’ve got to do this checklist again every time new information on how the game will unfold is collected.

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” – Warren Buffet

This was a very important lesson for me. I didn’t realize how Magic shaped my mind until my mind was shaped and I could perceive the impact that it has on me in everything I do. You’re probably the same way; you relate common day actions to our school of Magic multiple times daily. The power is knowing that you have this advantage, being confident in it, however continuing to challenge yourself as not to become gluttonous and entitled. The repetition I mentioned earlier is what carves this habit. I see every Magic player as a piece of driftwood, while Magic is the knife that can shape us into a fine piece of successfully usable bark.

“Success is the next best thing to happiness, and if you can’t be happy as a success, it’s very unlikely that you would find a deeper, truer happiness in failure.” – Michael Korda

In truth, I’m not the person who was successful at Magic. I barely got by, definitely didn’t stack any cash. I was grinding tournaments, chasing juvenile dreams to all corners of my continent, becoming bitter at the lack of results I achieved compared to the effort I put in. I slept on floors, traveled by plane, train, cab, bus, ferry, sub, car, truck, van, and man it wore me out. When I was in Japan for PT Kobe, my account was overdrawn $2,800 because I had a fun night with Steve Sadin in Roppongi and the yakuza completely overcharged us for services rendered. I had to spend another week in Japan, with no money, bumming from floor to floor because my card had a foreign country limit and communicating with people in my country was an issue. I spent 29 hours in transit to Grand Prix Montreal in the most miserable traveling experience of my life. I’ve had a car totaled in a rainy car accident on the way to GP Kansas City, then was arrested and detained for 36 hours on the drive back! I’ve even had my deck stolen!

“Play the game for more than you can afford to lose… only then will you learn the game.” – Winston Churchill


I was young, but now that I own a business, I feel like I went through a college-like experience while playing Magic; however instead of studying the mundane business and psychology classes, I was molding my brain to make decisions efficiently, which in the long run will be much more profitable than any standardized education system I’ve seen.

“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” – Colin Powell

I feel like an average Jo, who was blessed to have Magic enter my life by random happenstance. Do you feel the same way, after finding success and happiness in Magic? Are you still grinding to find that state of awe? It only takes a few words sometimes to change your perspective. Sometimes it takes an article filled with motivational quotes. Either way, I hope your eyes have been opened to the blessings Magic has implanted you with.

“Difficulties should act as a tonic. They should spur us to greater exertion.” – B. C. Forbes

Whatever the outcome with the reform Wizards is having, they can’t take away the intangible lessons that the game has taught us. I think a dose of appreciation for what Wizards has given us is more in line than emails depicting hate from the changes they’ve made. It’s similar to the “kill them with kindness” technique. As a multi-billion dollar business, I would be more receptive to receiving a frosty glazed donut than a bag of flaming poo in my mailbox. The donut would probably taste infinitely better after smelling all the emails they’ve gotten so far too.

“The best way out of difficulty is through it.” – Will Rogers

Thanks for reading,


Top 5 Picks

1) Bruises – Chairlift

2) Kids – MGMT

3) Better – Regina Spektor

4) Carolina – Benjamin Gibbard

5) Saint Simon – The Shins


*Ironic, huh? They’re always making fun of how fat we are in the US, but guess what, Wizards is cutting you guys off because you aren’t lean meat spending lots of money on their product. Boo-ya! But seriously, that sucks a lot, and I do feel bad for you despite doing my best to rep my country while laughing at yours.