The Return of Ask Joe Black

I heard that Kai Budde recently stayed at your place the week before Worlds to test with you and Team Togit. How was it, testing with the best player in the world?

Dear Joe Black,

Welcome back, it’s been a while. I’ve always been a fan of your column and was sad to see it go. I’ve been reading Ken Krouner column in your absence, but he pales in comparison to you as both a writer and a man. Anyway, I heard that Kai Budde recently stayed at your place the week before Worlds to test with you and Team Togit. How was it testing with the best player in the world?


Joan from Richmond, VA

Dear Joan,

Thanks for all your kind words, I’m glad to be back. It’s been a while since I’ve done this column, so I hope I’m not too rusty. To answer your question, yes it is true Kai did spend a couple of weeks in New Jersey prior to the World Championships in order to test with my team. Now Kai is without a doubt the most successful player in the game’s history, and although Nassif is probably the best player in the World at the moment, I was obviously very excited about testing with someone of Kai’s caliber. However, let me clear something up for all of you young players out there who have never actually met or played against Kai before. There’s a big difference between Kai Budde the gamer, and Kai Budde the person.

When Kai is in a tournament, he’s very focused and determined. No one on the planet tests more than he does and his results reflect that. He will rarely make a mistake and is someone you should certainly fear when you’re paired against him. When Kai is not in a tournament, he’s just some dude. Now don’t get me wrong, Kai is a smart man, and his intelligence doesn’t just extend to the realm of card gaming, but like most Magic players, he still suffers from a small case of social retardation. In short, he’s quite the buffoon when he’s forced to interact with non-gamers. Now, he’s not as bad as most gamers I know, but he still creates some very awkward situations for himself and those around him, example. . .

One morning Kai and I went out for breakfast. Kai mentions that he’d like to stop at a supermarket because he wants to pick up some fruit. He’d been living with Gabe Walls the week prior, so obviously he’s been eating pretty badly lately and would like to get some vitamins in his system. We eat breakfast then stop by a local Stop & Shop so Kai can grab some produce. Kai goes straight for the Kiwis and starts feeling them to see if they’re ripe.

I’m just standing around waiting for him and then I hear someone call out my name. I look around and see Natalie, my ex-girlfriend’s sister, walk my way. I was wearing my Ukrainian Baseball t-shirt, so in addition to being a 6+ foot tall black man, I was easy to spot. We exchange pleasantries and catch up with one another when suddenly Kai turns around with a Kiwi in each hand and asks,”Are these firm enough?” I just stand there with a confused look on my face staring at him, then I turn to look at Natalie and see she is just as confused. The three of us just stand silently, looking back forth at one another for what must’ve been five seconds before I finally say,”How would I know?”

I introduce the two and they exchange hellos. Natalie and I continue with our conversation and Kai continues with his fruit selection. Natalie then asks me if I plan on going upstate for Labor Day (going to upstate NY for Labor Day and getting absurdly drunk is a Ukrainian tradition). I tell her that I probably won’t be able to go up this year, at which point Kai decides now is a good time to interrupt the conversation once again and says,”Yeah, we’re actually going to San Francisco that weekend.” Again, I just give him this weird look and Natalie just says,”Wow, good for you. Okay, well I’ll talk to you later.” I say good bye, and as she walks away I finally realize,”She thinks I’m gay, doesn’t she?”

Kai had no idea why I was so upset on the car ride home, and to this day, if you ask him,”Hey Kai, are the Kiwi’s firm enough?” he’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.

Yours Truly,

Osyp”Joe Black” Lebedowicz

Dear Osyp,

I’m a huge fan and glad to see your triumphant return to the daily column game. I was just wondering what your feelings were on the decline of American Magic? There was a post about it on the forums the other day and it seems like most people are in agreement that American Magic players just don’t have the same drive or determination that the Europeans and the Japanese do. I don’t actually play Magic, but I follow the game a lot because my son plays and is one of the best players in the World. Again, I’m glad to see you back and hope to hear from you soon.


Lillian from Paris

Dear Lillian,

Thank you so much for your kind words, I’ll try and do my best to make this a daily routine. If you’ve seen the coverage for the World Championships, you’ll see that even a fifteen-year-old European with a jerry curl can beat up on the best America has to offer. Some people would blame the decline on the rise of Poker or Marvel. Some might say that Americans aren’t really getting worse, it’s just that the rest of the World is catching up and leveling the playing field. Some even say that there’s greater cooperation among non-Americans and that the infighting and secrecy of American Magic prevents us from being as inventive and creative as the Europeans and the Japanese.

Well, to answer your question, all of the above is true, but it’s much worse than just that. Americans also have much more unhealthy diets than other countries, so consequently our energy levels are lower and we don’t have it in us to test as much as say the Europeans or the Japanese. We are also much dumber than they are – I mean they speak like infinite languages and we have Americans that haven’t even mastered English yet (i.e. Gerard Fabiano and Antonio De Rosa). Americans spend too much time watching television, which takes away from time we could testing. I know that I for one could’ve tested the U/R Obliterate deck more, but I was too busy watching two hours of Dawson’s Creek every day from 10-12. [On TBS, righ… nevermind. – Knut]

Between Room Raiders, Trading Spouses, The King of Queens, The Amazing Race and the Gilmore Girls, I don’t even know how I found time to go to Worlds, let alone test for it. The fact is that other than their fashion sense, Europeans and the Japanese have an edge on us in almost every category, so it’s easy to see why they’re surpassing us. Let us take a look at the top five players from America, Europe and Japan to fully illustrate the widening gap.


1) Paul Reitzl

2) Eugene Harvey

3) Tim Aten

5 4) Gadiel Szleifer

5) Eric Froehlich


1) Gabriel Nassif

2) Kai Budde

3) Kamiel Cornelissen

4) Jelger Wiegersman

5) Bram Snapandwiches


1) Masashi Oiso

2) Jin Okamoto

3) Itaru Ishida

4) Osama Fujita

5) Masashi Kuroda

Do you see the problem here? The number one players in both Europe and Japan have accomplished something incredible. The greatest accomplishment in Magic Paul Reitzl can claim is that he used to be called”Little Darwin,” but thankfully now looks nothing like his namesake.

So in conclusion, don’t feel too bad American’s – even though we stink now and are only getting worse, there’s always Poker and reality television.


Osyp”Joe Black” Lebedowicz

If you have a question you would like to”Ask Joe Black” send it to [email protected].