On Saturday, we had our first peek at Theros. I’m more excited about Theros than I have been about any other Magic set. I love Greek mythology and I loved the flavor, design, and Limited environment of Innistrad, so combine ’em and you have one excited Zach. Magic 2014 has just released, I’ve only played it twice (one sealed and one draft, so there’s no way the format’s gone stale for me), and yet my head is already in September.

When Dragon’s Maze was released, I similarly only had eyes for Modern Masters. Consequently, I only had a month of playing DGM. During that month, I was focused on the imminent release of MM and GP Vegas. Then, MM was released and stole my focus entirely. Now I’m sad that I didn’t get to explore all the minutiae of full Return to Ravnica block and that whenever I do play it, my thoughts still inevitably turn to MM. I’ve allowed the future to impede my enjoyment of the present. It’s not the first time it’s happened, I’m certainly not alone in the experience, and it brings to mind a story I’d like to share.

memory jar

I’m an improviser. I love to perform. I’m extremely lucky to be on an excellent team with astoundingly talented friends who challenge me every time we meet to perform at their level. Our team might be the most prolific indie musical improv team in New York City (and as NYC is the capitol of musical improv, the world). To define the term, an indie team is one created by the members of the team and is unassociated with an improv theater or school. This contrasts with a house team, one which was created at an improv theater, usually by the creative director.

Not too long ago, before my current indie team was a glimmer in our eyes, I was on a house team at the Magnet (one of the big three improv theaters in Manhattan, along with the PIT and UCB). Improv was my life and Magic a small component. My house team was cut, some of my teammates and friends made new teams, and I and others did not. I struggled. I was frustrated with the quality of my work and was eager to demonstrate my worth in the next round of auditions. They came, I felt that my work was inadequate, and I once watched from the sidelines as my friends performed on the main stage. Over the following months, I redoubled my efforts to improve. When the third round of auditions came, I was proud of the quality of my work. When I wasn’t cast, I was outraged. I must have been wrong to be proud of myself, I thought, since it clearly didn’t get me back on a team. I started wondering how I could mold myself and my work to appeal to those scrutinizing it.

As the prospect of another nine months of training, waiting, and disappointment sank in, I took stock of myself. Each exercise, scene, and show should be a journey through imagination with a glass of whimsy. I was so intent on what I’d get out of them that imagination, playfulness, and fun were left behind. The future had eclipsed the importance of now, and as Annie will tell you, the tricky thing about the future is that it’s never now.

These days, I improvise two to four days a week. Before, I’d see several shows and hang out in improv bars with improv friends chatting about improv things every day. I’ve given up many things that once brought me great joy. However, I’m much happier now that each scene is important and I’m not fretting about where they’ll take me. My work’s a lot better, too (funny that, considering improv is all about existing in the immediate present).

memory's journey

So let’s avoid that with Magic. Magic 2014 looks like a solid Limited format and I look forward to playing it, rather than spending the entire summer waiting for Theros. I’ll probably enjoy Theros more if it’s a fresh new format after M14, rather than the culmination of a summer’s worth of waiting.

In the grander scheme of things, improv taught me to know what I value from Magic. I want to have fun! I want to keep making friends, having new experiences, and enjoying writing, traveling, and livestreaming. When I get burnt out due to losses, tournaments, or my mood, I know that I can and should take a breather. I see too many people become increasingly implacable with each loss or disappointment, lose sight of why they play the game, and end up abjectly miserable until rage-quitting Magic entirely. I’ve given up a lot of my improv life that I needn’t have had to and I won’t repeat that with Magic.

Thanks for joining me for a something a bit more serious this week. I invite you all to share your stories—why do you play? How do you cope with not getting what you want or falling short of your goals? How do you get back on the horse again?

As ever, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash


Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food bordering on the unhealthy.


Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.