Born of the Gods released this weekend and, like any good Limited-obsessed player, I played. I ended up doing rather poorly; in my sealed event, I opened a mediocre pool and spent more time building other folks’ decks than my own, leading me to playing UG card draw in round one when GW heroic was my best option. I ran particularly poorly, keeping several three-land hands which over ten to 12 draw steps never saw a fourth. Luck’s not a great thing to blame (I believe that the best players are great because they’re able to win despite long odds), but Magic is a game of variance and sometimes you play a game without mana to cast your spells or spells to cast with your limitless supply of mana. In the end, I went 2-2, a disappointing performance for someone accustomed to 3-0-1 splits.

I followed it up by drafting UG good stuff, swiftly losing in round one to former Hipster Li Xu’s RG beats and my not having a fourth land or Island (another game where my only decision was mulliganing). I finished the draft 1-2, another poor performance and an inauspicious way to kick off the new Limited format. I, however, had a great time, and that had nothing to do with the fun I wasn’t having not playing the Magic cards perennially stuck in my hand or the stress of failing to meet my own expectations.

Goblin Bowling Team

My favorite part of Magic is that it’s a social game. Magic brings people together. It’s a conversation topic, a way to meet lots of new people, and a way to make folks comfortable who might otherwise be shy or never associate with one another. In short, Magic can be great at creating and enabling friendships. Sure, I love Magic’s intellectual challenge and the opportunity to match wits and strategy with the best—but at the end of the day, I keep playing, talking about, and traveling for the people.

Tandem Lookout

Going to release was entirely worth it despite my failures and lack of fun because my best friend from high school, Sam, was in attendance. Sam and I met in our first class at Hunter College High School and by the end of the first week we were fast friends. We played Magic and Smash Bros., chatted about Dragonball Z and utopia, and spent far too much money at Famiglia’s (affectionately known as “Famig’s” by much of our generation).

I’d lend Sam and our friends my decks but greedily keep my monoblue control deck to myself. That deck was horrible—it had every counterspell I owned and no way to win the game other than Prodigal Sorcerer, Zuran Spellcaster, and Rootwater Hunter. Nine games out of ten, I’d draw far too few lands and, having no way to stabilize, would swiftly lose. But one game out of ten, my opponent would stumble and I’d establish the Forbid lock, my opponent at one life, and my Prodigal Sorcerer refusing to do that last point of damage. Reflecting back on that, I’m surprised that I still had any friends by the time we quit Magic during Prophecy.

These days, Sam plays Magic once or twice a year. Last time he played at a big event, it was Gatecrash prerelease, an event so miserable that we left after the second round. Before that, it was Return to Ravnica, where we were paired against each other round one and his excellent Selesnya deck fizzled, doing nothing as my four-color Golgari deck attacked with Hypersonic Dragon and Carnival Hellsteed. Before that, it was Avacyn Restored prerelease (his first) where he had an amazing experience with an outstanding RW deck (with Entreat the Angels, which he always miracled precisely when he needed it and always with an audience). It was this occasion, so special and impossible to replicate, that set the tone for all subsequent prereleases to fail to measure up to. Given the poor follow-ups of Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, combined with his dislike for Theros, I was shocked when he accepted my invitation to release together.

Shared Fate

Unlike my pool, Sam’s was nuts, with a Kiora, the Crashing Wave that he didn’t play because his UB deck was so good (and had zero fixing and lots of double-mana costs). His deck was very complicated, relying on ground blockers and removal to enable his flying army (including a trio of Sphinx’s Disciples who seemed to just end games, particularly when combined with his Bident of Thassa), but he soldiered through the decision trees game after game, getting better every time. I had the privilege of playing all four rounds next to him and it was like being in high school again. Hell, I could hardly pay attention to my own matches because it was enthralling to watch him play and enjoy himself again. When it all ended, records didn’t matter, because I (or hopefully, we) got to relive the first weeks of our friendship. We had fun, we laughed, we made mistakes, and we played. What’s better than that?

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Magic Online username: Zennith

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 that borders on being unhealthy.

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