Happy Khans and Shana Tovah, friends! Everything I’ve been hearing about Khans has been spectacular. The drafts I’ve played in have been nuanced and generally fun. I’m excited to even *gasp* …try my hand at Standard.

The biggest problem I have with Khans is that I’ve hardly touched the cards. I don’t have time to do much of anything until the holidays end, and even then, I’m still juggling work, a social life, career aspirations, and performing, all in addition to making time for Magic. Now, the goal of this post isn’t to whine or brag about being busy, it’s to quickly discuss something I don’t often hear players talk about: balance.

Balancing Act

There are only so many hours in a day and days in a week. There is only so much energy and focus a person can spend in these finite stretches of time. There are only so many activities and responsibilities that a person can commit to at once. If one wishes to excel at a particular endeavor, then it requires a greater amount of time, energy, and/or focus; accordingly, something else must be attended to less (sleep is a popular choice) or given up altogether (sleep is a very poor choice). In other words, life is full of finite resources and involves balancing them among competing interests.

Magic is one such competing interest, and one that I imagine almost all of my readers hold in high esteem. The trick to being a Magician is finding the right balance between Magic and non-Magic activities; the trick is time management.


Time management is rarely a topic of conversation among my dedicated Magic-playing friends, since it seems their decision has already been made: Magic is their primary (if not only) hobby/obsession. If they have free time, it’s usually devoted to Magic and improving at it. For years, I was in the same boat: I’d spend at least thirty of hours each week (if not many, many more) thinking about, reading about, discussing, and, of course, playing Magic.

Now, that’s no longer true. I’m not much worse for wear, but I know that I’m not getting better at Magic. This loss of momentum is painful. I’ve invested so much time and energy in improving the quality of my play and now I’m letting those skills atrophy. Why should I go to a GP or PTQ if I don’t believe that I’ll be in shape for it? And if I’m not going to be playing tournament-quality Magic, why bother improving at all? Why did I even bother in in the first place?

Hail of Arrows

The problem with time is that there is never enough to do everything. There will always be something deficient, something that would be so much better if only you had more time.

The trick to time management is identifying what matters most, and then, how much time and effort it will take to achieve that.

In my case, I recognize that I don’t want to be professional Magic player (at least, not now). I’d love to attend the Pro Tour, but I’m not willing to prioritize playing Magic above my job, my career, and my present social life (they’re more important to me than being great at Magic). I’d love to attend more PTQs and SCG Opens, but it’s more important to me to perform, relax, and be sociable on weekends than to attend (most of the time, and I’ll gladly spend weekends at GPs or local events). So, it turns out, I’m not failing in my primary dream of being a Magic Pro, since that’s not my primary dream at all.

I also recognize that I want to be good enough to play on the Pro Tour. Achieving this goal will require more time and energy than I’m presently investing. I can spare a lot time and energy from my other primary hobby, improv, but that’s a hard trade to make. That’s a decision I realize I’ve already made, I just need to enact by spending less time and energy on honing my performing skills on more on upping my Magic game. Let’s see what comes of it in the next few months.

Shared Triumph

I’m curious what you think. Where do your priorities lie, once you’ve satisfied your basic human needs? Is Magic one of your primary motivators? Is it a passing hobby? Somewhere in between? Something you’d like to invest me or less of your effort into? Do you feel that you’ve found the right balance for right now?

Please share your reactions and situations below—I’m more than happy to continue the discussion. And, as always, 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 improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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