I’m back, friends! I had a lovely week off and I’m delighted to both be back home and here (electronically) with you. There’s a lot of ground to cover (and there’s a big Magic payoff at the end), so here’s the story of the vacation in brief!

Crippling BlightFestival

My girlfriend, Stephanie, and I flew to Seattle for her aunt’s wedding at a Jewish summer camp. There was boating, sportsball, songs over campfires, relay races, swing dancing, and barefoot wedding kickball. The wedding was lovely and I got to meet the lady’s extended family (where I learned that if you make dinosaur noises with a[n awesome] child when surrounded by your girlfriend’s family, folks get ideas about grandchildren. Shocking!).

Our team won the aforementioned barefoot wedding kickball game, but I managed to miss an easy pitch, kick the ground, and mangle my foot. I was lucky—I almost broke the foot and four toes, but I got off with some of the worst bruising my x-ray technician had ever seen (but no broken bones). Accordingly, I spent the entirety of the trip on crutches. I don’t recommend doing this (unless you’re injured, in which case, absolutely use your crutches).

Blizzard or something

We got a ride to Portland, rented a car, and drove to Crater Lake, Oregon. Along the way, we stopped at a Dairy Queen.

This is my first Blizzard. Growing up in New York City, I didn’t have Dairy Queens. Apparently, they’re everywhere else in the US.

…Blizzards ain’t bad.

Crater Lake

Behold the majestic beauty of Crater Lake! It’s a caldera, which is a vocabulary word I knew from Tempest’s Caldera Lake (it’s pretty badass—a volcano exploded [not erupted, exploded] and this lake is its corpse). Funny how exceptional Magic is for improving one’s vocabulary.

We were supposed to go hiking, except I couldn’t walk, so we went for a nice, leisurely drive around it (during which we got a much better look at the appropriately named Wizard Island).

Ye Olde Passive Aggressiveness

In Oregon, the signs are either very polite or very passive-aggressive. You decide.

After Oregon, we returned to Seattle for PAX Prime! This was my first Prime (I’ve been to three PAX Easts and somewhere near a dozen conventions, so I’m no stranger to the rodeo) and Stephanie’s first convention. I gave her the same advice I’d give any convention-goer:

1. A convention is your experience. Make it yours. Find the things that you want to do and do them. Explore and discover activities on your own. Don’t be afraid to break away from your group, because the smaller your group is, the more each individual gets to follow their own desires.

2. Bring food. You’ll want to stay at the con all day long, and leaving to find food or waiting in a long line for (usually fried) food is rarely worth it. Pick one meal (likely breakfast or dinner, or lunch if you know you’ll need a breather) and eat that outside of the convention. For all others, bring and eat granola, dried fruit, or some other semi-healthy snack. And, of course, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

3. The people rock! A convention will have a higher than normally percentage of nerdy, introverted, and/or socially awkward human beings. These are people we can likely relate to and have several things in common with. It’s worth it to get to know ’em. (It’s also worth anticipating that introverts may be easily socially overwhelmed, nerds may not share your particular passions, and socially awkward folks may be… well, awkward. Not every conversation is guaranteed to be easy or awesome.)

4. Enforcers and the Cookie Brigade rock. These volunteers are seriously awesome. Never be afraid to ask for help or directions from an enforcer, and always find cookies.

5. Don’t be afraid to miss things. There are too many amazing events at a convention to participate in any more than a small fraction. There are awesome panels that’ll be concurrent, or tournaments that you’ll miss because you couldn’t find them or get in line in time. Sometimes, you’ll just need to take a breather for sanity, sleep, or stomach’s sake, and those are needs worth attending to.


After a two-hour long scavenger hunt (on crutches!), I snagged an invitation to the Magic party (I cannot properly attest to how helpful Stephanie was in solving all the puzzles or how helpful everyone at PAX was at helping this injured writer be mobile).

Once at the party, I soon met this gentlemen: Shawn Main, finalist of the Great Designer Search 2 and current designer of Magic: the Gathering. Shawn was surprised that someone recognized him. To me (an avowed design nerd and someone who closely followed GDS2), this was silly. The man designed extort and batallion, for crying out loud!

It was a pleasure to talk to Mr. Main about working in game design (which I now do! …but that’s a story for another article), charm design (which is hard), and GDS. Afterward, he pulled out and signed a Cogwork Librarian for me (which I really should jam into a booster pack) and we parted ways.

Then, I met this gentleman…


The big man himself—Mark Rosewater. He’s the number one reason I wanted to attend PAX Prime. The man’s kind of a hero to me (again, I’m a big design nerd) and it was a pleasure to meet the man behind the Magic.

It’s frankly absurd how giddy I was—I grew up in New York City, I’ve walked past and ignored plenty of big-name celebrities—but put me in front of Rosewater and I’m all shy and starstruck. It was an awkward and great new experience.

Return to Battle

I had an amazing vacation and I’m glad to be back. Khans of Tarkir looks fan-@#$&ing-tastic and I can’t wait to draft it in a week and a half. Until then, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash

twitch.tv/ZennithGP — Join the livestream!

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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