“Follow the fun” is an excellent and common phrase in the improv world. The best improv scenes are simple: something fun, interesting, and/or out-of-the-ordinary invariably happens. Good improvisers identify this unusual thing and play with it, exploring it until the next fun thing is discovered. That’s it. That’s one of the biggest open secrets of improv.

Improvisers can often be distracted from “the fun” by a desire to create plot, excitement about a really cool idea about how the scene can go, or the drive to get the audience to laugh. These instincts often lead scenes astray. Plots can overcomplicate scenes and require increasingly taxing work just to maintain continuity and coherence; one improviser having a cool idea that they need to do leads to that improviser directing the scene, removing spontaneity and teamwork; working to make the audience laugh tends to break the illusion of the fourth wall, shattering the scene’s reality and believability. Working too hard and thinking too much make improv more difficult and less fun.


How is this applicable to Magic? What’s analagous to “follow the fun” or “don’t overcomplicate/control/destroy the scene?”

Magic is fundamentally a recreational activity (yes, even those for whom playing Magic is a full time job). We play it, draft it, collect it, brew it, trade it, bop it, and spin it because we derive satisfaction from it. The method of satisfaction varies from person to person (and psychographic profile to psychographic profile), but the need for satisfaction is constant. In other words, what’s fun varies from person to person, but everyone plays Magic because they want to have fun.

On the flipside, too often I see friends lose sight of what’s satisfying and get burnt out. They play, don’t have fun, and are frustrated. They remember a time when Magic was enjoyable, so they try again, fail again, and become more frustrated. They repeat this cycle until they angrily quit, take a break, or take their frustration out on someone else (who never deserves it). None of these are healthy solutions. In order for them to release their frustration (and do so before it reaches the boiling point), they need to know why they stopping having fun.

Mana Screw

Now, I can enumerate plenty of reasons why folks stop having fun. One of the most common is people blaming mana screw or flood for losing, when really, they’re making poor mulligan, deckbuilding, or play choices… or they’re misunderstanding variance (the far-too-common, “ten lands and ten spells?! I’m so unlucky!” complaint). In all of these cases, players need to stop blaming factors outside of their control and start focusing on what they have control over.

However, there’s another reason that we become frustrated—sometimes, what’s fun changes. In improv, we always find something new to follow; we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. In life, this is also true; we can’t do the same exact thing, for the same exact reason, ad infinitum, and remain satisfied. We crave novelty. Our needs change over time. We experience this every time the internet explodes with excitement over spoilers.

I’ve seen this in myself: sometimes, I’m frustrated because I want to play more competitively (in these times, I need to play less Magic with my more casual friends and more Magic with TDL friends). Other times, I’m frustrated because I’m not enjoying the social interactions around Magic (those times, I need to focus more on who I play with rather than what environment I play in). I have many competing needs: I want to be competitive, I want to kid around while slinging spells, I want to cultivate community, and I want to brew. Moreover, the primacy of these needs is constantly shifting.

When I recognize which is most important, I’m successfully following the fun (and having it, too!). When I fail to do so, I fail to have fun.

Find your fun, follow it, and know that eventually, what’s fun will change. Keep that up, and you’re set for life.

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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