I attended my fourth PAX East this past weekend and it was certainly a unique experience; it’s my first PAX East since I began designing games as a job (a great life choice). I saw friends, played new games, slung spells, met other designers (including folks from Wizards!), and enjoyed myself, as usual. Well… the experience was a bit unusual, due to some outside factors.


Amtrak, which used to transport me to and from college, demonstrated the reliability I was once accustomed to when our train was rescheduled to depart Penn Station an hour late. This was serendipitous—I realized that I’d left my PAX passes behind while at Penn—this gave me enough time to run home and retrieve them. Then, the train was delayed by another hour.

After departing for Boston, all three of the train’s engines broke down (each for a different reason, apparently), the rails froze (though the previous train, which was traveling in colder weather, experienced no such problems), and the cable supplying power to the rails shattered as we passed by (something which we stopped in the middle of nowhere to prevent, only to then cause when we began moving again). When we finally limped into Boston South Station, we were almost five hours behind schedule and had trapped three trains behind us in a mechanical conga line of pity.

I’d planned on attending the 3:00 Magic panel where they previewed Dragons of Tarkir, Modern Masters 2, and Magic Origins (which many people still don’t realize will indeed be Standard-legal). Instead, my tired entourage arrived at the convention center just after 8pm. We enjoyed what panels we could make and played Werewolf and One Night Ultimate Werewolf until the tabletop area closed.

Spread the Sickness

On Saturday, I woke up early, eager to explore the entire convention and participate in the PAX East Challenge—a sealed event that gave out foil sets for M15 and Modern Masters. I was passed a pretty stellar pool with Crux of Fate, Monastery Mentor, Abzan AscendancyUtter End, Murderous Cut, and plenty of good filler.

In round 1, I played against an ill opponent who smashed my mana flood with four color, minimal fixing, bad two-drops.dek as he coughed violently (note: if you’re sick, for the love of Batman, don’t go to a convention [or wear a face mask and gloves]; this is how the PAX Swine Flu outbreak happened several years ago). It was unpleasant, but then again, bad beats always are.

In round 2, I had an interesting match against the gentleman who’d registered my pool, played sub-optimally, and lost. I wished him luck, since if he made the cut to top 8, he’d be given a Sunday Pass to PAX (which he didn’t have). Then, I went out for lunch.

I was sluggish returning to the convention center and missed a panel on board game design I was excited to attend (though my girlfriend graciously attended and took copious notes—definitely a keeper). I signed up for a wacky/chaos draft, eager to have some fun, and the packs I received were, in order, Fate Reforged, Khans, Khans. That’s right, I’d just spent $30 to do a $15 draft. Of the twenty four packs at the table, I think 5 weren’t in Standard (2x Return to Ravnica, 1x Dark Ascension, 1x Mirrodin Besieged faction pack, 1x Modern Masters) and the vast majority were Khans block packs. It was the most disappointing, boring chaos draft I’ve ever participated in, and the last one I’ll do with TJ.

As night fell, I played more One Night Werewolf while waiting for a sweet panel on bad game design. I was exhausted (I couldn’t even keep track of what I’d done as the Troublemaker), but chalked it up to not having enough coffee. The lady and I retired early and passed out.

I woke up at 5am, hallucinating.

Frightful DelusionTurns out, at some point between stress, lack of sleep, and being surrounded by other people, I’d succumbed to the flu. Not the flu that’s just an annoying cold, but the flu that makes dreams keep going when you wake up. For seven hours, I alternated between sleeping fitfully and dreaming while awake. We checked out of our hotel late, ate lunch, and ambled to our last, truncated day at PAX.

I took Sunday very slowly, kept my hands clean, and spent just enough time at PAX to say hello and goodbye to the friends I’d missed. The lady and I boarded the train (which was mostly on time), I popped Advil and tea like candy (and, er, water?), and we called it a trip.

Voyage's End

It wasn’t a perfect PAX. Frankly, it was probably my worst. However, it was still plenty of fun. While I still don’t have a voice and my throat feels like extra coarse sandpaper, I’m glad that I went.

Hell, it’s better that I get sick now and feel better this week, rather than be sick this coming weekend when I’m at GP Cleveland (hype!). So, for getting sick faster, I’m thankful. You’ve got to find things to be thankful for, otherwise you won’t be thankful for anything.

…and that’s a lesson, I guess.

See you at PAX East 2016!

—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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