This past weekend was the RPTQ. Soon, winning decklists will flood the internet and the new metagame will crystallize. Modern is about to take on added prominence as SCG moves to further replace its Legacy events with Modern events. In other words, it’s a great time to be playing Modern, and I’ve been sharing in the bounty.

I’ve been jamming Modern on Magic Online since July—I bought Grixis Control (my first Constructed deck on MODO, Standard Pauper aside) just to test for the RPTQ. This is the article where I share everything leading up to my tournament and tell you how it all went down, how my old school Jaceless Grixis stands up to the new metagame. That’s what I’d be telling you about, except for one small thing—I didn’t go to the RPTQ. Last week was the most hectic week yet of graduate school (and as I understand our structure, the hardest of the entire year), and while I’ve produced two games and a paper I’m very proud of, I lapsed back into illness and still had a midterm and a presentation to prepare for. So, I stayed home.

Student of Elements

Not very much is written about why not to go to a tournament. Articles about competitive Magic tend to be geared towards the Weekend Warriors, the Grinders, and those who would become them (or at least those who are trying to improve their game). For those who care about tournament success, Magic is a grand game, impossible to master, and success in it requires great time, effort, preparation, and fortune (not to mention money). The general, usually unstated expectation is that we’re willing to make the investments and sacrifices required to excel at Magic.

For three years, I’ve acceded to this command (since 2012, when my Spikeness overtook my inner Timmy ). I’ve defined much (but certainly not all) of my success by how much I’ve improved. This past weekend, I went against the grain and sacrificed Magic to my weekend, rather than vice versa. I hemmed and hawed, I felt guilty, but at the end of the day, I feel like I made the right choice.


I wish I could say something inspiring like, “Magic is less important than (blank)” or cliche like, “11 Reasons you should Skip that Event,” but the real question is simple: “is the thing you’d sacrifice to play Magic more important to you than Magic? If so, don’t play Magic now.” I’ve rarely asked myself this question, since Magic was almost always competing with an empty weekend, a job I disliked, a distasteful task or unemployment. Magic was a happy escape at the lowest points of my life. It was a group of friends I was happier being around. It was a store which was home. It was competition and intellectual stimulation amidst boredom and laziness. It was a world my depression often couldn’t pierce. Choosing Magic over anything else was easy.

Things are different now. My store hasn’t been home for some time. My friends are scattered through the city. My depression is in a pretty good place (note: you never lose your feelings, that’s like losing yourself, you just learn to deal with and understand them). I’m not bored and I can’t afford being lazy these days. I’m in a master’s program which I love, working towards my life’s passion (being a game designer), and I’m in a happy and healthy relationship with someone I love. In short, Magic’s siren call falls on deafer ears. I love the game dearly, but it has much, much more to compete with and I have much less need of an escape. While I yearn for Magic’s competition, excitement, and socialization, the game has transformed from a necessity into a luxury.


So, where does this leave us? Am I done writing? Am I hanging up my playmats, cracking the rest of my packs, and selling off my cube? FUCK NO!! I live, breathe, and sleep Magic. I incessantly talk about it to my classmates and anyone else who’ll listen (or whose attention I can grab). Magic is in my dreams, my history, and my creativity. I couldn’t be rid of it if I tried. Sure, I may not have the time or energy to travel to every local Grand Prix, but I wasn’t doing every GP before, anyway. I’m still going to work to cash every GP I attend, be the first person to win three TDL championships, and qualify for the Pro Tour. I just won’t need Magic success, since I’ve found happiness and success elsewhere. Success in Magic will merely be an added joy, and that’s exactly how I like it right now.

Thank you for letting me share that with you. As far as I can recall, I’ve never cursed on this website before and don’t anticipate doing so again. But it was worth it, and shit, talking about this felt great. Stay frosty, my friends, and 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, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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