Magic is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a return to Dominaria, Un-sets, a brand new Masters product, and an upcoming revamping of the entire design process. It’s an exciting time to play the game. Magic is getting its footing back after a relatively rough two years and about to embark on a whole slew on wonderful new experiments—and that’s after giving us PIRATES AND DINOSAURS next month. There’s an amazing list of achievements if you trace Magic back to its humble beginnings as an explosively popular game meant to be played between other games.

This week, I too have an anniversary. I’m turning 31, marking 23 years of playing the game (I started in ’94, so my 25 year anniversary of Magic is a year late). Both Magic and I have come a long way since August ’94, when I learned the game. When I look back on all those years, Magic is frequently a major player in some aspect of my life.


I remember being friendless on an island, and Magic giving me both a new friend and a lifelong passion.


I remember playing the Magic computer game on the world of Shandalar. I finally learned how trample worked and got my first foray into hacking, when I learned how to mine the game for cards from Arabian Nights and Legends that didn’t make it into the game.


I remember the first week at a new school, where I made a new friend group around video games and Magic. I had a bunch of monocolor decks and zealously guarded my monoblue control deck with all the counterspells, but lent out all the rest. My preferred deck had perhaps a 10% win rate, but those games it won were absolutely miserable for my opponents.


I remember my first draft, when none of the upperclassmen explained the rules of Limited to me. I was so upset that they wouldn’t let me keep the cards I opened, I ran away, never to draft again.


I remember buying a Lorwyn tournament pack in Osaka. I opened a Liliana Vess. I didn’t know what the Mending was and couldn’t fathom how godlike planeswalkers could be contained on a card. It just didn’t make any sense.


I remember participating in a triple Fifth Dawn draft at college. I drafted white weenie and went 3-2. I changed my mind about draft and bought a Shadowmoor booster box to draft with my friends back in NYC. No one wanted to, so I cracked it.


I remember getting back into Magic in 2010. My first ever sanctioned draft was triple Scars of Mirrodin. I split the finals with a friend I still have to this day, Rob Kofsky. From then on, I got serious about Magic.


I remember being heartbroken, unemployed, and purposeless, and Magic giving me a new community and circle of friends. Magic was one of the primary forces getting me through the worst year of my life.


I remember going to my first GP and rushing home early on Sunday to beat Hurricane Sandy to New York. I didn’t do well in Philadelphia, but I was hungry for more competitive Magic (and bought the Fulminator Mages I needed for my first Modern deck, Living End).


I remember getting a job teaching Magic at my LGS and getting an offer to write for a small, Brooklyn-based website called Hipsters of the Coast. I was shocked that anyone thought I had anything interesting to say. I ran a Magic Online Standard Pauper tournament which brought together 152 people across 15 countries, all who wanted to win my Revised Taiga. After a three-month-long tournament, Hugh Kramer won it back from me (after I’d won it from him in a cube tournament in 2011).


I remember my first day two at Richmond. That was also the week I resolved to be a game designer. Within a few months, I was miraculously working in the business as a QA tester. Three months later, I got promoted to game designer, to which in no small part I owe Magic for teaching me creativity and the value of consistent and clear rules templating.


I remember my first GP cash in Cleveland in 2015. That was the year I began my Masters in Game Design at NYU.


I remember my first shot at a GP top 8 at GP Montreal, where I came in 20th (my only loss on day two was to Rich Hoaen, one of the greatest Limited players in the world). It felt amazing and left me hungry for more. Sadly, real life turmoil and grad school made it difficult to attend many events that year.


It’s 2017. I’m a master of the fine art of game design, I’m working three different jobs, and have a portfolio of work I’m deeply proud of. I just had the biggest roller coaster year of my life, with some of the highest highs and lowest lows.

I finally have the time and means to go to tournaments again and have every intention of making good on that. I am going to compete at the Pro Tour, one way or another. I’m going to keep making games, and if they’ll have me, I’ll happily do that for Wizards of the Coast. After all, they helped start me on this path and have kept me happy, (relatively) sane, and in mental shape on and off for the last twenty three years. It’s been a wild ride and I’m not ready to get off anytime soon. Here’s to many more Magic years.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He works for Kingdom Death: Monster, has an MFA in Game Design from NYU, and does freelance game design.

His favorite card of the month is Unconventional Tactics. It’s rare to see humor like this in a card not featuring goblins, but it manages to succeed on several levels. Unconventional Tactics manages to tell a silly, dark, and sad tale of mindless zombies who really want to serve jumping off a ramp. It’s a light, subtle, and poignant moment amid the dark background of Hour of Devastation. On the design side, it manages to revamp Angelic Blessing—by giving it a tiny tribal theme, it suddenly becomes a weird card advantage/aggro engine. And it does all of that without you even needing to notice.

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