Every eleven years, you turn old enough that the digits of your age match (until you hit 110, then the pattern breaks). Two days ago, I turned 33 and became a palindrome. So, while we wait for spoiler season to once again begin in three weeks, I’d like to take a bit of time to reminisce on the year gone by. It’s one of the perks (and childhood downsides) of having a late summer birthday—there’s not much going on. We’ll be back with our regularly scheduled mix of Limited, Game Design, and a light smattering of Cube next week, but today, it’s personal.

A Year in Review

2018-2019 was a big year of consolidation for me. Careerwise, it was my biggest ever. I gave two panels at PAXes Unplugged and East (with the amazing Brian Fightmaster Neff and Tom Sarachan). I had the privilege of interviewing four folks from WotC at PAX East. At work, I led our biggest design team ever and on the most challenging project I’ve ever worked on (alas, I live in the future, so I won’t be able to talk more about this for at least a year or two). Along the way I managed to maintain momentum for Team Draft League, both keeping it alive and working past the commissioner’s curse to win my fourth season! I wrote an article I’m pretty proud of and refer back to whenever I need to be reminded that Magic is different, but it’s definitely not dying.

Personally, this has been another banner year. It started with a massive move half a mile and fair amount of Magic burnout thanks to Mythic Edition, the state of organized play, and the apparent death of Masters sets (before UMA was announced and was awesome). I even got to attend UMA prerelease and meet some folks who’d read my draft guide—it is literally always wonderful and humbling to know that people are reading these articles and benefiting from them. And yes, while I know Hipsters is a much bigger site than it was six years and a lifetime ago, it still means all the world meeting and discussing words written here in person. So if you see me at an event, please feel free to say hello! (This is a far cry from when I first started writing here and was rather uncomfortable with using my real name on the internet.)

Looking Ahead

Year thirty-three begins in exciting fashion. I’m head over heels in love (not to brag, but I feel pretty incredibly lucky to not only have met someone incredible, but to have managed to do so during one of the most stressful periods of my life). I’ve got the biggest design assignment I’ve ever faced. It’s incredibly daunting and exciting—I could well fail at it, but to not engage with any risk is to not live, and I can’t wait to give it my all. I’ve steadily started taking better care of myself, and while I could be tidier, eat better, and exercise more, just taking those first few steps has made it easier to take the next ones.

Hopefully, this will be the year I get to either publish my own game or get my name on a game box. Also, I recognize I am incredibly fortunate to not only get to be paid to do something I love, but to have retained my love for games despite them being my vocation for the past 5+ years. My secret to this is twofold:

  1. I make sure to play different games for fun than I do professionally. This keeps work and play separate.
  2. I’ve always analyzed basically everything in my life, so applying analysis to things I love is just par for the course. This one’s more particular to me, so while (1) is a good piece of general advice, I’ve got unfortunately got no helpful advice here.

I don’t know what this year is going to hold in store for me and Magic. I’m not leaving the game anytime soon (heck, I’ve got a league to not only participate in, I’ve gotta run it, too!), but I’ve definitely scaled back the amount of paper Magic I play. There’s just not a lot of competition I can do locally, and absent local competition, there’s a lot less incentive to spend hundreds of dollars to travel to an event I can’t prepare for at a local game store. That’s the reason I won’t be at Las Vegas this weekend (Modern Horizons was barely available to play in NYC and there are no longer PPTQs to bring competitive Limited players together). I’m still playing Magic on Arena and with friends, but both of these avenues are far cheaper than playing at a local game store—it’s strange for Magic to be in a record-breaking year and yet I can’t spend nearly as money on it as I’d like. Ah well, that’s a question for thirty-three year old Zach, and he doesn’t even know what his favorite 3/3 is. (Seriously, I racked my brain, and I have no idea what my favorite Hill Giant is.)

So yeah. It’s been a year with high highs and low lows, and it thankfully ended on a high note (albeit amidst a more than somewhat stressful week). Life’s like that, though. It’s messy and you have to appreciate and reflect on the good times while learning from but not dwelling on the hard times. Somewhere along the way I’ve somehow become an adult (well… mostly) and I’ve really enjoyed both the journey and the destination (which is now this year’s starting point). But with, I thank you for making it all the way through this article, and, well, as ever, thanks for reading.

(After this article was finished, Zach couldn’t resist and looked at every four mana 3/3 ever printed. His favorite Hill Giant? Kozilek’s Predator, but with Cogwork Librarian and Skymark Roc tying for a close second.)

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer and the commissioner of Team Draft League. He designs for Kingdom Death: Monster, has a Game Design MFA from the NYU Game Center, and does freelance game design. When the stars align, he streams Magic (but the stars align way less often than he’d like).

His favorite card of the month is Ill-Gotten Inheritance. It’s not often that you can staple two generally bad effects together and get something powerful, but this unassuming enchantment managed to create an exciting whole out of underwhelming parts. Moreover, it subtly engaged with two very different guilds’ themes while enabling both aggressive and defensive strategies. That’s a lot of work for a pretty straightforward common.

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