Every now and then, a Hipsters writer elects to write a short personal essay. This is one of those times.

This past weekend, I and eight other friends ascended (er, we went north) to Montreal for both the Grand Prix at MagicFest Montreal and to celebrate Hugh Kramer’s impending non-bachelorhood. We celebrated by traveling and playing Magic, which is the thing that made us all friends in the first place. While the event didn’t go exceptionally well for most of us—Sean lost out on top 8 by a match, the rest of us didn’t even make day 2—we did have a blast getting to do what we love, and moreover do it together.

Throne of Eldraine Limited looks pretty stellar. While a monocolor format can be restrictive in its possibility space, Eldraine lets players play one, two, and even three color decks while also containing shenanigans decks like mill, non-Human hyper aggro, and Lucky Clover craziness. Our crew learned a ton about the format in Montreal, like that Sporecap Spider actually works as a removal spell, Revenge of Ravens really is that good, and white continues to struggle in Limited. But there’s plenty more to learn.

I’m excited to grind and study Eldraine draft for the next several months at my local game store, on Magic Arena, and, of course, in Team Draft League. However, that’s all I’ll be doing. That’s all I can do unless I fly to Phoenix for the Grand Prix, and that’s the last Limited event of the year—with no word on 2020’s schedule. PPTQs are long gone and apparently so are Limited PTQs. Without these events, there are no opportunities to leverage experience at Eldraine at the competitive level. The only option is Mythic Championship VI in Richmond, which is a huge step up in competition and requires a qualification—and is kind of beyond my aspirations for Magic.

Now, I don’t mean to be complaining about how times are a-changin’ and that things aren’t the way that they used to be. As discussed almost a year ago, Magic is doing incredibly well and much of that it is due to Arena changing how people play and Magic expanding its target demographics and product lines. There being fewer outlets for competitive play (especially paper play) only directly impacts a fraction of a sliver of Magic’s enormous playerbase. As a primary beneficiary of every major Magic product and most of Magic’s decisions for the last decade (the time I’ve been an active player), it’s unfair to complain about a mildly modified status quo.

However, I couldn’t help but reflect on how we nine friends were only in Montreal, only know each other, because of competitive Magic. These friendships are deeply precious and I yearn for an even larger and more competitive group of like-minded friends. But it’s impossible to form new friendships via Magic Arena (where you play faceless opponents), and difficult to do so via my thoroughly established friend groups which are mostly unassociated with local game stores (and new blood). There are plenty of opportunities to play Magic and will be years and years worth of formats to savor, but it seems increasingly difficult each year to meet other people who want to play Limited as best they can. This trend seems likely to accelerate as Grand Prix attendance dwindles, more competitive play moves online, and paper competition skews increasingly towards being solely Constructed.

Magic remains an excellent game and Throne of Eldraine has me genuinely giddy. I just hope that I’ll still have plenty of people to play with in the next decade. And that’s all I have to say about that. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled Limited and game design content next week, but it’s nice to be a bit more grounded every now and then (and it being the week of Yom Kippur certainly has an effect on the wistful parts of the brain).

And, as always, thanks for reading.

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 Heraldic Banner. It combines mana ramp/fixing (which normally controlling and goodstuff decks want) with a color-specific anthem (which is what monocolor aggressive decks want). There’s a lot of power there, but it presents a deckbuilding puzzle for players to find a solution to. It’s also the perfect kind of puzzle to include in Throne of Eldraine, since the format is defined by finding balance among ambitious monocolor mana requirements. And okay, it also works perfectly with Unlikely Alliance.

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