It’s been a long time since I considered what I want from Magic. The pandemic put everything on hold, and it started just after I’d accomplished the last item on my Magic-playing bucket list: play a Pro Tour. Now, the world is opening up again, large events are happening, some even in my own backyard. And while I’m still dealing with the fear and of anger of the pandemic and ever-so-slowly rebuilding my comfort doing what was once second nature, I begin to wonder again: what am I looking to from Magic? What do I hope happens? And what goals shall I set in this new world?

The obvious question: what things that I once had do I desire again? And there’s a lot, some of which I very much have control over. There’s my local game stores, especially Twenty Sided Store—the place that birthed Hipsters of the Coast almost nine years ago. While I’m barely comfortable playing with fully-vaccinated strangers outdoors, I know things will both be and feel safer soon enough.

I want Magic to once again have a vibrant array of game store communities in New York City, and I want to be a part of that rebuilding process. Stores are understaffed and some of their employees have never run Magic events, so I hope to help fill that gap by volunteering my time. This is an opportunity to craft new, welcoming store communities and also perhaps get some of my Spike-y friends back to places that stopped feeling like home for them.

The second obvious thing I’d love to see again is Team Draft League. It had a wonderful (albeit sometimes bumpy) run, but had petered out by the time of the pandemic. The combination of my friend groups getting older and moving out of the city, the decline of the NYC LGS communities, and more play migrating onto Arena all made it harder and harder to retain enough players for a full season.

I know that there is interest in rebuilding the league that was a crucible for so many friendships and so much Limited skill, but doing so is a larger challenge than rebuilding store communities. It first needs those communities to return in order to identify and attract new players. The league benefits from there being larger events that reward players for getting good at Limited, and such events haven’t returned (I for one am not motivated by the Arena ladder or Magic Online challenges). So, while I’m overjoyed to safely team draft with vaccinated friends, I think we’re a ways away from the league feasibly returning.

While I can’t control when, how, or even whether something akin to GPs and PTs returns, I know I want them back. Not because I need to add them to a new bucket list, but because I love having a reason to train and travel with friends. I love the mental challenge that Magic presents, the electricity as I crack my first pack in a called draft, and the thrill of playing against someone much better than I.

While Wizards of the Coast is taking time to reevaluate and reconstruct their own tournament scene, it’s clear that others will fill the void. I’m not confident I’m quite ready to crowd into the Meadowlands with over a thousand people in August, but I like that I have the option and will certainly have more Grand Prix-like events to attend. I have a competitive itch and I love that I’ll be able to scratch it on tabletops, rather than just at my desktop.

Then, there’s the unknown. I know that game stores, my friend group, and the Magic tournament scene are going to be different than they once were. But this moment also provides new opportunities I’d never considered. It’s hard to know what I’d love that I’ve never seen before (one recalls the famous Ford quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”), but it’s worth imagining what could be.

If Wizards is shifting some money from tournaments to the local level, what might now become possible? The Spike in me would love to see something like a New York City championship. The cube designer part wants to finally construct and test a custom cube where players customize at least one card in their deck every draft—maybe there could be a product or tool that makes it easier for people to do that. The part that yearns to travel wants to meet more Hipsters of the Coast, the crew behind Beacon of Creation, and some of the phenomenal folks who live on the West Coast. There’ll certainly be more social events like CommandFests and conventions soon enough. And yes, there’s still a part of me that wants nothing more than to give back to Wizards of the Coast, either as a game designer or as a member of the community.

It’s hard to predict the future. I know that I want Magic to continue providing challenge and camaraderie, topics for discussion and safe havens. It can and will do those things, but I don’t know what forms it will take, or what new goals will emerge as a consequence. Until then, I just need to keep an open mind, keep enjoying the discussions and games Magic enables, and aspire to write articles that I’m proud of and are helpful to other people.

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).

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