This past fall, Hipsters of the Coast reached an absurd milestone: 10 years of existence. That’s a phenomenal milestone for any form of media, but this one is personal—I was there at the very beginning.

Now, not too much later, it’s this column’s 10th anniversary. So today, I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate a little bit. It feels like the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past decade, wrap things up, and conclude the column. Yep, for the foreseeable future, this will be the last Drawing Live, so please pardon me for getting a bit indulgent.

Wait, what is Drawing Live, anyway?

This is a question I’ve constantly asked myself but never actually been asked by anyone else. Why is this column called Drawing Live, what does it mean, and what is it about?

Drawing Live is a vague title. It says next to nothing about what kind of content one should expect when you click the link. And that’s because like many things, I came up with it at the last minute. It’s slightly punny and makes sense for a column that would ostensibly cover my improvement at Magic and experiences teaching it. But that’s not what this column was about for long.

Over the years, this column experimented with a variety of foci, from how to teach Magic, to my first experiences going to Grand Prix and playing competitively, to personal anecdotes and anxieties, to Limited breakdowns and cube construction. Eventually, I settled on describing it as “Magic through the lens of game design,” or “game design through the lens of Magic,” depending on my mood. This focus led to some ongoing series with exciting titles like “Design of a Card” and “Mechanics in Review.” I made it all up as I went along, and just as the column morphed and thrived over the years, some of my one-off, last-minute articles ended up inspiring dozens more pieces and became some of favorite things to write.

At the end of this day, this column meandered. It melded my love of Magic with my love of designing games. It was permitted incredible flexibility from Hipsters’ staff. Looking in the rear view mirror, Drawing Live, at its core, is basically me, distilled into 1,000-2,000 word pieces. I shared my passion for Magic, my experiences in game design, and my emotions. I hope that some of those million words were helpful to you, or failing that, were at least entertaining for you.

Card image for Temporal Manipulation from Ultimate Masters.

A decade is a loooong time

I still remember Hipsters’ first months, back when it was a casual blog covering weekly events at our Brooklyn local game shop, Twenty Sided Store. I knew every writer and every reader. I knew their full names and preferred play styles. I remember reading Matt, Jess, Zac, Li, and Rich talk about Theros Limited and awful PTQ experiences and proper cantrip heuristics and community building. Six months later, I joined the team to helm the vaguely-titled Drawing Live. And now, somehow, I have been doing this for 10 years. When I started my column, I was between jobs, volunteering at Twenty Sided as a Magic instructor, and trying to figure my life out. Now, both my life and the website are in very different, very good places.

This past decade was the best of my life. Sure, it had plenty of challenges, from personal to professional to global pandemic, but challenges are an opportunity to learn and grow. There is simply so much I am proud of or grateful for over the past 10 years, from wonderful things that happened to me, or I participated in, or I strove for.

Writing this column led me to pursue game design as a career. I got my first job through a friend I’d met through Magic at our local game store. Working in games brought me to graduate school for game design, where I refined my few years of professional experience (and a lifetime of making games for fun) through excellent instruction and collaborating with phenomenal designers.

This all fed back into my writing, which started to get some traction within the broader Magic community. At the same time, I was also pursuing competitive Magic, both at the tournament scene and through New York City’s Team Draft League. Magic transformed from a hobby that’d come and gone throughout my life to a major part of my life and central component of friendships. This game is in my blood and in my bones. It’s a part of me. And I’ve shared so much of what I’ve learned here in Drawing Live. Even by a very conservative estimate, I’ve published the better part of a million words about Magic and game design over the past decade.

Card image for Spike Feeder from Stronghold.

This column was a core part of a decade’s long positive feedback loop that reinforced the skills, confidence, body of work, and voice I’m all deeply proud of. I had the satisfaction of knowing that at least a few times, my writing really helped people, either by helping them better understand their emotions, learn some good design fundamentals, or just get a little bit of insight into this game we all love so much. I owe a lot to Hipsters, especially how I was always free to write about whatever I wanted to at each moment. That’s a privilege a lot of people don’t get, and I’m grateful for it. (Editor’s Note: This site owes a ton to Zach and we are infinitely grateful for the decade we’ve spent together.)

There is so much more I could write, but 10 years not only feels like a natural point at which to stop, it’s also necessary. I’d love to keep doing Mechanics in Review until I’ve covered every set, or to write more about How To Create Your Own Team Draft League, or have an entire series teaching general game design principles. But after 10 years, I’ve said enough. For now, anyway.

Card image from Melancholy from Planar Chaos.

Coming to terms with the end

I’ve struggled more with this article than any other. The first drafts started back in September, when Hipsters celebrated its 10th anniversary and I started pondering how I’d sum up my experiences when I celebrated that same milestone half a year later. But every time I outlined my thoughts, everything felt so wistful, so melancholy, so indulgent. And I really don’t enjoy writing with that kind of voice. When it became clear this article would not only be an enormous milestone, but likely my final article, everything only became more wistful and harder to write. It’s challenging enough to sum up a decade’s worth of life experiences, but doing so while hating every word and constantly wanting to scrap the piece in favor of Design of a Card: Alabaster Host Sanctifier?* That’s nails on a chalkboard.

* About half of all Design of a Card articles were written at the very last minute after I’d scrapped a different article.

Eventually, I went to the one person I knew could help, the person who’s heard more semi-coherent ramblings about what I might write for the week than anyone else—my best friend, Sam. After patiently listening to me complain, he pointed out that this article had to have those emotions behind it, because those are my emotions. How could I not feel nostalgic and melancholy closing the book on a period spanning nearly 30% of my life? His perspective was enough to get me over the hump and able to clearly see what I was avoiding talking about: fear of change.

On change

I’ve made some massive changes in my life, and with them comes a very familiar anxiety. I’ve always struggled with change. I was terrified of starting school when I was a little kid, I was afraid of the unknown when switching schools (even though every experience proved to be an improvement), I can even be anxious about mundane situations like finding a new doctor or adjusting my routine. Change is essential, but inevitability doesn’t ease the transition.

Still, over the years, I’ve gotten better at accepting change rather than dreading it. Some of my biggest life decisions were recent, and I felt no trepidation about massive decisions like getting married. Next week, I’m making another big change by starting a new job I’m very excited about: I’m joining Wizards of the Coast to work on Magic: The Gathering.

I’m going to do the best I can to give back to the game and the communities that have given me so much over the past 30 years. It’ll be an interesting change, turning my lifestyle game into my profession and finding a new work/life balance—but I’ve worked in this industry for a while now, and I know I can handle that change. Here’s looking forward to learning the ropes, doing my best, and hopefully helping some things that’ll make you smile. And that’s where we’ll conclude. Thank you so much for this platform, for our time together, and for all the growth it spurred in me. I can’t wait to see what Hipsters and the many wonderful Magic communities do next, and I’m excited to be part of it, though on the inside looking out rather than the way it’s been for the past decade.

…and, as always and for the last time (for now), thanks for reading.

Zachary Barash (he/him) is a New York City-based game designer and the last commissioner of Team Draft League. He is about to start work on Magic: the Gathering Arena, 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). And he’s very thankful for the time he’s had here with you.

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