The Legend Lives On – Jeff Zandi

Foreword written by Erin Giddings…

As hard as it is to say goodbye to our friend Jeff, it’s truly become apparent in this last week just how many lives Jeff Zandi has truly touched in his storied Magic the Gathering history. Zanman was honestly one of the nicest and most genuine human beings on the planet. His spark and his love of Magic the Gathering was infectious! The legacy he leaves behind will never be matched, the positive spirit he embodied will never be forgotten.

This article is our dedication to Jeff “Zanman” Zandi. It includes the last story he wrote for our HBMO website (never before published) and a video interview with Jeff that was conducted prior to our 2018 Memorial Open event that has only been viewed by Jeff, Dona Burton, and myself prior to this post.

Zanman, we are going to miss you big guy… but rest assured you will never be forgotten.

This year at the Hunter Burton Memorial Open on Sunday, March 17th, we will be hosting a dedicated event in Jeff’s name. It will be a Chaos Sealed event (because Jeff loved limited and he always had a flair for making Magic interesting.) Thanks to a number of local DFW stores and several friends of Jeff, we will make it happen! This event will be limited to 16 players (although depending on donations that number could increase prior.) Proceeds from this specific event will be given to Jeff’s family.

In addition, we will be bringing back Jeff’s patented “0-2 Drop” Masters Draft! We had originally retired the event after last year, however we have unanimously agreed to bring it back! 8 lucky competitors on Saturday and 8 more on Sunday will have the opportunity to draft a Masters set FREE OF CHARGE! Like in year’s past, you must play in the main event that day, have an unlucky 0-2 start, drop from that event, and be one of the first to sign up. Jeff made this event, he loved holding it, and as long as donations permit we will always continue the tradition!

So, without further delay, here is Jeff’s article written for our website. Having read it right before posting this, it had me balling like a newborn baby. I have never read a piece that somehow, in someway happens to be so perfectly placed. When Jeff wrote it, he was still very much here and planned to be here to see it posted. The fact that he’s not… well I honestly don’t have the words for that. If you knew Jeff, my personal suggestion is to have the tissues nearby… this was by far the most emotional piece he ever wrote about Hunter in my opinion.

Time Traveling With My Friend Hunter
By Jeff Zandi

I doubt that time travel technology exists, but I still think about it a lot. I’ve had all the same time travel fantasies as other people. I really don’t think about going back in time to stop Hitler. When I was a teen, all I wanted to do was go back in time to buy valuable comic books for their ten cent cover price and then make a fortune bringing them back to the present to sell them.

Lately, I’ve had some experiences that feel like what I believe real time travel would be like. I was back in my old home town and I saw a guy I thought I recognized. He looked exactly like this friend I used to hang around with when I was a kid. Then I realized I had to be mistaken, because the guy I was looking at was twelve years old and the guy I was friends with would probably be my age by now. Still, seeing something so reminiscent of something from forty years ago felt to me like actual time travel.

It happened again when I was attending a tournament in Denver just a few months ago. Sitting at a table talking to some of his friends was a guy that I swear looked exactly like my friend Hunter Burton. Exactly like the twenty-six-year-old Hunter that I last saw six years ago. It really was an uncanny feeling. It wasn’t just a passing resemblance, either. I watched him from thirty feet away, unable to hear his voice but watching him talk to his friends at the table in the same kind of animated way that Hunter used to. I didn’t think I was losing my mind and I didn’t think that Hunter had dropped through a hole in the time/space continuum. I knew very well that this was just a guy that resembled my old friend. I knew that if I walked up and introduced myself, heard this person’s voice, saw his face close up, the charm would be broken and it would be completely obvious that it wasn’t Hunter. I kept my distance because it was fun, just for a minute, to feel like my friend was actually there in the room with me. It felt like real time travel.

I try to be a rational person. I prize myself for my brain because my body and face haven’t really gotten me that far in my life. I try not to be superstitious, but I know it happens sometimes. Like the way I didn’t want to walk up to the person in Denver that looked like Hunter. It’s hard, but life is better when we get past our superstitious hangups. Like being afraid to talk about a loved one that you’ve lost because you’re afraid it will just make you and other people sad. I want to be free to talk about all the people in my life, the ones I talk to every day as well as the ones I haven’t been able to see in a few years.

As you get older, it’s a simple fact that more of the people you care about will pass away. Superstitions are often about fear. I fear getting cancer, it seems to me that so many more people are getting cancer than ever before. I have no statistics to back up this claim, it’s just the way the world seems to me. My rational brain tells me that talking about cancer doesn’t cause me to get cancer. I either will or I won’t. I don’t need to be afraid to talk about it. Suicide is the same way. Talking about suicide doesn’t make it worse, doesn’t make it more likely, or less likely, to affect my life.

Suicide isn’t a way to define my friend Hunter Burton. It just happens to be the way he died. I can talk about Hunter without making it a conversation about suicide the same way that I can talk about my mom without making it a conversation about cancer. Talking about the people I love, even after they’ve left the earth, helps keep them alive to me and makes me feel less afraid.


Jeff Zandi’s 2018 interview prior to the 2018 Hunter Burton Memorial Open. It was cut a little short at the end and unfortunately has less optimal sound quality but the video itself is completely unedited. It has only ever been viewed by Jeff, Dona Burton and myself prior to being posted here. These interviews with the three of us were done as a way to promote and talk about the HBMO. Ultimately only one video of Dona’s was ever used.


Jeff… there are hundreds of people right now remembering playing Magic with you. Every one of them including myself look forward to the day we get to do it again my friend. I’ll do my best to make you proud at this year’s 2019 HBMO. We all will!

2019 Hunter Burton Memorial Open
March 15th – 17th
Hurst Conference Center
Hurst, Texas
In Memory of Hunter Burton AND Jeff Zandi!

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