Milan Bhayana Credit: Via Chandrani Ghosh

Milan Bhayana’s run has been nothing short of magical.

The 13-year-old from Chevy Chase knocked off 200 opponents at MagicFest in Buffalo, New York, in late April to earn a spot in the Mythic Championship IV Magic: The Gathering tournament in Barcelona.

“It was a very surprising moment, because I had been working very hard to get to the next level on the professional tour,” Milan said. “It was really a longshot, and I played really well and got a nice mixture of luck and skill, and I managed to win the whole thing.”

The strategy card game pits two or more players against each other as wizards attempting to drain their opponent’s life through attacks and spells. The Hasbro-owned collectible card game has 20 million players worldwide and has been published in 11 languages, according to published accounts. Magic can be played in person or online, and has a strong following on streaming platforms such as Twitch.

The championship in late July will feature 400 competitors vying for $500,000 in prizes. Players earn invitations through winning a qualifying event, as Milan did, or by taking down a Magic Online Championship Series event, winning a Grand Prix tournament, or having a certain professional status.

“I’m extremely excited, but I’m also extremely scared because there’s going to be 400 of the best players in the world, who I’ve watched many times online,” said Milan, a seventh-grader at Takoma Park Middle School. “It’s going to be a very amazing and awesome experience.”

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Milan has devoted every free moment to the game, practicing competitively for an hour each day and then heading to Dice City Games in Wheaton to play casual matches with friends. He enters every tournament he can in the Washington region, and had previously been to Providence, Rhode Island, for a qualifying event.

Magic has more than 10,000 playing cards, with more added each year, making each battle extremely complex given the varying possibilities.

“It’s complicated, and I’ve tried many times to have him explain it to me but it’s really hard to wrap your head around,” said Chandrani Ghosh, Milan’s mother.

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“It’s fun to have a child do something that’s so uniquely them,” Ghosh said. “If he’d played chess I would’ve hired him a tutor like most mothers tend to do, ‘Oh he’s got this interest let me help out.’ But this is so out of my understanding. … He had to do it really on his own.”

Milan hired an online tutor to improve his skills, and often hangs around the Magic team at Dice City, which itself won a Grand Prix event last weekend.

Dice City owner Jimmy Cooney said Milan asked about the shop sponsoring him for tournaments, as it does with its team members, and Cooney agreed after seeing the young player’s ample skills.

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Milan will be wearing a red Dice City shirt when he competes in tournaments.

The victory in New York makes Milan one of the youngest players on the professional circuit, and his presence often turns heads at qualifying tournaments, though he said competitors usually treat him well despite the age gap.

There is a professional 32-player league who play Magic as a career, but Milan said he doesn’t have much interest in the game as an occupation.

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“I just love to play the game for what it is,” Milan said.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com