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“One More Burn Spell And You Are Grounded” - Corey Brown (12/15/2013)

Every weekend when my kids come over, we have a ritual: Grab some dinner and head over to our LGS for FNM. It's been the same for quite a few months. My son practices shuffling his RG deck while my daughter, too young to play, heads over to the dice bin and scours for new and unique additions. My girl, the Lovely Lady Newt, lays out her Mill deck (Curse you, ASHIOK!) and asks for opinions and deck help while I count and recount my BG Golgari themed deck. The shop-keep eventually whistles and calls out for pairings, we gather our deckboxes, dice, coffee (or sodas), and find our seats. As I introduce myself to my opponent, I hear my boy's voice through the clatter, “Not Gruul? Then DIE!”

Let's rewind to last year: the 2013 set just hit, anxious MTG fans awaited the Return to Ravnica, and I was at home, trying to find a new way to interact with my kids on our selected weekends together. Movies are fun, but get expensive quick. Plus, with a movie, you don't get one on one time (I still believe movies are a bad 1st date, too). It was close to my son's birthday and he wanted video games, video games, and more video games. I don't mind video games, but we don't own a console (real life sometimes means you have to pay bills first, video games later). Now, he has a console at his mother's house, but that doesn't help me with quality time with him. I wanted to find something that no one else would do with him, something unique, something for us.

One day, as the Lovely Lady Newt was going to head into town for some groceries, I asked if she would stop by the game store just to see if a game was still being printed called Magic: The Gathering. I said, “It's a game I used to play and it is pretty fun because you can customize decks and play different cards etc, etc.” Little did I know how big the game grew, what kind of community I was inviting my family into, and how addictive the cardboard crack turned out to be. Lady Newt came back with two Core 13 starter decks, a Green with splash of Black for me and a White with splash of Blue for her. We read the rules, we shuffled, we played, we misplayed, we shuffled, and a couple hours later, I exclaimed, “Wurms are the best creatures EVER!” Then, I said, “My boy is going to love this!”

That weekend, we got my kids and began. I taught what I knew to my son, got on the internet for what I didn't know, and misplayed whatever I thought I knew. My son oohed and aahed over my wurms. He got a kick out of the white tokens. He tapped, he sacked, he kept life totals. Soon, we knew what to get him for his birthday – the Red intro deck with his newfound favorite card (and still is) Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko, Mob Boss
Krenko, Mob BossSet: Magic 2013
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Goblin Warrior
Karl Kopinski
{T}: Put X 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens onto the battlefield, where X is the number of Goblins you control.
! He loved his goblin generating deck and is still annoyed with the most recent rotation. In that weekend, I knew we stumbled on something special, something that was ours and ours alone.

Soon, I taught him how to browse the MTG website, we geek out together over spoiled cards, we bounce ideas off each other, we are a father and son speaking a language that pertains to us and I find that pretty special.

Fast forward a few months. After Lady Newt and I attend FNM on our own for a few months, I begin to prep my son for his journey into the social aspect of this game. I quiz him. I play test with him. We go over the semantics of play over and over. When I finally decide it's time to introduce him to the crowd at my local meta, we have a conversation.

Me: When we get there, I will introduce you to the Judge. He knows the rules way better than I do. While we are playing, if you don't understand what's going on, or a play that was made, ask the Judge. Your opponent may explain, but if you aren't comfortable ask the Judge.

Son: Ok.

Me: You might be the youngest one there so remember what you know and don't let anyone be rude to you. If someone is rude or hurtful or starts cursing call-

Son: The Judge!

Me: Nope. You call me over. I'm your dad and anyone who is disrespectful to you will remember that. Making top 4 will be the last of their worries.

Luckily, that has never happened. In fact, my son was warmly welcomed to the small MTG community in my town. New friends would come over and help him with his deck, sometimes even giving him a couple of Planeswalkers or other cards to help him through the tournament. No one made snarky comments on his age (at least not to my knowledge) and all the “spikes” explained the combos they slapped down with patience. In fact, after his first FNM, I had to send my family to the car and come back in the shop and thank everyone he played against personally simply because it meant that much to me. It was a very good memory that contributed to my son's childhood and our relationship.

Fast forward to now. My son wakes up and wants to fight the hydra while I make breakfast. After breakfast, he wants to play a game with either myself or Lady Newt or all three of us. He, along with Lady Newt, is becoming involved with a second CCG. In fact, I'd say, in a few more years, he could be a serious gamer. I love how his eyes widen when he sees a certain interaction between cards or how he Bloodrushes and Armed//Dangerouses for a lethal swing on turn 6. He is still young enough to let a Timmy/Johnny/Spike shine through every time he opens a pack. In fact, he gets annoyed when I ask him what his rare is while he is still reading each card in a pack.

Lady Newt and I have also used MTG and FNM as a relationship building/strengthening tool and we are now full fledge geeks. FNM is our date night on off weeks when my kids don't come over.

Bottom line is parents and their kids need a bond, something unique that only they share. In my kids case, being in a “broken” family, and having limited time with me, I feel very strongly that MTG has given us something with more value than a ProTour invite or a Grand Prix top 8. It has given us shared time together, at a social level and an intimate level. Some families do football on the weekends, or hit the movies every weekend, or do other family bonding things. We turn cards sideways.

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