By Daniel Stein

Editor’s Note: Meet Daniel Stein, our fifth contributor to the new, rotating Scrub Report! Daniel’s articles will appear over the next four Fridays, as he details the highs and lows of being a parent with a kid hooked on MTG. If you’d like to write for The Scrub Report, send an email to [email protected]

I distinctly remember the time I bought a bunch of booster packs of Ice Age and pulled a [casthaven]Jester’s Cap[/casthaven] and a [casthaven]Polar Kraken[/casthaven]. At the time, these cards meant something to a little boy. I’m not sure if it was money or the potential for winning or just wanting to be cool. What I do know is that it wasn’t enough to keep me in the game. In the shadow of my older brother, who went on to play the game religiously for the majority of his adult life, I never built an interest. I probably lost to him more times than I can remember or quickly grew discouraged. I remember the Urza block, some interesting cards there, and then I moved on. Fortunately I absorbed the basics of collecting, gameplay and over time, addiction.

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“Flash forward 15 years or so….. I now have a family.”

Flash forward 15 years or so….. I now have a family. My son, who is currently 10 years old and about to go into fifth grade, was given his first MTG cards in first grade. Hold up! Ok. He was 6 years old. Some nerves came forward and I feared for his education and my wallet. I know what this game does. I remember, I saw. Well, I thought about it and decided that my son was not ready for MTG. I took the cards from him and explained the following: “Isaiah, the images on these cards are inappropriate for a boy your age. Not to mention, you can’t even read the cards! So, I’m going to hold onto these and I’ll return them when you can read the cards and understand how to play the game…” I truly thought (and secretly hoped) that day would never come.

Well friends, that day has come. Over the 4 year period from taking the cards away and finally deciding to engage my son in the game as a way to bond (good excuse, right?) he managed to muster up a collection of rares—and even a planeswalker or two. So one night I asked him if I could see his card collection and try to build a deck. It was kind of whatever. All white, no focus. Gain life, fly, do damage, 75 cards, blah blah blah. He basically crushed me over and over… Really? A 10 year old boy, who had been collecting cards in secret, has destroyed his old man?! (By old I mean < 30)

This is when I decided to get more serious. I did. I made a financial investment. Here’s what I did: I brought Isaiah to our local DCI Game Store. I talked to the guys there for a long time. Meanwhile, Isaiah grilled them about this card and that card. Ajani this and Garruk that. I had no freakin’ clue. After a while I bought an M15 deck builder kit for $20. And I proposed something to Isaiah. “Hey, let’s play a mini draft, just you and me and this deck builder box. We agreed. We would open 3 packs and go back and forth pulling cards from them, having the rest of the deck builder contents to fill our decks. The winner of our little tournament would get the final booster pack, and the remainder of the deck builder box. I built somewhat of a control deck, focusing on countering his spells, drawing more cards, and copying his creatures. This became my deck. I guess you can say I was now hooked, again. Man, I had fun. Isaiah had fun. A father and a son, gaming together. In a lot of ways it’s an escape from the responsibilities of real life. And this is an important part of my story and what I would like to share with you. It’s ok to let your child play magic. But there are some important things you should probably understand.

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“It’s ok to let your child play magic. But there are some important things you should probably understand.”

Throughout the next 3 weeks I would like to discuss some very pertinent topics when it comes to Children and Magic the Gathering. Topics like, how do I allow my child to play Magic and not suck me dry financially? Or, Should I let my child go play Magic at that creepy store with all those “gamers,” you know, the kids who don’t shower and just stare at a screen and eat Doritos for hours on end? Or, what the hell are all these damn cards doing on the kitchen table, seriously, someone clean a damn dish at home!!! Oh, the perils of having a home and a family and playing Magic: The Gathering.

Nevertheless, Isaiah and I now have drafted, amended, and (what one may consider) Modern constructed decks. Both have been significantly tweaked. I added [casthaven]Jace, the Guildpact[/casthaven]. Isaiah put Lilliana and Garruk in his deck. We both crafted our decks in a way that would strangle the other. We only played one another. In fact, we decided to make another tournament for ourselves. That’s right, best of 45 games. Throughout the entire tournament, which has lasted about a month or so, we have been tweaking and adjusting our decks with the sole purpose of destroying only one person. We knew every single card in each other’s decks. It’s kind of silly, but in a way, it’s enabled us to understand how to play, all the rules, how each other plays and most importantly, how the navigate the world of MTG. By the way, loser of this tournament has to “get” the winner a Planeswalker valued <$15. I’m winning 22-15.

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“By the way, loser of this tournament has to “get” the winner a Planeswalker valued <$15. I’m winning 22-15.”

So this is essentially our bond right now. In a secluded way, we started by playing each other, getting to know the staff at our local game store, and forcing ourselves to get better… in order to take the other out. We brought our decks to the restaurant. We brought our decks to the library. We avoided responsibilities, and mom got annoyed. I guess it’s a part of the whole thing, you know, because it’s a game and all… And you can’t just play one time, right? You have to play like three to ten games in one sitting.

Maybe by now you have noticed that I haven’t mentioned buying booster packs, or investing a ton of money into the game. Also, you’ll notice that I have not mentioned Friday Night Magic, or any DCI sanctioned activity. That’s because my biggest recommendation when playing MTG with a kid, under the age of 15, is to avoid all DCI contact for the first year. The intensity of the gaming community and the difficulties of becoming a collector of ANYTHING are not to be understated. There is a huge cause for concern with parents whose children get into these games. So, over the next 3 weeks, I will share some tips and pointers on how to navigate the world of magic, save your money, and make the most out of this educational, fun and rewarding world of which you’re probably totally intimidated.

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