Newborns go through what are known as Infant Milestones during their development and these are generally used to track how your child is progressing through the early weeks and months of their life. As a new MTGDad it’s been important to start to familiarize myself with these important marker points for my daughter. The parallels between learning to be a human and learning to play Magic are easy to see.

The most important part of understanding these milestones is the awareness that every baby goes through them at their own pace. Some of them have a very wide target range. For example, babies learn to walk anywhere between 9 and 16 months of age. Magic players are no different. Some can master a limited format in a week and others will take a month or more.

On my own journey through Rivals of Ixalan Friendly Sealed Leagues I’m currently 4-1 in my fifth league, and have secured a third trophy (only two more to go). Along the way I feel I’ve learned a lot about the RIX environment and about Magic in general and myself as a gamer and a parent. I wanted to talk about that development this week but in a wider context.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you develop slower or faster than the average baby or Magic player. We each have our own strengths and set our own pace when it comes to these things. Today I want to look at a few of the milestones that infants go through in the first three months of life (about how long a limited environment exists) and compare them to milestones Magic players go through.

The Moro Reflex

When newborns feel like they’re falling they all exhibit the same basic behavior which is known as the Moro Reflex. First described in modern medicine in the 19th century, the reflex involves the newborn spreads their arms and then pulls them back in. Pediatricians will test a newborn’s Moro Reflex to see that their nervous system is integrating correctly. If the baby does not display the reflex, or if the effect is asymmetrical (e.g. only one arm is spread out) then it may be an indication of issues with the nervous system or the motor system and further investigation should be done.

As Magic players we’ve long outgrown the Moro Reflex (it goes away around four months) but we can still glean a valuable developmental milestone which is the involuntary urge to support ourselves when we’re falling. The first few games and matches you play probably won’t go in your favor and you might feel like you’re in over your head. You want to support yourself so you seek out help whether its in the form of practicing more, reading articles on the format, or finding videos/podcasts to help you in your personal development.

In much the same was as the absence of the Moro Reflex indicates a problem with the newborn’s development, a Magic player uninterested in seeking out support for improvement will have difficulty thriving in the new competitive environment they’re in. That’s not to say they can’t play Magic ever again, but that their development will be impeded. Fortunately help is always available both for babies and newborn Magic players.

Turns Their Head to Face Stimulus

Another major milestone for newborns is turning to face some form of stimulation, whether its light, a shape on the wall, or the sound of your voice or their rattle. There’s a lot going on in the brain of a newborn as they start building up associations between things like what they process visually and what they hear with their ears. The development of spacial awareness, understanding that sounds have a place and that the baby can turn to see that place is an incredible leap forward.

Similar to the cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch sensations that newborns experience is the utter chaos that is a game of Magic to a new player, or even a game of Magic in a new competitive environment to a seasoned veteran. A new limited environment can be especially daunting with all the new combat tricks, on-board tricks, and general themes that need to be processed.

A great leap forward for Magic players is being able to process an entire game state through observation. Understanding what permanents are on-board, what their effect is to the game, and what could possibly be hidden in your opponent’s grip are all key to developing your game. Just as a newborn starts to connect their senses to each other to create spatial awareness, a Magic player starts to connect their senses to each other to create game-state awareness.

Makes Cooing Sounds

Language is amazing. Infants generally don’t learn their first word in their native tongue until they’re around 12 months old. However, as early as two months they’ll begin making cooing noises instead of crying. This is an indication that they’re beginning to understand that there’s a different way of communicating and that communication is a thing at all. Over the next year this cooing will evolve into laughing, babbling, and eventually single syllables (e.g. ma, da), and then simple words (e.g. mama, dada).

Magic’s metagame is not unlike a language on its own. When you first dive into it you may only have the ability to look at it and cry incessantly (especially if you’re looking at the price of decks on MTGGoldfish). Soon you’ll move on to very basic understandings of aggro, combo, and control archetypes. From there the language and artistry of the metagame will become better defined as building blocks come into focus and you can assemble your own decks (words) from what you’ve gleaned.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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