As a competitive player, before covid-19 hit, I mostly just played whatever format my upcoming tournament was. This could be Limited, Standard, Pioneer, Modern or even Legacy. I usually didn’t play formats unless I had a tournament to prepare for. With only so much time, I needed to focus my time.
As for writing, I usually wrote about whatever format I had knowledge about at that time. Without real tournaments, finding interesting topics to write about has been way harder for me then it used to be. I want my articles to be useful or interesting, or, if all else fails, at least entertaining. So I’m glad to have a topic which is very dear to me: how to play Magic with my kids.
This article will be my most personal piece to date, but it’s a story, or even better, a journey I’d love to share. Many Magic players have kids, and I imagine many of them at least want to share the experience with them. At least I love to play with my kids and introduce them to the wonderful game that is Magic.
A little introduction to my family might be in order. I have a whopping five kids: Dante (10), Oscar (6), Helena (5), Hector (1) and Zeno (7 weeks). I’m married to my lovely wife Charlotte (32) who has zero interest in playing or learning Magic, but wholeheartedly supports my endeavors. My brother Peter is also a pretty good player. Charlotte also has two brothers who play Magic: Jelle and Alfred. For those wondering, yes, I started dating my friend’s sister.
To be clear, I don’t want to pressure any of my kids into playing Magic, least of all competitive Magic. At the same time I can only imagine how proud I’ll be when one of them plays their first GP, qualifies for their first PT or wins Worlds for the first time…
So where are we? Dante knows how to play Magic and quite likes it. He understands what cards do by reading them most of the time. This isn’t really easy with Dutch as our first language, but he clearly has ways of understanding the cards. Oscar knows the basic rules, but can’t read new cards. So basically he can play with decks if he knows what all cards do. Helena doesn’t know the rules yet, but has said she wants to learn the game too. All of them play Pokemon TCG.
Probably due to easier rules and templating, Oscar has little problem understanding and remembering what the Pokemon cards do. My kids love Pokemon, just as I did as a kid, it’s the perfect stepping stone to playing Magic. If only Magic had such a great television series…
Hector loves to open a drawer with Magic cards and throw them around, which I take as a sign of real interest in learning the game. Not at all inconvenient or usual stuff a toddler does.
Learning and Growing
I taught Dante how to play when he was about 6. I made some preconstructed level decks out of Ixalan cards: BW Vampires and RG Dinosaurs. These were great to teach the rules, different card types and how combat worked. Much to my delight, Dante used these decks to teach Oscar the game.
After I won GP Prague in January 2019, I came home with three pretty cool Ultimate Masters draft decks. Dante really wanted to learn to play these decks. Learning to play more complicated decks with more interesting cards really showed Dante what a great game Magic is. These decks also taught him how different decks want to execute a gameplan and need to assume a role in a matchup. We still have those decks and they’re currently Oscar’s favourite decks to play with. And I love playing with this decks for rather obvious reasons.
I made a Vampire and Dinosaur deck with commons and uncommons to play Magic with Dante.— Pascal Vieren (@VierenPascal) February 3, 2019
He asked me to make him some new and more complicated decks. Luckily I had a couple of fun drafts decks.
Now he only wants to play with the Spider deck. The kid knows whats going on 😒🙌💙 pic.twitter.com/QtKloHziRK
When I was testing Modern, I taught Dante how Tron worked. This way he learned how to mulligan aggressively and how a Constructed deck has a much more defined game plan. At the same time I could test versus him whenever I wanted and it didn’t really matter if he didn’t fully grasp whatever I was trying to do with my decks. He just needed to get Tron by turn 3 and cast 《Karn Liberated》. He did fell in love with playing Tron and that seems to be frowned upon.
In the early days of Pioneer Mono Red and Mono Green were contenders and Dante could play both. We played the matchup between both a lot. These decks were pretty straightforward, but switching sides really showed him how he needed to approach the matchup from both sides. When I tested other decks, I could always play versus Dante on Mono Green or Mono Red which provided some additional testing for me. He did lose interest when I started playing 《Lotus Field》 combo, which is understandable.
As for Limited, for both his 9th and 10th anniversary, Dante asked me to organize a draft. As his friends sadly aren’t into Magic (yet!), this means drafting with my friends. This includes three of his uncles who also play Magic, it’s nice family thing.
For his 9th birthday, we drafted Theros Beyond Death and for this 10th birthday the set of choice was War of the Spark. Last draft Dante somehow managed to pick 15 one drops, which wasn’t really successful. Learning how to navigate a draft isn’t easy to teach. A friend gave him a box of Shadows of Innistrad, so I guess that’s what we’ll draft next. Oscar is very eager to join, but I’m afraid he’ll need to be able to understand the cards.
During the pandemic I always bought a couple of prerelease kits to play at home. Dante loved playing Sealed and is currently saving his pocket money to attend his first in store prerelease. Maybe we’ll play 2HG, maybe just regular Sealed, but I’m looking forward to the experience.
What else do we’ve got? I have some Commander decks Dante and Oscar like playing with. Recently Dante built his own Commander decks from cards he got from his drafts and cards from my ‘unsorted drawer’. It’s really nice to see him adding new cards to his decks and be excited about collecting new cards he can add to his decks.
As these decks are all built from the same pool of cards, they are reasonably well balanced. Oscar is slowly learning what all the cards in these decks do, but that’s pretty hard for Commander. If I sit with him to play, he constantly asks me what he has to do. So I’m still searching for good ways to help him, but not make every decision for him.
The kids have their own Arena account, but they aren’t allowed a lot of screen time and prefer to play against real life opponents. Occasionally they’ll play a Draft or Sealed event, so their collection is growing. With Historic Brawl becoming a fixture on Arena, they might play more often though. Playing Constructed on Arena is more budget friendly and they can use whatever cool cards they’ve assembled.
Lastly, I’ve built a Battlebox. For those who don’t know how a Battlebox works, it’s a pile of singletons in all colors. All players play with the same deck, so it doesn’t include search effects or stuff like scrying. Next to that, each player has access to one of each basic land and to five duals. I use Gates as duals, but any set is possible. You start the game with four cards and can play one of your lands each turn. Playing with the Battlebox was a huge success in the beginning, but there’s some frustration that they can’t really beat me. The games go pretty long and get rather complicated, so it isn’t the easiest form of Magic. And I’m really not going to let them win. Not even a little. They have to earn it.
Plans for the Future
To better prepare them, my wife talks English to Hector and Zeno, while I talk Dutch. This also helps the older kids learn English faster, so hopefully they all will be able to read cards faster. Charlotte’s English is terrific, so I’m curious to see how fast they’ll pick it up.
I love playing Magic and would love for my kids to have the same passion. I do want to make clear I’m not going to push them in any way. If any of them keep playing and maybe go on to play more competitively, I’m going to love that. When I won GP Prague I bought a Ultimate Masters booster to put in my trophy. My plan was to open it when I won another or made top 8 of a PT. But maybe it be even sweeter if I could give it to one of my kids if they reach a goal they’ve set for themselves.
Seeing my kids play Magic helps me relive my own early days of playing. The enjoyment when you open a booster, searching through piles of cards to build your own deck, amazement when your opponent makes some amazing play with cards you’ve never seen and all that. It’s honestly a blast. If you’d like to follow this story, I’ll be sharing more on my Twitter (@VierenPascal) using the hashtag #MTGdad!
Pascal Vieren (Twitter)