Happy Thanksgiving to those of you outside of the US who are checking out the articles here today! Happy Black Friday to those of you inside the US who
are checking out the articles on Friday while trying to recover from the extra helpings of stuffing and pumpkin pie! As a Canadian married to an
American, I celebrate both Canadian Thanksgiving (in October) and American Thanksgiving (today). Yeah, that’s right, twice the turkey, twice the
stuffing, and twice the pie. When your wife is an amazing cook, you find reasons to have big dinners!
So The Ferrett theme for us for this week is “The Best Way to Win.” I’ve decided to tell you about my experience going 0-2
drop in the Sunday edition of Two-Headed Giant at the StarCityGames.com Open Series stop in Boston from a few weeks ago.
Not really seeing how 0-2 drop fits the theme? Well, you need some background for that.
This is my twelve-year-old stepson Spencer. He moves like the wind! He’s the youngest of my three children. That foot is his older brother Max.
I’ve known Spencer since he was four years old. Spencer and I have always had a decent relationship but never all that close. Spencer’s
loves when he was between four and seven revolved around Zelda and Club Penguin. I tried to play with him, I really did, but the endless, inane quests
played on the easiest level, with every cheat he could find, turned out was just torture for me to play or even watch! Spencer would happily hum every
tune the ocarina played, while I would hear the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.
I tried another route and bought a light saber to have light saber wars with both boys. While the boys seemed to be able to play together, when I was
added to the mix, the game seemed to change to one of the boys hitting the other on the head with a plastic light saber. Another failed attempt and my
relationship with Spencer continued to be distant.
This is all part of the stepparent’s curse. Trying to be a parent without replacing Mom or Dad is a difficult job. This is especially tough for
Spencer since his situation is different from his friends.
Spencer’s father suffered a head injury and was paralyzed from the waist down when Spencer was very young. It all happened soon after the
divorce. Spencer barely remembers his father before the injury. His father was in a coma for several months. The doctors that reviewed his scans
concluded that he would be severely brain damaged if he ever regained consciousness. He defied the odds and did come out of the coma. Over several
months he recovered his speech and most of his memory loss. He can walk slowly with the help of a walker. While there are still some memory
difficulties and higher brain function issues, he can carry on normal conversations and lives in a long-term care facility. Â
Due to this, Spencer doesn’t have the “divorced father he stays with every second weekend,” or the “widowed mother,” or
the “married parents living together” that his friends have. Spencer has something very different that’s difficult for him to compare with
his friends and people around him.
In spite of this unusual situation that would cause others his age to be withdrawn, Spencer has a gregarious and outgoing personality. I, on the other
hand, am an introvert. Spencer is a daredevil who’s always ready to try something different or crazy, while I prefer the safe and predictable option.
Spencer is the cool kid at school, while I was the nerd who stayed in the background. Spencer and I are not alike.
When he was seven, Spencer took an interest in Magic, but it was fleeting. He didn’t understand the card interactions, and the game just didn’t grab
him the way it had grabbed me. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t going to force the issue. You can’t force someone to enjoy Magic,
particularly a seven-year old.
Over the summer last year though, Spencer discovered that some of his friends had started a Magic Club. They played every week, and Spencer was hooked.
He pulled out his old cards from four years before, put together a couple of decks, and was loving every second of it. That’s when he discovered
his stepdad’s collection. Thousands of cards from all periods of Magic history!
Yes, full of cards.
Yes, my wife really does love me enough to let me buy the library card catalog and to keep it in our living room.Â
More importantly to the story, Spencer loved to play with my decks! Whether it was Zur the Enchanter, or Birds, or something with +1/+1 counters all
over the place, or some bizarre Teysa/Pestilence combination, Spencer was excited to get a chance to play it. My decks were far better than what he was
putting together, so he was winning more and finally beginning to see the value of card interaction. I was reluctant at first to trust my
eleven-year-old son with decks worth close to a thousand dollars. Original dual lands alone can really bring the price of a deck way up! However,
Spencer proved he was careful, and soon my whole collection was available for him to sort through and mine for gold.
Those cards and decks and my bottomless knowledge about Magic (at least to Spencer it seemed bottomless) gave us something to talk about and bond over.
Our relationship became so much better because of Magic and the times it gave us to be together sharing something we both loved.
For my birthday last year, Spencer picked out his present to me and got it together himself. Up to this point in his life, Spencer had always relied on
Mom to pick out and buy gifts for others, then Spencer would put his name on it. Last year was different. He created a “booster pack” of
cards for me, picking out cards he knew I liked. He put just the right number of commons, uncommons, and a rare to make it a booster pack. He even
included a foil land and a foil rare bonus in the pack! To get all the cards he knew I liked, he traded most of the rares he had at that time to get
the cards for my “booster pack” gift. I remember that gift more than any other I’ve ever received. My foil Draco sits in a special
We would regularly build decks together. Spencer would start with an idea or a couple of cards he wanted to play together in a deck, and we would go
from there. Spencer ran Pyromancer Ascension long before anyone saw its potential in tournament play. His “Equipment” deck is still running
too much equipment, but I almost have him convinced to run less than ten pieces of equipment. (We’ll work our way down from there when we reach
I brought Spencer and his friends to their first Prerelease. The Zendikar regional Prerelease was a great experience for both of us. With over 200
people at the Prerelease, it was Spencer’s first big Magic event. Dealer booths, packs, and Sealed decks were like crack cocaine for him: he was
hooked solid. I was thrilled that he was having such a good time, and I even managed to 3-0-1 my flight.
I became a WPN Organizer so I could run Prereleases for my son and the friends in his Magic Club who couldn’t go to Prereleases. It was slow to
get started, but eventually I was running a Prerelease or Launch Party for each new set. It was another chance to spend time with Spencer doing
something we both loved. Spencer would get out the notices to everyone and collect the fees. Everyone had a good time busting open packs at the local
community library as a change of pace from the usual Saturday Magic Club tournament.
Spencer’s close friends in the Magic Club that were there when he started are gone now. Spencer is now the primary organizer. He’s one of the
older kids that the younger ones talk to about how to build a better deck and what would be a fair trade. I know Spencer keeps going at least in part
because he knows I want him to.
A few weeks ago, I suggested to Spencer that we go to the Two-Headed Giant tournament at the StarCityGames.com Open Series when it comes to Boston. He
was ecstatic about the idea! For the next three weeks, every few days when we had enough spare time together, we would run a practice build, tearing
open another eight packs of a booster box I’d purchased, stacking up the cards and determining the best decks to play. I watched as Spencer
mulled over various cards and who should play what. We made decisions and goldfished and just had a good time spending time together.
The day before the tournament Spencer was so excited, he didn’t sleep well. He’d been waiting for this for weeks, and now it was here! We drove the
twenty minutes to the site (undoubtedly the shortest drive anyone had to the site!) and registered. We traded cards and spotted GerryT and Nick
Spagnolo. Then we got down to business.
I won’t really go into the decks we built. Spencer pulled the majority of the infect creatures, so he ended up playing the poison deck, while I
ran defensive creatures, ways to get his creatures in to do damage, and a Grafted Exoskeleton to help with the counters where I could. Putrefax was the
star of the decks, and it would be up to Spencer to deal most of the damage if we were going to win. Spencer was eager to get the games started!
Our first match started well for us. Spencer was bouncing in his seat while trying not to give anything away to our opponents. I could see how excited
he was once we got them on seven poison counters. He was whispering in my ear constantly about what he was going to do next and how we could block. At
one point after they played some piece of equipment, he turned to me and started tapping one of the lands I was holding in my hand. He was so excited,
but I had no idea why. In the end we couldn’t get the final three poison counters through. The game went to extra turns, but we lost in the first extra
turn to poison damage that we couldn’t stop.
After that game, I asked Spencer why he was so excited about the land in my hand. He told me he was just trying to make them think we had something to
stuff them hard by faking something in my hand. I had no idea he was already at a level in his play where he would try to Jedi Mind Trick his opponent!
He was a little down that we had lost, but we’d played a good game and stretched everything we had to the maximum benefit. In the five minutes
before the next round began, he decided he’d have better luck with the new sleeves he bought earlier, so I went up alone to check our seats for
the second round, while he raced to sleeve up his deck.
The second match also started well. While in the first game Spencer roared out of the gate and I played almost nothing, Spencer started slowly this
time. We looked at his hand, and he wanted to keep it, in spite of the four lands and three four mana or more cards in his hand. I knew this was his tournament even more than mine, so we lifted his confidence and stuck with his decision.
The early turns saw some board development and a few more attacks for both sides. Eventually we only needed to add another three poison counters, while
they had put us to sixteen and four poison counters. Unfortunately, they managed to lock down our creatures, and their Contagion Clasp began upping our
poison counters each turn. Spencer could feel the tide turning against us, and every time he drew another land, he would sink a little lower in his
Soon our opponents had two Contagion Clasps on the board, with enough mana to proliferate with each of them, and we were at six poison counters. We
knew we had to win this turn. They had still had seven poison counters, so we needed to deal three more.
We looked at the board position and started talking about what we needed to do. We had everything figured out and started to play it all out. Spencer
dropped the Putrefax and activated the Vector Asp that was already in play. I activated my Goblin Artisan’s ability and made the Asp bigger, then
we sent them in. Spencer was excited that we were going to win this game but gave me a quizzical look when we declared our attacks and left them to
Oh no! What did I just do! While our opponents could handle the creatures on the ground, they couldn’t stop anything in the air. I was supposed
to give the Vector Asp flying before our opponents would have a chance to block! I couldn’t believe I’d cost us the game. I knew as soon as
they started to declare blockers that I had messed everything up, and even worse, Spencer’s quizzical look meant he didn’t understand why I
hadn’t. I had taken this day that my son was looking forward to for weeks and stuck him with 0-2 drop. I’d taken my son’s first
chance at winning packs at a bigger tournament (hell, his first chance at a winning record in a bigger tournament) and thrown it away on a play that
was so bad I couldn’t remember the last time I’d made a mistake that bad in a tournament.
As we were picking up our cards, we talked about the final play. I explained what I did wrong, and Spencer confirmed that he didn’t understand
what I was doing, but he figured I had it under control. My son trusted that I was making the right play, and I had messed it up.
We were talking on the drive home:
“Spencer, I’m so sorry I messed up our game. I can’t believe I did that!”
“Bruce, it’s okay. No big deal. I had a good time. This was the best tournament I’ve been to because I got to play with you in the games! I had a great time!”
So on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for Magic and the close bond I have with my son because of it. For me, “The Best Way to
Win” at Magic is to spend the day going 0-2 drop in a StarCityGames.com Open 2HG tournament in Boston with my son Spencer.
Happy Thanksgiving to each of you.