Friday, May 4, 2012

Of Miracles and Soulbonds

So we had our little miracle of life occur on Tuesday, May 1st, at 6:46 pm Central time. Avery Timothy Linn Sullivan entered the world via c-section delivery, due to suspected (though non-existent) placental abruption. At 33 weeks gestation, he weighed five pounds, six ounces and was eighteen inches long. As I type this, he is still in the NICU, but doing better every day.

Being that early, his lungs weren't quite as developed as they ought to be, so his oxygen and CO2 levels were a bit off, and he still needs to get the hang of sucking milk, but he's making progress.

This is my second child, my wife's fifth, and the sixth child in our household. Hers, mine, and now ours. Three boys and three girls, so we're a regular geeky Brady Bunch. Both of my offspring have had to spend some time after birth in the NICU; this trip is significantly less stressful than the first. When my daughter was born two and a half years ago, her biological mother (not my beautiful amazing wife) was, unbeknownst to me, a junkie, and she was born addicted to heroin (the junkie tested positive for heroin, amphetamines, and PCP, the baby tested positive for heroin). Needless to say, I have full custody of the child. But that time in the NICU was awful, because we didn't know what was going on (the addict wasn't exactly forthcoming about her drug use), and as it was slowly figured out... well, it's a pretty awful feeling, seeing your baby go through that. All in all, it was a sixth-month process to ween her off of a regular oral liquid morphine dosage.

So, I guess if my first kid pulled through after dealing with that big mess of terrible, this kid has it easy! By the way, my daughter is doing great now. There are some concerns that she may fall somewhere on the mild end of the autistic spectrum, but she's incredibly bright and clever and I'm sure she's going to do just fine.

We haven't played D&D in months at this point. Once things normalize, and Mama and Avery come home from the hospital, we'll be in a better spot to continue the campaign. The kids and I have continued to play plenty of Magic: the Gathering, and if any of you keep current on Magic trends, you'll have noticed the title of this article is a bit trendy.

"Miracle" and "Soulbond" are the names of two new mechanics introduced in the most recent Magic expansion set, Avacyn Restored. I just thought it was quite appropriate that this new set would be released this week, just a few days after I've experienced a miracle and soulbonding of my own!

Avacyn Restored also marks the first time I attended an in-store pre-release event, on Saturday, April 28th. It was $25, and you got six packs from the new set to open up and use to build a "sealed deck" for the little tournament they had going on there. There were maybe twenty people playing at the shop I went to (the Fantasy Shop in Florissant, MO), and I brought my oldest daughter, Alex. She's 11, and was by far the youngest person there, but she had a blast and was making everyone laugh because she's damn witty. She likes Magic but hasn't gotten terribly into it (although she is more excited about it now, after having such a good time at the pre-release).

Personal side-note about Alex: She's the oldest, and she's been through a lot. She was old enough to really remember (and still has a lot of pain from) her mom and dad getting divorced, and the roller-coaster of moves and everything else that happened before I came along. While my wife's three younger kids took to me pretty quickly, she has been reluctant to really be able to trust that I'm actually going to stick around and be a real dad. Taking her (and only her) to this Magic event (that all the other kids would have loved to go to) really meant a lot to her and was an awesome little bonding experience, even though we didn't spend a lot of time together while there. Just the fact that I took her, and she was able to have fun and be herself and talk to all kinds of different people, meant the world to her.

Anyways, I really like "Limited" Magic. There's a lot to be said about a player's skill when they have to make the best of what they wind up with in the packs they open. Randomization is the great equalizer.

It's kinda like rolling your stats 3d6 in order, when you think about it. You gotta take what you get, and make the best character (deck) you can with what you've been given. Sometimes it makes a lot more sense to run a fighter (aggro deck) instead of a wizard (control deck) purely because of the roll of the dice (draw of the cards), even if you prefer one over the other.

In fact, I liked the idea of the "sealed deck" format so much I decided we'd explore it even further in-house here. Alex and I both kept our cards from the pre-release separate, and today, upon full release, I purchased 18 fresh booster packs, six each for Kanaan, Chloe, and Aiden to crack open and start building their deck for a little league play. Each of us will play each other twice (to start, we may keep it going for a while after we finish the first set of matches) (and I have a full schedule written up, due to OCD). Every time a player earns two match wins, they get a fresh booster pack to open and add to their collection to draw on for their sealed deck. I'm also going to make it interesting, by allowing the kids to "trade out" cards from their sealed pools to the general collection at a rate of two-to-one; for example, they can trade in two of their uncommons for a single uncommon from the household's general collection (Whenever we decide to end the league, all the cards they've opened up will wind up in the "general collection" anyway... Magic cards are pretty strictly supervised in this house, purely because of the terrifying amount of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards I find laying around the house all the time; I would have a come-apart if I found Magic cards under the sofa). Also, whenever they've earned a fresh booster pack, they can instead choose five commons and two uncommon cards from the general collection (so they have control, but get half the amount of cards and no rares, like they would from a booster pack). And finally, they can select a booster pack from any set currently on sale at the Florissant Fantasy Shop (which is pretty much limited to Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, and the 2012 Core Set).

So, all in all, it should be interesting. I'm really hoping I can help them build up some deck-building skills with this little league exercise, and also introduce them to the concept of the "metagame". I know "metagaming" is a bad word in D&D-speak, but in competitive Magic, it refers to the local "scene", i.e., what types of decks are likely to show up at any given constructed tournament, which ones are strongest, and, most importantly, how to build your deck to compete against those other ones. Often, it's as simple as knowing to sideboard certain cards against certain styles of deck. In this case, they'll get a taste of it because they'll be able to see every match (if they want to), so they'll be able to see each other's strategies as the season progresses and potentially make changes as they see fit (and have access to the cards they need!).

This has been a fairly lengthy post. If you made it this far, thanks! I'm not sure how much time I'll have moving forward to post D&D material, but as soon as we get a session in, you'll get a play-report. If anyone is interested in how our little in-house Limited Magic league progresses, leave a comment and I'll start posting about it as it happens!