Beyond the Norm: A Gift-Giver’s Guide - Magic: the Gathering Edition

Ryan Normandin
December 22, 2017

Dear Jimmy’s Mom,

          This is Charlie! You might remember me from Friday Night Magic last week. I was the handsome, near-professional player that you chatted with between rounds while you waited for your 37-year-old son to finish the tournament. While our conversation spanned many topics, from my multiple FNM Top 64’s to your new fungal cream, one topic really stuck with me: what to get your son for Christmas.

            I had the pleasure of playing against your son during the tournament, and let me say that he is delightful. After not having played in two years, he came into my store and beat my meta-crushing monoblue Merfolk deck with, you guessed it, Temur Energy. Then, he had the nerve to ask me if I was a new player! Can you believe that?! ME, three-time FNM Champion Charlie! What an… inquisitive boy he is.

            Jimmy was then giving pointers to some of the children who I had been grooming to join my Pro Tour team (when I eventually qualify), which felt like he was kind of stepping on my toes, but I get it – he’s just a really nice dude. He was also really nice about it when we played some casual games of Modern and Legacy, and he beat my meta-crushing decks of mono-blue Cephalids and Legacy Five-Color Energy. Anyway, repeatedly losing to your, as I believe you called him, “little ray of basement-dwelling sunshine” really got me invested in whether he returns to the store and becomes a regular. As such, I wanted to reach out and offer some Magic-based ideas for Jimmy’s Christmas.

            I noticed that Jimmy really loves his $3,600 Leovold Commander deck. Good for him! I can only imagine how many months he spent skipping Doritos and Mountain Dew to save up for that. I know you mentioned that after he made his fortune in Silicon Valley, he flew back to take care of you, so I don’t mean to imply that he’s poor and unemployed – only that he is fat. If you want to go big (Jimmy-big) on a gift around his Commander deck, why not create a poster for his basement that is made up of all the cards in it? Just glue a bunch to some cardboard, frame it, and bam! You’ve got a collage of all of Jimmy’s favorite cards in one place.

            If you’re hesitant to spend the time on that, you could also just help him to upgrade some of his cards. Cards like Timetwister, Tropical Island, Underground Sea, Bayou, and anything with the word “Mox” in it are actually pretty old and outdated (you can tell by their old-fashioned border). I’m sure Jimmy would love if you updated his cards to more modern selections. For example, instead of Timetwister, which lets both players draw 7 cards (drawing cards = good), why not toss it and replace it with Jace, the Living Guildpact? As I’m sure Jimmy has mentioned, Jace is one of the best, most powerful cards in the game. And his -8 ability is a strictly better Timetwister because your opponent doesn’t get to draw any cards! Jimmy will love this upgrade.

            As for the lands, he really could use an update to the modern powerhouse cards. Aether Hub is ban-worthy in Standard and makes any color of mana; I was shocked to see that Jimmy wasn’t playing it in his deck. There’s also a really nice cycle of lands (such as Dismal Backwater, Jungle Hollow, and Thornwood Falls) that actually make the same colors of mana as Jimmy is already playing, but also gain you 1 life when they come in! As any Magic player will tell you, your life total is the most important part of the game.

            Jimmy’s Mox cards are also pretty sad; if you look closely, you’ll see that they cost 0 mana to play. I felt embarrassed for him when I saw Jimmy playing these cheap, plebeian cards. I would upgrade these cards to more expensive spells (more expensive = more powerful). There’s a card called Gleemax, for example, which not only costs 1,000,000 mana, but has a beautiful silver border to indicate just how rare and powerful it is. Replacing his Mox Diamond with this will certainly maximize his glee! Another good option is to upgrade his Mox Diamond to a Mox Lotus, which only costs 15 to play, but generates infinite mana! Again, silver border = basically Power 9.

The final card you could consider replacing some of his cards with is something called “Storm Crow.” A quick Google search will confirm that Storm Crow is one of the most powerful cards in the game, and provides the opportunity to do both of my gift ideas. If you turn his Commander deck into a collage, you could replace it with a deck of 100 Storm Crows. I can personally guarantee to you that he will cry many, many tears of joy on that Christmas morning.

            Magic players love personalizing their decks. During our conversation, you made it clear how close you are to your son. I mean, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t stop you from showing me your weird toe, and the fact that your son applies fungal cream to that monstrosity every… single… day… well, he must really love you. Or the fact that you let him, his wife, and his children live with you rent-free. Either way, you should consider personalizing his deck with some motherly love. If you look around online, you’ll notice that many Magic players travel hundreds of miles to go to large tournaments and conventions where they’ll pay artists to sign and alter their cards. With a Sharpie and an imagination, you could do the same! Sign his cards with your name, and perhaps little nuggets of motherly advice. Perhaps even some of your favorite memories together, like the time that he turned down that promotion at Google because it would mean less time for him to care for you and his family. What a scrub! That Google salary would’ve bought him ten Leovold decks, and he traded it for snot and fungal cream? What a noble kid you’ve raised.

            But you shouldn’t stop with signatures and advice; people LOVE alters. I noticed that Jimmy actually had a couple in his deck! Most artists use acrylic paints when they alter cards, but that’s a lot of time and effort. Once again, the best alters are done with nothing but Sharpie and imagination! Throw a mustache on that Tarmogoyf! Give that Ravnica Dark Confidant a funny hat and a tongue hanging out of his mouth! It would be so easy to replace Snapcaster Mage’s cannon thing on his arm with a hot dog. Inspiration is everywhere, and I can’t think of a better way to give Jimmy a truly unforgettable Christmas.

            I hope that you take these ideas into consideration when deciding on a gift for Jimmy. I personally recommend recording his reactions, as it’s not every day that a mother goes this far out of her way to give her son such a heartfelt, personalized gift. Feel free to send me the reaction video; I’d love to see Jimmy feeling the same way that he made me feel at FNM last night.


Charlie, near-pro


Ryan is a grinder from Boston with SCG & GP Top 8’s and a PT Day 2. His fragile self-esteem is built on approval from others, so be sure to tell him what you think of his articles on Twitter @RyanNormandin.


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