Dustin Wade Roberson: Pro Tour Competitor

Posted in Event Coverage on November 10, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

Vance Morgan wants you to know his son's name, and his story. About the great moments of Dustin Wade Roberson's life. He wants you to know about the bubbly toddler that Dustin was. He wants you to know about the bond Dustin had with his brother Harry, three years his senior and his partner in all the usual childhood misadventures. He wants you to know about the T-ball games where Dustin and Harry played like the days would never end, and the elation he felt watching his sons round the bases. About the flag football season where Dustin defied all expectations, and the day the family was honored guests of Jeff Fisher at a Tennessee Titans game. About the first moment he met Dustin and Harry's mother, Laurie, not long after their biological father walked out. About the bright day Vance and Laurie married and the pride he felt the first time he called the boys his sons.

Vance wants you to know about the other stuff, too. He wants you to know about the typical family struggles with two young boys, the expected fights between siblings and parents. About the day Harry first stumbled and fell and how he needed help to stand back up. He wants you to know about that first trip to the doctor and about the blood tests at the hospital. When they received the news that Dustin too would face the same challenges as his brother. About the day the first wheelchair came home, and the day Dustin took his last unassisted step. About the choice to leave his engineering job to help care for his sons at school, much to their chagrin at having their father around all their friends. About the people who told him he was crazy to marry a woman who was caring for two kids with muscular dystrophy, a cruel and degenerative disease that robs children of their ability to run and jump, then the ability to walk, and eventually the muscle strength needed to fill their lungs with air. He wants you to know about the daily routine that kept them going—Laurie taking care of the myriad appointments and paperwork for the boys while he did the heavy lifting.

Vance wants you to know about the morning when Harry needed a tracheostomy to continue breathing, and the night when complications from surgery claimed his life at nineteen, a year after he celebrated his high school graduation with friends and classmates. He wants you to know about the day he and Dustin buried the wife and mother who took care of her sons until the very end, even as her own heart gave out, and the way they couldn't have gotten through it without each other. He wants you to know how bitterly hard life was then, and how low they sunk.

The father who didn't have to be also wants you to know about the day it began to turn around. About the time when a friend introduced nineteen-year-old Dustin to a game called Magic. About how amusing it was for Dustin as he tried to teach a fantasy strategy game to a self-described "gearhead" and motorcycle fan. About the hours Vance spent learning the basics of the game so he could help manage the cards while Dustin directed his actions. About how Dustin has tried other decks but always comes back to his beloved Jund. About the happiness Dustin felt when he competed in his first Grand Prix, and the satisfaction when years of worked paid off with a Top 32 finish at Grand Prix Memphis in 2015.

Vance will only choke up a little, and only when he tells you about the community that embraced his son. He wants you to know how much it changed his son's life, that they befriended him, complete with the good-natured ribbing to which friends treat other friends. He'll tell you all about the road trips they make to tournaments—anywhere within a 500-mile radius of Memphis—and the friends like Ari Barker who will anything for Dustin, from helping to feed him in the car to acting as the extension of his thoughts as they manage the physical cards at Dustin's direction.

He'll tell you how Brandon Jones was so inspired that he wrote to Wizards of the Coast requesting—insisting—that Dustin deserved a chance to fulfill his dream of playing on the Pro Tour. About how difficult it was not to break the news to his son early. About the moment of pure joy as he watched Dustin open the email alerting him that he had received an invitation to compete at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. About the experience this weekend that both father and son will cherish forever, no matter what comes next.

Vance knows what the future holds for the family that didn't have to be. There are 42 types of muscular dystrophy, and a treatment or cure for zero of them. Most people born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy die before they turn 20 years old; Dustin is 26. His health is failing and Vance doesn't know if he'll make it to the end of the year.

But he knows one thing: Magic is the reason he has been given the chance to spend as long as he has with the son he chose all those years ago. And he wants you to know it, too.

"I know the reason Dustin is still on this planet is because of Magic and the people who play Magic," he said. "Now we wake up in the morning and go through our routine, and then he fires up Magic Online and holds court. I have a friend who I used to do car shows with who would always say 'it isn't about the cars, it's about the people.' Magic is the same way. We've had so many people, even from other countries, come up to us this weekend just to say hi. They treat Dustin as an equal, and that's what matters to him. He had a lot of friends in high school, but after graduation they all moved away and got married and had kids, and they can't come around much anymore. But Magic has given him a whole new group of friends he would never have had.

"We want people to know Dustin and people like him. It's just me and Dustin now, and I look to him for emotional guidance, and he's almost always good. As long as he's good then I'm good, and Magic keeps him good."

Dustin Wade Roberson (left) and his father Vance Morgan

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