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Stream Rules

Links are enabled. Feel free to share decklists and related things.

If you want to post a dissenting opinion in chat, articulate yourself as to why you feel differently. Consistent arguments presented with a logical basis are welcomed. Opinions backed by nothing but feelings will be removed.

If you see a play that is wrong / bad – explain why it is wrong / bad. Help me (and the rest of chat) learn why it was a mistake. Don’t just spam !punt and such without context.

Generate discussions. For example if you think we should be playing a card in a given deck list don’t just say “Card X is good in this deck.” Say “Card X is likely better than Card Y that you are already playing because it serves Z function”. The first is just stating your opinion. The second provides context to why you feel the way you do.

If you break these rules you will be quickly timed out. Rules are subject to change and are managed at my and my moderator’s discretion.

Think before you type. Read your message back to yourself before you press enter.

MTG Arena looks great, but it isn’t Magic for Me

Since MTG Arena dropped its NDA and allowed people to start streaming it – I have had a lot of people ask me for my thoughts on it and if I plan to stream it. Today I just wanted to write a short note giving my early thoughts on it.

Before I say anything though I’d like to remind everyone of something very important:

As of my writing this Arena is only in a CLOSED BETA I am certain many of the details surrounding the game are subject to change before the final release

That said – let’s dive right in with my hot take on MTG Arena shall we? My sound bite opinion on Arena as it stands is the title of this post:

MTG Arena looks great, but it isn’t Magic for Me

I genuinely mean the first part. The interface on Arena looks really slick. The auto-tapping of lands when playing a spell, while currently a bit rough, is awesome and makes game play really smooth. I also love what they have done with the timers in arena to encourage people to play the game quickly.

The second part of my title is one that might confuse people – after all – Arena has a full Magic rules engine. The thing is though – Magic is more than just a set of rules. Magic to many, myself included, is the formats that we play within those rules.

To say I play a lot of Magic is an understatement. In fact – if you peek at my YouTube channel you’ll find 30+ hours a week of Magic for most of this year (and that is just counting on stream games). What you will not find on that channel though is standard matches of Magic.

In terms of constructed – Standard is all Arena is likely to support moving forward based on what WOTC has told us. This means that while Arena looks great, it is about as useful as Hearthstone to me when it comes to playing a game I am interested in playing. If I can’t play formats like Modern, Legacy, or Pauper on Arena – then Arena will not let me play Magic that I am interested in playing.

At the end of the day – I hope Arena is successful. More people playing Magic is good for the game. Eventually those people will likely get interested in playing all that Magic has to offer.

While Arena does not support sweet non-rotating formats though, it simply will not be Magic for me.

A Thank You to the Magic / Twitch Communities

Streaming is something I’ve always done just because it was something I enjoyed doing. Playing card games in general is a great time and streaming lets me be engaging and use some of my education background while gaming. It always made some money, but never enough to justify calling it a “real” job. As such I was still teaching / tutoring / doing free lance writing to supplement this.

At the start of December, as the school semester was coming to an end, I tweeted this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The response to my spending more time streaming has been overwhelming to say the least. My Twitch “sub point” count, which was under 200 for the longest time, has ballooned to over 800 currently. Past just the subscribers, the donation decklists we’ve been doing on stream have been a huge success. Not only in letting me free roll MTGO leagues, but also for finding some really awesome and interesting decks to play.

I just wanted to make this note to say how incredibly grateful I am to the community for the support they have provided as I’ve produced more Magic content.

I have no idea if this will last long term, but while the support is here I plan to do my best to invest some of this money back into making more and better content.

My first step towards improving the content is going to be hiring a sitter a couple hours every afternoon I am streaming to help bridge that gap between when Declan wakes up from his nap and when my wife gets home from work. While my kids are awesome, cute, funny, and many other things – one thing they are often not is quiet!

For those who love seeing the kids – we will still have Declan and Jake cameos I am certain – I just want to reduce the number of moments where I have to mute myself due to a random toddler meltdown over YouTube buffering or a toy needing to be shared.

In closing – just again – thank you to everyone who has added their support as a Twitch subscriber in the last few months. You all are the reason I am able to do what I do, as often as I do it. I would also like to give a special shout out to Aner0nix who has single handily sponsored a bunch of extra stream time recently through some very generous bits.

Donation Deck List Details – AKA how to buy the stream for a League

This is a short post to lay out the details of how the donation decklists work on the stream. Continue reading to learn how to get me to shill your favorite deck for you!

How to Submit a Deck

The first step in submitting a donation decklist is DMing me on Twitter, Twitch, or Discord with the decklist you are interested in having me play. You should always get confirmation I am willing to play your deck before sending a donation for it.

I reserve the right to refuse any list for any reason. In general I am willing to take a crack at any tier’d deck or anything especially sweet (read: turn 1-2 kills). Once I have confirmed I am willing to play a list you have sent me you should send a donation using this link. In the donation comment be sure to include a link to the decklist as well as your Twitch username.

How much it costs

If you are one of my Twitch subscribers you should send a $12 donation. If you are not one of my Twitch subscribers you should send a $20 donation. If you are bad at math this means it is cheaper for you to subscribe and donate $12 rather than $20, but who am I to tell you how to spend your money.

When your deck gets played

Once you send a donation the decklist you submitted gets added to the donation list queue. Decks that have been in the queue longer generally have preference to those that have been in the queue for a shorter period.

Don’t like waiting? Me neither!

Thankfully money talks. You can throw a kicker donation on top of the base amount to push your deck’s democracy points up. For every $1 / 100 bits sent a deck gains an extra point towards how soon it gets played. So for example a deck that has been waiting 14 days would have the same points as a deck that had $14 extra dollars donated for it.

Free Donation list every month for $25 Subscribers

As a thank you to my $25 a month subscribers you get a free donation decklist on the house! Just message me on Twitch from your subscribed Twitch account each month to set up which deck you would like me to play.

As a bonus for being consistently awesome your monthly donation list choice will also come with a bonus $15 worth of democracy points.

Skipping the Line

Are you really impatient? Do you like me? Do you hate your money? For a $50 donation your deck will get moved to the top of the queue for the start of the next time I stream.

If you really want to see something sooner rather than later, for a $100 donation I will change up the schedule for the current day and play your deck as soon as the current league I am in is finished.

F.A.Q.

Q: Are you a sellout for doing this?
A: Absolutely! But Declan is fat and expensive to feed, so here we are. (Disclaimer: Declan eats regardless of how many donation decklists we get, but he really is fat)

Q: How soon will you play my deck?
A: As soon as I feel like it. No promises. The sweeter it is, the sooner it gets played though. If you want to see it sooner rather than later, consider bumping yourself with some extra democracy.

Q: Do I have to provide cards for the deck I donate to see?
A: No. MTGO Traders, one of my sponsors, hooks me up with whatever MTGO cards I need. They are great!

Q: Can you notify me when you are playing my deck?
A: Not likely. I do not plan my streams far in advance and just try to fit in decks when I can.

Q: If I can’t watch my deck live will there be an archive of it being played?
A: Definitely. Donation lists are no different from my other streams so they will get archived to my YouTube channel here.

Q: Can I donate to move someone else’s deck up the donation queue?
A: Yep! Who am I to refuse your money?

Q: What else can I pay you to do on stream?
A: I don’t know – How much money do you have?

MTG Arena and the CCG Shakedown

Wizards recently announced they are working on a new digital client for Magic the Gathering called MTG Arena. While a lot is up in the air about a lot of the details surrounding MTG Arena, what they have shown to start looks promising – especially for anything with an “alpha” status. That being said – the devil is in the details as the saying goes – and as The Professor recently pointed out there is plenty of room for Wizards to get those details wrong.

People have been asking me for my thoughts on Arena since it spoiled so today I would like to share my thoughts about the most important thing a lot of the digital card games today mess up for me: How I can acquire cards to play.

Almost every digital card game coming out in the last couple of years has been copying the Hearthstone model verbatim. For those unfamiliar this means there is no trading. The only way you can get cards is by buying booster packs or by “crafting” the specific cards you want.

The frustrating aspect of this system for someone like myself who just wants to play competitive cards games is that you can’t actually give me a specific price on how much it costs to build a deck at any given point. The cost is going to vary based on how many of the cards I actually need, I am lucky enough to open from packs.

Not only does this make the system you have to go through to acquire the cards you want convoluted, it also often makes it expensive. While it is true that paper Magic and MTGO are also expensive to acquire cards, in reality these games only have a high up front cost. The cards in games that offer trading hold value. This means if I spend $100 on tradable cards that I know I can get at least $70 back for later, I have ultimately spent less money than if I put $50 into building a deck in a CCG. Even though it was a cheaper upfront cost for the CCG, it cost me more in the long term. So not only did I have to jump through hoops to get the cards I wanted to play with, but it ends up costing me more money as well.

Past all of this – what if I do not like the deck I’ve crafted in a CCG? What if I built it early in a new format and it is no longer viable as the metagame becomes established? Many who have played CCGs in the past know the “dusting” conversion rate is generally not kind. Often it is a 1/4th ratio – meaning that if I want to change to a different deck I either have to invest more money or lose 75% of the investment I have in the cards for my current deck.

The biggest thing I have heard over and over again from some Magic players when saying I dislike the Hearthstone system is that they dislike how MTGO handles things. There is no free to play option on MTGO so many take this to mean that no middle ground can exist. They think that trading and free to play have to be mutually exclusive things. They are not mutually exclusive though.

You can have a system that allows free to play players to grind the game for endless hours as they enjoy, while also allowing trading to exist for someone like myself. We have two working examples of how a digital card game can implement systems that involve free to play and trading in Pokemon TCGO and Hex TCG.

So please WOTC – if you are out there reading this – give us trading in Arena. Not only would this make the digital game feel more like a paper game, but it would allow more people such as myself to justify investing time and resources into it. It will show us that you are invested in giving us a full Magic experience with Arena and it is not just another digital offering that you are going to use to suck money out of consumers and then ditch down the line.

Improving Tie Breakers in Events

Something that has always confused me in TCGs is how we run events today with hundreds or even thousands of people the same way we used to run events with just a couple dozen. We play some Swiss rounds based on the number of players and then cut to the top 8 players because it squares a bracket nicely.

Because of the way this is done we often have spots in these single elimination rounds being decided by tie breakers which are determined by the strength of opponents played in the event. Because no one has any control over who they play, this makes tie breakers random. Because TCGs have enough variance in them I personally would love to see some methods tried that could reduce this often frustrating variance Today I would like to talk about one possible alternative method.

We start by playing a number of Swiss rounds based on our event size. We would use the current round thresholds minus one. So, for example, with 65-128 players we would play six rounds of Swiss. At the end of swiss we do a single elimination cut with all the players who finished with an X-1 record or better.

Because we are cutting based on record, we will often not have a perfectly square amount of players. Now we use tie breakers from the event to square the bracket by handing out byes to the players with the best records. For example, if we had a 125 player event we would likely have 14 players who are 5-1 or better after six rounds. This means we would need to hand out two byes in the first round of single elimination, so the players who finished first and second after the swiss would get a bye.

Folks who are familiar with brackets will note this creates an additional round of single elimination when we have nine or more players who finish X-1 or better. This is fine though because we removed a round from the Swiss portion of the event. This means events are at most the same length as we are used to them being for the players who make the top cut, while also being shorter for a majority of the people playing.

While I think my suggested method here would likely be an improvement over the current system which we have been using for ages, I would not be surprised if there are even better solutions out there. I just find it surprising, and kind of annoying, that we have been using the same tournament format for decades without ever exploring other options.

Returning to Magic Online

A little over a year ago I wrote a short post on this same blog talking about how I was taking a hiatus from streaming / playing Magic Online. Those of you who follow my Twitch.tv page know that I picked the application up again in May of this year and I have had more than a few people ask why – today I am going to answer that question.

First – while Magic Online is far from a perfect piece of software – there is no doubting that it currently offers the best competitive experience out of any digital card game. People often talk about games like Hearthstone, Eternal, and others being “competitive”, but when you look for actual events to play in you find none. Sure, they have competitive ladders where you earn in-game rewards, but a “normal” person can never pay an entry and win something that they turn into something tangible.

On Magic Online you can. In addition to playing in on-demand leagues for prizes Magic Online has five challenge events in five different constructed formats you can play every weekend. The entry fee is $25 and the prizes break down as follows:

Place Prizes
1st 500 Play Points, 100 Treasure Chests, and 1 non-foil set of the most recent Standard-legal set
2nd 500 Play Points and 75 Treasure Chests
3rd-4th 400 Play Points and 50 Treasure Chests
5th-8th 400 Play Points and 25 Treasure Chests
9th-16th 300 Play Points and 10 Treasure Chests
17th-32nd 250 Play Points

For those who are unfamiliar with MTGO prizing:

  • “Play Points” are essentially MTGO event credit. They are worth about 10 cents each, so the 250 Play Points you get for 17th-32nd represent 25 USD worth of new event entries.
  • “Treasure Chests” are tradable items that you can also open. They contain random cards, play points, and event booster packs. The average sale price of a Treasure Chest generally ranges somewhere between just over 2 USD and 2.5 USD.
  • A 1x copy of the latest set of MTGO is generally worth at least 40 USD.

For those who would like a rough estimate – low balling chests at 2 USD each of these challenge events pays out 900~ USD in items you can resell for cash to a vendor such as MTGO Traders and another 1000~ USD in prizes you can use to enter more events (even other challenge events).

As someone who has spent many weekends in the last few years driving two or more hours to play in events that paid out a 1000 USD to the top 8 only while charging a 30 USD entry fee – playing from my home, with optional pants, in an event with a lower entry fee and higher prize pool is fantastic.

Because I have managed to win two different challenge events in the last month – I am probably a little bit biased when I say this – but these events are great. They allow me to play a competitive card event from my home, without giving up my entire weekend or even entire day to do so.

This past weekend I played seven rounds of swiss, plus three more rounds in the top 8 and was done by 6pm so I could take my kids to the park. On the days where I have a less than stellar performance I am not stuck rotting in a convention center or LGS waiting for the rest of my car to be done playing so I can move on with my day. I can simply go hang out with family and friends at home or just jump in some on demand events if I want to game some more.

Now that my kids are a bit older I do not really want to travel 30+ weekends a year to play in a bunch of large Magic events like I have in years past. While I still encounter some bugs on occasion, the convenience MTGO provides while still allowing Magic to be a competitive outlet is one I am grateful for.

Summer Hex Schedule

Summer is almost here so I am pushing my schedule around a small bit to accommodate more time outside with the kids. Since I’ve expanded into doing some original YouTube content now as well, I am going to use some of that to supplement my schedule, with the goal being putting out some amount of new content every day.

My Summer schedule at a minimum will be the following:

  • Monday – New Hero Battle Video on YouTube
  • Tuesday – Live Stream on Twitch noon CST start time
  • Wednesday – New Hero Battle Video on YouTube
  • Thursday – Live Stream on Twitch noon CST start time
  • Friday – Live Stream on Twitch 9am CST start time
  • Saturday & Sunday – New Draft Videos with full commentary on YouTube

While I enjoy drafting like crazy, I think putting out videos every day was not only stretching myself a bit, but it was stretching how much content people had time to watch – especially on the days where I had stream archives posting as well. Only doing two pre-recorded drafts a week means I can make sure they all have full commentary for the draft and game play portions.

This schedule change will take place starting this weekend. Thanks everyone for watching and as always extra thanks to everyone who supports my content directly on Twitch and Patreon.

 

Draft a Day Week 3 Contest

I am posting a new HexTCG draft video every single day at midnight PST. To make the experience a bit more interactive I’ve added a small contest to the mix.

At the end of each week you can comment on a post like this with the record you think each draft deck performed at. The person who is closest to predicting the record of all 7 decks will earn a free draft set in client (3 packs + 100 plat). If multiple people are closest or exactly correct in a given week a winner will be chosen at random.

This week’s draft videos:

Free hints for this week:

  • Five of these decks went 3-0.
  • One was so bad I dropped after losing the first match.
    Leave a comment on this post with your predictions for the seven decks! All entries must be commented on this post before 10pm on Thursday the 6th PST time zone.

Updated: Pio correctly guessed all seven entries. Thanks for everyone who entered.

Modernizing the Grind, Digital is the Future

You could say I’ve played a lot of Magic the Gathering in the last few years. Just by the numbers I’ve played 1350~ sanctioned matches at competitive REL, across 102 weekends between the start of 2014 and the end of 2016. This year has been a bit different though. 2017 is a quarter over as I write this and so far I’ve played around 30 sanctioned matches of Magic this year.

So what changed this year to make me go from playing major Magic events every other weekend to barely playing at all? Well, if you have followed me for awhile you know I have been enjoying HexTCG a good deal for the last year. Their constructed formats have been consistently well designed – they have the diversity of Magic’s modern format, without ever having to worry about dying on turn 2 or 3.

Good game play and diverse formats are not enough for me as a competitive player, though. Even though I had been enjoying Hex’s constructed more than Magic for the better part of the last year, my competitive drive kept sending me back to Magic events for the chance to compete in large events.

At the end of last year though Hex started amping up their organized play by adding a $5000 cash event that happens every other month. While that total number pales in comparison to current Magic events, when you factor in the cost of travel and entries fees playing a $5000 cash event from my home is easily higher expected profit. Then this weekend Hex is rolling out the next big expansion to their competitive events I can play from home – weekly, open entry sealed events that pay out $1000 cash plus valuable in game items that are tradable.

I find it much easier to enjoy an event when I am not starting out the weekend down anywhere between $100-$500 due to travel costs. Flying across the country to 2-3 drop an event feels awful while going 2-3 drop from my home allows me to spend the rest of my day with my family or working on other things. TCGs have variance by design, so even though I have a fairly reasonable 65%~ win rate across those 1000+ matches of Magic, I can never expect a return on a given trip.

While I still plan to play local Magic events here and there (in fact, last weekend I won a team constructed event with some friends) I will not be traveling nearly as much this year with all Hex has to offer now. Personally I am excited for what the future of Hex can hold. While other digital card games have high prize events for their top 1% of players, no others that I have played offer consistent regular events that just anyone can play for cash prizes from home.

If you are a TCG player looking for something to scratch that competitive itch for you without the risk / cost associated with traveling for paper TCG events then I would highly recommend giving Hex a try. If you want to read a bit more about Hex and all the events they currently offer check out my post on Hex Primal here.