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A Short Thank You

I probably do not mention it enough, but I appreciate the silent majority of TCG players that are reasonable people. I love meeting people, shaking hands, and damaging, err, signing stuff at events.

Sites like reddit giving a loud microphone to the vocal minority is frustrating, but perspective is important.

I just want to say thank you for supporting my content. Whether you are a subscriber on twitch channel or just someone who reads my articles every week – thanks. You make doing what I do worth doing.

Disaster Relief Donation Stream

Starting at 7pm CST on October 10th we will be having our weekly paper Magic stream on my Twitch.tv channel. The stream itself will consist of testing the new standard format with Kaladesh cards in preparation for SCG Regionals and the Pro Tour.

During this stream we will be doing something special though – all donations sent during this stream will be forwarded on to the Red Cross to help with disaster relief for damage the recent hurricanes have caused. To encourage viewers to contribute to the fund we are going to be giving away some sweet magic swag to some of the folks who donate. We will mail things anywhere in the world, but if you live outside the United States you will be expected to pay for any large shipping costs.

The following are some of the things Mat and I have put together with the help of community members to give away:

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Thanks in advance for your contributions!

Why Hex is the Digital TCG for Me

It seems these days that digital card games are a dime a dozen. It is hard to argue with the success Blizzard’s Hearthstone has enjoyed in recent years and every game publisher wants to follow in their success. Being a moderately successful paper TCG player, earlier this year I set off looking for a digital card game that I enjoyed.

If you follow me on social media, then you likely know that I found what I was looking for in Hex TCG. I often have people ask why I prefer Hex to the literally dozens of other digital card games, so today I would like to talk a bit about why this is. Before you read on though – I would like to remind you that a lot of what I am about to say is purely subjective. It is my opinion and not a personal attack on folks who disagree with me.

Hex is a TRADING Card Game

The thing that makes many of the digital card games hard to get into for me is the fact that they are simply Collectible Card Games. This means cards you purchase or acquire are permanently locked to your account. In order to really dive in and try one of these games you have to invest a lot of time or money into the game – neither of which you can get back.

With Hex, after I spent a few hours in the more casual aspect of the game, I felt fairly safe buying a constructed deck to do battle with. Worst case if I did not find myself enjoying the constructed I could get some of my investment back by reselling the cards I had purchased. Most digital card games today I would just be completely out my money if I did not enjoy the game I had invested in.

Hex is focused on gameplay, not time constraints

Many of the digital card games I have sampled are not trying to develop deep or interesting gameplay. Instead the focus on being mildly amusing, while making sure to not occupy too much time per game. This allows them to be played for 3-5 minutes here and there while you are doing other things. While this is great for some folks, it does make the games feel like they lack depth. When I am sitting down to enjoy a game I want interesting and deep gameplay to be the number one design goal.

The competitive constructed in Hex is best of three matches – which I personally find ideal in games that have variance by design. By requiring a player to win multiple games you allow some variance to be mitigated, allowing the more skilled player with win the match a bit more often.

Hex has regular set releases and diverse constructed formats

I started playing a good deal of Hex towards the end of February, 2016. In the seven months since then they have introduced two new sets each with hundreds of new cards to the game. Each of the three different constructed formats I have played during in these last months has had over a dozen viable, competitive decks. For each of the two seasons that have passed I was finding new deck ideas right up until the very end.

Regular set releases are important to a card game. They keep the formats you are playing interesting allowing for infinitely more replayability with all the new possibilities to explore several times per year.

Hex has free, ranked ladder play

A ladder is a match making system that tries its best to pair players based on the skill level their account is currently at. This creates more meaningful gameplay as less experienced players are far less likely to play against someone much better than them. This leads to less frustration for everyone involved. The lower ranked player has a better chance of winning and the higher ranked player has more of a challenge.

As an extra bonus – this ladder system is not only completely free to play for constructed, but also has prizes attached to it so you can build your collection while playing.

Speaking of prizes…

Hex has cash events

The only thing better than spending hours playing a game I enjoy is getting paid to do so. Earlier this month I top 4’d their first $5,000 cash event that myself and 116 other people played in. Players qualified for this event by playing on the ladder I talked about above.

This was not the last of the cash events Hex has in store. Today Hex Ent announced that not only was there going to be another $5,000 event following the end of the second season in November, but there is also going to be a $5,000 open entry and free to play constructed event on October 8th. No qualification needed – just have a deck and sign up in client.

Three $5,000 events in three months. None of which required any entry fee to play in. For the last $5,000 prize event I played for a paper TCG not only did I have to drive over two hours to play in it, but it also cost me $40 to enter and required me to put pants on.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully this sheds some light on why I enjoy Hex TCG as my digital card game of choice. At the very least this gives me something concise to link people to when they ask why I enjoy Hex.

If you are thinking of giving Hex a try you can download it directly from their website or simply search for it on Steam. If you find you enjoy the game after trying the tutorial / single player and are looking to dive into constructed you can find a few decent budget / starting decklists here.

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Short Comment on Ryan Hipp

It was recently brought to the attention of myself, Mat, and Brad that in one of the recent paper testing videos one of our guests, Ryan Hipp (not to be confused with the children’s author of the same name), appears to have manipulated the top card of his deck while shuffling. While this was an unsanctioned game / match, this is not behavior we want associated with the content we work hard to produce every week.

While we cannot confirm the intention of the manipulation present in the video, we would like to echo that cheating is wrong and hurts the integrity of the game. I intend to leave the video live on my YouTube channel for reference purposes, but Ryan will not be a returning guest to our weekly stream.

10k Follower Hype & Stream Updates

Apparently while I was not looking my Twitch Channel rolled past the 10,000 follower mark. I never expected my streaming to grow as quickly as it has in terms of followers, subscribers, and viewers. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get thus far – the channel would not be anywhere near as awesome as it is without all of you.

The paper Magic streams have really come together in the last month. On screen card overlays, better positioning of the hand cameras, and lightning improvements have all made the product we are producing a very reasonable quality.

The things remaining that still need improvement are going to require more sizable investments on my part, so they will likely be a bit slower to come. Eventually I would like to pick up cameras that have an optical zoom so we can zoom on player’s hands without the low resolution we have now. Better area microphone is also going to happen at some point as well.

At any rate – the paper streams in their current form have been far more popular than my MTGO streams were. Not only do we have more people watching live, but the archives on my YouTube Channel also see far more views than any of the MTGO archives ever did. This alone makes it worth the increased production time the live streams take compared to just firing up a piece of computer software.

Finally I just wanted to comment on something folks have asked about – the lack of a “sub goal” ticker on my stream of the late. Previously I had been doing long streams every time we hit a goal, but I am currently in the middle of 7 straight weeks of weekend travel, so fitting in a 12+ hour stream just is not feasible for me right now. We will for sure have another long stream after my travel season is done and I will post details about that when I have them.

As an alternative bonus for my subscribers I have created a private Discord Chat Server for Hex & Magic conversation 24 / 7. While I am not awake 24 / 7 obviously – this server allows me to prioritize responding to questions from people who help support me directly. While I still try to answer things on Facebook / Twitter as time permits – folks on the Discord server will always have priority.

Quick thought on the new PT Top 8 Structure

On August 2nd Wizards of the Coast announced a change to how the Pro Tour top 8s will be playing out. For reference they will be played out as such:

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I think this change is great. Rewarding people for doing well in the swiss, in the top 8 is a good change. The “modified play-draw rule” was a first attempt at this, but it was not quite enough incentive to play out your last round as opposed to drawing.

One thing I have seen said a number of times though that I wanted to refute in this post is the following statement:

“This system does not really stop intentional draws. Anyone who can draw into top 8 as opposed to winning into top 4 or losing into top 16 will still draw”

I do not think this will actually be the case. The reason for this is because of the changed payout structure associated with this top 8 restructure:

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Because 7-16 have the same prize money now, this means playing and losing your match for top 4 to end up top 16 is the same prize as drawing into top 8 and then losing in the quarters.

Basically you now get the choice if you want to play for that next position starting in the last round or the first round of single elimination. Some people might still choose to draw, but others will not. This also means people below these matches that 100% would have drawn previously, now have a chance to make it to the elimination rounds. Basically making for more people playing “exciting” matches during the event as a whole.

I love this change as a whole and really hope it trickles down to other magic events in general.

Just my two pence.

Being Critical of Your Play

Today I have some bad news for folks who play TCGs – most of the matches you lose are your own fault. Sure, there are going to be a few matches here and there where you genuinely lose to variance, but if you think these losses are happening more than the ones where you made various mistakes – then you are not being critical enough of your own play.

People often ask me how to improve as a TCG player to get to that “next level” where you are winning more matches than you are losing. Being critical of the decisions you make every game – even the games you are winning – is the best way to do this.

The things that make people who are good at TCGs good are not the games they win where everything is going according to plan. Those games are easy for novices and experts alike. It is the decisions the good players make in the games where things do not go their way that sets them apart.

You make your own luck. Focus on making optimal plays so that when you do draw the right cards, you have put yourself in the best position to win. Regardless of the outcome always look back on your matches to find things you could have done better / differently.

Food for thought.

Failing and Improving

If you are afraid to fail at something you can’t try to do great things.

Tonight during our second paper magic stream we failed at a few things. First and foremost – we failed at brewing in the new standard format. All three of our new decks were midrange decks that all failed to beat the existing midrange king: Bant Humans.

We also feel a bit short in getting our setup improved. We tried a new positioning for the hand cameras that I think ended up being a bit worse, but I will have to spend some time reviewing the recording to confirm what my few glances while recording was seeing. We also used standard gloss sleeves instead of the normal double matte sleeves which caused some glare issues.

Next week we will have some improvements on both fronts when we come back with deck ideas trying to go over and under the Bant Humans deck before the open in Columbus. Thanks to all the folks who watched this evening through our small growing pains as we get this live paper magic streaming down to a science.

Paper Magic Streaming, Long Stream, and Give Aways

Paper Magic Streaming

A couple of weeks ago I posted an update here talking about why I was going to be moving away from streaming MTGO after June. You can read about that here. The feedback on this was varied. Mostly folks said they understood where I was coming from, but were sad to see less Magic content on my Twitch page.

After doing some chatting with Mat Bimonte, who travels with me to many SCG Tour events, we came to a solution that allows me to still do away with MTGO, but also have Magic content on the channel still – live Paper Magic Streaming. The plan is to have a live testing stream every Wednesday evening on my same twitch page that will consist of Mat, Myself, and other folks who travel with us battling it out with ideas we are testing at that give point in time. It will primarily be standard and modern content, with an occasional night of legacy here and there.

As for the formatting of this, we are still working out the details, but it will likely consist of a top down camera in conjunction with hand cameras like we used to use on our old Crash Test series for The Meadery.

 

Next Long Stream and Give Aways

Every time I hit a certain sub threshold we celebrate by doing a long stream on my twitch channel. We recently hit this goal again and our next long stream will be starting around 11am CST on Saturday July 2nd. It will be a send off to regular Magic Online Streams on my channel as well as including some Hex Shards of Fate. The stream will be a minimum of 12 hours, with a possible extension to 24 hours if we meet a donation goal during the first 12 hours.

My plan is to start by streaming the MOCS Monthly event which is standard starting at 11am and playing some matches of Hex Shards of Fate between rounds. After the MOCS is over (or we are all scrubbed out) we will likely be taking votes to see what we want to do as the day progresses.

Speaking of the long stream – towards the end of it we will be doing at least two giveaways to my existing Twitch Subscribers thanks to my new sponsor the Collectible Corner in Normal, IL:

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So if you have not subscribed before now is an excellent time to do so! Both cards are in fairly good condition as you can see from the pictures, but I would be happy to damage sign them if the winner desires. Subscribers will not need to be present to win.

Collectible Corner is a game store in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois that specializes in Sports Cards and Magic the Gathering. We have daily Magic events, as well as singles, boosters, and supplies. We are open daily from Noon-11PM.

You can visit them in person at:

1520 East College Suite O Normal, Illinois

Or their online TCG storefront here

Farewell to MTGO

To cut right to the chase – I will no longer be regularly streaming Magic Online on my Twitch.tv page after the first week of July. If you would like a bit of explanation please read on.

To start – I would like to give an incredible thank you to the folks in the MTG community who have supported my stream via subscriptions and donations since I started streaming 15+ hours a week in February. I was not making what you would consider “good” money, but it was enough to be considered a part time job that purchased plenty of cases of diapers. Not bad for something I was going to be doing anyways because it was something I enjoyed doing.

That last part was the most important though:

“Because it was something I enjoyed doing”

Spending 15+ hours a week playing Magic Online for the last few months though has reminded me why I stopped playing digital Magic once before. The point of this post is not to rant about Magic Online though. Anyone familiar with the software even a little does not need to be told yet again about the bugs, memory leaks, and Wizard’s insistence on raking every last penny out of their players.

I thought I could put up with the issues – after all Magic is fun and playing an interesting TCG on the computer is convenient. At the end of February though something happened – I discovered Hex TCG. Not only was the game play as deep / interesting as Magic – but the client was not riddled with bugs / lockups and the events they ran were structured with rewarding the players in mind as opposed to dragging every last cent out of them.

More and more often while I was streaming Magic Online I felt like I was just waiting for the minutes to pass until I had played enough to satisfy my Magic subscribers so I could get back to playing Hex which provided an enjoyable digital experience.

So with all of this in mind my Twitch stream is going to become more of a dedicated Hex TCG stream. As I mentioned – I intend to keep my normal two days / week MTGO streaming schedule through the first week of July (as my travel schedule permits) because I know many of my subs sent me that money with the desire to see Magic content and I do not want to rob them of what they paid for.

After the first week of July you will only see Magic content on my twitch channel when it has been long enough for me to have forgotten how bad playing MTGO feels compared to a TCG built with digital in mind instead of digital as an afterthought.

Finally – if you are a Magic player reading this who has not checked out Hex already I would highly encourage you to do so. It is everything I have ever wanted as a digital TCG and if you enjoy Magic you will likely enjoy Hex a lot as well.

You can find an intro guide written by myself to Hex here or if you prefer video content there is a video intro by Chris VanMeter here. You can also see how cheap the competitive scene is compared to Magic by taking a peek at my write up here talking about tier 2 decks starting at 10~ USD and a tier 1 deck for only 100~ USD. Hex is also a digital Trading Card Game – which means it is possible to cash your collection or sell cards when you are done with them – unlike Hearthstone.