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Streaming Schedule and Content Updates

Just wanted to write a short post with my updated streaming schedule:

  • Monday       12pm-3pm CST – HexTCG
  • Monday       7pm-11pm CST – Paper Magic
  • Tuesday       12pm-3pm CST – HexTCG
  • Wednesday 12pm-3pm CST – Eternal
  • Thursday     12pm-3pm CST – HexTCG

Previous I was doing Tuesday / Thursday 12pm-4pm, so while this is less time on those specific days it is more stream time overall. I am also adding at least one day a week of Eternal Card Game which I have been enjoying playing both on my laptop and smart phone since it went into open beta.

Keep in mind these are minimum streaming goals, so there will still be impromptu streams as time allows. Be sure to follow me on Twitch / Twitter for notifications when extra streams happen.
As always if you ever miss a stream, you will be able to find the archives on my YouTube channel. I am also occasionally putting out non-archived content on my YouTube channel as well such as deck building tutorials and play testing sessions.

While I am taking this week and next week off of paper Magic content for the sake of secrecy before the Player’s Championship, I am recording a good deal of my play testing for the event. I will have both paper magic and Cockactrice videos posted for standard / modern prep after day one of the PC is over on December 17th.

You can help support my content with a donation, a subscription on twitch, or by checking out my sponsors.

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Thoughts on SCG Tour 2017

Late last month SCG President Pete Hoefling outlined changes to the SCG Tour for 2017. As someone who has played in a lot of SCG events over the last few years, I have had a number of people ask me what I think of these changes. After having some time to stew on them I wanted to share my thoughts in a short post.

I would like to start by highlighting the things I think make sense about these changes:

Classics are the same format as the Open and there is always Modern

Having a classic that is the same format as the main event just makes sense. It allows people who only play a particular format to bring a single deck with for the weekend and know they can play a full two days of Magic with that deck regardless of their main event performance.

Still, having a second choice is fine. Making that choice Modern makes sense as, according to the latest data, modern classics are typically the largest.

 

IQ’s have relevance, but not too much

In 2015, the leader board had a pile of people towards the top who got there without playing in major events. In 2016, IQs did not give you anything at all towards the leader board.

The 2017 changes are a nice balance of the two. The smallest IQ option is now a 1k, so they will (likely) not be run on week nights. This removes people in particular geographic locations to farming them for points. They also only award 3 SCG points to first which is less than you get for top 64 at an open – this seems like a fair amount to me.

 

More East Coast and Less Midwest Events

While this one is not great for myself personally – I understand that it has to be more cost effective for SCG to host events closer to them. Only three midwest opens in the first half of 2017 though will leave room for others to hopefully fill the gap like with the Nerd Rage Championship Series.

 

There are two changes I do not understand fully / care for though:

All the 2016 Points just Vanish

Hopefully I am going to spike the last invitational of this year or win the player’s championship so this will not effect me directly – but one thing that does not feel good as a grinder is that all of our 2016 points are getting wiped away at the end of the year. When the points got reset after 2015 it almost felt like it made sense – clearing out points people had farmed from IQs seemed reasonable.

I was not able to find where I read it, but I thought when they announced the 2016 season they said people would fall off one season at a time moving forward as opposed to a hard reset like this. Having your top players suddenly become unranked at the end of the year if they do not spike one of the first two events feels bad and does not make a ton of sense to me.

 

No 2017 POTY or Player’s Championship

It feels odd for the first time in three years that there is no “end goal” for playing a ton of SCG events aside from getting some free Magic cards. As someone who does not need more cardboard in my life – there really is just no incentive to play a bunch of SCG events.

Myself and a number of others flew / drove long distances to get to a lot of opens this year. People formed teams with the goal of competing in all the events with the goal of putting people into a special year end event.

Without a Player’s Championship in 2017 I will not be surprised when we see all of this dissolve or see these teams redirect their focus onto WOTC events. I know I have taken a look at the Grand Prix schedule for the first time in a long time.

Even if I am player of the year for 2016, I do not see myself going to almost every open in 2017 like I did this year and years previous. I will likely just show up to play some modern and skip the rest.

 

Wrapping Up

I would like to close this: I am glad the SCG events exist and will continue into 2017, even if all the changes do not make sense to me personally. Whenever I see people post comments on changes SCG makes, it feels like many think SCG is a charity organization and not a for profit business. They do not owe anything to us as players.

Magic the Savaging

Talking about the recent Kentroversy got me thinking about all the various times I watched someone “get got” at a competitive REL event because their opponent was clever / scummy / whatever you want to call it. Where would you rate each of the following on a scale of 1 to Kent in Peace?

 

The Pillar Punk Fake


Player A is dead on board regardless of how he blocks the following turn. If Player A attacks with everything, Player B will go to two life with optimal blocks. Player A attacks with everything, Player B makes optimal blocks and goes to two life. Player A verbally confirms life totals. After Player B confirms he is at two life, Player A reveals his hand and says “I have a Pillar of Flame”. Player B concedes.

Player A couldn’t produce red mana.

 

A less than Surgical Extraction

Player A casts Surgical Extraction targeting Life from the Loam in Player B’s graveyard. Player B reveals his hand and gives his deck to his opponent to search. Player A finishes resolving his Surgical Extraction and hands Player B his deck back to shuffle. After the deck is cut Player B confirms Player A is done resolving his Surgical Extraction. Player A passes the turn.

Player B starts his turn and dredges the Life from the Loam still in his graveyard that had been targeted by surgical, but not removed.

 

A Seven Mana Titan

Player A casts a Primeval Titan tapping a pile of lands all at once, leaving only two lands untapped. Player B casts Mana Leak targeting Primeval Titan. Player A counts out his lands, sees he has tapped one land too many and uses his two untapped lands to pay for the Mana Leak.

 

Force of Fake Out

Player A is playing Legacy Storm and is dead on board. He shrugs his shoulders and goes for a combo kill. Player A casts Infernal Tutor, cracks his Lion’s Eye Diamond, and asks “Do you have the Force of Will?” Player B immediately flips over one of the two cards in his hand which is Force of Will. Player A concedes.

Player B did not have a blue card to go along with the Force.

 

Not so humble Thalia

Player A has a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in play. Player B casts Show and Tell and Player A flips over a copy of Humility. Player B continues to pay 1 extra mana for his spells, so player A does the same. On a pivotal turn Player A needs all of his mana, so he does not pay extra mana for his spell.

Player B taps the Thalia, Player A taps the Humility.

 

Underworld Disconnections 

Player A picks up and reads his opponent’s Underworld Connections. Player A casts Pithing Needle and names Underworld Connections. Player B confirms he is naming Underworld Connections. Player A agrees.

Player B then activates his Swamp to draw a card and lose one life.

 

Angry Elementals

Player A has two Voice of Resurgence Elemental tokens that he attacks with. Player B examines the board and asks: “The voice tokens are 4/4s?” Player A responds with “They have power and toughness equal to the number of creatures I control”. Player B looks over the board again and declares no blocks. Player A confirms they are moving to damage and Player B agrees.

Player B was at 9 life and the tokens were 5/5s.

 

More Pithing Problems

Player A casts Pithing Needle and names “Borborygmos”. Player B confirms what he is naming and writes it down. Player B puts a Borborygmos Enraged into play and kills Player A with it’s activated ability.

 

Clique Myself

Player A casts Vendilion Clique. Player B immediately throws their hand on the table. Player A glances it over and says: “Clique trigger targeting myself”

 

Wrapping Up

An important thing to note is that situations 3 and 5 are against the current rules because you are required to announce floating mana. This means if you do either of these intentionally you are cheating.

Do you know of any interesting “gotcha” stories? Let me know in a comment below.

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.