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Thoughts on Eternal Card Game

Eternal Card Game is a digital Collectible Card Game (CCG) that is being developed by Direwolf Digital. It follows the “traditional” CCG model that Hearthstone popularized of “dusting” and “crafting” cards. It is a collectible game only as there is no trading system. Eternal is currently in open beta at the time I am writing this, so you should take all my thoughts here with a grain of salt as I am sure anything I talk about here is very much subject to change between when I post this and when the game is marked as a finished product.

To date I have logged a few dozen hours playing the game in open beta and have spent probably an equal amount of time playing it during closed beta. I am going to focus on three areas when talking about the game today: Game Play, Software Quality, and Formats (Limited / Constructed / Single Player).

 

Game Play

The core of Eternal’s gameplay is similar to other modern card games today. There are five “factions” that require different “influences” to play cards from. The resource system Eternal utilizes is identical to that of Hex: Shards of Fate, which is a good thing in my opinion. It is a modern take on the resource system that Magic introduced two decades ago.

The game play in Eternal strikes a very interesting balance between the slightly clunky priority system Magic utilizes and the fast pace, little interaction, game play of something like Hearthstone. In general I am a fan of the pacing of the games in Eternal. I get some interaction on my opponent’s turn via “fast” spells, but I do not need to manually pass priority or configure different “stops” to play the game properly.

The fast game play does come slightly at the cost of strategic gameplay though. Eternal only pauses to give your opponent a chance to respond to things when they have the ability to actually respond. This means that if your opponent passes the turn with resources up you can often play a “test card” to see if there is a pause for them to respond before playing out the card you actually want to do something with.

The mulligan system in Eternal is worth commenting on a well. Each player is allowed exactly one mulligan per-game, but the mulligan you take is guaranteed to have between 2 and 5 resources in it. While I think this system does a good job of creating less non-games than something like Magic’s mulligan system does, you do still have some non-games where your second hand is nonfunctional due to the curve or types of influences it requires.

To prevent abuse of this mulligan system there is a deck building requirement that all of your decks must be at least ⅓ resources.

 

Software Quality

Direwolf Digital is a software company and the quality of their product shows it. The Eternal client is fairly slick in almost every aspect. It is fairly attractive and runs smoothly on everything from my Linux / Windows PCs to my Android phone. Even though the software comes with a beta tag it has been nothing but stable for me throughout my dozens of hours of game play.

My only two complaints about the current client are fairly minor and could easily change before the stable release. The first is that the “end turn” button is located in the same place as every other button in the game. This leads to accidently skipping turns when you do not intend to. The button for passing your turn should likely be in a different location or have a confirmation that you intended to press it.

The second is that it can often be hard to distinguish between cards that are “exhausted”, or used, and those that are not when looking at the game board. Cards that are used are simply a faded color as opposed to changing direction / size / something that makes them clearly used.

 

Formats

There are four primary methods of playing games of Eternal. Gauntlet (single player constructed), Forge (single player limited), Ranked (PvP constructed), and Draft (PvP limited).

The limited in Eternal is hands down the best I have played in any digital card game to date. Forge does a good job of introducing new people to limited. Each pick gives you three cards to choose from and once you have two different factions of cards you will only see cards from those factions for the remainder of your picks.

The draft format is where the innovation really is though. The draft is fully asynchronous, which means you can draft on your own without ever waiting for other players. You can always pause mid draft and pick back up later on. There is no timer on your picks so you have plenty of time to make important decisions. You draft from four, twelve card packs until you have 48 cards and you get to keep the cards you draft.  You then build a 45 card deck with 48 cards you have drafted plus resources.

People who follow me from other games know that constructed is my true passion. I enjoy tuning new ideas and working on things that are traditionally outside the box. It is fairly expensive to get all of the cards you need to be able to play a variety of decks in Eternal’s constructed due to many of the better cards being legendary and being four ofs in the better decks. While most card games come with a large price tag to own everything, Eternal’s lack of trading means any money you put in can never be cashed out.

I put $40 into Eternal to buy some packs and do some extra drafts, not only because I wanted to support Direwolf, but also so I could play some constructed. I was able to battle to Masters (the highest rank) with a budget deck that did not contain any legendaries, but my interest in the game started to wander when I realized I need to spend a good deal of time grinding or dump in a pile of money to get all of the cards I wanted to experiment with.

For reference if you want to craft a specific legendary card it would cost you approximately 8 USD worth of product to do so assuming you were not lucky enough to open that specific card.

 

Wrapping Up

All in all Eternal is a very reasonable digital offering. It does a good job of offering faster game play, while still having many of the tactical decisions generally only present in longer games like Magic. The technology support is there, so the main thing that will be the driving force to determine if Eternal can become and stay popular is the strength of their card design team. We currently only have one set released, so time will tell if they excel in this area or not.

You do not have to take my word for the game though – it is completely free to play so head on over to Steam and give it a try.

 

Cheers,

~Jeff Hoogland

Music While Streaming

Late last night after I had turned off the fourth Twitch stream in a row because the music the stream had playing was unpleasant to me, I tweeted this:

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Due to the brevity Twitter requires I was unable to fully explain why I felt this way in this single tweet. I wanted to take a second and write why I feel the way I do about playing music while streaming.

First – lets assume everything is setup and balanced well. The music is loud enough for me to hear, but not so loud that it drowns out the content the streamer is creating. If I enjoy this music (or am neutral about it) I will not mind. If I dislike the music I will likely leave. In this case the streamer lost a viewer because they did not like the music, even if they wanted to watch the content otherwise.

Now – the common response to this is some people watch twitch streams explicitly for the music. In the digital age today, it is very easy to share playlists of music. Pandora, Spotify, and other services easily allow a stream to have a link that says “listen to my music” below their stream. This allows for people who want the streamer’s music to enjoy it, while not turning off people who dislike it. Even my smart phone can play music while watching Twitch at the same time.

The other defense of music on stream I heard from several people is that the streamer just wants to listen to music. Using modern streaming software, like OBS, a streamer can very easily select individual audio channels to send to their stream. They can very easily listen to their own music while streaming and not share it with the rest of the world directly.

Not playing music directly on the stream also has the added benefit that any archives you create will not be muted for copy right reasons. This means people who like the streamer’s content will be able to see more of it. Being able to archive things without audio disputes to a place like YouTube can also be an additional revenue source for streamers.

Finally – Yes I used to play music while streaming. I did it because most people I watched stream did it and it seemed like the norm. I realize now that it lost me viewers then for the reasons I list here and I am glad I stopped doing it.

Taste in music is subjective. Regardless of how many people are enjoying a stream’s music, it is always costing the content creator some viewers who dislike the music. There is a reason major sporting / eSports events do not play music as an underscores to their shows – it is a net positive not to.

Bad Modern Bracket Showdown

For my live paper Magic streams for the last two weeks of the year we are going to be trying out something a bit different. We are going to take 16 “tier 4” modern decks, throw them in a bracket, and then battle them out on camera to see which unknown deck comes out on top.

We are going to make this a bit interactive though! Once we know which 16 decks are being played, we are going to publish a bracket. People can then submit their own copies of the bracket predicting which decks will win where. At the end of the 2 nights of streaming, we will select the correct (and possibly most correct) brackets to send some Magic related goodies to.

So what is the point of this post you ask? Well – we need your help selecting which 16 deck are going to do battle! Please vote in this poll for the decks you would most like to see. Whichever 16 decks have the most votes come Monday December 12th will be slotted into the bracket.

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.