Sub-Only Chat & Small Schedule Updates

I just wanted to take a few moments to update the folks who follow my content about some changes that will be happening on the stream moving forward. Let’s start with a tl/dr of what is happening:

1.) Sub-Only chat is going to be the new norm in Hooglandia moving forward on Twitch

2.) My weekly schedule is going to change a small bit. My Monday-Friday schedule will now be approximately as follows:

All times are Central Cornfield Time and as always you can find my latest schedule week to week here.

While I have talked about my reasoning for these changes on stream in the last week, I’d like to write a quick summary for why these things are changing for a quick reference.

With regards to Sub-Only chat – this is something I had entertained doing in the past, but had always ended up deciding against. Recently, though, as my community, and Magic as a whole, has been growing it has become harder and harder to keep up with the rate at which my chat is moving. Meaningful questions were being lost in the churn.

This past week we gave Sub-Only chat a test drive on stream and, while my viewer count was down a bit as a result, I feel like the overall quality of my content was better. It felt good not needing to moderate as much and being able to catch almost every single question that was posted in the chat again.

I feel like Sub-Only chat will result in a better overall product for the people who directly support me which makes it a worthwhile change. For people who are watching my content, but not subscribed, remember you can still interact with me after the fact on my videos on YouTube.

With regards to my schedule – as Arena and my stream grew at an absurd rate during January and February of this year I let streaming consume almost every bit of my time. Being live for 50+ hours a week meant I was working close to 80 hours most weeks with all the extra things I do during my offline time to stay organized.

While I love this job and I am incredibly grateful to have it, I need to strike a bit better work-life balance overall. Scaling back my live hours a bit will allow me to do this, while still providing a quality of content I am happy with.

These changes here are not required to be permanent and as I collect more data after making them I might adjust them a small amount.

As always – a huge shout out to all the folks who make this weird thing I do a job for me. My content is sponsored by viewers like you so thanks for keeping me around while I grow as a content producer and person.

Temporary Donation Queue Slow – Not Active

Status: There is currently no slow. Learn how to submit a deck here.

For people who like to get to the point right away:

Effective Immediately I am putting a hold on adding new decks to the queue for the normal $10/1000 bit donation amount 

You are however still allowed to cheer / donate to boost existing decks in the queue to see them sooner rather than later.

If you really want to add something new to the queue during this slow, I make two exceptions:

  • $30/3000bit+ donations can still add something new to the queue
  • Tier 3 subs still get to add one new deck each month when they renew

The goal of this slow is to allow me to work down the number of the decks in the queue. While I am up front with how the system works, I feel a bit bad that someone has to wait too long if they submit a deck with the base amount of money. When I get the queue back under 40 decks will reopen donations at the $10 amount again.

Many people at this point have asked me why I don’t always increase the base price for getting on the list altogether. The reason I do not want to do this is two fold:

  • In general I want people of all means to be able to get a sweet idea they have on stream at some point. We have found many awesome decks from the base amount donations and I wouldn’t want to miss some of them in the future.
  • Because the queue is public, decks often get funded by multiple people. One person adds a deck for the base amount, but then multiple other people bump it up towards the top sooner. Sometimes a $10 deck turns into a $30 deck by the power of Hooglandia’s community.

At the end of the day this is kind of an absurdly wonderful problem to have. I cannot express how grateful I am for all the support the community has given my content this year. I wish I had more hours in the day to play all your awesome decks as soon as possible.

Coordinating Magic Stream Hosting

I’d like to extend a small offer to any aspiring Magic streamers out there – if you would like I am willing to coordinate hosting your channel at the end of my normal streams. You can find my approximate schedule for a given week here. Find a stream or two where you think you can be live around the time I plan to wrap up and then reach out to me on Twitter here so we can coordinate.

Keep in mind I primarily stream Modern and some Legacy, so the people I host to your channel will be more likely to stick around if you are playing one of those formats.

The Magic community has been absurdly generous to me since I moved into streaming full time in recent months and I want to do my best to use my platform to not only benefit myself, but also the Magic community as a whole.

Cheers.

Upping my hours – Spring and Summer Stream Schedule

At the end of February I wrote a short post thanking the community for their support and talking about reinvesting that support into more streams. Time flies when you are 3-2ing Modern leagues with sweet decks so here I am writing another post about stream stuff two months later.

The support has continued to be generous, so today I would like to share that I am reinvesting into more and better content again.

Starting next week I will no longer be double dipping as streamer and nanny at the same time. This means when I am live, 100% of my focus will be able to be on creating the best content I can. For those who love the kids, because let’s face it they are cute, they will still be making cameo appearances on occasion.

I also intend to increase the number of hours I am streaming consistently from the 20~ I had been doing previously to 35 with the following schedule for the Spring / Summer:

As always, this is a rough outline and will change on occasion. For instance I still plan to do occasional “post event” streams on Saturday / Sunday nights here and there when I am home. You can always find my schedule for a given week updated live here.

You’ll also note that in addition to more Magic hours, I’ve added a few hours of Hearthstone to my schedule. I recently started playing Blizzard’s CCG and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. Had some folks asking if I would stream it on occasion so I am adding it into my regular schedule for the Summer to see how it goes.

As always, thanks for the support folks. My subscribers and my sponsors are the reason I am able to do what I do – so thank you for enabling me. See you live soon I am sure!

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.

Submitting a Decklist – AKA how to buy the stream for a while

This is a short post to lay out the details of how the deck queue works 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 filling out this Google formYou should always fill this form out before sending a donation in.

I reserve the right to refuse any list for any reason. You will receive a confirmation or rejection with further instructions to the email you list in the Google form.

How much it costs

For Twitch Subs:

  • Standard/Historic on Arena/Mythgard: $10
  • Pioneer/Modern/Legacy on MTGO: $50

For Non-Subs:

  • Standard on Arena/Mythgard: $20
  • Pioneer/Modern/Legacy on MTGO: $60

Build Around a Card / Idea

I will build a deck list around a card, cards, or rough idea of your choosing. You should always confirm I am willing to work with your idea before donating – because sadly not all cards / ideas can be made into something competitive.

  • Standard/Historic/Mythgard: $25
  • Pioneer: $50

When your deck gets played

Once you send a donation the decklist you submitted gets added to the deck list queue. Decks generally get played in the order they are in the queue.

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.

As an extra bonus any donation over $40 will get a 20% bonus. People who support me a good deal do not need to wait as long.

Free Deck list every month for $25 Subscribers

As a thank you to my $25 (tier 3) subscribers you get a free Standard / Pioneer / Modern decklist submission on the house! Just fill out the Google Form while being sure to indicate that the submission is for your tier 3 sub.

Monthly deck submission is added to the queue with $30 worth of democracy points.

Bonus every month for $10 subs

While $10 (tier 2) subs do not get to add a deck list every month – they still support me extra so I give you a little bit extra back! As a thank you to my $10 subs, every month when you resub you can add 10 bonus points to a deck you like in the queue so it comes up faster.

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 decklists we get, but he really is fat)

Q: How long does a deck get played for?
A: Magic decks are played for a minimum of two matches.

Q: When does my deck get played?
A: When it gets to the top of the deck queue. Total points is Dollars Donated + Days in the queue.

Q: Can I make changes to my deck while it is waiting to be played?
A: Yes! You are encouraged to keep testing / tuning a list while it waits in the queue. Simply update the list at the link you have provided to put in the queue. The day before I play the deck I will download the latest.

Q: Do I have to provide cards for the deck I donate to see?
A: No.

Q: Can you notify me when you are playing my deck?
A: Not likely. It is hard to predict when a deck will get played exactly because people donate to move different things up almost every stream.

Q: If I can’t watch my deck live will there be an archive of it being played?
A: Definitely. All of my streams 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.

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.

Five Things Hex does better than Magic

Ban / Watch List Transparency

Something that I would love to have in Magic is the level of transparency Hex has provided in their non-rotating format “Immortal”. Not only do they provide a reason for the things that they ban, but they let the players know which items are on a “Watch List” for potential bannings in the future. This way when new players are looking to invest in a non-rotating deck they have the knowledge up front if they should be worried about their purchase being banned in the near future.

Better Opening Hands

Hex leverages the fact that it is a digital game to allow everyone to mulligan less. Using a probability distribution Hex takes all of the possible opening hands a given deck can produce and eliminates the 10% most resource light hands and 5% most resource dense hands from being possibilities.

This means a large portion of your hands that would be automatic mulligans simply do not exist. Everyone mulligans less and more actual games are played.

 

Flooding Out Hurts Less

In Hex each player selects a champion when building their deck. Each champion has a power that you can activate after collecting enough “charges”. Each resource you play in Hex provides one of these charges in addition to providing a normal resource / color identity. These powers do everything from drawing cards to impacting the board directly:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Design Space

Because Hex is a digital only card game it is not bound to using game mechanics that are easy to implement in paper / are necessary to ensure people are not cheating. Both of these cards would be difficult to resolve “honestly” in a competitive paper card game:


 

 

 

 

 

Because the computer is tracking things instead of people, cards that get modified can be tracked across zones in Hex. Cards you take control of from your opponent’s board can be put into your discard pile or even shuffled back into your deck. Cards that would create tokens in Magic create actual cards instead. These created cards can be discarded or returned to your hand – instead of just ceasing to exist like a token.


Software

When you hear Magic compared to other digital card games you often hear the defense “Magic is more complicated than other games” for why MTGO is poor software. Hex is easily as complex as Magic is in terms of game play, and while Hex is not perfect, it looks and feels like a modern piece of software.

In addition to having a free to play ladder with competitive match making based on MMR, Hex has regular events that pay out cash prizes that you play from home.

If you want to learn more about how Hex works and the events they have you can check out my intro piece here. If you want to start playing Hex yourself for free you can go download it on Steam now.