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.

MTG Arena and the CCG Shakedown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improving Tie Breakers in Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Hex Schedule

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

My Summer schedule at a minimum will be the following:

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

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

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


Draft a Day Week 3 Contest

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

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

This week’s draft videos:

Free hints for this week:

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

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

Modernizing the Grind, Digital is the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft a Day Week 2 Contest

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

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

This week’s draft videos:

Leave a comment on this post with your predictions for the seven decks! All entries must be commented on this post before 10pm on Thursday the 30th PST time zone.


#8 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/11114907232042851337
#9 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/8854043270689645746
#10 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/16198934047949389771
#11 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/10009447147288165861
#12 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/5627992530974676405
#13 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/7146170585232453737
#14 – https://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/5964500433559060225

Radbot correctly guessed six this week! Congrats.

Draft a Day Week 1 Contest

Howdy Folks! Seven days ago I started a new feature on my YouTube channel where I am posting a new HexTCG draft video every single day at midnight PST. To make the experience a bit more interactive I wanted to add a small contest to the mix.

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

This week’s draft videos:

Leave a comment on this post with your predictions for the seven decks! All entries must be commented on this post before 10pm on Thursday the 23rd PST time zone.


The contest for this first week is now closed. Congrats to Nick Ingram for guessing 5 out of 7 record successfully.

If you would like to see the results of each of these decks and what they played against check the links below:

#1: 3-0 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/14832361040344954614
#2: 2-1 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/9381670620152385841
#3: 1-2 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/8625830553173812776
#4: 3-0 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/7559767893589314005
#5: 2-1 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/4591059468423724429
#6: 3-0 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/9052143227406061737
#7: 1-2 http://hexpvptools.net/draft/gauntlet_run/1324013380821767431

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.


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.

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.



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.



~Jeff Hoogland