The Experimental Frenzy: My New Gameplay Channel

By John McCurdy

They say content is king, and as both a creator and rabid consumer myself, I tend to agree. Here at the People’s Republic blog, we use the written word to communicate our experiences, strategies, evaluations and enthusiasm for this beautiful game. But I know well that sitting down to read a post of 500-plus words isn’t everyone’s bag. Heck, sometimes even a bibliophile like myself isn’t in the mood.

And so, in the interest of expanding our offerings and with nothing to lose, I’ve launched my own little gameplay channel over on YouTube to be largely devoted to Magic Arena. I’ve been encouraged by friends in the past to capture some of my gratuitous video game playing for content purposes, and have also been inspired to give it a try by the many channels I follow (Gaby Spartz, Rhystic Studies, ProJared, JonTron, etc.).

The Burning Inquiry: Why?

Really, the main answer here is another question: why not? I’m playing Arena anyway, recording gameplay and talking through my choices and plays isn’t a terrible burden, hosting videos on YouTube is free, and there is at least a small amount of value to be gained - I can watch my drafts and games back, see where I punted, and try to plug the leaks in the future.

Beyond that, maybe some fellow People of the Republic will enjoy catching a game or two, learn something themselves or offer me some tips. I know I am far from the best player, but I also know a great way of getting better is sharing knowledge with peers and receiving and acting upon feedback. Plus, I make some pretty terrible puns and come up with nonsensical nicknames for cards, so maybe I’ll get someone there.

Finally, sure, there’s the pie-in-the-sky dreams of getting sponsored, other People of the Republic joining me and us becoming the next ChannelFireball (do it!) and the subscriber numbers blasting through the stratosphere. For now, though, I’m satisfied with striving for those double-digit views and the occasional like - anything else is gravy.

The Sacred Armory: Setup

I figured a brief rundown of my equipment and “set” might be of interest to some, so here goes. After much consultation with my two best PC-nerd friends, I recently purchased a Dell gaming laptop to at least partially replace my 2011 MacBook Pro. This, while not entirely necessary, served multiple purposes: it gave me a machine more than equipped to run Arena and any Steam RPGs I might dive into, and it took care of the issue of what to do when my aging Mac finally kicks the bucket.

Some time before that, I was gifted a Blue Yeti Nano USB microphone for podcasting and video purposes (thanks again, Matt and Jay), so I’ve been set on how to record quality audio for a bit. And video-wise, the built-in camera on the Dell works well enough to capture what needs to be seen of my fine-looking mug.

Finally, I researched gameplay recording software a bit and found FBX Game Recorder to be a great fit for Arena (and quite likely more). It has an extremely simple array of tools for grabbing just what you want and exports files neatly for upload to YouTube - plus, it’s free, which is the preferred price at this stage.

The Guerilla Tactics: Approach

I came into Arena with a fair amount of knowledge about the client and its economy and determined that adopting most principles of Ryan Spain’s Going Optimal philosophy (linked to previously in Al’s write-up of RNA Sealed, but worth doing so again for its excellent advice) would be a great way to enjoy it in a cost- and time-effective manner. That means grinding gold via Constructed to the point of completing my daily quests and getting to four wins, saving said gold for drafts, and saving any gems that result from those drafts for (you guessed it) more drafts.

To this point, I’ve been on the free-to-play gameplan other than the new player bundle - which, again, is recommended by Ryan and others even for FTP players due to its gem-to-dollar ratio. Wildcards have gone towards Standard decks with fairly aggressive gameplans that I enjoy (UG Merfolk and an in-progress Izzet Drakes). I’ve been drafting one to two times per week in whichever format is available in the “competitive” (best of one) queue, and it’s only drafts that I record (and only ones that go fairly well that I post to the channel).

When it comes to the draft, I try hard to stay disciplined and only raredraft when something in very high demand for Constructed comes up (mainly shocklands and key cards for the top three or four decks). I discuss each pick to the amount that I think it merits, walk through deckbuilding and explain my cuts and includes, and try to keep my commentary up during the matches by planning subsequent turns aloud, re-evaluating based on my opponents’ plays and (occasionally) goofing off or going on tangents during otherwise dead air.

The Shimmer of Possibility: Down the Road

Besides making it to the “big time” (potential sponsors, the phone lines are open!), my aspirations for the channel are simply to enjoy myself and hopefully provide some value to others. I know much of content creation is shouting into the void until someone notices you - if they ever do - but am fine to continue shouting and having a great time doing it.

I’d certainly entertain the idea of streaming at some point, if the demand ever gets there, and same with Constructed gameplay. I’d also like to create a more established brand for my channel as well as the People’s Republic on YouTube, and if other folks are interested in getting started themselves, I’d be happy to help you get set up.

Other than that, come on over and point out my epic misplays and groan at my bad jokes - there’s sure to be plenty of both.

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