Learning at Home: How to be a YouTuber

My son is 8, and he wants to be a famous YouTuber like DanTDM. Although I realize this aspiration may be short-lived, I’m open to the possibility. I also know that he probably won’t find this learning in the Ontario Curriculum.

So I decided I’d better figure out how this stuff works so that I can help him understand (and possibly realize) his dream.

I have a YouTube channel already. I post math and computer science videos, mostly, and a few more personal things. I don’t monetize the teaching videos since I direct my students to view them and that would be inappropriate. It was time to start a new channel.

I wanted a channel with a focus, but that was broad enough to allow for lots of content. The kids and I enjoy watching videos of booster box openings (Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon), and I watch more MTG videos. This is something I know a fair bit about, and I can produce content easily (if not always cheaply).

So Grasley Games was born. These aren’t games I’ve designed (that’s coming, though). Instead, “games” is a verb here.

Logo bold

I started by opening a box of Aether Revolt, the newest set of Magic: The Gathering available at the time. I practised for a while first, figuring out camera setup, microphone, lighting, and how to hold the cards effectively. I’ve done some video production work before, but I was still surprised at how challenging this initial planning was.

I also wanted to try some “actual plays”, recordings of playing games. I’ve recorded about 10 games, but only a few have been worth posting. Lots of camera problems with this stuff.

The channel is monetized, which means that some ad revenue accumulates over time. So far there’s $1.86 waiting for me. Another couple of lifetimes and I’ll pay for that box…

Now for the kids

This wasn’t just for me, remember? Both my kids want to participate too. Now that I’ve learned the basics of setting everything up, they’re starting to make videos for me to post. There are three so far on the channel:

What’s next

They keep asking to make more videos (I got enough stuff for them to make 6 videos each on these topics without any additional investment), so that’s pretty cool. I do want them to see how difficult it is to get eyes on your content when you’re in a fairly niche area, and that consistency is really important (they’re counting on me for this).

I’ve also made other spaces on the web for Grasley Games – we’ll see how these platforms pan out:

Grasley Games on WordPress

Grasley Games on Facebook

Grasley Games on Patreon

Grasley Games on Twitter

WotC shouldn’t put expensive cards in preconstructed products #MTG

I’ve seen a lot of commentary in the past couple of weeks about Wizards of the Coast’s decision to discontinue Clash Packs and Event Decks. While I have no particular interest in either product, I assume the people in charge have some good reasons for doing so. Lots of fans have lots of good reasons that they wish these products would still be produced.

One of those reasons that is often repeated is that it’s a way to bring down the cost of some chase cards by providing additional printings and a cheaper way to access those cards. For example, if Wizards puts a card that’s selling for $15 in a Clash Pack with an MSRP of $20 and a street price of $17, it’s going to get snapped up for financial reasons. An enterprising person could buy up a bunch of Clash Packs, crack them and sell that one expensive card from each, and then trickle out the remainder at a tidy profit (perhaps $5-10 per pack). As a result of this easy access the value of that costly card will drop, but there is another effect that is more problematic for the game:

The average customer won’t be able to walk into a store to buy the Clash Pack because it’ll already be sold out.

Who were these products for, really? From my comfortable armchair it seems these are mostly products for people who are new to the game or want to purchase a play experience, not the hardcore grinder nor investor. If that’s true, then making the cards too tempting to the latter types will be denying them to the former.

Last year I thought about buying a fat pack of Battle For Zendikar, partly for the packs and partly for the beautiful, full-art lands. Upon release, though, the price skyrocketed to about $65 USD, vastly more than the MSRP of $40 USD because the lands were desirable. The average player couldn’t get the product for its intended price at a game store, and department stores were instantly sold out. [Aside: you could still buy them at Walmart in Canada for $55 CAD, which was about $40 USD at the time. I thought about snapping them up and flipping them, or their lands, but I resisted the urge.]

If Wizards can make preconstructed products that are fun to play and easy to buy, while still being an okay value for the consumer, they’ll hit the sweet spot for those products. The new Blessed vs. Cursed Duel Deck is apparently just okay financially, but is fun to play. This is a win for Wizards because it’ll bring people into the game (for just $20 USD) but still be enticing to many existing players.

Best of all, it’ll still be on the shelf when you walk into your FLGS to buy it.

Theros Block simple [almost] Pauper cube

Before Theros rotated out I bought a playset of all of the commons in Standard, from Theros to Dragons of Tarkir (I got them from MetaGamingNW through ebay if you’re interested: http://www.ebay.ca/usr/metagamingnw*com).

I like the idea of drafting, but I don’t like the idea of spending $20 to play a couple of games of Magic. Besides, with all of these cards in the house, don’t I already have enough to play?

So I made a Cube. Apparently most people have carefully constructed Cubes – they consider which cards have good synergy, they allow for a variety of specific archetypes, and they try to include some choice cards which are exciting to play with. This is very time-consuming, popular, and probably a lot of fun.

I did something a lot simpler.

Deciding on the cards

First, I wanted a Cube with 360 cards (24 packs times 15 cards each) so I can draft nicely. Here are the number of common cards in the sets in Theros block:

  • Theros: 101
  • Born of the Gods: 60
  • Journey Into Nyx: 60

This is a total of 221. Of course, I have 4 of each common card in each set, so I have:

  • Theros: 404
  • Born of the Gods: 240
  • Journey Into Nyx: 240

This is a total of 884. These are not nice numbers. That Theros 101/404 is the problem.

By colour, though, things are interesting:

 Set  White  Blue  Black  Red  Green  Other  Total
 THS  19  19  19  19  19  6  101
 BNG  12  12  12  12  12  0  60
 JOU  12  12  12  12  12  0  60

Those “other” cards in Theros are 5 artifacts and one gold land (Unknown Shores). These aren’t nice numbers either (it would have been sweet if Theros had 24 per colour), but I had an idea to round things out without having to pick just a few cards to have doubles of within a colour.

I decided to include 2 of each card from Born of the Gods and Journey Into Nyx, and 1 of each WUBRG card from Theros. I also added in Unknown Shores to round out the numbers:

 Set  White  Blue  Black  Red  Green  Other  Total
 THS  19  19  19  19  19  1  96
 BNG  24  24  24  24  24  0  120
 JOU  24  24  24  24  24  0  120

Add ’em up and it’s 336, exactly 24 short of the 360 I wanted.

I dug into my Uncommons and found 4 of each colour from Theros block (I tried to have a mixture of types – creatures, sorceries, etc.), adding 20 and bringing me to 356 cards.

Those 5 artifacts bothered me, though. I didn’t have a way to put them in without unbalancing the colours. In the end I decided to leave them out, and instead I put in 4 uncommon artifacts from the block. This had the advantage of giving me exactly 24 uncommons, too.

Making the Boosters

After reading this post on MTG Salvation (link), I decided to do something similar with my Theros stuff to organize the boosters.

I shuffled the three sets of commons together by colour (i.e. a pile of White, a pile of Blue, etc.). The uncommon cards I spread out as starters for my 24 boosters, one uncommon per pack. It’s sort of like having a rare to choose from in the pack. Then from the shuffled commons piles, I put two of each colour in each booster (10+1=11 cards each now). To help increase the variability a bit, I shuffled each booster separately and took out one card. It’s possible the I removed the uncommon card, so maybe next time I will add the uncommon at the end. Ah well.

I now had 24 boosters with 10 cards each. I shuffled the undistributed cards all together (which included the card I just removed from each booster, the other colour piles, and Unknown Shores), and then put 5 cards from that stack in each booster pile. This brings each booster up to 15 cards.


Because I put 2 of each colour into each pack at the beginning, there will be a good mixture of colours. For example, you couldn’t get a booster with a colour missing entirely. This does reveal a little bit of information, rarely: if you get a pack for the second pick and a colour is absent, you know that the person before you took that colour of card. It’ll happen pretty rarely, though, so I’m not worried about it. This is supposed to be casual, remember?

Also, because I may have removed uncommons and redistributed them, it’s possible to get more than 1 uncommon in a pack (up to 6, I suppose).


I flipped half of each booster around so only the brown cardbacks are showing on each side, then jammed them into penny sleeves. 24 boosters fit nicely into a BCW 1-BX-400 box:

Now I need to put some land cards in there too. It’s going to be tough to have enough lands to work with, since my supply is kind of low. I’ll have to pick up some more sometime when I see them offered cheaply somewhere. The best I can find online is about $20 for 500 land (100 of each) or $30 for 1000 (both including shipping within/to Canada). I have a pretty good stack, but I like to keep my basic land mixed into decks I build, so having more would be awfully nice. (If anyone knows of a cheaper source I’d be grateful).


I haven’t tried it out yet, but I figure I should be able to get some kids at school to play, right?

Chaotic Trading Cards up for grabs

A few years ago I bought a whole bunch of booster packs for the Chaotic Trading Card game. The kids and I sorted through them all, organizing them by colour, type, and coolness.

We played a few games, but mostly the cards just sat in a box on my armoire. I’ve since moved on to other games, and I only use the Chaotic cards when I need to stiffen up a print and play game in sleeves. It’s time to purge.

So I thought I’d check to see if anyone who reads this blog wants a bunch of foil Chaotic cards, the rare or better ones. Here’s a list of the different factions and the number of each rarity:

OverWorld: 16 (12 rare, 3 super rare, 1 promo)
UnderWorld: 20 (18 rare, 2 super rare)
Danian: 16 (16 rare)
Mipedian: 11 (9 rare, 2 super rare)
M’arrillian: 9 (7 rare, 2 super rare)
Generic Mugic: 3 (2 rare, 1 super rare)
Location: 21 (16 rare, 5 super rare)
Attack: 34 (27 rare, 7 super rare)
Battlegear: 24 (16 rare, 6 super rare, 2 ultra rare)

The Ultra Rare cards are Warriors of Owayki (pictured) and Dread Tread.

Foil Chaotic cards

A few cards have some wear from slight play, and a handful (maybe 5 or 6?) have actual creases or dings (I was playing with a five year old). Note that the are quite a few duplicates of some cards (for example, there are 7 Landgore and 2 Winterclaw).

That’s a total of 154 foil Chaotic cards, mostly rares. It’ll probably cost a few dollars to ship them in Canada, and more to the rest of the world. Anyone have an offer? If you’re local and want to pick them up (or if you go to my school) you can have them gratis.

Magic: The Gathering and World of Warcraft TCG with Standard Playing Cards

A few months ago my 7-year-old son casually mentioned that it would be cool to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG, or Magic) with standard playing cards (sometimes called a poker deck or a French deck). We gave it a whirl. He won, naturally, as he was making up the rules.

But he got me thinking about how to craft a Magic-esque experience with the cards that everyone has in their homes. Magic is fairly difficult to explain to people once you understand and appreciate some the complexity that makes it awesome. The simpler parts of the game, tapping for mana and attacking with creatures, are often lost in the avalanche of keywords and strategies.

The first TCG/CCG I really learned was World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (or WOWTCG), with has a fair bit in common with MTG. You play allies (like creatures), resources (like land for mana), and abilities (like non-creature spells) in a similar fashion. A major difference in WOWTCG is that you can play any card as a resource. For example, you might draw an “expensive” card and realize you’ll never get to play it. Lay it face down as a resource instead, and it now serves to make your other cards more viable.

So I combined that WOWTCG component with MTG to make the following game. If you don’t already know how to play MTG or WOWTCG this will likely be too brief of an explanation. A ton of stuff isn’t included (enchantments, equipment, artifacts, sorceries, and approximately a bazillion keywords and mechanics). All non-creature spells are instants.

The Setup

The game requires one deck of 52 standard playing cards.

Choose a dealer somehow (e.g. cut for a high card). Shuffle the deck and deal 7 cards to each player. No mulligans are allowed. The remaining cards are placed between the players and to one side; they make up a shared library.

Each player begins with 20 life points. Track them on paper or with dice.

Anatomy of a turn

The same steps apply as for MTG: untap, upkeep, draw, main, combat, main, end. Everything’s normal here. Creatures still have summoning sickness, blockers are declared in the same way, etc.

One major difference is that the active player can play any card as a Land (source of mana)… there are no specially designated Land cards. This is the bit from WOWTCG, see? Below is the list of card meanings.

Because the deck is shared, you’ll need a common graveyard. When the library is depleted, shuffle the graveyard to replace it. The maximum hand size of 7 at the end of any turn should ensure there are always cards available for the library.


You win by reducing your opponent’s life total to zero.

Card Meanings

Suits don’t matter. Here are the card meanings based on their values. You’ll probably want to keep this handy if you’re playing.

Ace: A 1/1 creature for 1 mana.

2: A 2/2 creature for 2 mana.

3: A 3/3 creature for 3 mana.

4: A 4/4 creature for 4 mana.

5: A 5/5 creature for 5 mana.

6: A 6/6 creature for 6 mana.

7: Instant: Counter spell for 3 mana.

8: Instant: Cause 3 damage to target creature or player for 2 mana.

9: Instant: Gain 3 life for 2 mana.

10: Instant: Give a creature +4/+4 until the end of turn for 3 mana.

Jack: Instant: Destroy target land or creature for 4 mana.

Queen: Instant: Cause 1 damage to every creature for 2 mana.

King: Instant: Draw 2 cards for 3 mana.

Reference Cheat Sheet

Here are some little card meaning reference sheets that should fit nicely inside of your Bicycle deck box:



Please comment with happiness or concerns. I’ll try to play this sometime and then I’ll have some feedback for myself as well.

Designing a Trading Card Game (#TCG)

My daughter and I worked together to make a card game. I have played around with the Chaotic TCG and found it a little complicated to play with the kids. So this one is simpler but still interesting, I hope.

I’m sure there are lots of fascinating books and articles about how to design fun, clever, fair, and complete TCGs. Having not even looked for that literature, we ventured into creating by trial and error. It’s a good learning experience, I suppose, to work through problems which someone else has already tackled but to not access any “hints”. Also, we’re not trying to develop a commercially viable game, so I’m okay with it being an imperfect game.

The game doesn’t have a name. There are currently 10 character cards and 10 location cards. We’ll add more soon, if it’s worth continuing. The basic premise is that each player has a party of characters and must attack the other player until someone is defeated entirely. Battles occur between pairs of characters, and each character heals completely between conflicts.

  1. Each player lays their character cards face up on the table.
  2. Location cards are shuffled and placed in a pile face down.
  3. Each player rolls a die until one player rolls a lower value than the other. The player with the lower roll is the first attacker.
  4. The attacker selects a character card from each player; these characters will battle.
  5. A location card is turned over.
  6. The location card determines which player strikes first (either the attacker or the defender) and whether the initial attack is a close attack or a distant attack.
  7. The location card determines the initial conditions; for example, a particular location may provide a certain character with additional HP or may reduce magical resistance.
  8. For each turn, the active player may (a) attack; (b) reposition; or (c) flee. After this action is completed, the other player becomes active and begins their turn.
  9. Attacking: If the current position is Close, use the attacker’s Close Attack formula. If the current position is Distant, use the attacker’s Distant Attack formula. The attacking player rolls a die and calculates the gross damage done. The value is then reduced by the defending character’s Resistance (Physical Resistance if the attacker has the Physical attack Type; Magical Resistance if the attacker has the Magical attack Type). If the value is below zero, no damage is done. The defender’s Hit Points are reduced by the net damage done. If the Hit Points remaining are zero or less, the character is defeated.
  10. Repositioning: The current attack position is either Close or Distant; the active player can use their turn to attempt to reposition. The player rolls a die; if the value rolled is 5 or 6 then the current attack position is changed. If the value rolled is not 5 or 6, there is no change.
  11. Fleeing: The active player may attempt to flee the conflict by rolling a die; if the value rolled is 6 then the battle is ended. It does not matter which player flees a battle. A player may only flee 3 battles in the course of an entire game.
  12. After  a battle is complete (either because of a character’s defeat or because one character has fled), control passes to the other player, who returns to step 4. If all of a player’s characters have been defeated, that player has lost.

I had to travel for work, so we haven’t had a chance to play yet. Also, we haven’t made any artwork for the cards, which should also be fun. Once we’ve tried out the game, we’ll refine and expand it (if we like it, that is).

Learning About the Chaotic Trading Card Game (TCG)

I recently came across a sale on packages of Chaotic cards. I hadn’t really heard of the game before, and I had never played a trading card game (I had heard of Magic: The Gathering and a few others, but never played). The Chaotic packages were pretty cheap, and so after a quick check on my phone for reviews, I bought a few starter packs and a bunch of booster packs.

The artwork is pretty excellent. I’m not familiar with the standard images on TCG cards, but these seem pretty well done to me. Some are more digital-looking, others appear more painted or hand-drawn.

I wasn’t prepared for how complicated the game is. I didn’t know what to expect, but Chaotic is far more nuanced than I imagined it would be. There are five different basic card types, many of which are divided into five tribes. There are six different attributes to track for each creature, and a two-dimensional gameplay surface.

There are two sets of rules: Apprentice Rules and Master Rules. The Apprentice Rules are pretty straightforward as they ignore a large part of the detail of the game. The Master Rules are far more interesting, but I find a couple of points confusing. I don’t quite understand all of the details of the Burst, and I’m not clear about when exactly a player can use Mugic. The tutorial on the Chaotic Game site was pretty good, but didn’t quite give me everything I was looking for.

I used the list provided at TradeCardsOnline.com to help me sort through the cards I have already. I have a few cards in the M’arrellian Invasion, the Zenith of the Hive, the Dawn of Perim, and the Silent Sands series, but most are in the Turn of the Tide series. I put the list of the Turn of the Tide cards in a Google spreadsheet; feel free to take a look.

Comments and suggestions are welcome – I’m still not 100% clear on the rules, so if someone can help I’d appreciate it.