Taking your passions and turning them into something tangible can be an exciting journey. It can also be incredibly stressful. Today I'm going to reduce that stress by showing you how easy it is to start streaming Magic: The Gathering—so easy, you could go live today. By the time we're done, you'll be ready to dip your toes into the content creation pool with confidence rather than trepidation.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need incredibly expensive equipment to get started in the streaming world. When I first jumped into creation, I splurged on Razer equipment that would be better suited for Steam games as opposed to Magic. The excitement can get in the way of reason. There is no need for fancy keyboards or mice! All you really need is a good desktop and monitor. The true investments lie in the microphone and the webcam.
Two commonly repeated names are the Logitech C920 and the Yeti Blue microphone. These are also the two items that I started out with and continue to use for my streams. While they're both high-quality starter items, their prices may be a bit steep when you're just starting out. Dumping over $200 into equipment feels bad when you're still figuring out if this is something you want to do.
Thankfully, there are other options.
Through the EpocCam app, you can use your iPhone as a webcam! The investment on this app is $7.99, making it an incredibly budget-friendly option. With some clever mounting, your device can be a face cam for games of Arena and MTGO, or hovered over your board to capture your game of Commander.
From my friend Logan:
If you rather not use your phone, or you'd prefer to use it to keep track of chat, the Logitech C920 is still a great camera to invest in. Due to the pandemic, webcam prices have increased a bit which has made them difficult to obtain in stores for a cheaper price. On Amazon, they are listed as $80 and up. However, I have found them at chain stores such as Staples for $60. Despite this annoyance, this webcam is worth the wait, and delivers a nice quality capture of your face or boardstate.
One note if you are streaming paper Commander: you don't need two webcams starting out. While having a face cam is fun and can add a layer of interaction to your stream, not having one does not hinder your ability to stream. That was a misconception I first held when I started to stream paper Commander. All you need to stream is for people to see the game!
Now onto the pricer piece of equipment: the microphone. When I first started streaming, I was using the built-in microphone on my borrowed friend's headset. If this is where you feel comfortable starting, do it! However, if you are interested in having an external mic on a budget, I have a few cheaper options.
Our first budget item is the Blue Snowball iCE. This is a good starter mic, lying around the $50 range. While this mic does have its flaws (one condenser, no mute, and no headphone output), it's incredibly easy to use.
Another budget microphone is the Samson tech Q2U Dynamic Mic. For an increased price you are able to have a mount as well as headphone output, which can be useful when recording audio for videos or podcasting.
If you are considering investing in a higher quality mic, then I highly recommend the Yeti Blue. It is an omnidirectional microphone with three condensers, mute button, and headphone output. This bad boy delivers incredibly clear audio (though a pop filter is heavily recommended), and continues to be a long-term staple in my content creation toolbox.
So you've got your webcam and microphone. Now you need the streaming program.
While Streamlabs OBS (SLOBS) takes up quite a bit of your CPU, it's incredibly user friendly and my #1 recommendation. I still use it to this day! All you need to do is fire up Arena or Spelltable. Once your program of choice is on, simply add a new source (Game Source for Arena, and Window Capture for Spelltable) for your game to appear on your overlay.
For Commander streams, Spelltable is a great user-friendly way to play paper on stream without the camera issues that so often plague Discord. In order for your face to appear on the overlay, just add your webcam as a video capture device.
Whether you're streaming Arena or paper Commander, keep things simple. When starting out, you don't want to crowd your overlay with animations, transitions, and images. These can be incredibly distracting to the eye and take away from your gameplay. More often than not all you need is your game capture, your webcam, and a place for chat. Here are few examples of the types of overlays I like to utilize for different forms of streaming!
While I do have a cute graphic overlay I use for my Always Be Brewing streams, I tend to keep my overlays minimal, focusing on the stream/gameplay over everything else.
For my paper Commander streams, I use Spelltable and crop my overlay to make it look a bit cleaner.
Even if you don't crop your overlays, all you really need is to set up your game/window capture(s), make sure your audio is audible, and click start stream.
When we play Magic, we tend to focus. With this focus comes silence, which can be incredibly boring to watch as a viewer. Adding low-volume background music to your stream is a huge game changer.
However, this is one of the greatest pitfalls for streamers. Using your personal playlist from Spotify is not an option, especially if you plan on uploading to YouTube for monetization (copyright emails are absolutely terrifying).
"Well Chase, I'll just use royalty-free playlists on YouTube or Spotify."
I would even be wary with this strategy. So many of these playlists state that they contain royalty-free music safe for streaming, but I've still received pings on YouTube or mutes on Twitch when using them. Plus, sometimes a song slips in by accident.
Thankfully, I found an amazing and free resource for streamers to use for background music: StreamBeats. This website contains four playlists of high-quality, fun-sounding music that is made for streams, for free. Also available on Spotify, StreamBeats has been a lifesaver, and I no longer have any issues uploading backlogged VODs of my streams to YouTube.
Scenes are images that are used to convey the point in the stream. For example, when I am live but am not ready, I have a "Starting Soon" graphic on my overlay so people have time to gather in chat.
While you can have a ton of scenes, the basics are "Starting Soon," "Be Right Back," "Ending Soon," and "Offline." They can be as simple or as complex as you want. They're incredibly fun to create and are wonderful ways to express your personality or your brand!
There are a number of ways to get incredibly cool scenes for your Twitch channel. One way is to commission a creator on the website Fiverr. I was recently introduced to this website by the lovely Chad from AlterSleeves! This website features a bunch of talented creators for hire that can make you emotes, panels, animations, and more. It's a wonderful resource to explore when starting out.
However, if you aren't sure you want to make an investment in that area of streaming, another way to get really clean-looking scenes for your channel is by making them yourself on Canva. Canva is a free website for creating simple and aesthetically pleasing graphics. While the site also offers premium features that cost money, I have been able to get by without using any of the paid features. In fact, all of my Twitter banners and my panels on Twitch were made on Canva! Here's a few examples of the work I was able to make there:
Panels are little informative images on your Twitch page that can also lead to your other socials. They are a way to introduce and describe your personality even when you're offline.
Starting out, you definitely don't need as many panels as I have—I know nine is excessive, but I have a lot I want to convey! I recommend you have a panel that introduces you and the content you make, links to your social media accounts, a panel for donations, and rules for chat. Use them to express yourself, and just have fun with them!
How do you make a Magic stream interesting?
Regardless of the format you're playing, I always recommend talking—if not to your opponents then to chat. Asking chat questions, maybe even some crazy hypotheticals, is a great way to get fun and weird conversations started which can eventually translate back into entertaining gameplay.
What if no one is watching?
Doesn't matter! Keep talking. If someone checks out your stream and sees you silently playing, odds are they'll duck out. Just keep talking and joking and you're golden.
What if my viewer count is low?
Who cares?! I used to, and it plagued me. Staring at numbers can rob you of the enjoyment of the game and the experience of streaming. Once I stopped caring about numbers, I was able to breathe and just be my wacky self. Sure, I look every now and then, but I don't let them define me.
What makes streaming Magic different from other games?
Strategy plays such an important role in Magic that it's easy to find yourself in your own head. My tip is to always ask chat for opinions. What would they like to see? Ask them for help on what you're drafting. Ask them for judge questions if you don't know how a play is supposed to go.
Any other tips?
Always play with friends. This is so important because you will always be at your funniest and most relaxed state. People want to see you cackling at stupid jokes and teasing each other. When you are truly at ease, you will shine.
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Streaming can be an intimidating way to make content. Articles and podcasts are delayed and edited. When you're streaming, mistakes are unavoidable, and there might even be some mean people in your chat from time to time... but streaming is such a fun way to make content and share your passions with others. It is because of streaming that I have been able to write articles, make friends, and do so much.
I want to leave you with one final piece of advice: if you're interested in streaming, just do it. Don't think about it. Just do it. It doesn't have to be perfect and polished. You don't need Sony cameras, green screens, and Elgato capture cards to stream. Save that for down the road. When you relax, stop focusing on numbers, and make content you find fun, others will focus on that more than anything else. After all, Magic isn't Magic without The Gathering.