The Dominaria update for the Pauper cube is now completely closed. The Google sheet is updated (with suggestions and corrections provided by fans). The cards have been changed over in my copy of the cube. And last, but not least, patrons have been mailed their rewards. All said, I netted a cool -$97.04 bringing the update to you.
My Patreon Philosophy
When I launched the Patreon for the cube I knew what I wanted:
- Clear ways to support the cube where every level of support would receive something
- A range of tiers, starting at just $1 and scaling up to getting a foiled out copy of each update
- Flat costs for all patrons—international fans included
- Charge patrons only when there are major updates to the cube
I’m privileged. I hold an excellent job (as does my spouse) and work on the cube as a labor of love. I enjoy learning how others use it, discovering powerful cards in the context of the format I’ve curated, drafting it with friends and changing it every time there’s a new set. I love the cube, and the fans that have followed it. Patreon wasn’t a tool to produce content, but an invitation for fans to give back to the cube and get something for it. After years of enjoying Limited Resources and seeing how Marshall maintained the podcast as something free for everyone, I took that as a model to build from—cube update information stays free, and ensure something is sent to everyone that pledges.
I knew I needed a range of pledge options. Whether someone joined for just $1 for one update before leaving or would go above and beyond in generosity over time I wanted to cover any potential use. Sending out the update itself—cards and tokens—seemed an obvious way to cap rewards. Adding in an option for one-time signed cards and a first-time pledge thank you card let me scale down to ensure anyone that could give would get something back. Knowing that Magic is international, and often a barrier between creations and their fans, I didn’t want to add tiers just for everyone who’s not in the United States. Simplifying to four tiers and estimating that, over time, costs and pledges would normalize felt fair to those willing to pledge.
But answering the question “When should patrons be charged?” was harder. I can talk about Pauper cube constantly, work at producing more content around it and provide more depth for fans than in the past by launching a website for it. Should patrons be contributing monthly, reflecting the constant maintenance and work happening with the cube? Cube updates are the most important piece of the puzzle for maintaining a copy of the cube, and if I’ve always shared everything for free before why change that now?
The solution was what you see today: Patrons pledge for major updates, and I ensure they can get that update at the higher tiers.
What Happened With Dominaria?
What happened with the first update? A learning curve.
— Violeta (@VioletaNedkova) May 12, 2018
Simply put, I made a few mistakes that are easy to correct going forward. I also encountered unexpected issues with shipping that escalated costs. But all of that works out fine. Let’s look at some numbers.
International shipping for Magic cards can be expensive. While using a commercial shipping label service will help in the future, anytime I’m mailing a large update to a first-time patron it will likely be considered a “package” and subject to what feels like usury for mailing 4 ounces of paper. Additionally, the service I intended to use prevented me from using it beyond a handful of patrons, which forced me to my local USPS office. Services at post offices come with higher costs, including the same type of domestic shipping. Paying $2.66 versus $3.50 is a savings that adds up quickly.
As it turned out I underestimated the demand for “get the whole update’s cards” tiers. I expected hat tip $1 or $2 per cube update pledges to be the dominant way patrons chose rewards. Instead you all wanted the cards to update your cubes with which, in hindsight, makes a lot of sense. In a one-time look, where everyone is a first-time patron and needs the full package of first-time rewards, shipping alone ate almost the entire benefit from patrons. But, with a smaller number of first-time patrons going forward, future updates will lend themselves to other forms of shipping with significantly lower costs. This should normalize over time, even accounting for international patrons.
Getting you the cube update meant getting you cards. Here, I made easy to avoid mistakes such as ordering across too many orders from too many vendors without free shipping options. Collapsing down the number of orders and putting all of the cards needed together—foil, non-foil and token—can save a significant chunk of shipping and card costs. Small orders just cost more, which I literally had to pay the price for.
|Thank You Card||$10.32||21 Patrons|
|Update Chart||$12.60||19 Patrons|
|Packing Material||$8.66||20 Patrons|
All other costs are typical for receiving Magic cards via a Patreon pledge:
- A custom, nicely printed thank you card
- The chart laying out changes as promised in the rewards tier
- Using industry standard top loaders, team bags and penny sleeves to bundle and protect cards
The room for optimization here is in the update chart. I felt the quality for cost was underwhelming, so I’m looking into other ways to have it produced at small scale. Sometimes you try a vendor and it works out amazing (the thank you cards) and other times you just need more time to solve (chart). These costs, too, will normalize as fewer patrons receive first-time pledge rewards and a better system for update charts is discovered. (Skimping on packing cards correctly isn’t an option, obviously!)
Patreon is true to its word and I net just over 90% of patron pledges processed. Higher than expected shipping and product costs, which will be improved going forward, demolished any “earnings” that I could keep. But that was never the point—giving back to Pauper cube fans was, and I’m ecstatic to see how excited some are to receive their rewards.
Battlebond previews begin soon, and given the history of changes both Conspiracy releases brought to the cube I expect the next release to bring interesting wrinkles to the update. Make sure to let me know what you think on Twitter or in the Discord server. Whether you’re a patron or not, thank you for being a fan of the Pauper cube!