Budget Gaming: Heroes of the Storm

I love playing games, but I also love saving money. So obviously, I like playing “Free2Play” games. Last time, I talked about Blizzard’s Hearthstone, but now I’d like to talk about my favorite of Blizzard’s free games and share my tips for Heroes of the Storm for free.

Heroes of the Storm is a top down competitive game where you pick an iconic character from one of Blizzard’s franchises. So whether you’re a fan of Warcraft, Diablo, or Star Craft, they’ve got you covered. You are teamed up with 4 other characters and are facing off with 5 more. Your goal is to destroy the structure on the opposite side of the map called the “Core” while making sure the enemies don’t destroy your Core. Minions from both teams spawn periodically at their respective Core and march across the map towards the opposite Core. Killing these minions and the towers and structures on the way to the Core earns experience for your team allowing you to level up and gain more power.

Unlike Hearthstone, you can be on even footing with other players the instant you log in. Blizzard tries to keep the cast of Heroes pretty balanced. Each week, you will be able to play 10 heroes for free. The free heroes typically span across all 3 major franchises and cover the 4 major roles in the game: Warrior, Assassin, Support, and Specialist

Warriors are the tanks. They have a lot of health and survival. They also tend to have control oriented abilities like stuns to create opportunities for the higher damage characters to secure a kill. For example, Diablo can lift an enemy up and slam them on the other side of him dealing damage and stunning the target.

Assassins, as you would expect, excel at killing other heroes. To make up for their talent in dealing damage, they typically have lower health. Zeratul is an excellent assassin who can traverse the map unseen and deliver big damage when you’re least expecting it.

Support heroes are everyone’s best friend. These heroes typically have heals, shields, and/or buffs to keep their teammates in the battle. For example, Uther has 2 healing skills for keeping his team alive.

Specialists are typically best at handling the non-player characters and structures. For instance, Anub’Arak summons beetles to help push forward. Sgt. Hammer can attack towers from outside of their firing range, and Sylvanas can disable towers and minions so that they do not fire back at all.

If you really like a hero, you’ll want to buy them so you can use them even when they’re not in the free hero rotation. This (and cosmetic skins) is where Blizzard makes money on this game, however, you can use in game gold to buy heroes as well. You earn gold a number of different ways, so if you want to buy your favorite heroes, just follow some of these tips:

1. Level up your free heroes. After every game, you’ll gain experience for the hero you played (this is different from the in match experience that adds power to your team). At level 5, you’ll earn 500 gold. This means in any week, if none of the free heroes are level 5, you have the potential to earn 5000 gold.

2. Play games against A.I. opponents. Unlike Hearthstone, you can complete gold rewarding daily quests by playing against A.I. opponents, as long as your team mates are real players. This will also get you comfortable with how a hero plays before you take them into a more competitive match.

3. Spend gold on low cost heroes from each hero type. If you have a Warrior, Assassin, Support, and Specialist you’ll have more variety for completing multiple daily quests at once. The daily quests are as follows:

Play 8 games – 800 Gold
Win 3 games – 600 Gold
Play 3 games as a specific Hero type (i.e. Warrior) – 300 Gold
Play 2 games as a Hero from a specific franchise (i.e. Warcraft) – 200 Gold

You can complete 3 quests in 3 games if you have the right hero and the right quests. This is great if you can’t play a lot during the week.

4. Just keep playing. Your account also levels up, and there are gold rewards for specific levels. (See Bottom of Post)

5. Make sure you have a lot of time to play before your account hits level 10. At level 10, you will be given a free 7-day stimpack. Stim packs increase the experience you gain by 100% and gold by 150%, this only applies to the rewards given at the end of a match. This 7 day period will start the instant you hit level 10. I unfortunately ended up going on vacation right after hitting level 10 and ended up wasting my free stimpack.

6. Pay attention to special events. There are occasionally special events like the Diablo event and the Lunar festival where there is a mini-objective at the start of each match which will give you an extra 100 gold. You can get these once per day during the event.

7. Start with some help. If you click this link, you’ll get Jim Raynor (normally costs 2,000 gold) for free and a 5-day stimpack to get a head start on leveling up. Once you reach level 10, you’ll get Sylvanas for free too! Syvanas is an amazing hero and normally costs 10,000 gold, and you’re getting her for free, so you’re welcome :)

Heroes of the Storm is one of the most rewarding games you can play for free while not being at a disadvantage against paying players. The more you play, the more gold you’ll get to unlock your favorite heroes. Here’s a breakdown of the rewards you’ll earn while leveling up your account:

Level 2: 1,000 gold
Level 4: 1,000 gold
Level 5: Hero Rotation Slot
Level 6: Daily Quests unlocked
Level 7: Hero Rotation Slot
Level 8: 2,000 gold
Level 10: 2,000 gold, 7-day stimpack
Level 12: Hero Rotation Slot
Level 15: Hero Rotation Slot
Level 20: 2,000 gold
Level 25: 2,000 gold
Level 30: Ranked Play unlocked, 2,000 gold
Level 35: 2,000 gold
Level 40: 2,000 gold

Budget Gaming: Hearthstone

Today’s topic is a little lighter. If you’re looking for a game to try out without hurting your budget, there are many “Free2Play” games out there. Since I am a Blizzard fan, I thought I’d post my thoughts on their free games Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. I’d also like to share some tips and tricks I’ve found to get the most out of the games without spending any real money. First, I’ll cover Hearthstone.

If you don’t know, Hearthstone is an online card game that pits iconic Warcraft characters against each other. You can cast spells and summon minions to reduce your opponent’s health to 0. Winning games earns you in game gold that can be spent on card packs to strengthen your deck. So, I’d like to share my tips for playing Hearthstone for free.

I tried getting into Hearthstone when the game first released, but had some trouble. The main issue was that players that had gotten into the beta had a significant advantage over new players. The beta players had months to earn in game gold and buy card packs, so new players were competing on a completely uneven playing field. This was made worse by the fact that the only way to earn gold was from actually WINNING a game against another player.

I tried again a few months ago, and still found that it was too difficult to compete with players that had been collecting cards since the game’s launch.

This all changed when the new Whispers of the Old Gods expansion came out in April. First, Blizzard decided to give away 3 packs of the new cards to all players that logged in after the launch. Second, All players received the C’Thun legendary card and 2 cards that support it, between the free packs and these cards, any player could build a deck that was capable of winning on some lucky draws. Finally, they also introduced the “Standard” game mode, that only allowed use of the most recent cards, so new players no longer had to worry about cards collected by people who have been playing through every expansion to come out.

My initial attempts for some wins in standard mode did not work out well, I had been using my old decks which really didn’t hold up. So, I instead decided to just scrap my old decks and start from scratch focusing on the new C’Thun related cards. This allowed me to get the 2 wins I needed in standard mode to get 5 more free WotOG packs. The cards in those packs propelled my decks even further and I started to feel like I had a fighting chance in a game I had always gotten crushed in.

Blizzard obviously wants to get you hooked so you’ll pay real money for packs. However, if you want to try playing for free, here are some tips:

1. Complete the Tutorial and play against the AI to level each hero to 10. Doing this will get you a good deal of packs and gold to build your collection.

2. Build a C’Thun Deck. You can do this easily with the free cards you’ve acquired up to this point, this is your best shot at getting wins as a fresh player. Those wins (in Standard mode) will get you more packs and gold to build a more robust deck. I still am using C’Thun in all of my decks because I don’t have any other legendary cards.

3. Play “Ranked” instead of “Casual.” This is completely counter-intuitive, but for some reason, the players in Casual have way better cards than the players you’ll battle in the early ranks of Ranked play. I’m not sure if it’s a match making issue, or if the really high ranked players just hop in Casual for some easy wins.

4. Try the weekly Tavern Brawls. I just found out about this today, but each week you can get a single free pack by winning a Tavern Brawl. These matches are completely different, and in some cases, you may not be at that big of a disadvantage for having a smaller card collection than the other players.

5. When you get 100 gold, save up another 50 and try the Arena Mode instead of simply buying a pack. In the Arena you construct a deck with random cards that you might not even own. There are 2 reasons for this: 1. Your card collection has no affect on the deck you build, so you have a better chance of completing your daily quests. 2. You will always get a card pack at the end, but if you get enough wins (and refer back to the first point here) you will also get some bonus gold and goodies.

Next, I’ll tell you all about my favorite of these 2 free games: Heroes of the Storm!

Dividend Income – Apr. 2016

I think it’s important to celebrate wins on the path to your ultimate goal, no matter how small. Sharing my dividend income results with you readers gives you some insight to what is possible as you begin your journey.
My ultimate goal is to be able to live off of the passive dividend income from my investments, so I can just stay at home and play video games. Here is the money I made in April 2016 without lifting a finger.

KO- $9.04
WMT- $6.17

Total: $15.21

Compared to last year, I earned $14.13 in April, so I’ve made an extra $1.08. In January of this year, I only earned $6.00 because of when the KO dividend pays out. So, WMT paid out $0.17 more in that time, which I believe is because of dividend raise of $0.01 per share.

Apple stock recently took a dip after an unimpressive earnings statement. I took the opportunity to buy 10 more shares of AAPL.

New Purchase: SBUX

Today, I bought 19 shares of SBUX at $57.17 per share.

Their PE ratio is higher than my preference at about 33. Their entry yield is only 1.4%, and their dividend growth history doesn’t even reach back 10 years.

So you’re probably asking “Why did you buy it then? SBUX doesn’t meet your criteria.” The answer: I’m an opportunist. There’s nothing better than when investors freak out about good news because it wasn’t as good as they’d hoped. Starbucks’ payout ratio is about 49%, and their dividend growth rate is very impressive, it grew 25% last year. This is far more of a growth investment than an income investment.

Starbucks is a staple in our culture, many people can’t start their day without Starbucks coffee (my wife included). The company is not afraid to try new things, such as instant coffee, home coffee makers, and even potentially wine and spirit bars. Starbucks has a great history and a great future, so being able to grab some shares on a dip is a nice opportunity.

New Purchase: WFC

I’ve had my eye on Wells Fargo for a long time as a potential buy. The main reason, is Warren Buffett buys more shares of this company any chance he gets.

Today, I bought 20 shares of WFC at $50.18 per share.

At the time I made this purchase, their PE Ratio was about 12.36. Which is very attractive. Their entry yield is over 3%. Their payout ratio is around 36%, which is pretty low and leaves a lot of room for dividend growth.

This puts me at $544.72/$600.00 for my annual passive income goal for 2016, and $45.39/$100.00 for my average monthly passive income long term goal.

Dividend Income – Mar. 2016

I think it’s important to celebrate wins on the path to your ultimate goal, no matter how small. Sharing my dividend income results with you readers gives you some insight to what is possible as you begin your journey.

My ultimate goal is to be able to live off of the passive dividend income from my investments, so I can just stay at home and play video games. Here is the money I made in March 2016 without lifting a finger.

JNJ- $7.56
CVX- $10.09
EMR- $7.88
IBM- $9.10
MMM- $7.77
MCD- $10.13
BP $31.92
LMT- $8.50

Total: $92.95

Compared to last year, I earned $64.00 in March, so I’ve made an extra $28.95. Compared to December 2015 ($89.60), I made $3.35 more. We’ve made it past the big expenses at the beginning of this year, and I’m now ready to make some new purchases. The problem is that the market has recovered, and I’ve missed the boat on some amazing opportunities. This may just end up being a war chest until something presents itself.

Do you see any good deals out there?

Dividend Income – February 2016

I think it’s important to celebrate wins on the path to your ultimate goal, no matter how small. Sharing my dividend income results with you readers gives you some insight to what is possible as you begin your journey.

My ultimate goal is to be able to live off of the passive dividend income from my investments, so I can just stay at home and play video games. Here is the money I made in February 2016 without lifting a finger.

VZ- $12.43
AAPL- $4.70

Total: $17.13

Compared to last year, I earned no dividends in February, and compared to November 2015, I made $12.45 more. Verizon has a great yield, so that was a big help. So far this year, I am a little bit behind on my savings goal, but I am flush with cash until I know what the last of my wife’s dental work is going to cost. However, I just freed myself of my margin debt in my personal account, it feels good to be free from that.

YUM, Tacos, My Latest Investment

Those of you that know me are aware of my love of Taco Bell. My greatest loss in a zombie apocalypse would be no more Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunches. So it should be no surprise that I took advantage of YUM Brands’ recent price dip and made myself an owner of my favorite chain. YUM Brands also owns Pizza Hut and KFC, a couple other college favorites.

I bought 13 shares of YUM at $75.95 per share.

At the time I made this purchase, their PE Ratio was about 26. Which is a little high by my standards, but relatively low for YUM. YUM has a 10 year average dividend growth rate of 25.99% and dividend increase of 12.20% just last year. This is pretty nice considering the entry yield is over 2.3%. Their payout ratio is around 63%, which is within my safety margin, but a little on the high side, so it will need to be watched.

This puts me at $514.72/$600.00 for my annual passive income goal for 2016, and $42.89/$100.00 for my average monthly passive income long term goal.

I’m very excited to own the company that provides a majority of my weekend food.

This is What We Trained For

This year should look very different to you investors than the past few. In the past few months we’ve seen a couple big dips in the market, and you may be starting to worry. It’s an emotion we haven’t had to deal with for some time. Until recent weeks, there was little fear involved with entering new investments which made things pretty easy. This is the time that will show your true colors.

I firmly believe in my Buy Smart Never Sell mantra. If you are investing regularly and intelligently through this year, you will do better in the long run than if you panic even the slightest. Am I predicting a crash? No. Am I predicting a rebound? No. I am predicting that nobody knows what the future holds. If you’re making speculative trades that you hope to make 10-20% gains within a year, this is the wrong blog for you anyways!

Here’s why I believe you should stop worrying and continue your strategy, you will win in every scenario that you don’t sell.

Scenario 1: The market rebounds, by not selling you haven’t lost a single thing, and probably made more money, huzzah!

Scenario 2: Bear Market, by not selling, you don’t realize any losses, your dividends are reinvested at a discount speeding up the compounding process, you continue to buy great companies at a discount as well. Maybe it takes a year or 2, but the market WILL eventually come back to where it was and you’ve made even more money by continuing to invest and reinvest.

Scenario 3: It’s just choppy for a year with no major gains or losses, you pick up deals where you can, and presumable this will be followed by scenario 1 or 2.

Scenario 4: Armageddon. All money becomes worthless and you’re no better or worse off than anyone else because society is collapsing and your new worry is finding beans and gathering weapons to fight zombies. Haven’t you always wanted to fight zombies?

The media gets its jollies by preying on your fears, but the truth is you have nothing to fear if you stick to your strategy (except maybe the zombies, especially if they’re the fast kind).

This isn’t to say you won’t get stressed out seeing your portfolio drop double digit percentages. It will be hard to stay strong and do the right thing, but if you do, you’ll be rewarded.

Stay strong investors!

New Purchases

To achieve my goal of investing $15,000 this year, I’ll need to invest at least $1250 each month (on average). So let’s start this year with a bang! I was able to invest $2000 for January. The 3 stocks I was considering were IBM, MMM, and WFC. So I thought I’d share with you my decision making process for this process.

First of all, These 3 companies each match my basic criteria of a solid history of dividend growth, a PE ratio under 20, a payout ratio under 60%, and a yield over 2.5%. All three are also in short term dips (or long term in the case of IBM).

Next, let’s look at past performance and dividend growth history. 10 years ago, $1000 invested in IBM would be worth $2334 today, in MMM would be worth $3288, and in WFC would be worth $2925. IBM’s dividend grew 18% last year, and on average it grows 23% per year. MMM’s dividend grew 19% last year, and on average grows 9% per year. WFC’s dividend grew 7% last year, and on average it grows 4% per year.

In terms of price growth, they each have grown an average of about 8 to 10% each year in the past. However, the price of MMM and IBM went down 7% last year, where WFC grew 4%. Price trends usually don’t affect my long term investment decisions, but it’s interesting to note the similarities.

Right now, the thing that appeals to me most is the dividend growth potential. So I went with IBM and MMM.

I bought 7 shares of IBM at $135.29 adding $36.40 to my yearly dividend income
and 7 shares of MMM at $144.35 adding $28.70 to my yearly dividend income.

This puts me at $485.94/$600.00 for my annual passive income goal for 2016, and $40.50/$100.00 for my average monthly passive income long term goal.

I’m excited to be doing some serious damage on my goals at the start of the year.

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