Choosing the right Stacking strategy

Mitchell Cuevas

Head of Growth, Stacks Open Internet Foundation
April 20, 2021

There are two ways to Stack: in a pool or by yourself. To Stack by yourself you’ll need to meet the dynamic minimum of currently 100,000 STX. If you don’t meet the minimum, you can Stack by pooling with others. That said, the decision to pool or go on your own isn’t just about meeting the minimum, if you’re at or near the minimum, you may still want to pool anyway.

Pooling

Pools are run by independent third parties and are an effective, easy way to take part in Stacking. A pool combines participants’ STX, Stacking it on their behalf, then delivers a proportionate payout of the rewards (minus possible fees) to each participant.

There are two types of pools:

  • Custodial pools: These pools require that you send them your STX and then use their wallet to run the Stacking. From there, they pay out your rewards to the BTC address you specified, or in some cases pay you back in STX or another currency.
  • Non-custodial pools: These pools never access your STX directly as you are instead ‘delegating’ your STX to the pool, but you do still need to trust them with the payment of the rewards. You should also keep in mind that with delegation, you can revoke STX from the pool at any time, however, the funds will remain locked until the end of the cycle you originally chose.

In general, the upside to pooling is that you’ll be able to Stack even if you don’t meet the minimum and that a pool will generally Stack more than an individual. This decreases the impact that the dynamic minimum has on participants’ rewards.

Pooling may appeal to you if:

  • You own less STX than the minimum required for Stacking by yourself. (You can see the current minimum on Stacking.club.)
  • You own enough STX to meet the minimum, but an increase in the minimum would have a significant impact on your rewards (more on that in the dynamic minimum section below)
  • You don’t mind trusting the pool with the payment of your rewards

You can find pools to suit your preferences on stacks.co/stacking. We recommend that if you choose pool, you research the pool and ultimately trust the provider. The good news is there are quite a few wonderful pools run by familiar faces and well-respected organizations.

Stacking by yourself

When you Stack by yourself you’ll interact with the protocol directly. The upside is that you won’t have to trust anybody with the payment of your rewards as you’ll receive them directly from miners. The downside is that an increase in the dynamic minimum can have a larger effect on your rewards than it would on a pool.

Stacking by yourself may appeal to you if:

  • You don’t want to trust a pool with the payment of rewards
  • You own at least enough STX to meet the minimum, and ideally enough where an increase in the minimum has a minimal effect on your rewards (more on that below)

When you Stack by yourself, you’ll have to consider how likely it is the minimum will increase, how big an impact an increase would have on your rewards, and the impact of the cooldown cycle.

The dynamic minimum

Every cycle 4,000 reward slots are available for Stackers. The minimum required for one reward slots can change from cycle to cycle — if an additional 40 million STX are added to Stacking, the minimum will increase by 10,000 STX. As a result, you could end up with less reward slots if the minimum increases in the future.

Imagine the current minimum is 80K and increases to 90K. Here's how it would impact your rewards:

  • If you Stacked 80K, you'd lose 100% of your reward slots.
  • If you Stacked 160K, you'd lose 50% of your reward slots
  • If you Stacked 400K, you'd lose 20% of your reward slots
  • If you Stacked 8M, you'd lose 12% of your reward slots

The decrease in rewards stems from the fact that the minimum for each reward slots must be met in full. For example, say that like above, you’re Stacking 160K. With a minimum at 80k, you’re receiving payment from 2 reward slots. If the minimum rises to 90k, you’re now only covering the minimum for one of the reward slots because 2 slots now requires 180k. In this scenario, the 70k that’s left over after the 90k is spent on one reward slot, is not earning a yield and thus reducing your payout. If you find yourself in this situation, there is a way to add to the total you’re Stacking, however it requires a large number of STX.

As you can see, the impact of an increase in the minimum will have less effect the more you’re Stacking. Pools are also impacted by the dynamic minimum, but they’ll often Stack much more than an individual. That’s why it’s recommended to Stack in a pool if your balance is at or near the minimum, this way you won’t have to worry about the minimums or any of these calculations.

How long to Stack

Both when pooling and when Stacking by yourself, you can Stack anywhere from 1 to 12 cycles. A cycle is always 2,100 Bitcoin blocks, but the Bitcoin block time varies — a cycle generally lasts around 15 days. To decide how long you’ll Stack you’ll have to consider the cool down cycle and, if you’re Stacking by yourself, the dynamic minimum.

The cool-down cycle

After your chosen duration, you’ll have to wait one cycle before you can Stack from the same address again, regardless of whether you pooled or Stacked by yourself. Your earnings will be higher if you Stack for more cycles at a time. For example, If you Stack for 3 cycles at a time twice, you’ll be earning rewards 6 out of 8 cycles, with two cool down cycles(•••-•••-). If you Stacked for 6 cycles at a time, you would have earned rewards 6 out of 7 cycles (••••••-). Revisiting the cool down cycle is part of the considerations for the Stacks 2.1 upgrade.

The dynamic minimum (if you Stack by yourself)

In general, Stacking for more cycles will decrease the impact of the cool down cycle and in turn increase your earnings. However, if you’re Stacking by yourself you’ll also have to consider the dynamic minimum. The minimum can change from cycle to cycle, and becomes harder to predict the more cycles you Stack. If you’re Stacking an amount where an increase of the minimum will have a significant impact, consider Stacking for fewer cycles or adding a buffer. If you’re Stacking so much that an increase of the minimum will have little impact, consider Stacking for longer to maximize the cycles you’re earning rewards.

Resources

  • Stacks Wallet by Hiro enables you to pool and Stack by yourself with Ledger support.
  • Stacks.co lists the known pool providers
  • Stacking.club will give you insight into Stacking data, such as how much STX is Stacking for next cycle and how the dynamic minimum has changed in the past.
  • The #Stacking channel on the Stacks Discord is where you can ask questions about Stacking. Most pools are active on Discord as well and will gladly answer any question you might have.

Mitchell Cuevas

Head of Growth, Stacks Open Internet Foundation

Mitchell Cuevas, previously Blockstack PBC's Head of Growth, currently leads growth efforts at the Stacks Foundation. Before joining Hiro/Stacks, he led Marketing at UP Global (Startup Weekend, Startup Digest, Startup Week) and was an integral part of the product team at Techstars.

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