CheshirePlaysGames's picture
By: CheshirePlaysGames, Albert Caynes
May 15 2019 11:00am

Cheshire - Recently you were inducted into the Player Rules Committee along with some other long and high standing commander community players and content creators. What role will you be playing in the committee?

Josh Lee Kwai - Unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding. I have not become part of the Rules Committee and neither has anyone else you alluded to in the question (That being Ron, Shivam, Rachel, Stybs and Charlotte). We were all asked to join a separate but related organization called the Commander Advisory Group (CAG for short). Just as the name implies, we are meant to be an additional source of perspective for the Rules Committee to use when weighing changes to the format. We advise only. We do not have any actual authority. So, don’t blame me when they make a change you don’t like!

Athreos, God of Passage

When did you start playing commander and when did you decide you wanted to be a content creator?

I began playing Commander in early 2014 at the behest of some people I really didn’t know very well at that time: Jimmy Wong, Craig Blanchette and Alex Kessler. I had only recently returned to Magic after a 15+ year hiatus. I instantly fell in love with the multiplayer aspect and the politics, and was hooked.

I’ve kind of always been a content creator. I spent 17 years doing movie trailers and promos as my day job and have a long history of working on my own side projects as well. The Command Zone was a way to jump into the “new media” game and test out those waters. At the time, I never would have thought in a million years that it would grow to become what it has.

Mizzix of the Izmagnus

What is your personal stance on Planeswalkers as commanders?

I’m on record many times on our podcast as being against it. My reasoning (in no particular order) is:

1) PWs slow down games. They have complicated decision trees on both sides (Which ability do I use on my own planeswalkers? -or- Do I attack my opponents or try to hit their planeswalkers? etc)

2) PWs in the Command Zone create longer games. Both for the above reason and the simple fact that PWs do not attack – so they can’t deal damage – and they soak up damage that would otherwise be going towards players. This all results in less overall damage being done during the game.

3) The Commander Mechanic (being able to recast a certain card over and over for commander tax) is inherently broken. The one thing that keeps it in check is that it’s restricted to the most easy to deal with card type: creatures. PWs weren’t even part of the game for many many years and, as a result, they are quite difficult to deal with outside of combat. Many older cards specifically do not refer to PWs because they never knew that card type would ever exist. This is not the case with creatures.

4) Planeswalkers encourage a type of strategy that is very grindy and attrition based. Stuff like Moat, Tabernacle, Winter Orb, Stasis, Humility, etc is all very good with PWs. I’m not saying this style of play is bad or people shouldn’t do it/like it. I just don’t see it as a net positive to move the format more in that direction than it already is.

5) Commander is now the most popular format in all of Magic. This is not the time for big moves. What problem would a change of this magnitude be fixing?

Favourite deck you’ve played, or deck you always upgrade and keep building?

My Vial Smasher and Thrasios deck. It’s powerful, not cEDH level but it can hang with most decks. The random damage aspect is fun. It’s interactive and always feels like it gives and gets good games.

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden

Infinite combos, do you play them and if yes, do you have any restrictions such as the popular 3 times house rule?

Our playgroup does not play with any house rules. We kind of can’t. We have a podcast that’s speaking to 150k+ EDH players each week. If we were playing under our own made-up rules then a lot of what we say would not apply to the bulk of the audience.

I don’t specifically put infinite combos in any of my decks (except my one cEDH Teferi / Chain Veil deck that I almost never play). Certainly, I’ve never found it fun to Tooth and Nail for Mike and Trike or anything like that. However, if you build good synergy into your deck it’s very difficult to not have the possibility of a 3-5 card infinite combo popping up from time to time. So definitely it happens sometimes, and then we all just shrug and shuffle up for the next game.

I want to be clear that I’m totally fine with people who play with infinite combos. I’m even totally cool if they tutor for them, etc. It’s part of the game and it doesn’t bother me at all as long as I know from the get-go what power level everyone is playing at so I can choose my deck accordingly. The only frustrating thing about tutoring for 2 card infinite combos is when I’m like “Oh, I thought everyone was playing at a 6/10” etc.

What is your personal commander philosophy (why do you play, when building a deck what are your considerations etc)?

Have fun and, for the most part, try to make a deck and play in a way that that will allow my opponents to have fun as well. Commander, to me, really is just a great way to hang out with friends.

Roon of the Hidden Realm

Do you have a personal watch or ban list with your commander group? If so, what’s on that list?

Nope. Again, we play by the official rules out of necessity but honestly, if it were up to me, I would not ban anything, I would unban stuff. This format is about being able to play with the cards you own.

You come from the world of Hollywood, any chance we will at some stage see some sort of low budget lore style show, like some sort of living lore series where you get some people to act out lore around Magic?

Probably not. I’ve never been super into the story line of Magic. It’s just not a part of the game that appeals to me personally. In addition, if I were to have the time, money and resource to do a narrative series I would want it to be a pilot for an IP that I own the rights to. But I’ll be happy to watch that series if someone else does it. Sounds cool!

How did you come to know Jimmy and do you hang out and play magic off camera?

Jimmy and I met when I was helping RocketJump with their VGHS Season 3 marketing. I had just gotten back into Magic like 6 months before that and I saw some cards on his desk and, before I knew it, we had a regular Commander playgroup. We definitely still play off camera as much as possible. Which still isn’t as much as we’d like but content creation really eats into your free time.

(And I get the feeling you do, considering if I remember correctly, you were both in the same casual crew playing EDH and still play off cam and do pre-releases together)


@grodriguez0419 says: Do you have any tips on making a hidden commander deck, like your 5C Nekusar?

The key to “hidden” commander decks is that you want a lot of redundancy for the effect that the Commander gives you. Nekusar works great because there are a ton of cards through all of magic’s history that make every players draw more cards and/or that deal damage to players based on how many cards they’re drawing. This means even if you don’t draw specifically Nekusar, your deck can still find the other pieces to win in that fashion.

@JakeBossMTG asks: Of all the trailers you've cut, what one was your favourite?

It’s a tough one because I’ve done so many. The one I think is the best edited is Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The most fun to work on was Fast Five. The coolest moment was when I wrote the speech for Morgan Freeman in the trailer for Wanted and then I got to direct the VO session where he read it.

@MJDrawza asks: Will we ever see a Game Knights or Command Zone come to Australia?

Because of the amount of equipment that Game Knights requires, it would be very difficult to do remotely. I won’t say never, but it would require a much larger budget and we’d have to figure out a ton of logistics. It’s much easier to bring someone from Australia to LA than it would be for us to bring our entire production to Australia, if that makes sense.

@PanPanUnbroken asks: Why would you want to remove Commander damage if you were building this format from scratch? 

I just think it’s needlessly complicated and very rarely affects games. Similar to mana burn back in the day. To be clear, I would accompany this change by pushing the starting lifetotals down to 30. This would have the effect of increasing the effectiveness of aggro in general, and reducing how good control and combo strategies are without the needless complexities of Commander damage.

@PKinter13 asks: When will we see either a hidden commander or blind commanders Game Knights?

At the moment we don’t have any specific plans for a Game Knights with that theme, but who knows? I could definitely see us doing it at some point.

Thats it for today, thanks to JLK for answering our questions and you can check out Command Zone and Game Knights HERE.