Earlier this week, I asked people to submit questions they wanted to ask me, promising I'd answer them in a forthcoming article. Here is that article – and it ended up being a little more forthcoming than I thought it would!
What was your favorite match to cover and why?— Matej Zatlkaj (@Matej_Zatlkaj) September 17, 2018
This is a tough one, as there are so many highlights from the throughout the years. Matej only asked for one, but this is my article and I make the rules so I'm going to share three instead. Fight me.
I love working with Paul Cheon. He's one of the few commentators that keeps pace with my excitement and enthusiasm, and we both just about exploded as Yukuhiro's Hollow One deck did its thing on turn one. Hollow One is old news now, but this was its breakout performance and Paul and I were bouncing off the walls with excitement as the Japanese superstar showed us what the deck is capable of.
I recently moved to Scotland, and was blown away by how tight-knit yet welcoming the Scottish Magic community is. Gary Campbell is the life and soul of this community, regularly loaning out cards and decks, co-ordinating GP trips, and driving people to prereleases. Seeing his response at winning a GP, and having the privilege to interview him afterwards with all my idiotic friends yelling happily behind us isn't something I'll ever forget.
This match will always be one of the most important I ever covered – it was my first gig as a commentator, in my hometown of Melbourne, and featured my good friend (and at the time, housemate) Patty Robertson. It's incredible to go back and watch this video with the stream-of-consciousness interrupted by stuttering pauses and think of how things have changed since then (not much). If you'd taken me aside after that match and told me I'd be where I am today, there's no chance I would have believed you. It all started that weekend.
Why is your handle not Knight of the Rileyquary— lex (@glaciersix) September 17, 2018
I get asked this question all the time – unfortunately, the answer is super boring. When first making my Twitter account, I of course tried to make my username @knightoftherileyquary. Unfortunately, Twitter has a 15-character limit on usernames, which ruled it out. I thought a "Knight" pun would be low-hanging fruit, and so went for @rileyquarytower instead. I also really like the card – it was quickly included in my first-ever deck, which was built around Psychosis Crawler and Blue Sun's Zenith. Only nerds discard to hand size.
Warum ist die deutsche Sprache die Sprache an der du am meisten Freude hast? 😁— Daniel streams MTG (@JudgeDanGames) September 17, 2018
Rough translation: Why is the German language the language you enjoy the most? 😁
I moved to Berlin in 2014 and slowly set about learning German, which I now speak at a very basic level. My principal reason for moving to Berlin was my love of history, as I would argue that Berlin is the most important city of the 20th century. Between the two world wars and the Berlin Wall, Berlin was a focal point for a huge number of world-changing events between 1914 and 1989, and living there and seeing the legacy of what happened in that city (and indeed that country) was fascinating. Now that I live in Scotland, I find any chance I can to practice my German, and so jump at the chance to chat with anyone, both IRL and online.
What book do you recommend to get an overview of World War II?— Florian Delvo (@FlorianDelvo) September 18, 2018
History has a massive PR problem. It's an enormously interesting field of study, but is weighed down by (highly necessary) academic standards of rigorous accuracy. If you're wanting a more engaging way to learn about the Second World War, I highly recommend reading Winter of the World by Ken Follett. It's a novel that covers all the major events of the Second World War with great accuracy, as viewed through the eyes of fictional characters. It gives you a great "feel" for the time – much better than a stuffy textbook.
How did you came to do MTG commentary?— Alexandre Livernoche (@PhysPrez) September 18, 2018
This is an enormously long story, but I can provide a reasonably succinct summary. I qualified for the Australian WMC team in 2013, and met Rich Hagon while in Europe for the event. With his help and the support of the Sneak and Show crew back in Melbourne, I organized coverage of GP Melbourne in early 2014. I moved to Berlin later that year and contacted Rich about more coverage work, and he gave me a shot at GP Moscow that June. From there, I slowly but surely became a regular on the team, balancing coverage against full-time teaching work, and then finally quit my teaching job to work on Magic full-time. I was very lucky to get where I am today – more than anything, it was being in the right place at the right time.
Real question: Who are your biggest influences in mtg and why?— Patrick Robertson (@ghett_smart) September 17, 2018
I know exactly why Patty has asked this question – he expects to be included in the answer, and I can't pretend he doesn't deserve it (as much as I would like to). Patty Robertson, along with Isaac Egan, Wilfy Horig, and Stephen Campbell were the LGS regulars back in Melbourne that helped me transition from 67-card casual to competitive grinding, and I owe my entire career to their guidance and support.
Outside of my origins in Melbourne, the biggest influences on my career have come from a range of people. Rich Hagon has been a supportive boss and good friend from day one, helping me grow as both a broadcaster and a person. Additionally, Thoralf "Toffel" Severin and Jamin Kauf, my best friends from my time living in Berlin, have constantly challenged me to improve at the game despite not necessarily "needing" to as a commentator.
I've also been heavily influenced by sources altogether outside of Magic. As a broadcaster, my single-minded focus is to be as entertaining as possible (which, I recognize, often comes at the expense of game analysis). In that regard, I owe a lot to Billy Birmingham, a sports comedian who produced a series of extremely foul-mouthed cricket commentary parodies called The Twelfth Man.
However, the biggest influence I've had as a broadcaster has come from an Australian radio duo called Hamish and Andy – their effortless positivity and wonderful silliness has profoundly shaped my development both professionally and personally. I appeared on a recent episode of their weekly podcast, and it was totally surreal to speak to my heroes like this. The podcast, by the way, is unbelievably entertaining – it lights up my whole week.
What's your favourite Richard Garfield game? :)— Wilfy (@chaosjuggler) September 17, 2018
I mean, this one is what we call a "Dorothy Dixer" in Australia – obviously, my favorite Garfield game is Magic (and it's not close). My second-favorite, however, is definitely RoboRally. RoboRally is a perfect mix of strategy, luck, and unpredictable silliness, and is endlessly replayable – a very important characteristic for any board game. If you've never played RoboRally, you're missing out!
If you had shave your mustache or head which would you choose and why.— Warren Smith (@mtgwarren) September 17, 2018
This was probably meant as a silly question, but things are about to get very real up in here, so hold onto your butts.
I'm losing my hair, and I absolutely hate it. It's becoming thinner and thinner at the back, and I feel a rush of miserable panic every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror. Whenever I can, I use this special powder to disguise it on camera, and it's also why you always see me wearing my Sub Pop hat in other photos – because I can't stand seeing my thinning hair.
I know no one else really cares all that much, I know so many other people have it so much worse than me, and I know that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter – but it still affects me way more than it should. Part of it is the very real reminder of the aging process and the fact I'll never be a thick-haired 18-year-old again, but for the most part it is, I must confess, just vanity. I've always been vain, and this uncontrollable deterioration of my appearance absolutely ruins me.
Anyway. To answer your question, my head. Why? Because I'm trying to accept that at some point my hair will thin to the point that I can't stand to look at it at all, and on that day, I'll shave it all off and never look back. The moustache, however, is untouchable.
Some people are leaving out excessive crust while eating pizza. Since you're eating pizza backwards, do you tend to leave out just the very middle of it?— Jędrek Szmyd (@SzmydcasterMage) September 17, 2018
The whole me-eating-pizza-backwards thing really got out of hand, but I stand by it. I legitimately do eat pizza that way, and while I'm not trying to make some kind of grand point by doing so, this weird behavior does align itself with one of my general philosophies on life.
I used to work as a primary school teacher, and I would always advise the kids I taught to "do the boring stuff first." It's typically boring adult advice, but it improves the quality of your life enormously if you stick to it. Rather than play now and do homework later, do your homework now and then enjoy playing without having the specter of your homework hanging over your head later.
I try to live my life like this. As much as possible, I'll complete unpleasant and boring tasks before mucking about and having fun, as I can never really enjoy myself fully when I'm thinking about what I still have to get done.
I just realized I didn't answer your question. No, I don't leave uneaten pizza behind, ever. Pizza is humankind's greatest treasure, and I wouldn't waste a crumb.
Question: why are mismatched lands so tilting?— Joel Wong (@joelwong81) September 17, 2018
More than anything else, it's a "bit." It's a dumb joke that I picked up and ran with, and now I'm starting to be known for it. I kinda like this – Maria loves Bogles, Marshall never cracks packs, and I can't stand mismatched basics. It's a mostly harmless bit of fun that gives people the opportunity to antagonize me, which is only fair as I dish out a fair bit myself.
I genuinely don't like mismatched cards, and don't fully understand how people can be happy to grab a fistful of basics from the land station and call it a day. Fundamentally, however, there's no real judgment behind the stupid ranting and raving. Live and let live; people can do what they want, and I don't really mean any of the vitriol. It's just for show, designed to entertain. Not everyone likes the "joke," but I learned very quickly you can't please everyone.
How do you schedule your time? Seriously you write for a squillion sites, travel almost every weekend, do one hell of an historical podcast, and give us ~20 hot seconds of music every week. Do you have clones?— Aaron Bochenek (@OrcishVeteran) September 17, 2018
I know I'm just bragging by proxy by including this question – thanks for the opportunity, Aaron – but it raises a good point. I do make a lot of stuff, and I'm generally an overwhelmingly busy person. This is by choice. I hate feeling like I'm wasting time or being unproductive, and whenever I have time free, I need to be doing something. I don't like being idle.
Working as a primary school teacher forces you to rigorously manage your time, incentivizes effective routine, and teaches you to work to deadlines – I still apply that teacher's mentality to my weekly list of tasks. Happily, most of these tasks are enjoyable to complete (especially the history podcast Aaron mentioned), so "work" these days isn't as much of a drag as, for example, marking spelling assessments.
I try to strike a balance between work and recreation, and make sure I put aside time to play games, read books, and see friends. I generally have very little downtime where I have nothing to do and when this happens, I start feeling guilty almost immediately and restlessly start looking for something to do. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I don't really know how to switch off, and I don't really want to. I like being busy – I have no desire to be on my deathbed wishing I'd done more with my life.
What was the moment where you really knew that you had made it as a commentator? What was it like?— James (@Memnithopter) September 17, 2018
Three moments stick out in my memory. The first is during the finals of GP Moscow, my second-ever coverage gig, when I was sitting between Raph Levy and Frank Karsten. Less than a year ago, I'd been asking them to sign my cards (I still have the Llanowar Elves and the Gifts Ungiven), and all of a sudden I was in the booth with them as their colleague. That felt unbelievable.
The second is the time that someone approached the coverage area at a GP with a card and a Sharpie, and waved at me. Often people would catch my attention and ask me to retrieve Rich – who is invariably very busy – to sign a card, or to ask me where they could find Raph or Frank or one of the other hugely famous players I work with. This bloke, however, had a copy of Reliquary Tower he had bought specifically to have me sign. I was absolutely floored. I had gone from being someone who collected signatures to being someone who signed cards, and it felt surreal.
The final and most recent time happened just a few months ago, in the lead-up to PT Dominaria. I was at the zoo in DC when I heard someone call my name. I turned to see who it was, then realized I didn't know anyone in DC, so they couldn't be calling out to me. But no, sure enough, it was this bloke who was there at the zoo with his daughter – he recognized me from coverage and wanted me to say hello. Again, unbelievable. I know I'm still a Z-grade celebrity (if that) in the grand scheme of things, but being recognized in public felt pretty bloody cool.
Got any tips on how to keep your spirits up while there is so much suffering in the world? You seem so jolly and it's inspiring— Ravi Lesser (@Raviously) September 17, 2018
As much as it sounds like a cringeworthy and empty platitude, positivity really is underrated. I always do my best to be as possible about everything as possible, to see the good in people and in situations, and to seek constructive solutions to problems.
The key word in your question, however, is "seem." It's easy for me to seem positive and happy about everything all the time when I have a strict control over how I'm portrayed publically. I'm never going to be negative and miserable on coverage, I'm never going to be openly rude and hostile to people I meet at events, and I'm never going to go on furious, destructive tirades on Twitter. While it's excellent that I'm perceived as a positive person, that's definitely not the reality 100% of the time.
Maybe we're getting a little too real here again, but I don't think it should shock you to learn that I'm a real human with real feelings. I get frustrated and stressed when things don't go my way, and I feel sad and upset when people say negative things about me online, but perhaps my biggest failing in this regard is my inability to deal with being either tired or hungry. Anyone who has hung out with me at the end of a coverage event will know I'm a very different person after a long day's work: ill-tempered, short and abrasive. I don't like that I'm like this, and I'm trying to change it.
Anyway. There are a few pieces of wisdom I've been offered over the years I'd like to share here. The first is that worrying makes you suffer twice. Don't waste an iota of psychological energy worrying about something bad that you can't control, because then it sucks while you worry and then it sucks again when the bad thing happens. If it's beyond your control, take it on the chin and don't tear yourself to bits over it.
The second is to celebrate your victories, no matter how large or small. Take time to congratulate yourself for your successes, and don't measure yourself against the achievements of others. Your victory could be something as small as taking the stairs rather than the escalator, or as large as a promotion and a raise at work. When you do something good, stop and remind yourself you've improved as a person. That's worth a lot.
Which member?— julioespina (@julioespina5) September 17, 2018
That's all she wrote today, sports fans! Thanks to everyone who took the time to submit a question, and apologies to those I didn't get to. Regular programming resumes next week!
- Riley Knight