Interview with Josh Lee Kwai & Jimmy Wong from The Command Zone

Interview with Josh Lee Kwai & Jimmy Wong from The Command Zone

In collaboration with The Command Zone, our Jace Beleren 1:4 Scale Statue, Black Lotus Relief Sculpture, and Secret Lair Li'l'est Walkers were featured on Game Knights, Extra Turns and The Command Zone Podcast. We figured a behind-the-scenes insight would feed your curiosity about how and what went down! Therefore, we're happy to release our exclusive interview with Josh & Jimmy from The Command Zone, where they also share personal stories about how it started and its impact on the game we all love.


GT: What was your first impression of Gatherers’ Tavern and what were you most excited about when you choose to work with us?

Josh:  My first impression of Gatherers’ Tavern was that y’all make incredibly high-quality stuff. I was really blown away by the attention to detail that goes into all the products that you make. It’s clear that the people behind those products are very passionate about what is being created and that is something we can really relate to here at The Command Zone. 


GT: It’s been 9 years since the first Command Zone podcast on YouTube, can you tell us more about your origin story and what got the both of you started in the first place? How did Josh and Jimmy meet?

Jimmy:  At the time, I was working with my brother Freddie at his company,  RocketJump. I always like to have little trinkets and keepsakes at my desk, and one of those happened to be the first Serra Angel I owned. One day I showed up and there was someone new at one of the workstations. He saw the card on my desk and asked me if I played Magic! At the same time Matt (a co-founder of RocketJump), who was a huge boardgame fanatic, had been looking into this new format of Magic called "Commander". Josh and I also started getting deep into Limited (this was right around the release of Journey into Nyx) and we both listened to the Limited Resources podcast. One day, Josh posed the question - are there any such podcast offerings like Limited Resources but for Commander? The rest is history!

Josh: Jimmy tells the story very well. The only thing I would add is that this happenedl circa 2013. So Commander was still a very niche format that not many people played and there wasn’t very much content centered around it. That’s hard to believe, maybe, since these days the MTG content landscape is overwhelmingly Commander focused. But in those days the most popular online Magic content was mostly about draft and standard. Jimmy and I decide to help fill that void and, to echo what he said, the rest is history indeed.


GT: Command Zone has certainly played such an integral part in growing the Commander format worldwide, how do you feel about the impact you have had on this game after all these years?

Jimmy: It's hard for the human brain to grasp the magnitude and scale of something that's non-physical like impact on a game, but for me it's incredibly humbling. I have always had a deep interest and passion for building communities around a shared interest, and when I started the podcast with Josh, I never expected it to grow to such an immense size. I think it speaks deeply to the fact that humans are ingrained with a need and longing to play, especially together. I've seen the board game community explode over the past decade, and multiplayer Magic has grown directly alongside it. I'm not someone known for expert level play, so I hope that the impact that I've had on the game and community is one of fun and silliness, and that we don't have to take things too seriously all the time. Winning is fun and gratifying, don't get me wrong, but my personal favorite moments with The Command Zone have always been the times where I fall flat on my face, or the lords of chaos completely wreck me in my hubris.

Josh: Jimmy and I had a philosophy early on that we wanted to show the side of Magic that we felt wasn’t really being represented at the time. And that was the fun of the game. Most content when we started was focused on tournament play and how you can optimize your chances to win every game, etc. but we were two grown-up guys with established careers and expertise who had no interest in trying to become professional MTG players or anything of the sort. We still loved the game though. And I think most people are like that. They play Magic not because they want to turn it into a job but because it’s a fun escape from the stresses and obligations of their actual work and life. The Command Zone and Game Knights are our love letters to MTG and a way to show off all the aspects of the game that drew us to it. It’s about hanging with friends, making connections, and having shared experiences. So I guess I hope our impact is reflected more in the people who we helped to find the game than on the actual game itself. Magic has brought so much joy to my life and to so many others and I like to think that we’ve helped to bring that joy to a lot of people out there by demonstrating to them what’s awesome about it and why they might want to try it for themselves.


GT: Undoubtedly the best-in-class in production across the whole multiverse of Magic, how do you feel about moving into your new studio/office and what are you most excited for?

Jimmy: Josh was the main driver and force behind the new office, and I couldn't be more grateful for the immense amount of work and coordination it took to make it happen. I think the thing that makes me the most inspired and excited is the reaction and the passion that our coworkers have in this new space. A simple thing like just having a little more breathing room has allowed us to continue growing our abilities and think of even bigger and cooler things to do. It's not just production quality either, we've been able to come up with more skits and innovative ways to express our love for the game thanks to the new space. If I’m being honest, at this point I mostly just feel relieved. It took a tremendous effort to get in here and was way more work than expected.

Josh: To echo what Jimmy said, the most exciting thing about the new studio is just how much it has increased the size of our sandbox and how it is already causing us to think and dream bigger.


GT: From our recent promotion with Command Zone, what were your sources of inspiration and some of the challenges you faced when putting together each of our featured videos?

Josh: First off, I want to shout out our writers Jordan Pridgen and Jamie Block, since they have a big hand in the ideation of all of our creative content. The source of inspiration for the “Serious Collector” spot was pretty simple: we just stayed very true to the fact that we have literally just moved into a new space and have been struggling a little to make it feel alive. We moved in and we got all the desks and chairs and computers in there, but the new studio is so much bigger than our previous office that we kind of ended up with nothing on the walls and most of the shelves were bare, etc. So we’ve been looking around for MTG related items to fill the space and Gatherers’ Tavern makes easily the best of anything we’ve seen on the market. So for us, encapsulating our true experience was the best endorsement we could give. As far as challenges go: We like to push ourselves and try new things so we decided to do this one in sort of a walk-and-talk style with the camera following us around the office. We chose this approach because it would give us the opportunity to show some pieces of our new studio that people haven’t seen before, which we thought our fans would enjoy. The downside is that this style adds a lot to the complexity of the production because we’re now planning, lighting, and mic’ing multiple scenes and set-ups in a number of different rooms and locations. If the camera is moving and the subjects are also moving, it creates exponentially more complexity in blocking the scenes and you also end up needing to do a lot more takes because of framing and/or focus issues.


GT: Can you share any behind-the-scenes insights or funny anecdotes during the production process?

Jimmy:  Filming in the new office has been a blast because we can always come up with new locations and angles to shoot things at! In our old house, we exhausted all of the options almost immediately, so you'll definitely see some new locations pop up in our promo video!

Josh: So, as I alluded to in the previous question, in one of the spots we chose a pretty complicated style. And the scene that took the longest was the camera push to Jimmy and me when we’re seated at the conference table, as we talk about the metal card that comes with the Black Lotus Relief Sculpture. I think we had to do that like 15+ times to get it right. The funny thing is, once we got into the edit bay I think we ended up using the 3rd take. This is pretty common in film production. It’s almost always better to be safe and “make sure” you’ve got what you need on the day of filming but then you get into the edit and find out the take you think was perfect is actually not the one you use.


GT: How did you feel when you first unbox each of our products?

Josh:  It was super exciting. The packaging is classy and the products are just beautiful. There were a number of us at the office crowded around as we opened everything and suffice it to say there were a lot of ooo’s and ahhh’s


GT: What did you like most of each product? 

Jimmy: I am a serious collector of all things and I think the thing that stood out most to me about each of these products is the hand-crafted care and extreme attention to detail on every piece from Gatherer's Tavern. It's a delight to be able to hold them and handle them in person, you can really tell just how much effort went into each individual piece. Their statue pieces are absolute grails and showstoppers - I am in awe of them every time I see it up close.


GT: Among the three products featured, which is your favourite?

Jimmy: I am in love with the giant Jace statue - I used to build Gundam, and I also collect lots of Figma, so something at this scale and with all of the cool customizable options just blows my mind. Nothing I've ever had in my life comes close to comparing to the epic-ness of the Jace!

Josh: I’m a big fan of the Black Lotus Relief Sculpture. I have a shelf in my office that’s a big showcase of sentimental Magic and gaming memorabilia I’ve collected over the years and it really just pops out as classy and unique, even among all of that other stuff. It’s quickly become the first thing people comment on when they come in to see me. I’m gonna be sad when we have to send it back!


GT: Even though these products are more collectible in nature, do you think the community can benefit from more products they can have to better express their love for the game? 

Jimmy: Expression of your passion and fandom is always going to be a great thing for a community around a game like this. Magic is only getting more and more popular, so I love seeing new products pop up that are of a superbly high quality and made with love and care.


GT: If you could have us create 3 products, what would you like to see?

Jimmy:  I love the Black Lotus piece and am excited to see if other iconic Magic arts like the rest of the Power 9 see a similar treatment! Outside of that, I like to think about pieces that are collectible and useful, things like life counters, bags, etc.

Josh: I’d love some nostalgia pieces that commemorate some of the old sets. I can remember back in the day really being excited when Legends, or The Dark, or Mirage, etc. were about to come out. It’s also always fun to kind of show off that you’re an OG.

Back to content