Greetings and welcome to another installment of Black Sheep Meets. I was recently asked why I am doing this series. The purpose is to highlight the good that happens in and around the Magic community. My hope is that by showcasing all the great things and wonderful people who make the Magic community what it is, I can show how welcoming and positive this game can be. My motivation for doing this is straightforward. Most of my friends and now even my career have come from gaming. Gaming and MTG, in particular, is such a source of joy and inspiration in my life, and I’d like to share that feeling of fun and family with other people.
In the sense of sharing friends and bringing the community together, this week we have on Ryan Overturf. Ryan was suggested by Emma Handy, who was a suggestion from Hallie Santo. Ryan is a prolific content creator who focuses primarily on the competitive side of things. Even though he isn’t focused on Commander, he has shown through his writing that he has a great grasp on the concept of the Social Contract and the importance of friends and community.
Sean: Ryan, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You write two article series over at Quiet Speculation, Stock Watch and Deck Overview. In “stock watch,” you generally pick one card at a time, and for “Deck Overview” you focus on a single deck in competitive formats. How do you choose what to feature in each of your articles?
Ryan: For Stock Watches, I look for cards that are currently fluctuating or that I expect to soon fluctuate in price. The idea of the piece is to help players save money by investing wisely, and to identify cards that are good buys or sells at a given time. Deck Overviews are to highlight either decks that are under the radar that are perhaps underexplored, or general metagame trends that players should be aware of. My first PTQ win came from refining an oddball 4-0 list from a Daily Event that Reid Duke posted many years ago when he wrote articles that broke down Magic Online event results, and I find that there is a lot of value in exploring fringe strategies.
Sean: If you click on that link for Quiet Speculation, it lists your name as the author for each of the articles but the author landing page is “The Good Soldier.” How did you end up getting that nickname (or author tag)?
Ryan: I needed to create an account to write articles for the site, and TheGoodSoldier is my MTGO handle. In all honesty, had I known that tag would be public facing I would have just named my account “Ryan Overturf,” though I’m not motivated enough to change it. “The Good Soldier” is a track by Nine Inch Nails off of their album Year Zero, which I have listened to hundreds, if not thousands of times. The album does a great job of building its own universe, and I particularly enjoy the lyrics of “The Good Soldier.”
Sean: In your most recent article, you discussed the value of Coalition Relic and how the printing of four-color Commander decks has pushed up the value on this card. There is no doubt that Coalition Relic is a Commander mainstay. As a Magic finance expert, how do you view Commander as a format and the impact it has on card prices? When you are evaluating the future prices of cards, how much can Commander impact your analysis?
Ryan: Commander is a huge factor for card prices when you look at out-of-print sets. It doesn’t generally matter when you’re looking at Standard-legal cards, and often won’t matter for a few years after the fact, but over time casual hits really gain a lot of value. I played Commander a good amount when I was in college. Part of the appeal of the format was that back then the majority of the staples were dirt cheap. You could get Mind’s Eye for a quarter, for example. Today it’s an $8 card. For newer cards, Commander tends to impact the prices of foils way more than non-foils, though every popular format is a source of demand.
Sean: You also write articles over at Modern Nexus, a website devoted entirely to the Modern format. You also make regular appearances on the SCG tour. What is it about Magic that has driven you to make it such a large part of your time and life?
Ryan: Growing up I was always very interested in math and science, and this interest extended to tabletop gaming in a big way. Magic is such a great game because there are achievable goals that feel amazing to accomplish, yet the game is very difficult and can be humbling at the same time. Magic both feeds my desire for competition and helps keep me grounded.
Sean: Your writing is almost exclusively on the competitive side of Magic. With that much stress and pressure placed on the game, how do you balance it out to keep yourself and happy? What other formats, games, or activities do you participate in that help you relax and stay sane?
Ryan: Without saying any names, not everybody has a great Magic/life balance. This is not to say that playing Magic isn’t part of real life. It very much is, but what I mean is that hinging your happiness on Magic specifically is unhealthy behavior. Prioritizing professional success and positive relationships over things like tournament results goes a long way in the retaining your sanity department. Again, tournament success is professional success in a way, though I know that I would lose my mind if I didn’t have a stable source of income. I play a good amount of board games, and I’m working on getting the last handful of cards to round out my second Cube. I play sanctioned Magic to win, and I mostly play other games and Cube drafts to pass the time with friends without getting too mentally or emotionally invested in the games themselves. Trophies are nice, but close friends are invaluable.
Sean: Outside of playing and writing I have also seen you casting on SCGlive. I’m always amazed by people who feel comfortable in front of a camera, especially with so many people watching. How did you get into doing event coverage? Also, how do you choose between casting for an event and playing in event?
Ryan: Coverage is something that I’ve been interested in for the better part of a decade, though there aren’t exactly a lot of job postings for Magic coverage positions. I was very fortunate to be presented with an opportunity for such a position last year. I did improv and standup in college, and the camera is a lot easier to face than a physically present audience. Performance experience is a huge boon in the field of broadcasting. As far as casting, I take any show that I’m offered, and I play when I can. I’ll cover an event that I would have played were I not covering it from time to time, but I can’t see myself going out of my way to play an event that I could be casting for.
Sean: I’ve heard you play a fair bit of MTGO in addition to the Magic you play with real cardboard. What have your experiences been playing online and what recommendations do you have for people looking to get started on MTGO?
Ryan: I’ve never really been a city person, and out in the suburbs I’ve consistently had issues getting together playtest groups. For social gaming, there is no replacement for face to face interaction, and staring at a computer screen is less beneficial than bouncing ideas off of skilled players, but Magic Online is a great way to jam a ton of games and familiarize yourself with a deck. A big part of my testing process involves learning what does and doesn’t work by trying many different configurations, and Magic Online allows you to play as much as you want at any time of day. The primary appeal of Magic Online from my perspective is tournament preparation. It’s also the best and perhaps only way to draft at 3 A.M. on a Tuesday. If you’re interested in Magic Online, the first thing I would do is establish what you hope to get out of it. If you want to play constructed, check out the price of the decks you want to play and make sure you’re comfortable with that investment. If you just want to draft at your convenience, download the client and get to it!
Sean: Ryan, thank you again for taking the time to talk today. Do you have any new articles, events, or anything you think our readers would be excited to see? For any of our readers looking to keep up with all the content you create, how would you recommend keeping up with what you are up to?
Ryan: You’re welcome- happy to do it. I have a new article going up on Modern Nexus every Wednesday, and I’ll be covering the Atlanta Invitational and the SCG Player’s Championship in December. I don’t have my schedule for next year yet, but you can expect to see more of me on SCGLive. I don’t do a ton in the way of self-promotion, but you can find me on Twitter @RyanOverdrive.