Letter from the Editor:
Don’t believe the lies Andrew Walker may tell you in the following account about any work contributed to this tournament by anyone but himself. Any mention of myself or the Sisters of the Flame is a cheap attempt at flattery, though a Sister he may be. In its conception and execution, this tournament was entirely the fruit of Andrew’s labors.
As a long time Old School player and first time Tournament Organizer, his breakdown of the process leading up to the event provides great insight into what it takes to put on an event. If it elicits from you a “Oh, that’s more involved than I thought,” then you’d be correct. If instead your response is “Oh, that’s not as difficult as I thought it would be” then hopefully it can ignite some spark within a burgeoning Tournament Organizer to light a beacon for those around them. Because without a community, cardboard is simply cardboard.
Sisters of the Flame
Andrew Walker’s Tournament Organizer Report
Sunday, July 21, 2019 saw 20 mages come together at Mythic Games in Levittown, NY for potentially the last New York Stax Exchange [‘NYSE’] / Old School weekend. If this is to be the final NYSE Open, one may hope that other eternal format events rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this hallowed tournament.
A Call to Action:
Early in 2019, Nick Detwiler, “THE” man/myth/legend behind the NYSE, reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in running an Old School event the day after NYSE Open VI. Knowing that I was buried at work and that my wife Ann and I were expecting our third son in early February, I quickly did a ‘snap keep’ on the event having wanted to try to create such a tournament for some time, be it a one-time meet-up at a bar or a small-to-medium event potentially at a brewery or other interesting venues.
Following the birth of my third son, Mason, my efforts to locate prospective venues unfortunately went from minimal to non-existent. Around the same time, I invited Paul DeSilva to join our little fellowship with the intent of expanding our list of potential venues that could host a decent number of players. Around late April, Nick Detwiler came back to tell us that he may have found a potential venue for the event at a newly opened game store run by players we know from the area. Ultimately, however, this option fell through as there was no guarantee that the larger venue would be open by the date of the event.
Fast forward to the end of May 2019. Nick puts me in contact with ANOTHER newly opened LGS run by players we know. Seven weeks to go, and I’ve been fighting off the remnants of a bad case of pneumonia for a month, so I’m already behind the 8-ball at work AND at organizing this event. I put out a call for help to Paul DeSilva, and he accepts the charges. Can we actually make this happen???
Seven (7) weeks until NYSE Weekend. I discuss the event with the LGS, going over what makes an Old School event unique, costs for me, revenue for the LGS, the charity component of many events, so on and so forth. We conceptually have a plan of attack to move forward.
Six (6) weeks until NYSE Weekend. We move onto discuss WiFi; we’re good to go. We bounce around the idea of a feature table for streaming. While I had recently started a Twitch channel mostly for the Premodern monthly tournament, both Paul DeSilva and Dave Firth Bard had suggested foregoing the idea, at least for my first event. I had been to events by both of them and knew that they were giving me sage advice that I should strongly consider. Glad I suggested doing a 3-way video call to learn from a couple of the masters. Ultimately, that advice likely saved my sanity.
Five (5) weeks until NYSE Weekend. I visited the LGS to get a feel for the location, the setup of the store, the proximity of food options, etc. The LGS was also next door to Mexican restaurant and bar, so we considered talking with their management to see if they could run a deal for us.
Four (4) weeks until NYSE Weekend. We name the event, I mock up a teaser pic in Photoshop, and it gets posted to numerous Facebook groups. After gathering some bits of relevant information, we finalize the details and create a Facebook Event page with all the pertinent info, including a PayPal link for paying the entry fee. At this point we have 5 players signed up, two of which are Paul and I. Will anyone else come on such short notice???
Three (3) weeks until NYSE Weekend. Most of the swag has been purchased, just waiting for the stuff to arrive. We’ve only gained 1 player in a week?!?! At least most of the bulk goodies can be used in future Sisters of the Flame events. Paranoia is setting in. Got to stick to it and get the hype going! We can do this!!!
Two (2) weeks until NYSE Weekend. Most of the swag and other goodies have arrived. We’re up to 13 paid participants, including a few “big name guys.” I have a decent number more that just need to pay the entry fee.
One (1) week until NYSE Weekend. Everything that we needed for the event has arrived. We’ve reached 18 paid players with another 3–5 players trying to decide. Friday afternoon, the day before the NYSE Open VI, Rich Shay let me know that if I could procure a deck for Andy Probosco [a.k.a. BrassMan; VSL alum], he would play instead of watch. At the same time, I had been working on getting Bryan Manolakos [‘Mano’] to attend the event for a while at this point; once he mentioned that he was loaning a fully powered Mirrorball deck to a NYC player, I knew he was coming [OK, 99%, still 1% paranoid]. That paranoia led me to build a Zoo-Geddon deck just in case Mano couldn’t make it.
Saturday, July 20, 2019 — NYSE Open VI:
Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s a link to Jason Jaco’s superb coverage of this great Vintage event, including decklists, the meta, photos, videos, and more.
Sunday, July 21, 2019 — NYSE Open VI — The Morning After…
The day is finally here! I get up early, go through the morning routine, and head to Mythic Games. Doors open at 10AM, but I was told that they’d be there by 9:30AM so we could set up. Great. I get there around 9:20AM after grabbing breakfast, and a few minutes later the LGS staff arrive; sweet! I go in and start pulling out swag, my Old School deck, the one I made for Brassman in case Mano doesn’t make it, playmats for both of us, my Premodern deck, my Kird Ape hoard, some trade binders, the kitchen sink…
At this point, a few players have arrived. I get a text from Paul DeSilva. I check the message knowing a few people were coming with him via Uber… their ETA is… 10:20AM! Ugh, he has half the swag. I take a deep breath, and knowing it is what it is, soldier on. Time moves on, a couple players arrive, then I see a member of the Uber carpool. I confirm he did in fact come in the Uber with Paul, he replies with a “Yeah,” and points out back to Paul. Arrival time was a little bit before 10AM; thanks for the heart palpitations Uber! It looks like we’re going to pull this thing off!!!
The Charity, With a Twist:
The charity I selected for the event was the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Most people can recall numerous TV shows & movies he starred in including Family Ties, Spin City, Teen Wolf, the Back to the Future trilogy, plus many more. At the age of 30, he was filming the movie Doc Hollywood when he started experiencing symptoms associated with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease [‘EOPD’], though that diagnosis didn’t come until the following year at the age of 31. Parkinson’s is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the substantia nigra part of the brain greatly reducing the production of dopamine. By the time symptoms arise, 90% of the substantia nigra is no longer functional. Most individuals who develop Parkinson’s are over the age of 60 in the United States. Of the approximate 60,000 individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the United State per year, only 3,000–6,000 of them are diagnosed before the age of 40. Why is this background information important to tell the reader of this article? Because I am one of those diagnosed with EOPD…
My story is similar to Fox’s timeline. The first symptoms began on New Years Day, January 1, 2009 at the age of 30 while playing Rock Band on the PlayStation with my wife Ann. I started erratically hitting the drums with little control and couldn’t use the foot pedal either, but that was annoyed me enough to turn off the game after awhile. Must be a pinched nerve, pulled muscle, probably just something to do with how I was laying on the couch. I had been a “band nerd” from 5th-12th grade, so I thought something was amiss since we were on introductory songs and I literally didn’t have a problem with playing the drums a few days prior. Procrastinating as usual, I went to my family doctor after probably 4–6 weeks, who then referred me to a neurologist that ran a number of tests on me. Based on the test results, he stated that I showed signs of a ‘Parkinsonian’ nature and recommended I go to his post-grad adviser, which I did in August 2009 with ultimately the same diagnosis. Neurologist #2 had me contact the Columbia University’s Department of Neurology Division of Movement Disorders, a research group specializing in Parkinson’s Disease, among others, which netted us a doctor visit at the beginning of October 2009. Upon arriving, they ran a number of basic tests again, then asked us to go into a large office to wait until they returned. Around 5–10 minutes later, the doctor came in to ask us if a few medical students could come in to observe; sure, why not, I can already guess the diagnosis. I reconsider this position when 6–8 medical students enter the room. After hearing that it was, with certainty, EOPD, I sat there quiet, contemplative, scientifically thinking of all the questions I may want answered/addressed, while next to me sat my wife Ann, sobbing just loud enough for all those in the office to notice. After some Q&A, Ann and I head back home.
Within a month of that diagnosis, we learned that Ann was pregnant with the first of our three boys…
Parkinson’s manifests itself differently person-to-person, with most people having largely similar symptoms. In my case, Stage 1 brought tremors to my left arm, shadow hallucinations (basically you think a person is there, but not in a frightening way), loss of words, names, etc. (ex: call the refrigerator a microwave, forget names of people including ones that you never would), complete loss of thought (e.g. having a conversation when all of a sudden your mind goes “blue screen” and reboots on you, leaving you slack-jawed and dumbfounded; or driving somewhere, blink, and when your eyes open, having no recollection of where you are, where you are headed, etc.). Buffets of any kind suck as your options are to shake your plate violently while serving yourself or hold your plate solidly, but serve yourself food wherever your shaking arm wants the food to go. Mood swings and depression are common with EOPD as it is hard to accept things becoming difficult to do when they are just routine activities for someone in their 30s.
With turning 40 last year came another milestone… Stage 2 symptoms. Basically a repeat of Stage 1, but now on my right side. Signing/writing things is a much harder task. Getting ready in the morning is more of an ordeal. Body temperature regulation is screwed up in that I overheat and sweat profusely, leading to hydration issues. Basic yard work has become more and more difficult; I can do it physically, it just takes exponentially more time to complete a given task. The newest issue are my legs, in that they are less responsive.
Has anything made it better, other than medications? A number of things, not necessarily in order, have helped greatly. First is the resourcefulness of the brain itself. Over time, the brain’s synapses find ways to re-route information around the “downed power lines” causing the words, memories, etc. that were thought lost to the disease, to become found again. Second is family, both blood and the in-laws. Finally, there are all of you, the Magic: the Gathering community I meet at GPs/MFs, tournaments, online webcam groups, etc. Getting back into playing Magic in 2016, I met mostly Legacy/Vintage players, but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Old School in action, subsequently diving right in; the same nostalgia repeated itself when I learned of Premodern. I feel that the Magic community itself offers so much more than merely entertainment in the game we cherish, it offers camaraderie, social interaction for us introverts, stimulation of the mind, and shuffling probably strengthens the muscles in your hands. Seriously, I can truly say that the longer time goes by, the better control I feel exists over my hand tremors.
Drawing 20 mages from Long Island, the 5 boroughs, New Jersey, and beyond, we were able to play 6 solid rounds. Here are a few select images detailing the action!
When the dust had settled, a 3 way tie unfortunately came down to the deep math. But the numbers don’t lie and John Grudzina was our champion of the day followed closely by Blake and Dr. Shay.
Prizes and Swag
We were able to assemble some great prizes between the OG Crown Royal dice bags filled with goodies, as well as cards, pins, stickers, and a sweet community signed card pool that we drafted.
Each Crown Royal dice bag was filled with glass bead counters, a Fallen Empires pack, a prize card, and some other random goodies. These went to 1st through 4th place, as well as Most Creative (taken of course by Andy Baquero) and last place received all of these plus the Magic Encyclopedia (get good!).
Final Charity Tally: $450!!!
Straight Swiss are better, statistically, than Swiss +1.
My mindset on this debate was limited to the idea that the extra round helped determine a single, statistical winner, while also providing everyone with an extra round to play, i.e. the “more bang for the buck” concept. Five (5) rounds plus Top 4 playing 1–2 additional rounds means that 2 people play 7 rounds, 2 people play 6 rounds, and the remaining 16 play 5 rounds. Under the ‘Plus 1’ option, everyone plays 6 rounds, i.e. 16 players get to play an extra round, but the sole 5–0 player “wins” their title, but then immediately has to defend it in Round 6. Truthfully, my thoughts were on the 16 players getting more “bang” out of the entry fee. In reality, if 16 players were “done” at an event that has moved to the Top 4 pairings, few, if any, would leave because of the swag Old School events provide just for participating, some would watch the Top 4 matches, while others would look to play more Old School, Premodern, Vintage, Legacy, or whatever else they can find. Players can easily find pseudo-matches, letting them play on even though they didn’t make the cut to Top 4.
Setting an Entry Fee:
The entry fee was set at $30 to cover costs, i.e. venue, prizes, incidentals, etc., as well as to make a respectable donation to the event’s charity. I had considered the number of potential attendees, additional swag, and other permutations, along with my first and foremost question: “Is this a better value than going to the movies, paying $15+ for a ticket to a 2-hour show, $10+ for popcorn and a drink, plus taxes?” Unless it’s a movie I REALLY want to see on the big screen, I’d rather pay the same amount at a LGS and go 0–4+, with the cost going to LGS overhead and prize support.
That being said, I could see dropping the entry fee to $20-$25, but the most likely cut would be dropping the charity altogether. Would I do that? No, I would work the numbers and try to do everything with less. I used PayPal to save roughly $1.50pp that an event service would charge. That’s $30 total that the entry fees didn’t have to cover. Also, the event is on Long Island, so we’re used to things costing a lot more. I’ve lived in Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York; I know I could run the same event where I lived in Ohio & Virginia for a lower price because certain costs, e.g. venue, would be less. Where cost of living is higher, you can expect higher fuel costs for travel, parking fees, etc. All factors that may come up while trying to maximize the number of players that will attend.
In the end, each event is site specific, with variable costs depending where you are. If the cost was less, $25pp would be the best I could imagine for an event such as this one, with the majority of the reduction unfortunately impacting the charity donation.
Remember that Mexican restaurant and bar next door to our venue that I mentioned? Well… there were no tequila shots to be had. Why? The restaurant & bar were seized for tax evasion just days beforehand. Yeah, really.
Finally, on a Lighter Note:
We gave out 19 [not counting mine] stamped & branded Kird Apes, also signed KMJ 2017 by the artist Ken Meyer, Jr. I literally have hundreds of signed Kird Apes, mostly Revised, and I thought it would help identify the event as a combination of myself and the Sisters of the Flame. I’m building a new stack of Kird Apes for Ken to sign the next time I see him at an event, so feel free to donate your spare Kird Apes as I’ll definitely be handing Ken a wad of cash and a pile of Kirds.
Thanks again to Nick Detwiler for believing that I could pull this event off, to the Sisters of the Flame, especially Paul DeSilva, for helping acquire some of the swag & co-hosting, and to Mythic Games for a great venue and promptly firing off pairings for each Round.
Until next time…?