Traditionally, the T/O report featured a quick rundown of the day, decklists, a top eight breakdown, a few thanks, and an 'until next time'. You can call this a report, but it's really just my reflections on the day.
There were players who flew from all over the U.S., and even from Europe, to make the event. I am humbled and honored that you came to play in my event.
I mentioned this when I spoke to everyone at the beginning of the day, but it is impossible for me to run an event like this without relying (at times heavily) upon the friends I've made through our shared love of this game, and this format. Nick Coss and Calvin Hodges were absolutely instrumental in making NYSE Open VI possible. Without them, this event doesn't happen. This community has survived for more than 20 years on the backs of independent store owners, vendors, and tournament organizers, and unless we witness the death knell of the Reserved List, that is unlikely to change. These two men are pillars of the community for a reason; their dedication to the format, and all its adherents, has helped keep this format, and this community, alive. They are pillars in the truest sense of the word; they hold us up, and make our time away from work, and the rest of our lives, that much better by keeping something we love alive. I can't thank them enough.
There are many, many others whom I need to thank. In no particular order: Visna Harris, thank you again for your help with the trophies. I firmly believe that the NYSE Open trophy is the best trophy in Magic, let alone Vintage. This happens because of you. Greg Fenton, thank you for lending your considerable talent to creating an indelible image that we are lucky enough to now carry around as a playmat. It serves as a reminder of a great day, and the better community behind it. David Tao, thank you for coming through in the 11th hour, and saving the video coverage. This event will live on, in part, because of you. To Lupo and BrassMan, thank you for helping share the NYSE Open with all of those who could not make it that day. Hundreds of people watched the event on the day, and thousands more will enjoy it online as time goes on. Thank you to Dave Kaplan, a friend of more than 20 years now, and his company, AltFest, for providing a Library of Alexandria, among other raffle prizes; you added a nice bonus to the event that helped make it just a little more special for the players who attended. Thank you to Jason Jaco, for keeping Eternal Central updated throughout the day, and for completing the thankless task of providing us with all the lists from the event. You are a historian for the format, and the format is better for it.
There are a few others whom I need to thank, but it's best to work my way through the day, before I finish up with those few people.
The first time that you run a tournament, you're surprised at the things that go wrong. Or, at least, I was. In the beginning, you plan out all the things that you know you have to improve. And don’t get me wrong, there is always room for improvement, and it is possible for an event to run relatively smoothly. That said, there are always going to be issues.
I’ve run a fair number of Vintage tournaments at this point in my life. I’ve been T/O’ing since 2002, when I was just 19 years old. NYSE Open VI was beset by problems from the outset of the day, and it felt like every iteration of a T/O problem that could crop up did at some point during the day. That event was easily the most trying event, from a logistics standpoint, that I have ever run, and it started taking a toll on me as the day progressed. A special thanks goes to Nick Coss here, as Nick saw the problems, and helped attack and resolve all of them.
When things started going wrong that day, I had the support that I needed in order to help keep the event running, even if it did feel like the event was teetering on the edge at times. Looking back at the absurdity of the day, I cannot believe that all the things that happened happened, that we got through all of it, and that the response from the players has been as positive as it has been. Thank you all.
When I showed up at the venue that morning, I showed up with most of the rest of my cards, as it was my intention to sell nearly all of them, and make NYSE Open VI my last Vintage event. I’m beat. The leadup to this event was, in many ways, as absurd as the event itself, as I found myself working a very heavy load of hours at work, and then found that complemented with a half dozen serious issues outside the office. The month before the NYSE Open was one of the most stressful months of my life; I have had many difficulties thrown my way, and it has not been easy fighting my way through them. Resolving all of them will take months.
That the day was what it was, that it felt like I was constantly running from one fire to another for the better part of 12 hours, meant that I didn’t have the time that I had intended to take to sit down with Nick and Calvin to sell off the vast majority of my Vintage cards (with a few exceptions; a set of Mishra’s Factories that were once part of my original collection, a Beta Sol Ring that was a gift from a dear friend, a German ‘winter’ Tolarian Academy that I had Earl Grant DeLeon do, and a few others).
I was affected by the hearty round of applause that I received after I welcomed everyone to the event. It would not be the only time during that day. Sean Came organized having all the players sign one of Greg Fenton’s incredible NYSE Open VI playmats, which means a great deal to me. I will treasure this. I had many people approach me throughout the day, bringing up a meaningful interaction between us, and I appreciated all of them. Each of these moments helped keep me powered up, and motivated to keep fighting through the waves of problems that besieged the event.
At the conclusion of his top four match, JP Kohler was headed out the door. I congratulated him on an incredible performance on the day, and remarked that it was something that he should be deeply proud of. To start your day 7-0, in that room, is nothing short of remarkable. As he walked out the door, he told me that he was leaving his Underground Sea, his prize, with me. He knew that the event had gone negative on the day. I didn’t have the chance to argue with him before he was gone. I intended on returning the Sea to him at a later date, when the noise of the moment had settled.
Joe Brennan and Vasu Balakrishnan sat down to play the finals, and I left the coverage room with the trophy in hand. The trophy is always placed on the table with the last two competitors, as a reminder of what they came there for, and what is so close to being achieved. As I walked into the room, and was noticed, Joe Brennan faced me and told me that he and Vasu had both agreed that they did not want the Workshops, and that they wanted the Workshops to remain with me.
I have run six NYSE Opens. The NYSE Open has never been run to turn a profit. My goal, year after year, was to break even. I took losses several of those years. Sometimes the losses were considerable. It deeply, deeply pained me to have to reduce the prize support for this event, but I literally didn’t have the money to lose, as I couldn’t cover the gap between the registrants, and the cost of the event. I had mentally prepared to lose a couple of thousand dollars on the event, but couldn’t cover where we were.
I wanted the prize support for every NYSE Open to be the same as the first, but the world at large caught on, and the cards that I had given out had soared in price. I kept the prize support, and the entry fee, the same for as long as I could, first sacrificing with the venue, then the support. You have to walk the line between the entry and the support, balancing the costs of judges, security, giveaways, alters, et al, and it’s oftentimes difficult to call it correctly. That I had to cut the prize support for this event felt like a failure on my part. That it wasn’t the prize support from NYSE Open I felt like an unavoidable failure.
In my head, in that moment that Joe told me what they had agreed on, I reflected on all the things that had gone on that day. It was an emotionally tumultuous day, as it was my intention that this be the last NYSE Open, and probably the last major event that I ever run. I thought about all the things that had gone wrong that day, and I thought about how I wasn’t able to offer the support that I had wanted to the community that was the source of great memories, and greater friendships. I thought about my intention to sell out again, this time for the last time. I sincerely believed (and still believe) that I did not deserve those Workshops. I immediately declined, thanked them both, and then declined again.
I was too shocked by it to really process it fully in that moment. It was an obscenely generous gesture. I have not owned Workshops for a while now, as life’s demands made their sale a requisite move in the grander scheme. I walked back into the coverage room to finish up with what needed finishing, and found myself repeating Joe’s offer to the coverage team. I wasn’t thinking about the effects of repeating that. I took the team trophy, and headed back out to the main room, running into all the friends who had remained. I was told by many to take the prize, and it still felt anathema to me to do that. It wasn’t mine to take. Joe offered again when I put the team trophy on the table, and upon pushing, I didn’t have it in me to respond again, and left the room.
It's too much.
It continued. Upon discovering that there were plans to do something that would have made me deeply embarrassed, I agreed to accept the Shops.
Thank you is something that’s said for holding a door, for letting someone go ahead of you in a line, for a moment’s kindness or decency. Those two words buckle under the weight of the action that Joe took on Saturday. I don’t really know what to say to him. It is a deeply appreciated kindness that still makes me feel uncomfortable.
I honestly felt lost at the end of the event. The meaning of the word ambivalent seems lost on most of the world today, as they have confused it with the word disinterested. I was ambivalent about NYSE Open VI. The difficulties in the leadup to the event, specifically the week of the event, made me doubt whether I was going to be able to pull it off. Only by heavily relying on my friends were we able to. The day of the event was more difficult than the leadup to the event. And yet it was met with moments of incredible generosity, decency, and love. I didn’t expect any of those things. I am, in many ways, ambivalent about NYSE Open VI, because I don’t like thinking that this was the way that I was due to go out as a T/O, not with a bang, but with a whimper. But it wasn’t quite that, was it?
I headed upstairs from the conference rooms, intending to find a friend who was staying with me, as it was finally time to go. Sitting by the bar, I found Jon Geras, Jeremy Beaver, Dom DiFebo, Travis Compton, Jim Sharkey and Nils Thiim. It didn’t take long before we were all reliving stories of Vintage tournaments past. Without knowing what had gone on with Joe, or JP, Travis said that he had something for me, and it was another dual, the Badlands that had been given away in a raffle. I stopped fighting it, and I thanked him.
Thank you, Joe Brennan. Thank you, JP Kohler. Thank you, Travis Compton. Your generosity was unexpected, unnecessary, and deeply appreciated.
The generosity, and the love, from that day will be what, through some wonderful alchemy, eventually turns my ambivalence about NYSE Open VI into love.
I don’t know where I go from here. I know that I have quite a few problems that demand intense effort, and I hope that I prove myself able to solve them all to my satisfaction. But when I was thinking about what it would be like to sell out, and move on, finally, completely, the community was there for me, unknowingly pushing me to stay close. How can I ever sell out and move on? My best friends are all here.
So, thank you. Thank you to Nick Coss, and Calvin Hodges. Thank you to David Tao, and Greg Fenton. Thank you to Mark Hornung, and Visna Harris, and Dave Kaplan, and Will Magrann, and Jason Jaco, and David Ata, and Sean Came, and Jackie Fenton, and…
Thank you all, for forgiving its failings, and for making NYSE Open VI a day I’ll never forget.