Teams are a time-honored tradition in Magic. From the early days of Premier Play, team Pro Tours and team Grand Prix were among the most exciting events, inspiring rivalries and highlighting the power of great players working together. With the reintroduction of teams at Grand Prix San Jose in 2012, terrific trios of players have begun carving new history in the old ways.
Undefeated on Day 1, poised well for a run at Top 4 later today, the charismatic “Pork Bun Oath” are one of these teams creating a new legacy. Luis Scott-Vargas is a longtime face for players, finding incredible success at Grand Prix and Pro Tours led to his induction into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in 2013. While many will recall his fantastic 2011 season with two Pro Tour Top 8s, a US Nationals Top 8, and Grand Prix win in Kansas City, his earliest successful years came alongside Paul Cheon as part of the US team in 2006 then winning US Nationals in 2007.
Their friendship remained despite Cheon’s move away from competitive play in the years after his US Nationals victory. When Cheon returned to the game as a Magic Online streamer, joining forces with his longtime friend made sense.
The third member would take a little more time to mix. In 2010, Eric Froehlich joined Scott-Vargas and the rest of the core Channel Fireball testing team. Chemistry and mutual respect made Froehlich an easy choice to join Cheon and Scott-Vargas for Grand Prix Providence in 2013. After finishing seventh there, they went on to make Top 4 at Grand Prix Portland in 2014 and remained a regular team since.
The new history of teams doesn’t officially use team names in events, but that doesn’t stop nicknames from coming up. Cheon’s nickname “HAUMPH” comes from his predilection to, well, haumph things.
From Wizards coverage. There's no PBO without some HAAAAUMPHing. pic.twitter.com/o7Q8gA7kbf— Paul Cheon (@HAUMPH) February 1, 2015
Round 2! pic.twitter.com/FZ7jm4rSSW— Paul Cheon (@HAUMPH) January 30, 2015
Haaaaumph pic.twitter.com/wrWDjvZE7L— Paul Cheon (@HAUMPH) January 30, 2015
Pork Bun Oath pivoted from that. It doesn’t sound like a serious name, and that’s exactly the point.
“Froehlich was the one that came up with it,” Cheon explained. “A friend in Portland came up and gave me a pork bun. I was really excited and I’m eating it and go up to Luis. He’s going ‘Paul. Paul.’ trying to reach around and grab it. I’m successful in getting it away from him.”
“Paul is a ninja,” Scott-Vargas added.
Cheon continued. “Mashi,” one of the tournament staffers working Channel Fireball events, “comes from behind and accidentally knocks it out of his hand. It rolls on the ground. Luis looks up at me and smiles, then bends over, picks it up, and eats the rest. So it’s a double whammy because I didn’t get to eat it and Luis did.”
“The way you tell that story makes me sound bad,” Scott-Vargas protested.
“I came up with it because of the Peach Garden Oath,” Froehlich explained, referring to the eventual winners of Grand Prix Portland and team story of 2014, the No. 5-ranked Reid Duke, No. 1-ranked Owen Turtenwald, and No. 7-ranked Hall of Fame player William Jensen. “It’s a name you can make fun of yourself with.”
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Scott-Vargas said.
“And we don’t want other people to take it too seriously either,” Froehlich said.
Playing in events isn’t all food and fun, or is it? Even playing the game they humor the quirks they bring.
“Rely on a lot of luck, skill, and variance,” Froehlich said, pointing to Cheon, himself, and Scott-Vargas in that order. They all laughed. “You can kinda say that everyone that reads coverage knows Luis has preferences,” he said. “He likes the ‘durdly’ decks and blue things with some way to get tricky and interact with stuff. He feels the most comfortable playing those deck so we let him do that.”
“Yesterday I played a red-green ferocious deck with no ability to win and no playables,” Froehlich continued, adding some modest exaggeration given their undefeated record. “We thought Luis’ deck was good but I think we overstated it. We just ran really well. In the last couple Grand Prix I took the best deck so I was happy to take the bad one this time.”
Paul Cheon (left) and Luis Scott-Vargas (center) watch as Eric Froehlich fought to find a win in round 10. His opponent’s mistake ensured their record remained untouched.
While Cheon had one hope to play in Pro Tour Fate Reforged next weekend – win Grand Prix San Jose today – both Froehlich and Scott-Vargas had been testing. How did they balance out looking into the new Modern format against Team Limited?
Froehlich had a sheepish look. “Oooooo,” he said. “Forgot to balance that.” There was a moment and Froehlich’s face changed, getting solemn. “We’re very fortunate to have a great team behind us. I think there are some are testing right now,” he said. From a conversation with teammate David Ochoa earlier this was exactly what was happening. “We trust in them to help us. It’s Modern and there aren’t that many new cards to explore despite the banning shaking the format up. You can get more done in theorizing with your brains than just playing so you can be more efficient that way.”
“It’s not the best situation in the world,” Froehlich admitted.
So what did that leave Cheon to do without the pressure of the Pro Tour looming? ”A lot of the team showed up a week before San Jose, testing at [No. 22-ranked] Tom Martell’s house,” Cheon said. “I came over a few times, drafted, tested modern, and played Ultimate Frisbee. It’s fun testing, especially playing with the best players in the world. I play a lot of Modern, so if we win the first thing I’ll be doing is booking that flight for DC.”
With their march to staying undefeated through rounds 10 and 11 successful, they were well on their way to making Cheon buy that ticket.