In episode 34, Geoff Moes (@ThallidTosser on Twitter), Nat Moes (@GrandpaBelcher), and Josh Chapple (@joshchapple) bring North America Vintage Champs finalist Nam Tran on to wrap up Eternal Weekend and talk about what got him to the finals.
Here’s the timestamped table of contents for your listening ease and enjoyment:
00:29 – Nam Q. Tran: Vintage Finalist
37:05 – Eating Out in Pittsburgh Recap
55:50 – Outro
Full runtime – 0:56:50
Who is Nam Q. Tran?
Anyone who’s played Magic in Ohio should recognize Nam’s name, but there are plenty who don’t simply because he keeps such a low profile. He’s quietly put up Top 8s and other quality finishes at local events and larger for well over a decade now. Aside from the Vintage Championship finals we go in to great detail on here, he also T8’d Vintage Champs in 2014, a SCG Legacy Open in 2013, and a SCG Power 9 in 2005. Locally, if you want to win a tournament, you probably go through Nam on your way to the top. As we mention in the episode, Nam’s record at Team Serious Invitationals is exemplary. We’ve had 11 such events; Nam has played in nine of them and has T8’d all nine, winning one.
When we first met Nam he was a Mana Drain pilot, frequently on Control Slaver. Now he would insist that he doesn’t know how to tap Islands anymore and has focused on various archetypes fueled by Mishra’s Workshops, starting with 5C Stax, dipping into Uba Stax when that was en vogue, and now switching between Two-Card Monte and Workshop Aggro. His decks are ideal representations of a long-time collector of extravagant cards: all foil wherever possible. And since he’s played Workshops against pretty much everything over the years, he has a box of shiny sideboard options that he’ll bring with him to update his list for a particular tournament’s metagame.
Throughout all the successes, though, it’s patently obvious that crushing people with Workshops just happens to be a natural side effect of Nam showing up to hang out with people. His true motivator is the camaraderie of Vintage. He’s happy to loan cards to friends, even to the detriment of his own decks, and always arrives generously laden to BYOB events so he can share. He came up with the Team Serious maxim—“We are friends; we have fun”—and provided its mission statement—“We just need to be the best that we can to get better, dominate Vintage tournaments, and represent the Cleveland area. Yeah, man! Yeah!” If you know Nam, you’ll read that and hear him say it in your head.
Training for a Top 8
We spend a lot of the episode covering Nam’s Friday run to The top 8, and he recalls all of the details expertly. If you want to play along with him, I highly recommend pausing and reflecting on some of the plays he outlines. They go quickly, but all the information is there.
Here’s Nam’s list from Vintage Champs 2018:
Workshop Ravager Aggro, by Nam Tran - 2nd Place NA Vintage Champs 2018
And here were his matchups throughout the day. You’ll notice a few big names, including two former Vintage Champs, so the road wasn’t easy.
Round 1 – Ryan Maddux – Delver UWR – 2-0
Round 2 – Jason Jaco – Paradoxical Mentor 4C – 2-0
Round 3 – Adam Pereira – Landstill UW – 2-0
Round 4 – Jared Lentz – Landstill UW – 2-1
Round 5 – Andrew Markiton – Workshop Ravager Aggro – 2-0
Round 6 – Joseph Bogaard – Landstill UW – 2-1
Round 7 – Blaine Christiansen – Uba Stax – 2-1
Round 8 – Sierra Black – White Eldrazi – 2-0
Round 9 – Matt Sperling – RUG Pyromancer – ID
Round 10 – Eliot Burk – Landstill UW – ID
Round 11 (Top 8) – Marshall Arthurs – Vengevine Survival – 2-0
Round 12 (Top 4) – Rich Shay – Workshop Ravager Aggro – 2-1
Round 13 (Finals) – Brian Coval – Paradoxical Mentor UBW – 1-2
After Nam cleared the first 10 rounds, though, several members of Team Serious pulled together to help him go the distance. This meant rigorous testing against Survival, the deck played by his T8 competitor Marshall Arthurs. After bubbling up in the MTGO testing lab a while back, it has grown serious legs the past 6 months, and has some incredibly powerful opening plays, including dropping 16 power worth of Hollow Ones and Vengevines into play on turn one, or opening with a nightmare scenario of Energy Flux and Stony Silence against Workshops.
The process of intensively learning a specific match was fascinating to watch. It was heartbreaking as Nam’s testing opponent, Jerry Yang, drew god hand after god hand. But despite that, Nam was keeping up, so the matchup looked difficult but not unwinnable. We speculated that with average hands from both sides, the Workshop deck might just have the edge.
And, spoiler alert, it did. We continue with Nam’s thoughts on the rest of the Top 8 matchups.
Dining in Pittsburgh: The Recap
Condado and Emporio, which we recommended in our previous episode seemed to be popular destinations for plenty of Eternal Weekend attendees, since they were so close to the venue. But they also proffered delicious tacos and meatballs, respectively, so: score!
Josh Chapple made it to another recommendation, Starlite Lounge, and said he was disappointed in the food but excited by the bar. The pierogis there just didn’t live up to the Team Serious hype. Josh also made it to Cinderlands and raved about it, recommending it to everyone. They make beer, have flavorful pierogis, and their menu includes rillettes and a scotch egg that look worth the trip on their own.
A group of us also went to Max’s Allegheny Tavern on Saturday, which seems like a strong option in the future. Recommended by Team Serious teammate Oliver Sovol, who has gone there with his family since he was a kid, Max’s serves authentic Bavarian food, including hasenpfeffer, several kinds of wurst and schnitzel, and great sides like red cabbage, German potato salad, and spaetzle. They also serve “Bavarian nachos” (maybe skip those) and have a good beer list of local offerings and German standards.
We also have some commentary on the McDonald’s Triple Stack breakfast sandwich, but questions might be better directed at either Andy Probasco or Jerry Yang, who had wildly different experiences. We also diverge into Columbus food with Los Guachos and Buckeye Pho, and we learn an important lesson about eating chocolate you find on the ground. Namely: maybe don’t.
Questions for Discussion
How do you feel about the current Vintage metagame, following the results of Eternal Weekend? How did we do on our other food recommendations from Pittsburgh? Would you ever eat a McDonald’s Triple Stack? How about three?
Thanks for listening! And congratulations to Nam and to the actual winner of the 2018 North America Vintage Championship, Brian Coval! We’ll look forward to any questions or comments here or The Mana Drain or on Twitter. You can also email us at email@example.com.