This year, over 200 players entered to compete in the Dominion 2019 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features drsteelhammer who will be playing Quarter Finals against ospond this Thursday, October 24 at 13UTC.
Congratulations again on making it this far in the Championship!
xtruffles: Can you tell me a bit about yourself? (Ie. where are you from? What do you do?)
drsteelhammer: Hi! Most people call me Julian. I am 24 years old and I come from Germany, but I do live in Austria now. I study Economics.
xtruffles: Oh cool, that reminds me a lot of markus.
drsteelhammer: Oh yeah, he’s from Austria and switches back and forth a lot. I’m on my first way down to Austria haha.
xtruffles: Cool. How long have you been playing Dominion and how did you discover the board game?
drsteelhammer: Oh, I think it must have been 6 years, or could be even 7. I was in high school and friends of mine had it at home. I wasn’t really into board games – I always thought that learning rules was kind of annoying and then you play it three or four times and it gets boring and isn’t worth my time. Dominion was different and after playing it couple times and being so excited about, I went online and found out chapel was actually good. Once I beat my real life friends, I discovered the online Goko client.
xtruffles: Oh! You were there for the Goko client.
drsteelhammer: Yeah. Great times, it’s been a while.
xtruffles: What are your favorite and least favorite cards in Dominion?
drsteelhammer: Black Market has to be my favorite one. Just because you can go really crazy and get a lot of done, and everything is in your kingdom. I also like Peasant a lot So lots of different cards, I guess – that’s a theme. My least favorite card is probably Cultist. First, because it’s super annoying and just too good. Also because drawing a hand of two coppers, estate and two different ruins is one of the most depressing feelings in Dominion – just no fun.
xtruffles: Yeah, it’s super depressing on a board with no trashing and no villages.
drsteelhammer: Exactly – at least that’s over now. Banlists made me forget about Cultist.
xtruffles: What do you find to be the most challenging card to play with in Dominion and why?
drsteelhammer: I’ve seen the previous interviews had really good picks – like Shepherd, Procession, Develop. I think Artificer for me is a card that’s really hard. When you have a ten or twelve card hand with three Artificers and Freaky says “There is a pileout and you have to pileout the entire kingdom,” you have to math in your hand how much you have to redraw. That’s too tough for me, so I chose not to play with it this Championship to spare myself the headache.
xtruffles: Right, there’s definitely some micro-optimizations and calculations you have to do.
drsteelhammer: Also as a runner-up, maybe Donate. Just because it’s so different. Usually the shuffles throw problems at you and you have to solve them. With Donate, you have to plan 6 turns in advance and I’m not good at that.
xtrufffles: What are your impressions on the new promos? Church and Captain.
drsteelhammer: Oh yeah. Captain, of course, has beautiful art. From the gameplay, my first impression was a little disappointment because I thought “Band of Misfits is pretty lame and Captain is a duration version of that,” but it turns out the card is pretty good. It’s actually quite enjoyable to play with draw cards, or using Captain as your village, makes for pretty fun games. Church is okay, I guess. The Haven effect is kind of fun, but I think it’s just an average card.
xtruffles: Yeah, I’ve definitely heard a lot of comparison between Church and Haven because they both set aside cards.
drsteelhammer: That’s my favorite part of Church – putting 3 bad cards away and then shuffling. That’s nice.
xtruffles: Moving a little away from cards and onto games. What has been the most memorable game you have played? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the Championship)
drsteelhammer: Oo. I remember, for example, the last time I played in the Championship, Black Market betrayed me in Game 7 against singletee. That was kind of sad. I just got the wrong cards out of it and he got the right ones. Other than that, I once piled Harvest and that was kind of fun. Tactician was the only buy and I don’t think Harvest was a pile that was empty before or after that game.
xtruffles: Yeah, I don’t think Harvest is a pile that piles often.
drsteelhammer: Yeah, I think that’s why the game has stayed with me.
xtruffles: Other than yourself, who do you think will win the Championship and why?
drsteelhammer: Um, I think Mercury4FFF has pretty good chances. I’m not sure why he isn’t talked about more as a favorite. He has made it to the Finals I think, once, and played pretty well so far in this tournament. I lose pretty often in ladder when I meet him. He’s pretty good. Other than that, I think RTT has good chances because I think he’s pretty good at never playing stupid strategies. He always does reasonable things and doesn’t throw many games. Being consistent helps a lot as well.
xtruffles: That’s for sure. I think you said ‘Mercury4FFF’ – but I think it’s ‘Mercury444F’ haha.
drsteelhammer: Haha, yes. That sounds a bit more familiar.
xtruffles: I haven’t seen him play a lot, but from the games I have spectated, he definitely seems like a pretty spooky opponent. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top. So you were also a moderator for this year’s Championship. Thanks for all the behind-the-scenes work you’ve done – can you give us a bit of insight on what you’ve enjoyed from this Championship, maybe both from a player and moderator perspective?
drsteelhammer: Yeah, I’ve been helping out a bit for a couple of years now. I remember running it with Stef on the forum. I was really happy when he made the ShuffleIT Championship competitive with a prize pool – it makes for a really great community event. I like how so many people, that aren’t so active, come back to Dominion at least for that tournament. People are excited for matches that are online every round and it makes for a great spectator and community experience. Like these interviews as well.
xtruffles: Yeah, I definitely think it brings a lot to this community. What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to improve at the game?
drsteelhammer: Other than the obvious of watching good players – especially those who explain their thought process really well. Some of the pros kind of assume that everyone is as good as them, which makes it kind of hard to follow, but there are some as well that do it really well, I think. Other than that, I think that’s where the community fails a little bit – I think you should seek out really simple advice first. Like “always buy double urchin”, “get a third urchin”, “get two mercenaries and thin down”. And, discover the nuances later once you get burned with it.
An example is, when I started playing I thought “Oh, highway is a good card when you have +buy. It’s not a good card when you don’t have +buy.” Then, somebody wrecked me with highway/butcher and then I could build upon my foundation: “ah yeah, maybe it’s gainers that matter”. So build up your knowledge slowly and steadily.
xtruffles: Yeah, I guess it’s quite overwhelming to listen to high-level play when you’re just starting out – especially looking at really complex boards where you’re trying to build for a megaturn or look pileouts, such as ones involving stonemason.
drsteelhammer: Exactly. I think there’s a lot of advice for when somebody asks “How good is this card?” and people say “In some situations it’s a good card and some other situations it isn’t”, that it isn’t really clear which ones are which. And if you don’t really know the other Dominion lingo, it’s like talking past each other a lot.
xtruffles: Yeah. Cool, I have one last question for you – to sandwich this interview between two personal questions. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time outside of Dominion?
drsteelhammer: I have played table tennis for over a decade now and compete there. I like to read, mostly non-fiction books. I volunteer quite some time and yeah, those are the main things I guess.
xtruffles: Cool! What kind of volunteer things do you do? Other than volunteering to help out with the championship.
drsteelhammer: I do community building for effective altruism and animal work a little bit on the side.
xtruffles: Aw, that’s really nice.
drsteelhammer: Haha, yep.
xtruffles: Well it was awesome getting to know you a little bit more. I think you’re facing ospond next – this Thursday at 13UTC. Best of luck and it’ll be interesting to spectate your match.
drsteelhammer: Ah, thank you very much.