This year, over 200 players entered to compete in the Dominion 2019 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features elementmario222 who will be playing Quarter Finals against Frealy this Sunday, October 27th at 15UTC.
[Audio interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy6QxydPjp0 ]
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?)
elementmario222: Sure. I’m originally from the Mid-West, but I spend most of my time now in New York, where I work in Finance. I do split my time between Chicago and New York. That’s basically all I do.
xtruffles: Oh cool. Your username is pretty unique: elementmario222 – and you have a pretty cool Yin Yang water/fire avatar. What’s the story behind that, if there is one?
elementmario222: When I was a kid, I used to lurk around on GameFAQs, which is probably before a lot of people – I don’t know, maybe I’m showing my age here. GameFAQs used to be where everyone went for game guides and participated in forums. On that site, I had a bunch of usernames. My first was “watermario222” and then I switched to “firemario222”. Then, I created a ton of alts for some reason. Eventually, I used those names for other sites but I wouldn’t need 100 different accounts so I consolidated it to “element”.
xtruffles: Oh, wow. That’s a pretty cool story.
elementmario222: Yeah, haha. If you look at GameFAQs now, you can still see some of the reviews I wrote for really old games when I was 10 years old. It’s kind of fun for me to read those reviews and see how my writing has improved – or not – over the years.
xtruffles: Awesome. So, speaking of games, how long have you been playing Dominion and how did you discover the board game?
elementmario222: Dominion, I’ve been playing since college, I guess. But I haven’t played too much. There was a period of time in college when I would play with my roommates a lot in Board Game Nights, and it just ended up being one of our favourites. So, we actually went online after we all graduated and kept playing on the online clients we have now. I kind of wanted to keep playing with them – well, I wanted to play more – but they kind of moved on with their lives and I kind of just kept playing Dominion.
xtruffles: Well, it is a pretty good game.
elementmario222: Haha. Yeah, it’s okay.
xtruffles: So, what are your favorite and least favorite cards in Dominion?
elementmario222: Oh, this is tough. I really enjoy playing with all of them – I don’t have a ban list or anything because I think Dominion is a lot more fun with variety. Sometimes discovering these weird interactions with cards that are weaker is pretty exciting. I think that’s my favorite part of Dominion, to be honest. I would say my favorite card right now is Guildhall because I’m trying to get better at playing money boards and that card incentivizes me to play more money.
xtruffles. Yeah, a lot of times I’m more tempted to play the engine than money because the engine is just more fun to play.
elementmario222: I agree for sure. I actually think that engine boards are sometimes easier to play than money boards. I’ll look at boards and I’ll always assume that the engine will win. Even now, when I was spectating a match [B League Match: amoffett11 vs. kaplane], I thought there was one board that the engine should win, but they both went money, so I was super surprised. But looking back, maybe that was the way to go. My least favorite card is Squire. I just don’t like that card. It does too much and it does so little at the same time.
xtruffles: Yeah, I can definitely see that. It doesn’t cost a lot, but there are so many options that you can choose for it to do. It also has the effect of when you trash the card, you gain an attack. Lots of things going on with just $2.
elementmario222: It’s just a copper half the time, let’s be real. It’s like a Necropolis, Copper, weird, I don’t know.
xtruffles: Haha, yeah. What do you find to be the most challenging card to play with in Dominion and why?
elementmario222: For this one I would say – this is recency bias here for me – I played a match in the championship, where I didn’t know how to – Encampments and Plunders, these two cards always kind of vex me. I’m often not sure whether it’s worth hoarding encampments and sometimes I think “Oh, it’s a single buy board, so maybe Encampment isn’t really the way to go”. I don’t even know if that’s true, but it’s the feeling I get. When buying Encampments, it maybe takes too long to get all the Encampments and Plunders, especially when you’re playing a board with a different engine available. I just don’t know when to pop those encampments. I like hoarding them, but they’re kind of just dead cards in your hand. Similarly, with Madman and Hermit, it’s tough to play those cards because I’m genuinely a hoarder in life. If I could hold onto those Madmans and Encampments, I would love to – but I haven’t found the right balance between playing and not playing them.
xtruffles: I can definitely see that because when you play your Encampments and Madmen, you run into the risk of either 1) giving up a bit of your turn for a bigger turn or a more guaranteed-keep-your-encampment turn later on or 2) taking that risk and making your turn better than it is now. So I can definitely see it being a very challenging card. So speaking more on cards, what are your impressions of the new promos? Church and Captain.
elementmario222: I definitely like both cards. I’ve read some of the interviews of the other people and they’ve summarized the nuances of these two cards really well. I think Captain is, of course, very strong and often you just auto-click it when you hit 6. Church is good for trashing – sometimes – but I think it’s often more important for the Haven-type effect: spiking stuff and managing shuffles. As a trasher, it’s fine – but it’s a pretty cool card because it has these extra layers to it. It’s also non-terminal, which is always cool. I always love playing with these new cards. Apparently there’s a new expansion coming out soon, right?
xtruffles: Yeah, I think so? I remember Donald posted somewhere that there will be a new expansion released next year. I think it’ll be interesting to see what kind of cards are inside. Speaking more on games, what has been the most memorable Dominion game you have played so far? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be from this championship).
elementmario222: I have don’t very good memory in general. So, I remember the games that I’ve just played a week or two ago. I played cha-shu in the last round. I think it was in the last game, I played with Cultist and had very nice draws and shuffles. I think the ruins split 8 to 2, or 9 to 1. I did the whole thing where you buy a lot of cards – I think people call it “spinning” when you don’t really do anything – and cha-shu almost beat me rushing down the Duchies and Duchesses. I got really lucky to pull out that win – which is not saying much for my ability to build a deck.
xtruffles: Haha, yeah sometimes it definitely feels that way. But you went 4-1 against cha-shu so, very impressive.
elementmario222: I think it’s misleading because in Dominion you sometimes get lucky and it’ll look very decisive. But it’s just that you had 3 lucky games and suddenly you’re up 3-0.
xtruffles: Yeah, I guess it’s pretty important to look at the games sometimes. Because sometimes the final score is really close and it’s just whoever can hit that last Province. The decks may be very similar but you just keep hitting 7 for some reason.
elementmario222: Yeah, I think that in every match I’ve played so far, I haven’t actually outplayed my opponent. I think in every match I’ve played so far, I’ve gotten lucky in at least two or three games. You see these tournaments and you have to realize that there’s too much luck to say anything about whether the winner is actually the best player ever. The winner is a good player but you can’t make any decision as to whether or not this champion is the best one.
xtruffles: Yeah, that’s true. But I think for you – it definitely takes at least some skill. And to make it all the way to this point, it definitely takes quite a bit of skill. So make sure you don’t discredit yourself.
elementmario222: Alright, alright. I’ll take some credit. “I’m good at this game”, haha.
xtruffles: Haha. Speaking about champions, other than yourself, who do you think will win the Championship and why?
elementmario222: I would say that going by seeding is the easy answer but like I said, everyone that’s gotten to this point only has to win another 3 matches. I know people are doing this betting thing, but I don’t believe that any particular match has a super, super strong favor anymore. There’s just too much randomness that goes on and someone can just get lucky and win 4-0. It certainly could happen. It’s tough to say who might win. Actually – JNails – I’ve watched JNails play a lot in ladder, he’s a Dark Horse. I think people are sleeping on him a little bit.
xtruffles: Yeah, I’ve heard that too. Going back to the betting thing, I’ve definitely looked at the odds and some of them are like 2.5:1 or even 2:1, which is crazy for players who have made it all the way to Quarterfinals. Since these wins are by no means deterministic – like you said there’s some element of luck/shuffle luck involved – that everyone who has made it this far is quite good at dominion.
elementmario222: Yeah, shuffle luck can be huge. And I don’t think that any individual player has more than 60, 65% chance of winning any given match anymore. We’re at that point in the tournament.
xtruffles: So, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
elementmario222: Outside of Dominion, well – I work. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, but that definitely is what occupies most of my spare time. But, work is work. My main sort of hobby outside of work, and outside of Dominion… I’ve competed in other video games like Super Smash Bros – Super Smash Brothers Melee is the big one. That’s part of why my username is what it is.
xtruffles: Ohhh, so it’s the Mario from Nintendo.
elemenmario222: It is Mario from Nintendo. When I find time to do other things, I try to travel a bit, but there’s not a lot of time for me anymore.
xtruffles: Yeah, time is definitely precious.
elementmario222: And we’re all spending it playing Dominion, haha.
xtruffles: Hahaha. Yeah, sometimes I’m not sure if Dominion is the best use of my free time but it’s fun.
elementmario222: Yeah, it’s fun. You need a hobby where you can just relax and play. Not everything has to be super meaningful.
xtruffles: I have one last question for you: What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to improve at the game?
elementmario222: Just try and have fun playing. Like I just said, it’s just a hobby after all. None of us are professional Dominion players. So if you treat it too seriously and you take your results too seriously, you’ll have a bad mindset. If you take your records and think “I have a losing streak,” it might discourage you from playing more. Honestly, if you want to get better, you just need to play a lot, watch a lot of other people play and just think about the game. And to do all of that, you want to have the right mentality, which is to say: you want to approach the game with a willingness to admit you maybe played poorly one game but that doesn’t reflect on you as a player. It’s just everyone plays poorly sometimes. Sometimes you might also get lucky and your opponent builds a better deck than you but you just happen to win. Take it all in context, right? Because there’s this part of Dominion that if you look very narrowly at your recent results, it’ll really cloud your mindset. You might be on a winning streak or losing streak but it doesn’t have to mean anything.
xtruffles: Yeah, I like thinking of it as.. In my interview with Freaky, he said that you sometimes have to treat it as Poker and the short-term results don’t really matter. Professional Poker players never look at one single game of Poker. It’s always like a year’s worth of results and average winnings over a year, rather than a single game. Because there’s definitely RNG involved.
elementmario222: Yeah, I do play Poker as well and you have to play tens of thousands of hands or logged so many hours before you actually have meaningful data to look it. So never just look at one tournament or one league season as an indication of your ability as a player. We all have it in ourselves to improve. You just don’t want a short term mindset that will discourage you from getting to the point of being able to improve more.
xtruffles: Well, thank you so much for doing this interview! I think you’re facing Freaky next. Best of luck in your game and have fun.
elementmario222: Yes, I’ll need some luck. Thanks!