Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with JNails

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview: https://youtu.be/ZesbF-NfU1Q

Transcription done by: alibby1152 and truffles

“Don’t buy Gold.”

This year we saw 471 players enter to compete in the Dominion 2020 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features JNails who will be playing Quarterfinals against Freaky: Tuesday, November 3rd @ 22:00UTC.


Note: This interview is a special one! I lost the audio on the first interview, but since alibby1152 was conveniently live transcribing it, we were able to recover most of it into text! That interview is at the end, but this top portion features a bonus audio interview we did. Enjoy!

– truffles

truffles: Hi everyone! I’m truffles and I’m here with JNails who has made it all the way to the Top 8 of the Dominion Online Championship. So first of all, congratulations!

JNails: Thanks.

truffles: This is actually my second time interviewing JNails, well second time this year, third time overall since he made it to the top 8 last year. Our first run, unfortunately, we lost the audio of the interview. Fortunately, alibby1152 was live transcribing so we were able to recover a good portion of the text portion (which can be found at the end). We decided to do another audio interview with some bonus questions. First of all, can you re-introduce yourself?

JNails: Yeah, I gave a general introduction in last year’s interview. As far as what’s changed since then, not a whole lot, except the one big obvious thing – the Covid pandemic has hit. Which, the US has dropped the ball a little bit, to say the least. For me, that hasn’t been much of a hindrance. If anything it’s been more of a Boon because a lot of stuff that I was doing last year, for example travelling to adjudicate debate tournaments all around the country, those have now moved online. So now, I get to do the same thing, but from the comfort of my home. Which has logistically been a whole lot easier and also for my sleep schedule, has been better. For me at least, there’s been a silver lining to the whole thing. I’ll be interested to see how many of those changes, such as work from policies, will stick once this crisis is over.

truffles: Yeah. For me, I work from home as well and I get to wear my pajamas to work, which is always really nice since they’re a lot more comfortable. I asked you some questions in our last interview but I have some new questions: Do you have a favorite Dominion player and if so, who is it?

JNails: Yeah, so I think alluded to this in my previous interview, which has been lost in the sands of time. The player that I’ve learned the most from, which I guess I can say is my favorite player, when I was learning to play Dominion would be Dan [Brooks]. I remember watching his videos and he built the most absurd engines. I learned that it was possible and there was more beyond Big Money decks. That was my catalyst for getting better at Dominion, Dan Brooks’ YouTube Channel, so I’ll pick him.

truffles: Yeah, that’s a good pick. For me, I didn’t know there were Dominion YouTube videos online, so when I first got into Dominion, I just friended the top people on the leaderboard and just followed them around and spectated their games. I would get super excited whenever I got matched with them, because I was like “oh my gosh” – I was fangirling getting to play someone really good. Yeah, that was always a lot of fun.

JNails: I got to have my fangirl moment in the Loser Bracket’s Finals of Tournament Big Money, where I got to face Dan. 

truffles: Yeah, I think I had that moment when I got to play Mic Qsenoch in Hinterlands Mix, I think. I was placed in the same group as him and I was very nervous, but also very excited. Onto another question about favorites, do you have a favorite board that you’ve played or a board that you’ve recently enjoyed playing? 

JNails: Yeah. I remember giving a similar answer last year about Rebuild vs. a Knights engine, which still exists in the old interview [linked here]. Since then, I remember rolling a board that had Livery, Courtier and Triumph.

truffles: Oh wow.

JNails: Yeah, and I don’t think my opponent noticed that and started taking Provinces one or two at a time. With Courtier, you can gain a gold and you gain like 10 horses off the Liveries. Then, you can play the horses and gain them again. You can triumph up to a few hundred points, which I think I had like 800 points by the end. Turns out the opponent was RTT’s cousin, which I didn’t know at the time. Haha.

truffles: Oh my gosh, haha.

JNails: I think that’s the most points I’ve ever scored in a game of Dominion that wasn’t a cooked board or something, rather it was a random wild one. And then, very recently, I just got a kingdom where my deck was only Necromancers and a few treasures. There was just so many actions in the trash and you could get by with just a bunch of Necromancers. I really enjoyed that one. Necromancer is one of my favorite cards.

truffles: Yeah, I remember you mentioning that in our long lost interview. Necromancer is definitely also one of my favorite cards as well. I think it’s particularly fun to see Necromancer with Knights because it’s like Knights then have 2 lives. The deck states then get really funny.

JNails: Yeah. I dislike Knights in general and I think most people that dislike Knights really hate them with Lurker, Rogue or Necromancer. Those actually make them more interesting and tolerable to me. At least, there’s a consistent degeneracy to the kingdom, so you can appreciate it more. So one person getting a Knight isn’t the win, because then it’s in the trash for both of them to share.

truffles: Onto more questions about favorites – what is your favorite expansion and why?

JNails: Hmm, I really like Menagerie – I love the exile mat, and I love the interesting interactions it creates. I also really like Renaissance. Projects are probably my favorite part of Dominion, if not they’re the Events which you know, Menagerie has. Nocturne is more hit-or-miss. It has some cards which I think are amongst the best cards in the game. I mentioned Necromancer, I also like Exorcist and Shepherd. But it’s also got Boons and Hexes and stuff, which I dislike.

truffles: I think you’ve forgotten Pooka somewhere in there.

JNails: Oh, I’ve definitely forgotten Pooka. Yeah, that’s in the hit-or-miss category for me. I’m not as much of a fan of the Cursed Gold. Honestly, everything before Nocturne is just like one big expansion in my mind for the most part. I’m not sure I could clearly identify which expansion cards come from, because I started right before Nocturne. But my impression is that cards have gotten better over time. I’ve looked at the first edition cards that have existed, I’ve never played with them before but they don’t look very good. It feels like we’ve seen pretty consistent improvement in card quality, which is a good trend to have.

truffles: Yeah, it almost feels like a different game in a sense, but in a very good way. I also very much enjoy Events and Projects. I really liked WELP and 4-U-C-K, which I won’t pronounce in a live interview. I’m one of those players that like playing with as many projects and events as I can. I think swordfishtrombone is known for asking his opponents in league to play with 4 card shaped objects.

JNails: Well, now I’m disappointed I’ve never been in the same league category as him.

truffles: Yeah, you should try to aim to be in his division. If he promotes, you have to follow him. Or demote.

JNails: Haha. I guess we couldn’t both promote at the same time, but we both demote.

truffles: My next question is: if you had to design an expansion what would be the theme and why? What would be some of the key mechanics?

JNails: I think I’ve foreshadowed one of my key aspects. I really like Events, Projects, Ways, so I would be really happy to have an expansion that had more of an emphasis on that. I really enjoyed the WELP tournament that had 4 landscapes in every tournament as well. I also really enjoyed the Friendly Mix tournament, the tournament that had no attacks in every kingdom, that was really enjoyable. Almost every card I dislike is an attack card or a pseudo-attack card like IGG or Possession. So, I imagine my theoretical expansion won’t have a lot of strong attacks.

truffles: I see. I think if you were to design an expansion, you should definitely do a construction themed expansion. Centered around nails and hammers and such. 

JNails: Haha, I could see that.

truffles: My last question for you is: If you had a Dominion catchphrase, what would it be and why?

JNails: That’s easy. “Don’t buy Gold.” I’ve been commentating a lot of lower level games and I’ve just found that’s been the advice I’ve most consistently given. I don’t even think it was intentionally meant to be associated with me at first. Apparently I’ve said it enough that it stuck. I feel like the single most common mistake I saw in those sorts of games, is that they would buy golds in contexts where they shouldn’t. And it’s very frequently a very big mistake just because A) it usually means just means when you’re buying the gold, you’re buying treasure early when you’d rather be buying draw cards or trashers – something that gets your deck under control. Buying new stop cards gets your deck less under control. B) I think it’s very symptomatic of a problem newer players have: “Oh, I’ve hit 6. I need to buy the most expensive thing available and there’s this shiny gold card that costs six. It must be the best card I can buy.” When in reality, the price is loosely correlated with what cards are strongest. It’s far from a hard and fast rule, but most often there’s a four or five cost action card that’s better than a Gold. So there’s a time to buy gold, obviously. Usually, it’s after your deck’s under control, but if I had to give one piece of advice for newer players, it would just be “Resist that temptation to buy gold.” If you hit six, it doesn’t mean you click gold. It probably means you click on another draw card, like smithy or something like that. I remember looking at my stats – I buy gold in less that one-fifth of my games, which suggests that you know, it’s not super important. This doesn’t apply as much to gold gainers like Market Square or Courtier. Those can be better often since action card gets you lots of gold – that can be worth it, even when buying an individual gold is not. 

truffles: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I’ve definitely made that mistake when I was new to the game. Especially when you’re coming from just learning the base set, Gold tends to be a lot stronger of a card in Base set. But, when you start adding in expansions: projects, triumphs, alt-vp, you really do want to get some sort of good engine and deck control.

Yep.

truffles: Well, thanks for letting me interview you again and being so accommodating throughout the process! I think you’re facing Freaky next, which actually didn’t know during our last interview. So good luck and have fun!

JNails: Thanks, I’ll do my best.

truffles: Bye!

– – – Interview with lost audio begins here!- – –

We initially interviewed JNails but unfortunately, the audio was lost. alibby1152 and his magic when transcribing live was able to help me recover most of the interview! Enjoy questions from the original interview and the bonus above!

truffles: Hi everyone I’m truffles and I’m here with JNails who I will be interviewing. First of all, congratulations on making it all the way to the Top 8 of the Dominion Online Championship!

JNails: Thanks.

truffles: You’re welcome. Can you tell me a little about yourself? I know you’re a repeat quarterfinalist that got interviewed last year, so could you also throw in some new facts?

JNails: Yeah, sure. Since I did this last year, hmm… Big thing this year is “the ‘rona” – let’s just say that the US has dropped the ball. I participate and adjudicate in debates and last year involved a lot of traveling to a lot of universities. This year has been kind of a blessing in disguise because that hasn’t stopped and I’ve been spending time doing the same things, but from the comfort of my own home since everything has just moved online. 

truffles: Yeah, I work from home now and I get to wear my pajamas to work every day which is quite nice!

JNails: Despite other things, some have been generally positive. (some mention of wondering if working habits will change as a result of this)

truffles: I think if I recall correctly, last year you said you were an Economics major, which might be an interesting fact for those that didn’t know.

JNails: Yeah, I studied Business/Economics. Ah, I remember in Discord someone said Economists were taking over the Top 8. Happy for more economists.

truffles: Haha yeah, programmers need to step up their game. Switching over to talking about Dominion – Menagerie was released this year, what are your impressions of the expansion?

JNails: Great expansion. Big fan of the exile mat and things like that. One thing I will say about it is I wouldn’t suggest it to a new player. There are a lot of mechanics like cards that change price, change ability mid turn. Good capstone but not a beginner’s first step. But yeah for me, I’m a big fan.

truffles: For sure. Especially with the presence of ways, there’s the added layer of complexity of deciding between playing the card’s ability or using a way. Do you have a favorite or least favorite in Menagerie?

JNails: My least favorite is Cardinal. I think it’s very swingy, especially when it’s good. If you open it, ⅚ of the time it’s worse than silver because it helps your opponent reshuffle. But then, there’s the ⅙ chance it hits your Sentry. My favorite is probably Sheepdog. I enjoy trying to build a deck that activates your Sheepdog’s mid-turn and using the reaction to your advantage. It’s one of those wonky cards that I like with Menagerie.

truffles: Now do you like Sheepdog for it’s amazing card art or ability?

JNails: Ability, though the art is pretty good. If it had the Scout art, it would still be my favorite. 

truffles: What is your favorite and least favorite card overall?

JNails: I don’t think that’s changed much since last year. Least favorite is still Swindler – it’s my least favorite card in the game. Second, also swinder. Favorite? I don’t think I necessarily have a favorite. Too many to count I would say, but I really like Necromancer. Built a deck the other day that was just 10 Necromancers and it was awesome. 

truffles: Yeah, Necromancer is one of my favorite cards as well. The choices of what to play makes the games very interesting. Switching on to the Championship. You reached the quarterfinals last year as well, do you have any lessons from your past self?

JNails: Hm… don’t play Mercury444F. 

truffles: Haha, right, you faced them in the Quarterfinals last year.

JNails: I took a real beating last year in the quarterfinals, so I’m glad that LimeTime was able to take them out earlier.

truffles: If you reach the semi-finals and get some prize money, maybe you can donate some to LimeTime.

JNails: Not a really strategic lesson learned from the championship, but nothing in particular stands out so far.

truffles: What has your favorite moment been from this year’s championship thus far?

JNails: Hmmmm. I was initially thinking of my matches, but nothing really sticks out. I really liked nasmith’s answer, which is one of the benefits of being interviewed second. It was the one was from, despite nasmith99 saying auto_pp, it was actually pop180. They had a really nice Annex play to save a dud the next turn.  You don’t see Annex bought too often, let alone midgame so it was a good moment. I would suggest looking up the pop180 vs. Titandrake match to see it in action.

> Context: pop180 vs. TItandrake video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFaAFpMJmSE

Timestamp of Annex buy: 1:09:40 is the moment of buy, but there was some discussion leading up to it. But here, it goes right to JNails saying “I think they might do it”

truffles: Yeah, I actually just recently watched it earlier today. Spec chat was definitely very excited. For those of you listening/reading I’ll insert the link and timestamp here. Do you have a favorite moment of Dominion overall? This time last year, I remember I had to hunt you down on the Shuffle iT Forum, since you weren’t active on Discord. Now you’ve definitely been more active, both in the community and commentating lots of matches. 

JNails: Yeah, I guess. I think it was your fault in fact. I just signed up for the tournament last year and wasn’t really familiar with Discord. I distinctly remember from last year’s interview that you said that I should check out the Discord. My favorite Dominion moment this year, personally, was the Loser’s Bracket finals of Tournament Big Money, another one of the big tournaments this year. That’s where I faced Dan Brooks. I don’t know if Dan knows this, but most of what I learned from Dominion was from watching his videos and it was great getting to play him. 

truffles: Getting to play great players that you watch is really fun. I had a similar opportunity with Mic. Since he doesn’t really play on ladder and play in League A, there aren’t many opportunities to play against him. I remember being grouped with him for one of the mix tournaments, maybe Hinterlands, and I was super excited, but also really nervous, to get to play him. I think I even snagged one game which was great.

JNails: I did have the fortune or misfortune of playing Mic when I was in A league, but let’s not talk about that.

truffles: Haha, we’ll just leave that out. What advice do you have for players looking to improve?

JNails: Improve. It is a brand new card. Not particularly helpful for alt VP with things like Triumph, but good towards the end of the game. Really good to help with 3-piles and stuff. Really helpful on the last turn. But you probably weren’t thinking about the card, were you? 

truffles: Yeah. More like getting better at the game, haha.

JNails: Yeah, haha. Just this past year I made a series of instructional videos on how to build better engines. Big Money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even in the short term you’re going to learn. Going to have to master the skill of building a deck that draws itself to be good at the game. Big Money caps out at a low level.

truffles: I think you’re facing Freaky or sangatsu next. If you had to pick someone most likely to win other than yourself, who would it be.

JNails: Most likely to win. Hmmmm. Well, Mercury444F is out thankfully. I think I’ll pick nasmith99, he’s the one who took out Mic. Probably someone up in the top half of that bracket.

truffles: There is going to be a lot of tough competition. Making it to the Top 8 means you’re a really good player. If you have a motto, what would it be?

JNails: “Don’t buy gold”. I’ve been doing a lot of commentary on lower level matches. One of the most consistent comments I give is “don’t buy gold”. I see people hit 6 and there’s this one shiny yellow card that costs 6. Resist the temptation to buy it. I think I only buy gold in like 18% of games. Maybe buying it only once or twice. A key hurdle you have to cross is to get your deck under control first, then add the treasure cards. Not the first time you hit six. My big advice is to pass up that burning desire to buy the gold. If you can gain it in some other way, that’s even better. So something like Soothsayer. Wait, Soothsayer is a bad card. But ways to add it without buying it. Gold starts to look more desirable if you don’t have to pass up a buy to get it.

truffles: Or sometimes you just have to spend 10 coins to buy Herbalist. I think markus would agree with you on not buying gold. In his interview, he shared similar advice on how Dominion players could improve.

JNails: Yeah.

truffles: Well, thanks for letting me interview you again! Best of luck in your next round – I don’t think you know your opponent yet.

JNails: Thanks. Peace!

truffles: Bye!

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