Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with Freaky

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview:

Transcription done by: amoffett11

“Occam’s Razor”

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

truffles: Hi everyone!  I’m truffles and today I’m here with Freaky who’s made it all the way to the top 8 of the Dominion Online Championship!  Congratulations, and I know this is your second year in a row making it all the way to the Top 8.  

Freaky: I’m not alone with that right, JNails and RTT also?    

truffles: Those two as well, and markus has made the top 8 before, I think in 2018.  

Freaky: Yeah, it was 2018.  

truffles: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

Freaky: I’m 23, finished my Bachelors this year, and then this whole Corona thing happened, so a little annoying to get a job right now as a new person entering the workforce.  And today we have a new lockdown, so probably not going to change for a while.  For the time being, I’m just working more or less part-time.  I’ve been playing Dominion for what now, two-and-a-half years, something like that?

truffles: Oh, you’ve only been playing for two-and-a-half years, I thought you’d been playing longer than that.  

Freaky: If you look at my chart it says two-and-a-half years, which should basically match it.  

truffles: There’s definitely been a combination of players who’ve played for like eight plus years in the championship, but also who are fairly new, like nerdbound and catoftheyear. 
Menagerie came out this year, what are your impressions on it?

Freaky: People are really positive on the expansion, as you can tell from the other interviews.  I’m not so much, I think it’s quite well-known.  I dislike that it sort of continues the trend of Renaissance where cards are just super-centralizing, but people don’t seem to have a problem with that as much as I do I suppose.  I don’t particularly like it honestly, I think we’ve had better expansions before.  Especially if you look at cards like Groom or Stockpile.  Groom rushes to me are incredibly boring; they dominate every kingdom basically and they’re super easy to play.  I just don’t enjoy these kind of boards where games last 8 turns and the strategy is super obvious.  It’s not very fun to me.  

truffles: But I do think the mechanics, especially Ways, can be pretty fun, because it adds a lot more decision to cards, whether you play it as a Way, or as an actual card ability.  

Freaky: In general Ways are nice, as long as there’s no Shelters.  If there’s Shelters they can be pretty bad right, if you have Way of the Owl and you see your Necro turn 1.  I had a game the other day where I had two curses and two coppers from Mountebank in my deck on turn 3, that wasn’t so fun.  That can happen, but as long as that doesn’t happen Ways are generally pretty nice to play with.  In general landscapes are pretty nice to play with, my concern is more with the cards.  

truffles: What is your least favourite and favourite card in Menagerie?

Freaky: My favourite is – I’m looking at the list right now and deciding between Sleigh and Sheepdog.  Probably Sleigh, Sleigh is pretty nice, you have quite a few tricks you can do with it.  It’s not blatantly good, but it’s also a lot better than I initially thought.  I was very surprised at how good it is if you just stack them up, I thought that wouldn’t be very good looking at it at first glance, but it’s actually surprisingly consistent as the only draw.  It feels nice to play with.
Least favourite, probably Stockpile.  Every single kingdom with Stockpile you spend your first turns buying Stockpiles, it’s really not fun to me.  It’s just too strong.  

truffles: I do think it’s kind of interesting though.  I like Stockpile, I think some interactions like Stockpile/Alms can be pretty fun to play with.  

Freaky: Stockpile/Alms is quite explosive for sure.  That can happen, but for more kingdoms, it feels like you open Stockpile/something, or Stockpile/Stockpile, then you keep buying Stockpiles at the end of every shuffle, and then Stockpiles pile and you start playing the normal game.  It feels like there’s a Stockpile phase to every game, where it’s just all about the Stockpiles and then you actually start doing stuff.  

truffles: For sure.  Do you have a favourite or least favourite card overall, in all expansions?  

Freaky: Least favourite is Lackeys for sure.  I’m also going to ban it from here on out, but at this point I think it’s pretty horrible to be in a kingdom for me.  I still get way too many ladder wins for me to actually ban it on ladder, but I really, really, really don’t enjoy Lackeys.  It’s $2 too cheap in my opinion, it just does way too much.

Favourite card, Sculptor is up there for sure.  I think I said that last year as well.  It’s just nice at a lot of different decision points, and makes you play different decks quite a lot of the time, or it makes you play money more often than you usually would, which works surprisingly well in my experience.  I just like that aspect of the card, and I also just like Villagers in general I suppose.  The consistency they give, the concept I like, I don’t like the specific cards because I think they’re as a whole too strong but Sculptor isn’t in that category of a card.  I think it is a nice decision often if you want to take the Silver, or you just want to take a card that’s good for your deck.  

truffles: I do like the Villager concept in general, and the consistency and reliability it gives cards.  

Freaky: Yeah for sure, stuff like exploration is great.

truffles: Exploration definitely is one of my favourite card-shaped objects.  

Freaky: It might actually be my favourite card-shaped object.  I remember passing a turn where I could have got 7 Provinces to get a single Villager from Exploration.  That was a fun board, that was a long time ago but it’s stuck in my memory.  

truffles: Oh wow.  You actually won the championship last year, which is cool to see that you’ve reached the top 8 again this year.  Has this championship felt any different so far, and do you have any advice from your past self going forward?  

Freaky: Man, I wish I could play like I did a year ago.  I was so much better back then.  So I guess my advice would be to play as I did back then, because I feel like my play has really fallen off a cliff in comparison.  It hasn’t really felt too different than last year to be honest, matches were all fairly fast just like last year in terms of how long they took, an hour or one hour in a half which I very much appreciate.  In general it just felt like normal matches but it didn’t really feel different last year either, so pretty similar experiences there.  

truffles: Have you had a favourite moment in the championship so far?

Freaky: If I had a favourite kingdom that’s probably closest to it: the kingdom against aku chi with Lurker/Hermit/Demand where you just never buy anything or any card. Anyways, it was pretty nice, I like those wanky engines where you keep regaining Hermits, gaining Madmans, and I think there was Bishop on the board or something, some eventual payoff to that spinning, but I like those boards where you build unconventionally.  

truffles: Yeah, I think Dan Brooks also plays those boards really well, where it’s a little bit loopy, and a little bit different than what you would see on your regular average kingdom boards.  

Freaky: He sort of invented them I guess you could say.  I remember the league game he played against markus a long time ago where he played Hermit/Storeroom or something, which no one believed in but I think he actually won the game.  

truffles: Hermit/Storeroom, how does that work?  

Freaky: You get a big hand and then you discard them for money and then you redraw and discard them for money.  

truffles: Oh I see, I thought you meant there was some synergy where you after you discard your cards with Storeroom you just end your turn with all your money to gain another Hermit. 

Freaky: No, you build up a megaturn. I think that’s how you should play it, but it’s not very strong but it was a weak kingdom, which is why it worked. But it’s interesting to see because I think those kingdoms in general are hare to evaluate and also hard to play.  

truffles: I think Hermit has a lot of cool synergies that usually are kind of weak by itself like Hermit/Market Square where you usually want to add in a few other cards since Hermits get contested. I think the Madman capabilities of Hermit make it a lot more interesting of a card.  

Freaky: Hermit Market Square isn’t weak, it’s just you can’t really play the monolithic combo style anymore, because you’re never going to get 7 Hermits.  

truffles: Yeah, that’s what I meant. Certainly if you can get 7 Hermits with Hermit/Market Square, that’s a different story, but usually it’s a pretty competed pile and a split that actually kind of matters, where you don’t want to end up with two Hermits.  

Freaky: I’ve never actually done it.  

truffles: What has your favourite moment been in Dominion so far this year?

Freaky: I don’t really play too many tournaments and stuff, so none of the moments are really sticking out for me.  I don’t really have one particular moment, I more have a collection of fun kingdoms I play, that’s more what I get more joy out of, not one specific moment I can recall.  Playing Watchtower/Conquest, really wanky decks, just those wanky decks is what I enjoy, but not one particular moment I can call out.  

truffles: You’ve been in the Discord community for awhile now, what’s your favourite aspect of this community.  

Freaky: Well it’s very civil, which is very uncommon for an Internet community in my experience with games.  It’s very civilized so to speak, there’s no shouting at each other or calling out names, which is really, really, really something I don’t see in any other game.  I really like that aspect, just because of the clientele being more academic I suppose.  It’s a very analytical conversation usually which I enjoy, unless we’re talking about art, then I’m out.  Like #kingdom-analysis for example is a good channel to talk about general ideas, which I enjoy.  

truffles: My second-last question for you is how do you typically approach a kingdom and figure out how to play the board-

Freaky: Oh, this is going to be terrible advice!

truffles:  – and answer in the perspective of newer players who are looking to improve

Freaky: Oh my, oh my.  Well, newer players, if you’re new to the game, I think the only thing you should focus on is power cards.  You can go with card-glicko from the Dominion stuff, look at the kingdom, and figure out what are the cards that are clearly strong, or are from Renaissance or Menagerie, which is sort of the same thing anyways, and try and revolve your strategy around those because that’s usually what you do anyways.  And then get some practice in with the power cards and ignore the bad cards for a very, very long time because it’s going to take quite a lot of skill to actually integrate them into your real games.  So, probably you can cut any 10 card kingdom down to 3 to 4 cards and ignore the other 6 or 7 and you’re not going to do much worse than someone playing with all kingdom cards, and you’re definitely going to do much better than someone playing with all 10 kingdom cards who doesn’t get the full benefit of the cards.  It’s probably not the best for a long-term accomplishment, but if you just want to get to a decent level fast, I think I would do that.  

truffles: I think that’s a good idea, to focus on the broader picture and get some good cards before focusing on the cheaper, bad cards.  Not necessarily cheaper.  

Freaky: I’m meaning stuff like Harvest, Pirate Ship, Noble Brigand.  They’re not going to do you any good at least until you reach 2 mu, you can completely ignore them, and you’re probably going to do better doing that than if you try to make them work.  

truffles: It’s also because it’s rare- 

Freaky:  It’s not that rare.  I get Brigand in 35% of games or something, it’s not that rare.  Usually those games might very well be marginal, or they only work because a specific scenario came to be and I was able to identify to that, and a normal seed or a normal way that kingdom plays out that would never happen, so it’s still better to pretend those don’t exist and play to the other percentages where you’re going to be much better off ignoring the card.  

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

Freaky: Something in line with, focus on the simple things, something like “Occam’s razor” where you just do your first instinct and do the simple thing.  That’s going to do you more good than trying to overly think about decisions.  At least for me, I always go with my first instinct.  Occam’s razor is like a psychological thing, where if there’s multiple explanations to a given problem, the easiest solution is most likely to be the correct one.  For me, I always go with what my first instinct tells me which is also based on a lot of games of course, but in general doing the simple thing is often the best, and going with what’s best for right now and not thinking of a broader picture as I said last year, is usually how I play my games.  Focussing on the simple stuff and getting that correctly, and not trying to overthink some minor decisions.  Which sadly sometimes happens with people that they spend a lot of time on decisions that hardly matter.  And sometimes make the worst of all choices, I’ve seen that happen before, where people think for a long time to then come up with something that was probably a lot worse than their initial instinct.  

truffles: Cool!  Thanks for letting me interview you!  I think you’re playing JNails next in the quarterfinals, on Tuesday at 2200 UTC.  Good luck, and have fun!

Freaky: Thanks.

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