Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with catoftheyear

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview:

Transcription done by: amoffett11

“Buy all the sheepdogs”

This year we saw 471 players enter to compete in the Dominion 2020 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features catoftheyear who will be playing Quarterfinals against nasmith99: Sunday, November 1st @ 20:00UTC.

truffles: Hello everyone! I’m truffles and today I’m here with catoftheyear who’s made it all the way to top 8 of the Dominion Online Championship.  Congratulations!

catoftheyear: Hi!  Thanks.

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

catoftheyear: I’m from Israel, 26 years old, working in information security.  I’m kind of new to Dominion, playing online for maybe a year, maybe a bit more.  I tried the live version before at some convention once or twice.  I think whoever taught us the game didn’t know it too well, so when we played a card we discarded it so we had loops all the time.  It was some interesting version of Dominion.  

truffles: You say you work in information security.  Would you consider or group yourself as a “programmer”?  

catoftheyear: Ya, I guess you can say so.  

trufflesI think some people listening will be very happy to hear that.  Right now in the main Discord, people are fighting for Economists vs. Programmer spots in the Top 8, so I think you just added a point to that team.

catoftheyear: Who’s winning right now?  

truffles: I think it’s the Eonomists.  So far, everyone I’ve interviewed so far [markus, nasmith99, JNails, nerdbound] has studied Econ in school.  

catoftheyear: Oh no!

truffles: Haha. So, menagerie came out this year; I was wondering if you had any impressions on it?

catoftheyear: I guess it’s the first expansion really for me; all the other ones really existed when I started playing.  It’s really nice to have some extra new cards, especially the previews.  It’s nice, I like it.  

truffles: Do you have a favourite or least favourite card in Menagerie?  

catoftheyear: Yeah, probably.  I think Black Cat or Sheepdog are my favourites.  They have interesting interactions

truffles: Do you like Black Cat because you’re a cat-lover, or do you like the card interaction?  

catoftheyear: Probably a mix of both.  I guess I buy it a bit too much because I like the cat.  

truffles: What’s your least favourite card in Menagerie?

catoftheyear: I don’t know if I have one, maybe Invest I don’t really like, mostly because I also play 3 and 4 players sometimes and it gets really weird when you play it well.  

truffles: Invest is definitely a little bit of a funky card.  I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, especially with games with Magpie and Invest, it gets a little bit crazy.  

catoftheyear: For sure.  It’s also too much on who goes first or who buys Invest first.  

truffles: Mhm, for sure.  Do you have a favourite or least favourite card in Dominion?  

catoftheyear:  I don’t think so, I like all the cards.  I currently have Possession in Banned just because I’m not real experienced in playing it, so I don’t want to lose too much on Possession boards.  I don’t really have cards I don’t like.  Maybe Ruins.  

truffles:  Cultist Ruins are not fun!  

catoftheyear:  Ruined Village especially, my favourite card!

truffles: I think with the presence of Ways, it makes Ruins a little bit more tolerable.  Like Way of the Horse of something like that.  

catoftheyear:  Or Way of the Mouse, or Experiment.  

truffles:  For sure.  I think I might have missed it, but did you say your favourite card yet?  

catoftheyear:  It was my favourite card to hate!

truffles:  Oh, your favourite card to hate, haha.  What’s your favourite card to like?

catoftheyear: It has to be sheepdog.

truffles:  Sheepdog, ya.  Sheepdog is great.  I think the card art and the ability, it just makes for really fun boards.  

catoftheyear:  Ya, it’s an ultimate mix.

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

catoftheyear:  I guess winning is nice.  There was the last game of the series against cha-shu, all the points were out of the board pretty much, except one province and two curses were still in the pile; I was 5 points ahead or something, so I donated to trash a curse and next turn bought the last two curses.  It was a critical two turns ahead thing. 

truffles:  Yeah, I think those type of boards tend to be really interesting.  Have you had a favorite moment in the championship outside your own matches?  

catoftheyear:  I actually watched a lot of them I think, with commentaries as well, which is quite nice.  They’re all kind of mixed up.  

truffles:  Do you have a person that you think will be mostly likely to win the Championship?  And you can’t pick yourself!

catoftheyear:  I think I’m gonna go with nerdbound.  I didn’t play too much with the others, but I remember I played him in league once, and he won 6-0 or something, and was very influenced with his moves.  

truffles:  I remember that division!  It was C division, and he had a crazy overall score.  

catoftheyear:  He beat everybody with the same scores.  

truffles:  I think I can search it up right now, it was a really high win percentage, on average over a 4-2 score.  Certainly nerdbound has been really strong, I think he’s also fairly new to Dominion as well.  Ya, he ended with a 78% win percentage, which is crazy, in a 7 player division, so you also have more matches, and more variance.  

catoftheyear:  More sample size.  

truffles:  Have you had a favourite overall Dominion moment this whole year so far?  

catoftheyear:  I have a friend that’s also into Dominion, we play two people on the same computer debating which move is best on every move.  Not in the tournament of course!

truffles:  That would be really bad if it was in the tournament!  You should get them to join the community and sign up for league!

catoftheyear:  I tried, it didn’t really work out.  

truffles:  Ya, I think the Dominion discord can be pretty overwhelming for a lot of the newer folks.  There are a lot of channels and a lot of information, and also scheduling can be a little bit rough.  

catoftheyear: Ya, that’s so.

truffles: Do you have any advice for Dominion players looking to improve?

catoftheyear: Play many games!  It’s nice to watch somebody play with their own commentary and think what you think you would play before they play it, and see if you’re right or wrong.  

truffles: Yeah, I think listening to people explain their thought process is really helpful.  Just seeing someone click cards, it might not necessarily be obvious as to why they’re doing it a certain way, but listening to those kinds of explanations is definitely very helpful.  

catoftheyear: Especially if you try to guess yourself before you see what they do, I think you learn better than if you don’t.

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

catoftheyear: Oh no.  I guess buy all the Sheepdogs, maybe, sometimes.   

truffles: “Buy all the Sheepdogs, maybe, sometimes”.  That’s a good one!  Both good real-life advice and Dominion advice.  Thanks so much for letting me interview you, and I think you’re going to be playing nasmith99 next round?  

catoftheyear:  Oh no!

truffles: Best of luck on that, and I hope you have fun!

catoftheyear: Thanks, you too.

truffles: Bye!

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Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with JNails

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview:

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.


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:

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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Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with nerdbound

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview:

Transcription done by: truffles

“Be a nice opponent”

This year we saw 471 players enter to compete in the Dominion 2020 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features nerdbound who will be playing Quarterfinals against RTT Saturday October 31st @ 18:30UTC.

truffles: Hi everyone! I’m truffles and today I’m here with nerdbound, who has made it all the way to the top 8 of the 2020 Dominion Online Championship. So first of all, congratulations!

nerdbound: Thanks! Yeah, it’s exciting.

truffles: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

nerdbound: Sure. I live in San Francisco and I grew up in Idaho. I work in Public Health – so my life’s exciting right now. I have two dogs.

truffles: Ooh, I love dogs. What kind of dogs are they?

nerdbound: There’s one that’s a whippet and one that’s a chihuahua mix.

truffles: Have you checked out the #pets channel in the main discord?

nerdbound: Occasionally. I have not taken any pictures of them and sent them, but I’ve considered it and gotten lazy.

truffles: You should definitely share some pictures of your dogs – it’s like free karma in there. Otherwise, how did you discover Dominion and how long have you been playing Dominion for?

nerdbound: So I probably first played Dominion a number of years ago, in real life. I didn’t really get addicted to it, until relatively recently in like the last year or so when I started to play a bunch. Yeah, I watched a bunch of Dan Brooks’ videos on YouTube and got really interested in it and then I started playing online. So last year’s championship was my first time ever playing at a relatively serious level and I’m excited to be playing again.

truffles: Oh wow, I didn’t know you were so new to the online world. I know you’ve only played in a few seasons of league, but that’s really cool.

nerdbound: Nah, I’m definitely a noob.

truffles: Well you made it all the way to the top 8 and you’ve also played in A league, so you might be new but definitely not a noob.

nerdbound: Where I was thrashed, you know what I mean? So it’s a little worrying, my future performance in this, but hey at least the past performance has been good.

truffles: Yeah, for sure. So, menagerie came out this year. I was wondering if you had any impressions on it.

nerdbound: It’s slowly become my favorite expansion. I think it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy everything about it. Horses, in particular, are one of my favorite mechanics. It’s because I love draw, so that’s a good thing.

truffles: I noticed you also have the menagerie card as your avatar, do you like the expansion just because the names is awesome?

nerdbound: Yeah, well that’s true too. What you don’t know is that I’m unusually tall and thin, so I’ve always borne comparisons to giraffes so the giraffe has always been my thing. And that’s why I wanted it to be my Dominion discord picture. So it happens to be the case that giraffes are associated with menagerie, which is in turn associated with a lot of fun games.

truffles: That’s awesome. Do you have a favorite or least favorite card in the expansion?

nerdbound: I think my favorite card-shaped-object is Way of the Chameleon, which I think is a fabulously designed card that leads to ridiculously games all the time. I’m a big fan of Paddock – it’s grown a lot of me. What else? Cavalry, cavalry is amazing. Yeah, those are a few of my favorite things.

truffles: Do you have least favorite cards in menagerie?

nerdbound: Uh, I suppose I should have thought about that. But no, I don’t think so. I like them all. I saw a few responses name Gatekeeper, but I feel like no one ever plays Gatekeeper so it’s hard for me to mind it too much. So no, I think it’s all great.

truffles: Do you have a favorite or least favorite card overall, not limited to Menagerie?

nerdbound: Oh, I feel like I had an answer to that question. Hmm, honestly not really. I enjoy all of the cards. Hm, something like City Quarter is a really good card – it’s one of my favorites. I really like draw.

truffles: Do you have a least favorite card? Maybe Swindler? I would be surprised if there was no one who didn’t mind Swindler. Actually, I think it’s one of Mic Qsenoch’s favorite cards, which is a bit mind boggling to me, but I can see the appeal of messiness in type of decks.

nerdbound: Yeah, haha it’s on my banlist. It might be my least favorite card so that was a good guess.

truffles: Wow, haha. I actually don’t mind Swindler that much. I actually don’t play that often, but I spectate a lot and from a spectator view it’s a lot of fun to watch Swindler games. I think I remember one of the moments in the championship where markus had swindled his opponent’s Province into nothing because it was the last province on a fleet turn. It was definitely one of the highlights in the Championship for me. Speaking of that, do you have a favorite moment in the Championship so far?

nerdbound: Not really. There have been a lot of great games. I haven’t gotten to spectate as much as I would like, because, again, the Public Health thing and I’ve been hard to schedule with too I feel like, haha. One of the things that come to mind right now is the game I just epically lost against hakha in my last [championship] match, where he ignored familiar and I gave him 10 curses and it didn’t matter at all. That was a lot of fun. 

truffles: Yeah, I saw comments about that in the #championship channel, where people said “hakha, I really liked the way you played.” I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet but I’ve been meaning to. I’m definitely looking forward to those interesting moments and boards. I’m in the middle of moving so life is super hectic, but I’m looking forward to catching up on those games. As a follow-up to the championship questions, do you have a person that you think is most likely to win? And you can’t pick yourself.

nerdbound: Uh, well I don’t think I would pick myself anyways, haha. I think I’m sort of rooting for nasmith99 because he’s been playing really, really well and I think he has good chances.

truffles: That’s a good pick for sure. Have you had a favorite overall Dominion moment this year so far? I’m not sure if it’s been a little more crazy for you since you work in Public Health, but certainly the Dominion community boomed, such as league and discord, since more people are online.

nerdbound: I think I’m going to go with Menagerie Mix. I had a game where I played against aku chi where he invested Magpies and Villas. But then, I bought all of the Magpies and Villas in one turn and drew him his whole deck, while winning the game on, like, turn 5. 

truffles: Oh my gosh.

nerdbound: Yeah, because it was Menagerie Mix. And all the cards were crazy. Yeah, that was a highlight for me just because it was so ridiculous since he had a 30 card hand or something and didn’t get to play it.

truffles: That sounds both awesome and very sad for aku chi.

nerdbound: He seemed to be enjoying it, but I don’t know – you’d have to ask him, haha.

truffles: How would you describe your playstyle? I know you’re a bit more of a newer player. Though some people don’t think playstyle is a Dominion thing, but I think I do. Mostly, how would you describe your train of thoughts when you look at a new board or you have a new decision point?

nerdbound: Yeah, I think that’s alright. It’s hard for me to say because I haven’t been playing against a lot of high level people for all that long, to have a sense of how my style differs from theirs. I think the main thing I do differently than maybe some of the people I’ve played is that I worry a lot more about mid-game turns. How can I not underplay the turn? How can I make sure I get every ounce of buying power and gaining power into the deck? That’s what I think I’m good at? Exploding out of the midgame. I don’t even know. When you play someone like E.Honda, they’re all doing that too.

truffles: Mhm. Do you have a certain thought process?

nerdbound: Do you have an example of a thought process?

truffles: Hmm. I think Dan Brooks had once published an article trying to teach newer players how to improve, where when you look at a board you have to look at if there’s draw, if there’s plus buy, if there’s a village, etc. To figure out if you build an engine. I think that’s a very good first level thought process overview.

nerdbound: I think another thing that Dan Brooks has said that I really like is that he tries to identify the best thing on the board and go for that. Which I think at least if you’re learning the game, it’s definitely the way to go. Maybe at some high level, you should actually go “I see the best thing on this board is this huge engine, but I think some money deck might beat it so I’ll go with the money deck.” Most of the time that’s wrong anyways, but even when it’s right it’s hard to learn from. I typically do the same thing that [Dan Brooks] does, which is try to find the best thing and go for it.

truffles: That’s a good approach. Do you have any advice for Dominion players looking to improve.

nerdbound: Nothing that isn’t pretty standard I think. You should watch a lot of high level play and especially watch the chat, where people are disagreeing and such. That helps to ground you and learn what other people think might be best play so you can make up your mind about what the right answer would have been in that situation. I think that’s the main thing I do anyways – try to learn from other people.

truffles: I like spectating a lot because I really like engaging with other players and learning all of their cool thoughts and tricks… and then stealing them.

nerdbound: Haha, yeah.

truffles: Definitely a good way to improve. My last question for you is: If you had a Dominion catchphrase, what would it be?

nerdbound: I wracked my brains on that one – I don’t think I have one, haha.

truffles: Haha, you have to come up with one! 

nerdbound: What would be a good example of a good Dominion catchphrase?

truffles: Some of the ones that I have been said so far are “Specifics matter” and “Don’t buy gold”. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a good catchphrase, haha, but it can just be something you live by when you play Dominion.

nerdbound: I’ll follow the cue on something that you live off by, which is just that I think that it’s very important in online spaces to go out of your way to be polite or nice to people. I’m not sure how to turn that into a catchphrase, but it’s something I try to really think about. How can I be welcoming to newer players? How can I be someone that people would like to play against?

truffles: “Be a nice opponent.”

nerdbound: Yeah, something like that. 

truffles: That’s a good and wholesome one. Well, thanks for letting me interview you! I think you’re playing RTT next on Saturday, October 31st at 18:30UTC. Which is very spooky, because it’s Halloween. I wish you the best of luck and have fun!

nerdbound: Thanks, this has been a lot of fun!

truffles: Awesome, bye!

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Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with nasmith99

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview:

Transcription done by: truffles

“Specifics matter”

This year we saw 471 players enter to compete in the Dominion 2020 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features nasmith99 who will be playing Quarterfinals against catoftheyear (date/time TBD).

truffles: Hi everyone, I’m truffles and today I’ll be interviewing nasmith99 who has made it all the way to the top 8 of the championship. So, first of all – congratulations because that’s super cool. 

nasmith99: Thank you!

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

nasmith99: Yeah, so I grew up in a great Philadelphia area. Right now, I’m a college student in the midwest. I’m studying mathematics and economics. Yeah, I don’t know – I like learning about a lot of things and get sucked into things pretty easily. Like with Dominion.

truffles: Um, the math background explains a lot, I think. 

nasmith99: *laughs* yeah.

truffles:Yeah, seeing a lot of your analysis and listening to your commentary – it makes sense, haha. So, menagerie came out this year – I was wondering what your impressions of it are.

nasmith99: In general, I really like the expansion. I feel like there are a lot of really interesting cards and also just a lot of cards that are kind of more simple but do still make games pretty interesting in general. I don’t think there are a lot of cards from the set that I don’t like. 

truffles: Do you have a favorite or least favorite card?

nasmith99: My favorite card from the set is definitely cavalry. I feel like it’s kind of similar to villa in that it gives you a lot of really interesting and complicated decisions. I feel like the thing that makes it more fun than villa to me is that cavalry there are more spots where you could reasonably buy cavalry, but it’s unclear whether or not you should. Whereas with villa, it’s usually a lot more obvious when you’re supposed to buy it.

truffles: That makes sense. I’ve seen a lot of suggestions from people saying to buy cavalry turn two to trigger a shuffle to see your turn one buy, like amulet or something like that. It’s always pretty interesting to look at those mechanics. Do you have a least favorite card in menagerie?

nasmith99: I don’t think any of the cards really annoy me. If I had to pick a least favorite, I would probably just pick gatekeeper because it’s really weak and generally doesn’t add much to a kingdom.  

truffles: You’re the second person that I’ve interviewed and also the second person who has named gatekeeper as their least favorite menagerie card. Markus also said the same thing – that it’s weak and makes kingdoms kind of boring.

nasmith99: Yeah, that makes sense.

truffles: Do you have a favorite or least favorite card overall?

nasmith99: So least favorite overall is definitely tournament, just because the way games play out annoy me. Like followers makes games really messy. Having to buy early provinces and stuff is just not something I really enjoy. Favorite overall might honestly still be cavalry. But if I had to pick something different, maybe pixie.

truffles: You know, I was going to guess possession just because your current avatar is possession. But I’m happy to hear that it isn’t.

nasmith99: Haha, no it’s not anywhere close.

truffles: I think pixie is also one of my favorite cards. Definitely cards from nocturne especially like pooka, pixie, those type of heirloom cards. They’re really fun to play with.

nasmith99: Yeah, a lot of the nocturne cards are quite nice.

truffles: Switching over to talking about the championship, do you have a favorite moment in the championship so far? 

nasmith99: Favorite moment… do you mean from my games or in general?

truffles: In general.

nasmith99: Yeah, so actually last night I was commentating on auto_pp vs. Titandrake. There was this one really funny play where auto_pp had a shuffle of 7 cards with two patrols and no villages. 

truffles: Oh no. That’s really sad.

nasmith99: It was sad, but they actually did this play where they remodeled into a festival and bought annex. Which, was just really funny because well, we were discussing it in chat that it was super bizarre to see annex bought at all but you know nevertheless bought in the midgame.

truffles: The play did make sense right? I didn’t get to watch the game yet but deck tracking wise it is kind of interesting.

nasmith99: Yeah, I think the play was good. I mean obviously, a duchy isn’t super good at that point in the game but it did save their next turn so I think it was worth it.

truffles: For sure. Have you had a favorite moment of dominion overall? I guess in this past year, since this year has been pretty special!

nasmith99: Favorite dominion moment overall… hmm. Oh, probably just the WELP Finals in general. That was a really exciting match. I did end up losing it, but I was pretty happy with how I played and I think Mic also played really well, so it was a fun match.

truffles: At least you got to claim revenge against Mic in the championship.

nasmith99: I did, yes. That felt really good to finally get that “W”. 

truffles: In general, it’s been a really strong Dominion year for you. You’ve played in multiple seasons of A, reached the top spot in the leaderboard, won Friendly Mix and of course, reached the Quarterfinals of the championship. What do you think has contributed most to your improvement since last year or previous years.

nasmith99: Sure. Well, I think the obvious thing is just playing more and getting more experience with all the cards and whatnot. Other than that, I think my mindset’s improved over the past year or so. I also think the release of menagerie has been pretty kind to me.

truffles: If you had to pick someone other than yourself, as a guess, to win the championship – who would you pick?

nasmith99: A guess? As far as who I think is most likely to win, other than myself, probably Freaky? Although, I guess you could make the argument that you should pick someone who has already made the top eight since they have one fewer round to go through, but probably still Freaky.

truffles: Given last year, I think that’s a pretty reasonable guess. Do you have any advice for dominion players looking to improve?

nasmith99: I would say to just engage with other players, and see the kind of ideas that other people have about the game and always be open to revising your old ideas. It’s pretty easy to kind of get emotionally attached to certain ideas you have about a card or board or whatnot. It can be kind of difficult to let those go – and I’m definitely guilty of that myself. But yeah, the more open you can be to learning new things and admit when you’re wrong, the easier it is to improve.

truffles: Mhm, for sure. I think being able to be aware and modifying your strategy even if a shuffle didn’t go the way you wanted to, or something like that happens, not only helps you improve but I think it helps you enjoy the game more, when you aren’t tilted.

nasmith99: Yeah.

truffles: So, my last question for you is: if you had a dominion catchphrase what would it be?

nasmith99: Um, just something like “Specifics matter”, I guess?

truffles: “Specific matters” – that’s a good one.

nasmith99: Yeah, kind of just to focus all the relevant details of a given position or whatnot and not to get lazy.

truffles: Short and sweet, I like it. Well, thanks so much for letting me interview you! For those of you listening in, nasmith99 will be playing one of kayoshi versus catoftheyear – so tune to watch that quarterfinals match! Thanks and good luck on your next round!

nasmith99: Thank you! Bye!

truffles: Bye!

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Dominion Online Championship 2020: Top 8 Interviews with markus

This interview is an transcription of the audio interview:

Transcription done by: eh1414

“Don’t do stupid stuff”

This year we saw 471 players enter to compete in the Dominion 2020 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features markus who will be playing Quarterfinals against pop180 Saturday, October 31st at 7UTC.

truffles: Hi everyone, I’m truffles and today I’m here with markus, and I’ll be interviewing him for the Dominion Online 2020 Championship. I have a few questions prepared, but first of all, congratulations for making it all the way to the top 8 of the tournament!

markus: Thank you!

truffles: Yeah, it’s really cool. Because I think it’s over 400 players this year, so it’s pretty awesome to make it this far. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

markus: Sure, so I’m from Austria, I’m an economist, I’m 35 years old and I’ve been playing Dominion basically since it came out. Then I started playing a bit more online and when I got into league, and participated in the Championship since then. I don’t know how many times now, but it’s been some time.

truffles: Wow, you played dominion since it came out – I don’t actually know when it came out – 2010, 2009, I think? So you’re a long-time dominion player, you’ve played in 32 seasons of league so far – what’s your favourite aspect of the game?

markus: Well, of course there are some patterns and you start recognising them, and then some boards are more similar than others, but in the end you always have to figure out what’s the best thing to do here, and then what’s the state of the game, what’s your opponent doing and how you can respond to that.

truffles: So, menagerie came out this year, which is kind of crazy because this year has just flown by, but what are your impressions of the expansion?

markus: I like it very much. I must say I didn’t play that much, even though there was all this lockdown stuff going on, but I was quite busy so I didn’t get as many rated games in – just league and tournaments. But, I do like it.

truffles: Yeah, I think there’s some pretty cool mechanics in there. What is your favourite and least favourite card in Menagerie?

markus: So, favourite card, I guess Paddock. I would say Paddock now because it’s not super strong, but on some boards it can be quite strong, so I think that’s the favourite card I would name now. Just because I had one game today in the round of 16 with Transport, I think that’s a very nice event, so I will pick that as a landscape. Also the ways, I really like ways, but I wouldn’t single out one. Least favourite card, it’s Gatekeeper for sure.

truffles: Yeah, I also don’t really like Gatekeeper and I don’t like Cardinal, because it’s really sad to see your cards disappear. Especially with Black Market around.

markus: Yeah, but I think Cardinal is kind of fun because sometimes it doesn’t do much, but then you can, I think it’s an attack I like. Gatekeeper is somehow complicated and weak, so I don’t like that. I think it’s the only one that made it onto my banlist.

truffles: Do you have a favourite and least favourite card overall?

markus: Well, least favourite card is Star Chart. I think i’m famous for that – no, I really dislike that, at least online, you’re not allowed to see what’s in your deck when you shuffle. You have these two cards and you’re always figuring out, what are these two cards? I don’t like that aspect. Favourite card, I don’t know. I looked up what I said two years ago to be consistent, and back then I said Donate. But I don’t think I would name Donate anymore, so I don’t think I have a favourite card.

truffles: Oh, interesting. So, do you have a card that you really like?

markus: Haha, so actually I like it when I can play with a lot of different cards. Whenever I play a a match, I’m kind of hoping that I would get 60 different kingdom cards and a bunch of landscapes. Whenever there’s like a second Minion game or so, I’m a bit disappointed. So in that sense, everything that makes, let’s say gainers, but also landscapes in general. Even landmarks, but all the other landscapes are even better. I really like what they add to the game.

truffles: I know you’ve done a lot of work in card stats and card glicko – do those observations and data affect how you like a card at all, or is it just more for interest?

markus: No, that’s more for interest. It wouldn’t influence how I like a card, it might influence how I value a card, but also then it’s just when we have thunderdominion or whatever and we’re discussing cards – it’s interesting to see whether there is something to back up your feelings about certain cards. So in that sense I think it’s interesting.

truffles: That makes sense. So, what has your favourite moment in the Championship been so far, if you have one?

markus: Winning the last match I would say. It’s always fun when you win, and last year was bad for me and I was knocked out pretty early on.

truffles: Yeah, that was sad – I think the saddest part for me was that you were supposed to play markusin later on, in round 4 or 5, but that never happened –  and the logs would have been so great, to see “markusi” and “markus”. That was sad, but winning is always fun. Who do you think will win the Championship, if it’s not you?

markus: Then I would pick the top seeds. So, I guess Freaky and nasmith, but more or less anyone who makes it to the quarterfinals could win in the end if you’re a bit lucky, or if you play well. Preferably both.

truffles: Yeah, that’s true. Do you have a favourite overall Dominion moment this year so far? It’s been a pretty crazy year, with lockdowns and quarantines, so some people have gotten to play a lot of Dominion, or spend a lot of time online. Is there a favourite moment you’ve had so far?

markus: No, not really. I didn’t play that much – I guess the favourite moment of the year would be when Menagerie was released, or when the previews week starts. Then it’s pretty exciting to see what people think about the new cards, how do they work, so that’s the best season of the year I would say. But I don’t really recall any particular games or matches apart from that.

truffles: I think preview week is a lot of fun because there’ll be ten or so videos posted each day with people’s first impressions of new cards, but it’s just a very exciting time overall. So there’s also been a lot of new Dominion players joining – I think there was an article posted online, and also people have a lot of time at home. Do you have any advice for Dominion players looking to improve?

markus: I think once you join the community and listen to videos or commentators, I think that’s the best way to improve. I remember when I started getting into this and, I don’t know who I was playing in league, but someone was commentating and I was buying Gold. Now, I wouldn’t buy Gold but back then I was buying Gold because Gold seemed a fine card, and they were all surprised that I would buy Gold. So I think you learn from these kinds of comments that you get when you play, and just looking at top players play Dominion – I think that helps to improve your own play aswell.

truffles: For sure, I agree. I have one last question for you, which is: If you had a Dominion catchphrase, what would it be?

markus: Yeah, I didn’t prepare for that one. Haha, a dominion catchphrase.

truffles: It could just be something like “never buy Gold”.

markus: Well, you should sometimes buy Gold, but “Don’t do stupid stuff”.

truffles: Haha, that’s a good one – “Don’t do stupid stuff”.

markus: Unless it’s for fun, but not in the Championship.

truffles: For sure, that makes sense. Thanks for letting me interview you, and good luck! I think you’re facing pop180 next week, so good luck with that! It was great chatting with you, and have a great day! Bye!

markus: You too, bye!

Tune into markus vs. pop180 this Saturday, October 31st and 7:00UTC as they battle for a spot in the Semi-finals!

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Menagerie Previews #2: Horses, Horses, Horses!

Following the yesterday’s release of Snowy Village, Sheepdog, Animal Fair, Kiln and Barge, comes more cards – this time centred around Horses (very fitting for the Menagerie theme).

Below is Donald X. Vaccarino’s release statement for the second batch of Preview cards.

Menagerie Previews 2: Horses

Horse is a non-supply pile. There are 30 of them. You get one via a card saying “gain a Horse” or something. If the pile is empty you can’t gain one, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen much. Horse looks like this:

So Horse is a one-use Laboratory; it puts you up a card and then is gone. Or, you know, you don’t have to play it; you can Remodel it or something. It’s there for you. Once in your deck, it’s just like Experiment, from Renaissance; it turns out, they were experimenting on Horses. Eight total kingdom cards use Horses, and four landscapes. Here are some of those kingdom cards.

Supplies is an easy one: when you play it, you get a Horse. The Horse goes onto your deck, so normally you’ll just start with it next turn.

Scrap gives you a choice of bonuses, with more stuff for trashing a more expensive card. You could for example trash an Estate and get +1 Card and +1 Action, or trash a Horse and get +1 Buy, a Silver, and a Horse.

Livery makes everything that’s expensive enough come with a Horse that turn. This works on cards you buy, or cards you get other ways. With two Liveries, everything comes with two Horses. With two Liveries, and you buy Farmland, trashing Remodel to gain a Border Village which comes with a Laboratory, you gain six Horses. Many Horses could be yours.”

– Donald X. Vaccarino

The Preview Cards are now available on the client,, for users to play and test out. To engage in discussion about the new cards, check out the dominion strategy forum, or join the online discord‘s channel dedicated to menagerie.

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Menagerie Previews #1: Snowy Village, Sheepdog, Animal Fair, Kiln, Barge

Today on March 2nd, 2020, begins the Preview Days for the upcoming, new expansion: Menagerie.

Expansion “Preview Days” is a tradition Donald X. Vaccarino (Designer of Dominion) has continued for new expansion releases, similar to Renaissance Preview Days. It gives fans small tastes of what the upcoming expansion will entail.

Below is Donald X. Vaccarino’s release statement for the first Previews.

Menagerie Previews 1: 5 Cards

So, it’s come to this. Previews. I suppose I have myself to blame.

Menagerie – hey isn’t that the name of a card? – has 400 cards, like Adventures. That includes 30 Kingdom cards. There are two major themes: Exile and Horses. There are also two kinds of landscapes: Ways and Events, with 20 of each. I’ll do the math for you: 30 kingdom cards is 300 cards, plus 30 randomizers is 330, plus 40 landscapes is 370, and I’ll just tell you now that there are 30 Horses. That means no Victory cards, and no other surprise extra piles.

Day 2 of previews will cover Horses, and day 3 Exile; day 4 will have landscapes, and day 5 will have… some more cards. Here on day 1 we have 5 miscellaneous cards, to get you started with a bunch, because as before the cards are immediately try-out-able at

Snowy Village gives you a bunch of actions and a buy, but closes the door on even more actions that turn. Some of you may remember this from the holiday joke cards that were on dominionstrategy a few years ago. I wouldn’t be expecting those other cards, but this one was worth doing.

Sheepdog gives Dominion another blue dog. You can play it anytime you gain a card. It may not even be your turn. Playing it means you put it into play and get your +2 Cards; it will be discarded in that turn’s Clean-up, even if it’s not yours. Using the Reaction part doesn’t use up an Action; it just leaps into play and draws you cards. If it draws you another Sheepdog, you can use that one right away too; you can keep playing Sheepdogs until you run out of them.

Animal Fair gives you a weird way to pay for it. The card costs $7; the alternate payment just applies when you’re buying one. At the point at which you’d pay your $7, you can trash an Action from your hand instead (and can do this when you don’t have $7). And then what do you get, you get +$4 and some number of Buys.

Kiln is another in the long line of Explorers. It most easily gains Treasures, but if you can play an Action after it, you can gain a copy of that, and it can even gain Night cards.

And finally Barge is a Duration card with an effect you can have now or later. Handy if you don’t want to draw dead cards, or have drawn your deck already. If you take it now, it’s just discarded that turn. All the sets seem to squeeze in a few Duration cards these days, and this set has four of them.”

– Donald X. Vaccarino

The Preview Cards are now available on the client,, for users to play and test out. To engage in discussion about the new cards, check out the dominion strategy forum, or join the online discord‘s channel dedicated to menagerie.

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Dominion: Menagerie – New Expansion Announcement

On January 7th, 2020, Donald X. Vaccarino announced a new incoming expansion: Dominion: Menagerie. This marks the 13th expansion to Dominion, following the 12th expansion, Dominion: Renaissance, released back in November 2018.

From the official Rio Grande Games’ website, Donald X. writes

“Dominion, that’s what you’re trying to achieve. This time with animals! They each have a lesson to teach, whether it’s how to spit really far, or what kind of grass tastes the best. It’s a lot to keep track of, but you’re like an elephant: you remember everything. And you’re afraid of mice. You’ve taken up riding. Horses are intimidating; they say you can lead a horse to water, but you haven’t managed it. So you’re working your way up, starting with dogs. So far so good; the dog hasn’t bucked you off yet. Your menagerie got off to a poor start, with just a goat, two rats, and the advisor who suggested starting a menagerie. You couldn’t get that fox you wanted, but it was probably bad anyway. Now you’ve got some camels, which are just as useless for sewing as you’d been warned, and a turtle that can hold its breath for longer than anyone can stay interested. Soon the animal kingdom will be yours.

This is the 13th expansion to Dominion®. It has 400 cards, with 30 new Kingdom cards. There are Horses that save a draw for later, Exile mats that cards can be sent to and rescued from, and Ways that give Actions another option. Events return.

Dominion®: Menagerie is an expansion, and cannot be played by itself; to play with it, you need the Basic cards and rulebook (Dominion® provides both). Dominion®: Menagerie can also be combined with any other Dominion® expansions you have.
We hope you enjoy this expanding world of Dominion®!

The expansion shares a name with the card Menagerie, released in the expansion Dominion: Cornucopia. It is unknown what, if any, inspiration is drawn from this card for the new expansion.

The only information we have so far is that there will be new types of card interactions, mats and events in this expansion. It will be exciting to see previews of cards in the upcoming weeks.

The current expected release date of the physical expansion is March 18th, 2020. Join the discussion on this new expansion on the Dominion Discord or the Dominion Strategy Blog!

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Dominion Online Championship 2019: Top 8 Interviews with elementmario222

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: ]

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!

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Dominion Online Championship 2019: Top 8 Interviews with JNails

This year, over 200 players entered to compete in the Dominion 2019 Online Championship. Only 8 players remain. This interview features JNails who will be playing Quarter Finals against Mercury444F this Thursday, October 24 at 15UTC.

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?)

JNails: I’m from the United States – the Southeast specifically – I grew up in Louisiana and Georgia. I noticed how everyone else in this competition seems to be a Computer Science major or in the field one way or the other. I actually just got a degree in Business Economics recently – I’m in my mid-twenties – and most of what I do is related to High School debate, coaching and teaching that.

xtruffles: Oh wow, that’s really cool. Yeah, a lot of people in the community are Computer Science majors, but I’ve definitely come across people in Liberal Arts or studied Economics. It’s nice to see some diversity. So how long have you been playing Dominion and how did you discover the board game?

JNails: I think first discovered it two years ago. My friend and I were on Tabletop Simulator from Steam and we were just looking at random games. He saw Dominion and said “Oh hey, I’ve played that like once before and it was kind of fun”. So we played the game and tested it out. It was like the blind leading the blind – neither of us had any idea what were doing. I remember seeing chapel in the kingdom thinking “Why the hell would anyone want that card? It looks so terrible.” Then he said, “Well there’s this card named Witch, that’s not here, that gives you curses and you might want to get rid of that.” I thought, “That makes sense, but nah, I don’t want chapel.” Mm, obviously we were horribly wrong.

xtruffles: Wow, so what is your favorite and least favorite card in Dominion?

JNails: Least favourite, well that’s easy, is Swindler. Yeah, anyone that likes the card has got to be a psychopath. Beyond that, I dislike the other cards that most people dislike: Cultist, Mountebank and so forth. So like, really strong, centralizing attack cards. The one that I dislike that doesn’t get a lot mention is Salt the Earth. I feel like that card takes out everything that I enjoy in a Kingdom. Instead of building a big deck, or coming back from behind, you just build the minimal deck possible and go straight for provinces and just start destroying the rest of the game. So I’d say Salt the Earth as well.

xtruffles: I can definitely see that Salt the Earths really discourages building too big of an engine. What is your favorite card?

JNails: That one is hard because I feel like there are a lot more good cards than bad cards in the game. There’s a lot more that enjoy. In no particular order, just ones that come into my mind are: Exorcist, Black Market, Recruiter. I really enjoy, in general, Events and recently, the new Projects from Renaissance. I think those, more often than not, are some of my favourite things that drastically improve the quality of the game. Donate, Dominate, Innovation, Summon, Captialism – They all add a lot of interesting and unique dynamics that goes well with the Kingdoms we play.

xtruffles: Yeah, for sure. So what do you find to be the most challenging card to play with in Dominion?

JNails: Um, I’m not sure if they are objectively hard but the cards I suck at are: Haggler and Jester. Cards that are usually pretty good, but seem awkward to get, so I don’t get them and usually lose. I think that’s more commentary on myself than cards. I think the cards that have the highest skill ceiling are usually the ones that have interesting interactions with your deck – because it requires you knowing what cards are in your deck and having a good overall concept of what your deck is doing. Develop, for example: the cards go on top of your deck. Or Graverobber. They usually involve more nuanced interactions, which lead to really nice plays or drastically messes things up.

xtruffles: That makes sense. What are your impressions of the new promos? Church and Captain.

JNails: I like both of them a lot. I think they’re both really well designed. They both seem like on the strong side of cards, especially Captain in a lot of kingdoms. But they also are on the fun side of cards because they have nice interesting choices – with Captain it’s thinking about which card do I play with? With Church it’s about do I buy something now or set aside my coins to buy something really nice next turn? I like the element of choice.

xtruffles: Yeah, for sure. Moving away from cards and onto games, what has been the most memorable game you played? It doesn’t necessarily have to be from the Championship.

JNails: From the championship, it has to be the first game from Double Octofinals [Double Octofinals refers to Round of 32 versus hakha3] where there was a lot of interesting things from the kingdom – like vineyards, minions. I don’t remember why I felt that but I just said I’m not feeling it right now. So I bought a Trading Post and Courtyard and played straight money. It ended up working out. It normally goes against every fibre of my being to ignore the interesting cards and play money, but it won at the end. Besides the Championship, there’s probably too many to count, but one that comes to mind was a Kingdom that had: Rebuild, Knights, Wolf Den etc. If I have any excuse to not go for Rebuild, I’m going to do it. So I started going for the Knights. I was only 4 Knights in when I realized that Knights and Wolf Den do not really go well together. That’s when I was like “I’m too committed to this to back out”. At one point of the game, I had all 10 Knights and my opponent had 6 of the provinces, so it was like -40VP to 30VP. But it was about time that the Knights finally kicked in and trashed every single card in my opponent’s deck except for Coppers and Provinces. Then I spent the next 20 turns slowly building back out of the hole that I dug myself in and trashing the knights to slowly get my points back, while my opponent spent his turns buying coppers, buying silvers, losing his silvers and buying coppers again. Just a slow grind. I just really enjoyed that game.

xtrufffles: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun. One of my favourite cards is Black Market, so whenever I see Black Market and Wolf Den on the same board, I’m always really sad. Every card you buy from the Black Market is negative VP.

JNails: I know that feeling. I usually go for it anyways – I enjoy Black Market a lot.

xtruffles: Talking more about the championship, who do you think will win and why?

JNails: I don’t know many of the other players well enough to evaluate their relative skill – I assume they’re all very good because they’re in the finals. I think I have to root for anybody except for drsteelhammer though, because I obviously view drsteelhammer as my natural nemesis in this event.

[xtruffles here. It wasn’t until I transcribed this interview that I understood that this was a reference between hammer and nail. That’s why JNails sees drsteelhammer as his natural nemesis. I know, I know. I’m slow.]

xtruffles: Yeah, I can see that. So what do you enjoy doing in your spare time outside of Dominion?

JNails: The other big board game I really enjoy is Chess; more accurately, chess variants. I really like Bughouse – it’s like 2 on 2 chess. If I had to pick, I’d say that one.

xtruffles: Yeah, Bughouse is a lot of fun. I don’t really know how to play Chess that well, but a lot of my friends play Bughouse all the time.

JNails: Bughouse is all of what I like about Chess and none of what I don’t like. There’s a lot more crazy tactical plays – sacrificing your Queen and stuff like that – and none of the boring like memorizing the opening and end games. Just because the game is way too much craziness for that to matter anymore.

xtruffles: You’ve had quite an impressive run, beating a lot of well known players. Have you thought about playing competitively in the Dominion League?

JNails: I did do the League once. I didn’t rejoin since I didn’t have time in the Summer. Maybe I’ll rejoin again. I was in C League and I didn’t promote or demote, but it seemed pretty fun and I liked it.

xtruffles: So I have one last question for you: What advice do you have for Dominion players looking to improve at the game?

JNails: There’s a lot. If I had to pick one piece of advice, it’s that you have to think of cards as having compound interest of sorts. Where a card that’s good for your deck now, is just going to be a lot better long term than a card that’s only good for your deck later. So especially for your opening, you have to buy cards that immediately help your deck and get you jumpstarted – instead of the cards you want long term. I see a lot of times – and I definitely did this when I started – players buy cards that look good in their general decks. They’ll hit 8 on turn 5 and buy a province – they think that “A province is 8 points, oh, 6 points – I knew that – and that card is good for my deck”. Or they’ll buy defiled shrine when it reaches a whole 5 points. But they have to realize that buying a green card or a curse is just slowing down your deck a ton – and that’s going to cost you way more than 6 points in the long run because you’re going to get outbuild. Always buy the best card. Even if you have $6 and the best card for your deck is Herbalist because you need the +buy, you buy the 6 dollar Herbalist, because it’s going to pay back in the long run since you’ll get more buys and those cards do things and so forth. So I always think about the short term and long term. “What’s the card, if it goes into my deck right now, improves my deck the most?” Rather than thinking about the card I really want in the long term. I think my big problem that I really struggled with for a while – a huge learning block for me to overcome – is that in kingdoms where you don’t really want silver, I’ll never buy silvers. But then it frustrates me because I’ll never hit 5. I eventually realized that I have to buy at least one silver to get that Junk Dealer and Sentry and I can get stuff cleaned out. Then in the long term, I can trash that silver later. So my advice is to avoid that sort of mindset.

xtruffles: Right. I feel like when you used the “compound interest” analogy, I was like this guy is probably from a Business Economics background. It’s a very good way to describe the situation. Definitely I’ve seen a lot of players take defiled shrine way too early which slows down their deck to a point that allows their opponent to catch up or outbuild you at some point.

JNails: The one I still haven’t taught myself is: I still buy temple like a madman. I’ve had way too many temple games where I buy like 8 of the temples at 2 points. I really shouldn’t, but I enjoy that card as well.

xtruffles: Yeah, it’s kind of tempting to see the VP in front of you. But sometimes, you have to think if I could get a province, would I buy it now? If I wouldn’t buy the province, it might mean that I shouldn’t buy the defiled shrine. It’s also really hard to say because you can also just trash your curse at some point. It’s definitely very challenging to figure that part out.

JNails: Agreed.

xtruffles: Well, thank you so much for doing the interview. I think you’re facing Mercury444F tomorrow at 15UTC. Best of luck!

JNails: No problem!

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