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Author Topic: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35  (Read 11638 times)

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sitnaltax

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Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« on: April 07, 2012, 01:39:59 pm »
+1

I was pretty pleased with myself yesterday: I finally hit level 35 on Isotropic. It's a goal I never expected to reach, especially since only a little over a month ago a losing streak had taken me down to 25. I may well lose some more in the future, but I'm pretty sure I've learned a few interesting things over the last couple of months, and you might be interested in some of them?

I am writing with the perspective that playing Dominion skillfully and well is what's really important, but but having a good rating, well, that's nice too.

Dominion Play

Endgame Control

The stronger I have become, the more games I have seen end in a deliberate three-pile ending. This can happen in a lot of ways, but the most important ones are where both players are setting up powerful engines or giant megaturns, but one player is able to deplete the piles and short-circuit the game. Here are a couple of examples:

In general, cards that give buys, cost-reducers, and cantrips should get your 3-pile senses tingling. Peddler, Bridge, Hamlet, Market, Highway, and Workerís Village are likely suspects.

Of course, the PPR is another important endgame consideration. Most level 25 players should at least be familiar with the rule. More advanced players should know when to break itófor example, if based on whatís remaining in the decks, your next turn is likely to yield a Province and your opponentís isnít.

The Importance Of Buys

Nothing is sillier than having $25 and only one buy, but megaturns aside, there are many reasons why +Buys can be important. They can help prevent a deck that hits $11 or $12 from stalling out; they can help you pick up the little engine pieces when you need them; they can boost your Goons turn or help pile out a game. Sometimes the cards you are using anyway have +Buys and thatís great. Other times, though, you need to figure out how to squeeze them in. Maybe you pick up a Market instead of the third Lab, a Council Room instead of a Rabble, or a Nomad Camp instead of a Silver. Maybe you buy a Trade Route just for the +Buy because youíre eventually going to have a huge Apprentice-fueled turn.

Apprentice is probably the #1 suspect for a card that can really get along with +Buys but doesnít provide them itself. Minion, Embassy, Stables, Bank, and big (Envoy/Smithy)/village chains are other likely candidates.

Deck Awareness

The best Dominion masters talk about using cards like Apothecary to carefully control their deck composition and shuffling. I'm not that good, but knowing whether your important cards are in the deck or the discard can help you make smart plays that look like luck to the unaided eye. Examples:
  • If I play this Moat, will I draw my Witch dead?
  • Two cards in your deck, and you have a Moat in your hand and already $8 for a Province. Have you seen your Gold already? If so, draw those cards to get your junk out of the way. If not, save the good cards for next turn.
  • Knowing where your opponent's big cards are is important too. For example, if your opponent opens Village-Militia, it's important to know if you've already seem the Masquerade this shuffle (in which case you can keep your three best cards) or not (in which case you'd better keep a bad one.)

Purchase Order

By the mid-20 level, you should have a pretty solid idea of what cards are generally powerful and what combinations are powerful. What's not always so obvious is the order to buy these cards in. For example, you may be planning a Caravan/Conspirator chain with Remodel to pick up $4s and Militia to slow your opponent down. That's four Kingdom cards you need to think about gaining, not to mention money. A deck like this can succeed or fail based on the order you buy the cards in--the timeliness of the attacks, the cycling to shuffle more, the chances for terminals to collide. I am usually more of a BM-style player, so this is something I still need to learn a lot about; often I'm amazed to see my opponent pull together an engine I didn't think would work.

Isotropic Considerations

Play More Games

You can read all the strategy articles and discussions you want, but practice is the only way to solidify those ideas into experience and skill. In addition to making you a better player, playing more games reduces your uncertainty, which improves your ranking. Donít have an infinite amount of time to fit Dominion games into? Well...

Play Against Strong Opponents

Playing against strong opponents is important for a number of reasons. Most importantly, you will improve more; you will learn more about the game if you get beaten by a well-executed Lab/Market/Conspirator dynamo than if you clobber a novice who buys three Loans to clear out their Coppers really fast. Strong players also tend to be experienced and play quickly, so you can play more games in the same block of time. A low-attack, BM-ish game between strong players can be over in 3 minutes. Conversely, a game against an unranked player might be against a novice who still needs to read most of the cards.

Beating stronger players is good for your rating, and losing to weaker players is bad. Quite a few Dominion games are straightforward enough to be decided mostly by luckóthe player who doesnít hit $2P on a Familiar board is a strong favorite, or the player who gets $6/$6 instead of $8/$4 in the early game. On a boards like this, you want to be angling for the upset.

If you use automatch and tend to accept most of your games, reducing the ranking range will increase the strength of your opponents. This is because there are fewer players at higher ranks; if you are level 25, going from +/- 20 to +/- 15 will remove a large number of level 6-10 novices but only a handful of level 40-45 masters from the pool of potential opponents.

This is not to say that you should only play against higher-rated players, but your games should be against opponents that provide you a reasonable challenge. (I play automatch at +/- 15, although I am considering going to +/- 10.)

Veto Random

Veto mode is awesome. It means my auto-matches donít get rejected because thereís a card or combo my would-be opponent is uncomfortable with, and thereís still leeway to not play that one card that dominated the game you just finished. I used to, basically, look at the cards and veto the one I was most afraid of. That was a losing strategy: I was vetoing the card whose power I respected! I have had more success since I started vetoing randomly. I do veto Smugglers in first seat (because I want to win), as well as Scrying Pool (because those games take forever) and Tournament (because I hate it).

End Your Session on a Win

Even if you're having a bad session, the first-player advantage is too large to ignore. Try to schedule your sessions long enough that you can play a couple games until you win. If you're getting frustrated by repeated losses, though, quit after that win--frustrated games are less enjoyable and you probably won't win as much either.
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Robz888

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2012, 01:58:52 pm »
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Veto mode is awesome. It means my auto-matches donít get rejected because thereís a card or combo my would-be opponent is uncomfortable with, and thereís still leeway to not play that one card that dominated the game you just finished. I used to, basically, look at the cards and veto the one I was most afraid of. That was a losing strategy: I was vetoing the card whose power I respected! I have had more success since I started vetoing randomly. I do veto Smugglers in first seat (because I want to win), as well as Scrying Pool (because those games take forever) and Tournament (because I hate it).

I use to play Veto Mode exclusively. One day, around the time I realized I had like a -42 win rate with Goons (because of almost never playing with it), I decided to stop. My play style was getting too predictable, I wasn't moving up the rankings, I didn't play Alchemy cards well, and I had never gained a Diadem. I play much better now that I don't automatically get rid of the cards I don't like. In fact, I credit that with finally getting me above Level 40.

Now when I play Veto Mode, I just get rid of the card that benefits the other person most in the turn order.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2012, 02:44:53 pm »
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Is there an article somewhere that discusses what cards are relatively worse or better for first and second seat? I recall seeing some discussion a while ago, but it seemed like mostly speculation at the time.

I would definitely like an all-random game where you didn't find out the cards until the game is accepted. One possible advantage of vetoing random: a couple of times, my opponent has commented on what seemed to be an unusual veto choice. Maybe vetoing something innocuous like Bureaucrat or Harvest has a subtle psychological effect--"what does my opponent know about these cards that I don't"
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I have been forced to accept that lackluster play is a town tell for you.

GendoIkari

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2012, 05:25:19 pm »
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Hit 35 myself recently, congrats. :)

I think I disagree with the end on a win point, though. I actually pretty much always do this myself, because when I lose, I can't stand to pull myself away. But this sometimes leads to late nights where I start to be stupid. Sometimes I'm just having a bad day, in which case I find that continuing to play loss after loss hurts my record.

The biggest problem I seem to have with my record being hurt is when I play games against really low level players. Sure I win most of those games, but with enough luck, I can still lose to a level 0. And when I do this, it seems to really hurt the rank.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2012, 05:52:48 pm »
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GendoIkari, I agree with your second point. Eventually, the novice player will get a can't-lose Mountebank/Lighthouse opening that you just can't do anything about. The wins don't budge your ranking northward, and the losses send your skill plummeting and uncertainty up. Meanwhile, the wins inflict you with just-won second-seat status against the next player that comes along.

As to how long to keep playing in the face of a bad night, interesting point. I guess that probably depends on each player's individual reactions more than I might have thought at first.
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sitnaltax

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2012, 07:02:25 pm »
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Crossing the Level 30 Barrier
What's The Difference Between A Level 30 and A Level 40 Player?
What Makes a Level 45 Stronger Than A Level 40?
Why Can't I Get Any Better?

These are pretty cool articles. Thanks for looking them up!

I guess I feel unoriginal now. That's okay. Next week, I'll post a groundbreaking article on how you shouldn't buy the second-to-last province if you can buy one or several smaller victory cards and take the lead.
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Empathy

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2012, 11:43:40 pm »
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Is there an article somewhere that discusses what cards are relatively worse or better for first and second seat? I recall seeing some discussion a while ago, but it seemed like mostly speculation at the time.

I would definitely like an all-random game where you didn't find out the cards until the game is accepted. One possible advantage of vetoing random: a couple of times, my opponent has commented on what seemed to be an unusual veto choice. Maybe vetoing something innocuous like Bureaucrat or Harvest has a subtle psychological effect--"what does my opponent know about these cards that I don't"

Experimenting a lot with those thoughts in mind and veto mode.

So far, my top auto-vetos when playing p2:
peddler (with support)
fool's gold (with support)
gardens (with ironworks/workshop)
chapel (with engine)
wharf  (!)
tournie
torturer (with support and without trasher)
vault (without engine)
embassy (without engine)
envoy (without attacks)

it's not quite the order, but pretty close.

as p1:
swindler
TM (often without support)
baron (when it is not optimal as p1)
trader (when there is a curser)

Some of these could be tested with the simulator, but in a lot of cases the strategies involved involve a skill level the simulator does not have.

I am still undecided for KC.

Peddler and fool's gold are to me the worst offenders: way too often, the 'bad' outcome for p2 is a 7-3 split, while a 'bad' outcome for p1 is 5-5. Tournie has a similar effect. All the others are on the list because they make for short, near-deterministic games where p2 has trouble getting an edge.

The p1 one is pretty self-explanatory.
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Davio

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2012, 05:59:32 am »
+1

I find that deck awareness is especially useful during the first shuffle (after the opening).
This is because you can more precisely know what will come up and what's left.

I had a game recently with a crucial $5 that I wanted to get (Mountebank), but on turn 3 my hand was Baron-2 Estates-2 Coppers, so I had $6 with my Baron+Estate. My initial thought was to get the Mountebank with the $6 because I needed it, but then I started to think. What's the rest of my deck? 5 Coppers, 1 Estate, 1 Silver. This meant that I would always get at least $5 on turn 4 if the Silver would be one of those 5 cards. So I had a pretty decent chance to grab the Mountebank on my next turn and I bought a Gold with my $6. Sure enough, my next hand was Silver-3 Coppers-Estate and I bought the Mountebank as well. This gave me a pretty good lead to cruise through the rest of the game.

Getting to a higher level is about pushing every little advantage that you can get. If I wouldn't have gotten the Mountebank, I would still have the Gold to make up for it.
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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2012, 12:13:19 pm »
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GendoIkari, I agree with your second point. Eventually, the novice player will get a can't-lose Mountebank/Lighthouse opening that you just can't do anything about. The wins don't budge your ranking northward, and the losses send your skill plummeting and uncertainty up. Meanwhile, the wins inflict you with just-won second-seat status against the next player that comes along.

As to how long to keep playing in the face of a bad night, interesting point. I guess that probably depends on each player's individual reactions more than I might have thought at first.

On most days, I play for about 40 minutes to an hour, and I set myself a daily limit of 4 losses. 4 losses in that time mean I'm having a horrible day, so I just stop and go do something else, and try again the next day.
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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2012, 05:28:21 pm »
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I haven't hit 25 yet, so maybe this is "thought's on going from 20 to 25," but I think the hardest thing for me right now was not mentioned above, and that's opportunity buys.

By this I mean you've looked at the board, figured out your strategy, and then suddenly you hit, say $6 or $7 on turn 3, and a card that you discounted, perhaps because it would not be much of a factor by the time you got it, is suddenly available, and an alternate strategy is possible.  Of course, you've already spent a couple turns heading in one direction, so switching is probably not a good idea, but then again, it may be.  Dominion involves skill, but it's still a card game with a luck element, and good players know when to shift their strategy and when to avoid the temptation of buying that shiny, expensive card when it won't get them to more victory points faster.

The solution is probably the same for most strategy problems, play more games.  I think it will take me a lot of games before I have a decent grasp of this though.
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Jfrisch

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2012, 06:55:37 pm »
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A general guideline for what to do with an early 6 or 7
Unless there is a strong terminal (wharf/mountebank/witch/ghostship/torturer if its your sole terminal or there is a village/merchantship if you are going BM without terminal draw) or a strong race type card (minion/governor) you probably want to stick with gold. Goons you should nearly always get unless doing so would involve skipping out on a curser.

Forge is tricky, If you have strong draw capabilities and no other strong trashing go for it, otherwise, even early on, it's probably a trap. Expand is fine as an early terminal if you have no other estate trashers, and an early KC is good if you are going action heavy in any case.

If you already were strong towards heavy engine (i.e. no gold) it's probably good to skip temptation.
if, on the other hand you were marginal between engine and BM, let the early gold push you towards BM.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 06:57:44 pm by Jfrisch »
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Geronimoo

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Re: Thoughts on going from level 25 to 35
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2012, 05:03:51 am »
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I started a simulation challenge a while ago to find a board where you want to switch from an engine to a BM strategy depending on your draws. There was only one entry (mine), so either my challenge was too hard to implement or it's almost never correct to switch strategies.
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