For the seventh pro-file, I spoke with another of Granular Gaming’s top players, Aetherllama.
Real Name: Patrick Dietrick
Location: Sonoma, California
Vocation: Software Engineer
Education: BS in Computer Science with a minor in Math from UC Davis
Learning to Play
Seems like a lot of science/math among the Prismata demographic.
There definitely is. I think turn based strategy games tend to appeal to the math/science crowd. Math and science are quite similar to strategy games.
Do you find yourself using much math in the game outside of simple addition/subtraction?
I do, boiling Prismata down to a science has been a project of mine, and its what gave me my edge for a while.
I’ve heard rumors of your spreadsheets, any truth to that?
Yeah I have a massive spreadsheet of efficiencies for plays and units.
Is that edge wearing off?
It still helps, but not as much as it used to since other players have gained a better understanding through experience.
Is the spreadsheet still pretty accurate?
It doesn’t take much time to update the spreadsheet for balance changes. What takes time is evaluating units with new mechanics, resophore for example.
Is it a tool you can use in real-time while playing, or just something to help you figure out strategies when not on the ladder?
It can’t really be used in real time, maybe it would be a useful thing to base an AI around. I just use it to get an idea of how different units and plays compare to each other.
How do you get so good without playing very often?
It is a combination of the spreadsheet and analyzing replays. The replay tool is a great tool for learning, since you can look at a few different lines over a short time and compare them. It helps you isolate your mistakes, and learn how the set should have been played.
You seem to be in the minority so far in terms of using the replay tool. Do you use it to try and find mistakes when you lose a game?
Yeah most of the replays I look back at are the ones I lose. A lot of players say they know why they lose so it doesn’t help them, but its still useful to go back and check if revising that one mistake would have won you the game. If it ends up still losing you really have to think about what else you could change, and might learn something more fundamental about the game by looking at the set that deeply.
Do you use the analyzer then to play out the sort of what-if’s of correcting your perceived mistake?
Yeah. Its important to know why it is a mistake so you can apply it to a wide variety of games. Sometimes that is easy, other times it is very difficult.
Is it hard to do that knowing you have to pretend to be the other player?
Yeah it can be complicated since you are playing for both sides, you can’t always just play the same way your opponent did in game.
Do you ever watch/analyze other players replays?
Not as often, but if I see something that I would have done differently, it is useful to check how both lines work out, especially in close games.
Which units/sets do you think you play particularly well?
Mid-high econ sets with a lot of options. Especially when there is a variety of defenders, I think my biggest strength is finding the right combination of defenders to use.
Does that make you lean towards blue?
I actually don’t like triple blastforge games very much, because you have fewer options. If I am buying an omega or drake every turn, I’m not making that many choices, so it is less interesting to me. I like when it is best to get all 3 techs, and it is viable to invest to varying degrees into each tech.
How do you feel about mirror matches?
I think asymmetric games are the most interesting, especially when they are extremely asymmetric. Lucina against zemora for example. I don’t really have a problem with mirror matches though. The small differences in play can make for an interesting game too.
Do you think the p1/p2 advantaged sets are a big problem or just a minor nuisance?
It evens out in the long run, so it doesn’t matter much for ladder. It might be a problem for tournaments though. As players get better, the player with the more efficient opening will win increasingly more often. Not all sets necessarily give one player an advantage though.
What do you think about how much early mistakes can snowball, especially openings?
There isn’t any way to avoid an early mistake from having a huge impact on the game. If you know you made too big of a mistake, the best thing to do is probably surrender and get into the next game. The problem is when one player’s opening is naturally more efficient than all the other player’s options. That can snowball out of control before you have made a mistake sometimes. The design of economic units has a big impact on how much of an advantage one player gets from the opening. Units like doomed drone, thorium dynamo, and wild drone usually mitigate player advantage, while units like vivid drone increase player advantage in my opinion.
Do you think P2 natural conduit is a common factor?
I think the 2 most unbalanced openings are p2s natural conduit when you want green (but not too much green), and high econ when you don’t want green for p1.
What do you think of dynamo overall, as well as the recent nerf?
I like the nerf since it really makes you think about clicking it, or spamming conduits for gold income. I like dynamo because it is pretty efficient for both players to open high econ with, and it completely changes the early game. I also love breach proof games, and it helps enable those.
Do you go breach proof more now?
Yeah, slightly more often. It is really important to consume all your drones when going breach proof and now there are more ways to do that.
Do you like the recent changes to chill like the frostbite nerf and new brooder?
I think the nerf to frostbite was perfect, now it is only efficient if you are getting good value with it, rather than being really good even if it only freezes for 2. I also really like that you have time to react to it and buy defense which counters it.
Are there any other units you think need changes?
I really don’t like vivid drone, although I’m not sure how I would change it. It makes openings too rigid. I like having the option to cut a drone to get earlier tech, but if I have to cut a vivid drone it probably isn’t an option, since vivid is so efficient. It feels really bad when you have 3 extra gold at the end of your turn and nothing to do with it, which happens fairly often in vivid sets. It also reduces defensive options later in the game.
What’s your favorite unit or unit combo?
Thermite core! My favorite strategy was to buy all the thermites and often frostbrooders, delay attacking for a long time, and then win in a single swing.
How often does that work?
Pretty often, although I haven’t done it that many times. Thermite core has good synergy with stacking frosbites, because you don’t kill your opponent’s defenses, allowing you to freeze more efficiently.
Does that still work with the new changes?
No not really, frostbrooder is more of a counter to lifespan units now. I think the nerf was a bit harsh, the frostbites need a bit more lifespan for brooder to be viable in most sets.
How much more lifespan?
I would estimate 5 lifespan being the most balanced.
Have you learned anything new from playing in the Masters League?
I think I learn a bit more from watching and playing Masters League than from playing on ladder, because all the games are between the top players.
Any insights you’ve had recently that you can share?
I think its interesting how rarely we see rushes on ML, I might be playing rushes a bit too often, more often than I used to. The other players on ML also seem to delay tia more than I would, so I should probably be less eager to tia. That is the sort of thing that is very difficult to quantify
Do you think that’s a result of players having to play more cautiously?
I think everyone is playing the line which they think is best. The game being on ML doesn’t affect the players’ decisions.
Have there been some matches you felt you won or lost mostly due to the set?
Yeah, certain sets are much harder to play as one player. Usually there is a way to win as either player, since nobody plays perfectly. There are also some sets which I am better at playing than others.
Have you done some commentating on the ML stream yet?
Yeah, I was on last weekend. I really enjoy commentating. In an earlier league I was casting every week. Now we have a nice rotation of most of the players.
Was it easy to get into the heads of other players while they were playing while doing that or were you sometimes baffled by their plays?
There were definitely times when I was baffled, sometimes I see their plan come together after a few turns though.
Do you cast and commentate your games on your own twitch stream?
I have only streamed a few times. Hopefully I will start streaming more regularly though. Last time my queue times were really long so I spent most of the time commentating the top live games.
You participate in weekly tournaments with granular gaming that are streamed/youtubed right?
Yeah, except when they are on Friday morning. It can be difficult to find times that work for everyone due to the time difference. I find our weekly meetings really helpful. Its great to hear a bunch of varying thoughts on the same set.
What do you guys talk about in the meetings?
Two of us play while the rest watch and talk about the game.
Are those streamed/recorded?
Do you guys give real time advice to the 2 players playing or just let them make mistakes and talk about the mistakes?
They play by themselves and we talk to them about the game after. Its a good way to improve and hopefully the viewers enjoy it.
What do you think of your team overall?
They are all very nice guys and top players. It’s a great group to play Prismata and talk with.
Who do you think is the strongest player on the team right now?
I think Arkanishu is currently the best. He is #1 on ladder, and I think he’s doing the best in ML. We are all pretty close though.
You haven’t had to play against him yet in the ML. Who do you think will win if you do?
I think it’s impossible to tell. It depends on how well we play that particular day and what the sets are.
Any final thoughts?
Thanks for interviewing me and great job with the series!