For the fifth pro-file, I spoke with another popular member of Vanguard, Allroc. He had a lot to say, especially about strategy. It got to the point where he went ahead and provided two coaching sessions for beginners (and myself) to learn from! Those will be in future posts.
Real Name: Jonathan Gaudette
Location: Bristol, Connecticut, USA
Where’d the name Allroc come from?
It’s a Magic the Gathering reference, an old nickname that came about from an M11 prelease draft where I got like 6 Roc Eggs and 3 Bloodthrone Vampires, Roc Egg being an uncommon so that’s completely insane (even though it wasn’t a very high pick).
Prismata in General
How long have you been playing Prismata?
Let me check, I have an email which should give me an exact date. 10/22/14. So that means like 8 or 9 months now.
How’d you discover the game?
Funny thing is, I don’t remember. I play MtG a lot, but I don’t think it was related to MtG.
Do you still play that quite a bit?
Not as much anymore. I got out of the paper game around the time they changed DCI ratings into the shitty planeswalker point system, which requires a lot of traveling and grinding to get byes and invites, and I really hate the new MTGO client. Pretty much everyone does, v4 is shit.
How does it compare with the Prismata client?
Believe it or not, despite being handled by a company making money hand over fist and they’ve been updating this shit for 10+ years, it’s worse than Prismata which is still in Alpha.
Do you think it makes a big difference that Prismata was somewhat designed with a computer client in mind?
Nah, WotC just let a small group of underpaid interns write the coding for v4, and it’s a complete mess. The previous client was old as hell and held together by a ton of patches, but it still worked better.
What about the interface for Hearthstone compared with Prismata?
Well, Blizzard knows how to make a game look and feel good, but HS is still a shallow piece of shit.
Have you played it much?
Played a lot during beta and a bit after release, and I know a lot about the current game.
Do you play it currently?
Nah, I don’t even have the client anymore, haven’t downloaded it since I upgraded my rig.
Were you ever a Scrolls player?
I played a bit of Scrolls before, but it never really clicked for me. Like there was a ton to learn, but it was very hard to get into it and learn that without slapping down a bunch of cash. Get into it as become good at the game. I understood the basic mechanics, but there was a complicated meta on the level of MtG’s meta in older formats.
How does that compare with Prismata then?
Well, Prismata has a more natural learning curve, at least it did for me. It just might be how I think. Everyone learns differently.
So where do you see the future of Prismata going?
That’s a really touchy subject, because what I think might be a bit insulting to people at Lunarch, and that wouldn’t be my intent. Anyways, they’re currently focusing on retention features and things to draw casual players in. Things like upgrading the graphics, but the thing is, unless there’s a major graphical and animation overhaul, most casuals will still think it looks bad. Even if it looks good, they still might not care.
Well especially if they are comparing it with something like Hearthstone in terms of polish.
Look at games like Scrolls, that had great art. Also that other animated card game, Infinity Wars? Those all blow Prismata out of the water in graphics and they also look better than HS. The thing is, they will never steal HS’s player base because the “casual” they are trying to attract is either a lifetime Blizzard dicksucke,r or someone who wants to win with RNG or just play what’s currently the most popular game, which won’t change.
Where do you think the target audience is?
MtG players would be the best target by far. Chess, Go, Starcraft, those are also good places to look. Instead we had that Hearthstone streamer tournament where Kripp, Trump, Tides, Reynad, Kolento and Sjow played, and 2 other people I forget. No one but Kolento could play the game for shit. Kripp and Trump gave it a good effort, but they sucked hard and the rest just did it as a stream stunt like tinder.
On the upside, some of the people I interviewed so far did find out about Prismata from that event.
Yes, but you’re looking at a very, very small part of the HS player base who would even give Prismata a second look.
Do you think the Scrolls players will take to Prismata?
They might. Certainly better chances than HS. Scrolls didn’t advertise itself very well, just like Prismata is having that problem.
Yeah, i only had heard of Scrolls due to it being promoted to Minecraft owners.
They were looking for the wrong audience, or at the wrong groups at least.
So what should Lunarch be focusing on?
Well, I mentioned this earlier, but the disenfranchised MtG players, especially MTGO. As well as the disenfranchised SC2 players.
What would be the best way to expose it to them?
It’d be difficult, that one takes some thought. I don’t have all the answers 😀
Do you think getting some popular MtG players into Prismata as influencers would be good?
Well, we have Celerity already. He was the top MtG streamer for a while, a couple years back.
Do you think celerity brought in some MtG players?
I have no idea.
How did you go about learning Prismata?
Back when I started the game was very different, there was no permanent ranked ladder, there was Brawl for a few hours every day and that’s it. So I would get crushed by better players at the time and learn from that. I was rated 1650 on day 2 of playing. Prismata just kind of felt natural to me as I’ve played a decent amount of Chess and SC.
When you say you learned from playing the better players, do you mean you learned from what THEY did, or from what you did wrong?
Both. I actually think one of the biggest problems with the new player experience now is that they only play other new players or smurfs. So the thing is, they don’t get a good idea of what’s good or not. Like just because P1 T2 Animus won against another new player doesn’t mean it was right, and bad habits like that form. The way it is currently, new players feel better about themselves because they win a few games against other new players, but they don’t learn much. The learning process is VERY slow when you don’t just play random people and evaluate stuff for yourself. It’d be like if two complete novices sat down to play chess, they wouldn’t learn anything from their game.
How do you suggest new players learn?
There are many ways, like watching top players, asking questions, making evaluations of units and testing those yourself. Like if you have a good background in strategy games or just a good mind for strategy games in general, then the last one is the quickest path to being a top player. If not, then learning from others or asking for coaching is good too. Learning on your own is both the most rewarding but the most dangerous in terms of forming bad habits. You also need a certain base of knowledge so doing all of the tutorials and playing Master Bot a bunch at the start helps. Especially playing Master Bot in Base Set Only or the Beginner Set.
What do you think the top 3 things a new player should learn are?
1. The importance of buying engineers later in the game for granularity
2. The point at which you should stop droning
3. Good openings for P1/P2 for certain tech buildings.
Also set evaluation, but that ties into the last one, as well as being very complicated.
Can you give some good rules of thumb for those 3?
Well, all 3 of those are very general things that it’s hard to put a number or a general rule for. When a set first rolls, the first thing you do is look at the set, and look at if you’re P1 or P2. You have to identify the power units in the set and see what support they have, and if there’s a rush line to prevent an econ line. You then get a very loose number in your head about the number of drones that you want. If it’s a very defensive set with not much better attack than Tarsiers, you want to buy all of the drones. So P1 opens DD, DDE and P2 opens DD, DDE or DDEE. If there’s wild or vivid all that changes too. Same with thorium and doomed. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to alternate drones.
Anyways, if it’s a lower econ set, such as one where there’s no better defender than basic wall and good rush attackers like Electrovore, Tesla, etc. You don’t want too many drones. and you want to buy those drones early, not slowly fit them in after a tech building. Getting back to the engineer granularity point. If you think you’re going to take an amount of damage which causes you to lose engineers then you want to buy more that turn, unless your opponent has no flexible attack. You basically have to think ahead a turn about how you plan to block, and if your opponent can exploit that.
This is becoming less of an interview and more of a strategy talk 😀 It’s ok, since I coach a lot to whoever wants it.
How do you usually coach people, watch their games or play against them?
Both, depending on what kind of learner they are and their strength as a player.
I’m really bad at this game, would you coach me?
What do you think of Vanguard overall as a team?
We’re the best team right now, but we can’t prove that until Granular stops dodging us.
What do you think of your newest recruit in Vanguard, mquander?
He’s improving a lot.
Have you been coaching him a lot?
Nah, we seem to be online at different times sadly. There’s one other point I wanted to make about coaching. It’s easy to mold a new player into a master tier player, but it would take 10x longer to raise someone from an 1800 caliber player to a 1900 caliber one, and 10x longer than that from 1900 to 2000.
As you get around 1800 the amount of knowledge it takes to get noticeably better at the game starts to go up exponentially. Good fundamentals can get you to Master.
Where are you right now?
2080 median Elo. That’d be my average over a lot of games. I could probably peak and take back #1, but I’ve been waiting for a time of day when a lot of high rated players are online because it’s bad EV in the current system to queue into people below you in rating, especially if the gap is huge.
Why is the top of the ladder so volatile?
The expected win rate for rating neutrality is WAY off from reality. If it’s a 300 point difference, real win rates are like 85-90% for a 300 point difference. The system expects ~95% to maintain neutrality. In chess that might be okay, but not in Prismata.
Is that because of the Unit Set RNG?
Yeah, there’s just more variance in Prismata in general, so the human element becomes even bigger.
Have you tried playing constructed a bit with some other top players to get an idea how that actually plays out?
Well, yeah, we do testing of sets a lot. I convince people that I’m right, but the thing is there is a very tricky subject, and that’s “human autowins”. Aka a set that two top human players will play and P1 or P2 will almost assuredly win just off the set, even if there was some crazy outside line or something else that the opponent could have done on analysis.
Have you given Lunarch a lot of examples of those?
Yes, but they’re hard things to talk about because it’s very hard to prove.
How does base+5/8/11/etc factor into that?
+5 and +11 have very different problems. +5 has the problem of not enough units to create sets with options so generally there’s one good line and one player can get it better. +11 has the problem of having too many potential unit combos which beat everything else in Prismata. For example, Shadowfang + Flame Animus is absurd by itself, but add Infusion Grid to the mix and it becomes literally unbeatable with any other units period.
So would the ideal solution be +11 but with some algorithm to prevent certain synergies?
Possibly, or a redesign of a few problematic units. The 5 units I have embargoed (Centrifuge, Flame Animus, Electrovore, Tia Thurnax, and Vivid Drone) are ones I personally feel are the biggest issues.
Has that helped?
Yes, but there’s still bad sets that come up. For example, a 3 unit combo with Redeemer, Vivid Drone and Doomed Drone is SUPER P1 advantaged.
Even though Prismata sets are random, do you think there’s still some elements of a “meta” in the game?
Well, the top players all play a bit differently. Even if there might be a “correct” line in neutral sets there’s a lot of back and forth and a lot of very hard decisions. Players will play them differently even if they’re about the same skill.
Do you think its better than to have less swingy units in the sets then?
Yes, that’s what keeps the game interesting. That’s one of my biggest complaints. There’s too many power units and combo enablers and not enough support units. A support unit, for example, is Sentinel or Grenade Mech.
Elyot has stated that they purposely err on the side of units being too strong initially then nerf as needed. Do you think that process will eventually help regulate that?
Not unless players tell them about it, and sometimes it takes them a long time to listen. Like Frostbite, that unit has been at the top of everyone’s shitlist for so long, but they just wouldn’t touch it.
Keep an eye on the site for the upcoming coaching session posts!