Monsterpocalypse: Art or Science?

I’ve been noticing lately that in a lot of discussion about Monsterpocalypse players are becoming more analytical and more quantitative. While I most certainly think this is great to see among the community, it really makes me take a step back and look at this game from on high.

I think there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to how players view this game. On one end, you’ve got the completely analytical, structured viewpoint. If you come at Monsterpocalypse from a mainly quantitative viewpoint, it’s really more of a science than an art. On the other end, you’ve got more of a free flowing, zen type of viewpoint. If you take the qualitative approach, it’s honestly more of an art.

Just for fun, I have put together a little ‘spectrum’ to help you visualize the difference in perspective on the game from a few familiar faces to the MonPoc community.

So is Monsterpocalypse more of an Art or a science?

We could begin to answer the question by looking at tournament success. On the one hand, you have Kevin Storm. He placed top 8 at MonCon, did well at GenCon 2010, and dominated the field at SoCal Smackdown. He also won the first Monday Night Monster and is in the finals of the second. Going pretty far left you’ve got Tim Bunn. While he missed top 8 at MonCon, he did get top 8 in both the single and double monster qualifiers at GenCon. In the middle you’ve actually got Mark Garton, second place at MonCon and Masters winner at GenCon 2010. Then you’ve got Phil, Steven, Robert, etc. all sprinkled in between.

What I really see from the spectrum above is that neither qualitative nor quantitative win out when it comes to being competitive. I’ve had the privilege of being paired up with Kevin and Mark in tournaments and have played against Steven and Tim more than I’d like to admit. What I’ve been surprised with is that these players are great for very different reasons.

The thing that makes Steven great is not his ability to calculate the perfect turn. His ability to win spurs from some odd trait in both he and his brother that allows him to simply know that what he is doing will work out in the end. I’ve played Steven at games probably more than anyone in the world and there is absolutely no amount of analyzing that will prepare you for what he will do on his turns. This is why he can win with Aquosia. Most players wouldn’t be good with Aquosia. Steven finds a way to take turns that are better than the best ones you could see and that really put you in a bind. Watching Steven play truly is like watching a painter paint. When you play him in tournaments even more so.

The thing that makes Kevin great is nothing like Steven’s ability. For whatever reason, Kevin doesn’t just look at the board and know what to do (or at least he decides to not stop there). He is only comfortable taking a turn once he’s gone through his 7 step turn process at least twice (see his blog about it here). I think this is why we see him dominating the online scene. He has ample time to analyze what is going to happen and can be seen to be making almost no mistakes. Save the dice, you had better be ready to lay down the perfect move turn in and turn out just to keep up with Kevin. Because of what makes Kevin good, it makes sense that he doesn’t always win out at major events. When you’ve only got 5 minutes, the players that can take unexpected moves in a 2 minute time frame have lots of advantages over the player who is amazing at the quantitative side of this game.

At the end of the day, players all along the spectrum see some measure of success. I think the case could be made that Monsterpocalypse ought to be approached as both an art and a science. I think there is a balance somewhere on the spectrum and when I see players start tipping towards becoming too quantitative I feel it is only right to remind everyone that there are two sides to the coin.

I personally have tendencies towards quantitative (see any blog in which I mention dice), but I realize that my greatest tournament successes have come when I get into the ‘monpoc zen’ (which I’ll write about in a later blog). Just like ┬áin day 2 of Mastering MonPoc, I urge you to discover what your strengths and leanings are and amplify those. If you are more qualitative don’t worry so much about analyzing your games and turns like Kevin or I do. If you are more quantitative, jump into the discussion with Kevin and I about odds, turn structure, etc., but don’t forget that the game isn’t just one big math problem.

How do you view the game? What are your natural tendencies and strengths? Qualitative or Quantitative?


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