[Stellaris] Is Mastery of Nature excellent or terrible?

Let’s hear from two Stellaris players on their very different evaluations of the Mastery of Nature (MoN) ascension perk in Stellaris.

Macsen likes taking MoN early and often in his games. The perk provides for free all tile-blocker-clearing techs and a discount towards tile clearing. In the early game, when all types of income are lower, the free techs and cheaper energy/mineral unblocking costs make a real difference. The techs alone tend to cost upwards of 20 months apiece in the early game. As for the yields, note that at the moment here where he’s picking MoN, his energy income merely +3 and his mineral income is +51. Most tile blockers cost 100 energy and minerals to remove. This means MON currently reduces the cost by 16 months worth of energy and 1 month worth of minerals. Macsen’s energy stockpile will soon be quickly drained by the costs of colonization and fleet maintenance, and he’s already using up his mineral income month to month, so he will definitely be able to make use of the discounts.

Tokryva disagrees, In a video (partially) titled “Mastery of Nature sucks,” he shares his reasons for strongly disliking the perk.

MoN provides a a 50% discount on the energy/mineral costs of blocker removal, but Tokryva does not value this bonus highly. He’s right that the discount is the weaker half of the perk:

Tokryva population growth is only limited by tile blockers when there are no unblocked and unworked tiles available. Since planets do not fill their unblocked tiles very early, Tokryva does not feel rushed to clear tiles:

Tokryva points out that Mastery of Nature’s free techs can be acquired the normal way, while the other ascension perks provide benefits that do not become obsolete. “Every tile blocker removal you can get by just researching. Why do you need them up front?”

In a similar vein, while there are many tile blocker types, they vary based on planet type, and in the early game the player will only be settling a few types of planets and therefore face only a few types of blockers.

Overall, Tokryva is completely right that Mastery of Nature falls off to the point of being essentially useless later in the game. However, his ascension perk choice came later than it could have because he split his tradition picks between two trees. Amusingly, he did this to target the research-boosting tradition from Discovery, but the % bonus from the tradition will take some time to catch up to the free research that comes with Mastery of Nature given the low research point income of the early game. Tokryva prefers a setup with stronger late game potential and synergy. However, in the long run a strong player will almost always win a game of Stellaris against the AI. When almost any start will eventually reach dominance in a strong player’s hands, we have to compare choices in terms of how quickly they reach such a state, not WHETHER they will. After all, one can win a game of Stellaris without taking ANY perks! It may feel bad later on to see the useless perk hogging a slot, but early development is critical to quickly and efficiently hitting a strong stride. I think Tokryva is also partially sour on Mastery of Nature because it has been nerfed, such that it feels bad to him taking a perk that once was better.

So who is right? Macsen and Tokryva both make good points, and their differing assessments are rooted more in their metrics for evaluation than in their knowledge of the facts. Macsen is looking to reach a sufficiently winning position quickly, while Tokryva prefers to avoid feelbads (dead later, was better before nerf) and seeks an empire with greater (if unnecessary) potential strength. In terms of tryhard decisionmaking, I think Macsen’s tempo/development-oriented approach has the right of it, but there are merits and good reasons behind both players’ thought processes.

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