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I've been on and off trying to get better at DR. Some days I try to ONLY do DR and I either feel like I get lucky or I waste time I could have spent doing block building. I'm curious if the FMCers here feel that DR really is the best method or if it just has a big following and top solvers would be getting those numbers either way. There is no question that the past few years have shown a huge growth in FMC.

I highly, highly doubt top-level solvers would be averaging the same that they do without and kind of domino reduction as they do when they're doing only domino reduction in 100% of their solves.

There has been so many advancements related to domino reduction, like better knowledge of getting into HTR, more edge cycle algorithms for insertions, and better filtering of good DR's (immediately finding something else if the DR is too long or there are bad corners), just to name a few.

The best people in the Fewest Moves Facebook group literally globally average 22-23 moves. I actually don't quite understand it myself really, because my global average is around 26-27 moves, which is pretty far off of that, but I guess the top-level solvers just have had more deliberate practice with FMC (I know I could get down to a 25.0 global average if I really tried, but I'm not doing FMC much these days as I'm focusing on other things).

If you really want to test it, grab what you think are the best FMC solvers, and make them do a non-DR ao12 and a full DR ao12 and see which is better. Although this is a bit flawed, since the best FMCers don't practice non-DR techniques as much, likely because they think of pure blockbuilding as just a waste of their precious one hour of time. Doing nothing but farming and trying tons and tons of DR's is also more consistent since you're almost guaranteed to get a lucky one, but if you only try a few DR's and also look for blockbuilding solutions as well, you'll have less certainty you'll get a solution of, for example, 25 moves or less within the hour (if you're top-level).

If you think you're bad at DR, just keep doing it. If you want to also do blockbuilding solutions, that's fine too, and having a more open mindset for different kinds of solutions is probably healthier. But until you can get a sub-30 ao12 or so doing only domino solutions comfortably, then it's best to figure out why you think you're wasting time doing DR instead of blockbuilding solutions. Are you trying to use 14 move DR's? Are you trying to use DR's that have 10 move optimal corners? If you are getting really short DR's with good corners plenty often, then maybe change your approach once you're in DR. Perhaps immediately try doing HTR on normal and inverse scramble right when you've got to DR or something. I'm not sure.

Top-level FMCers use a varying degree of domino reduction in their solves. Some of them literally only try domino reduction and that's what 100% of their solutions are, some of them will pursue a blockbuilding-based solution if there's an easy couple squares, couple pairs, and EO in like six moves or something, some are more experienced and practiced with blockbuilding-based solutions so they spend more deliberate seeking them out, and some of them try crazy more rare FMC techniques and get really good solves with them, like building HTR blocks, doing edges first, partial DR, corner orientation, or blockino.

In summary, yes, DR-based solutions have seen a huge growth in FMC the past few years, and no, top-level FMCers would not average anywhere near what they do now without the developments of DR.

I've been on and off trying to get better at DR. Some days I try to ONLY do DR and I either feel like I get lucky or I waste time I could have spent doing block building. I'm curious if the FMCers here feel that DR really is the best method or if it just has a big following and top solvers would be getting those numbers either way. There is no question that the past few years have shown a huge growth in FMC.

tl;dr DR is a good method, maybe the best, but maybe it is not for everyone.

It is undeniable that many people are getting extremely good using mostly or only DR. But this is not the case for me. I don't think I have a problem with DR itself, I grasped the method quite well, but it's the mindset of "spamming dozens of EOs and DRs until you get lucky" that does not work for me.

Here is my story with DR:
I have not practiced DR seriously until mid- or late-2019. Previously I would only use DR occasionally if I saw a good start. In my official 18 I literally got a 6 moves DR by chance while doing EO + blocks.
Around September 2019 I started doing DR-only attempts. It was rough at the beginning, and I could rarely finish a solve within one hour, but that was expected. But soon it payed out and in 3 months or so I was back at the same level that I was before DR (25-26). At that point I was very motivated and I kept going.
But at the beginning of 2020 things changed. Or rather, they did not: after another 4 months I was stuck at the same level, just a little less consistent than I was before DR; I got more very good solves (22-23) but also more bad solves (28+). That was very demoralizing, and most importantly I did not (and do not) enjoy doing FMC with DR only as much as I enjoyed doing it the "old way".
So In the last year I have slowed down with my FMC practice - not entirely out of frustration, but because I do enjoy other events too . Lately I have been trying to get back to old style FMC with some DR (after all, "old style" is about trying everything you know), but without much success (in the last 8 attempts or so I got something like 7 DNFs).

I've been on and off trying to get better at DR. Some days I try to ONLY do DR and I either feel like I get lucky or I waste time I could have spent doing block building. I'm curious if the FMCers here feel that DR really is the best method or if it just has a big following and top solvers would be getting those numbers either way. There is no question that the past few years have shown a huge growth in FMC.

100% DR is good enough for low 21 global averages (possibly sub 21 too). If your not having success with DR there are probably some areas that you are not good at but could easily improve. Some tips: (1) Do DR 100% of time. (2) Do HTR 100% of time (or close to). (3) Make sure you can find all sub 5 EOs on a scramble (With the possible exception of some of the more complicated NISS EOs). (4) Check heaps of EOs. (5) Switch after DR-4C4E, DR-4C2E for 5 or less moves. Switch after DR-3C2E for 6 or less moves. (6) Make sure you are comfortable with solving these DR-4C4E cases:

R, B2 L, F2 D2 R, B2 U L, L2 D R, F2 D R, R2 U R, R2 F2 R, R2 U2 R, F2 B2 L, L2 U' D R, B2 U2 D2 R, B2 U' D2 R, F2 U2 D' L, R2 F2 U2 R, F2 U D R, L2 B2 D R, B2 R2 U L, R2 F2 U R, F2 L2 D R, L2 F2 U L, B2 L2 D L, R2 B2 D L, F2 R2 U R, R2 U2 B2 L, F2 R2 D2 R, R2 D' F2 R, F2 U' F2 R, L2 D' F2 L, B2 U' F2 L, L2 U' B2 R, B2 D' F2 L, L2 U B2 R, B2 D B2 R, R2 L2 D' R, F2 U2 F2 R, R' D2 F2 R, R' U2 F2 R.

(7) Learn the 7 move or less corner cases here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lYQnaF1VuiR7EDfi1DUcIJM0FYC2B3mo/view?usp=sharing.
(8) On the majority of scrambles I only try finding finishes for DRs where DR length + quarter turns in corner solution < 14. In your case you might want to replace 14 with 15 or 16. (9) HTR triggers: R, R U2 R, R U2 L, R U2 F2 R, R U2 D2 L, R U2 F2 U2 R. (8) Some HTR edge algorithms: R2 F2 R2 U2 R2 F2 R2 U2 (and its 15 other variants), R2 U2 F2 R2 F2 U2 R2 F2 (and its 15 other variants), R2 F2 R2 D2 F2 R2 F2 D2 (and its 15 other variants), R2 U2 R2 U2 R2 U2 (and its variants), L2 R2 U2 L2 R2 D2 (and its variants including the 8 moves double turn algorithms which solve this case).

I've tried that scramble and found this solution using CFOP+NISS:

R' B' U' R2 // X-Cross (4/4)
(D F D' F') // 2nd F2L pair (4/8)
(F L' F' L F' D F) // 3th pair (7-2/13)
D L' D' L D L' D' L // 4th pair (8/21)
L B' L' D' L D B D' L' // OLL (9-1/29)
L D' R D2 L' D L D2 L' R' // PLL (10-3/36)

Final: R' B' U' R2 D L' D' L D L' D' L2 B' L' D' L D B D2 R D2 L' D L D2 L' R' F' D' F L' F L D F' D' (36)

Scramble: R' U' F U2 R2 F2 L2 B2 D2 F2 D R2 D R' B L B' D' U' F' R F R' U' F

D F2 // Pseudo 1x2x3 (2/2)
R B' R2 // Pseudo 2x2x3 (3/5)
L' // F2L-1 missing 1 corner (1/6)
F D U2 F D' F' U2 L D' L' D F2 // All but 3 corners (12/18)
U' R // Undo premoves (2/20)

Spoiler: Example 2

Scramble: R' U' F D2 L2 D R2 F2 D F2 L2 D B2 R U L F D L' R F2 R' D B2 R' U' F

(L’ U2) // Square (2/2)
B2 F2 U’ // Two 2x2x1s + Edge (3/5)
(D R’ B R2 D2 R’) // 2x2x2 (6/11)
(L’) F2 // F2L-1 (2/13)
D2 L D’ L’ D L D L’ // L3C (6/19)

Skeleton: B2 F2 U' F2 D2 L D’ L’ D L D R D2 R2 B’ R D’ U2 L

Spoiler: Example 3

R' U' F U2 F2 D U L2 B2 F2 U' B2 D' F' U2 R' F2 D' B' U' F' L' D2 U R' U' F

U // pair (1/1)
(F' D2) // 2x2x1 (2/3)
(L' F2) // pseudo 2x2x2 (2/5)
(R2 B' R B) // pseudo 2x2x3 (4/9)
F' // correct pseudoness (1/10)
* R2 D2 // F2L-1 (2/12)
B R' B' // 3e3c (2/14)

* F B' D F' D' F' B R F R' // insert edges (7/21)

Skeleton: U B' D F' D' F' B R F R D2 B R' B2 R' B R2 F2 L D2 F

Spoiler: Example 4

Scramble: R' U' F R2 B2 F2 D2 R2 F2 U' R2 B2 R' F' D L R D' U' R D' L2 F' R' U' F

(L2 D B2 L) // EO (4/4)
D2 L2 F2 D L2 B // DR (6/10) – The first L2 is inserted to give better continuation
D' U2 R2 U2 D2 B2 R2 // 3c (7/17)

Skeleton: D2 L2 F2 D L2 B D' U2 R2 U2 D2 B2 R2 L' B2 D' L2

Spoiler: Example 5

Scramble: R' U' F L2 F2 R2 D' L2 D' F2 D2 U L' F' L2 B2 U2 B L' B U L' R' U' F

R B D' U2 L' // EO + pseudo 2x2x2 (5/5)
D B2 D' B D R2 // 2x2x3 (6/11)
D B D' B2 D' B2 // 2x2x3 + 2 squares (6/17)
D' B D' B2 U // 3c (5/22)

Spoiler: Example 6

Scramble: R' U' F U L2 U R2 U' R2 D' B2 U R D' B2 U' R U2 F R2 U' F' U2 R' U' F

L D F U' F' // 2x2x2 (5/5)
(B R F R F') // 2x2x3 (5/10)
(B2 R' D B' D') // pseudo F2L-1 (5/15)
R B U R' U' R // 3c (6/21)

Skeleton: L D F U' F' R B U R' U' R D B D' R B2 F R' F' R' B'

Spoiler: Example 7

Scramble: R' U' F R2 D' F2 U' L2 U' R2 D' F2 U2 R B F R2 D2 R2 U F D L' D' R' U' F

(L B2 D' R') // EO (4/4)
D B U // 1x2x3 (3/7)
(L2 F U2 F2) // 2x2x3 + 1x2x2 + 1x1x3 (4/11)
(B) // fluke DR (1/12)
(U' L2 D' L2 D U) // 3c (6-2/16)

Skeleton: D B D' L2 D L2 U B' F2 U2 F' L2 R D B2 L'

Spoiler: Example 8

Scramble: R' U' F B2 L2 R2 D R2 F2 D' B2 F2 D2 L B R D' L' U' B2 U B F' R' U' F

(R2 D' F2 R') // EO (4/4)
(D B2) // 1x2x3 (2/6)
(F2 D F' + U2 B U') // 2x2x3 (6/12)
(F' D B D B' F) // 3c (6/18)

Skeleton: F' B D' B' D' F U B' U2 F D' F2 B2 D' R F2 D R2

Spoiler: Bonus: 4 corners left

Scramble: R' U' F R2 U' L2 U2 B2 L2 D U R2 D' F D L U' R2 B R2 U' B' U' R' U' F

(L F) // square (2/2)
(U' L' U') // EO (3/5)
F R2 F L' F' // 2 more squares (5/10)
L' B2 L B2 // another square + pair (4/14)
L D2 F' R' // 4c (4/18)

Skeleton: F R2 F L' F' L' B2 L B2 L D2 F' R' U L U F' L'

Spoiler: Bonus: 5 corners left

Scramble: R' U' F D L2 D L2 F2 L2 D' R2 U2 B L' R' D L' B D2 U' B' R' U' R' U' F

(L R' F) // EO (3/3)
U2 L' // DR-3E1C (2/5)
(R2 F2 D2 L D' L') // DR (6/11)
(U' L2 U D B2 D') // 5C (6/17)

Skeleton: U2 L' D B2 D' U' L2 U L D L' D2 F2 R2 F' R L'

You can check whether you found the optimal insertion with Insertion Finder.

I got a 31
Scramble: R' U' F B2 D' F2 D L2 D2 U F2 U B2 R2 B L' B R2 F L2 R D2 B D R' U' F
(D2 L U R2 F’)//pseudo 2x2x2 (5/5)
F’//2x2x2 (1/6)
(L2 B’ U2)//2x2x3 (3/9)
F L’ B2 L F’//F2l-1 (5/14)
U B’ U’ L’ B L B’ U B2 U’ B’//AB4C (11/25)
Skeleton: L’ B2 L F’ U B’ * U’ L’ B L B’ U B2 U’ B’ U2 B L2 F R2 U' L' D2
Solution: L’ B2 L F’ U B’ L’ D’ L R U’ L’ U R’ U’ D B L B’ U B2 U’ B’ U2 B L2 F R2 U' L' D2
tips on how this could improve would be appreciated