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Dominion Articles / Ghost Town
« on: June 09, 2018, 06:20:09 am »
Hey all!  I decided to write a strategy article on Ghost Town, since my opinion of it has changed a lot since Nocturne's release.

Feedback welcome and appreciated.

Ghost Town is a surprisingly hard-to-value village.  It's usually
worse than a vanilla Village, but it's better than it looks at first
glance, and in some situations you should actually prefer it.

The Main Tradeoff

If you're drawing your whole deck every turn, you need two Ghost Towns
in your deck to get the same +action as one normal village (i.e. an
extra action every turn).  To compensate for this, Ghost Town adds a
decent amount of reliability to your deck.

If you're playing a Ghost Town every turn, you're starting every turn
with 6 cards and two actions.  This feels very similar to playing a
Hireling, and being lucky enough to always draw a village in your
opening hand.

In any deck where you'd want to pick up a Hireling for consistency,
you should strongly consider picking up two Ghost Towns.  It's the
same total cost (6), with a bunch of other minor considerations that
mostly cancel out (you need two buys, but you get the effect right
away, etc. etc.).

In my experience, 90% of the time when I have a choice between Ghost
Town and a normal village, the decision comes down to whether or not I
need the extra reliability.  In a game with strong terminal draw and
weak trashing, it can matter a lot.  Even then, though, I'd advise
only picking up as many Ghost Towns as you need to reliably draw your
deck, and then switching back to normal villages.

What if you aren't drawing your whole deck every turn?

If you aren't drawing your whole deck every turn, the
efficiency/reliability tradeoff mostly goes away, and Ghost Town
becomes much more comparable to a normal village.  It's slightly
better because it's gained to your hand and isn't dead if you pick it
up off of a terminal draw, it's slightly worse because it doesn't play
nice with action synergy cards.

Usually in this case the decision comes down to whether or not there's
a good action synergy card on the board.  If there is, I usually
prefer a normal village.  The only exception is when there's strong
terminal draw and good junking / weak trashing.  I would pick up Ghost
Town over a normal village close to 100% of the time in Cultist games,
for example.

Other Considerations: Gaining to Your Hand

Aside from the main benefit of reliability, the fact that Ghost Town
is gained to your hand is relevant fairly often.

If this seems like a weak effect, consider that people will sometimes
pay $3 for Expedition, which draws two extra cards for your next hand.
Buying a Ghost Town lets you pay $3 to draw one extra card for your
next hand, and also start with an extra action.  This is usually a
weaker effect, but remember that you get to keep the Ghost Town.

There are two main uses for this: attempting to spike up to $5 or
higher to buy a power card, and racing in the late game.  (If you're
racing on provinces, often the best use of a weak turn is drawing an
extra card for your next turn.)

Note that it's usually a bad idea to buy Ghost Town with $3 turn one
to try and get a 5-buy turn two.  You only have a 3/5 chance of
hitting the 5-buy, and even when you do hit it, the extra card you
drew triggered a reshuffle, so it needs to wait an extra turn to enter
circulation.  This makes Ghost Town notably worse than Nomad Camp as
an early spike.

Gaining to your hand becomes much stronger in long slogs, when the
game might be over by the time a card you buy circulates back to your
hand.  In slogs where Ghost Town and a normal village are close in
value, often I will pick up normal villages early and switch to Ghost
Towns once the first province is bought.

Other Considerations: Gainers

The main downside of Ghost Town is that you often have to gain twice
as many of them for the same effect.  In games with lots of card
gaining (Workshop, Talisman, Artificer, etc.), this downside matters a
little bit less.  This usually isn't enough on its own to justify
picking up Ghost Towns, but it might sway the balance if it's already
a hard call.

Other Considerations: Delayed Effect

In a game where you aren't drawing your whole deck every turn, playing
a Ghost Town is kind of like drawing a 4 card hand followed by a 6
card hand.  Often it's preferable to have one weak hand and one strong
hand rather than two mediocre hands, so this can be surprisingly
useful, especially in games with strong junking and weak trashing.

My Ghost Town Flowchart

Do I expect to draw my whole deck every turn?
* Yes: is my engine reliable?
  * Yes: Do I desperately need an extra card next turn?
    * Yes: Get Ghost Towns.
    * No: Get normal villages.
  * No: Get at least two Ghost Towns.
* No: Do I expect to be drawing villages dead (e.g. Cultist)?
  * Yes: Get Ghost Towns.
  * No: Is there action synergy (e.g. King's Court)?
    * Yes: Do I desperately need an extra card next turn?
      * Yes: Get Ghost Towns.
      * No: Get normal villages.
    * No: Get Ghost Towns.

Dominion Articles / Re: Tracker
« on: March 01, 2018, 03:17:06 am »
Or maybe this sort of logic just doesn't work in Dominion?
It doesn't! Here's a post to get you started:

Fascinating, thank you for the link.

I think you can get an estimate of the fair cost for a terminal +4C by looking at Merchant Ship.  Merchant Ship should have a similar relationship to +4C as a Lighthouse has to a Silver (they both give +2C and don't consume an action, but Lighthouse splits it in half over a duration).  Lighthouse costs 2, but it's weak on boards where you don't want the attack protection, which we're ignoring for this comparison, so call it 1.5.  I think it's stronger than Duchess even without the attack protection, so I don't think there's an argument for going down to 1.  Silver costs 3, so that's a difference of 1.5, which means a "fair" terminal +4C would be something like 6.5, which is 2.5 above the fair terminal +3C.
While I agree that you could take Merchant Ship as a benchmark for a terminal +4 (pretty sure it'd be balanced at 6), I don't think that you could really do the maths as Treasures, non-terminal and terminal Actions that provide Coins differ quite a bit.

Take e.g. Lighthouse, while it is weaker than Silver economy-wise due to the delay even without the defense part I think that it could easily cost $3 (well, if Fishing Village did not exist but then Fishing Village could arguably cost $4) due to all the interactions with Action cards that care about other Action cards and draw-up-to-X (Conspirator, Peddler, Scrying Pool, Vassal, Herald, Tactician, Minion, Library, Diplomat, ...) .
You cannot easily compare such a card with a terminal Silver which is virtually always useless (all the above interactions with such Action cards still apply which makes it better than Silver in such situations but you rarely ever have the terminal space for a pure terminal Silver like Duchess).

That's fair.

After thinking about it, you're probably right that this sort of math is just pattern matching on noise.  I'll just cut the section on Bard.

Dominion Articles / Re: Tracker
« on: February 27, 2018, 07:46:43 pm »
Dominion tends to value an extra coin at about 3 cost.
Good post, especially the emphasis on how important the topdecking is.

But I don't like this part and wouldn't go there. Or if you go there, at least evaluate terminals, not non-terminals.
A mere terminal Copper is something you never and a mere terminal Silver is something you rarely ever want. Terminal Gold would probably be a good $4 and I have no idea what a terminal +4 would be worth.
In other words, it is impossible to linearize the whole thing. Especially not if the cards do something extra beyond merely providing Coins like those two Boon-giving cards do.

I agree you can't really linearize things.  I find that trying to do the cost math is a helpful mental tool, though, especially if you're willing to add in corrections for things that combine particularly well together.  Usually when my cost math has been off by more than 1 or so, it's been because I was valuing something improperly.

To use the case of terminal coins: I agree that a terminal Gold would probably be fair at 4 (compare for example Gladiator which is pretty reasonable at 3).  The closest thing to a terminal Silver is a Duchess, but Duchess is really weak.  I usually put a weak card at about .5 cost lower than normal, but Duchess is so weak I could see the argument for going down to a cost of 1.  Either way, the difference there is something like 2.5-3.

I think you can get an estimate of the fair cost for a terminal +4C by looking at Merchant Ship.  Merchant Ship should have a similar relationship to +4C as a Lighthouse has to a Silver (they both give +2C and don't consume an action, but Lighthouse splits it in half over a duration).  Lighthouse costs 2, but it's weak on boards where you don't want the attack protection, which we're ignoring for this comparison, so call it 1.5.  I think it's stronger than Duchess even without the attack protection, so I don't think there's an argument for going down to 1.  Silver costs 3, so that's a difference of 1.5, which means a "fair" terminal +4C would be something like 6.5, which is 2.5 above the fair terminal +3C.

Or maybe this sort of logic just doesn't work in Dominion?  I do this sort of reasoning a lot in Hearthstone, and it's pretty helpful, but I'm not sure how well it translates.

I rephrased that section to make it clear that I'm trying to do an approximate thing rather than apply a hard and fast rule, but maybe it would be better to just cut it entirely?

I think your writeup is simply wrong about The Earth's Gift. It's one of the best boons to get with tracker, at least on par with Swamp's. Topdecking $3 and $4 actions is extremely good early in the game, particularly if there are Villages of some variety. Workshop is also a great buy on many boards! (Although, thanks to topdecking, Earth's Gift functions more like Armory here)

That's a good point that it's closer to Armory.  I updated it to say that and bumped it up to be right under Swamp's.

I think you need to talk about Pouch, you make a comment that it's hard to justify buying Tracker over a $3 or $4 but Pouch means that you can often buy 2 Trackers for $4 or Tracker and another $2.

Good point!  I added a paragraph on that.

Dominion Articles / Tracker
« on: February 27, 2018, 07:00:07 am »
Hello all,

I found the strategy articles on individual cards very useful when I was learning Dominion, and I think it's sort of unfortunate that they don't exist for a lot of the cards in the newer sets.  I'm hoping to write a few to help remedy this.

I'm only level 56 on Shuffle iT, so these probably won't be useful for a lot of you, but I think they're at a level where they would have been useful to me a few months ago.  Please let me know if you think I have anything wrong.

* Noted that Tracker's ability is actually stronger than Royal Seal's,
  since it happens during your action phase.
* Increased ranking of The Earth's Gift, noted that the effect is more
  similar to Armory than Workshop.
* Noted that you can often get two 2 buys instead of a 4 buy due to
* Cut the section on Bard.

Tracker is a surprisingly good card.  Two-cost actions tend to be
situational, but Tracker works well in a surprising number of decks.

The Main Effect

Tracker's main effect is +1C and a Boon.  This effect is OK, but not
quite enough to justify putting Tracker in your deck by itself.
Here's a list of what the +1C and Boon turns into with every possible
Boon, in order from best to worst (by my subjective judgement):

The Flame's Gift -- +1C, you may trash a card from your hand.  This
seems pretty mediocre, but trashing is trashing.  Compare to Catapult,
which for 1 more is often also a discard attack or a curser.  You feel
good playing this on an Estate, though.

The Swamp's Gift -- +1C, gain a Will-o'-Wisp from its pile.  Wisps are
strong.  In the early game, they play a lot like Magpies, and are
often enough to push you over the top to a 5 or 6 buy.  They get
weaker late in the game, unless there are other good 2 buys on the

The Earth's Gift -- +1C, you may discard a Treasure to gain a card
costing up to 4.  If you discard a copper, then topdeck the card you
gained, it's like you played an Armory, which costs 4.

The River's Gift -- +1C, +1 Card at the end of this turn.  This is
better than it seems, because it's usually good to have high hand
variance.  Getting a weak effect this turn in exchange for 6 cards
next turn is great, especially if it puts you over the top for a buy.

The Field's Gift -- +2C, +1 Action.  A little worse than a silver.
The only problem is that since you don't know you're going to get the
action, you usually don't play Tracker and then play another action
afterward -- you would've just played the better action first.  So the
extra +Action is almost never used.

The Forest's Gift -- +2C, +1 Buy.  This is basically Woodcutter.  You
can often use the surprise +Buy to get another Tracker.  Don't go
overboard, though; usually two is enough.

The Sky's Gift -- +1C, you may discard 3 cards to gain a Gold.  I
think this is actually an underrated Boon.  It looks bad on the
surface because most of the time you can't buy anything else on the
turn you use it, and you'd usually rather buy an engine piece or
something.  The reason I think it's underrated is that it's
situational but *really* powerful in those situations.  Sometimes it
lets you turn a hand full of nothing into a Gold, which can put you
noticeably ahead.  It definitely isn't the most powerful boon, but
it's a pretty reasonable effect.  It's also kind of comparable to
playing a Leprechaun and receiving Poverty, which is medium-bad as
Hexes go, and Leprechaun costs 3.

The Sun's Gift -- +1C, look at the top 4 cards of your deck.  Discard
any number of them and put the rest back in any order.  This is fairly
similar to Night Watchman, which costs 3.  It doesn't matter too much
that you only get to look at 4 cards, it still lets you set up your
next hand nicely.

The Wind's Gift -- +1C, +2 Cards.  Discard 2 cards.  This is a fairly
weak effect.  It's like Young Witch, but with no cursing, and a small
coin gain.  Young Witch costs 4, and cursing is worth something like 3
cost (e.g. Witch vs. Moat, Familiar vs. a weak cantrip).  There are
some games where it's amazing, but I'm usually not very enthused when
I get it.

The Sea's Gift -- +1C, +1 Card.  This is pretty good in the very early
game, when it often just gets you another copper, and in an engine
that has actions to spare, but annoyingly often the draw is just
dead.  It's hard to say whether or not this is better than The Wind's

The Mountain's Gift -- +1C, gain a silver.  You basically played a
Squire and picked Silver.  This is rated so low because you can't
choose not to receive the silver, and a lot of the time you don't want

The Moon's Gift -- +1C, look through your discard pile.  You may put a
card from it onto your deck.  This is like a very weak Scavenger.  It
turns out not being able to put your deck into your discard pile
before topdecking is a big drawback.  A lot of times this boon just
does nothing, and it usually isn't that amazing when it does hit.


You probably noticed a pattern in those descriptions: Tracker tends to
be a little bit worse than a mediocre 3-cost card.  This seems
reasonable at first, except for two things: the fact that you don't
know what effect you're going to get makes it considerably weaker, and
there's opportunity cost to putting a weak effect like this into your
deck, since it isn't guaranteed to replace itself in your hand when
you play it.

What really pushes Tracker over the edge is its topdecking ability.
If Tracker didn't have topdecking, I don't think I would buy it for
2.  I probably wouldn't even buy it for 1 in most games.

To see how powerful the topdecking is, remember that Royal Seal is a 5
cost silver with an identical ability.  That's the same cost
difference as, say, Bandit Camp and Village.  So we should expect this
ability to be pretty strong.  (This comparison isn't quite fair, since
Bandit Camp is unusually strong and Royal Seal is unusually weak, but
even after adjusting for that, you should still be valuing the
topdecking ability pretty highly.)

On top of that, Tracker's topdecking ability is often *stronger* than
Royal Seal's, because it happens during your action phase, which means
you can use it to topdeck cards from gainers.

The topdecking ability is most useful early and late, when your deck
is bad.

In the early game you can use the topdecking to get a crucial card
onto your deck without a reshuffle.  Depending on how strong the cards
on the board are, this can put you almost a turn ahead.  The good case
is something like open Tracker/Silver, get tracker on your third draw,
topdeck a Sentry.  You get an extra shuffle of trashing, which
matters a lot.

In the middle game the topdecking is less important, because you're
probably going to draw good cards anyway.  It gets better again if
there's bad trashing and junking.  It can also be good in an engine
that has consistency problems, especially if you're being responsible
about keeping track of what's in your deck so that you know what
engine piece your next hand might be missing.

In the late game, the topdecking can be used to help you hit crucial
cost thresholds by topdecking good cards.  Some decks buy out the
provinces in one turn or can churn through the chaff just fine, but
any deck which starts to slow down when greening will appreciate the
extra little boost.

You can also use the topdecking ability for shenanigans with cards
that look at the top of your deck, but this isn't useful as often as
you'd think.

When to get Tracker

One of the most astonishing things about Tracker is how many decks
it's good in.  In fact, it's easier to enumerate the few situations
where it's bad.

Tracker tends to be bad when:
* You don't want a lot of terminal actions.
* There's bad drawing.
* There's really good trashing, like Chapel or Donate, and no power
  cards for Tracker to topdeck in the very early game.
* There are other 2 buys that are better on the board, like Courtyard
  on a money board or Lighthouse on an attack board.

Other than that, though, if I have a spare 2 coins I'll pretty
frequently pick up at least one Tracker.

It's hard to justify forgoing an early 3 or 4 buy to get Tracker, but
there are some boards that warrant it.  Generally if you're skipping
an early buy to get Tracker, you should have a specific plan for which
power card you're hoping to topdeck with it in the early game.  As the
game goes on, it's fine to trash Tracker if it's clogging up your
engine, but I usually end up holding on to it the whole game.

Since Tracker comes with Pouch, you'll often have the option of
getting two 2 buys instead of your 4 buy.  It usually isn't worth
getting two Trackers, but if there's another powerful 2 cost card on
the board then this can be a very strong opening.

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