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1
Game Reports / Transmute > Cultist
« on: February 20, 2015, 05:23:09 pm »
Hi all.  It's been forever.  But I played a game two days ago with my GF that was sufficiently memorable that I just had to come back and share.  Forgive me if I'm not completely up to speed on the lingo and code here.

Cards:
$P: Transmute
$2: Herbalist, Pearl Diver, Lighthouse
$3: Village
$4: Scavenger, Silk Road
$5: Cultist, Pillage, Outpost

So, I don't know if the online community has moved beyond thinking this, but Cultist is supposed to be pretty damn good, right?  Especially with the only "trashing" here being the notoriously awful Transmute?  And, of course, Transmute being the only potion card making it even more awful?

Opening silver/potion, instead of just going for the Cultist-BM obvious play would be madness, right?  Well, that's exactly what I did.  Silver/potion, then a Scavenger at the next opportunity, followed by Villages and an Herbalist instead of a Lighthouse.  Meanwhile, the Ruins start rolling in.

Of course, by the second reshuffle, $4 hands (which is about as high as this deck ever gets) are going straight to Silk Roads, the Transmute is either turning Copper into more Transmutes, or Ruins into Duchies, and the idea of ever getting a Province is laughable.  Buying Estates becomes my idea of a good turn.  My opponent, to her credit, is paying attention and making sure I don't run roughshod over the Silk Roads: the pile runs out first with a 4-4 split.  She is of course also buying Cultists, and money, and Provinces, as seems like the obvious thing to do. 

What she does not get, though, is much in the way of Duchies.  Eventually the game ends with a three-pile of Silk Roads, Duchies, and Ruins.  The game ends with me Transmuting a Transmute into a Duchy, and buying an Estate.  And, then, the final tally:

Me: 7 Duchies, 4 Silk Roads, 7 Estates, for 44 points
Opponent: 3 Provinces, 4 Silk Roads, 1 Duchy, 6 Estates, for 39 points

The power of Transmute strikes again!

2
Introductions / Hello goodbye
« on: March 20, 2013, 05:37:02 pm »
Hi all!  It's chwhite.  Some of the old-timers might remember me.  :P

So I was informed by a fellow Dominion fan at a real-life game meetup that Isotropic had finally shut down, and I realized that it was way past time to put up the valedictory introduction I meant to write here in January.

I wasn't around for when isotropic first went up, but I started playing it in early 2011.  And I kept playing it.  A lot.  A really unhealthy lot- something like 9,000 games over two years.  In the process, I got pretty good at the game.  Not quite as consistently good as the really top luminaries like jonts, -Stef-, and WanderingWinder, but good enough to eventually stay up in the 40s and hit the #1 rank once or twice on a fluke.  Cornucopia was good to me, Hinterlands not as much (I tended to fall on the engine side of things, though I was far from the most extreme engine player).  Through it all there were many, many great games played (WW and I alone played hundreds against each other), and many strategic depths plumbed, and I had a lot of fun.  And I had a lot of fun on the forum too, of course, defending Transmute and slagging on Thief at every opportunity (among other things).

But it was also an addiction, an obsession, and was cutting into time that I should have spent being a productive member of society.  And, well, at a certain point further strategic depths became harder and harder to come by, especially as Dark Ages wasn't on iso.  I tried scaling back a few times, it didn't work.  So, at the end of last year I decided to put down online Dominion for good, make it my New Year's resolution.  This is the final game I ever played on isotropic:

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20121231-120955-e9c956f3.html

I figured that beating Stef with that powerhouse of a card, Counting House, was a good way to go out.   :P

I was going to write up this post then, but I got lazy and distracted, and eventually stopped even remembering to visit to chime in on Qvist's lists (though I see that the $5 cards still haven't been listed, so maybe I'll remember to go there and be a lonely voice ragging on Duke).  I'm sure many folks have stopped visiting entirely post-Iso.  But to those of you who are still around, I'm still alive, and I'm still happy to play Dominion with the real cards.  (I actually don't have anything against Goko- but I need to stay away from the online game, and not paying any $$ for it is a good way to prevent backsliding.)

...

So, a couple personal things before I go.  My name's Chris.  I'm in my late 20s, moved up to Brooklyn from Philadelphia a few months ago to live with my GF*.  My non-boardgame interests include classical music, the environment, and useless trivia (back in my pre-Dominion days my main obsession was quizbowl), and one of the best things about living in NYC is not being surrounded by Eagles fans anymore.  I have plenty of education and no job right now, which is something I'm trying to fix (and not being distracted by iso is hopefully helping, but not as much as I'd hoped).  If you're in the NYC area (or Philly, I still visit there every once in a while), I'm always up for some good boardgaming, Dominion or otherwise.  You can see my favorite games here.

Anyway, aloha.  I'll keep checking in occasionally.  I hope.  Thanks for all the memories!

*She actually just played Dominion for the first time a couple months ago after being scared of it for so long, and has rapidly become addicted.  And even beat me last week with Chapel-Treasure Map.  I think that trading endless online hours for this is an obviously good development.  :D

3
Game Reports / Minion vs. Fool's Gold
« on: September 18, 2012, 03:45:28 pm »
Fool's Gold is very much the Minion of treasure cards: very strong if you can spam it and get multiples in a hand, but not worth much if your deck is dilute, whether due to lack of trashing, or junking attacks, or multiplayer games with more competition for the key resource.  Get six of them, and you're usually sitting pretty; get four and they don't do all that much for you.  (Minion is, of course, much less useless when you don't have so many, but it still suffers.)  These are cards which often force a race for them for denial's sake, even when there are other good options which would in a vacuum be better than just getting 5 Minions or FGs.

So... what happens when they're both on the board?  Which do you choose?  You obviously don't want both, they work at cross-purposes.  Here's a game where I chose Minion, and my opponent chose FG:

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201209/17/game-20120917-201720-062108cb.html

cards in supply: Crossroads, Develop, Fool's Gold, Hoard, Inn, Minion, Oasis, Scheme, Walled Village, and Workshop

I tend to think of Minion as stronger than FG, and it was here (I won with 6 Provinces on Turn 16), but in retrospect the real key was that Minion support was better.  Workshop is in fact a reasonable enabler for Fool's Gold, especially when you're getting them uncontested, as a way to get more FGs in.  My opponent, in fact, took the whole pile, whereas I only had 5 Minions.  However, it's not a top-tier enabler... and Oasis is really good for Minions- providing cash and cycling, and not really any downside (who cares about discarding Copper when you're going to use Minion for draw-and-discard anyway?).  I was frequently getting more cash from Oasis than Minion, in fact, which tended to take on more of just a cycling role.  And obviously Develop is a really slow and weak trasher, but turning Estates into top-decked Oases was pretty nice.

And, of course, the Minion attack hurts Fool's Gold pretty badly, since it cycles green in faster and makes it hard to line up three FGs in a four-card hand.

But replace Oasis with, say, Council Room, and Fool's Gold quite possibly comes out on top.

4
Game Reports / Gain ALL the Scouts!
« on: August 22, 2012, 08:17:28 pm »
Well, not quite all of them.  But seven of them!

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201208/22/game-20120822-170751-89f063ae.html

Cards in supply: Ambassador, Baron, Cutpurse, Duke, Feast, Ironworks, Jester, Potion, Scout, Vineyard, and Warehouse

So my plan here was basically to transition out of Ambassador tennis into a Vineyards deck stuffed with Warehouses and Scouts, with Ironworks to pick up more pieces and Baron for +Buy.  Also, since I actually like Estates, I don't care as much as I usually do about winning the Amb war- I just need a little Copper thinning, then Baron becomes the terminal of choice (and Ironworks to gain Potion).  The Scouts don't increase my handsize much, but with Warehouse do help cycle through a bit, and draw Estates to pair with Baron.  I probably could have played this better by gaining more Ironworks rather than Scouts in the midgame, ah well.

My opponent transitions into Jester-BM after the opening Ambassadors, which does hit me with a Curse or two and some Coppers but is less useful than it would be in a mirror match.  He might have done better to focus on Dukes rather than Provinces, but he probably needed to do both to be honest; eight Provinces can't outscore uncontested Duchy-Duke, but eight Vineyards can.

5
Dark Ages Previews / A missed opportunity
« on: August 10, 2012, 02:32:27 am »
So, Feodum is the only Victory card in this set, which seems a bit low for 35 Kingdom cards.  I've mentioned already that I'm a bit sad that it turns out to only count Silvers instead of all Treasures (or at least non-Copper Treasures).  But I just realized something else.

It would have been great and on-theme to see an alt-VP card that counted stuff in the Trash.  Obviously, it would have to be a trasher itself as well, to ensure that it's not a dead card whenever no other trashing is around.  Perhaps something like:

Midden
$3 Action-Victory
You may trash a card from your hand.
_____
Worth 1 VP for every two differently-named cards in the Trash.


By going with differently-named cards, like Fairgrounds, this might solve the scalability problem, that a card like this would otherwise be vastly more powerful with more players (doing more trashing!) if you counted number of cards, or the Coin value of the trashed cards.  The VP value and cost could be tweaked, of course; you could possibly also tack on a +1 Action if necessary.

Also, it would totally have actually sort-of comboed with Scout for real.

6
Council Room Feedback / Internal server error
« on: August 06, 2012, 08:07:48 pm »
I'm getting this message whenever I try to look at anything on CouncilRoom.  Alas!

7
Game Reports / Chancellor/Talisman
« on: July 18, 2012, 04:51:46 pm »
So, Chancellor is supposed to be the worst $3 card, according to the rankings here.  And Talisman is supposedly the fourth-worst $4 card, with precious few defenders.

Together they make a nifty Level Negative 1 Opening.  Who in their right mind would ever do such an obviously horrible thing, opening two obviously horrible cards?

I would!

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201207/17/game-20120717-203017-2d375a1a.html

With no $5s better than Cartographer, no other strong terminals (no, Possession and Noble Brigand do not count), and a supremely important spammable $4- Tournament- it was the right move.  The Talisman lets me double up on Tournaments three times, and does it better than Ironworks, check out Turn 3 for proof why.  (With not much card draw, and Conspirators waiting to be activated, spamming Tournaments is in fact the right move here).  The Chancellor does its cycling thing, probably a little better than average but not exceedingly so.  (Getting it on Turn 4 wasn't great, but Turn 5 was.)  By Turn 11, I have both power Prizes and three Provinces.  And that's as second player.

I think this game is a pretty good example of how to use both Chancellor and Talisman well, as well as a demonstration of how to win Tournaments without just auto-pilot opening them and relying on luck.  One of my favorite games in awhile.

8
Dominion Articles / Transmute
« on: June 01, 2012, 02:17:34 pm »
Fixing up spelling/grammar/style etc.; will probably be making minor edits on this here and there over the next day or two.  Think I've hit all the major points, though.

TRANSMUTE


Is there any card more unloved than Mr. Transmute, with his sad eyes and mountain man beard, futilely trying to turn lead (Estates) into gold?  For most people, Transmute is a card whose main ability is showing up dead last in any ranking it's a part of:
* It was the worst potion card in Theory's front-page ranking.
* It won a plurality of votes in this forum topic asking for the "worst card in Dominion", garnering almost twice as many nods as the next most-hated cards, Duchess and Thief.
* In Qvist's card rankings, Transmute was not only dead last, but by a nearly unanimous vote. Only one person dared to dissent.
* And of course, Council Room stats bear out this general theme.  Only two cards- Thief and Counting House- have a worse "Win Rate With", and Transmute is near the bottom of most other metrics as well.

So, what gives?  Why is Transmute thought of so poorly?  Does it deserve all the scorn it gets?  And when can it be useful?  The fact of the matter is that Transmute is indeed a weak card, since it is so awkward and slow to buy and use.  Most of the time, it's best avoided.  However, there are in fact a number of situations where it can be useful: it may not be good, but it's better than you think.

Why do you usually not want Transmute?

Described by Donald X. as an "exotic Remodel" in the Alchemy Secret History, Transmute is a trash-for-benefit card that (like most TFB cards) works on only one card at a time.  The main thematic conceit of Transmute is that it changes the nature of the card from one type to another: Victory cards become Treasure (always Gold, which is thematically fitting and also the best Treasure always in the game); Treasure becomes Actions (always Transmute, since it's the only Action always in the game with Transmute), and Actions beam Victory (Duchy, which again is always out).  It's a cycle!

Like its closest relatives Remodel, Expand, and Develop, the benefit is "more/better cards".  It does not give cash and/or +Buy (Trade Route, Salvager, Moneylender, Spice Merchant), nor +Card (Apprentice, Spice Merchant), nor is it VP chips and cash (Bishop).  All other things being equal, this is the weakest category of trasher there is.  If you are trashing early, to thin your deck for an engine, then you really want a card which can get rid of multiple Coppers and Estates at a time, like Chapel/Remake/Steward.  Failing that, you'd prefer for the card to give you cash to make good purchases now, as Moneylender/Salvager does, or at least be non-terminal like Upgrade and Apprentice.

So, cards in the Remodel family are generally not for early-game use, but are better in the mid-to-late game, where they can turn mediocre cards into great ones (say Developing a Sea Hag into Cartographer/Silver after the Curses are gone), or Gold into Province, or burn through the Colony stack to prematurely the end the game with a lead. But, if you take a closer look at Transmute, you'll see that it doesn't have the same flexibility as Remodel and Expand, and seems to want to be used more in the early game.  You can't just get anything, you have to take what the 'Mute gives you, and if you don't want those things, then you don't want the 'Mute.

The most immediately appealing use, of course, it to turn your starting Estates into Gold, making the most useless card in most decks into the most useful; it's also an improvement of $4 worth of value, better than any other trash-for-benefit Action.  This needs to be done early, though, because otherwise you could just buy Gold.  If you could pick up Transmute on Turn 1, then you'd have a good chance of turning Estate into Gold on Turns 3/4.  That hypothetical card would be a strong but swingy opening in the vein of Baron, which also relies on Estate collision to work. 

But you can't pick it up on Turn 1, because Transmute has that most awkward cost: Potion.  You need to open Potion, and then you need to throw away all the rest of the money that came with your Potion on Turns 3/4 to get the Transmute.  And by then, your deck has diluted to the point that you're very likely to draw Transmute with four coppers and wish you had just bought Silver and Gold instead, like your opponent who is pulling down $5s and $6s.  Pursuing Transmute early as a source of deck-thinning and Gold gain is, like opening Treasure Maps without strong support, almost guaranteed to fail.  The simulators have shown, in fact, that there is no way to add Transmute to an optimized BM strategy and gain advantage.

The other options are even less appealing.  Turning Treasure into more Transmutes is obviously horrible on most boards: your terminal density will skyrocket, you'd have better luck just buying stuff with Copper!  Turning Actions into Duchies is a better proposition, and actually slots well into late-game use, but even that has its problems.  Duchy is fine and all, but it's no Province, and if you have the Actions to burn, chances are you'd prefer to build up to Province or Colony anyway- in general it's money decks that want the Duchies more.  In addition, you're still left with the problem that Transmute's potion cost is really awkward unless you have other desirable Potion cards and/or +Buy: even if you do have an Action chain that needs to grab a bunch of Duchies late, when are you going to go out of your way to get the Transmute?  And using Transmute to power a Duke strategy is not usually going to be the best plan: an opponent who has a deck full of Silvers will steal the Duchies underneath you, and have the money left to buy Duke afterwards.

So, to review:  You don't really ever want Transmute when there's faster trashing (which is most everything that's not Remodel, Expand, Trade Route, and Develop). You don't want it when there's a fast Big Money strategy that doesn't need trashing.  You don't want it if there's a slow Big Money strategy- you'd rather buy no Kingdom card than Transmutes.  You don't even want it with Dukes most of the time.  When would you ever want one?

When do you want Transmute?

Well… the first line of Transmute is "Trash a card from your hand."  Not every card is an Action, a Victory, or a Treasure.  The above analysis has so far failed to mention the fourth type of card: Curse.  Curses are bad.  Real bad.  They slow you down, kill your buying power, and your score.  You want them out of your deck come hell or high water (well, maybe you can handle them if you have something like Vault, or a zillion Golds, but generally this is true.)  They are worse than Estate- and they are so bad that the vast majority of trash-for-benefit cards give you no benefit for them, since getting rid of that Curse is benefit enough.  Apprentice gives you zero cards.  Salvager gives you zero dollars.  Bishop may as well be trashing the empty air.  Remodel… very often will force you take an Estate or Copper.

In this company, Transmute does just as well as the rest of 'em.

If you have lots of Curses being flown about, than Transmute will have more targets: not only will it turn Estate to Gold, but if it's the only way to turn Curse into nothing, that's worth it too.  And with Curses around, the game will slow down: you're more likely to have $P or $1P hands where you can't buy anything else, and you'll also have enough turns such that the slow Estate-to-Gold action is actually worth it.  Now if only there was another Potion card that gave out Curses, such that by opening Potion you are gaining access to not only a way to give out Curses, but a way to fix up your own deck too.

Yep.  Familiar.  Familiar is by far Transmute's best friend.  What's even better is that, since Familiar is non-terminal, you don't need to worry about collisions.  And once the Curses run out, Familiar -> Duchy ain't so bad either.  I would go so far as to say that whenever you want to buy Familiar, you also want to buy Transmute, since the main contraindication for Transmute that is still relevant in Curse games - strong, multi-card trashing - is also a contraindication for Familiar, which is often too slow against the likes of Chapel anyway.

Of course, what makes Familiar such a good partner to Transmute is that it provides the two strongest triggers for a useful Transmute - Curses and other Potion cards which you also want - in one package.  There are a handful of such triggers, which either minimize the 'Mute's weaknesses, or make its less-useful features more useful.  On sufficiently weak boards it might be worth it to go Transmute with only one of those triggers, but normally Transmute needs two or more to really shine.  Here they are, with some sample games to show how the Transmute can add value to a surprisingly wide variety of decks:

Trigger 1: Other Potion Cards (Trigger 1a: Familiar)

The big thing about having other Potion-cost cards in the setup is that it drastically reduces the opportunity cost for Transmute, since you want that Potion anyway.  If you're building an engine with +Buy, so much the better, since than you can pick up Transmute with your other cash as well, and +Actions are also useful, to ensure that the 'Mute can actually be played.

Here is a good example of Transmute fitting into an Alchemy-heavy deck: not just Familiars, but Golem, Apothecary, Alchemist, and Vineyard are all on tap here- and Herbalist for +Buy!  Add in Tournament and Fairgrounds, and you have a long, messy, high-scoring game where Transmute is used to good effect on all four types of cards (Action, Treasure, Victory, Curse).

Trigger 1b: Vineyard

After Familiar, Vineyard is the second-best Potion card to pair with Transmute.  The reason for this is that Vineyard decks actually want you to go Copper -> Transmute, because then you're increasing your Action count and pumping your Vineyards; therefore, Transmute will basically always have a useful target.  Get one early, and they will be fruitful and multiply.

This match against JimmerFan features both Alchemist and Vineyard, and Pawn for +Buy.  The Transmutes are happy to hit Estate early and Copper late, and thus facilitate both Provinces and Vineyards.  With Alchemist and Vineyard, the second potion becomes a good idea, further lowering the opportunity cost of buying the 'Mute.

In this one, ehunt shows how Vineyard-Transmute can even best a strong double-Tac Conspirator deck- his six Vineyards are worth 7 VP each at the end.

Trigger 2: Curse-givers

Familiar isn't the only Curse-giver which slows the game down enough to make Transmute worth it.  Sometimes it can be worth it to get the Potion, to get the Transmute, primarily to clear Curses (but Gold and Duchy is also welcome), on slowish boards.  If there are top-notch BM sifters and +Card effects like Embassy, you don't necessarily want to bother.

Here's one against WanderingWinder with IGG and Hag, where frankly I erred in not buying the Transmute earlier.  This one also had Golem as another reason to buy Potion, and it clears me of all my Estates and Curses.  Playing Transmute on Coppers also marginally increases the chance of Menagerie hitting, making it less obviously bad than usual.

Other cards which dramatically slow down the game can sometimes substitute for Curse as a trigger: in situations such as this 3p Ambassador game, everything is slow and junky enough that Transmuting Estates into Gold, believe it or not, was the fastest way to actually get spending power.

Trigger 3: Copper-specific trashing

Once in a rare while, Transmute can actually be half of a dedicated early-game deck-tuning strategy, turning Estates into Gold while another card takes care of the Coppers.  This strategy is probably too slow against a strong BM + X that can handle the Estates and Coppers, and is smoked by real top-level trashers.  But if, for instance, Colonies are out, the slow start can actually be worth it.  Then, in the late-game, the 'Mute can sneak out a Duchy or two, which is more than you can say for Chapel in most endgames. 

This one required opportunistic shuffling, but when you can take the first-turn Mint AND still buy Potion on Turn 3, you are going to have a deck stuffed to the brim with Gold very quickly.  A better example is this Potion/Loan opening, which might have been slow for Provinces but was absolutely worth it in the presence of Colony.

Trigger 4: Alternate VPs, especially Duke

In addition to Vineyard and Colony, a couple other alternate VP cards can be a reason to consider Transmute.  One possibility which is generally more interesting in theory than practice is dual-type cards: Action-Victory cards give you a Gold and a Duchy, while Treasure-Victory cards give you Gold and Transmute.  That "bargain" is basically never worth it for Harem and hardly any better for Nobles, so we can set them aside; but Gold and Duchy for a Great Hall is a better deal, and might be something to be aware of, if you have other reasons to pick up those cards in the first place.

Duke, on the other hand, can sometimes be facilitated by Transmuting Actions into Duchy if the conditions are right.  In this game the presence of Curse and an Inn-fueled engine is a boost to this approach, while in this game, Stef builds a massive Action-happy Scrying Pool-Transmute engine which gets the money necessary to buy multiple Dukes on the last couple of turns from... Transmuted Gold.

...

Generally, if at least (preferably more than) one of these triggers are out, and none of the strong contraindications for Transmute are out (basically, superior trashing or a faster-than-usual BM strategy), it's a card worth considering.  Transmute is tricky to play, it's among the most slow and situational cards in the Dominion universe.  But good situations do exist, so cheer up mountain man!

Works with:
* Familiar, Familiar, Familiar
* Other game-slowing curse-givers
* Alchemy-heavy setups, especially those with +Action and +Buy
* Copper-specific trashing
* Vineyard
* Great Hall, Duke, Colony (sometimes)

Doesn't work with:
* Most normal Province games
* Uncomplicated BM strategies
* Alternate VP cards that aren't Vineyard or Duke
* Superior trashing
* Fast games in general

9
Game Reports / Behold the POWER of Scout!
« on: May 28, 2012, 02:07:03 pm »
So, a few days ago I played this Intrigue-heavy game with rickyross:

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201205/24/game-20120524-224423-7c83c7ed.html

Cards in supply: Forge, Great Hall, Horse Traders, Ironworks, Laboratory, Lookout, Mining Village, Scout, Trading Post, and Worker's Village

You may notice that Ironworks AND Great Hall AND Scout are all in there.  There's some obvious synergy there: Ironworks all the Great Halls, use Scout to draw them in hand and increase hand size in a pointsful manner.  In fact, it's the three-card combo that Scout was specifically designed to function with; it's Scout's entire raison d'etre.  And my opponent goes for it, grabbing seven of the Great Halls (I was only able to Ironworks one of 'em before they disappeared), and being able to draw his entire deck more or less for the last few turns of the game.

And yet my Trading Post/- opening, going money-heavy but sprinkling in a couple Labs and +Buy sources, still won big.  I mean, sure 5/2 on a Trading Post board is some elite luck, but if Scout can't close the gap on a board which at first blush looks explicitly designed to make it useful, then what hope does it have?

10
Variants and Fan Cards / Card Idea: Granary
« on: May 17, 2012, 01:28:54 pm »
I have two thoughts on this one.

Granary
Action- $4?

+3 Cards
+1 Action

Discard down to four cards in hand.


OR

Granary
Action- $4?

+2 Cards
+1 Action

Discard down to five cards in hand.


Basically, the idea here is to create a sifter that stacks differently from all other sifters.  With Warehouse/Cellar/Inn etc., each subsequent play decreases your hand size by one, which means you can't just play a whole bunch without losing your whole hand, but they work very well with other +Card sources.  With Granary, you can keep playing them until the cows come home and your hand stays the same size... but don't try it after a long Lab chain!  Another good thing about these cards is that they function as a pretty strong counter to hand reduction: normally you don't want to bother with Warehouse if you're under constant Militia attack, but if you play (the first) Granary on a three-card hand it's basically a Stable where you can discard anything, not just Treasure.

The second variant decreases cycling power but increases hand size, which strikes me as a fair trade-off. 

Thoughts on the mechanic in general?  Think they're over-or-undercosted?  It's not a complicated card, but "draw up to X/discard down to X" is IMO a very interesting design space that I'd like to see filled a little more.


11
Dominion Articles / Combo: Horn of Plenty/Native Village
« on: April 02, 2012, 06:05:54 pm »
So, everyone is aware of the Native Village/Bridge mega-turn combo, where you build up a huge Native Village mat and cash it all in for a boatload of Provinces on the last turn, using the stored draw of Native Village to get lots of Bridges in your hand, and have the +Action to play them all.

Well, Horn of Plenty is another card which has similar mega-turn potential with Native Village, as seen in this game I just finished:

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201204/02/game-20120402-144850-fccaf6e3.html

Obviously, HoP/Native Village is a little trickier to pull off, as you can't just mindlessly buy the two components, you do need to pick up enough other pieces to boost your Horns to $5.  And since HoP is $5 and not $4, getting it started is possibly a little more difficult.  However, as long as those two cards are in the kingdom, there is clearly mega-turn potential.  HoP, NV, and Copper/Silver/Gold gets you to five unique cards already, and the +Actions of Native Village ensures that no matter what else is on the board, you can find three other cards to help you on your way to $8 Horns.  The other cards were actually pretty weak here; Chancellor and Talisman are not the sorts of buys that strike fear into the heart of your opponent, but they were good enough to get to $8.  The Oasis and Cellar were actually more crucial, the Oasis providing cycling and cash, and Cellar was used once to ensure that I got all seven of my Horns in hand for the final turn.  There really wasn't any reason for me to buy a Wishing Well, I was just upping variety to make absolutely sure the Horns would max out.

Getting to start $5/$2 was a boost in this game, but even 4/3 starts should be able to transition into this deck well, probably opening Silver/Silver-equivalent and then picking up lots of Natives and Horns starting on Turn 3.  As for counters, my initial feeling is that this combo should beat most other strategies, but it's not quite as dominant as NV/Bridge: it should be beaten by strong cursing, Goons engines, and Ironworks rushes at least.  (Though if there's good trashing about, NV/HoP can probably handle most curse-givers).  Of course, except for something like Ironworks/Gardens, you can likely add NV/HoP to these other elements, you just can't ignore them like you might be able to for NV/Bridge.

12
Game Reports / Transmute and Duchess: SUPER COMBO
« on: January 31, 2012, 11:46:28 pm »
Okay, okay, just saying "Transmute and Duchess can make beautiful music together" is perhaps not telling the full story.  But I just played a game where these two normally-horrible cards worked together quite well, or rather I should say they both worked well with something else that's normally a horrible idea: the first-turn Mint.

Setup: Chancellor, Conspirator, Duchess, Hoard, Island, Jester, Mint, Potion, Scrying Pool, Talisman, and Transmute

Duchess is actually a good companion to the first-turn Mint, because its $2 makes it highly likely that you can actually buy something useful in a deck that's over half dead cards.  And with all those Coppers gone, the Transmute is likely to actually be able to hook up with Estates and make Gold.  Now, normally I'd be all over the Scrying Pools and Conspirators, especially with Jester as a payload attack which is made better with Scrying, but lack of +Buy is an issue, and hey Hoard is around to further give incentives to go Gold instead.  So I buy the Potion on turn 3 with an eye towards the Transmutes, and spend $2P on a Transmute!  (I only want one, though, so I get a Pool at some point because I can't buy anything better).  My opponent does a good job of gunking up my deck with a flood of Jester-given Potions and Curses, taking the Pool-Conspirator route, but there was enough Gold to grab six Provinces anyway.

http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201201/31/game-20120131-201942-bd1c8c37.html

...Actually, given the lack of +Buy, I seriously wonder whether the right move on 4/3 would have been to open Chancellor with an eye toward Hoard-BM?  But targeted Jester is hard to pass up, if it starts routinely giving out Curses.

13
Council Room Feedback / Popular Buys has the basic cards screwed up
« on: January 03, 2012, 10:29:29 pm »
When I look at my "Popular Buys" page, it's telling me that I buy the basic cards (Estate, Duchy, Province, Curse, Copper, Silver, Gold) 100 percent of the time, and says they're only available in some variable number of games that's less than the total number of games I've played.  (Presumably this is the number of games where I bought each of those basic cards.)

This is not right!

Interestingly, this bug isn't a problem for Colony, Platinum, and Potion: just the cards that are always out.

14
Dominion General Discussion / More Fun With (Un)popular Buys
« on: December 25, 2011, 03:09:12 pm »
I really enjoyed rspeer's Evaluate your best and your worst board and was thinking about what other sorts of interesting analyses we could get from Council Room's Popular Buys data.  One thing that came to mind was to look at the % column, see what cards end up in your deck most and least often, and try and evaluate a board based on them.  The "most often" analysis may not be all that interesting: I mean, I suppose if someone had a board without Fishing Village then that would be noteworthy, but I'm going to bet there's a lot of overlap: the cheap, obviously powerful non-terminals are bound to be well represented.  But trying to find a strategy out of your ten least-bought cards has to be at least a little enlightening.

Anyway, I'll go first:

Most bought (again not counting Archivist):

$6: Border Village (93.8); Goons (93.4)
$5: Hunting Party (94.2); Festival (90.8)
$4: Tournament (96.5); Remake (94.1)
$3: Fishing Village (97.4); Ambassador (95.5); Menagerie (92.5)
$2: Hamlet (91.1)

Yes, Virginia, half of my top ten is from Cornucopia.  That whole expansion just immediately clicked with me.  I mean, I buy Remake more than Chapel!  And no Mountebank either!  (To be fair, Mt. Bank is #11.)  And much like my "best board" the name of the game is pretty obviously a massive Goons engine where Menagerie (which, oh hey, is great against hand reduction, and with disappearing cash, Actions and trashing) can draw the whole deck with ease, though winning the early Ambassador war is probably going to be crucial.  I say probably because Remake/Fishing Village into Menageries ASAP might actually be faster at getting to Goons and churning those points, and Remake can deal with the incoming trash pretty well. While I think that winning Tournaments is nearly always crucial, Goons engines are the one situation where getting that Province just isn't as powerful.  Festival works great with all these cards, but it's mere support and the other cards are just so powerful; Border Village is normally great but I'd rather spend $6 on more Goons.

Least bought:

$6: Adventurer (10.1)
$5: Explorer (5.4); Counting House (10.1); Cache (11.6); Stash (12.1); Saboteur (12.5)
$4: Thief (3.6); Noble Brigand (6.9); Treasure Map (10.0); Bureaucrat (13.5)

Well this is a much different board!  All of the worst five $5 cards are here, and the worst $6, and some of the worst $4s too.  (Since Scout is non-terminal it gets bought more often; and I used to mistakenly think Pirate Ship wasn't so terribad).  Frankly I'm shocked Thief ended up in my deck this often; looking at buys vs. gains it appears that fully half of the times I've had a Thief it's because my opponent's Swindler hit a $4 card. :P  Bureaucrat is easily the most powerful single card in this setup, especially since Treasure Map has no enablers, so on a 4/3 open it's definitely Bureaucrat-BM for me here.  The B-crat used to be my third-least bought card but I've grown to like it a lot more lately, sometimes to my detriment (c.f. one of my matches against rspeer in the tournament) but usually not!  However, if I had a 5/2 split I'd probably open Cache instead, aiming for Cache/Counting House (I'd probably alternate buying them on $5 hands, or something like that, not sure about the best buy rules), which has pretty respectable synergy.

15
Puzzles and Challenges / Exception to the rule, Part 3
« on: November 30, 2011, 08:01:53 pm »
This one's probably more subjective than most puzzles here (though I have a couple ideas); it's more of a thought experiment I guess.

It's a pretty well established rule among folks with some knowledge of Dominion strategy that it is never a good idea to make (vanilla) Village one of your opening buys.  When is this not the case?

16
Game Reports / Bureaucrat? Bureaucrat!
« on: November 22, 2011, 07:06:20 pm »
So, one of the sub rosa themes that a lot of us have noticed from Hinterlands is the re-emergence of Silver-based strategies.  Jack, Stables, Trader, Embassy, etc: all of these cards and more have made that most boring of cards both more interesting and important, pushing us beyond Beyond Silver.  So it comes as no surprise that Silver-based cards from earlier sets, which were once justly mocked for their inability to sustain the combos and chaining necessary to win against decks based around Prosperity, or Cornucopia, or really anything since Seaside, are getting a serious re-evaluation.

In short, I've been buying Bureaucrat a bunch these days.  Not all the time, not even half of the time, but way more often.  And it's been working out pretty well!  Here are some examples:

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20111121-235335-4c76ba4a.html

This is a pretty damn boring board, with no Villages, no trashing and the only other attack being Noble Brigand, so it's not surprising that some sort of BM is going to win.  I went heavy Oasis rather than Silver on the grounds that the B-crat would let me start greening faster, and I could just discard Victory cards to the Oasis while getting the 'crat back faster.  I ended up not greening as fast as I thought I would, and it ended up a tie.  This is probably the least impressive example here.


http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20111121-221809-b72c7d8d.html

I'm not the only one who has rediscovered the power of the Bureaucrat, as Obi Wan Bonogi opens with one too!  The Bureaucrat was more useful for boosting my own economy, while the Fortune Teller (yes, I opened those two terminals and won) was more for the attack.  If you're lucky enough to draw the Fortune Teller the turn before the Bureaucrat, then it's a guaranteed hit, which is nice.  Loan was a complete dud, and it's also worth noting that this is a relatively bad board for Menagerie, and yet we both bought some and had it it a couple times.  I think Obi's 7 Menageries were overkill, but one or two was useful as a possible B-crat counter (mine hit twice), and it's not like you needed more Silver here. 


http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20111116-162335-ef609a89.html

Even before Hinterlands, I still sometimes bought Bureaucrat as an enabler for hybrid Gardens strategies, which is pretty much what this game was.  I generally would only get a second Bureaucrat if Gardens or Dukes are around, and they were here, not worth rushing but great as cheap Duchies.  Horn of Plenty was also good support, picking up stuff like Gold and Gardens.  Also worth noting: Oracle's pretty good with money too.


http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20111116-123304-8afe13dc.html

Who says Bureaucrat can't be used in engine decks?  This is probably my best example, as both the attack and Silver gain are REALLY USEFUL in Chapel games: it forces your opponent to trash slower, and lets you build your economy faster, junking Coppers with impunity and buying engine parts instead of money.  And, of course, Border Village/Rabble is exactly the sort of engine that improves Bureaucrat's attack!

17
Council Room Feedback / One of these things doesn't fit
« on: November 02, 2011, 07:34:00 pm »
http://councilroom.com/win_rate_diff_accum.html?cards=Cards%3D%3D3

I didn't know Noble Brigand drew three cards!

18
Dominion Articles / Updating the Top 5 lists
« on: November 01, 2011, 04:24:49 pm »
Now that we have a bit of experience with Hinterlands, it might be interesting to revisit the Top 5 lists that were featured on the site earlier this year, and see if any Hinterlands cards deserve to be Best or Worst at their price points.  I suppose we could talk about Cornucopia again as well, since most of those lists predate Cornucopia's release.  Might as well give my thoughts first.

The $2s
From Cornucopia, Hamlet obviously deserves a spot on the Best list; I don't think Hinterlands' shiny new trap cards change its placement at #2 behind only Chapel there.  Cheap, flexible, and combo-licious.

The Hinterlands cards are trickier.  As much as Crossroads is not half as good as it looks, it may still squeak onto the Top 5 on the strength of $2 cards generally having puny effects to go with their puny price.  It probably edges Native Village out of the Honorable Mention spot? Remember that I'd still also like to find space for Lighthouse.  I'd also definitely put Duchess on the Worst list, in fact I think it just might edge out Secret Chamber and Pearl Diver to claim the #1 spot.  If Pearl Diver is mainly an exercise in "just how weak and inconsequential we can make a cantrip", Duchess does the same thing for terminal silver.  I guess it's sometimes worth picking up with a Duchy in lumpy, Action-light decks, but its presence has virtually no potential to change whatever strategy the other nine cards present.  While Fool's Gold is also usually a pretty bad card, it actually does have potential to reshape and dominate strategies on favorable boards, and in recognition of that I'd probably keep it just above the Worst list.

The $3s
Cornucopia comes through with another top card: Menagerie is for sure neck-and-neck with Fishing Village for the #3 spot behind Ambassador and Masquerade.  Fortune Teller is weak but not weak enough to make the Worst list; it's better than several cards which missed the Worst list first time around, like Smugglers and Black Market.

There is one Hinterlands card that I would definitely put on these lists: Develop is IMO the very worst $3 card in the game.  Yes, really!  I get that it can have combo potential; I was even beaten by Develop once or twice.  But it takes Hinterlands' trickiness and difficulty-to-play to an absolute extreme.  It's so slow on Coppers and Estates, try it on a $3 and you'll end up top-decking Estates after a while, try it on a good card and maybe you're building your engine more but at the expense of losing a good card that you could have played for advantage this turn.  In short, there are so many ways to play this card poorly, and so few ways to play it well; it's also very slow in a set that mostly rewards fast BM strategies.  I feel that I'm not experienced or good enough to play Develop well, so I just avoid it and that works out well most of the time.  Given how many games I've played, I think that's a damning indictment of the card.  The other Hinterlands cards probably don't make any lists: Oracle is about on par with Fortune Teller, weak but not weak enough.  Tunnel is actually quite good, as it's becoming rarer and rarer to find setups where you can't leverage its Reaction ability to get piles of Gold (Embassy and Cartographer are two of my favorite ways to do this), so I'd consider it for the Best list, but competition is stiff, as the top 4 are pretty much set in stone and we haven't even made room for Steward yet.

The $4s
Okay, the $4s need a total rehaul.  The Best list should be dominated by new cards, as Remake, Tournament, and Jack of All Trades are simply miles better than anything we'd seen before at that price point.  Remake is an elite trasher, Tournament is Tournament, and JoaT is my new most hated card in the game for the manner in which it creates a lightning-fast and super-resilient BM deck, at least in Province matches- it actually does what people erroneously thought Envoy did.  They have to be the new Top 3, in some order.

The worst $4s also need a total rehaul, not so much because new cards have replaced old slots but because the original list was by far the weakest we've seen: no way Ironworks and Cutpurse belong anywhere near the bottom when the utter stinkers Coppersmith, Pirate Ship, and Scout were ignored, and Thief isn't "honorable mention" it's the worst card in the game at any price.  There is one addition I would make, though:  for all people were saying Noble Brigand was supposed to be a strictly better Thief, turns out it's also incredibly weak.  It does have the obnoxious potential to force a crippling 3/2 open if you buy it Turn 1 and get really lucky, but that's pretty much it for NB's power given how often the attack just fizzles, or oh no it takes a Silver which just doesn't hurt that much.  I'd find room for it near the bottom, along with Thief, Pirate Ship, Scout, Treasure Map, and I dunno, maybe Bureaucrat or Talisman or Coppersmith can take Honorable Mention.

The $5s
Theory originally made three lists here, so I'll keep with the split of attacks and non-attacks.  There are two new $5 attacks to consider, both of which are better than Rabble and worse than the already-existent power Top 5.  I'd give Margrave the edge over Jester for the privilege of Honorable Mention; its attack is weaker than Militia or Torturer for sure, but the +Buy is a pretty powerful incentive to go engine-building.  Getting the Council Room-Militia combo in one card is nice.

For the best non-attacks, Cornucopia's Hunting Party stands alone.  Like, #1 better than Wharf alone.  Like, good enough to crack a combined Top 5 list despite the power Attacks.  I don't think I'd quite put any of Hinterlands' $5 cards on the Top Non-Attacks list, but Stables and Cartographer have to come close.  Stables is, obviously, a strong Lab variant which gives you better cycling power at the expense of absolutely forcing a Treasure-heavy deck.  (The net +Cards is the same as Lab, remember).  Cartographer, obviously, blows Navigator out of the water; it is a great addition to virtually every single kind of deck, whether it be Action-heavy or BM.  Embassy is also nice; interesting that giving Silver is usually a nerf but can sometimes make it even stronger!

One other thing to consider with this list: does Ill-Gotten Gains count as an Attack for our purposes?  It gives Curses, so it's obviously getting bought with Attacking intent, but it doesn't say "Attack" on it.  It seems to be a strong card that forces really weird games if you rush it, and I sure don't yet have a handle on how to play it well.  Maybe it would make a Best of list, but can you really justify losing cards like Vault or Apprentice?

As for the worst $5s, I would definitely consider making room for both Mandarin and Cache: obviously they're useful sometimes, all $5 cards are, but those times are just so rare.  My sense is that Mandarin is a good buy about as often as your opponent's Ghost Ship actually helps you: the on-gain effect is supposed to be its big plus, but frankly it's usually a detriment.  And none of the terminal-treasure-no-other-bonus cards are that great, look at the mediocre Harvest and Merchant Ship.  The stats seem to be bearing out my intuition that Cache is sub-Contraband-level bad: people don't buy it, and they lose when they do.  My sense is that the Coppers are usually a big penalty, and on the rare occasions where they're good to have, then chances are you bought Cache because you screwed up: for example, you went Spice Merchant-Stables and need more fuel, probably shoulda just skipped the Merchant.  Or hey, Cache is a great defense against Noble Brigand, woo I'm so excited.  Cache is now my third least-bought card after Thief and Explorer, and I honestly can't point to a single game where I didn't get it, but wish I had bought one.


The $6-plusses
I've said it before, I'll say it again, I'm a broken record: Harem and Nobles ought to be switched. :P  Other than that, Border Village is a great card, IMO the second-best Village, and probably deserves Honorable Mention on the Best list, kicking off Harem (should have been Nobles, there I go again).  As for the worst list, I'd put Farmland somewhere on there; it's not a bad card but the competition is so stiff at this price point.  The requirement that Farmland's insta-Remodel effect be exactly two makes it a lot less flexible and difficult to play. Guess I'd put it at third, worse than all but Adventurer and… Harem.

19
Game Reports / Let's give Chancellor some love
« on: September 21, 2011, 07:26:37 pm »
Chancellor is one of the most unloved cards in Dominion.  It's bought less than any other Kingdom card on Isotropic, a mere 13 percent of the time, only Diadem is picked up less often and Prizes don't count.  It's a terminal silver with an ability that looks like it takes an expert to use well, but even experts don't like it much, as evidenced by its #1 spot in the Worst $3 Cards list. And even as I've tried to defend it from time to time, I have to admit it is in fact one of the weakest cards around, more or less completely silly in the presence of good trashing, and prone to providing not much help.

But surely we can find examples of Chancellor working?  Surely there are boards beyond just the Chancellor/Stash combo where going for Chancellor is worth it, where it actually provides that early tempo boost that helps you win?  Let's see some examples.

I'll start with a game from a couple days ago: http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20110919-225154-6ecb98d6.html

My thinking was: hey, Mountebank is the key card here, and Cities will be nice since the Curses are probably running out.  And there's not much trashing.  So hey, pick up a Chancellor for the early tempo boost and try to exploit the variance.  My first Chancellor doesn't do much, as it falls on Turn 4.  But then it comes up on Turn 5, right after the reshuffle, and I go Mint instead of Gold for the one-shot trashing (important with Mountebank!).  Turn 9 is also a good example of Chancellor working out, and I absolutely credit the use of these two normally-substandard cards, Chancellor and Mint, with giving me the tempo advantage necessary to grab most of the Cities, and the game's only Colony.

...

So.  When have you all used Chancellor to good effect?

20
Game Reports / Fun with Outpost
« on: September 17, 2011, 12:27:22 am »
http://dominion.isotropic.org/gamelog/201109/16/game-20110916-211851-23e28f70.html

Just finished this game.  Not the most interesting match (heavy-duty Conspirator vs. light-duty Conspirator with money), except perhaps for my two Outpost turns.  First one was a total whiff, and is a good example of why Outpost is normally crap.

Second one, I thought was a total whiff for a second, then I stopped being silly and realized how lucky (in an amusing and unexpected way) it actually was. 

21
Dominion Articles / Combo: Fortune Teller/Jester
« on: June 21, 2011, 10:21:13 am »
Even the "bad" cards in Cornucopia have their moments in the sun.  Fortune Teller is probably the worst card in Cornucopia, a slightly-improved Bureaucrat variant which, in the midgame of any set with trashing, is often going to be just like playing Chancellor and giving your opponent the benefit (or, worse, letting him/her topdeck a Nobles).  Jester isn't nearly as bad, but it pales in comparison with all the other non-Saboteur $5 attacks- spending $5 for a terminal Silver that spends a lot of its time just giving your opponents a Copper is often not worth it.  However!  When combined with +Actions, together they become a nasty late-game source of Curses.  As soon as your opponent starts laying into the Provinces, play Fortune Teller to put one on top of their deck, then use Jester to hand them a Curse. 

http://councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20110617-124713-f29fa5fd.html

This sample game is both a good example of Fortune Teller/Jester (in fact it's what inspired me to write this post), as well as a cautionary tale of why unsupported Fortune Teller can be so weak- see turn 7 for an example of the Fortune Teller playing the role of reverse-Chancellor (granted, I was lucky to have my one remaining Estate in hand).  Remake, Scrying Pools, and Fishing Villages all feature in both our decks as well, and bolster the combo- the presence of the strong but potion-costing Pools, and lack of +Buy, make Jester a better investment than usual even without Fortune Teller.  Here, my opponent gets the first Province, but is subsequently slowed down by Curses, while his Jesters harmlessly discard Fishing Villages after the stack is emptied.

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