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Dominion Articles / Montebank Article Request
« on: February 08, 2014, 04:52:09 pm »
Montebank is a card so awesome everyone thinks its obvious: buy one asap, probably several. However, if you look at the wiki site, there is obvious evidence that people DO NOT understand Montebank as well as they think:

"The fact that the attack can be blocked by discarding a Curse leads Mountebank to be more of a self-limiting card than other straight-up cursers like Witch, Sea Hag, or Familiar. It also, however, makes it more of a swingy card. This has several interesting effects and interactions. A 5/2 opening is not quite as an overwhelming advantage with Mountebank as with Witch, although it still provides an advantage--this is because a lead in cursing is more likely to equalize after both players get Mountebanks and play them slightly. It is also not as advantageous to buy multiple Mountebanks as it is to buy multiple copies of other cursers."

This paragraph is utterly false. Three things about mountebank games:
- Two pieces of junk is devastating - so first person to mountebank often wins, and 5/2 is nigh unbeatable.
- In most cases it is even MORE important than with witch to play mountebank often.
- The games are SO slow because of so much junk, and you aren't guaranteed for curses to run out.

With witch, if you buy two witches and your opponent buys three, they might only beat you 6/4 on the split at best. But with mountebank, the game crawls forward after each person gets hit about twice. But at this point there are still 12+ pieces of junk to hand out! Even if you only hit every other time, or every third time, its STILL worth it to play it often. If you can play mountebank multiple times a turn, its even better. But even without villages, I rarely want less than three Mountebanks, unless I have some way to play them more often, like with HP.

You really need to play for the long game with Mountebank because the game is so slow.

I also think that people don't realize that Mountebank is SO powerful, it often makes sense to play into defenses: ambassador, lighthouse, etc. Not all of the time of course, but way more than other cursers, because when it hits, its so devastating.

So I don't have time for full article, but I'd be interested in if anyone has any other thoughts .

Dominion Articles / Article Request: Knights
« on: February 13, 2013, 02:34:33 pm »
So I've only had a few games with knights: the first few were IRL and Dark Ages only. Many of these games had Rats or Fortress, and both of these are very effective counters to knights. Beggar is also passable in some cases. I played some other games without good engine potential, and once again knights was lackluster, as one might expect.

Then I played a game with no obvious defense, where Throne Room, Laboratory, and knights were all in the kingdom. After buying one province, a few throne roomed knights left him without anything useful in his deck. It seems like a deck that can play multiple knights a turn is really tough to beat. Its like a much better saboteur: it gives other benefit, and there is no "replacement" so 3 piling is harder.

It didn't seem like gaining lots of extra junk in your deck was that effective at stemming the onslaught. Having 2 cost engine pieces does seem to help (squire/native-village/hamlet). Am I right in my assessment though that if an engine is on the board with the knight, and no obvious defense, the game should be defined by the knight battle?

I'm not ready to write an article, but I'm starting to think more about this card.


Game Reports / Beating Margrave/Crossroads Opening
« on: January 08, 2013, 03:21:11 pm »
This game illustrates 2 things:
A. Facing a margrave/crossroads opening is a tremendous beating. I wasn't able to get to 5 until turn 8, all while making a concerted effort to do so.
B. You must attack your opponent every way possible.

The important cards were margrave, crossroads, masq and spice merchant.

I was mostly proud of myself for not giving up while taking a beating. I kept buying silver, and trashing things with masq and spice merchant. I was able to win because my opponent did not realize how strong margrave+masq is, as it effectively brings you down to only 2 useful cards in hand. As soon as I bought a margrave, I was doing this every turn. Had he bought a masq when he bought a spice merchant, there is probably no way I could have won.

I think perhaps he thought there was no way I could come back, and so started buying provinces  early.

Maybe nothing so surprising to this game, but it felt good to fight it out.

Dominion Articles / Bishop
« on: November 16, 2012, 07:49:46 pm »
I just realized that bishop had not been written about in some time, and that I was winning a lot with bishop. So I thought I'd share some insights. So here it is, let me know what you think:

Bishop is a high skill card. Sometimes it is a must buy card, and sometimes it is nearly useless, and it is often tricky to figure out if you should buy bishop, and when. Usually you DO want bishop: unless there are no villages and there are other desirable terminals, having a bishop mid/late game is almost always good, as it can give you control of the game. Cannibalizing a gold on the same turn as buying a province is often a winning move.

When don't you want bishop? I would say there are 3 rough cases:
  • There are no villages, and there are stronger terminals, particularly terminal draw. Without extra cards and actions, you are less likely to be able to match up cards you want to trash with your bishop late-game, and the loss of economy hurts more. Also, getting rid of starting estates is very nice for the terminal draw player.
  • Very fast, strong combos: If the game is about playing KC on bridges, or about playing multiple Goons together, a couple of extra points from Bishop probably won't matter, and you should just focus on comboing as quickly as possible, using your opponent's Bishop to your advantage.
  • Cursers: if you are cursing an opponent, it is often counterproductive to give them the opportunity to trash those curses, especially early in the game. Exceptions to this do occur, as occasionally a game can get drawn out by curses to the point that its worth it to snag those extra VP from Bishop, eventually. Figuring out when to buy bishops in this case is quite subtle.

When do you want to buy bishop? Something counter-intuitive about bishop is that it is usually NOT an good early game trasher. Yes, I'll say it, opening with bishop is often bad (exceptions discussed below). Early game, bishop has two big things working against it: First, it only gives you $1, which can strongly hamper your ability to buy $5 and $6 cards. Second, [it gives your opponent just as much trashing as it gives you]. In fact, its a little better for your opponent, because they have 5 cards to choose from, and you only have 4. So the trashing is basically a wash, and you should not consider this an advantage. In other words, early game you can view bishop as a card that gives you only $1,+2VP when you draw it with an estate, and $0,+1VP when you draw it with a copper and no estate. This is TERRIBLE.

Bishop is still great, but it is a trasher you usually want to buy mid or late game. This is especially true in engine games, where the free trashing is even more useful to your opponent than it is to you. As the game, goes on, bishop's benefit to your opponent steadily decreases. I often buy it the first $4 I get after turn 3. As they buy more stuff, and perhaps trash cards, there is a greater chance they will have nothing to trash. And even trashing copper is painful sometime midgame, as it can keep you from buying critical cards. However, in engine games bishop is still useful to YOU in the midgame as a trasher, as you are drawing a large selection of cards. You can even trash junk that was useful early game, but is less useful now, like spice merchant or potion, and it will give you a very nice VP boost.

Obviously, bishop is good with the cards any trash-for-benifit card is: peddler, boarder village, haggler, hoard, these all shine with bishop, especially the first three, as they are easily incorporated into engine decks. Even less flashy ways of gaining cards such as ironworks or even talisman can be used to gain bishop fodder in a tight deck. Good dark ages combos include Rats and Market Square and Fortress. Specific interactions that HURT bishop include "draw up to X" cards. For example, Jack of All Trades can allow the jack player to trash a card, and still draw back up to 5, and likely draw an even better card than they started with.

What makes bishop unique, like goons, is that it can be used to gain a large amount of points without putting green into your deck. So while it can be used to canibalize your deck and get a last minute VP boost, it can also be used to create a very slim deck, often called the "Golden Deck". The cannonical golden deck is one gold, two silver, a bishop and a province. If you get to this point, you can trash a province and buy a province every turn, gaining 5 VP and drawing the same 5 card hand. This may not be as sexy as gaining 150 points with Goons, but in many games this is very strong. However, getting to the "golden deck" is slow in many games. The best start for the golden deck is bishop/chapel. There are other circumstances where you can get to the golden deck, but few others where I would force it. Just keep in mind that if your deck is getting really small, it is an option.

A few comments about the "golden deck". First is that once you go for it, you are basically stuck, so you better be sure its the strongest strategy. You are limited to 5 VP per turn, so strong engines that can buy multiple provinces a turn WILL likely beat you. Second is that there are often stronger variations on the golden deck, for example, I played a game where I bought border villages, gaining markets, while my opponent went for the canonical golden deck. While they got the early lead, at some point I was able to play two bishops per turn, trashing two BV/gold, and buy two replacements. I was able to avoid buying victory cards to stretch out the game, which is another strategy available with bishop that you want to take advantage of if you know you can win the long game. Fortress produces a super-powered alternate "golden deck", with four bishops and four fortresses in your deck, you can snag 12 VP per turn, every turn, with no luck involved, by repeatedly trashing the same fortress.

Works with:
- chapel
- border village, farmland
- gainers: hoard, market square, rats, ironworks, tunnel, etc
- fortress
- engines

Doesn't work with:
- opponents "draw to X" cards (Jack, Watchtower, Library)
- very strong combos which generate more VP (goons, bridge combos)
- opening (in many games)
- curses or ruins
- the golden deck does not work against strong engines

Dark Ages Previews / Rules FAQ.
« on: August 16, 2012, 08:39:20 pm »
Hi All,

Is there a place we can find the rules faq online? I've ordered my copy, but I'm impatient.

In related news: how exactly does ambassador work with ruins (or knight)? Presumably you can return your "abandoned mine(s)", but what happens then? Do 0, 1 or all other players gain a ruins?

Dominion General Discussion / Thank you to dougz and isotropic.
« on: August 14, 2012, 08:00:08 pm »
There has been a lot of complaining about the move over to fun sockets. While I am optimistic that fun dominion play will go on, I think there has been an aspect of this anxiety that has been overlooked. The community built on isotropic+dominionstrategy+councilroom (plus the sims too) is awesome, and most of the complaining comes from how good this community is, and anxiety that it will change. I think that community will change a bit, but ultimately still be pretty awesome, and continue to grow.

However, that argument is not the point of this thread. Rather, its to thank the people involved in this community: particularly dougz, theory, and of course Donald X. Vaccarino. How cool is it that a game designer is so involved in the community and let us have years of online dominion without seeing a penny. How cool is it that people are willing to host servers, write elaborate code, and write strategy articles, all for such an awesome game, and for no profit.

So Lets say thank you, to all the people who have made this community awesome.

Dominion Articles / Engine Building 201
« on: July 31, 2012, 04:42:55 pm »
Note: This is a rough draft. I'd love comments on this. I'm glad more dialogue is happening lately on engine building.

Engine Building 201

For all the articles written about big money, how often do you play something big-money-ish? Maybe 30%? Less? So lets talk about engine building, because that's what you are going to be doing in roughly 70% of your dominion games. We talk about BM alot because its easy to talk about. Talking about engines is harder because the situations vary so much, but there are general principles that apply to all engine building. Geronimoo also wrote an excellent article on this topic just recently, using the "starting kingdom" as an example:

When building an engine, you want to develop the following three things: threats, consistency and economy. This is also roughly the order you want to prioritize the three. Note that these are not mutually exclusive categories, for example, buying a laboratory can be considered as improving all three axes.


Attacking your opponent is really about denial of resources. Obviously the best and most effective way to do this is with cursers or ambassadors. Indeed the stronger the "attack", the more important it is to focus on this aspect of the game and "win the war". However, any time you have an opportunity to deny resources to your opponent, you should take it. It is important when attacking your oppenent to identify what they need. Your opponent opens potion? Embargo the alchemists. Your opponent has lots of silver in his deck from trader? Maybe you want to play margrave every turn to deny him provinces. Is your opponent building a +actions/+draw chain, and he has already bought a few torturers? Maybe you want to buy out all the hamlets before he can start effectively chaining them. Competing over a key card is a very important part of resource denial, and its important to identify the "lynchpin" resources, whether that is because they are just awesome (wharf), or because they perhaps provide something important for the board, such as a +buy or +actions.


Consistency is about minimizing shuffle luck. The easiest way to do this is with a good trashing, such as remodel, upgrade, or chapel. When you are building an engine, even mediocre trashing such as lookout or remodel can be very useful(though you probably want to avoid develop in most circumstances). You don't need trashing to have consistency though, filtering (warehouse, cellar, cartographer) can either substitute if trashing is not available, or supliment, as its useful in many cases to filter out victory cards even in a "tight" deck. There are a few other odd cards that seek out specific cards, such as golem and hunting party, that can simulate a small deck as well. Finally, you don't neccessarily need a small deck for consistency if you draw nearly all of it, whether that is with tactician, wharf, or some other means. However you do it minimizing turns where you draw copperx2,estate, and two smithies is important.

Economy seems like an obvious part of building a deck, but its important to realize what are the long and short term goals for your economy. In the short term are you aiming to buy border village+torturer, or caravans? In the long term are you aiming for 1 province a turn because there's no extra buys, or do you have a plan to gain multiple provinces a turn by remodeling minted golds? In engines you are often being greedy: you want to trash down, draw cards, gain money, actions, +buys, all while attacking your oppoent. Because of this, cards that gain you other engine pieces (remake, horn of plenty, haggler, university), or build your economy quickly (hoard, mint), are an important part of building up either during or after the process of trashing down.

Winning the Game

Okay, so these are the basics of building an engine: attacking your opponents resources, making your deck consistent, and building your economy. So how do you actually win the game? I think one of the best ways is to think about how the end of the game might look, and build your deck with that endgame in mind. WanderingWinder wrote a great article about this idea: Generally speaking, games are won or lost for the following reasons: winning a resource battle, better engine choices, or in close games, managing to edge out a victory by piling out or just barely buying the last two provinces. "Attacking" has already been discussed somewhat, although it cannot be stressed how important it is to find weaknesses in your opponents strategy, and exploit them. Lets discuss the other two ways of winning the game.


Making better engine choices than your opponent means not building your engine in a box, but building based on the cards available AND the choices your oppoents make. The most important consideration is
pacing, or "how long is this game going to be". For instance, if Jack is on the board, and your opponent is buys one, you know you have about 14/15 turns till half the provinces will be gone. In that case, going for alchemist might be a bad idea, where as a faster engine like hunting party + X might be okay, especially if X is something spicy like baron or an attack or monument.

Lets take a sample game to look at the opposite end of the spectrum: Both Sea Hag and Young Witch were available, with Steward as the bane. Other relevant cards include hamlet, rabble, mint and alchemist. I had a suboptimal 5/2 start and decided to open steward/hamlet, to my opponents Hag/Steward. I know at that point that the game is going to be a slog, and even moreso when my oppoent buys a second hag. Instead of joining the curse battle (which I would have lost), I bought a second steward to keep my deck slim, and bought alchmists, which were fantastic in such a slow game, and allowed me to win, along with my minted gold economy.

In fact this is a good time to mention a learning experience of mine when I started playing dominion. I learned early on that cursers make it harder to build engines... which is true. And that buying trashers just to get rid of curses was a bad a idea... which is true. Except that if reasonably strong trashing is present,
and a reasonably good engine is present, neither of these statements are really true at all. In fact, cursers slow the game down so that your engine can have time to build up, and once your engine does start up, it often helps you play your attacks more often. Witch + chapel is good, but witch + chapel + laboratories is even better.

Getting back to pacing, two specific things that can change things are alternate victory cards, and piles that are likely to run out, such as caravans, fishing villages, or minions. In both of these cases, it is important to update your sense of pacing as the game goes on. If your opponent doesn't buy any caravans, they are less likely to run out, or if your opponent is trashing, they probably aren't going to be buying gardens.


Finally, the final way you can win is by just sneaking by your opponent to buy the last two provinces, or buy emptying the estates to three pile. It is important if you think a game is going to be close for you to build your deck with "reach". That is, make sure you have the economy and the +buys to grab multiple victory cards. Perhaps if the game is going to end on piles, you might want to buy an ironworks or a horn of plenty so that you better control when those piles empty out. Multiple hagglers and +buys is an excellent example of this: even though they don't get you victory cards, this combination can often give you the power to say buy the last four islands and at the same time completely clear out another pile. The following was a game where reach was critical: It featured highway, bridge, horn of plenty, and no trashing. If my opponent had a one more buy he could have won outright instead of tied. Though it didn't quite come together for me, I was trying to focus on reach, with my horn and the extra bridges, while my opponent was focusing a bit more on consistency by focusing on highways and GMs. It was my thought that I could get one big turn, convert my horn into a province and empty and pile or two. It always hard in these situations to be sure what the right way to play is, but you should always have a plan. Of course one should pay attention to how much "reach" your opponent has as well.


In summary, building an engine is much more complex than simple big money games, but there are general principles you can apply. Attack your opponents resources, find ways to make your deck consistently "fire", and make specific goals for your short term and long term economy needs. As you do this pay attention to how you are going to win the game: "pacing" should strongly impact engine choices as well as when to buy victory cards, and "reach" is critically important, particularly in close or fast paced games.

Game Reports / Bishop + Border Village beats the Golden Deck
« on: July 12, 2012, 11:39:22 am »
So I played an excellent game with julie recently:

The key parts of the board were bishop, chapel, border village and market, nothing else was so relevent, though I used crossroads once near the end with an extra buy.

I felt good about this game for the following reasons:
- it was probably the first time I won against a 40+ opponent
- I correctly surmised that trashing border villages could beat trashing provinces here in the end game, because though it gets one less point per trash, your deck can get progressively better as you gain more markets. With such a small deck this is a big effect, and because you are not buying provinces, you have time to catch up to the other player, eventually with multiple buys/bishop-trashes.

I would like your comments on the following decisions:

I did not buy chapel: I figured buying chapel was more risky if my trashers collided, and I only needed to get up to six consistently and then things would come together. If my opponent had not opened with bishop, I would have definitely opened chapel. Was I correct?

I did not ever buy gold: it just never seemed like there was a right time.

Finally, I think I should have never bought a province till the very end, as my deck would have been stronger if I got to the point where I could buy multiple border villages in a single turn. I was winning the long game so I should have drawn it out.

I was careful not to buy too many non-cantrips, I never wanted to draw bishop-bishop-silver-crossroads-crossroads, with the rest of my markets still in my deck.

Any other comments?

Dominion Articles / Trader
« on: June 14, 2012, 02:18:06 pm »
Hi all, this is my first attempt at an article. I am I level 30 player, I love dominion and I think my strategic grasp of the game is decent. I've really appreciated these forums as a place to think about interesting strategies.

I would love any feedback about Trader, I think it is an interesting card that is rarely discussed. When is Trader good enough to convince you not to buy a curser, for instance? Interestingly, Trader's silver giving ability dilutes the density of the Traders themselves, making sneaking curses in easier than one might expect.


Trader is a strange card. Typically trashers are most useful in engine decks, where getting rid of estates and coppers will lead to drawing your combo pieces together. However, Trader is somewhere between mediocre and awful in these cases, as it only trashes one card, and the silvers you gain can be nearly as unwanted. Trader should NOT be thought of as a trasher, but as a way to flood your deck with silver. Who wants tons of silver? Money decks and only money decks.

The obvious place to use trader is in cursing games, as it is a clear case of a reaction that can actively punish your opponent for their cruel ways. It is important to realize that if you are attempting to beat cursers with trader, that flooding your deck with silver can be as important as the reaction ability. This leads to the second use of trader, which is in slow alternate victory card games, particularly Duke or Gardens. Duke/Trader plays as well as Duke/Horse-Trader. You buy two or three Traders on early turns, trash your estates, silvers, traders, and maybe a gold or even a province to flood your deck with silvers, so that all that victory chaff doesn't matter. Its important to note that terminal collision is not a big problem, as you can trash Trader to Trader. Since all you need is two silvers and a copper to buy duke/duchy, you should be golden.

The final place case where Trader can shine is with cards that give on-buy benifit, such as Border Village, Ill-Gotten Gains, etc. Its important to note that unlike more flexible "trash for benifit" options like remodel, you have to actually WANT lots of silver for this to be worthwhile.

It is difficult to provide stats on trader, as the simulators do not model it well AT ALL, as it is difficult to play correctly. Sometimes you want to trash silver or gold early to build up more silver, but when to skip this in order to buy something expensive is case dependent.

For this reason it is difficult to rank how different strategies rate against Trader. Trader-only stragies beat Sea Hag and Familiar consistently, as both of those cards are slow and provide little other benefit than cursing. With the strongest cursers -- Witch and Montebank, the games are a close slog, and I suspect Trader-Silver leading into eventually 2 cursers may be optimal. Interestingly, Trader's silver giving ability dilutes the density of the Traders themselves, making sneaking curses in easier than one might expect. Try to track your opponents Traders - if its turn five and they haven't played it, you may want to skip playing your Montebank if you can afford it. This is even more true with IGG-Trader boards, where you will typically want to buy something other than IGG if your opponent may have a Trader. IGG/Trader is very good for similar reasons as Duke/Trader. Here is a good example of a game featuring all three, and me trying to dance around my opponents Trader In general, Trader loves Duchies, and you can start buying them earlier than usual because of all that silver. Conversely, Trader hates Colonies, as it dilutes the density of those golds and plats that you need to by your Colonies.

The final use of Trader is in BM without any curses or interesting green cards. In this case is works like a much weaker Jack, trashing your estates and giving you silver, but not providing you the full 5 cards that Jack gives you to work with. For this reason, it is rarely the strongest BM option. Trader-Silver into a draw card like smithy is passable but swingy, as you really need to draw estates with your trader for it to be a worthwhile purchase.

This brings us to my biggest discovery during writing this article. Opening Trader+Courtyard is awesome. Much better than courtyard alone. Courtyard allows you to match up your Trader with your estates much more consistently, and its nice to be able to buy an extra courtyard if you have 2 left after Trader-ing. Playing solitaire, it can consistently get 4 provinces in 12-13 turns, with a lot of staying power due to all the silver in the deck. Courtyard-Jack works in a similar way and produces similar results, but you already knew Jack was good.

Other little combos with Trader include things that give you more copper, or more buys. Margrave+Trader is passible, as you can use your extra buy to get a silver in the case of terminal collusion. It gets 4 provinces in about 15 turns, with a lot of variance, mostly due to Trader hooking up with estates or not. Cache can be good if you are lucky enough to get Trader+$5. Finally, Wishing well can help you get Trader+Estate, and can be very likely to pick up extra silver later. Most of these last tricks are probably not enough to make you want to go trader by themself, but you should keep your eye out for them if other conditions are good for Trader.

As a final note, rare occasions do occur where you have an engine and are drawing your deck consistently, but you need more money. You risk killing your your combo in the long term, but you can use Trader provide yourself with a lot of money quickly, either with multiple buys or trashing.

Works with:
Cursing Games (especially slow ones like Familiar)
Ill-Gotten Gains
Alternate Victory Cards (Duke and Garden Especially)
Trashable cards (boarder village)
Cache, Wishing Well, Margrave, and extra-buys in general

Conflicts with:
Engine Games
Games where you need a "key" card like Tournament
Stronger Big Money Options
Colony games

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