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Hearthstone / The GvG arena meta shift
« on: January 16, 2015, 12:48:43 pm »
This started out as a post in Arena Genereal, but then I decided it was long enough that it warranted its own thread. I then, of course, made it longer, but I hope it's worth reading.

Arena Pre-GvG

Before GvG, the game was something like this:
1. Pick Rogue, Mage, Druid, or Paladin -- Warrior if you must
2. Draft good class cards and lots of Raptors.
3. Don't make dumb plays.
4. Profit.

It really was that simple. Just doing that probably got you 80% of the way to optimal play.

Basically, the idea is that if you win the first 4 turns, most of the time you're going to win the game. Of course, there can be some major swings late in the game with the strong class cards, but assuming you have similar deck quality, having the upper hand after turn 4 went a long way toward securing the win. If you had the tempo advantage when you threw out your first good big guy (like Merc or Spectral), your opponent was going to have a hell of a time dealing with it, much less overcoming the inital tempo disadvantage.

So how do you win the first 4 turns? Mostly by having enough Raptors. If on any of the first 3 turns you could play a 2-drop while your opponent couldn't, you'd be ahead. And if they didn't have a game-swinging 3-4 drop (Senjin, Yeti, Crusader, Harvest Golem, Twilight Drake, or class stuff like Truesilver, Death's Bite, Water Ele, Multi-shot, Frothing, Unbound...), you really had your back to the wall. And there were only 4 neutral commons that fit this bill-- Sen'jin, Yeti, Crusader, Harvest Golem. Raptors could trade up with 3-health 3-drops, and with a ping hero power could trade evenly with 4 health 4-drops.

So you wanted to have enough 2-drops that you didn't get run over early, and you really couldn't have too many Raptors since they traded pretty decently with almost anything. What did this add up to? Drafting Raptors was a pretty solid thing to be doing most of the time.

Here's a first-order approximate list of draft priorities:

1. Game-swinging 3-4 drops (Sen'jin, Yeti, Crusader, Harvest Golem, and Dwarf (which lets you trade Raptors up for Sen'jin/Yeti))

2. Top tier big guys (Boulderfist, Merc, Spectral, Tiger, Champ) to close out the game

3. Good situational/utility cards (Ooze, Cult Master, Cleric, Inventor, Spellbreaker, Farseer)

4. Good 1-drops (Chow, Infiltrator)

5. Good/decent 2-drops (Amani, Bomber, Panda, Loot, Dire Wolf, Faerie Dragon, Raptor, Bluegill, Unstable Ghoul, Creeper, Bloodsail Raider, Croc) and second-tier 5 drops (Silver Hand, Warlord), Raging Worgen

6. Third tier 4+ drops (Smith, Fen Creeper, Commando, Big Panda, Stormwind Knight, Frost Ele, War Golem) and Abusive Sergeant

7. Third tier 3-drops (Wolfrider, Acolyte, Flesheating Ghoul, Grizzly, Razorfen, Panther)

8. Weak stuff, depends on your deck.

This is only a rough outline, and there were some shifts depending on your class and what rares you end up with, but for a first-order approximation, this is pretty close to what you wanted to be doing.

Notice there are only 18 cards that were significantly better than Raptor. (Yeah Bomber is strictly better, but often just did the same thing.) That's 18 neutral commons out of 87, just over 20%!

So what changed with GvG?

1. There's way more stuff that can 2-for-1 Raptors.
2. There's way more playable 2-drops.

Shredder, Mech Yeti, Spider, and Brute all join the top tier, nearly doubling its size. Plus there are a couple rare 2/4 3-drops (Sapper, Illuminator).

The new playable 2-drops are Annoy-o-tron, Sheep, Gilbin, Mechwarper, Micro Machine, Puddlestomper, Ship's Cannon, Stonesplitter, and one per class except Warrior (if you count Glaivezooka, which isn't really a minion). That's about a 67% increase.

But the total common card pool only grew by about 23% from 103=87+16(class) to 127=109+18(class).

Between these two factors, the importance of drafting Raptors has gone way down since:
1. It's easier to win the tempo on turn 3-4 rather even if you don't on turn 2.
2. There's so many 2-drops that if you find yourself short on them, it's not hard to catch up in the last few draft picks. It's of greater relative importance to draft the better high-end cards, since there was only ONE good 5+ drop added (Force Tank).

So draft-wise, it seems you want to bump up all the decent 5+ drops. And play-wise, the game is less likely to be decided by someone failing to draw their 2-drop. With the games going longer, classes with better high-end cards (Druid, Priest) or later-game hero powers (Warlock, Priest, Shaman, Paladin) get bumps relative to the better early-game hero powers (Rogue, Mage). Also, the increase in sticky minions makes buff cards better, and thus the classes with more buffs (Paladin, Shaman, Priest).

I haven't really figured out how all the classes stack up against each other yet, or what the right draft priorities are beyond the very top, but late game seems much more important than before, and Raptor seems much more like a vanilla card than an arena dominator like it was before.

For reference, my new priorities are something like this:

1. Game swinging 3-4 drops (Shredder, Mech Yeti, Yeti, Crusader, Spider, Brute, Dwarf, Sen'jin)

2. Top tier big guys (Boulderfist, Merc, Spectral, Tiger, Champ)

3. Harvest Golem (2 attack power makes it much weaker than the new top 3-drops) and stronger situational/utility stuff (Ooze, Cult Master, Cleric, Spellbreaker -- no Inventor for reasons similar to Harvest Golem, and no Farseer since there's more stuff that straight-up kills it for 3).

4. Second-tier 5-drops (Silver Hand, Warlord)

5. 1-drops (Chow, Infiltrator)

6. 2-drops with upside (Amani, Bomber, Panda, Dire Wolf, Micro Machine, Loot), third-tier 5+ drops (Smith, Fen, Commando, Frost Ele, Tank), and Inventor and Farseer.


Hearthstone / Naxxramas cards
« on: June 19, 2014, 01:57:19 pm »
You can see all the released cards here:

The last of the class-specific cards has been revealed -- the Hunter card, Webspinner:

The Hunter card, like most of the other class cards, looks pretty good. Yet another way to make your hunter deck thinner.

Dominion League / Regarding the game reports thread and images
« on: May 28, 2014, 12:34:21 pm »
Lots of people like to use the prettifier to post their kingdoms, but I think this makes the thread really difficult to read and makes it take forever to load. It's nice for threads about a single game/kingdom, but with 6 per post, it's kind of unreasonable.

Is it possible to either:
1. Prohibit the use of the prettifier in that thread or
2. Implement the kind of spoiler where the stuff won't load until you click on the spoiler?

Game Reports / Rebuild doesn't need Duchies
« on: July 15, 2013, 12:40:29 pm »
There seem to be a lot of Rebuild games going up here, so I thought I'd post an interesting and educational one of my own. The kingdom cards are:
Crossroads, Scrying Pool, Fishing Village, Oasis, Wishing Well, Caravan, Coppersmith, Inn, Rebuild, Vault

There are a couple cards here that you might look at and think "power card": Rebuild and Scrying Pool (and maybe Vault). Scrying Pool + Vault is a great combo, but there's no +buy, and perhaps more importantly, Rebuild can probably drain enough VPs off the board that that type of engine won't have time to set up. So it looks like Rebuild has to be the "key" card to the kingdom. But how do you go about using the power of Rebuild?

I think there is some confusion about the strength of Rebuild. It is not good at scoring. It's strengh lies in its ability to shorten the game. So when you're going with Rebuilds, you want a strategy that scores fast. Sometimes this is Duchy rushing, but this not always the case!

Here, I see that Caravan, Wishing Well, and Crossroads are all good for Coppersmith, and with that assistance, Coppersmith can score pretty fast. Vault is also pretty fast, but doesn't go too well with Rebuild because the cost conflicts, and because the Rebuild decreases your hand size. So I go with Coppersmith.

Here's the log:

My opponent goes for a "standard" Rebuild+Duchy rush. After 10 turns, the Duchies are gone, and I've lost the split 6-2, but I don't care! After turn 11, the game is effectively over, and I've won. I'm up 10 points with only 3 Provinces left (I have already trashed one with Rebuild), and basically no economy in my opponent's deck. Even if he Rebuilds into the last 3 Provinces, that's only 9 points, and there's no +buy to out-Estate me. The only way for him to win is to buy a Province and gain the other two before I drain one, which can't realistically happen.

The moral of the story is that (I think) it's better to think of Rebuild as a game-accelerator, and not as a scoring card. It's non-terminal, so you can tack one on to nearly any other fast-scoring strategy and use it to close out the game before your slower-scoring opponent can catch up.

I feel like a noob posting this, but maybe there's something I don't see here. This is Seaside Adventure 1.18 vs Gentlemen Vilin. The kingdom is: Lighthouse, Chancellor, Fishing Village, Village, Woodcutter, Navigator, Smithy, Council Room, Laboratory, Merchant Ship. And Gentleman Vilin starts with a deck of 4 Coppers, 3 Silvers, an Estate and 2 Duchies. You start with 7 Coppers, 3 Curses. How are you supposed to win?

There are no attacks to slow him down, and there's Council Room which just accelerates the end of the game, which is great for him with his higher score, plus he can (and does) easily buy it right away with his starting Silver.

Challenge: Come up with the best strategy to beat Council Room BM (not optimal, just buy 1 CR then money and VP cards) with this starting deck. I feel like 5% would be amazing...

Lesser Challenge: Same thing with 2 Zaps.

Dominion Articles / Fortune Teller
« on: March 07, 2013, 01:15:35 am »
Fortune Teller is one of the more underrated attacks in the game. The problem is that itís a deck top attack, which is subtle if youíre not paying much attention (particularly online where you donít actually have to physically discard cards or click anything). You donít have to discard cards from your hand, and you donít get a big purple card in your deck to catch your attention. You may just feel like youíre getting worse draws than usual. But this isnít a matter of draw luck, itís the attack at work.

Attacks are very often the most important cards in a given kingdom. You have to be aware of the type of deck that the attacks thrive against. If your opponentís deck doesnít have much need for treasure, then treasure attacks like Thief, Pirate Ship, and Noble Brigand are not going to be useful, but if theyíre going for a high density of big treasures, then they will be. The big impact of Noble Brigand is not that it is a must-buy attack every time, but rather that it disables big money strategies, which means you have to consider building a deck to avoid it when youíre planning out your strategy.

So what does Fortune Teller do? It skips some of their cards and leaves a (usually) useless one on top of the deck. There are two key parts to the attack: the cards skipped, and the junk left. Leaving junk means that their next hand (or this one if they draw) will have at least one dead card, which is slightly less painful than having them have only a 4-card hand. This doesnít seem like much, but for decks that rely heavily on Silver and Copper, it makes it really hard to hit $8, since you need the average coin value among the 4 cards to be $2. The other part of the attack, the skipping cards, is a little more complicated to understand and causes a lot of confusion. If youíre scared of math, maybe you should skip the next paragraph...

Consider a deck with N cards that sees an average of M cards per turn. Then the probability of seeing any given card on a given turn is M/N. When attacked by Fortune Teller (assuming there is a victory card or Curse to leave on top), the probability of seeing a given card is something like (M-1)/(N-1). Since M<=N, this second quantity is smaller than the first, and the percentage difference is much greater for small ratios M/N. Consider a deck with no drawing (M=5) and N=20 cards. The probability of seeing any given (non-victory or curse) card is 5/20 = 0.25. When attacked by Fortune Teller, it is 4/19 = 0.21. This means you see your good cards (0.04/0.25=)16% less often! On the other hand, if you draw M=10 of your N=15 cards every turn, you go from 10/15 = 0.67 to 9/14 = 0.64, which is a decrease of less than 5%. The impact could greater, since your drawing cards will show up less often, thus decreasing the numerator by more than 1, but this is still a long way from the 16% figure for the larger deck without drawing.

Of course just computing these average doesnít tell the whole story. In reality, you must see each card an integer number of times, your turns are not independent and your deck changes over time. But the main takeaway still holds true. When youíre attacked by a Fortune Teller, even though you shuffling more, you seeing your good cards less often! The benefits of the cycling are generally more than counteracted by the skipping good cards. You also get a sense of the trend in terms of deck size and drawing. In the early game when your deck is small or in situations where you have a good draw engine set up, the attack is only mildly annoying, but it can become very powerful against a slog-type deck. Also note that this analysis doesnít depend on the number of good or bad cards in the deck, just the total number of cards and the average number drawn per turn.

So where does that leave us in terms of strategy? The key idea is that you want to avoid the types of decks that Fortune Teller will be strong against. A heavy drawing strategy utilizing Fortune Teller should dominate a slog-type strategy or a strategy that relies heavily on Silver and Copper. If you canít build an engine to consistently play Fortune Tellers, they can still be useful in slog vs slog. Now the interesting thing is that if youíre both going for the engine strategy, you may not want to bother using a terminal action on a Fortune Teller, since the impact will be small, but the presence of the card in the kingdom is still of importance since it made non-engine strategies less effective.


In addition to building decks which draw a good percentage of the deck, there are a few other ways to deal with the Fortune Teller attack. If you build a deck with no victory cards or Curses, the attack just discards your deck and canít leave you with a junk card. So you can go for strategies which trash Estates and green late or focus on VP tokens. There are also direct counters to deck top attacks like Jack of all Trades, Farming Village, Scrying Pool, Golem, Sage, Oracle, Native Village, Lookout, Chancellor, Scavenger, Adventurer, Venture, and Scout. It is also important to note that unlike Rabble, the wording of Fortune Teller is such that it does not skip dual-type victory cards. Nobles and Harems can be drawn more often rather than less often since the Fortune Tellers seek them out. You can also go for cards that like to have VP cards in hand like Baron, Crossroads, or Tournament.


There are a few specific combos that can take advantage of the deck-top attack of Fortune Teller. You can combine it with Jester to give guaranteed Curses, though you lose the normal effect of the attack unless you play a second one. You can also use to to target down VP cards to trash with Saboteur. When followed by a Minion, it essentially forces a 3-card hand. It can also be used to mitigate the potential benefits your opponent could get from your plays of Margrave, Council Room, Vault, or Governor for cards by ensuring the card your opponent draws is junk. Then of course there's the anti-combo with other deck top attacks. You can only make the top of their deck so bad. If your other attack already put a victory card on top, Fortune Teller won't do anything.

Example games

In Obi Wan Bonogi's engine vs my HP+Salvager:
Here I figure that with Hunting Party and Salvager, this game should go pretty quickly, but Obi Wan has other ideas. He picks up a Fortune Teller which he proceeds to play nearly every turn, slowing me enough that heís able to hold me to 3 Provinces in 16 turns.

Against lespeutereís Silk Roads
Lespeutere goes for Nomad Camps and Silk Roads, which is countered quite strongly by my Apprentice + Fortune Teller. The constant attack delays his collection of Silk Roads and then makes it difficult to afford Duchies.

In a Sea Hag slog with Rabid:
With Sea Hag giving Curses and no handsize inceasing other than Moat, this game is bound to be a slog. Rabid opts for a second Hag to win the Curse split while I prefer to get an early Fortune Teller to provide economy while still allowing me to attack. (Note that the immediate impact of both attacks is nearly identical: skip card(s) and leave junk on top.) I do end up losing the Curse split, but my deck builds up much faster, and by the time I take my sixth Curse, itís turn 17 and I already have a Platinum. You will also notice that even before that point, he draws just as many dead cards as I do. I have a little luck hitting one of his Hags with mine on turn 6, but Iím pretty sure the strategy is still better.

Against qmechís Embassy big money:
Nobles + Vineyards probably indicates engine here anyway, but qmech decides to go for Embassy big money. I counter by adding a Fortune Teller which helps to make sure he canít end it too quickly. This one ends up not being close enough that the Fortune Teller really won the game, but if there are Gardens instead of Vineyards or something it might matter.

Good with:
 - lack of drawing (at least in opponents deck)
 - opponents large deck size
 - draw engines that allow repeated play

Not as good with:
 - opponents heavy draw engines
 - opponents decks with no victory cards/Curses
 - dual-type victory cards
 - cards that want victory cards in hand (Baron, Crossroads, Tournament)

Dominion Articles / Hamlet
« on: March 02, 2013, 02:48:47 pm »
Hamlet has a bunch of attributes that don't seem like much on their own, but when combined make it into a real power card.

These attributes include:
1. costs only $2
2. non-terminal
3. can give +2 actions (for -1 card)
4. can give +buy (for -1 card)
5. can discard cards
6. can be a cantrip (when you decline to do 3-5)

None of these are going to blow you away, but the combination has great synergy. The key is that it's an amassable $2 card that provides its own +buy. Other amassable 2ís like Fool's Gold and Native Village need some other source of +buy to make them really useful, while Hamlet has it on its own. Hamlet+4 Coppers+Estate buys 2 more Hamlets. This ability to quickly infuse a large number of Hamlets into your deck give reliability to a +Cards/+Actions engine even without strong -- or possibly any -- trashing. And there's no real issue with having too many Hamlets, since at worst you can use the extra ones as cantrips. (Of course, there are some issues with having too many cantrips.)

The fact that it's a village, a source of +buy, and reduces/alleviates the need for trashing means it nearly enables engine strategies all on its own. The only thing it needs is a means of increasing handsize (and some way of making .

Handsize Increasers

You have to be careful with terminals that give only +2 cards, since if you have to discard for +action and then only draw 2 cards, you still only have 5 cards in your hand. This can be okay if youíre trying to sift/cycle to play cantrip money or repeatedly cycle to find a key card, but a lot of the time youíll find that youíre just spinning your wheels and would be better of just skipping the Hamlets and going more for money (or a non-handsize-decreasing village if possible).

But terminals giving more than 2 cards (Smithy, Council Room, Torturer, Nobles, Rabble, Margrave, Catacombs, Hunting Grounds, Envoy, Wharf) are great. Draw-to-X cards (Library, Watchtower, Jack, even Minion) can negate the downside of discarding, and even benefit from it, using it as extra sifting power. With non-terminal handsize increasers (Lab, Shanty Town, Apprentice, Apothecary, Scrying Pool, Alchemist, Menagerie, Hunting Party, Stables, Governor), you can use less of the +actions discard, just using as many as needed to play your terminals or to help activate the draw of Menagerie or Shanty Town. Hamlet even works nicely with the oddball handsize-increaser, Counting House -- discard Coppers just to scoop them back up, and use the +buy to get more!

With Other Villages

While the presence of Hamlet makes it quite likely that it will be an engine game, it is not necessarily the case that Hamlet will be the best village for the engine. Very often, you will prefer to purchase a more expensive village if you have the money for it, sticking with a couple Hamlets to add in the non-terminal +buy. Hamlets are generally inferior to other villages when used strictly as a village, with the primary exceptions being when the discard is beneficial. This problem becomes even worse with the case of the aforementioned +2 card terminals, and also with handsize attacks. If you start with only 3 cards, itís very hard to have stuff you want to discard. Every card is precious.

But even when youíre not using Hamlet as a village, it can be very beneficial as a +buy or even a very easily amassed cantrip. For example, with Scrying Pool, you just want as many cantrips as possible, so you can draw them up, and then play them to substitute in other cards. And for Vineyards or Gardens or Philosopherís Stone, the more (action) cards in your deck, the better. And you can even use the buys on Coppers to get even more cards into the deck!

Handsize Attacks

In order to do anything useful, Hamlet must decrease your handsize. This makes it much more painful to use when your hand already starts small. Additionally, having excess Hamlets to use as cantrips can cause decision problems with your discard. Since you donít know what the Hamlets will draw, you have to make hard decisions between discarding Hamlets and other cards.

Purchase Timing

Since it only costs $2, you will likely have to ďoverpayĒ for your first Hamlet. But you usually want to get it early so that you can use the buy to tack extra Hamlets onto your other purchases or to purchase multiple Hamlets at once. Since itís so easy to quickly collect a bunch of Hamlets in a small number of turns, you have to be careful not to get caught with too few Hamlets when the pile runs out. If the Hamlets are the only villages and are so far split 3-3, then your opponent buys the remaining 4 in one turn, you can find yourself on the wrong side of a 7-3 split. This gets even worse with more players as the number of Hamlets that can disappear between your turns increases further. So there is some need to get your Hamlets in early. But on the flip side, you can end up with a ďvillage idiotĒ deck if you just focus on grabbing Hamlets at the expense of overall economy and draw. So thereís a delicate balance here, particularly when youíre not first player. Naturally, this makes Hamlet a first-player-advantage card.

Tactical Play Decisions

When you play Hamlet, you have a couple decisions to make, so you generally want to play them as late as possible so you know if you need the extra actions of buy, but this is often not possible, since you may have to use it as a village right away in order to play your terminal draw card. You have to have a reasonable sense of whether or not you might need the extra buy and if youíll have another Hamlet play later to get it. Also, if you have a lot of Hamlets in hand, you may want to use more for +actions, even if it means discarding a Hamlet, since there is an increased likelihood that your terminals are also clumped, and youíll need to have the actions available when you draw a bunch together. If you waste all the Hamlets as cantrips, you may run out of actions.

Works with:
 - terminal +3 cards
 - draw-to-X
 - menagerie
 - decks that want lots of cards/cantrips (Scrying Pool, Vineyards, Gardens, PStone)
 - nearly any engine

Doesnít work quite as well with:
 - terminal +2 cards
 - handsize attacks
 - Workerís Village (which is nearly strictly better except for the cost)

Dominion Articles / How would you open on this board? #2
« on: March 02, 2013, 02:34:27 pm »
Coppersmith, Feast, Horse Traders, Moneylender, Mountebank, Navigator, Nomad Camp, Quarry, Sea Hag, and Workshop


I want the results to reflect how people would play this kingdom if they were to see it in a game right now. I donít want the results of the poll to be a groupthink. Feel free to discuss in the rest of the thread, and Iím sure we can come to a consensus there :)

Bonus discussion:
1. Do things change if you're player 2?
2. What (minor) changes to the kingdom change the answer?

This is inspired by this thread. This kingdom is much less complex, but I think there's enough to make an meaningful discussion. Plus I have some ulterior motives for posting this.

Dominion Isotropic / Scheme Throne Room with durations
« on: December 24, 2012, 12:02:17 am »
I just noticed this issue, but I forgot to save the log. When clean up with scheme, it asks you to pick a card among all the cards in play. For durations, it indicates which are "old" and "new". But with Throne Room, it does not indicate which are attached to "new" durations, so if you click the wrong Throne Room, you won't get it back.

Puzzles and Challenges / Another Incredibly stupid play on words challenge!
« on: December 10, 2012, 11:02:15 pm »
I thought this was cool, but halfway through solving it, I thought it would be more fun to make my own. Since I don't want any PMs, feel free to post solutions (in spoilers, of course).

1. cyclist
2. Jon Hamm
3. be more active on the forum than
4. what the rookie of the year got from his mother
5. including a show with Hugh Laurie
6. greeting for the inventor of precision bridge bidding
7. an unclear diatribe
8. scheduled time for non-amateurs
9. What Sarah was before birthing Isaac
10. the composition of the contents of the pits at Labrea
11. type of head scan
12. tibia of the author of The Raven
13. Benedict Arnolds who have lost their voice
14. the opposite of Pamplona
15. like a large intestine

16. T-Shirt and concession

17. why he was able to press his clothes
18. where foul balls don't go
19. people on twitter
20. what milk does
21. a fairy crocodile from Hyrule
22. the opposite of a heavy senate
23. what the Giants mascot would be if he moved to KC
24. a childish response to (7)
25. an L7 catholic school student in Wisconsin
26. it's unimpressive to skip over this for silver

27. you can buy this from a spice merchant
28. a warriors home
29. a 4chan request for televised paternity tests
30. a musical group inspired by a run and gun arcade classic

Dominion Articles / A taxonomy of strategies (draft)
« on: October 17, 2012, 07:27:59 pm »

This article is based on the article on Deck Archetypes. I semi-promised that I would have post this a couple weeks ago, but I was busy with real life stuff, and this actually took a really long time. This is probably the messiest article I’ve written, but hopefully even in this state it’s worth something, and it may be easier to fill in all the missing stuff with some comments from the community. I'm going with the increasingly popular "(draft)" tag in the title as an excuse for the mess...

Classifying all types of decks into a small number of archetypes is a difficult task, similar to coming up with a taxonomic sorting of animals. Apparently, making the first distinction between vertebrate/invertebrate makes the most sense in terms of current beliefs about evolution, but then you end up with things like flies and birds, which both fly, appearing very far apart from one another, despite having some very similar characteristics. Since I have no carbon-dated fossil evidence or knowledge of migration patterns, I can’t claim that my way of sorting out these strategies is better than any other way, but it is related to how I think about things, so I hope it’s at least comprehensive, somewhat sensible, and maybe even moderately useful.

Much of the terminology I use is also probably not going to be ideal, so I welcome suggestions for better terminology to use. I’d also appreciate it if you can point out types of decks that I may have forgotten that don’t seem to fit into this taxonomy, though I’m not terribly interested in adding bad "strategies" in, so I'm not concerned if the "village idiot" doesn't fit well. There are too many ways you can do things wrong that it’s not really worth trying to classify all of them, at least for the purposes of this article.

I’m also aware that this is a massive amount of text, so I put a little tl;dr taxonomy list at the bottom so you can see the big picture and only read the sections that interest you. While I’m at it, I’d also like to make a little appeal to the admins to implement collapse/expand type spoilers so that the reader can just collapse and expand whole sections here and minimize the scrolling around you have to do to find the next section.

The Phyla:

I think most people agree about the general idea of the first division in our taxonomy. There’s “engines” (which doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone), and “things that aren’t engines”, which is the complementary set. I’m going to call this set “rush” strategies. I know people also have differing opinions about this term, but I feel it’s appropriate here, and this is how I will define the two phyla:
A “rush” strategy is any strategy in which you would buy a pure victory card on the third or fourth time through the deck, given the appropriate opportunity. An “engine” strategy is anything else. Typically engines cycle fast enough that the fourth shuffle happens pretty early on, and in the time before that, you have a lot of pieces to collect. Why fourth shuffle? I don’t know. From experience, it seems like a reasonable threshold. Despite being a “taxonomy”, this article isn’t incredibly scientific...

I. Rush strategies

The general idea of a rush strategy is to get a minimal number of pieces into place so that you can somewhat consistently acquire the victory cards of your choice (usually Provinces), and then start buying them quickly. You win by doing one of the following:

1. Winning the VP card split against a similar rush strategy
2. Gaining half the available points before a slower strategy kicks in
3. Getting a lead and then ending the game on piles

Some people may want to split the classes based on the choice of end-game, but I don’t think this really makes sense since generally you don’t want to make the end-game decisions when you initially pick your strategy. The choice of these end-game options will depend on what your opponent decides to do. For instance, if you’re going for a Gardens strategy and it turns into a mirror, you want to win by condition 1, but if your opponent goes Provinces instead, you want to go for 3, in which case you may want to build up a little more. While this leads to 2 differing strategies, I feel they belong in the same class, since the “evolutionary split” doesn’t happen until the game is already underway.

Instead I choose to split rush strategies into 3 different classes, based on the general kinds of cards you're looking to put into your deck:

A. Terminal draw big money
B. Non-drawing terminal big money
C. Kingdom VP

In the following subsections, I will attempt to explain the general notions of these strategies, give some examples, and give a short list of what to look for/avoid.

IA. Terminal draw big money.

I start here because this is an easy one. For a lot of people, this is one of the first types of “strategy” they actually learn. The beauty is in the simplicity. The general idea is to collect 1-3 actions which draw cards, and fill the rest of your deck with treasures. When you have a large hand of mostly treasures, you can very often buy a Province or at least a Gold or Duchy. I have already written about these strategies in fairly heavy detail here.

 - Terminal draw
 - Silver/Gold
 - Kingdom Treasures
 - Estate trashing with additional benefits (Island, Masquerade, Jack)
 - End-game accelerators (Salvager, Apprentice, Remodel, Trade Route)
 - Heavy trashing
 - Copper trashing
 - Things that lengthen the game (attacks, kingdom VP cards)

IB. Non-drawing terminal big money

This type of strategy is also typically called a “big money” strategy as it also usually relies heavily on using Silver and Gold to buy Provinces. The key difference from the terminal draw deck is that you can collect many more actions. Usually you don’t want to go over 3-5 terminals, but since you don’t draw a lot of cards dead, you can also add in a bunch of non-terminals. Generally, these strategies are slower at Province collection than terminal draw big money strategies, but they make up for it by having more powerful abilities on the actions. The most typical examples of these strategies involve powerful attack which make it difficult to go for engines -- things like Mountebank and Swindler. It works with lesser attacks as well, depending on how much defense and engine support there is. Often this type of strategy is more of a last resort when you really can’t do anything elegant. It’s probably like the way you first started playing the game. Just collect a bunch of “good” actions, and try to play one every turn. Sometimes there’s simply no way to build an engine, and your best bet is just to mass the strongest cards you can get your hands on, which, in addition to attacks, could be things like Monument or Merchant Ship, or even things like Tribute or Harvest is there is really nothing better going on in the kingdom.

 - Good terminals
 - Silver/Gold
 - Attacks
 - End-game accelerators
 - Fishing/Walled Village (allowing for extra terminals)
 - Non-terminal draw
 - Light sifting
 - Heavy trashing
 - Copper trashing
 - Engine enablers

IC. Kingdom VP

The concept here is to accumulate a large number of cheap VP cards instead of saving up for Provinces. Then either end the game on piles, or pump the value of these cards up to the point that you can still outscore a Province player. One of the most well-known examples is the Workshop/Gardens rush discussed in the Gardens article. There are also various Duke strategies which are treated well in the Duke article. There is also often a way to pull it off with Silk Road, especially in the presence of other cheap VP cards like Island, Great Hall, or Tunnel.

 - kingdom VP cards
 - ways of gaining multiple cards -- to collect VP cards faster, empty piles faster, to help acquire additional economy to counteract early greening, and/or to collect cards to increase the value of variable-value VP cards
 - cards that like VP cards (Crossroads, Baron)
 - Terminal Silvers -- since your deck usually bloats, you can stand more terminals, and usually what you want is either gain or money with any additional benefit you can get
 - Trashing
 - Card draw (since the average value of the cards you draw will typically be low)

II. Engine strategies

This is where the real fun starts. Generally the appeal of Dominion is playing combos of cards. In the rush strategies, you just go after strong cards perhaps with some synergy with one another, but you rarely get to do something “cool” on your turn. No one posts game logs of themselves going Courtyard big money...

The idea with engines is that you delay the instant gratification of getting an early VP lead in order to put together a strong combination of cards that can either allow for more consistent VP collection, or huge influxes of VPs per turn. It’s important to make the distinction between these two choices when you go about building your deck, because typically the hardest part is figuring out the right time to go green. This decision, like the end-game decisions for rush decks, depends in part on what your opponent is doing, but it often depends even more heavily on the class of engine you are building. I have decided to split the engine phylum into 4 classes:

A. Cycling
B. Mass drawing
C. Empty-draw deck
D. Mega-turn

This choice of class splitting isn’t nearly as obvious as in the rush phylum, but after some thought, I find it the most natural one for me, though I’m sure there’ll be plenty of disagreement here. The general distinction between cycling and mass-drawing is that cycling decks never actually get very large hand sizes, but achieve their goal through at least passing through most of the cards. This is a little iffy because there’s no clear distinction for what is meant by “very large” -- maybe 8-10 cards? Sometimes you mix in a couple Warehouses to cycle, but still draw up most of your deck, and I’d say this qualifies as mass drawing rather than cycling, but it may not be tremendously different from a cycling deck. Additionally, mega-turn decks often look a lot like mass draw decks that just end with a final turn cashing in. In some cases you might feel like you’re mostly building a mass draw deck and just have an opportunity to make it go mega-turn. On the other hand, there are some strategies that are clearly mega-turn that never really draw large hands until the final turn.

In the following subsections, I will attempt to explain the general notions of these strategies, give some examples, and give a short list of what to look for/avoid.

IIA. Cycling

Cycling decks achieve shuffling every 1-2 turns so that you can play each of your cards with much greater frequency than in a rush deck, but they do not draw your entire deck into your hand. I have decided to split cycling strategies into 2 sub-classes: sifting and virtual money cycling. The main difference is that sifting decks cycle with the goal of playing a small number of key cards very often, while virtual money cycling decks cycle with the goal of playing a lot of cards for coins. I will discuss each of these sub-classes separately.

1. Sifting

The idea behind sifting decks is that rather than having a high density of key cards or the ability to play a lot of cards, the goal is to be able to play a small number of key cards a disproportionate amount of time relative to the weaker cards. This is accomplished by using cards that let you seek out other cards while usually discarding others.

Perhaps the most popular example is the Hunting Party deck, discussed here. In these decks, you just get 1-2 copies of a strong terminal, usually 1 Gold, and a bunch of Hunting Parties. Then use the Hunting Parties to play the key cards every turn. Stables can also be used in place of Hunting Party, though it’s much less reliable.

It’s also common to just combine some source of card draw with a separate source of sifting. It’s common to do this with Menagerie and a discarder like Hamlet or Oasis, using the discarder to activate Menagerie so you can draw and play your 1-2 Golds nearly every turn. Apothecary also works great as card-draw in this type of deck. You can find some good examples in MMM's Apothecary article.

It can also be done with a source of terminal draw, particularly, draw-up-to-X like Library. An example of this would be Library/Cellar, where you just get 1-2 Golds and Libraries and then repeatedly play Cellars until you get a hand with both the Library and Gold, and use the Library to fill in the rest of the hand, usually getting you up to $8. Draw-to-X is generally valued because the non-drawing sifting cards tend to decrease hand size. But you can also pull of the same kind of strategy using terminal draw cards that draw a lot of cards, like Smithy, Torturer, or Hunting Grounds.

You can also pull of some cycling strategies with no hand-size increasing whatsoever. An example is Warehouse/Treasure Map, where you use the Warehouses first to line up the TMs, then the Golds. Warehouse/Tunnel naturally works in the same way.

 - +Cards --usually something that has the potential to look through at least 3 cards, even if it has to discard some (Warehouse, Cellar, Storeroom, Stables, Hunting Party, Library, Catacombs)
 - Usually discard-for-benefit
 - Villages if the draw or discard cards are terminal
 - Cards that seek specific cards/types (Hunting Party, Library, Golem, Scavenger, Scheme, Herbalist)
 - Deck-top sifters (Apothecary, Cartographer, Spy)
 - Draw-to-X if using hand-size decreasing sifters
 - Attacks -- your sifting should allow you to play them every turn, making even weak-seeming attacks like Fortune Teller actually quite potent.

2. Virtual money cycling

Virtual money cycling differs from sifting in that the focus is not on repeatedly playing 1-2 key cards, but rather or playing a lot of cards which each provide money. At times this can allow these decks to produce multi-Province turns.

There are so many variations of this type of deck that after writing this section, I decided I needed to further subdivide into sub-sub-classes (orders? sub-orders? families?) I’m not sure how much I want to push this biological taxonomy terminology...). Anyway, I’m going to futher subdivide based on the primary method of cycling. There are of course some common elements to any of these decks. The most obvious of these is “virtual money” cards, i.e. actions that generate coin. But additionally, to make this kind of strategy work, you will also almost always need trashing or buy/gain, usually both. Otherwise it’s not really possible to get a high enough density of these virtual money cards in time to beat a rush strategy.

I will now briefly discuss the different methods of cycling.

2a. Draw-to-X

The most popular example of a virtual cylcing deck is a Minion deck, where Minions are used to draw up 4 cards at a time and all coin-providing cards are played before playing another Minion to draw 4 new cards. Naturally, this also works with any other draw-to-X card in place of Minion, provided that there is some other way of decreasing hand-size, usually while also providing coin, like Oasis, Fishing Village, or Lighthouse.

Aside: It should be noted that engines relying on draw-to-X cards can be either sifting or virtual money cycling, or maybe even a hybrid. It’s regrettable that these are not in the same sub-class, but I still think it’s the more logical sub-class distinction to make than splitting up based on the specific type of drawing card. After all, then one might complain that Library big money is too far from other Library decks in this taxonomy. It’s simply not practical to sort by the key card, and makes more sense to sort by the goals you have for the deck. In draw-to-X sifting decks, you’re looking much more at being able to draw more cards to find that key card, so Hamlet is more useful than Fishing Village because it draws a card and then allows the draw-to-X card to draw 2 more via its discard. Fishing Village only allows for drawing one extra card, but provides money that you’re more likely to want in the virtual money cycling deck.

2b. Lab Variants

Virtual money cycling strategies can also be done with Menagerie when you have discarding cards, and can even work with other Lab-types. However, non-menagerie Lab-types generally provide less card draw potential than draw-to-X cards in this type of deck, so with those you want to rely more on non-hand-size-decreasing sources of virtual money like peddler-types, particularly Conspirator.

2c. +Cards/+Actions

You can combine villages with terminal draw to get the net effect of having Labs, but this can be a little more difficult to pull off since you end up needing a lot of parts. Generally if its possible to get enough of these cards to make the deck reliable, you can probably get into the mass drawing type of deck.

2d. Single-card cycling (peddler variants)

With sufficient trashing and +buy/gain, you can also sometimes make a virtual money cycling deck work with no hand-size-increasing cards whatsoever! If your deck consists primarily of peddler-types (usually Market/Grand Maket/Highway/Peddler), you can often play enough to be able to buy a Province before your hand become full of victory cards.

2e. Tactician

One special family of strategies is what I call “perpetual Tactician strategies”. (Digression: The term “double Tactician” is commonly used, I guess because you have 2 Tacticians in play every turn, but I feel that term is a little confusing. It makes it sound like you have 2 Tacticians in your deck -- like "double Jack", but in some situations, you may need more, and sometimes you can have 2 Tacticians but still not be going for this type of strategy. I think “perpetual” captures the idea more accurately.) The idea of a perpetual Tactician deck is to start your turn with 10 cards, play some actions that produce $8 (or $11 or $16, or whatever), then play another Tactician to discard the remaining cards to set up the next turn. This requires some trashing and/or cycling to able to consistently play a Tactician every turn, but is very powerful when it gets going.

A recap of the what virtual money cycling decks are looking for:

 - Coin-giving actions
 - Trashing -- Coppers and Estates really get in the way of spamming out a lot of actions
 - +Buy/gain -- both to collect all the virtual money and to spend it all
 - Draw-to-X cards (Library, Watchtower, Minion), preferably with hand-size decreasing cards
 - Non-terminal draw cards (Menagerie, Laboratory, Shanty Town, Stables)
 - Tactician
 - Attacks -- to prolong the early game since you’re trying to mass cheap cards
 - Silver, beyond maybe 1-2 to get started

IIB. Mass drawing

Sometimes you can do better than just cycling through your cards. Given the right setup, you can actually draw a large portion of them -- or even all of them -- into your hand. This generally demands a lot from the kingdom. You need some combination of heavy trashing to remove the relatively useless starting cards, and heavy drawing to draw all the other cards that you acquire. Additionally, since you want to fill up this deck with useful cards, you need some way of rapidly collecting cards and/or prolonging the game while you build up. The big things you’re looking for are:
 - Buy/gain
 - Attacks
 - Trashing
 - Kingdom victory cards
If you don’t have at least 2 of these, you’re usually not going to be able to pull off a mass draw deck that is better than just a terminal draw big money or simple cycling deck. The only major exception that comes to mind is Torturer engines. The attack is really strong, and also has a kind of victory point effect built in, and it’s all wrapped up in the draw card as well. There are also some exceptions with Wharf (Wharf+Fishing Village, Wharf+Crossroads), but these too are exceptions. You generally don't want to just think that having a good drawing card can make a mass draw engine.

In addition to the aforementioned enablers, you also need an actual way of drawing you deck. This can be done in one of two ways:

1. Non-terminal draw (lab-types)
2. Terminal draw + villages

Building with non-terminal draw is simpler, since you don’t have to worry about card balance, but then you generally need to be collecting a lot of expensive cards (unless you are primarily drawing off of Menageries or Caravan). With terminal draw+villages, you usually have one of your extra benefits -- like your buy or attack, or even you VPs (Nobles) -- built in to one of the drawing components. Plus, one of these components (usually the village) is cheap enough that it’s possible to collect a lot of pieces more rapidly than in the non-terminal draw engines.

 - +Cards
 - Trashing (almost always)
 - +Buy/gain (almost always)
 - Attacks
 - Kingdom VPs
 - Villages
 - Silver, beyond maybe 1-2 to get started
 - Starting Coppers/Estates

IIC. Empty draw pile

There is an extreme way to draw your entire deck every turn even without a lot of +Cards. You can just make your deck extremely small! If your deck is 5 cards or less (excluding in-play durations and cards on mats), you can just keep your draw pile empty, and you don’t even have to physically shuffle! The problem with with these strategies is you can’t really collect victory cards, since unless you can immediately put them on a mat (Island or Native Village), they will screw up your empty draw pile.

The most common example of an empty draw pile strategy is the “Golden Deck”m which is discussed in detail here. There are many variations, but the general idea is that you get your deck down to a Bishop and 4 other cards, allowing you to trash a card (usually a Province) for points and re-buy a replacement. The standard Golden Deck is [Bishop, Gold, Silver, Silver, Province].

Another popular family of examples is the KC-Masquerade pin [link]. Here the idea is that you can destroy your opponents deck and starve him out by every turn reducing his hand to 3 cards and using a King’s Courted Masquerade with an empty hand to take and trash them all. The canonical KC-Masq pin deck is done with GOons: [KC, KC, Goons, Masquerade] and discussed here. Other variations are discussed here Once you have emptied your opponents deck, he will usually resign, but if you must continue, the simplest continuation is to buy out the Copper pile so he can never rebuild his economy, and then rebuild into any deck that can buy victory cards.

 - Payoff card with powerful every-turn function (Bishop, KC’d Masquerade)
 - Trashing
 - Victory cards
 - Card-giving or Handsize attacks

IID. Mega-turn

Mega-turn strategies are strategies focused around hitting one big turn in which you abruptly end the game while collecting enough VPs to win. Often the build-up will be like a mass draw strategy, but this is not the only way to play a mega-turn strategy. Importantly, mega-turn strategies don’t necessarily need reliability. You just need one mega-turn to win. This allows you to do things like building up a powerful Native Village mat or getting all your points from cheap VP cards like Duchies, Estates, or even Coppers with Goons. One good example is the Native Village/Bridge strategy [link].

In general, these strategies focus around collecting and playing a large number of copies of a card that allows you to gain/buy extra cards. These cards are going to be things like Bridge, Goons, Horn of Plenty (and to a lesser extent other workshop variants), City. You can also do it with any +buy card when combined with price-reducers or cards that stack in powerful ways like Highway, Quarry, Coppersmith, or Bank. You need a mix of collecting these cards, and having the ability to draw and play them all. Native Village or Tactician can help with this, but also the same stuff that helps make mass draw or cycling decks can work.

 - spammable +buy/gain
 - +Actions (usually)
 - +Cards
 - cards that synergize with +buy (price reduction, Goons...)
 - cards that benefit from large hand sizes (Coppersmith, Bank, Cellar...)
 - cards that let you play other cards multiple times (Throne Room, King’s Court, Procession, Counterfeit)
 - cards that can trash themselves for a bonus (Mining Village, Horn of Plenty)
 - all the stuff other engines like

TL;DR Taxonomy
I. Rush
    A. Terminal draw big money
    B. Non-drawing terminal big money
    C. Kingdom VP
II. Engine
    A. Cycling
        1. Sifting
        2. Virtual money cycling
    B. Mass drawing
    C. Empty draw pile
    D. Mega-turn

Dominion Articles / Remodel
« on: July 27, 2012, 01:33:51 am »

Remodel is one of the more interesting cards in the base set. It’s one of only 2 cards (Chapel) capable of trashing Estates! It also shows up in the first game set so it’s one of the first cards you see, and man does it seem cool. You quickly get the idea that you can remodel Estate=>Remodel=>Gold=>Province! But then you eventually you realize that turns out to actually be pretty slow. So pure Remodel isn’t a good strategy, but surely there’ some use for the card, but what is it?

To figure that out, we need to first identify what’s good and bad about the card:

1. Can trash Estates
2. Allows you to gain multiple cards in the same turn
3. Adds $2 of value to your deck every time you play it

1. Uses a terminal action
2. Uses up 2 cards from your hand (leaving you with only 3 if you didn't draw any)
3. You may not have a suitable card to remodel in hand
4. Silver is cheaper and is a treasure that adds $2 of value to your deck every time you play it!

Considering the bad points, good point 3 doesn’t look so hot, so we need to focus on 1 and 2. Point 2 is the biggest one, because you can’t always pair your Remodel with an Estate. Sure the first one is easy, and you get it 80% of the time, but then once you’ve trashed one and added a few more cards to your deck, getting the two to collide is no longer automatic.

So the key situations we’re looking for are those where you want to be getting multiple cards rather than just buying one more expensive card (adding the $2 value to your buy as you would with Silver). There are 2 types of situations where this occurs:

1. Late game when you want to get multiple victory cards.

For example, if you have $8 including a Gold, instead of buying a Province, you can remodel the Gold into a Province and buy a Duchy, or a whole host of similar things, including Remodeling your action cards into Duchies or even Copper into Estate if you have $1 to spare. There are also applications where you can get a Province you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, if you have a $6+ card and nothing else good to go with it, particularly something like a Peddler or Border Village. You can even remodel a Province into a Province or Duchy into Duchy to drain the pile and potentially screw up parity so you can win a split 4/3. On many occasions, it’s worth sneaking in a late Remodel with a spare small purchase so on the last time or two through your deck, you can play these little tricks. Of course, it works better if you’re drawing up to large hands, because then you can be reasonably be sure to actually pull it off. The presence of Remodel may also lead you to want to green slightly earlier than usual in anticipation of these Remodel shenanigans.

2. When you’re building an engine that needs a lot a cheap (sub-$5) cards.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Remodel is that it uses up 2 cards from your hand, leaving you with very little purchasing power. A typical early Remodel hand lets you trash an Estate, gain a $4 card, and buy a $3 card. If you had Silver instead, you’d just keep the Estate and buy a $5 card. So when early $5 cards are critical, you don’t want to open Remodel. But if you’re building an engine that masses cards costing $2-4, and doesn’t really need $5 cards, then you’re in business. Remodel ends up working like a Workshop that also trashes Estates! Remodel openings tend to be best for things like Caravan chains, Menagerie engines, Fishing Village/Watchtower, Warehouse/Conspirator, or Village/Smithy. Notice that all of these engines not only consist primarily of cheap cards, but they also provide enough drawing/cycling to allow your Remodel to keep finding something good to hit. It’s also pretty important to have something worth getting at $2, like Cellar/Pawn/Hamlet/Haven or even Pearl Diver in case you find yourself with nothing to remodel but Coppers.

While Remodel openings are best for when you primarily want cheap cards, it can also work in situations where you still want key $5 cards along with a lot of cheap support cards (typically villages). With Remodel openings, you can still hit $5 on your non-Remodel hands, you just run the risk hitting $5 less often early on. If you can afford to take that risk in order to be able to trash your Estates and get a bunch of cheap support cards, go for it! The fact that it offers light trashing in addition to the card gaining, allows you to get a good enough village density to make a draw engine viable even in the absence of heavy trashers. It can also work nicely in conjunction with other single-card trashers, particularly Loan and Lookout, since they cost $3 and can be opened along with Remodel, when you need a little more trashing than Remodel alone can provide.


DG pulls of a nice Coppersmith/Caravan engine with a Remodel opening in his article on game planning.

The first game set famously supports a nice Village/Smithy engine enabled by a Remodel opening that can consistently allow you to draw your whole deck by around turn 8, and with a little luck get 8 Provinces in 15 turns! Geronimoo also wrote a simulator article about it.

And a bunch of less well-analyzed ones that I just dug up from my games over the past 3 months:
Opening Remodel/Loan to build a Menagerie engine vs a Mountebank opening.
Using it as better trashing than Jack in a Festival/Wharf/Highway engine.
Enabling a Wharf engine vs Wharf BM.
In a Margrave/Nobles/Walled Village engine for Fabian's Game Analysis Series, Game #1

Works with:
  • Cheap Labs: Caravan, Menagerie, Wishing Well(?)
  • Engines powered by cheap terminal draw: Watchtower, Smithy, Envoy
  • All types of villages
  • Other (semi-)massable cheap non-terminals: Conspirator, Tournament, Scheme, Warehouse, Fool's Gold
  • Expensive cards you get for cheap: Peddler, Border Village
  • Colony (and longer games in general)
  • Other light trashers: Loan, Lookout

Doesn’t work with:
  • Strong trashers (which you should usually open instead of Remodel): Chapel, Ambassador, Remake, Steward
  • Power 5s you need to hit early
  • Big Money
  • Lack of $2 cards

Dominion Articles / Terminal Draw Big Money
« on: June 05, 2012, 05:12:51 pm »
One of simplest basic strategies you learn which is surprisingly effective in the base set is "Smithy Big Money". The idea of this strategy is to open Smithy/Silver, add a second Smithy sometime after a couple shuffles, and other than that, buy just money and VP cards. You can add in some card to help with the late game, like Market or Remodel, but for the most part, it's just a couple Smithies and money. The idea is that the Smithy is going to draw you up to 7 cards, and with 7 cards, with which you can very often buy Gold. And when you have enough Silver/Gold, you can often buy Provinces.

When you add in some expansions with more trashing and other engine-friendly cards, as well as cards that are better than Smithy with "Big Money" strategies, Smithy BM becomes pretty weak. But there are some variants of it that you may at times go for, particularly when there is no way to quickly build a strong engine. The goal of this article is to look at the terminal draw cards and discuss the differences from plain old Smithy BM and how they affect the game.

Before we get into the cards, we should outline a few general ideas about terminal draw BM. First off, you canít afford to have too many actions, particularly terminals, because youíre going to draw cards dead. And compared to decks without card-drawing, you go through more cards per turn. As a result, you want to stick to a couple drawing cards and only mix in other actions that do something particularly strong in the early- or late-game. Examples include end-game accelerating trash-for-benefit cards like Remodel or Salvager, and really strong estate-trashing openings like Jack of All Trades, Masquerade, or Island. With these three cards in particular, you want to open them ahead of Smithy, adding the Smithy on turn 3-4.

While you want to take it easy on the actions, youíre more than happy to grab kingdom treasure cards like Foolís Gold, Venture, Stash, Cache, Royal Seal, Bank, Hoard, or Harem (not Loan, Contraband, Quarry, Talisman or Horn of Plenty, which are primarily for engines, and not Philosopherís Stone, whose potion cost makes it too slow for a fast BM strat). Kingdom treasures tend to make terminal draw BM stronger, so the presence of one of these cards may steer you be more likely to play terminal draw BM.

A couple of tactics also show up in terminal draw BM games.
1. If playing your draw card will trigger a reshuffle, you have to weigh the benefits. Usually itís worth it, since skipping this play of the card is usually just as bad as having it miss the shuffle, but if itís not going to improve your buying power, you should skip it.
2. When it comes down to Duchy dancing, you want to keep track of your oppnents key cards: their terminal drawers and their Golds. For Smithy BM, for example, once youíre well into greening, Province turns typically require Smithy+Gold or 2xGold. So if you can tell from previous turns that your opponent canít have one of these hands, you may want to break the Penultimate Province Rule.

As a disclaimer, none of the numerical things I say in this article are to be taken too literally. When I say that you want a Smithy ďafter the second shuffleĒ, that doesnít necessarily mean that something magical happens when you shuffle the deck a second time. Itís just a relative timing. At around 16-18 cards in your deck, you can tolerate a second Smithy if your only actions are Smithies. But if you want to add some other card, or your opponent does some sort of attack, that changes things. The point of this article is to describe relative differences between these cards, so saying you want the second Smithy after the second reshuffle does mean something relative to saying you want a second Oracle before the second reshuffle. You have to wait a little longer for a the second Smithy than for a second Oracle, in order to let your action density thin out a bit. I'm also not going to go into when you might prefer to skip terminal draw altogether in favor of other terminals. You can get a bit of that from this thread, though beware that that thread does not consider combining multiple different terminals.

So on to the cards:

Envoy is the closest cousin of Smithy -- so close that it was cut from Intrigue due to the great similarity. So what is the difference? Envoy adds 4 cards to your hand instead of 3, and draws 5. Because it draws so many more cards, you really can't afford to add any terminal actions to your deck (i.e. no second Envoy). In the Envoy turn you see more than half your deck, so the probability of collision is higher than the probabilty of non-collision until your deck size is at least 19, at which point the game is probably already over. Although you canít really add any other terminals to Envoy, you still get plenty of plays out of your single Envoy due to the rapid cycling. Though you want to avoid terminal actions, you should still be willing to open Jack or Island before getting your Envoy (with Masquerade, youíre better off just skipping the Envoy).

Courtyard is the version of Smithy that did make it into Intrigue. Itís sneaky good, because at first glance, you may tend to think of it as being closer to Moat, costing $2 and netting 2 cards. However, it serves as a beautiful example of how pricing works in dominion. More expensive does not mean better in all situations. In an engine where you play a lot of drawing cards to get a huge hand and buy multiple cards, Smithy is better because it nets more total cards. If Smithy cost $2, it would be overpowered in Village/Smithy-type engines since you would be able to get a bunch of them on extra buys, but Courtyard at $2 is just fine. In BM, on the other hand, the returning a card to the deck top is actually a benefit, not a penalty. Courtyard BM is significantly stronger than Smithy BM, but in BM, the difference between $2 and $4 is basically nothing, since you donít have the extra buys.

So the question is how to take advantage of the ability to return a card to your deck. The most immediate benefit is that you donít have to worry about 2 Courtyards colliding. One can just put the other back on top of the deck. This means you can, and should, buy your second Courtyard much sooner (i.e. after a single Silver), and can be much more willing to add a third (terminal) action to your deck. Having 2 Courtyards very early can be a huge advantage, since as with Smithies, when you play them, you very often find yourself able to buy Gold. Combining this with the power to put back excess money on hands where you draw to $5 or $7, and youíll find that you are able to get a huge amount of Golds early. Once youíve racked up the Golds, itís smooth sailing, using your Courtyards to rearrange your hands into mostly $8s. As with Smithy, you should prefer to open Island, Jack, or Masquerade ahead of Courtyard, delaying your first Courtyard to turn 3-4. And if you open Jack or Masquerade, you also want to delay your second Courtyard, since you already have that extra terminal.

Even though it is a terminal draw card, Masquerade actually ends up functioning more like Jack of All Trades than like Smithy. This is because the trashing aspect is more significant than the drawing aspect, which primarily functions to help you find Estates to pass/trash and to allow you to still have buying power while trashing. +2 cards is much less likely to actually allow you to buy Gold early, but with your first couple plays of Masquerade, youíre very likely to remove a couple of Estates from your deck. With fewer Estates, even 5 card hands have a good chance of being worth $6+, and the 6-card Masquerade hands are even better. Since the primary function of the Masquerade is Estate-removal, you typically don't need a second one, though you should be more than happy to add another type of terminal draw card, since the removal of Estates makes card drawing generally stronger. Island and Jack are still good opening cards to add, but rather than delaying your Masquerade to turn 3-4, you can even just open Island/Masquerade or Jack/Masquerade. With the early-game strength of these cards, it can be worth risking a collision.

As long as your hand size has not previously been increased, Library is at least as good as Smithy, drawing 3 cards, but with the added benefit of not drawing actions dead. For this reason, you can afford to add in an extra action or two beyond what you would do in a Smithy deck. So you can afford to open with a useful opening action (Jack, Cutpurse, Island, Bishop, Salvager, Navigator -- or even more off-the-wall stuff like Bureaucrat, Baron, or Ironworks) and still get 2-3 Libraries.

While Vault only draws 2 cards, it actually guarantees the ability to be able to buy Gold off of the 6 cards, since you can discard VP cards or actions for $1 apiece. Additionally, if one of the 6 cards is Gold, it guarantees a Province. This makes it an incredibly strong BM card. And since there is no real penalty for collision, you can afford to open with just about any reasonably useful action (as with Library) and just keep buying Vaults (or other useful action cards) without any real regard for collision.

Embassy ends up working a lot like Vault, but without an explicit guarantee. Still, in 9 cards, youíd be hard pressed not to be able to hit $6, and youíll very often hit $8. It also has a bit of Envoy to it, since it draws so many cards that it provides a huge amount of cycling to allow many plays off of few Embassies. Usually, you want 2 (and asap, since a collision is not that bad), with the first one taking priority over Gold if you didnít open with another action card. The reason you take it ahead of Gold is that if you use your first Embassy to buy your first Gold, youíre more likely to quickly cycle it in than if you were to use your first Gold to buy your first Embassy. But if you have another action, youíre better off with the Gold, which doesnít have problems with collision. Of course, since Embassy leads to a much higher probability of collision, you have to more picky with your opening terminal than you would be with Library or Vault. For example, Silver/Silver is probably going to be better than Navigator/Silver or Bishop/Silver.

Council Room
Compared to Smithy, Council Room gives both you and your opponents an additional card, and gives you an additional buy. Early on, this is probably a bit worse than Smithy, since you wonít use the buy, and an 8th card on your big turn is probably overkill while a 6th card on a regular turn for them can make a bigger difference. However, having an extra card and buy on your big turn (on which you have 2 buys) can be a big deal late game. Since Council Room doesnít really shine until late game, youíre not in a huge rush to buy them. You should not buy one for $6 ahead of Gold, and you should probably delay the second one until after the second reshuffle even if you draw $5 on both turns 3 and 4. Since youíre not in a huge rush to get your Council Room, you can even do things like opening Bureaucrat or Baron to help you get more early treasures, delaying your CR, but giving you more power to use with your +buy later. But you still canít pull off some of the weaker openings that you would with Library of Vault, since Council Room does draw a lot of cards dead, and the game is going to tend to be even shorter than other terminal draw BM games if both players are allowing each other to draw extra cards with their Council Rooms.

Wharf is on a whole different planet from the the rest of these non-attack terminal draw cards. Itís one of, if not the best non-attack cards in the game. In total, it draws the same number of cards as Council Room, but the splitting of the draw between 2 turns actually makes it phenomenally better. The primary reason for this is that you will have far fewer dead-draws, since half the cards are drawn ďliveĒ at the start of your turn. Your first goal with Wharf BM is to get 2 Wharfs asap (buying them over Gold). If you can play Wharves almost every turn, you will always be looking at 6-8 cards per buy phase, which makes it easy to buy a lot of Golds and/or additional Wharves. And then having all the extra buys helps grab extra VPs to seal a win.

The thing to watch out for with Wharves is that they are equally phenomenal in engines, providing a +buy and the ability to start turns with more than 5 cards, making combos easier to set up. So you need less support to go for an engine than you do with the other non-attack terminal draw cards (e.g. just Fishing Village is enough, even without trashing/attacks/alternative VPs). But still, Wharf BM is capable of outpacing weaker Wharf engines.

Since youíre going to want to accumulate a lot of Wharves fast in Wharf BM, you have to be a bit more picky with opening actions on 4/3. Jack, Monument, Swindler, and Island are still good, but Militia, and Cutpurse arenít likely to be worth it. If you choose to add an opening action, youíre going to want to prioritize Gold over a second Wharf to avoid collision problems.

The card-drawing reaction cards generally draw 2 cards, with their addition benefits as reactions. It would have to be a really weak board for it to be worth playing them as Big Money enablers. If you do, you probably don't want more than a couple, since in the absence of trashing or spare actions, +2 cards isn't a whole lot better than $2 most of the time.

Steward is optionally a terminal drawer, but because it also has a strong trashing option, it lends itself much more to engines setting up engines than to being played in BM. In the unlikely event that you choose to play it in BM, youíre basically only going to want to use the trash ability if youíre not hurting your buying power. Youíll tend to use the +$2 more early and use the +2 cards when +$2 seems relatively weak (e.g. it gets you to $7).

Nobles generally prefers to go in engines for several reasons. First, at $6 it has to compete with Gold, which is hugely important for BM, and much less important (at least early on) for engines. Second, itís +2 actions option helps smooth out engines. And third, the extra points it gives allow you to lose the province split to a BM player and still come out ahead. But if there is no other source of actions, you donít want to just go for a Nobles-only engine, since itís too expensive to be used largely as a (poor) village. So you can still go BM with Nobles around. In BM, Nobles is not going to play a huge role. You donít want to pass on other decent action cards just to save your actions for Nobles. You just want to start adding Nobles late game, once you start buying Provinces. Itís sort of like a partial step toward Duchies. Youíre willing to sacrifice a bit of card goodness to get a couple VPs once youíre already greening.

If I asked you to enumerate the terminal draw cards, youíd probably forget Adventurer. I know I did at first. Technically, itís terminal and it draws 2 cards, and like Library it guarantees no dead actions, and even no victory cards! Sounds great, but the problem is that it costs $6 and will rarely be better than Gold in a BM deck with 7 Coppers in it. In pure BM (and engines too, for that matter), itís basically always better to spend your terminals and $6 purchases on something else.

These $5 cards are Smithy + attack. This makes them generally better than Smithy for BM. However, the attack will have a tendency to slow down the game, allowing you to (slowly) build an engine using them as the drawing component. So when there is some sort of village around, youíre going to favor building an engine around these cards to playing BM, even without any sort of trashing or gaining. Without villages, they can play out a lot like Smithy BM, where you get about 2 of them. With Torturer and Margrave, you probably want the first one ahead of Gold if you didnít buy any other actions in your opening, because they will often allow you to buy Gold when you play them, and getting in an earlier play of the attack is better than just getting Gold first and using it to buy the $5 card. In terms of choosing an opening action for Torturer or Margrave, your standards should be about the same as for Embassy, but with Rabble, you can be much more liberal.

Ghost Ship
There is a significant difference between the +2 cards of Ghost Ship and the +3 cards of the attacks in the previous section. The card-drawing of Ghost Ship simply counteracts the Ghost Ship attacks of your opponents, and doesnít really allow you to build chains or draw larger hands. Ghost Ship does not provide enough drawing to be the primary source of +cards in an engine. Still, it slows the pace of the game down, which does open more doors for engines than othe BM strategies. But a lot of times, there wonít be a great a great engine to build, and Ghost Ship BM is pretty strong. Generally for Ghost Ship BM, you want as many Ghost Ships as possible, so you can keep playing them every turn. As explained in the Ghost Ship article, itís important to be able to play multiple Ghost Ships in a row, so you probably want to get your 2nd (or even 3rd) Ghost Ship before your second Gold.

Since youíre trying to play Ghost Ships every turn, you really have no room for other terminal actions, so if youíre going to open with a terminal action, it better be a good one. This includes usual suspects (Jack, Masquerade, Island, Swindler, Monument), and additionally because of the decreased pace of the game, you can actually afford to open with multi-card trashing like Remake or Steward. Losing an early game turn or two to trashing is less painful in the typically longer Ghost Ship games, and you will have time to reap the benefits of a more streamlined BM deck.

The jury is still out on Oracle. Simulators donít play it well, so itís hard to say how well it does in various situations. Its draw is a little better than that of Ghost Ship, because it comes with a filter, but itís still probably not enough to be the primary source of +cards in an engine. Additionally, while the attack can be strong, itís not consistently strong enough to noticeably lengthen a game. Since it canít force long games like the $5 terminal draw attacks, Oracle will probably end up being used as a BM card more often than those attacks. In Oracle BM, because it only draws 2 cards, and it comes with a filter, you can probably afford to go up to 3 of them.

Young Witch/Witch
Technically, the witches are terminal draw cards, but that aspect of the cards is more of an afterthought. They are primarily cursers, and the way the game plays out is going to depend largely on how you handle the curses or play with an uglier deck. Because they really junk up your deck, you will end up playing them in BM a fair amount. You usually want to stop at 2 (maybe 3 in rare situations where your opponent is trying to ignore Witch and make an engine) cursers because once the curse pile runs out, they're not doing a whole lot for you. After that, because they aren't actually major drawing cards and because your deck is probably a bit bloated from the curses, you can easily add in a few more terminals. In terms of openings for Witch, youíre looking at most of the typical stuff except Island, which doesnít provide money to help you get to $5 early, and doesnít trash enough to make up for it. You can, however, go with stronger trashers like Chapel or Ambassador.

Dominion Articles / The truth about Jack of All Trades
« on: May 21, 2012, 03:33:58 pm »
Iíve noticed that throughout this forum and on isotropic, there are a lot of misinformed beliefs about Jack of All Trades. Iíve made a ton of posts on various different threads to try to set the record straight -- enough that Iíve decided to just make my own thread. For fun, Iíve decided to try out this true/false format (which Iíd love to read your comments on). Iím basically going to make statements about Jack of All Trades, some of which are true, and some of which just sound like the true ones, but are actually not true. Now, none of these things are provably true or false, so donít take these as facts (thatís how we got in this mess to begin with). But hopefully if you read the explanations, youíll see what Iím talking about.

So here goes...

1. Jack is a strong opening $4 card.
On early turns with Jack, you almost always trash an estate, gain a silver, and cycle at least one extra card. And you still have enough in your hand to buy a $4-5 card. This is pretty solid early game turn, by any standard.

2. Jack makes the game faster.
Double Jack can get 4 provinces in 14 turns pretty easy. And double Jack is a baseline for games with Jack. It's generally a lower-bound for Jack+X. Of course other stronger Jack+X strategies may be slightly slower with their strength coming from +Buy or something. But for the most part, Big Money strategies with Jack openings are pretty fast.

3. You can't play slower strategies when Jack is around.
Sure, someone playing Jack+money can get 4 provinces in 14 turns. But the game doesnít end when 4 provinces are gone. It ends when all the provinces are gone or 3 piles run out. A true statement might be that you canít play slow strategies when Jack is around and there are no alternative sources of VPs, since the Jack player can grab half the available points pretty quickly. But with alternative sources of VPs, there are often ways for slower strategies to win.

4. "DoubleJack" (buying 2 Jacks and then just money) is one of the strongest single-card strategies.
If you go in the simulator and pit single-card strategies against each other, Jack is going to win a lot. As far as I can tell, it only loses to Young Witch, Witch, Mountebank, Wharf, Masquerade, and Courtyard.

5. Playing DoubleJack is often the best choice in a real game.
If you were restricted to only play single-card strategies, then sure you'd want to play Jack a lot, but you're not. If you could only play single-card strategies, Dominion would not be a best-selling game (and Young Witch would be the best card in the game)! Single-card strategies are fine to simulate to give simplified, baseline comparisons of cards, but you don't really want to do that in real games too often. Jack+almost anything beats pure jack.

You can try it out in the simulator. Take any of the following bots, and add a buy rule for 1-2 Jacks ahead of Silver, and youíll get something that beats the Jack bot: Bank, Bazaar, Cartographer, Council Room, Duke, Embassy, Explorer, Festival, Goons, Harem, Inn, Laboratory, Library, Merchant Ship, Nobles, Rabble, Royal Seal, Stables, Stash, Torturer, Vault, Venture. Note that this is not a complete list of things that work better with Jack -- in fact, itís nearly trivial to create several more, including Ill-Gotten Gains, Monument, Envoy, Smithy, Tournament, and Caravan, not to mention the cards that beat Jack in single-action decks listed in (4) -- itís just meant to show that itís not hard to find something that beats DoubleJack. 

The important idea to understand is that Jack is a good opener for money-heavy strategies. Pure Big Money is one such strategy, but itís rarely the best one. Youíre better off taking a stronger money-heavy strategy and adding a Jack opening (and potentially a second Jack if you have actions to spare).

Additionally, there are a bunch of other cheap support cards you can add, as discussed in this thread, which includes bots for Lighthouse, Fishing Village, Oasis, Scheme, Warehouse, and Spice Merchant.

6. Jack is not a great opening for engines.
Not that it can't work, but generally for dense deck engines, you want to open with a trasher. While Jack is technically a trasher, it can't actually reduce your deck size, since it also gains a card, whether you trash or not. Usually if thereís an engine strategy quick enough to beat a money strategy with a Jack opening, itís because there is a good quality non-Jack opening for the engine strategy.

7. Jack does not work with other cards.
See (5). You donít need to be building a complex engine to have multiple kinds of action cards in your deck! Removing Estates and adding Silvers has a positive synergy with a lot of stuff.

I think this mistaken belief may stem from a comparison to Envoy that was done at some point. While both cards are strong in pure money decks, they function very differently. The way Enovy works is by drawing half your deck every time you play it so you can buy Golds early and Provinces late, and cycle the Envoy back around quickly. Naturally, this kind of strategy doesnít like other cards, because there is a very high chance the card will be drawn on the Envoy turn and be completely useless. Jack money decks, on the other hand, work by trashing Estates and adding a lot of Silvers. This makes your deck primarily Coppers and Silvers, drastically reducing the variance of your cards and getting you close to that $1.6 per card point, allowing you to buy Golds and Provinces with typical 5-card hands. In this kind of deck, there is no real danger when adding other cards. The collision probability is not significantly higher than with any other card, particularly because the Jack adds extra treasures to the deck.

8. Jack is a good defense against attacks.
The card was designed to be an after-the fact Moat. Each of its 4 parts counters one kind of attack. The trash counters non-treasure junk-giving attacks. The draw counters hand-size attacks. The spy counters top deck attacks. And the Silver gain counters deck destruction attacks. So by design, itís good against attacks.

9. You should ignore attacks when Jack is around.
Jack is extremely good against hand-size attacks, but its ability to trash Curses merely mitigates the damage of cursing attacks. Cursing attacks are the strongest attacks because each play of the attack card can hurt multiple times. Even if you can trash the curse right away, you are still forced to draw the dead card at least once, and more times if you are unable to trash them immediately. And if youíre forced to wade through 10 Curses while your opponent doesnít have to deal with them at all, youíre going to find yourself behind. So while Jack helps against cursing attacks, it canít really take the place of cursing completely. Witch/Mountebank+Jack beats either the curser or Jack alone.

And even non-cursing attacks still can have an effect on the game. With Jack in hand, discard attacks are terrible, and weaker deck-top attacks aren't that great, but eventually your Jack density thins out, and attacks get stronger. If you get hit by a discard attack in a non-Jack hand, the Jack doesn't help a lot. And if Rabble puts 3 VP cards on top of your deck, filtering out 1 doesn't save you. If an Ambassador is feeding you multiple Coppers per turn, Jack is pretty helpless against that...

Dominion Articles / Ghost Ship
« on: February 21, 2012, 08:15:10 pm »

A ship by the side of the sea
reduces hand sizes to three.
And when played every turn
will quite often earn
a rage-quit without a “gg”.

Understanding the Attack

When you first look at the Ghost Ship attack, you probably think it looks a lot like the attack of Militia. But then when you think about it or play with it a little more, you see some difference:
1. It seems weaker because your opponent can use the attack to organize their cards to give them one really good turn.
2. It seems stronger because you can’t just discard weak cards and forget about it, since getting rid of them means you have to see them next turn. It also slows progress through the deck so it takes longer to shuffle in your new better cards.

So which is it? Is it weaker or stronger?

Well, if you have only one Ghost Ship, it’s probably a bit of a wash. Situationally, one of these effects may appear more prominent. But the real strength of Ghost Ship comes from getting consecutive plays of the attack.

As a thought experiment, consider what happens when you get attacked. With Miltia, your average 5-card turn is reduced into a “good” 3-card turn (a turn consisting of the 3 best of 5 cards). With Ghost Ship, you have to think about next turn as well, so you either reduce 2 average 5-card turns into a good 3 and a bad 5 or a bad 3 and a good 5. Well, usually you’ll want the latter, as a bad 3 and a good 5 can actually at times be even better than 2 average 5s due to general convexity of card values (a Gold is better than two Silvers). But now imagine you opted to take a bad 3 and a good 5, and now, right before your good 5, you get attacked again. Now you’re looking at turning a good 5/average 5 into an average 3/good 5 or good 3/bad 5, both of which are now a major downgrade, even without considering the decreased cycle speed. This is where the real power of the attack shows.

Of course, in reality, you’re not just playing against BM, so the exact situation is different, and the attack comes out being a little weaker if your opponent has some card-drawing ability, since a decrease from 7 to 5 cards isn’t as bad as 5 to 3, but the point is that multiple consecutive attacks stack quite strongly since the one weakness of the attack (allowing the construction of one above-average turn) is only experienced once over a string of attacks, rather than once per attack.

How to use Ghost Ship

Now that you we understand that the strength of the attack comes from consecutive plays, the strategy question becomes how to set up a deck that can play multiple consecutive Ghost Ships -- preferably one every turn. There are a few ways this can be accomplished:
1. Get a lot of Ghost Ships
2. Build an action-chain that allows you to play one of your 1-2 Ghost Ships every turn.
3. (for 3+-player) Build off the Ghost Ships of other players.

The simplest answer is (1). If you just buy as many Ghost Ships as possible and as few other actions as possible, you have a pretty good Ghost Ship Big Money deck. The general plan with Ghost Ship BM is to try to get a bunch of Ghost Ships ASAP. You want to take an early Gold to help buy them, but a second Ghost Ship should probably take priority over a second Gold since the second Ghost Ship is where the real magic starts to happen. You may also want to get a third Ghost Ship before second or third Gold, but it’s hard to say. (The simulator can’t really answer this because it does not play against Ghost Ship properly.) Once you have have your Ghost Ships up, just buy Provinces, Gold, Ghost Ships, Silver, and eventually Duchies. You don’t really need to worry about over-buying Ghost Ships, because usually it’s better to have too many rather than too few. This is because a collision is just a waste of one card, but having a turn where you can’t play Ghost Ship gives your opponent an extra “good” turn, or at least 2 extra cards. For openings, you can go with early-game Estate-trashers that you only want to play 1-2 times like Chapel, Remake, Steward, or Island, but not cards that get their value from being played in the mid-game like Monument or Militia, as ideally you want to quickly get to the point where you just play Ghost Ship every turn. Fishing village can be a help, since it alleviates collisions while still providing money, but Walled Village or any of the other villages are probably not worth the loss in economy vs Silver since you’re not really trying to chain actions. Ghost Ship’s +2 Cards isn’t enough to fuel a real +Cards/+Actions chain.

That leads us to (2). If you want to play Ghost Ship in an action chain, you need a better source of draw, like Smithy, Council Room, or a Lab-type. Council Room has a nice interaction because the extra card given to your opponent by Council Room gets put back by Ghost Ship. If you’re going to compete with Ghost Ship BM, you probably also need some source of +Buy, since you’re bound to start buying Provinces later than the BM player. Generally, you want to play the action chain as you otherwise would, using the Ghost Ships, which are preferably acquired early, as extra terminals. While the draw isn't enough to fuel the chain, it can be enough to offset the fact that you have to buy more villages instead of draw cards. Another consideration is Scheme. If you have a Scheme, you don't have to draw a huge portion of your deck to keep your Ghost Ships coming every turn. Similar tricks can also be pulled with other cards that can save away an extra Ghost Ship like Haven, Courtyard, or Mandarin.

Option (3) is not really something you can control. The only thing to really take from it is that Ghost Ship gets strong more quickly as the number of players increases. When each player has 2 Ghost Ships, you may already be under perpetual Ghost Ships. It may affect timing of Ghost Ship purchases compared to Gold since you need fewer to get a perpetual Ghost Ship going when other players are playing Ghost Ship as well. Also, you may even want to have fewer Ghost Ships, and mix in other good terminals instead, since you don't actually have to play Ghost Ship every turn to get the full effect.

Playing against Ghost Ship

If you have no drawing cards and your opponent is unlikely to be able to play a Ghost Ship next turn, possibly because he has only one in the deck, it’s usually better to save up good cards for next turn unless you have enough for a Gold this turn or you’re about to reshuffle. If you’re under perpetual Ghost Ships, the decision is a bit tougher and depends on what you’re going to be able to buy. Ideally, however, by this point in the game, you will typically have some way of drawing back the cards you put back. If you are actually forced to play primarily 3-card hands with no drawing, you basically have no hope. So even if you have no real hard counter to Ghost Ship, you at least need some source of +Cards (Ghost Ships of your own if nothing else). If you're under perpetual Ghost Ships, you will also find that you play smaller hands than usual, and move through the deck slower, so you can afford to have a slightly higher density of terminal actions than you might have had otherwise. But don't overdo it, because you do want to be able to reach the point where you regularly draw back the cards you returned from the attack.

There are some “hard” counters to the attack, including reactions which defend hand-size attacks (Moat, Horse Traders), cards that “draw up to X” (Jack of All Trades, Watchtower, Library, Minion), and the generic defense of Lighthouse. But there are also other “soft” counters that don’t directly ignore the effect of the attack, but take advantage of the fact that you return cards to the top of your deck. With Menagerie or Shanty Town, it’s easy to set up your hand so that you can draw the two cards back. They're not "hard" counters because you just draw the cards back and miss out on further benefit from the cards. If you would have drawn 3 from menagerie or 2 from Shanty Town anyway, the attack still hurts. Cards that deal with the top of your deck (Secret Chamber, Spy, Scrying Pool, Jack, Oracle, Apothecary, Cartographer, Wishing Well, Venture, Loan, Farming Village, Golem, Native Village, etc.) can also take advantage of being able to know/arrange the cards on top of your deck. Note that Jack is both on this list and the list of “draw up to X” cards. It counters Ghost Ship pretty hard. You can also go for some cards that take advantage of the ability to use the attack to save a card for a later turn (Tournament, Baron, Treasure Map). And even even any card that just draw a lot of cards like Wharf or Tactician can help simply because the effect of returning 2 cards is less impactful when you draw and extra 4-5. If you can spare a terminal, either because you have lots of villages, or because it's a 3+ player game where you don't have to play Ghost Ship every turn, Monument is a nice soft-counter, because it gets you points regardless of what your other cards are, and its benefits quickly stack up over long Ghost Ship games. More generally, cards that benefit from longer games are going to be better that usual in Ghost Ship games.

Wharf Big Money should beat Ghost Ship Big Money, since the extra draw completely offsets the Ghost Ship attack, allowing both players to essentially play off of 6 cards every turn. However, Wharf has the added benefit of the +Buy and higher variance in hand-size (3-8 instead of 5-6). Oracle Big Money may also counter Ghost Ship Big Money. Even though the Oracle player will be playing with 4-card hands vs 6-card hands of the Ghost Ship player, the 4-card hands will be filtered into strong 4 card hands, while the 6-card hands will be filtered into weak ones. As mentioned before, Jack of All Trades is the sickest counter, and Ghost Ship BM with a Jack opening loses to plain old Jack+Money. Venture is a nice card to add in to your Ghost Ship play once you have 3-4 Ghost Ships, since it semi-counters the attack and is a treasure. You should open Loan pretty often on Ghost Ship boards, since it helps counter the attack by skipping Estates while at the same time trimming away Coppers. This leads well into engines, and is still useful in the Ghost Ship BM scenario.  Many of the other counters can be quite nice, but need to appropriately be incorporated into an engine. It’s generally not worth adding in something like a Moat purely for the reaction.

Works with:
  • Money
  • Single-use Estate-trashers
  • Fishing Village
  • Council Room
  • Scheme
Conflicts with:
  • Jack of All Trades
  • Oracle
  • Menagerie
  • Horse Traders
  • Library-types
  • deck-top inspection

Dominion General Discussion / Dominion Limericks!
« on: November 19, 2011, 02:38:29 pm »
Inspired by this thread, I decided to create my own poetry thread! Haiku's are nice and poetic, but I'm a simple man. I like poems that rhyme. So I decided to contruct some Limericks, and I'd love to read some of yours!

I built up my deck in a flash:
Masquerade and tons of cash.
But when my foe played
King's Court/Goons/Masquerade,
it all ended up in the trash!

It was just like militia at first,
but it got progressively worse.
Mass torturer play
makes my hands go away.
I guess I should just take the curse...

Provinces were his to collect,
but the thing that he did not expect
was that with my fairgrounds
I would also compound
20 cards from the black market deck!

Ghost Ship
A ghost ship at the side of the sea
reduces hand sizes to three,
and when played every turn
will quite often earn
a rage-quit without a gg!

Dominion Articles / COMBO: Governor/Warehouse
« on: November 18, 2011, 04:32:11 pm »
Governor is kind of a tricky card. It can do a lot of things, each of which also help your opponents, so it’s important to recognize when each of them are good. As a general rule:
1. You only want to use the trash option late, because the free “upgrade” for your opponent is too strong early.
2. You prefer to use the draw option when your opponents can’t take advantage of the larger handsize (i.e. you either have a hand-size reduction attack or it’s the last turn).
3. The gain a gold option is not that bad! While silver helps your opponents, in most decks it’s not even remotely as useful to them as gold is to you, because you can use the gold not only to buy stuff, but to remodel into provinces!

A great way to combine all these abilities is in combination with warehouse. The plan is to open warehouse/silver (or some good money-giving terminal, since governor and warehouse are non-terminal), adding another silver to help you buy a lot of governors, which you buy even with $6. The warehouses will help you play the governors more often to gain a lot of gold, which is the only option you should choose during the mid-game. When it starts to get toward the greening stage, you start remodeling the golds into provinces, and then on your last turn, you set up a mega-turn, using the governor draw abiltiy to draw into a huge hand, which you then shape with warehouses to allow you to remodel into multiple victory cards and buy another. You should be able to net at least 2xprovince+estate like this, and even if you give your opponents 8-card hands, they won’t get to use them if the game is over!

Warehouse is a particularly good partner for governor because the cycling helps you play the governors a lot, and because it’s really easy to put together $5 4-out-of-7-card hands with all the gold you’re gaining. And then it’s great when you have the monster-sized hand from using the draw option. But there are alternative partners. Cellar generally does the same thing but is a bit more likely to leave you with sub-$5 hands, since you can end up drawing and not discarding estates. Trashers can also have a similarly useful effect, since even though you won't see as many cards as with warehouse every turn, you’ll have less junk, which will allow you to still play the governors very often and pair them with golds late game. Adding +buy can also be nice, as you may have excess money to spend on your mega-turn, or you may find a bunch of golds with not enough governors. Even cheap terminal +buy like woodcutter is fine since governor is non-terminal.

Strong against:
 - trimmed decks (where the silver is disruptive)
Weak against:
 - terminal drawers (which become much stronger with silver)
 - handsize reduction attacks (which counter warehouse and combo more strongly with governor)

Warehouse:solitaire, vs Governor/HP BM
Cellar:vs Bishop
Chapel: solitaire

Dominion General Discussion / [spoiler] Full Hinterlands card list
« on: October 17, 2011, 04:59:55 pm »
For those of your interested, Donald just posted this on the spoiler thread on bgg (

So that there are no misunderstandings, here is the full text spoiler in English.

* * * 10 copies with the normal back, 1 with the randomizer back:

Border Village: Action, $6
+1 Card
+2 Actions
When you gain this, gain a card costing less than this.

Cache: Treasure, $5, worth $3
$3 [large coin]
When you gain this, gain two Coppers.

Cartographer: Action, $5
+1 Card
+1 Action
Look at the top 4 cards of your deck. Discard any number of them. Put the rest back on top in any order.

Crossroads: Action, $2
Reveal your hand. +1 Card per Victory card revealed.
If this is the first time you played a Crossroads this turn, +3 Actions.

Develop: Action, $3
Trash a card from your hand. Gain a card costing exactly $1 more than it and a card costing exactly $1 less than it, in either order, putting them on top of your deck.

Duchess: Action, $2
Each player (including you) looks at the top card of his deck, and discards it or puts it back.
In games using this, when you gain a Duchy, you may gain a Duchess.

Embassy: Action, $5
+5 Cards
Discard 3 cards.
When you gain this, each other player gains a Silver.

Fool's Gold: Treasure - Reaction, $2, worth $?
If this is the first time you played a Fool's Gold this turn, this is worth $1, otherwise it's worth $4.
When another player gains a Province, you may trash this from your hand. If you do, gain a Gold, putting it on your deck.

Haggler: Action, $5
While this is in play, when you buy a card, gain a card costing less than it that is not a Victory card.

Highway: Action, $5
+1 Card
+1 Action
While this is in play, cards cost $1 less, but not less than $0.

Ill-Gotten Gains: Treasure, $5, worth $1
$1 [large coin]
When you play this, you may gain a Copper, putting it into your hand.
When you gain this, each other player gains a Curse.

Inn: Action, $5
+2 Cards
+2 Actions
Discard 2 cards.
When you gain this, look through your discard pile (including this), reveal any number of Action cards from it, and shuffle them into your deck.

Jack of all Trades: Action, $4
Gain a Silver.
Look at the top card of your deck; discard it or put it back.
Draw until you have 5 cards in hand.
You may trash a card from your hand that is not a Treasure.

Mandarin: Action, $5
Put a card from your hand on top of your deck.
When you gain this, put all Treasures you have in play on top of your deck in any order.

Margrave: Action - Attack, $5
+3 Cards
+1 Buy
Each other player draws a card, then discards down to 3 cards in hand.

Noble Brigand: Action - Attack, $4
When you buy this or play it, each other player reveals the top 2 cards of his deck, trashes a revealed Silver or Gold you choose, and discards the rest. If he didn't reveal a Treasure, he gains a Copper. You gain the trashed cards.

Nomad Camp: Action, $4
+1 Buy
When you gain this, put it on top of your deck.

Oasis: Action, $3
+1 Card
+1 Action
Discard a card.

Oracle: Action - Attack, $3
Each player (including you) reveals the top 2 cards of his deck, and you choose one: either he discards them, or he puts them back on top in an order he chooses.
+2 Cards

Scheme: Action, $3
+1 Card
+1 Action
At the start of Clean-up this turn, you may choose an Action card you have in play. If you discard it from play this turn, put it on your deck.

Spice Merchant: Action, $4
You may trash a Treasure from your hand. If you do, choose one:
+2 Cards and +1 Action;
or +$2 and +1 Buy.

Stables: Action, $5
You may discard a Treasure. If you do, +3 Cards and +1 Action.

Trader: Action - Reaction, $4
Trash a card from your hand. Gain a number of Silvers equal to its cost in coins.
When you would gain a card, you may reveal this from your hand. If you do, instead, gain a Silver.

* * * 12 copies with the normal back, 1 with the randomizer back:

Farmland: Victory, $6
2 VP [large shield]
When you buy this, trash a card from your hand. Gain a card costing exactly $2 more than the trashed card.

Silk Road: Victory, $4
Worth 1 VP for every 4 Victory cards in your deck (round down).

Tunnel: Victory - Reaction, $3
2 VP [large shield]
When you discard this other than during a Clean-up phase, you may reveal it. If you do, gain a Gold.

Dominion Articles / Ranking the opening terminals (for 4/3 splits)
« on: September 12, 2011, 07:11:34 pm »
In your first two turns of a game of dominion, you’re (usually) going to buy two cards (on a 4/3 split). In general, only one should be a terminal action, since you have a 36% chance of drawing the two together. In this article, I attempt to roughly sort the desirable opening terminals into tiers based on their typical utility. However, just because a card appears higher on the list than another card, does not mean it is always preferable. When you choose an opening, it should depend heavily on the strategy you plan on using in the mid-game. If there is a must-have $5 card, you may want to think about feast; if you’re going smithy big money, you better open smithy (duh); if you’re going to need an early quarry or potion, your terminal can’t cost $4; if you're going to heavily rely on trashing, you should bump the trashers up, etc...

Tier 0: The one and only...

Everyone knows about chapel. It kind of transcends all lists of anything. While you generally only want to open with a single terminal action, you make an exception for chapel. So it doesn’t really belong on this list. You’re not going to choose chapel over remake, for example. You can just buy both! In terms of play, if you get a collision, just trash 3 cards and be satisfied that you’re going to get back to your other terminal soon enough with your rapidly slimming deck.

Tier 1: The elite openers
These two cards are far-and-away the strongest opening terminals in the game (yes, stronger than chapel). If either is on the table, you will usually want to buy one.

If you glance through the rest of this list, you’ll see that practically all of the cards either attack or trash. Ambassador does both! You slim down your deck while stuffing junk into your opponent’s deck. Ambassador is so good that if you’re not that concerned with getting to $5 quickly, you should probably just open with 2 of them. The one weakness of ambassador is that trashing 2 cards every turn doesn’t give you a lot of room to buy stuff. The attack can usually force a slow game, but the attack is not that powerful vs a money-based rush strategy where your opponent doesn’t need to draw combos of cards together. That brings us to the other tier 1 opening terminal...

Masquerade offers a slightly different approach to opening than ambassador. While ambassador is for slow games, masquerade is astoundingly fast. Drawing 2 cards and trashing 1 gives a lot of cycling power, and the fact that you get to draw half your deck the first time you play masquerade gives you a really good chance at grabbing an early $5 or $6 card. In a game with no attacks, a single masquerade and no other actions can regularly get you to half the provinces in 14 turns. Masquerade also shrugs off the $4 cursing attacks by allowing you send back and/or trash the curses while letting you play from bigger hand than your opponent, allowing you sufficient purchasing power to keep building your deck even in the presence of the curses.

Tier 2: The cursing attacks
The strongest type of attack in dominion is the cursing attack. If you can start cursing right off the bat, it gives you a huge advantage over anyone who tries to do something else (other than ambassador or maquerade).

Sea Hag
When you first start playing dominion, the cards that excite you are the ones that do cool things for your deck. But then you run into sea hag. Sea hag does absolutely nothing for your deck, yet is still one of the strongest opening terminals in the game. This is because sea hag’s attack is just sick. Not only does it hand out a curse, it puts it on top of your opponent’s deck, so they start feeling it right away. While you only have 4 cards with which to buy stuff on this turn, they will have only at most 4 non-curse cards next turn, plus the curse sticks around if they can’t trash it right away. There are several cards that handle the top-deck curse pretty well, but it still forces a useless card to be draw at least once, and very early in the game, when your opponents would rather be doing other things.

Young Witch
Young witch’s attack is weaker than that of sea hag, because the curse only goes in the discard pile, and because your opponent can block it with a bane card, but assuming the bane card isn’t something extremely useful and massable, it’s still a very strong attack, and doesn’t sacrifice your purchasing power as much as sea hag. If your opponent does not get a bane card, and there is no good trashing, young witch is almost as good as witch, since in curse games, you usually have 2 useless cards you’d be willing to discard anyway. While probably weaker overall, young witch compares favorably to sea hag in a head-to-head match-up since young witch cycles faster and allows you better chances at good buys on the turn you play it, by allowing you to select money out of 6 cards (5 if a sea hag just hit) instead of 4. In the presence of a good bane card your opponent will buy en masse anyway, young witch becomes much less spectacular, but even given a moderately useful bane, it's pretty good. You will still hand out some curses (they can't have the bane in hand every time), and you get the mini-warehouse effect.

Tier 3: The “good” trashers
What's the next best thing to handing out curses? Getting rid of the junk in your own deck. There are 11 sub-$5 terminals that allow you to trash or return other cards to the supply. Three have been mentioned already, three will come later, and two (remodel, trade route) don’t make the grade as consistently good opening terminals. The other three are listed here.

There are some strategies that involve heavy remaking all game, but even outside of those, remake is a very strong opener. It’s kind of like a trading-post junior, allowing you to dump two useless starting cards, and potentially get a useful $3 card out of it. Like trading post, remake can become dead weight later in the game, when you don’t have 2 cards you want to/are willing to trash, or when you can’t spare the terminal action. However, you may find some cases where you can use a remake to turn a $4 into a late duchy or even a $7 into a province.

Steward can trash as fast as remake but doesn’t come with the nice gains, making it harder to start building a deck. Turns of “trash 2 cards, buy nothing” are hardly exciting. However, steward does something that chapel and remake don’t: it stays useful into the mid-game. With most of your coppers and estates removed, +2 cards is often pretty good, provided you have a spare action. Steward can really shine when paired with a good non-terminal that lets you get something out of your trashing turn, and its $3 cost allows you to spend more on your non-terminal.

Since it only trashes a single card, salvager can’t streamline your deck at the same rate as remake or steward, but it remains a very powerful opening due in large part to its ability to stay powerful even into the late-game. In the late game, you will very often be able to make good use of salvager’s ability to trash your expensive cards for a ton of cash a buy to help get extra victory cards. And since salvager can also provide a strong early game benefit (+$2, trash an estate), you might as well go for it right away. Salvager does carry the risk of being drawn without an estate in the early game, but even this unlucky occurence (which occurs about once every five games) is not the end of the world as you at least get to keep the increasingly useful salvager.

Tier 4: The +$2 attacks
These attacks are a class below the cursing attacks, but attacking is still really good as it slows your opponents down, keeping them from doing what they really want to do with their turns. Technically, this title includes fortune teller, but the fortune teller attack seems much weaker than those of the listed cards. Bureaucrat also offers a strong attack, but the gain a silver on top of your deck is too much weaker than the +$2 of these cards.

Militia is the standard hand-size reduction attack. Hand-size reduction is a nice kind of attack, because it scales well as the game goes on. As your opponents’ cards get better, they are forced to discard better cards. If your opponent has a deck with massive drawing power, it may hurt less late game, since they may still be able to draw a good portion of their deck starting with three cards chosen from five, but against decks with a heavy reliance on silver, it’s just killer. In any case, it can at least make the early game painful. By slowing down the pace of the early game, it can allow you time to build up slower, more powerful engines.

While having to discard a copper sounds innocuous, losing $1 of purchasing power in the early game is a really big deal. In 2-player, cutpurse acts a lot like militia in the early game. A typical discard to militia might by a copper and an estate. In the absence of cards that take advantage of having the estate, the attack of cutpurse has basically the same effect. The situations in which the two cards differ are when your opponent has zero or two estates. In bad hands (two estates), cutpurse is stronger than militia, while in good hands (no estates), it is weaker. Since good hands are more important, militia is generally better. Additionally, cutpurse does not scale well into late game where copper is less important, and where hands may even have no copper. Cutpurse does, however, shine in larger games, because unlike the militia attack, the cutpurse attack stacks.

Swindler is a kind of swingy card, as its attack can range from actually helping your opponent (discard an estate from the top of their deck) to completely killing them (turn their witch into a duchy). It’s particulaly strong in 2-player where hitting that $5 card just wins the game for you. The typical result of an early game swindle is turning a copper into a curse, which is still pretty good and reasonably competitive with the other attacks in this tier. The advantage swindler has over militia and cutpurse is its $3 price tag, which allows it to be purchased along with good $4 non-terminals like tournament, caravan, potion, quarry, etc...

Tier 5: The VP chip-gainers
While the attack cards can force slower games, in faster games you may be better served by just getting off to a VP lead. If you’re ahead in VPs, your opponents will have to either (a) get a fifth province before you get your fourth, or (b) buy a couple extra duchies, which entails either starting to buy them earlier than you or putting together big province+duchy turns. So if you can grab a few extra VPs without giving up too much of a tempo advantage, you’ll often find yourself in pretty good shape.

Monument is the only card on this list that neither trashes nor attacks, and it may not come to mind immediately when you think of strong openings, but it’s a pretty good choice for an opening terminal even if you’re not going for a monument-centric strategy. The +$2 gives good purchasing power so you won’t really fall behind in building up (assuming none of the higher-tier cards are available), plus you get the VP chips to give you an early score advantage. Even though you may not feel the benefits right away, you’ll feel them later when your opponent has to scramble to try to get duchies to make up the points.

Bishop as an opening terminal is kind of hard to rate. It can net you a much bigger pile of VP chips than monument, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of purchasing power, and it helps your opponents slim their decks. So when is it good? It’s good when its drawbacks are less significant, i.e. when slimming your opponents decks is not horrible, and when you’re not that concerned with hitting $5 early on. In a situation where you are going to have to play some kind of big-money strategy, the boost of the extra points can offset your being slightly slower than them, but if they go for a stronger engine, the free trashing can be too great of a benefit to them that your VP chips can’t overcome it.

Tier 6: The lesser trashers
There isn't always a great source of trashing, but some is often better than none, provided you at least get something else out of it.

Moneylender is a nice trasher because, like masquerade or salvager, it allows you to trash without cannibalizing your turn. However, it’s trashing ability is pretty lackluster. You can’t trash estates and you trash copper only one at a time. Still, it’s better than nothing, and pure copper-trashing can be good for stuff like venture/adventurer, and it can be good to leave estates around to be trashed for greater benefit with upgrade/apprentice.

Before there were VP chips, there was island. You can (kind of) think of an early island as a one-shot bishop that gives one more VP, one less coin and no benefit to your opponent. You get rid of a single copper or estate and get a couple extra VPs to show for it. It allows you to get off to an early score advantage while slimming your deck, rather than bloating it. You may not want to open island if getting to $5 is very important, but otherwise it’s a reasonable opening. While you’ll be behind at massing $4-$5 cards vs someone who favors purchasing-power to deck-trimming, you’ll have a slightly slimmer deck and more points, which means they can’t just run away with a quick win. When they slow down late game to buy islands/duchies to make up the points, your slightly slimmer deck should be able to help you stay ahead.

Dominion General Discussion / Taking a $5 card over an early gold
« on: August 25, 2011, 03:02:48 pm »
So say you draw $6 on turn 3 or 4. You can grab a really fast gold, or you can go for a $5 card. For the most part, youíre going to want gold, but of course there are some exceptions. Obviously, if youíre going for a gold-free strategy (minions, tactician+vault, vault+GM, baron+HP, etc.) then you donít want gold. And of course there are the major attacks you canít afford to fall behind on: mountebank, witch, and torturer.

Ghost ship is a bit questionable to me because Iím not sure the strength of the attack does enough to offset the fact that youíre getting +2 cards instead of +$3 in the early game. Similarly, minion hurts you as much as them if youíre not going for a minion deck. Jesterís attack seems a bit innocuous for the most part, but if theyíre buying cards you want, maybe itís worth it sometimes?

As far as non-attacks go, I like tactician in strategies where you would have bought one with $5. It will basically always get you a gold + more when you play it, and it helps to cycle, which can help make up for the delay in getting your gold. Probably wharf too if you have another source of money (like fishing village) and are going for a wharf chain.

My big question is what to do with the $5 trashers: upgrade, apprentice, trading post, and mint (I guess mine is on this list too, but I have a hard time believing youíd want to go for that). I figure if your $6 came from 4 coppers and a +$2 action, mint is a good call. I donít really think Iíd really want to go for apprentice, because itís not really good for trashing coppers, so you might as well take the gold now and just get your apprentice next shuffle. Iíd also avoid trading post for the most part since it loses value fast due to being terminal and requiring you to have 2 bad cards in your hand; but it may have a place if you need trashing, itís the only source, and you can spare the action. Now upgrade is a really interesting question. Itís clearly very good early on, but can it be better than gold, and if so, when?

What do you guys think? What cards do you sometimes prioritize over gold and when?

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