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Dominion Articles / Draw-to-X engines
« on: October 10, 2018, 04:44:23 am »
I started this a while ago, then ran out of steam when I realized it was a lot harder to write than expected. This draft is very rough but I'm putting it up now just to be done with it.

Draw-to-X engines are a special subcategory of engine, formed by two pieces.

  • An action that says "Draw until you have X cards in hand".
  • Disappearing money - a way to get money during your Action phase that decrases your hand size. This doesn't have to be fancy, a terminal Silver will do.

When they work, draw-to-X engines are one of my favorite engines to play. The core idea with these decks is that the fewer cards you have in hand, the more cards the draw-to-X action gives you, so if you can consistently turn cards-in-hand into money, you get to draw a lot more cards than you normally would. For $5, the going rate is +3 Cards and a bonus, with +4 Cards costing $6. Meanwhile, Library can draw up to 7 cards if the conditions line up.

The big question is whether the conditions line up. Draw-to-X engines differ quite a bit from more traditional Village-Smithy engines.

1. Treasures and Victories Super Super Suck For You

A Village-Smithy engine can get away with only using Gold for payload. This does not fly for draw-to-X engines. Like, it completely fails.

Let's suppose you play a Library and draw a Gold. If you don't have a way to get the Gold out of your hand, it effectively says "every future Library you play this turn draws 1 less card". This is really, really bad! It adds up to 3-4 missed card draws, depending on how many Libraries you have. (Cards like Scholar don't have this problem, since they discard your entire hand.) This has greening consequence as well. Eventually, you need points. Each Province hurts your deck a lot more than it would hurt a normal engine.

It's really hard to start a draw-to-X engine if there isn't trashing, just because of how many stop cards you start with. Trashing on its own is sometimes but not always enough for the draw-to-X engine. Eventually, you need to pick up points, usually through Provinces. You can't trash Provinces without losing the VP...

This leads to the other important piece: a discarder, like Warehouse, Artificer, or Storeroom, that lets you get unwanted Treasures and Victory cards out of your hand. That way you can dig for Actions instead. An effect like Villa or Black Market (to play Treasures midturn) can also play the role of a card discarder.

If either trashing or card discarding were missing, I would need an exceptional circumstance to consider the draw-to-X engine. The classic Base set combo is Festival/Library, but in my experience with Base-only games, the combo is really more like Festival/Library with Cellar and some kind of trasher.

2. +Buy is Great

Engines like +Buy since it lets them buy lots of engine pieces in one turn, then green later. The "green later" part is what makes them extra nice for draw-to-X engines. In draw-to-X games it's usually correct to build longer, then end the game fast, since your engine isn't designed to handle greening over several turns.

3. Your Deck Can Be Less Consistent

Often, Draw-to-X engines use a disappearing village to get +Actions, because it turns the drawback (not getting to draw a card) into a benefit (will draw the card for free off the draw-to-X card anyway). Buying Fishing Village instead of Village gives you an extra +$1 over the next 2 turns while not hurting your draw - it improves your payload.

Except, it kind of does. If you're playing a Village-Smithy engine and your starting hand is

4 Villages, 1 Copper

you're a little unhappy, but not that unhappy. You get 4 chances to draw into the Smithy.

By contrast, in a Festival-Library deck, if your starting hand is

4 Festival, 1 Copper

you're *really* upset. You're unable to "go-off" with a Library this turn, and your later Libraries are all likely to be dead because your Festivals collided. I've had this happen a few time and it sucks every time.

Because of this, it helps to have reliability increasing effects, like Scheme, Travelling Fair, Tracker, or Overlord. If a disappearing village and regular village are in the Kingdom, I personally like buying 1-2 copies of the regular village when my draw-to-X deck starts working, since I value the reliability more than the payload.

4. Hand Size Tactics are Sweet

The point of draw-to-X engines is to play lots of disappearing money, but there are other ways to get value while decreasing hand size. Trashers are one of them.

Consider this turn.
  • Play Festival, Festival, Library.
  • The Library draws a Steward and a Library.
  • Steward, trashing 2 cards.
  • Play Library
By trashing with Steward before playing the draw-to-X card, you get to draw 2 extra cards, which is a pretty great deal. You can't really plan for this, but it's an important tactical play. Ambassador 2 Coppers (handsize -3), then play Library. Remodel Silver into Festival (handsize -2), then play Library.

From a strategy perspective, plays like this don't tend to change what you buy - odds are you're buying trashing anyways. They're just important parts of optimizing draw-to-X builds.

5. Key Draw-to-X cards

An incomplete list of cards that are especially nice in draw-to-X games: Villa, Count, Storeroom, Steward, Inn, Warehouse, Cellar, Fishing Village, Squire, Junk Dealer. As an exercise it might be worth thinking through why some of these cards are so nice.

Help! / Is it possible to do better than tie here
« on: September 21, 2018, 02:14:49 am »
Game ID: 18509989

On my final turn I decided to go for the tie, I felt my deck was worse and there was a good chance my opponent would Province next turn. I got there by Butchering Artisan --> Province and buying Estate, hoping that would be enough to trigger my Silk Road. It wasn't.

I've been trying to see if I can do better, and there's a surprising number of tricks you can do here, despite the inability to draw. I've managed to get a tie on VP in 3 different ways. Is there a way to end the game on my turn with a win?

At the start of my turn, I have 5 Victory cards and 1 Silk Road.

Dominion Articles / Turn 1 Plan's effect on Turns 3 and 4
« on: September 14, 2018, 01:25:10 am »
On a recent trip, I had a few hours free with my computer and no Internet. Out of curiosity, I wrote a script to simulate a few thousand opening turns given openings where you open Plan/X vs Silver/X.

I'm assuming a bunch of things here:
  • You buy Plan turn 1, placing its Trashing token on an Action you buy turn 2.
  • There are no Heirlooms.
  • You don't get attacked.
  • There are no Shelters (didn't want to simulate Overgrown Estate.
  • On turns 3 and 4, you buy nothing. Depending on your opening, you may reshuffle before turn 4, and I didn't want to assume anything about what you buy on turn 3.

Obvious caveat: You don't buy Plan only because of what it does in the next two turns, you buy it because of the long term trashing you get to do. Given all these assumptions, idk how useful this data actually is, but it's sure a bunch of data!

Let me know if you see something interesting. Two things I noticed:

  • Plan + Terminal Silver guarantees you hit $5 in the next two turns
  • Plan + Poacher (or Tournament) is even more absurd of an opening than it sounds. Either you hit $5, or you hit $4 twice because you draw an Estate on turns 3 and 4. But in the 4/4 case, you just buy 2 Poachers to trash your last 2 Estates.

Silver + Terminal Silver
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 8.85%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 76.22%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 14.93%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 35.34%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 64.66%

Plan + Terminal Silver
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 100.00%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 28.03%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 71.97%

Silver + Terminal Copper
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 27.83%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 70.20%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 1.97%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 51.51%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 48.49%

Plan + Terminal Copper
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 55.39%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 44.61%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 44.61%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 55.39%

Silver + Terminal Giving $0
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 50.41%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 49.59%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 5.15%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 73.16%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 21.70%

Plan + Terminal Giving $0
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 83.23%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 16.77%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 100.00%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 0.00%

Silver + Poacher
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 8.06%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 83.87%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 8.07%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 37.38%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 62.62%

Plan + Poacher
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 10.19%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 86.09%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 3.72%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 25.45%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 74.56%

Silver + Smithy
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 5.10%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 71.83%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 23.07%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 32.11%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 67.89%

Plan + Smithy
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 67.52%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 32.48%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 22.44%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 77.56%

Silver + Terminal Giving +2 Cards
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 5.06%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 94.94%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 0.00%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 39.97%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 60.03%

Plan + Terminal Giving +2 Cards
Money on turns 3/4Probability

Hit exactly 0 $5+ hands: 22.66%
Hit exactly 1 $5+ hand: 73.72%
Hit exactly 2 $5+ hands: 3.62%

Hit exactly 0 $4+ hands: 0.00%
Hit exactly 1 $4+ hand: 23.76%
Hit exactly 2 $4+ hands: 76.24%

Code is at

Dominion Articles / Making the Most of Your Turns
« on: July 03, 2018, 02:02:39 am »
This is basically a rewrite of an old article I wrote.

If you have an example of one of these, I'd appreciate a picture / replay.

Competitive Dominion is first and foremost a game of optimization. It's not enough to do something cool - you have to do it quickly. Accordingly, a lot of the strategy is about figuring out what's cool and whether you can do it fast enough to make it worth it.

I like to think of Dominion gameplay as two broad categories: strategy, and tactics. Strategy is your plan for the entire game - tactics is your plan for this turn. In this article I'm going to focus on just one aspect of the tactics: how to play your hand. This is the nitty-gritty of Dominion optimization - you can usually autopilot your hands, but sometimes you get a slight edge if you don't, and those edges can add up over the course of a game. More importantly, the correct play is a lot less ambiguous - this makes it easier to give advice that actually doesn't depend on the board (which is a rare situation in Dominion.)

There are two principles to keep in mind.

1. Keep your options open as long as possible.
2. Watch your reshuffle timings.

Let's begin.


If you have a card that gains other cards to your discard pile, and you want to draw those cards, then playing the gainer before you reshuffle lets you get that card into your draw pile sooner. Conversely, if you don't want to draw the gained card, playing the gainer after the reshuffle guarantees you can't draw it for 1 cycle through your deck.

In either case, you should play the gainer as late as possible - if you can, gain cards right before the shuffle, or at the end of your turn. This gives you more information - depending on what you draw, you may decide to gain a different card than you intended.


For cards that trash from your hand, play them later rather than earlier. It doesn't matter when you trash your cards, because you've already drawn them. The only thing that matters is that they get trashed before you finish your turn.

This is most important for Junk Dealer - because Junk Dealer is a cantrip, it can be tempting to play it early to draw another card, but unless you need that card now, you should play your other draw cards first, to see if you can find a better trash target.

Saving Your Throne Rooms

Some cards are better to copy than other cards. You always want to double the Action that gives you what you're lacking the most. If you need draw, then Throne Room Hunting Grounds. If you can comfortably draw your deck, save it for a card that gives +$ or +Buy. If you need Actions, then try to save your Throne Room for another Throne Room if you can, and then double a card that gives +Actions if you can't.

In any of these cases, it is better to hold onto Throne Room until you know what you need this turn. Maybe you need the +Cards because you drew poorly. Or maybe you don't, in which case you'd rather have the +$.

If you draw a hand of Throne Room and 4 other Actions, then playing Throne Room first is probably wrong. You want to play your other Actions first, to see if you can draw a better target for Throne Room, and then play Throne Room only when you're at-risk of running out of good Throne Room targets. (Either because you are running low on Actions, or because you are drawing too many Throne Rooms and not enough non-Throne Room actions.)

This logic is especially important for King's Court - the best target for King's Court is almost always another King's Court, so you want to save your KC until as late as possible.

A smaller note is that if you have plenty of Actions, you actually don't need to Throne Room your Throne Room. TR-TR-Action1-Action2 takes 1 action. TR-Action1 then TR-Action2 takes 2 actions. In both cases, you play Action1 twice and Action2 twice. The latter case costs 1 more action but gives you more flexibility. (For example, TR-Action1 to get close to the end of a reshuffle, play Butcher to gain a card, TR-Action2 to trigger reshuffle.)

Cards relying on cards in your deck

These are cards like Ironmonger, Chariot Race, and Golem, where they reveal cards from your deck and do something based on what you reveal. In games where you can draw your deck, you want to play your card-revealers first, while you still have cards in your deck to reveal. It's always sad when someone saves their Golem and then it only reveals 1 Action instead of 2.

Wishing Well ordering

Dan already mentioned this in another article. Say you have N cantrips, 1 Wishing Well, and the only thing you care about is drawing a specific card (say a Remodel to Remodel for the final Provinces.) You should play the Wishing Well last.

  • If the Remodel is in the top N+1 cards, you draw it no matter when you play Wishing Well.
  • If the Remodel is the N+2nd card, then you only draw it if you play Wishing Well last and wish for Remodel.

The same is true if your hand is generally draw cards, instead of just cantrips.

Card-Revealers and Shuffle Timings

Speaking of Wishing Well, note that because it draws a card and reveals a card, it triggers a reshuffle if you have fewer than 2 cards in your deck, even though it only draws 1. If you don't want to shuffle, your hand is Peddler + Wishing Well, and there are exactly 2 cards left in your draw pile, then you need to play WW first (wishing for a card you don't have), and then Peddler.

Similar principles hold for Sentry (reshuffles with < 3 cards), Cartographer (reshuffles with < 5 cards), Patrol (reshuffles with < 7 cards), and others.

Unintuitive Discards

If you get hit with a discard attack like Militia, you have to choose the best 3-card hand. Note this may be different from the 3 best cards in your hand.

Here's the game state: It's early in the game. I have 2 cards left in my draw pile. My hand is Warehouse, 2 Coppers, 2 Estates. My opponent plays Militia.

The play here is to discard 2 Coppers. Why? Well, I'm not going to buy anything that costs $2. If I discard 2 Coppers, I can play Warehouse to trigger the reshuffle, making both Estates miss the shuffle. Sure, the Warehouse misses the shuffle too, but that's worth it. This was a rare scenario where the best hand was actually one that had Estates in it.

Throne Roomed-Minions

An old classic. If you Throne Room a Minion and plan to discard your hand, you should discard your hand first. That way, you have the choice of +$2 (if your new hand is good) or a 2nd discard (if your new hand is terrible).

It's usually impossible to attribute a win entirely to these choices, since each choice only gives you a small edge. On the other hand, there's no reason to not do these things, so you should just do them. It takes a bit of practice to keep it all in mind, but soon it becomes second-nature, and then you can focus on the important strategy questions instead.

Other Games / Dicey Dungeons
« on: June 14, 2018, 02:19:40 am »

One of the latest games Terry Cavanagh is working on. He's most well known for VVVVVV and Super Hexagon. It's a dice-based roguelike, and it's free to play in the browser. New builds have been coming out every 2 weeks. Interface is pure drag-and-drop, there's no save file and you'll lose progress on a refresh.

It's somewhat unpolished, but it was still strangely fun. I beat Warrior and Inventor on my first try. Thief took me a few tries, I beat it when I got the Thieves Guild and learned Backstab which helped my damage output a lot. I still haven't beaten Witch, I feel like I'm always too low on health, and die on floor 4 to a high damage enemy or a Banshee that keeps silencing me.

Edit: just beat Witch, essentially by lucking into a floor 4 where I only had to beat one enemy to pass, and where I set up a good spellbook before I got silenced every turn.

Dominion Articles / Castles
« on: March 28, 2018, 02:40:07 am »

Despite having lots of different effects, Castles aren't that complicated. Just think of them as having a 2nd pile of Provinces in the game. If it's the kind of game where that's appealing to you, then imagine when you'd start greening in a game with 2 Provinces, and start buying Castles about 1 shuffle or 1-3 turns before that.

If you do the math, buying 8 Castles gives you 45 VP, plus whatever VP you gained from buying Grand Castle. 8 Provinces gives 48 VP. In principle, this shows that buying only Castles in competitive with buying only Provinces. In practice, no one will ever let you buy all the Castles uncontested. At minimum, expect competition on the $8+ Castles. Sprawling and Grand are almost always worth more VP than a Province, and players will buy King just to deny VP from the player who has more Castles.

Having more VP in the kingdom leads to all the follow-on effects you'd expect. More VP makes the game go longer, and longer games favors building your deck more. Many of the Castles help with this - all the Castles between $4 and $7 give you more than just VP. The two Action castles, Small Castle and Opulent Castle, are particularly important. Small Castle can quickly upgrade itself into a better Castle, whereas Opulent is important because it can produce a lot of money when players start greening. This makes buying either Crumbling Castle or Haunted Castle a bit of a risk, because it gives your opponent the first chance at buying Small Castle and Opulent Castle respectively. Of course, how big a risk this depends on how long you think the game is going to go. The sooner the game end, the less the Action castles matter. Buying Haunted Castle also makes it less likely your opponent hits $7. I often find that the risk of revealing Opulent Castle is worth the 2 VP + Gold + topdeck attack that Haunted Castle gives.

As for Humble Castle, it's a little weird. It gives VP for every Castle, and there's only 1 Humble Castle, which can make it look like it's worth fighting over. However, it's still a genuinely bad card to buy. At the end of the game, Humble Castle is usually worth 3 VP to 5 VP, and although that's above-average rate for $3, buying it early on is a huge opportunity cost. There are two cases where it's worth buying Humble Castle early. One is Shelters games, to turn your starting Hovel into a Copper. The other is Keep. In a Keep game, Humble Castle is always worth at least 6 VP. Even in this scenario, I don't like opening Humble Castle. 6 VP for $3 is very cheap, but opening buys are very, very important. On most boards I'd gladly give my opponent 6 VP if they were forced to open Copper.

Besides these considerations, Castles are mostly a tactical decision, not a strategical one. They aren't like Gardens, or Duke, or Fairgrounds, where you have to plan a bit to get VP out of them. Castles are just there, and whether the VP is worth it or not depends on where you think your deck and the game are at.

Dominion General Discussion / If you could only have 1 opening
« on: February 14, 2018, 03:47:06 am »
Context: there was a recent Reddit thread about the balance of the opening hands, and some discussion on the subject in the markusin vs Stef World Cup match, where Stef had to open Amb/-- on a 5/2 split.

If you had to pick between only 5/2 or only 4/3 for all future games, which would you rather have?

To address pedantic points:
* The order is still random, i.e if you pick 5/2 it's still random whether you get $5 on turn 1 or turn 2.
* If Heirlooms are in the game, they replace a random Copper.

Dominion Articles / Witch, revised for 2018
« on: February 10, 2018, 03:47:41 am »
It's still good.

You should still buy it.

If you don't, you should still have a good reason, and I mean a REALLY good reason.

"But there's trashing!" - No, every Curse they trash is a Copper or Estate they didn't get to trash.

"But the trasher competes at the $5 price point!" - You may want to buy the trasher first, but if you do, you should probably still buy the Witch later.

"But Mountebank is in the kingdom!" - Actually, after you play Mountebanks a few times, they block it often enough that you probably want to buy the Witch to hand out the rest of the Curses.

"But Moat is in the kingdom!" - Having a Witch still threatens handing out Curses. They only have to fail to have Moat once to get punished for it. And if they buy a lot of Moats, then you've hurt them in a different way: they spent a bunch of Buys on Moats.

"But Lighthouse is in the kingdom!" - Okay. The Moat principle still applies - they only have to miss it once to get hurt. However, it's a lot more okay to have lots of Lighthouses, and in some games it's even beneficial (i.e. Minion games). So sometimes, they do have enough Lighthouses to make buying Witch redundant. But if you notice they've gotten complacent and are starting to miss Lighthouse turns, maybe you should reconsider that Witch...

"But Ambassador or Masquerade is in the kingdom!" - These do counter Witch the most regularly. It sucks when they give you back a Curse.

"But I'm drawing my deck, and I have a trasher, and I'm out of things I want to trash with it! I'll just trash the Curse if I get Witched!" - Sure, this is true for now. It's easy for this to stop being true, as you add payload or VP to your deck. Much like the Moat argument, if they're playing Witch every turn, you only have to fail to draw your trasher once to fall behind on having a thin deck. Once you fall behind the first time, it's more likely you fall behind the next, and soon your thin deck has 3 Curses in it. It's a classic recipe for beating people who are overconfident in their deck's reliability.

A lot of new players don't like Witch, because it slows down the game. Most people's idea of fun is getting to play a bunch of cards and produce a bunch of money. Witch gets in the way of that. But I like Witch. When I give out Curses, I think to myself "yes". When I get Curses, I think to myself "no". Even if you don't like it, you have to respect it.

Sometimes, you can skip Witch, and you get to be a Hero. Maybe even a Champion. Just be careful out there. Curses make the world a scary place.

Dominion Articles / Trash-for-Benefit and Stored Value
« on: January 27, 2018, 08:55:24 pm »
Stream of consciousness article, may clean up later.

I should start by defining trash-for-benefit.

A trash-for-benefit card is a card that trashes other cards, then gives you a benefit based on the cost of the trashed card or cards.

This excludes cards like Spice Merchant, Forager, and Trade Route. All of these cards trash cards, and they all give some benefit, but the benefit isn't tied to the cost of the card.

Why do I bother making this distinction? All trash-for-benefits that care about cost hit upon the same concept: the idea of stored value. I believe MicQ was the first to coin this term. It's a pretty simple principle: whenever you buy a card, you "store" the money spent that turn into the card you bought. You can later "cash-in" that value with a trash-for-benefit card.

Once you start thinking in terms of cost, you can derive several synergies.

Trash-for-benefit + on-gain cards: The cost of some cards is tied to their on-buy or on-gain effects. Border Village and Farmland are classic examples, and Skulk is a more recent example. Once you've gained the card, you've already gotten a lot of the value, so feeding those cards to a trash-for-benefit lets you cash-in more value than a typical card of that cost.

Trash-for-benefit + cards that get worse over time: Spice Merchant is a good opener, but gets worse as you run low on Coppers to trash. Witch is a good card, but once the Curses are gone, it's just a Moat. A trash-for-benefit card can let you get rid of the Spice Merchant or Witch after it's done most of what you wanted it to do.

One of my favorite synergies is Butcher + Spice Merchant. Normally, you don't buy that many Spice Merchants because they quickly run out of treasures to trash. Butcher lets you buy more Spice Merchants because you know you'll be able to cash in your extra Spice Merchants once your deck is thin.

Trash-for-benefit + cards that gain other cards: Magpie lets you gain a ton of Magpies, but from a trash-for-benefit perspective, it's more important that it gains you a bunch of $4 costs. Rats is similar - it converts junk cards in your deck into junk that costs $4. That isn't great, unless you have something that cares about the cost of cards, like a trash-for-benefit...and then suddenly it's ridiculous. Port gives you two $4 costs per buy.

Often, treasure gainers let you gain high-cost cards for less than their true cost. Think how Bandit (a $5 cost) gains you Gold (a $6 cost) every time you play. Treasure gainers can do this because treasures are usually worse than Actions, but this opens up neat lines of play if you can feed the treasure-gain to a trash-for-benefit.

A final note: it's usually not worth going too far out of your way for these trash-for-benefit synergies. One of the big newbie mistakes is to believe that you should always spend all your money each turn. This is still a mistake, even when trash-for-benefits are in play. The one exception is when you have a very consistent engine, and it's very important to have a card of a specific cost. The last example I can think of is an old game where Procession, Adventurer, and King's Court were in the Kingdom. On that board, I definitely Processed Adventurer a few times to gain King's Court. But that was very much the exception, and not the norm. More commonly, you add these trash-for-benefit synergies to an existing strategy, and let those synergies nudge you in the direction of buying extra Spice Merchants, or knowing you can buy something other than Gold because you're going to Remodel Witch into Gold. Not enough to sustain a deck by itself, but certainly enough to make an existing deck better.

Dominion Articles / Overdrawing
« on: January 02, 2018, 04:11:51 am »
In this article, I use "actions" to denote the resource that lets you play Action cards, and "Actions" to denote the actual cards.

What is overdrawing?

Your deck is overdrawing if the number of cards you can draw each turn is greater than the number of cards in your deck. As an extreme example, consider a deck of 5 Laboratories, nothing else. Your starting hand will be 5 Labs, and none of them will draw any cards, because there are no cards left in your draw or discard. A less extreme example is a deck with 5 Labs, 3 Coppers, 1 Silver. This deck is guaranteed to play all 5 Labs. The first 2 Labs will draw cards, and the remaining 3 Labs won't draw cards. Both of these decks are overdrawing.

You can calculate overdraw carefully if you want to, but usually you can figure it out on the fly. On a given turn, if you've drawn your deck and have extra drawing Actions left over, you're overdrawing. If you've drawn almost all of your deck and you're out of drawing Actions, you're on the cusp of overdrawing, and can get there if you buy more drawing Actions.

Overdrawing is only possible on boards where it's possible to draw your entire deck each turn, which limits the discussion to strong engine boards.

Is overdrawing good or bad?

Generally, overdrawing is a good thing, but major overdrawing is a bad thing. A deck that overdraws too much is inefficient, because too many buys have been spent on cards that could have been payload. However, a deck that overdraws a bit can do plenty of tricks that a non-overdrawing deck can't do. A big example is mid-turn gaining. An overdrawing deck can play a gainer (like Workshop), draw through the rest of the deck to trigger a reshuffle, then draw the gained card and play it the same turn it was gained. This can help if, say, you really need another $2 this turn. You can Workshop a Silver, then draw it with overdraw to get the $2 you need. I've done this several times in Base-only games.

With the right setup, you can do some explosive things. Here's an example from a game I played about two weeks ago. At the start of my turn, I had 2 Stonemasons, a Bandit, and tons of overdraw and actions thanks to several Lost Cities and Encampments.

  • Played Bandit, gaining a Gold.
  • Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into Bandit and Plunder.
  • Drew Bandit and Plunder with overdraw. Played Bandit to gain Gold.
  • Drew Gold with overdraw. Stonemason trashed Gold into 2 Plunders.
  • Drew Plunders with overdraw.

So, to recap: in a single turn, I gained and played a Bandit and 3 Plunders, which gave me an extra $6 that turn (not to mention 3 VP). From here, I ran away with the game.

The core principle of overdraw tricks is simple: any time you could have drawn a card but didn't, you're wasting a draw. If there's a way to avoid wasting that draw, you can use it to get more out of your turns. Gainers are the easy way to do this, because it adds a new physical card to your deck. However, there are other ways to convert extra card draws into resources.

Consider Plaza. Plaza can convert a draw of a Treasure card into a coin token. If you draw your entire deck, you can repeatedly draw and discard a single Copper to multiple Plazas. letting you get several coin tokens. There's an elegance to this: Plaza both gives the overdraw and gives a way to convert your draws into something else. The same can be done with Baron, where you repeatedly draw and discard the same Estate to multiple Barons. However, you need other Actions to give you the overdraw required.

In a game with Storeroom and Scrying Pool, if you have extra Pools after drawing your deck, you can play Storeroom, discard all your Actions for coins, then play Scrying Pool to redraw all those Actions. Here, Scrying Pool is the source of overdraw, and it gets converted into coins with Storeroom.

Tournament is another big example. With overdraw, a single Province can be discarded to multiple Tournaments, to gain multiple prizes in one turn. It helps that the Prizes you gain can themselves help with triggering the reshuffle needed to get the Province back into your draw pile. I once played a game where it was clear Followers was the most important prize. My opponent got to Province first, and gained Trusty Steed first. I thought this was a mistake, right up to the point where he redrew Province and played a 2nd Tournament to gain Followers too. Gaining Steed first simply minimized the chance he would run out of actions to play the rest of his deck.

I've even had this happen with Castles. Opulent Castle lets you discard Victory cards for $2 each. Grand Castle gives you extra VP on-gain for each Victory card in your hand. So, in one game, I played Opulent Castle, got money out of my Victory cards, then redrew them with overdraw to get more points out of the Grand Castle I was planning to buy.

In these examples, we are not using our overdraw on newly gained cards to our deck. Instead, we are using our extra draws to draw existing cards multiple times, and using other card effects to make this useful. This principle is key to two of the most powerful combos in the game, Hermit + Market Square and Apprentice + Market Square. Heavy overdraw (from Madmen or Apprentice trashing Gold) lets you repeatedly redraw Market Squares, which can be repeatedly discarded to gain more Golds from the Market Square reaction.

I've focused on the flashy examples in this article, but that doesn't make the less flashy examples useless. Whenever you're in a position where you're about to waste card draw, take a moment, and see if you can gain a small edge by doing an overdrawing trick. Trust me: it adds up.

PS: a final exercise. Consider these comments from the reveal thread for the Dismantle promo.

One of the more useful things to do with [Dismantle] is probably "discard a Gold to gain a card costing up to $5".
Woodcutter can also gain $5s in combination with Gold, just not midturn.

Suppose Dismantle only worked with Gold, and it literally read "You may discard a Gold. If you do, gain a card costing up to $5." Is it clear that in some games, you'd still want this Dismantle over Woodcutter?

Dominion Articles / Band of Misfits and Overlord
« on: December 26, 2017, 05:03:14 am »

The ultimate "depends on the kingdom" cards. Also, the cards with some of the most annoying rule headaches.

For both Band of Misfits and Overlord, you're looking for Actions that are contextually powerful. What does that mean? Some Action cards are usually strong, and other Action cards are usually weak, but some cards are strong / weak depending on context. For example, Noble Brigand is strong if you know they have a Gold in their first 2 cards, and it's weak if no Silvers or Golds are on top of their deck.

Noble Brigand is an extreme example, because it goes between "+$1" and "+$1, opponent trashes a Gold, you gain a Gold", which is a huuuuge shift. However, the power of most Actions depends a bit on context. Consider a classical Village + Smithy deck. Village is contextually strong when your hand has a lot of Smithies and you only have 1 action. Smithy is contextually strong when you have plenty of actions. And, consider a +Buy card - strong when you have a lot of money, weak when you don't.

Band of Misfits and Overlord are especially powerful in games where you expect to run into several contexts where the best Action is different. This is because of an obvious observation: if you always play your Band of Misfits as the same Action, you could have just bought that Action. The only way you can get extra value is if you play your Band of Misfits as different Actions depending on the situation. For example, in a game from Dominion Championship 2017, I played Overlord as Rabble (when I needed draw), Village (when I needed the Actions), Explorer (when I had a Province in my hand), Chariot Race (when a previous Chariot Race revealed a low cost card on top), and Catapult (when I had good ammo for my Catapult). If I had wanted all of those effects, I could have bought an actual Explorer, or an actual Catapult, but it would have been much less consistent. I didn't want an Explorer or Catapult in my deck, because I don't always want to play an Explorer, or play a Catapult, and having the terminal when I don't want to play it is wasted space. But a card that could be an Explorer or a Catapult when I needed it, and a Village / Rabble when I didn't? Sign me up!

There are some trade-offs to this power. It costs more to buy BoM / Overlord, compared to buying the action directly. And, if the pile you want to copy is empty, you can't play BoM / Overlord as that action, which can strand your deck in some situations. In my experience, Band of Misfits is okay, but often has a lot of competition at the $5 cost spot. Overlord, on the other hand, is incredibly strong. Seriously, if you haven't tried it yet: just buy Overlord whenever you'd buy a $5 cost Action, or whenever you want to buy a $5 cost but don't have $5. 8 debt isn't that much more than $5, and the benefits are usually worth it.

Some final points: copying a Reserve card doesn't work, because once BoM / Overlord goes to the Tavern mat, it is no longer a copy of that Reserve card, so you can't call it anymore. Additionally, when Adventures tokens (+1 Card, +1 Action, +$1, +1 Buy) are on the board, BoM and Overlord get the bonus of both the tokens on their pile and the tokens on the Action they copy. If you have a lot of Overlords, consider placing your most important token directly on Overlords, instead of the Action you normally copy. Finally, for Conspirator, BoM / Overlord count as two separate Action plays, since you first play the BoM, then play the action it copies.

Rules Questions / A Peddler cost reduction edge case
« on: October 29, 2017, 05:14:30 am »
Peddler says "During your Buy phase, this costs 2 less per Action you have in play."

Say I play Possession, and the possessed player plays at least 4 actions. During the possessed player's Buy phase, I make them buy Cursed Village. I gain the Cursed Village instead, so I get the Hex. The Hex pile turns up Locusts and trashes a Peddler. Did my trashed Peddler cost $8 or $0?

Dominion General Discussion / Help me solve an idealized endgame
« on: October 14, 2017, 05:53:13 am »
I was thinking about endgame buy decisions, came up with a simple setup, and spent a few minutes trying to solve it. I didn't get a finished solution so I'm passing it on to you.

Alice and Bob are both playing an engine that's capable of drawing the entire deck every turn. Both of their decks start by producing $13 each turn. They both have a reasonable amount of buys: at most 4 buys a turn. (Enough to do most things you want, but not enough to empty the Estates in one turn.)

Neither has bought any VP yet. There are no ways to gain cards mid-turn. The only way to get more money is by buying Treasures. You're guaranteed to draw all Treasures you buy. To make this better model a real game, you are not allowed to buy Copper, you must buy Gold instead of 2 Silver, and you cannot buy Estate unless there are 6 or fewer Provinces in the supply.

Alice goes first. What is Alice's optimal strategy? She's guaranteed to either win or tie by a strategy-stealing argument, but I'm not sure what the right buy-path is.

Dominion Articles / How Do I Hit $5? An Opening Principle
« on: October 11, 2017, 03:39:47 am »
Stream of consciousness article. Might polish this later if I have time. I was just in an article-writing mood.

Costs in Dominion work out roughly like this.
$2: Always openable, players might want a lot of these, competes with Silver.
$3: Always openable, can open with 2 of these on 4/3, competes with Silver.
$4: Always openable, competes with Silver.
$5: Openable only if you get lucky, competes with Gold.
$6: Not openable except for weird edge cases, competes with Gold.

In practice, because $5 cost Actions compete with Gold, the gap in power between $4 cost Actions and $5 cost Actions is big. Big enough that on several boards, figuring out how you buy a $5 cost is one of the biggest considerations in the opening.

Not all boards are ruled by their $5 cost Actions, but on boards where the $5 costs are important, you need to have a plan for how you're going to buy those $5 costs early. By early, I mean the first 4 turns.

Why the first 4 turns? Barring weird shenanigans, your first reshuffle is right after turn 2, and your 2nd reshuffle is right after turn 4. If you want a $5 cost, you want it by the 2nd reshuffle, just because of how much more powerful they can be. You want them by then because of the cascading effect of Dominion: the better your deck, the better cards you can buy, and in practice $5 cost Actions are often very good at helping you buy more $5 Cost Actions.

Why $5 in particular? In practice it's difficult to get good guarantees of hitting $6+ before turn 4. There also simply aren't that many $6 cost Actions in the game.


In the first 4 turns of the game, it's tricky to get more than 5 cards in your hand, and most of your sources of money are Copper. This limits how many ways you have to get to $5. Here are the broad ways you can get there.

1. Draw 5 Coppers

With 3 Estates in your starting deck, it's hard to draw 5 Copper. Usually, this happens by pure luck. Sometimes, you open a card like Smithy or Oracle, to get more than 5 cards in your hand.

2. Draw 3 Coppers and a card that gives $2

The "card that gives $2" can be Silver, or a terminal Silver like Fortune Teller or Swindler, or Mill discarding 2 cards, or even Salvager + Estate. This is a common way people aim for $5, because it's fairly safe and flexible.

3. Draw 1 Copper, 1 Silver, and a card that gives $2 (Silver or terminal Silver)
This is the safest option, because if you don't hit this option, you have good odds of hitting Silver + 3 Copper anyways.

3. Draw 4 Coppers, get $1 from something else

The "something else" could be the +$1 from Poacher, or the Duration effect of Lighthouse, or a saved coin token from Candlestick Maker. Note the last 2 options require drawing Lighthouse / Candlestick Maker on turn 3, so that the +$1 effect happens on turn 4. So again, not something you can count on. Poacher/Silver and Tournament/Silver, however, are tried-and-tested openings. Compared to Silver/Silver or Silver/terminal-Silver, they trade off a slightly lower chance of hitting $5 for the upside of having 1 fewer Silver / terminal in the deck.

4. Horse Traders

Horse Traders + 2 Copper = $5. Opening Horse Traders almost always guarantees hitting $5, except for exceptionally unlucky scenarios.

5. Expedition

An early Expedition can be worth it over buying a Silver when it comes to hitting $5.

I'm most likely forgetting a few cases, but the key principle is figuring out how to count to $5 when most of your deck is Coppers and Estates. Everything else follows from that.

The cards you buy on turns 1 and 2 influence which paths you can take. If you don't buy a Silver, or a terminal Silver, and don't buy a +Cards action either, then you're stuck with hoping you just draw 5 Copper, which isn't great odds. If you open 1 Silver + a card that doesn't give money (like Silver/Sea Hag or Silver/Remodel), you're hoping you draw Silver + 3 Copper. If you open Silver/terminal-Silver, you get more safety. If you open Silver/Warehouse, you're aiming for Silver + 3 Copper, but can use Warehouse to set it up.

I'm not here to enumerate all the variations, so stepping back a bit, this is roughly how the opening goes.

1. There are some cards you want as early as possible. Trashing effects like Chapel and Steward top this list. Gaining effects like Workshop and Ironworks can also be important if there are important cards that cost $4 or less. Trash-for-benefits like Remodel, Salvager, and Remake are nice to open with because it's easier to collide them with Estate.
2. Those cards usually don't help you hit $5. This pulls you in 2 different directions and forces you to guess at the correct trade-off. A bit of payload now to hit $5, or accept higher risk and buy a card that helps me sculpt my deck?
3. Furthermore, the cards you open with are going to matter for the rest of game. Maybe I don't want 2 Silvers so early! But on the other hand, maybe I really don't want to miss $5! AHHHHH DECISIONS.
3. The correct answer depends on just how important hitting $5 is, the risk-reward of openings with less chance of hitting $5, and your personal risk tolerance.
4. No one has all the answers, so it's on you to make the call.
5. Welcome to Dominion.



I generated these by picking a few random boards. Assume I always open 3/4.

It's hard to care a lot about hitting $5 if there are no $5 costs to buy.

Governor, Cultist, and Upgrade are all great $5 costs. Workshop has lots of great targets (Scheme, Conspirator, Magpie). No +Actions means you need to be pretty careful. This is a tricky board and I'm not sure what I'd open, but for sure I'm buying at least one of Silver, a Conspirator, or Horse Traders. Missing $5 is pretty bad here. You can definitely still win if you don't hit $5, but it gets a lot harder.

Here, $5 is pretty important, because it gets you Council Room, Bridge Troll, and Crowns. The end-goal is to play a ton of Bridge Trolls. I would open Ironmonger/Silver or Transmogrify/Silver, more likely on Ironmonger. Transmogrify is secretly a way to get $5 if you're lucky, because you can transform Estate into Silver in your hand which gets you $2. That being said, it takes a bit of time to do this, and given that I want $5 early, I think Ironmonger is the better open.

Here, you want Giants eventually, but you don't need it right away. Your main draw is going to be Rangers and Masquerade backed up by Fishing Village, so you can focus on the $3 and $4 costs and pick up a Giant or 2 later. (This is in some ways similar to the First Game engine: you mostly want Village + Smithy, want to pick up a Mine at some point, but don't want to go too far out of your way to get that Mine ASAP.)

This is easily Ironmonger/Silver for me.

Ironmonger/Candlestick Maker: too easy to miss $5.
Silver/Silver: doesn't hit $5 that much more often than Ironmonger/Silver and having an Ironmonger instead of a Silver is way better long run.

Dominion Articles / How to Win at Dominion, With Minimal Jargon
« on: September 25, 2017, 02:30:29 am »
This is intended to be a newb-friendly article.

How do you win a game of Dominion?

You win by ending the game with more points than your opponent.

How do you do that?

You do it by buying cards that let you win the game, and playing those cards more often than your opponent does.

How do I identify which cards let me win the game?

Generally, you want to look for cards that either give you lots of coins, give you lots of VP, or let you quickly end the game while getting a small amount of VP. You want to combine these cards with a story for how it's going to come together.

Here are some examples.
  • I'm going to play Golds and Silvers to get lots of coins.
  • I'm going to play a lot of Bridges in one turn, to get lots of Buys while making cards very cheap to buy.
  • I'm going to play Ironworks to gain Ironworks and Gardens, aiming for a 3-pile ending.
  • I'm going to play a lot of Goons to get VP tokens.
Sometimes, it's enough to look for cards that stop your opponent from winning the game. Examples:
  • I'm going to play Militia every turn, to force my opponent to start their turns with 3 cards instead of 5.
  • I'm going to play Witch to drown my opponent in Curses.
The avenues-to-victory aren't mutually exclusive. In a given game, your plan might be to play Festival/Library, but also with some Bridges and 1 Militia thrown in. Or, your plan could be to play Witch, while buying Golds and Silvers to hit $8 for Province. The strategy comes in figuring out which avenues-to-victory are fastest, strongest, and most complementary to one another.

Most games are decided by the person who makes the most coins each turn, and that's the case I'll be implicitly talking about for the rest of the article, but there are exceptions where having more Buys or more VP-giving cards is more important, and it's worth keeping those exceptions in mind.

Before continuing to the next section, an important distinction. Cards like Smithy, Village, and Council Room are not winning cards. They are cards that let you draw your winning cards, but they don't win games by themselves. Nobody wins just by drawing lots of cards. They win by drawing lots of winning cards. And again, an important clarification: this doesn't mean buying Smithy, Village, etc. can't help you win. In fact, they often do help you win, just in a different way.

I've identified my winning cards. How do I play them more often?

Broadly, there are two approaches.
  • Buy lots of winning cards and try to win on pure quantity.
  • Buy Actions that let you cycle through your deck quickly, then play a few winning cards very often.
Let's bring this back to the terms commonly used in the community. Cards that directly win you the game are payload cards. Generally, these are the cards that give you coins, or buys, or gains, or some other resource that lets you obtain VP cards or stops your opponent from getting VP. Cards that help you draw your payload more often are cycling cards. Smithy and Village are cycling cards because they draw more cards. Cellar is a cycling card because it lets you discard bad cards to draw better ones. Chapel is a cycling card because it trashes away your low quality cards, which makes it easier to draw your winning cards more frequently and to shuffle more often. Cards like Chapel are called trashers, and they are often the first cards top players look for when deciding how to approach a Kingdom. Although trashers don't directly draw cards, their effects are among the strongest in the game.

Again, repeating for emphasis: Payload cards directly give you what you need to win. Cycling cards help you play your payload more often.

Some cards straddle the line between both categories. Poacher and Market both draw cards and give some coins. Minion also straddles the line, because you can either play it for +$2 (payload) or discard and draw 4 (cycling). The one truth of Dominion is that the categories are always a bit loose.

When it comes to overarching strategy, there are usually two broad approaches: buy mostly payload cards, or buy mostly cycling cards. A payload-focused strategy is historically called Big Money, since it usually applies to decks where your payload is Gold and Silver. More recently, some people have called payload-heavy strategies "the good stuff deck", to indicate that the payload isn't always a Treasure card. For example, Haggler is a perfectly fine payload card. A cycling-focused strategy is historically called the engine, because it focuses on buying Actions and combining their effects to make something bigger than the sum of its parts.

Let's say I want to play the "good stuff" approach. How should I do so?

Buy payload cards instead of cycling cards.

Let's say I want to play the "engine" approach. What should I do?

Buy cycling cards instead of payload cards.

That didn't really help, you're just repeating the definition! Which approach is best?

Trick question! In most games, you do both.

...say what?

Whenever you gain a card in Dominion, you have to make a choice: payload or cycling? Sometimes you can buy a card that does a bit of both, like Market. But usually, you have to make a choice between a card that will give you more money / attacking power / VP, or a card that helps you draw other cards more often. Each choice has trade-offs. A payload card increases what your deck can potentially do, but it doesn't help you play your existing payload more often. A cycling card lets you play your existing payload more often, but may not increase what your deck can do.

A good stuff approach focuses mostly on buying payload, but may buy Cellar over Silver because it wants to cycle a bit faster. An engine approach focuses mostly on cycling, but may pick up an early Silver or Gold because it lets the engine buy more powerful cycling Actions. Focusing on only one kind of card or the other is overly simplistic and can lead to bad play - I have lost several engine games because of underestimating the value of an early Silver.

Okay, okay, I get it. Which is the better approach on average?

With the caveat that there are very few 100% truths in Dominion, most new players overestimate payload. On many boards, it's better to focus on cycling cards, and a properly built engine will beat everything else.

Why is the engine often better?

It's more efficient.

Here's one way to think about Dominion: after buying a card, you get to play that card at most once per shuffle. (There are cards that get around this, like Harbinger, but let's ignore those for now.) Given this, if you want to get as much value out of each buy that you can, it helps if you can shuffle your deck more often. And how do you shuffle your deck more often? You do so by buying cycling cards! Cycling cards let you get through more of your deck each turn, which lets you reach the end of your shuffle faster. Again, this is why trashing cards is good - a small deck shuffles itself much faster than a big deck.

Another reason to favor the engine is that there's a higher ceiling on what an engine can do. Let's say you want to play Witch every turn. You buy lots of Witches. Okay, cool. But what if you also want to play Militia every turn? Ignoring Action constraints for a second, if your deck can't draw lots of cards, you have to buy lots of Militias too. Buying both a lot of Witches and a lot of Militias is a lot of buys to spend, and often Buys are the limiting resource in Dominion. Add back the action constraints, and it quickly becomes infeasible. In contrast, if you can set-up an engine that draws itself every turn, you can buy 1 Witch and 1 Militia, and then draw and play them every turn.

Engines are like an investment. You invest your early buys on cycling cards, even though the only payload you have is Coppers, because it will pay off in the long term when your payload is higher quality.

Is the engine always better?

No. It isn't better when the investment takes too long to pay off. In those games, if you try to go for the engine, you durdle around for a long time, your opponent Keeps Calm and Buys Provinces while you're still building, and you lose while feeling really silly. This has happened to everyone - don't feel too bad when it happens to you, and don't let it stop you from trying. Because every now and then, you'll identify an engine that's just barely better than the payload-focused deck, win the game by 1 VP on your final turn, and feel like a legend.

Cool. How do I actually implement any of this?

Like most things, practice and experience.

At lower skill levels, games are won and lost by whether you correctly identify when to go for a cycling-light approach or a cycling-heavy approach. This is the level where boring strategies like Smithy-Big Money tend to dominate, since it's harder to play those strategies badly.

At higher skill levels, players will often agree on the broad approach of a board. Top players will certainly still disagree on whether the engine is good enough, but the main differentiator between players is the execution of an overarching strategy.

This, to me, is where the depth of Dominion really expands. Remember earlier, where I said you have to choose between payload and cycling on each buy? Those choices are where games are won and lost. If you buy cards in a more optimal order, it's common to hit the deck you want 1-2 turns faster than a worse order. Dominion is all about snowballing incremental advantages. Small mistakes add up, and proper sequencing is just ridiculously hard to do consistently, especially when you factor in the inherent randomness of card games.

Dominion isn't like Chess or Starcraft, where a new player can memorize a well-studied opening and copy it until they understand how it works. The random Kingdom prevents this - you have to learn good game intuitions to do anything productive improvement-wise.

If you're new to the game, like it so far, and want to get better, here is what I would recommend.
  • Play whatever you want. Over time, you'll naturally notice which cards tend to be more important. (Reading the Qvist card rankings can shortcut this step, but it helps to experience the strength of cards firsthand. I didn't understand Ambassador until somebody destroyed me with it.)
  • During that period, play a few Big Money decks. I'd recommend Smithy + treasures, Council Room + treasures, Courtyard + treasures, and Witch + treasures. These are all surprisingly effective, and it helps remind you what you're racing against if you decide to go for an engine.
  • Once you get a handle on the cards, practice making judgments on whether you would play an engine. Err on the side of playing engines more than you think you should. They're often better, and cycling-based decks usually have more decisions than payload-based decks. It's hard to practice engine decision-making if you're only willing to play the obvious engines.

Finally, when your opponent beats you, don't look just at what their deck did at the end. Look at how they built their deck, what cards they bought on which turns, and try to spot what made their deck work when your deck didn't. You will certainly have games where your opponent plays poorly and wins because of luck, but that doesn't mean there's no lessons to learn from the game.

Dominion Articles / Occasionally Relevent Rule Edge-Cases
« on: September 10, 2017, 04:26:11 am »
Sometimes, Dominion rules can get complicated. Most of the time, they don't matter. In a few scenarios, they matter a lot. Those scenarios are overwhelmingly "gotcha" scenarios: they make sense when you think about them, you always remember them after the first time, but they can be hard to notice on the fly.

I think people shouldn't be unreasonably rewarded for knowing more rules minutiae than the other person, so here are some edge cases. This list certainly isn't complete, but I believe most things off the list are too close to rules trivia - interesting to think about, but not powerful enough to keep in mind. (Several things in this list are already near or past that threshold.)

These are ordered roughly by relevance.

Fundamental Rules Principles

When you play a card, you do exactly what it says, in order. If you can't do something, you do as much as you can. This happens even if the card leaves play for some reason.

If multiple effects trigger at the same time, you choose what order they resolve in. Sometimes the order matter. For the online client in particular, be careful you do things in the right order. For example, if you play Alchemists + Herbalist, you should topdeck all your Alchemists before using Herbalist to put the Potion back.

When buying a card, first you trigger all on-buy events, then you gain the card, then you trigger all on-gain events.

Card Costs

Dominion cards have 3 axes of cost: coins, Potion, and debt. A card costs more than another one if it is greater than or equal on all those axes. So for example, $4P > $3P > $3, and 8 debt > 4 debt, What about $3P vs $4? You can't compare them, neither costs more than the other.

This lets you do several neat things, like

* Remodel Familiar into Golem.
* With Haggler in play, buy City Quarter and gain Engineer off Haggler.
* Play Stonemason, trashing University to gain 2 Vineyards.

If you play Salvager and trash a Familiar, you get +$3, not +$3P, because Salvager specifically says "+$1 per $1 it costs" - it ignores the Potion and debt axes.

Stonemason Overpay

If an action costs $0 (because of Bridge or Highway, for example), you cannot overpay by $0 to gain two copies of that action. You also cannot overpay by debt to gain two copies of an Action that costs debt. You are, however, allowed to overpay by Potion, so with $5P you can buy Stonemason and gain 2 Alchemists.

Prince + Durations

Prince does not work with Durations. When you play the Duration, it stays in play past the end of the turn. Because you didn't discard it the turn you played it, it doesn't go back to the Prince when it finishes resolving.

There is an exception. If you Prince a Gear, and don't set aside any cards with Gear, the Gear won't stay in play and will successfully get Princed next turn. But normally, you should assume it won't work, and Prince something else instead.

Procession + Reserve cards

If you Procession a Reserve card, the Reserve card goes to the Tavern mat. Procession loses track of the Reserve card, so it can't trash it. However, you still get to gain an Action costing $1 more. This also applies to Island.

Band of Misfits / Overlord + Reserve cards

If you play Band of Misfits or Overlord as a Reserve card, you're going to have a bad time. Both cards say "This is that card until it leaves play." Moving to the Tavern mat counts as leaving play. Once it's on the mat, the card doesn't remember what it used to be, so you can't call it and it'll be stuck on the mat forever. Just don't do it.


Buying an event doesn't count as buying a card. Some side effects of this:

1. You can turn Hermits into Madmen while spending your Buys on events.
2. You can buy events on Mission turns.
3. Haggler, Goons, and Swamp Hag will not trigger on buying an event.

Buying an event doesn't count as buying a card, which can make it easier to gain Madmen.

Hermit + Scheme

If you don't buy a card and topdeck Hermit with your Scheme, you can gain a Madman without trashing the Hermit. From the wiki:

In this scenario, two things happen simultaneously, and you get to choose the order :

    (Hermit) Trash the Hermit and gain a Madman.
    (Scheme) Hermit goes on top of your deck.

If you resolve (1) then (2), you gain a Madman, the Hermit goes to the Trash, and then (2) doesn't do anything because Scheme lost track of the Hermit.
If you resolve (2) then (1), you put the Hermit on top of your deck, then Hermit attempts to trash itself but fails because it lost track of itself, then you still gain a Madman because you do as much as you can of the Hermit statement.

Capital Tricks

Capital gives you debt only when you discard it from play. If you can avoid discarding it from play, you don't take debt. You can topdeck it with Herbalist, or trash it with Counterfeit / Bonfire / Mint on-buy. If you Crown it, you get $12 + 2 buys and only take the 6 debt once. Of special note is the Mandarin on-gain. If you play Capital + 4 other Treasures that give at least $7, you can buy Mandarin + Province every turn until the Provinces or Mandarins run out.

Throne Room variants + Durations

The official ruling is that if a Throne Room variant directly applies to a Duration card, that Throne Room stays out until the Duration leaves play.

* You play Throne Room on a Fishing Village. The Throne Room stays out until the Fishing Village gets discarded next turn.
* You play Throne Room on Throne Room, using the doubled-Throne Room to play 2 Caravans twice. The first Throne Room was applied to the 2nd Throne Room, and gets discarded at end of turn. The 2nd Throne Room was applied to both Caravans, so it stays out until next turn.
* You play Throne Room on Hireling. The Throne Room stays out for the rest of the game.

The rule works this way because for IRL play, it's easier to track which Durations are modified. In practice, if you're playing a big King's Court stack, you want to bunch all the Durations under the same King's Court if possible.

The rule gets trickier is with Procession. Because Procession trashes the discarded Duration, it always gets discarded at end of turn. But, you still get the Duration card's effect next turn.

* You play Procession on Caravan. You trash Caravan and gain a $5 cost Action. Procession is discarded at end of turn. On your next turn, you draw 2 cards.
* You play Procession on Hireling. You trash Hireling and gain a $7 cost Action (if one exists). Procession is discarded at end of turn. For the rest of the game, you draw an extra 2 cards.

Adventures Tokens + Travellers

If you have a token on Page, only Page will get that bonus. The other Travellers in the Page line won't. Similarly for Peasant. This is because the other cards in the line are not in the Supply, and didn't come from the Page pile.

Band of Misfits / Overlord + Conspirator

When you play Band of Misfits as another action card, it counts as two action plays for Conspirator. The first action is the Band of Misfits, and the second is the card you copy.

Yes, this means that if all 3 are in the Kingdom, you can play Overlord as Band of Misfits as Conspirator for your first action, and the Conspirator will be activated. Let me know if this ever happens to you.

Band of Misfits / Overlord + Adventures Tokens

Band of Misfits gets the bonuses of both the Band of Misfits pile and the pile it's copying. This happens for the same reason as the Conspirator case.


When you inherit an action, your Estates gain the types and the card text of that action, but they're still called Estate and still cost $2. This has a bunch of follow-on effects. Among them are:

* If an Adventures token is on the pile you inherit, your Estates will not gain those effects, because your Estates did not come from that pile.
* You cannot put Adventures tokens on the Estate pile, because the Estates in the supply are not actions - they aren't your Estates.
* Estate as Crossroads can never give +Actions, because Estate keeps its name. When you play an Estate, it can never be "the first time you played Crossroads this turn". For similar reasons, Estate as Treasure Map doesn't work.

Charm + Knights

If you play Charm in gain mode, you cannot buy a Knight, then gain the Knight underneath it with Charm. The on-buy happens first, and at the time you're picking a card to gain with Charm, the top Knight hasn't been gained yet.

Split Piles + Adventures Tokens

The official ruling is that if a token is on a split pile, it applies to all cards in that pile. When deciding whether you can put a token on that pile, you decide based on the card type of the randomizer. For Castles, the randomizer is a Victory card, and for everything else it's an action.

What that means in practice:

* You can place a +Card token on the Encampment/Plunder pile, even if the top card is a Plunder. Both your Encampments and Plunders will draw you one card.
* You cannot place a +Card token on the Castles pile, even if the top Castle is an Action.

The one way a token can get on the Castles pile is if the top Castle is an Action, it costs $4 or less through cost reduction, and you gain it with Seaway.

Playing Treasures During the Action Phase

So far, you can do this with Black Market and Storyteller.

* If you play a Silver, then play a Merchant after, the Merchant will not give $1 if you play another Silver. Merchant only triggers the first time you play a Silver, and a Silver was already played.
* If you play a Crown during Black Market / Storyteller, it's played as a Throne Room because it's still the Action phase. You resolve the Crown in the middle of Black Market / Storyteller.
* If you gain a Mandarin during your Action phase, treasures played by Black Market or Storyteller go on top of your deck.

Summon + Cards that Gain Other Cards on Gain

(I learned about this interaction very recently.)

If you Summon Border Village or Death Cart, Summon won't play it next turn.

Wait, what?

Here's how Summon works, if you spell it all out.
* Gain an Action card costing up to $4.
* (The gained card goes to discard, or on top of the deck if you gain Nomad Camp.)
* (Summon looks for the card where it expects it to be, the discard or top of the deck for Nomad Camp.)
* It sets it aside, and if it did, it sets it aside next turn.

So what happens with the cards above? To quote the wiki:

Summoning a card that gains other cards when gained (such as Border Village or Death Cart) will cause the Summoned card to not be set aside, and thus not played at the start of your next turn. This is because the extra cards gained cover up the Summoned card in the discard pile (since the Summoned card is not set aside immediately), causing the Summoned card to be lost track of.

What you can do, however, is Summon a Border Village, then reveal Watchtower to topdeck the card gained from Border Village. Then Summon will successfully find the Border Village and set it aside.

Game Reports / Here's a surprisingly tricky Base-only board.
« on: September 08, 2017, 02:06:44 am »

The numbers spoil what I went for - a Village/Moat/Witch engine. I was mostly uncontested, I got 7 of the Villages.

I thought this board was neat because it has a lot of subtleties to it. I think Festival and Bandit are both traps, you really don't want to lose any draw on your +Actions card and gaining Gold makes it too difficult to draw your actions.

Without Moat I wouldn't go for engine, because the Curses will slow you down too much. If Remodel was Workshop I wouldn't go for engine, because you couldn't get rid of your Estates. But with both, it's just barely past the bar where I go for it. The way it plays out is that you use mostly Village + Moat for draw, laugh as your Moats block any attacks your opponent plays, then you play a Witch every turn and drown them in Curses. Remodel turns Estate --> Village or Harbinger and Copper/Curse --> Moat.

I wanted to pick up Mine but by the time my deck felt consistent enough for it I had to worry about 3 piles.

Dominion General Discussion / Dominion Strategy: Then, Now, and the Future
« on: September 04, 2017, 05:02:08 am »
(This is part history, part strategy advice, and part opinion piece. Although I intended it to be an article's worth of content, I don't feel like it fits in Articles or Feedback. So I'm putting it here.)

I've been around Dominion for over 7 years. In those 7 years, Dominion discussion has changed a lot.

Let's start at 2010, back when the main DominionStrategy blog had regular updates. There was a heavy focus on understanding Big Money play. People knew that on average, Smithy-BM got 4 Provinces in 14-16 turns, Masquerade-BM could do it in 13 turns, and Courtyard-BM was similarly quick. The Big Money rule-of-thumbs were known by heart: buy Gold over the first Province, Duchy over Gold when there are 5 Provinces left, and Estate over Silver when there are 2-3 Provinces left. This was also the heyday of people using simulators to guide decision making.

Of course, people didn't only talk about Big Money. There was plenty of discussion about things we now call engines. But when you re-read many of the articles from the main site, they follow a similar format: a few paragraphs about the card's objective power level, and then a list of relevant synergies and anti-synergies at the end. Take the Cutpurse article, for example. It focuses mostly on the strength of its opening attack, then gives some token references to cards that make Copper discard more relevant.

I claim this is representative of a larger trend: strategy discussion was focused primarily on explaining cards in isolation. It turns out that's good enough to beat a lot of players! Telling players not to buy Pirate Ship in 2 player is actually pretty effective advice when people are still usually bad at the game, and showing Courtyard-BM is faster than Smithy-BM ended up giving people (including me) a few free wins over people who bought the "Smithy-BM is unbeatable" meme. Engine play was a lot worse, and Silver was better than many of the removed cards from Base + Intrigue 1st edition.

Then, things changed. More expansions came out. Cards got more complicated. Compare the Cutpurse article to the one about Procession about 2 years later. Although the article still talks about specific pairs, like Procession-Ironworks, it mostly talks in more abstract terms. In the Cutpurse article, interactions are listed at the end, but for Procession they're the focus of the entire article.

It's like starting chess discussion by pointing out that knights can attack queens without getting attacked back, and then the discussion evolves into one about material and position. Concrete pieces --> abstract generalizations.

This eventually came to a head with the most influential Dominion articles of all time: The Five Fundamental Deck Types, written by WanderingWinder. This codified strategy discussion for years. It's a framework for thinking about the game, that everything else can be funneled through, and soon it became expected that everybody knew what engine, slog, and rush meant.

It's probably a heavy case of nostalgia, but I consider those years to be a Golden Age of Dominion discussion. It was a wonderful time to get into the game, if you were looking to play competitively. And I'm no longer sure that's true. Everything's been on a gradual decline since those days.

There were a few catalysts for this (the biggest one being the end of Isotropic), but in retrospect I blame the decline on two things. The first:

It depends on the kingdom.

This meme took over the forums for a while. It's true, but it's also supremely unhelpful advice. People would say that Dominion is too big to describe all the nuances, and the best way to get better at Dominion is to just play more Dominion, watch more Dominion, and get better at reviewing your old matches. Again, very true, but people don't want to read forum posts that state the obvious. For all that the early card articles get wrong, they still form a helpful flotation device for novice players to hold on to before jumping into the deep, seemingly endless strategy pool.

I'm very glad that the "depends on the kingdom" meme has mostly died, because the joke got old fast, and any strategic value in the statement shriveled away long ago.

The second thing I'd like to blame doesn't have as pithy of a quote. I think people spent a long time getting hung up on classification and categorization, at the cost of doing useful things.

First off, why categorize in the first place? If we categorize things, it helps offset mental load. The single word "slog" represents several concepts, like a large deck that wants the game to go long to accumulate more points. It's very useful to have these definitions! But I feel like there was a point where people started to overcategorize and overgeneralize, and would only talk about Dominion within the Five Deck Types framework. That led to debates over whether a deck was Big Money or Engine, whether something was a combo or just a synergy, and all sorts of other arguments. The distinctions between the labels matter a bit, but what matters overwhelmingly more is your opponent buying lots of Provinces or drawing lots of cards. Deciding on a True Name for what they're doing doesn't always help you understand why it's working, and I think arguing about the definitions too much distracts from actually understanding the game.

Dominion players are a group predisposed to pedantry, and these arguments gave plenty of topics people could be pedantic about. I participated in my fair share of this - pedantry can be eerily fun. But in retrospect, it messed with strategy discussion in surprising ways. I once played a game shortly after writing the Beatdown vs Control article. It was a ridiculously fast rush, where the game ended in 10 turns. At the end, my opponent asked who was beatdown and who was control. Although I tried to answer, in retrospect the correct answer was that the game was so weird that Beatdown vs Control didn't apply, and trying to make it apply was a waste of time. Frameworks are great, right up until they stop working.

(To forestall some obvious complaints: I think pedantry is part of f.ds culture, and I don't think the forums need heavier moderation. If the forums were meant to discuss just strategy for Dominion, then they would need heavier moderation. But they aren't. Your off-topic derailment is my community building. I'm just calling for people to stop taking the pedantry arguments so seriously.)

* * *

Let's assume you buy my argument that we're no longer in a Golden Age of discussion. If you don't, treat it as an assumption that everything after this depends on.

The natural question is: can we bring the Golden Age back?

Well, what is the Golden Age? Is it the concentration of Dominion discussion in a single place? Is it the rapid production of content? I think those are elements of it, but the most important one is the experience of the new player. Can we make it easier for new players to get into the game, and grow the Dominion community?

I think that the answer is yes, but it's going to require explaining a bunch more Dominion theory.

Dominion is simply a very different game from what it used to be. I now view Dominion like a bag of interactions. Each card has certain properties, which interact with other properties in positive or negative ways. The strategy comes from identifying which interactions are most important to the game, and from doing small optimizations that make the interactions point in similar directions.

I know this is very abstract. so let me give an example. Take Marauder.

Marauder gives you Spoils and gives your opponents Ruins. So far all we've done is read the card text. How does Marauder interact with the rest of the game?

  • Marauders give Spoils. Spoils give $3. Thus your money distribution is naturally a bit spikier - it's a bit more likely you'll hit $6 or $7 early.
  • Marauders give Ruins as junk, which interacts with things that care about actions, like Vineyard and Library.
  • There are several different Ruins, which makes them interact with things that care about names, like Fairgrounds and Wishing Well.

How have I used these interactions?

  • I've once chosen to open Marauder specifically because I wanted to spike an early Forge.
  • I've considered not picking up Marauder because I knew we were both going to go for Vineyards, or for Fairgrounds.
  • In a game with Wolf Den and no trashing, I opened Marauder and carefully making sure my opponent only got unique Ruins. I got lucky and gave out -12 VP before my opponent resigned.

Ruins weren't designed with Wolf Den in mind, and I assume Wolf Den wasn't designed specifically to make Ruins stronger. It's emergent gameplay that arises from the interactions between different game components.

In this view, the way you become a better player is by

  • Memorizing the very powerful interactions.
  • Getting a deep understanding of the remaining interactions.
  • Use that understanding to devise an argument for what to do on the current board.

In GokoDom III (the finals between JOG and Andrew Iannaconne), Stef submitted this designed kingdom.

Kingdom Cards: Scheme, Storeroom, Trade Route, Gardens, Plaza, Throne Room, Counting House, Festival, Inn, Mountebank, with Platinum/Colony

Everybody loves this kingdom, because it turns out there's actually an engine here. You use Counting House to draw lots of Copper, Storeroom to discard the Coppers for $$$, then play Counting House again and repeat. To make the deck work despite having all those Coppers, you use TR-Scheme and Inn to avoid ever shuffling the Coppers back into your draw pile. It only works because of all the pieces working together perfectly - Storeroom turning cards into money, and Counting House letting you draw lots of cards, and Scheme/Inn to let you skip shuffling. In the stream, there was a magical moment where you can see Andrew literally figure out on the fly that this deck is possible. Those are the moments that make Dominion such an interesting game - seeing a web of interactions come together so elegantly and beautifully. And that board certainly isn't something you could base a whole article about.

To a lesser degree, the same is true of Marauder. Sure, the things I said apply to Marauder, but parts also apply to any Spoils giving card and any Ruins giving card. The only unique part is that Marauder does both, but that's a pretty minor distinction. If I was trying to write an article about Marauder, I could repeat what I said...but it wouldn't really be an article about Marauder. It would be an article about Spoils and Ruins.

Unless a card does something super, super unique, I don't think there's a point in writing an article about it, and most cards just aren't unique enough to justify an entire article.

So instead, it would make more sense to explain how you find these interactions, what the most common ones are, how you decide on a plan and adapt to new scenarios and avoid treating the game as a memorization of all two-card combos. If I had the time, I'd write more content from this angle, and would point players looking to get better in that direction...except I don't have the time.

It feels like the same is true of f.ds in general. People are less interested in talking about principles they find obvious, because obvious things aren't interesting. Unfortunately, those principles are the most important for new players. The end result is that f.ds has turned into a place where experienced players talk to other experienced players, useful ideas get scattered across 10 threads in 3 subforums, and no one bothers condensing them into useful Dominion lessons, because again, who's got time for that?

* * *

Please don't mistake this as me declaring that Dominion is dying. The community has been through a lot and the game is still going fine. I just think it could be more than it is. I do think there's cause for optimism. Intentionally or not, there's been some really good recent articles in this direction. (For example, Dan's 20 questions post and Adam's blog post about openings.)

Consider this more as a call to action. The game doesn't flourish unless new blood joins the scene, and I don't think we're doing a good job at making that easy.

Feel free to prove me wrong.

(Edited September 5, 2017 to fix minor typos and some poor phrasing.)

Dominion Articles / Stop buying Duchy over Gardens
« on: August 29, 2017, 03:32:02 am »
I've been playing a decent amount of Base-only games, and I'm surprised at how often people are messing this up.

It's okay to buy Gardens over Duchy when your deck has fewer than 30 cards. As long as your deck is 30 cards [by the end of the game, you'll break even. And on the off-chance the game turns into an endgame slog, your Gardens could tick up to 4 VP. If you know you'll hit 30 cards, buy the Gardens instead.

You judge cards not by how good they are right now, but by how much value they'll give you over the course of the game. It's easiest to get an appreciation for this by opening Monument. The 1st Monument play only gives 1 VP, which is okay but not great. By the end of the game, that Monument is usually worth 4-5 VP in money-based games and potentially more in engines.

Figuring out when to buy one card over the other is hard, but for Duchy vs Gardens it shouldn't be hard to make the right choice.

(In similar veins: it's okay to buy Silk Road before you have 12 Victory cards, and it's okay to buy Fairgrounds when they're worth 2 VP, as long as you have a plan to meet the requirements in time.)


(This article is pretty casual and assumes 2 player games.)

All these Landmarks have similar play patterns, so I think it makes sense to have 1 article for all of them.

At most, these can give you 12 VP. This isn't enough to wildly change how you approach a board, which makes them have lower impact than other Landmarks. However, like other Landmarks, it's important to at least stay even in the subgame they create.

You can divide the conditions into ones that are easy to satisfy, and ones that are hard. What exactly does that mean? I think of a condition as easy if you're guaranteed to move all 12 VP off the Landmark by the end of the game, and hard if that isn't going to happen. It's going to depend on the game, but Colonnade, Labyrinth, and Battlefield are often easy, and Baths is usually hard.

If the condition is easy:
It's pretty important to get 6 VP from the Landmark. If you only get 4 VP, and they get 8 VP, it's a 4 VP difference, and you need a Province to make up the difference. That can be a tall order on some boards, especially if the Landmark VP was easy to acquire.

To get to 6 VP you need to meet the condition 3 times. This doesn't mean you always go for the condition at every opportunity - it means you play in a way that makes it easy to meet the condition early in the game. The way this pans out in practice:

Arena: Overbuy terminals (but not too much), think a bit before playing your last Action.
Basilica: Get +Buy early and use it. (Note it triggers on every buy, so if you buy two $3s, you'll get 2 VP on your 1st buy.) If you can't do this, buying a $5 cost when you have $7 is the best case.
Battlefield: It's hard to balance this one, but roughly, a money-ish deck should buy Duchies over Gold after the 1st Gold. In engine vs BM, engine can afford to contest about 4 VP and try to make up the rest of the diff through a better deck. In engine vs engine it's very hard to judge.
Colonnade: Identify 2 key actions and focus on those in the early game. If you can get away with focusing on just 1 Action, even better, but you normally can't.
Labyrinth: Get +Buy or a gainer early and use them.

Baths is almost never easy to satisfy, so it doesn't get a section. Sometimes you have cards like Tactician to make it easier.

If the condition is hard:
Ignore it for most of the game, and treat it as an alternate source of VP in endgame. For example, gain Baths VP instead of buying Estate in late game. Same for Basilica.

Help! / Not sure how I fell so behind here
« on: June 23, 2017, 12:48:15 am »
1 game from a big losing streak I just went on.


I missed $2P for Apothecary but my opponent did too. I thought Swamp Hag was skippable but maybe it wasn't? Feels like it shouldn't have been that big - I thought you could hit enough money by playing enough Apothecaries, and then you can dip into Goons / Swamp Hag, but I never seemed to draw my Potion often enough, and when I did I never hit $4P for Stonemason-Apothecary.

Game Reports / Fun with 3 piles and Market Square
« on: May 22, 2017, 03:28:15 am »
Game #3794120

This game was pretty neat. The whole game, I never hit more than $5, and then I hit $24 on my final turn, because Market Square is nuts with the right setup. I committed to the 3-pile without knowing if I could get enough money to make it work, which is always a nerve-wracking thing to do.

Features Silver as a $3 cost Duchy, because of Palace (and me not trashing enough Coppers in mid-game.)

My mistake was not gaining enough Gold early to hit the good $6 costs, and my opponent's mistake was gaining too much Gold, IMO.

I wrote this pretty quickly, I'm not as sure of these claims as I am of the $2-$3 cost thread. I intend to get to the rest of the Adventures cards and events when I have time to.

I've had trouble using this card well, but I think it's better than my experience would suggest. Buying the Duplicate and spending the action to get it on your Tavern mat is so clunky. That being said, it's very useful to have it ready to call in endgames, because threatening a Duchy duplicate is quite hard to play around. In my experience, I buy it and lose, or skip it and also lose. I don't think you should open Duplicate, but you may want to buy it 2nd shuffle.

Magpie: At preview time, people held Magpie up as really really good. It's good, and I usually open 1, but if you want to gain more Magpies you really want to buy 2 Magpies - buying one just isn't consistent enough. The problem is that you can get baited into buying the 2nd Magpie in your 2nd shuffle, and other $4 costs can be more important. Note that once Magpies run out, they're only better than cantrips if you reveal a Treasure. You can't ignore Magpie, but if you get other actions in exchange for losing Magpies 4-6 or 3-7, it's not the end of the world. Becomes very important if card tokens (+1 Card, +$1) are in the Kingdom.

A card you buy because you need the +Buy. On-buy is important for 3 piles. It turns out you can't do too many cute things with the on-buy effect, because any cute things you could do get offset by having to pick up this Woodcutter-Chancellor as well.

Miser: I have nothing to say about this card, because I've only bought it once, and I've only had someone buy it against me once. Weird, right? But it's true.

Port: A really nice village for engines. If it's the only +Actions in the kingdom, remember that you either do a 6-6 split or a 8-4 split, and it only takes 3 or 4 buys to get there. If you think you'll want more than 4 Ports, you need to buy them fast. Like Magpie, becomes very important if there are card tokens.

Ranger: Try to start your turn with the Journey token face down, to make your first Ranger give +5 Cards, because this helps a lot of reliability. You might think that means you should target buying an even number of Rangers, because if you play all the Rangers you'll always end back at face down. In practice you should just think of them as Smithies, because you'll inevitably fail to draw all the Rangers in your deck. If you ignore the Journey token, and pretend their Smithies with free +Buy, you'll be 80% of the way there. (Also, remember Ranger, Giant, and Pilgrimage all share the same Journey token! This is surprisingly easy to forget.)

Transmogrify: I like this card a lot. I think people weren't impressed with it at preview time, but I at least have turned around. Early game Estate -> Silver in hand is really useful. In one game, someone opened Transmogrify/Urchin, played Transmogrify T3, then did Estate -> Urchin to gain Merc turn 4 without having to open Urchin/Urchin, which actually blew my mind. Late game you can trash any card into itself to run down the pile, and much like Duplicate, it's hard to play against an opponent that could empty 3 Provinces in a single turn by calling 2 Transmogrifies. That being said, the 1 turn delay does matter, and it's really only good at trashing Estates. I basically always open 1, pick up a 2nd pretty often in engine games, and sometimes buy a 3rd as well. If the card weren't so hard to play well, I'd have written a full article about Transmogrify.

Artificer: The gaining effect isn't as good as it looks, because in many games you can only do the discard once before you run out of cards. But the worst case is still a Peddler. Don't buy a lot of them unless you plan to use the discard-for-gain effect a lot. Works well with draw-to-X and Scrying Pool. Remember you topdeck the gained card!

Bridge Troll: Because it's a Duration, you only need 1 +Actions for every 2 Bridge Trolls. At least in theory. In practice, you want a bit more than that for consistencies sake. Because you don't get the +$1 that Bridge would give you, and because your opponent's Bridge Trolls are giving you -$1 each turn, you can't neglect money entirely. You want just enough coins to use all your Bridge Troll buys.

Distant Lands: Very good. In money games, you buy this over Gold pretty quickly. In engine games, these should be your preferred source of VP, and you should start buying them earlier than you would normally green to give time to get them onto your Tavern mat. In engine games, it can be very hard to win if you lose Distant Lands 3-5 and they get all 5 Distant Lands onto their mat.

Dominion Articles / A short blurb on each $2-$3 cost Adventures card
« on: March 05, 2017, 10:03:53 pm »
I think people should be writing more articles about Adventures and Empires cards, instead of advice getting scattered in singleton posts across 20 different threads. I haven't played much Empires yet, so I figured I'd try to spark discussion around Adventures first. (I was planning to cover every card and event, but there are a lot of Adventures cards.)

Reasonably confident in these claims, but there's definitely room for these opinions to move around.

Coin of the Realm: Very good +Actions card for engines. The 1 turn delay on the first CotR is a little annoying, but between CotR acting like +3 Actions and only needed to take the actions when you need them, you should definitely pick up a few early if you need the actions. CotR staying out of your deck until you need it is a big help. Even if you're overdrawing, you shouldn't call excess CotR to get the extra $1 coin you get from playing it, it's not worth the inconsistency.

Travellers in general: Look, just go read DG's article instead, it's better than these blurbs.

Page Line: By themselves, they enable a plan of getting 1 Champion to turn all your Warriors into attacking Labs. I've never seen that plan vs a deck that didn't go for Champion, because Champion is so good that it enables a bunch of ridiculous things. Opening 1 Page almost always right, opening 2 Pages is insane, never getting the 2nd Page at all is ballsy because Warrior trashing Warrior kills you completely in that case.

  • Page: Cheap cantrip, easy to pick up if you have extra buys later on, okay Silver replacement on engine boards if you don't have extra buys, and Champion boards are basically always engine boards. Keep extra Pages as Pages and move them towards Warrior when you're about to get Champion out.
  • Treasure Hunter: The middle child of the Page line. The first play is good to get some early Silvers in, letting you focus buys on the Action cards, but past that not so much. Upgrade to Warrior ASAP. Occasionally you can try to do something goofy with alt-VP like Feodum or Gardens, but that's usually a sign of desperation, not a game plan.
  • Warrior: Most Pages end here. You don't want too many of these until you get Champion out, at most 1 or 2. Remember the attack scales on Travellers you have in play, play Pages before Warrior if the attack's still relevant.
  • Hero: The other middle child. The problem is that this usually caps at +$2, gain a Gold, which isn't good enough in most Champion games. If Platinum is in the game, maybe it could be okay.
  • Champion: Get one, then make sure you can't draw it dead. Drawing it dead is often a 2-5 turn delay on playing it. For the lower rank Travellers, you can often risk it because you have more than 1, but that stops holding true for Champion.

Peasant Line: Still don't have a good handle on these, but also very good. Really you should just read DG's article instead. Almost always open 1, almost always pick up a 2nd so that you can keep a Disciple around, 3rd and up can be worth gaining in some games but 2 Peasants is a good baseline.

  • Peasant: Gives +Buy, which can be surprisingly relevant early when picking up the 2nd Peasant. Sometimes there's no other +Buy source and that's good enough. (Teacher is only kind of a +Buy source, because even though it has a +Buy token, the +Card or +Action token need to be placed first.)
  • Soldier: Can be a massive source of income if there are Attacks in the kingdom, or if you can play a ton of Soldiers in the same turn.
  • Fugitive: The middle child of the Peasant line, never really does much.
  • Disciple: Can snowball pretty hard - a deck that draws reliably can gain the Action card it want, a deck that can't doesn't always have a choice. You really want to have a Disciple and a Teacher at about the same time.
  • Teacher: Playing Teacher is straightforward, in that the choice of token and card isn't too hard at the time you call it, but building your deck up to that point is where the card gets very hard. Tokens encourage getting a lot of a specific action, and you need to keep this in mind as you're going for Teacher - it affects your deckbuilding decisions throughout the entire game.

Ratcatcher: Nice opener. Don't try to keep it on your Tavern Mat until you hit Estate. Calling it to trash Copper (and getting the Ratcatcher into your next reshuffle) is a lot better. Doesn't really do much late game. A Ratcatcher's value is based solely on how many rats it catches (how many cards it trashes), has no benefit outside of trashing so blindly buy a bunch of them.

Raze: Another $2 cost trasher that's worth opening. It's hard to get punished for buying too many Razes because you can always trash the Raze itself.

Amulet: Often worth opening. It's either 1 or 2 Amulets in most games and I don't have a good handle on when the 2nd is bad, because it does take up terminal space. Silver gain is a surprisingly relevant way to get more economy into your engine without spending a buy.

Caravan Guard: One of those cards you pick up when you don't want to buy Silver. The reaction matters a bit, but not a lot. In strong engine games, you need to remember that you only get Caravan Guard money every other turn at best.

Dungeon: Really good at digging for the card you want, I think even better than Warehouse, which is already a pretty good card for this. Generally want 2-3, past the 3rd is often a bit much but can be right in junkier games. Has a bit of a Cartographer effect - a few Dungeons let you pretend like your deck is thinner. Not as good as trashing, of course, but sometimes you don't have trashers in the game.

Gear: There was a lot of buzz about Gear-BM during preview time, but I haven't played a lot of those games. Maybe I've been playing too many engine-happy players. Very tricky card to play correctly, but it's a very good opener. You can be a bit looser about buying more terminals with Gear, but note that if you set aside terminals too often with Gear you'll make cards miss the reshuffle more often.

Guide: Guides are insurance. Guides are not a strategy by themselves. Don't buy too many of them, and don't be afraid to call Guide aggressively. If you're borderline on whether to call Guide, you should just call Guide.

Dominion Articles / Sentry
« on: January 28, 2017, 10:57:05 pm »

This is a short article for a simple card.

Sentry is very powerful. Why?
  • Like Masquerade and Junk Dealer, it can trash without hurting your buying power this turn.
  • Because it trashes cards from the top of your deck, you don't lose a draw on drawing a card you don't want in your deck. The extra cycling is deceptively powerful. Compare to Lookout. It doesn't replace itself, but the cycling / filtering aspect makes it a strong $3 cost trasher.

Unlike Masquerade, Junk Dealer, and Lookout, Sentry can trash 2 cards at a time. In exchange for all these upsides, the pool of cards you choose to trash from is only the top 2 cards of your deck, compared to every card in your hand. That can make Sentry a high variance card. The difference between revealing 2 trashable cards and 0 trashable cards is pretty stark. Other trashers don't have this issue as much, because when you get to choose from your entire hand, you'll often have something you want to get rid of.

Because of all these factors, hitting $5 early is especially important in Sentry games. You want Sentry as early as possible, which is true of most trashers, but in Sentry's case it's because your odds of revealing 2 bad cards is highest at the start of the game. Missing $5 doesn't just delay your Sentry by a shuffle, it makes your Sentry materially worse than it could have been. And again, this is true of other trashers, but the trash-only-from-the-top mechanic magnifies how much worse it gets. That warps the opening by a lot - don't disregard the usefulness of opening Silver.

If you can, you want to get 2 Sentries, but because Sentry's power decays as the game goes on, it loses to other $5 costs pretty quickly, and you often run out of time to buy the 2nd.

All the standard Cartographer synergies (Wishing Well, Herald, Mystic, Vassal) continue to apply with Sentry, but the trashing is the most important aspect of the card, and its what you should be keeping in mind when evaluating it.

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