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shark_bait

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Possession Revisited
« on: March 13, 2014, 04:03:28 pm »
+15

Possession Revisited

*DISCLAIMER*

I am not trying to convince anyone that Possession is a good card.  To be brutally honest, it is a bad card.  I have only used it in 25% of my games and although it was a key card in those games, it was ignorable  for the most part in all other 75% of the games.

There are many opinions on Possession.  These opinions range from the "Noob" thinking Possession is one of the most powerful cards to the "Veteran" thinking that it is underpowered.  So why is there such a dichotomy when evaluating the strength of Possession?

I'll tell you why.  Possession is a card that has the ability to cause a complete paradigm shift in both how a given kingdom is analyzed and how in practice it is played.  The reason for players judging its strengths differently are based on a lack of understanding of how correctly utilize it in their deck and how to properly play against an opponent going for Possession.

Consider the following kingdom:



Code: [Select]
Pawn, Armory, Quarry, Golem, Bandit Camp, Haggler, Hunting Party, Border Village, Grand Market, King's Court
That kingdom has the most savvy engine builders salivating as they start to think of how awesome it is going to be to play that game.  You have +Action, +Draw, King's Court, Grand Market, Haggler etc...  There is everything present for this deck to snowball and become a massive engine behemoth.  Let's look at the next kingdom.



Code: [Select]
Pawn, Armory, Quarry, Golem, Bandit Camp, Haggler, Hunting Party, Border Village, Grand Market, Possession

Oh great, look at all of those engine cards, this is gonna be a sweet deck, right?  Well, there is Possession.  Hmmmmm, Possession.  Well, I can still build the engine, right?  Possession is slow to get because you need $6P, so the engine should outpace it.  Wrong, the Possession deck will build to the point of playing 2-3 Possession per turn.  Your sexy engine that runs through the deck every turn doesn't look so good anymore as your opponent mooches VP after VP from your deck into his.

The previous kingdoms are quite a dramatic example of how the single card of Possession affects the analysis of an entire kingdom but the point still stands.  Traditional rules no longer apply when playing games with Possession.

Before moving on I want to focus on the 75% of games when Possession is not a good purchase.  In a vacuum, Possession does very poorly against standard big money.  The reason is the opportunity costs associated with the Potion.  By the time the Possession player is able to obtain a Possession and play said Possession a BM player will already have been greening.  This makes future hands less likely to be Province and the lead that the BM player has already obtained will be hard to beat.  Their deck will have an extra Potion and a Possession which in themselves are dead cards for purchasing Provinces also tend to lead to less Gold.  Possession is poor in slog games where your opponents will have poor hands.  This speaks for itself.  Using Possession results in a large loss of tempo.  You need to buy a Potion and then you need to buy the Possession.  Depending on the strength of the engine going for Possession could be the difference between having a functional engine and not having a functional engine.  As I'll get into more later, Possession and engine games have a very strange juxtaposition associated with them.

So when is Possession good?  The following statements serve as a brief highlight which I'll go into more depth.
 
1.)  There is little opportunity cost to obtaining Possession
2.)  You can Possess your opponent multiple times per turn or at a minimum once per turn.
3.)  Your have the ability to disrupt your opponents deck
4.)  You opponent is using TfB like Apprentice, Remodel, etc.
5.)  You can move things from your opponent deck to your own vis Ambassador or Masquerade

1.)  Opportunity costs is related to the act of getting Possession.  In order to obtain Possession you need a Potion and then you need a hand of $6P.  Possession improves when you have other Alchemy cards to gain or you can purchase your Potion such that you are almost guaranteed to hit $6P the first time it is in your hand.  If you ever purchase a Potion solely for Possession and don't get $6P, that is probably an indication either (a) your deck was not ready for the Potion or (b) you should have ignored Possession altogether.

2.)  Being able to play multiple Possessions per turn requires a couple of different things.  First, you need a village or pseudo village.  Second, you usually need some sort of trashing or good sifting.  Obtaining a deck of this nature inherently puts you in a good position as your opponent gets 1 turn off of his own deck for every 2-3 turns that you mooch.  Simple math tells us that you will be better off than your opponent.

3.)  Disruption comes in the form of messing up what your opponent planned to do or thwarting future hands from being good.  Planning comes in the form of things like Tactician.  Nothing is worse than discarding your last hand only to have your opponent steal your next.  Other disruptions often come from discard based actions.  Things like Minion, Cartographer and Warehouse leave a lot of cards in the discard pile.  Being able to cycle through the deck and then force a reshuffle can give your opponent 1-2 hands of worthless Copper/Estates.  Taking coin tokens or not putting Alchemists back on top are also small ways of disruption.

4.)  Trash for benefit is so much better for the Possessor due to having no repercussions.  These cards are balanced on them being removed from your deck.  The fact that they are not gives them all a huge power spike when you are using them via Possession.

5.)  Ambassador and Masquerade are huge liabilities in Possession games.  Passing and gifting from the supply mean that a single play can result in a 12 or 18 VP swing if Provinces were the card involved.  Engine cards can also be passed.   

In most kingdoms, Possession can be successfully ignored due to not of the above being viable options.  You will be correctly playing a vast majority of boards (75% on my count) by simply ignoring Possession.  However, on the boards correctly suited for Possession you must be ready to either play Possession or counter-play Possession. 

Opponent Goes Possession Without Strong (1) or (2) Support

So your opponent gets a questionable Potion and decides to go for Possession.  You don't think it's right but you fear that he'll get lucky and poach your Province hands.  In this situation you are right in ignoring Possession but that does not mean that your play will stay the same.  In these circumstances you want to green a bit earlier and harder.  A rough rule of thumb for this is to green hard (i.e. Province/Duchy whenever possible) the shuffle before he Possesses you for the first time.  You can judge when that will be based on the state of his deck and when he first gets Possession.   

The Mirror

Possession mirror matches are one of the most strange things in all of Dominion.  Conventional wisdom is thrown out of the window.  In fact, I think most people have the following knowledge of mirror Possession matches.



So why are people clueless about Possession mirror matches.  I'll tell you why.  Instead of building up your deck you need to build down your deck.  That's the big catch 22, you need to build up your deck to get to Possession but at the same time you don't want your opponent to be able to utilize the greater efficiency of your deck.  The consequence of this is insanely early greening with subsequent hard stalling.  In order to prevent your opponent from mooching VP using your deck you green before they can with the knowledge that if they continue to build you will just Possess them to get points.  Games like this often stall out with Duchies and Estates being grabbed left and right.  Assuming that your opponent does build more and you are greening like a Mad Man, you need to ensure that your cycling is still present.  Because your opponent will win if you green so hard that you are consistently missing Possession turns. 

Sample Kingdoms



Code: [Select]
Chapel, Pawn, Pearl Diver, Secret Chamber, Fortune Teller, Village, Watchtower, Cutpurse, Spice Merchant, Possession
There is Chapel and Possession.  Both my opponent and myself go for trashing  via Spice Merchant and Chapel followed by Possession.  My opponent builds for one more turn than myself allowing me to mooch a Province, we both get multiple Possession in our decks and then start hitting Duchies and Estates.  My slim lead from the Provinces forces my opponent to build more as Pawns are emptied for the 3rd pile.

Below is another strange kingdom involving Possession.  It has Goons, but there are also no villages so you just get a single terminal each turn.



Code: [Select]
Herbalist, Scrying Pool, Forager, Masterpiece, Caravan, Mine, Mint, Goons, Hoard, Possession
My opponents deck gets better than mine, but a combination of enough Scrying Pools and Caravan allow me win despite my "worse" deck.  This was perhaps one of the most confusing games I've played in a long time.  My first terminal was actually not Possession but Goons.  After picking up a few points from Goons I realized that my opponent was going to have a better deck than mine.  I switch from a Goons being my terminal to Possession being my terminal.  When he mistakenly picks up 4 Foragers I am able to use them more efficiently and end the game in a 3-pile.



Code: [Select]
Chancellor, Village, Farming Village, Silk Road, Spice Merchant, Trader, Hunting Party, Mystic, Fairgrounds, Possession
With no plus buy other than Spice Merchant my deck gets to multi-Possession turns by turn 12 and overcomes a HP/Chancellor BM strategy.

Summary

Possession is still not a good card.  It is also a card that you will probably ignore most of the time.  Despite that fact when Possession is viable it changes the game unlike any other card.  To correctly play Possession in those situations you must first know when it is viable and second, know how to approach the mirror assuming your opponent also knows Possession is viable.  Doing so will give you the best chance of winning those few games where Possession is available and actually viable.

Comments, questions and critiques welcome.

« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 04:38:12 pm by shark_bait »
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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2014, 04:14:14 pm »
0

This was a while ago, but this Possession game was interesting (and you could maybe find some way to include it in the article):

http://www.councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20130212-185822-e93b3f00.html

I mainly was trying to get cards that were good for me but not for him when he was possessing me (Possession, Bishop, maybe something else)?
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DG

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 04:26:19 pm »
+4

Possession can also be good when
- You can get far more out of your opponent's deck than they can (expands, apprentices, etc)
- You can completely disrupt the opponent's draw deck (alchemists, minions, cartographers, tacticians, outpost)
- You have some backwards connection to your own deck (ambassador, masquerade, swindler)
- You can deny your opponent a strong strategy by being capable of possession (a consequence of the previous points)
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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 04:37:55 pm »
+4

I think there is an important caveat in Possession mirrors that you are missing. What you want to do is wreck your deck, because now your deck is actually a shared deck. That part I agree. However, you mention Greening as the best (only) way to wreck it. Greening is good because besides wrecking the deck, gives you VP. However, there is something better to do, even if it means passing on VP: leave your deck in a way that is great to play Possessions and bad for everything else (i.e., remove the money to buy Provinces, but leave the sifting and Villages and drawing to play Possession). Possession is the one card your opponent cannot use from your deck and you can. So, if your deck's only hability is to play such card, great, just do that and get the VP when using the opponent's deck.

Attacks and VP-chip giving cards are also cards that they do not want to use for you. But Possession is guaranteed to appear and is possibly the one they want to use the least.

The problem with this, which almost happened to me once, is that you can get to a state of stalemate in which both players have decks unprepared to buy VP, and preparing your deck to buy VP gives the actual advantage to the opponent, but also does filling it with Estates and the occasional Duchy, because after you lose the hability to play Possession all the time, he can start building up to Provinces without worrying too much about Possession.

This is an educating and strange game: http://dom.retrobox.eu/?/20140228/log.514cd37de4b0fe3236619906.1393616986545.txt

I think it came down to bad luck on my part, but anyway, it shows how important tactics are, and using Possession not only to buy things with your opponent deck, but also to avoid him having a good turn also. It also shows that you can sort-of-pin the opponent by Possessing single turns that make the top of the deck horrible, so they need to pass the following turn.
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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 04:40:35 pm »
0

This was a while ago, but this Possession game was interesting (and you could maybe find some way to include it in the article):

http://www.councilroom.com/game?game_id=game-20130212-185822-e93b3f00.html

I mainly was trying to get cards that were good for me but not for him when he was possessing me (Possession, Bishop, maybe something else)?

Tactician and Possession are tricky.  You want Tactician because it helps you get to that $6P early, but then it can easily become a liability.  Part of me wonders if you just open Ambassador/Bishop that games and then plan on trashing the Ambassador with Bishop once your opponent gets a Possession.  It seems like that approach could get you a trim deck quickly.  But then again getting an early Tactician opens up the earlier Possession as well as getting to KC.  That's a tricky game for sure.  Lots of strategy in it.
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dondon151

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2014, 06:50:30 pm »
0

I'm puzzled by the 75% figure of games where Possession is bad. The best indicator for Possession is an engine. Most kingdoms are engine-friendly (good players generally agree with this). So why would Possession be bad in 75% of games?

In fact, if you look at shark_bait's 5 reasons to go Possession, reasons 2 and 4 are extremely common, and they will often go together.

Additionally, I also strongly believe that you can't mention Possession and Amb/Masq in the same sentence without the caveat that you can't expect to ignore Amb/Masq on Possession boards and win. If you get rid of your pseudotrasher or just never buy one in the first place, your opponent will just find a way to put one in your deck.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 06:59:03 pm by dondon151 »
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shark_bait

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2014, 09:07:37 pm »
0

I'm puzzled by the 75% figure of games where Possession is bad. The best indicator for Possession is an engine. Most kingdoms are engine-friendly (good players generally agree with this). So why would Possession be bad in 75% of games?

In fact, if you look at shark_bait's 5 reasons to go Possession, reasons 2 and 4 are extremely common, and they will often go together.

Additionally, I also strongly believe that you can't mention Possession and Amb/Masq in the same sentence without the caveat that you can't expect to ignore Amb/Masq on Possession boards and win. If you get rid of your pseudotrasher or just never buy one in the first place, your opponent will just find a way to put one in your deck.

My quick response is opportunity costs.  You need the Potion and then you need to buy Possession.  That is a huge loss in tempo when you consider you could have been building an actual engine instead of going for Possession within your engine.

My 75% comes from the games I've played on Goko with Possession.  I used it only 25% of the time.

Masquerade and Ambassador are risky but yes, they are usually necessary.  What's best is if you can manage to get rid of them via some other trashing before they are a liability.
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jomini

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2014, 11:40:36 pm »
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One of the big things I hate about Possession is how it completely throws off true multiplayer games. Once a player upstream commits to a deck that doesn't support possession (e.g. B-crat/Gardens), you can then safely build up to an engine. Likewise, if the guy downstream goes into a strong engine, you need to consider how viable swapping to Possession will be.


Even in 2er, a lot of people see a good engine on a Possession board, then default to a decent slog. But by going for the slog, they allow me to go for a strong engine. This makes Possession boards a good shot for flexibility. Things that can gain potions (the Remodel family, the Iw family, Mine/Taxman, Catacombs, etc.) on the fly become stronger because of how quickly you can add a pot (or 2!) and quickly bang out Possessions if my opponent changes from the slog to something worth Possessing.

Another shot that can make Possession terribly strong is the ability to pretty much permastall the opponent. Say the opponent has six dead-ish cards (six greens being the easiest example, but even something like 4 greens and 2 coppers works), a fairly reliable engine, and a single +1 card action (e.g. village or ruined Library), and the ability to discard 6 cards. This sounds like a lot, but it is fairly common on engine boards - pretty much only the discarders are ever a problem. In any event, say you possess the other guy. Your first goal is to build a discard pile that has only six crappy cards in it. The simplest option is to draw everything, then play an unlimited discarder (like Storehouse), but you can often use stuff like Horse Traders (particularly with Kc out), Warehouse (discard the junk before you draw their entire deck), and the like to get an empty draw deck and six crappy cards in the discard. Now play a +1 card (e.g. Village, Ruined Library, Hamlet). This forces a shuffle and leaves the opponent with nothing decent to play (they might buy an estate). As long as their deck remains reliable, you can keep this up forever.

I've had good luck doing this particularly in cases where people want to strip down their decks to nothing but Possessions, draw, villages, green, and sifters. Using the sifters I can pin them to nothing but green, and then go build out my deck to the point where I can buy out game winning VP in one megaturn (or just gain VP chips till the cows come home). Their only recourse is to either buy out the curses or to buy so much copper that I can't reliably draw and nuke their deck.

Which brings up another thing about defense. Nuking your own deck can take several forms. Most commonly, you trash your money and any TfB to load up on green. However, you can also do a respectable job nuking your deck with mass copper buys and mass estate buys (Always fun to do with Princess in play) other things like Kc/Kc/Beggar/Beggar can also work. Once your opponent commits to a lean possession deck (no cash), you can often go off for as many points as possible or as many duchies as possible, and then spam buy copper to tank the engine. You don't have to get 50% of the VP, just enough that the other guy can't recover and pound provinces before you end it on Duchies and less. With mass copper, you can still trade duchies (and perhaps he might possess you 3-4 times a round and buy duchies fast), but it is pretty hard to scrounge up points from a busted engine. Most (all?) of the time I recall having done this is from someone pulling Possession out of the Black Market deck and me immediately going for an incomplete megaturn, copper is good for the guy with a VP lead and looking to end on piles.
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dondon151

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2014, 11:49:43 pm »
0

My quick response is opportunity costs.  You need the Potion and then you need to buy Possession.  That is a huge loss in tempo when you consider you could have been building an actual engine instead of going for Possession within your engine.

Yes, that would have been my initial response too. However, I am not convinced, for the following reasons:

1. When you commit to Possession, you're doing so with the hope that the 2 buys needed to obtain Possession will be made up for on future Possessed turns. Basically, you need to get 2 buys or gains off any future Possession turns in order to make the investment worthwhile, and they obviously have to be nontrivial buys. Barring megaturn engines, which aren't terribly common, it seems easy enough to compensate for Possession's opportunity cost of $4 and $6P by just playing Possession twice.

2. The response sets up a dichotomy between "actual engine" and "(implied lesser) engine with Possession," when I'm doubtful that such a dichotomy is actually representative of true play conditions. The best time to go for Possession is when the deck cycles about once per turn and can draw $6P reliably, which means that there is little difference at that point between an engine that has a Potion and an engine that has some other $4 card. Plus, the player who has Possession will rapidly catch up in deck quality by virtue of having extra turns.

So it seems to me that given an engine board with Possession, the 2 simplified options are to build towards getting it or just build normally and ignore it. If your opponent gets a Possession on the same turn that you get your first Province, he can easily catch up on the Province split just by virtue of a single Possession turn. In reality, one tends to get Possession earlier than Province despite the more expensive cost because Possession is an engine piece, whereas Province is a dead card.

In actuality, I think it's more of a 50-50 ratio for boards in which Possession is worth going for. The actual decision to go for Possession is highly dependent on each player's mid-game deck state, though.
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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2014, 04:12:05 am »
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[..] Possession's opportunity cost of $4 and $6P [..]

I'd argue that opportunity cost ist significantly higher:

1.) you might miss 6P
2.) you have two dead cards in your deck - instead of one if you buy e.g. engine comp./Province
3.) you have to use an action each time you play possession
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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2014, 11:13:32 am »
0


Yes, that would have been my initial response too. However, I am not convinced, for the following reasons:

1. When you commit to Possession, you're doing so with the hope that the 2 buys needed to obtain Possession will be made up for on future Possessed turns. Basically, you need to get 2 buys or gains off any future Possession turns in order to make the investment worthwhile, and they obviously have to be nontrivial buys. Barring megaturn engines, which aren't terribly common, it seems easy enough to compensate for Possession's opportunity cost of $4 and $6P by just playing Possession twice.

2. The response sets up a dichotomy between "actual engine" and "(implied lesser) engine with Possession," when I'm doubtful that such a dichotomy is actually representative of true play conditions. The best time to go for Possession is when the deck cycles about once per turn and can draw $6P reliably, which means that there is little difference at that point between an engine that has a Potion and an engine that has some other $4 card. Plus, the player who has Possession will rapidly catch up in deck quality by virtue of having extra turns.

So it seems to me that given an engine board with Possession, the 2 simplified options are to build towards getting it or just build normally and ignore it. If your opponent gets a Possession on the same turn that you get your first Province, he can easily catch up on the Province split just by virtue of a single Possession turn. In reality, one tends to get Possession earlier than Province despite the more expensive cost because Possession is an engine piece, whereas Province is a dead card.

In actuality, I think it's more of a 50-50 ratio for boards in which Possession is worth going for. The actual decision to go for Possession is highly dependent on each player's mid-game deck state, though.

1.)  As tc said, you might miss hitting $6P.  But also to consider is what kind of turns you are Possessing.  Barring no mega-turn engine and opponent reacting to Possession.  Your first Possession steal will come after one round of greening.  You might get a Province if you are lucky.  Deck state would probably be less than 50% Province hands at that point.  For you second Possession hand, your opponents deck is even more green.  You are likely to just get a Duchy.

2.)  You are right, Possession is best when you can cycle and play your deck each turn.  The thing is, despite engine being the right call a lot of the time, not all engine can do that reliably.  And then do it reliably while sacrificing two turns of purchasing engine components.

3.)  You would actually get Possession later than Province.  If you consider the opportunity cost of Potion as a Silver.  To get Possession you need your one hand with Potion to generate $6 + P.  That is the only hand that matters.  If you get that, you could have had a Province.  A non-Possession player on the other hand would have a Province and then potentially any other Province from his other hands.  Yes the Possession player could also get a Province on those other turns too but that makes it risky even getting Possession if most of the cash is situated in a different hand.

As for mid-game state, any player can see a Potion purchase and know that Possession is eminent.  It is therefore that players own responsibility to make sure that his mid-game deck is correctly suited to combat Possession.  If you go for Possession assuming your opponent will make a mistake in how they construct there deck/buy green you are playing Possession wrong yourself.
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dondon151

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2014, 07:06:18 pm »
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1.)  ... Your first Possession steal will come after one round of greening.  You might get a Province if you are lucky.  Deck state would probably be less than 50% Province hands at that point.  For you second Possession hand, your opponents deck is even more green.  You are likely to just get a Duchy.

3.)  You would actually get Possession later than Province.  If you consider the opportunity cost of Potion as a Silver.  To get Possession you need your one hand with Potion to generate $6 + P.  That is the only hand that matters.  If you get that, you could have had a Province.  A non-Possession player on the other hand would have a Province and then potentially any other Province from his other hands.  Yes the Possession player could also get a Province on those other turns too but that makes it risky even getting Possession if most of the cash is situated in a different hand.

My impression is that my point got lost. Yes, I understand that intuitively, Possession comes after Province because the resources used to buy a Possession could have bought a Province instead (but not vice versa). The problem is that Possession allows a player to continue building his deck, but a Province would only help destroy his deck. So let's say that I hit $6P in a given game and buy a Possession. Then let's say that I played another game using the same kingdom, minus Possession, where I have the exact same deck state, with a Silver instead of a Potion, and I hit $8+ with 2 buys. Am I supposed to buy a Province here? Or would I be better served with Village + Wharf, or BV + FG, or some other combination of engine cards?

So you've made two assumptions here: whenever a player hits $6P, he could've hit $8 instead; whenever a player hits $8, he wants to buy a Province. Assumption 1 is more or less always true; assumption 2 clearly does not hold for what I'd say are the majority of games, especially if there's a +buy in the kingdom.

But then your response would be, if you see your opponent get a Potion for Possession, then you should start moving to counter immediately by grabbing up points and making your deck useless. That sounds fine in theory, but then you can get to the state where you mucked up your deck but did not or are unable to secure enough points, and your opponent continues building his engine and wins anyway, Possession or not.

Have I made myself clear here? Sometimes I can't help but think that there is a deficit in my language abilities, because I try to demonstrate something unintuitive and nobody seems to understand what I'm talking about.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2014, 07:08:22 pm by dondon151 »
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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2014, 02:06:39 pm »
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I think I understand what you're saying. 

To summarize (and correct me if I am wrong), you are saying that if a non-Possession deck addresses Possession by greening early to make a bad deck the Possession player will just build a normal engine that may now contain a Possession or two and win based on a money player stalling.

In the absence of cursing attacks or Alt-VP you need 42 points.  This could be from any combination of sources, but as long as you can get 4 Provinces, and then snag Duchies, you can pile Estates once you are close enough to that number. 

I would say you are touching on something I didn't address.  That is, the presence of Alt-VP helps the Possession player as there are now more points in the game which counters the normal counter to Possession.

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Re: Possession Revisited
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2014, 02:10:42 pm »
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In the absence of cursing attacks or Alt-VP you need 42 points.  This could be from any combination of sources, but as long as you can get 4 Provinces, and then snag Duchies, you can pile Estates once you are close enough to that number. 

Alt-VP in the form of green cards. VP chips are generally bad for Possession, as an engine prepared for getting VP chips but not for getting green cards is useless or worse for the Possession player. An engine that gets all or most of its money from Monument or Goons is almost unpossessable.
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