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Author Topic: Pile Control Ponderings  (Read 971 times)

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Pile Control Ponderings
« on: April 27, 2016, 11:32:58 pm »

(... or PCP for short.)

Pile control is simply the ability to influence when piles run out. The better you are able to do this, the more pile control you have. When you have a lot more control than your opponent, you determine when piles run low, you have the power to keep playing when you're behind, and you have the ability to empty piles and win when you are ahead. There are a lot of different aspects of play that affect your ability to exert pile control. For example, having cards that gain more cards,  building leaner, meaner engines that get to those cards more often, and confounding your opponents’ ability to exert pile control with attacks. 

Extra gains not only help get your deck up and running, they can get you a lot of pile control. Look for opportunities to empty cheap piles such as Estates, Ruins, or Curses when you have extra buys (and the lead!). Cards like Remodel, Rebuild, or Butcher are great for end game pile control. They don't get you "extra" cards, but you can use them to lower key piles like Provinces while maintaining a point lead. Possession, which is mostly just a big Workshop that uses your opponent's deck (Donald X., May 2014), and its more polite little brother, Outpost, can get you those extra gains through an extra turn, too.

Playing junking cards (or not!) like Witch and Cultist help you control certain piles like Curses, Ruins, Copper, and Estates in addition to slowing down your opponents and reducing their ability to put together a strong deck. Sometimes you can empty other piles, too, by dishing it out using cards like Messenger or Jester. Ambassador a Province or two for the win, anyone?

By the way, did you know you can empty ENTIRE PILES at will? Well, you can!  (... sometimes.) Certainly if you have a big engine that can gain a lot of cards, but Rats, Upgrade, and Magpie can all be emptied in particular situations in one shot with just a couple of cards, even though they don't DIRECTLY say things like "gain all the cards”.

Suppose you have Fortress, Rats, and Rats in hand and you have an empty deck and discard pile. Play Rats (gain a Rats, trash the Fortress). Play Rats (draw Rats, gain a Rats, trash a Fortress). Play Rats (draw Rats, gain a Rats, trash a Fortress)... and so on until the pile is empty and you can have ALL THE RATS!

You can pull the same trick without an empty deck and discard pile if you have Watchtower in hand. Or even without Fortress if you have nothing but a couple of Rats in hand, no deck, and no discard pile (WanderingWinder, August 2012).

Upgrade with Fortress works similarly to Rats with Fortress (Hertz_Doughnut, April 2013), and is often more useful.

You can also empty the Magpie pile with Watchtower (Gromph, April 2015).

Or, you know, with perfect shuffle luck, just empty the supply by turn 4 (Celestial Chameleon, February 2013). OK, so that won't ever be a real-game scenario, but it's impressive, nonetheless!

Back to more realistic scenarios. You can decrease your opponents' control (which increases your own), too. Deny them key control cards, pin your opponents (maybe even with Bureaucrat, like Marin did in December of 2013?), junk them (as noted above), or let them junk themselves by buying green too early and often.

The point here is that thinking about emptying piles as an active process rather than just thinking “what gets 4 Provinces the fastest?” can help elevate your game and increase your chances of victory. After all, “In Dominion, the objective is not to have the most points when the game ends. The objective to have the game end when you have the most points” (Tables, December 2013).

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