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Author Topic: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control  (Read 2995 times)

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Yazza

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Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« on: July 14, 2016, 07:17:35 am »
+9

I have read a few online articles on Dominion strategy and thought that what is missing is anything on playing a “Control” strategy.  The Control strategy was developed in the game Magic the Gathering, where you intentionally slow the game down in order to build up superior resources to your opponent in order to win.  In Dominion, the resources at your disposal are money to buy other cards and cards in hand during your turn.  Further, you want to disrupt your opponent from being able to win the game quickly, to slow the game down so that you can develop your resources to be more than those of your opponent.

Conventional Dominion strategy wisdom is that Big Money is a strategy.  When you look at what Big Money does, which is to buy large amounts of money and action cards to draw more cards, you quickly realise that this is a form of Control strategy as it is attempting to develop superior resources compared to your opponents.  However, the Control strategy is actually broader than just this and as a result I would argue that Big Money is a subset of the Control strategy, rather than being a true strategy in itself. I appreciate that this is a contentious viewpoint and am likely to get some negative reactions as a result, but want you as the reader to think about this point.     

I am going to take a look at some specific cards, which mainly come from the basic set as that is what I am most familiar with, to discuss how they can form part of a Control strategy.

Bureaucrat: the Bureaucrat card does two things for you.  First, it develops your own resources by gaining you Silver.  Secondly, it forces your opponents to put Victory cards in their hand back on top of their deck, meaning that next turn, it will reduce the number of useful cards that they draw and as a result restrict what they are able to afford to buy, slowing them down. 

Militia: this is an archetypal Control card, in that it disrupts your opponent’s hand size and also gives you more money to spend.  You have probably experienced being at the receiving end of this card (or one similar like Goons) where you thought you could afford to buy a Province or another high value card, only to be hit by this and not be able to buy what you wanted, thus reducing your chances of winning the game. 

Money: in order to develop superior resources, you are going to need to buy money in the form of Silver and Gold in the base game, or more exotic Treasures if you have access to the expansions, on a regular basis. 

Smithy, Laboratory & Moat: I have put these cards together as they all gain you card advantage during the turn you play them, which means that you should have superior resources to spend that turn.

Spy: the Spy card provides control in the form of determining which cards you and your opponent’s draw, preventing them getting resources they need, while ensuring you get what you want.
 
Thief: this works well in that it can potentially reduce your opponent’s resources, while increasing your own.  There is a risk involved, in that trashing your opponent’s Copper will likely benefit them in enabling them to draw more consistent better hands.  However, if you do get to trash and take a Silver or Gold from them, particularly early on, this can be devastating in slowing down their development in the game. 

Witch: this is a very strong Control card as it provides two benefits that are key to your strategy.  The first is that it draws you additional cards, enhancing the resources at your disposal.  The second is that it disrupts your opponents by filling their decks with “junk” Curse cards that slow them down. 

Looking further afield, the latest release for Dominion, the expansion Empires contains the card Enchantress, which “counters” your opponent’s first Action card.  This could potentially be a key card in preventing combo decks from working, stopping them in their tracks. 

I hope this article has proved interesting and given you an alternative perspective on strategy in Dominion, even if you do not necessarily agree with my opinions and that maybe it has given you something to consider. 
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AdrianHealey

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2016, 07:26:06 am »
+1

Man, my favorite card to do this is ambassador. Double or even triple ambassador and villages, and junk the opponent until they have no deck control. I won once by puttign 16 potions and 10 curses in the opponent's deck.
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2016, 08:21:41 am »
+2

Hi Adrian,

Thanks for posting your reply and also for you agreeing to my exploration on the idea of this form of strategy.  I thought long and hard about whether I should post this or not, as I like developing thinking, but sometimes people can be very negative about new ideas that change conventional wisdom.  Just simply getting one positive response has made me feel it was worthwhile sharing my thoughts and I want to thank you for that. 
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DG

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2016, 08:52:27 am »
0

Should control be considered the build up of resources or the better utilization of the resources you already have?
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2016, 09:02:38 am »
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Hi DG,

That is a very good question.  In my mind I saw it as being the build up of your own resources while limiting your opponents access to his resources. 
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werothegreat

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2016, 09:23:35 am »
+3

What?  Big Money is very clearly an Aggro strategy, comparable to a Hearthstone player just throwing down a bunch of 1-drops.  Control strategies are engines in Dominion, usually using Attacks the way an MTG or Hearthstone player would use removal spells.
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2016, 09:44:49 am »
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In response to Werothegreat, I am glad you are challenging my idea, as what you have said has got me thinking perhaps what I have said could be wrong.  Hopefully some more people will add to the discussion with their views and we will see where it goes from there.
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Jack Rudd

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2016, 09:50:27 am »
+1

Yazza, have you read this thread?
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2016, 10:02:30 am »
+3

Hi Jack,

That thread was really interesting to read and I am very grateful you suggested it to me.  I am still learning and that has helped me a lot in getting a better understanding between Big Money as beatdown and Engines as Control. 
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Chris is me

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2016, 10:13:17 am »
+1

What would be a dominant dominion strategy you wouldn't define as "control"? Under the premise you appear to be using, it seems like basically any positive action you could take to increase your odds of winning would be defined as "control".
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2016, 10:40:23 am »
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In response to Chris, I would argue that a "rush" strategy, where you are attempting to end the game as soon as possible is not a "control" strategy.  Control strategies are about building superior resources, which takes longer to achieve than a more aggressive strategy that is trying to win as soon as possible.  In fact, I would suggest reading the thread that Jack has posted a link to, as this is a really good explanation of the difference between the two types of strategy and that has made me reconsider my opinion that Big Money is actually a Control strategy, as it is clearly a more aggressive strategy.

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Roadrunner7671

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2016, 10:44:45 am »
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I think this was a good article. Yazza, in the upper right hand corner of all posts, there is a button labeled 'quote.' You should see what it does!  ;)
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2016, 11:13:51 am »
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Hi Roadrunner,

Thanks for saying you liked the article.  You did make me laugh about using 'quote', as I should have thought of that. 
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eHalcyon

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2016, 01:10:10 pm »
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What?  Big Money is very clearly an Aggro strategy, comparable to a Hearthstone player just throwing down a bunch of 1-drops.  Control strategies are engines in Dominion, usually using Attacks the way an MTG or Hearthstone player would use removal spells.

I'm not super familiar with the MtG classifications, but this sounds right to me. Another important aspect of engines is having more gains per turn (whether through gainers or +Buy). Gain potential is another resource in Dominion which many newer players take for granted. A deck with higher gain potential has stronger end game control.
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Awaclus

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2016, 01:21:06 pm »
+1

What?  Big Money is very clearly an Aggro strategy, comparable to a Hearthstone player just throwing down a bunch of 1-drops.  Control strategies are engines in Dominion, usually using Attacks the way an MTG or Hearthstone player would use removal spells.

Big money is not very comparable to an aggro strategy considering that it's significantly slower than rush strategies. Big money is more comparable to midrange/tempo/aggro-control decks.

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2016, 02:03:40 pm »
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This article is only just the beginning, Yazza. You can make plenty of conclusions from what you have written so far. A good first attempt for sure, but you have only begun to cover the topic of control.
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markusin

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2016, 02:30:21 pm »
0

What?  Big Money is very clearly an Aggro strategy, comparable to a Hearthstone player just throwing down a bunch of 1-drops.  Control strategies are engines in Dominion, usually using Attacks the way an MTG or Hearthstone player would use removal spells.

Big money is not very comparable to an aggro strategy considering that it's significantly slower than rush strategies. Big money is more comparable to midrange/tempo/aggro-control decks.

The Hearthstone analogy is that Big Money is the "play on curve" midrange deck like Midrange Hunter or Secret Paladin.

This topic is difficult to nail down because Dominion engines often resemble combo decks that stall to get up their combo rather than control decks that "outvalue" the opponent. In other cases the engine is favoured in the long term due to having much better late game consistency.
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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2016, 07:09:25 pm »
0

Articles are great, welcome to the community!

Maximizing control is key in tournament dominion
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Yazza

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2016, 04:29:05 am »
0

I just wanted to thank people for their feedback and also for being so welcoming.
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Davio

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2016, 05:28:32 am »
+5

Control in Dominion is not only attacks, but also pile control.

Sometimes, you can get control of a game by being able to get a lot of cards at once if you choose to, while your opponent can only grab 1 or 2 cards per turn.
This lets you prolong the game until you can end it in a single turn, all the while building up your deck to that tipping point.

It doesn't matter much when you buy VP cards, only how much of them you have at the end of the game.
Say your opponent buys a Province every other turn until he has 4, so it takes him 7 or 8 turns to do so.
That means you have 7 or 8 turns as well, but you could buy all of your Provinces in a single turn, using 5 or 6 turns to keep building your deck so it can do so.

This is why engines are so powerful, engines make it a lot easier to end the game (by grabbing multiple cards at once to cause a favorable 3-pile or grabbing multiple Provinces/Colonies at once) so you can either wait until you're ahead and end it or delay ending it to try and get ahead.

A non-engine player just has to hope and chisel away at the Provinces to get a big enough lead. Non-engine players often have difficulty ending the game while they're ahead. They'll either win by default (their point lead is too big to overcome) or the game turns into a slog where both players are fighting over Estates.

An engine vs. non-engine strategy is like a race from London to New York where the non-engine player just gets on a boat and waits until it arrives while the engine player tries to invent a spaceship.
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Dingan

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2016, 03:44:08 pm »
+4

An engine vs. non-engine strategy is like a race from London to New York where the non-engine player just gets on a boat and waits until it arrives while the engine player tries to invent a spaceship.

Omg, yes!!

Good article Yazza.  My one comment is that yes, things like Spy and B-Crat provide you benefits, and hence add to your control.  But keep in mind that these are two relatively weak $4 cards, and that the control they give you now came at a price earlier in the game, which people tend to call "opportunity cost".  So control is good, yeah, but it can peak too late.  That boat might already be ashore.

EDIT:
To be clear, I'm not referring to a deck that has control and a deck that doesn't.  I'm referring to the different opportunity costs associated with different cards of similar price, and how the decisions you make now can affect your amount of control you have later.  So like, more control and more types of control are almost always good things; but it's the deck that out-paces the other decks in the amount of control it has that will come out on top.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2016, 07:01:23 pm by Dingan »
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hilbert90

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2016, 10:24:52 am »
0

(Mostly in reply to wero).

I have to say that I disagree with the idea that engines are the control strategy. To me, engines are very clearly a "tempo" strategy. This is because the engine itself does nothing to slow down your opponent. You take a lab, your opponent takes a lab, etc. The goal of an engine is to maintain tempo in this way. As soon as you miss tempo, you're behind.

Control decks should refer to removal and slowing your opponent down. Removal should be thought of as actively removing options from your opponent. As was pointed out in the article, this involves strategies like curses or forcing discard or inserting junk into their deck.

There's obvious crossover between these two ideas (Witch when there's already +action). But often there isn't, because putting control strategy into your engine can hinder the engine from working properly (picking up a militia could cause you to lose tempo).
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faust

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2016, 11:53:35 am »
+1

Control decks should refer to removal and slowing your opponent down. Removal should be thought of as actively removing options from your opponent. As was pointed out in the article, this involves strategies like curses or forcing discard or inserting junk into their deck.

Engines do this. Removal works because 1) once you go big engine, you force a non-engine opponent to end the game before you explode, thus removing their option to build longer, and 2) building up pile control by multiple gains limits the choices our opponent has if they do not want you to 3-pile.

Engines always slow their opponent down if possible. If there is a decent attack in the game, then an engine will seek to incorporate it.
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hilbert90

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #23 on: November 27, 2016, 12:26:10 pm »
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I think you've just misunderstood my explanation. It is probably my own fault, because I used the term "remove options." By that I meant remove cards from the opponent's next turn (which is what I think corresponds to "removal" here since there isn't a persistent board state to remove creatures or counter spells). Adding junk effectively does this when they cycle in and discarding obviously does this.

Your interpretation is way too broad. Every time you buy or play anything, you've, of course, set some sort of course for the game, and hence, removed some line of play from the opponent. It's meaningless to call all of this removal. The point is to figure out what the corresponding idea is in Dominion from non-deck building card games. In Magic, if someone opens the game by playing a 1/1 creature with lifelink or deathtouch, the opponent must incorporate that into their next play, hence "removing" some lines of play, but no one anywhere would call playing a 1/1 creature "removal" or "control."

I also don't think pile "control" is part of a "control deck," despite the unfortunate overlap in terminology. If you pick a card that your opponent also wants, they have to pick it up to maintain tempo. This seems like an obvious tempo strategy correlation. It doesn't actually slow the opponent down like an attack does.
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DG

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Re: Dominion Strategy: The Art of Control
« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2016, 01:31:56 pm »
+2

I also don't think pile "control" is part of a "control deck," despite the unfortunate overlap in terminology. If you pick a card that your opponent also wants, they have to pick it up to maintain tempo. This seems like an obvious tempo strategy correlation. It doesn't actually slow the opponent down like an attack does.

Your idea of tempo may apply to other card games but it is not correct for Dominion. You can forgo collecting cards for a number of turns as long as you can accelerate your deck strongly later.

Engines are not specifically built by ignoring attacks. Attacks are often added into engines. An engine will frequently allow better deck defense through trashing, deck control, hand control, etc. An engine may be able to play a variety of attacks every turn in a way that a money deck can never do.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2016, 01:33:15 pm by DG »
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