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.