So, yeah, Caravan Guard, I think a lot of people don't really understand it.
There was discussion on the Discord about it yesterday in which I proposed some things that turned out to be right (this is rare), and my good friend Emil/Wachsmuth was kind enough to run the sims and confirm my back-of-the-napkin assumptions and calculations (more on that later). The thing to understand about Caravan Guard is that it varies a lot
by deck type and purchase timing, and also that the differences are subtle but pretty obvious if you stop to think about them. Caravan Guard is not a card that is easy to "feel" the effectiveness of, which is why I think a strategy article is merited.Big Money
This is always just the easiest one to talk about. Caravan Guard is better than silver in all big money that's not terminal draw. Ok, let me clarify. Caravan Guard is not always
better than silver in big money--it's better after the first reshuffle. Meaning, you still open silver/silver, but then after that you buy Caravan Guards. The difference is small in straight big money, but you're almost never playing that, so that's not the point. Monument-BM with Caravan Guard beats the same without Caravan Guard. The reason is two-fold.
1) Caravan Guard is not a stop-card, so it helps you play your "key cards" more often (in this case, Monument).
2) As soon as the average treasure value of your deck is greater than 1, Caravan Guard is more money for your deck on average than a silver is. Caravan Guard is a peddler, after all, and it only costs $3!
A) Caravan Guard is delayed a turn, which matters a little bit
B) Caravan Guard can miss shuffles, which also matters less than you would think
The caveats matter, but the pros of Caravan Guard outweigh the cons of it in big money. You always open silver/silver still, especially if you want to do something like hit 5, but as the game progresses the cons of Caravan Guard start to matter less and less, and the pros matter more and more.
Also, obviously if you're playing attack-BM that's not terminal draw, then CG is a real all-star. But everyone already knew this. You still open silver/silver or silver/4-cost-attack, though. Then you pile on the CG's after that, but only instead of silvers. You still take your Gold and other key cards first. Engines
This is where Caravan Guard is pretty weak. It doesn't help you hit 5 early that well, of course, although it does get you one card closer to cycling than Silver. This isn't a huge deal though, you still want silver over Caravan Guard early on in an engine. If the engine is super tight and you don't need a ton of coin then CG can be better, but be wary of things like Scrying Pool engines that need action density--Caravan Guard is only in your deck half of the turns.
Beyond the opening, it's important to realize what Caravan Guard is in your deck once you're drawing it. It's not a peddler. It's a half-peddler. So that means you're paying $3 for .5 coins/turn, which is just a terrible investment. You almost never want to add Caravan Guard to an engine that's under control, unless your only other option is nothing. If possible, it's usually better to take engine parts/treasure over another Caravan Guard. It just gives you so little economy.
So when do you want Caravan Guard in engines?
1) On the first few turns if it's a very tight engine (such as one with no handsize increasing and key cards), and during your build-up on your way to completing the engine on medium-powered engines. High-powered engines such as Wharf/Fishing Village engines have no place for Caravan Guards, as you're simply going to have too much power too soon for the Caravan Guard investment to be relevant.
Finally, the bottom-half reaction component matters pretty much not at all in engines. It gives you roughly an extra (5/deck size * 0.5 * attacked%) coins per turn. Not a big deal. With a deck of 25 cards where you get attacked every turn, it only gives you an extra 0.1 coins per turn on average. Of course, if you’re able to get down to a very small deck then the Caravan Guards get much better because you can chain them as well. If the board is otherwise weak and there’s an easy way to gain a lot of cheap cards, then this is probably worth doing.Slogs
Hey, my favorite play-style! I’ll keep this section brief, because it’s really quite simple and caravan guard in slogs plays very similarly to caravan guards in money. Is your average treasure value at least 1.1 or so? Then get a caravan guard. Are there attacks? Then move this number down to around 1.05, depending on your deck size. Again, mathematically if your deck is any big at all the presence of attacks matter a lot less with Caravan Guard than you would think.
Also, important note: when you’re calculating average treasure value, it’s important to not calculate what your average treasure value is now
, but what it will be at the start of the next shuffle
. That’s an important note for all of Dominion really. Make deck-state dependent decisions based off of your next shuffle, and not your deck state during the current hand.
So, there we go, that’s my Caravan Guard article, and also my inaugural article. I’ve been playing Dominion for 123 days now, so it seemed about time, and Caravan Guard seems like an unimportant topic and thus a good place to get started