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Author Topic: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*  (Read 1391 times)

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Skumpy

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The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« on: April 18, 2017, 02:30:53 am »
+12

*in my opinion.

I'm sure you've been there too; you load up a game or deal out 10 blue-backed cards and see your one personal rectangular nemesis that makes you think "Oh crap. I'm not winning this game" (Just me?)

Anyways, these are the cards that I feel separate the Dominion Greats from the Not-So-Greats. (It's also a little bit of "Teach me how to play better please" disguised as a clickbait article).

This isn't a list of the best cards in Dominion - Chapel's great, but it doesn't take too long to learn how important it is to trash your whole hand. It's also not a list of the cards whose strategies are easy to get, hard to perfect - you might've played your Rebuild or Governor deck slightly better than I did and won, but at least I understand the general principles of them. Also not a list of those cards with those obscure edge case strategies that are easily overlooked in favor of classic engines/BM - it sucks you beat me with that Counting House combo, but 99 times out of 100, there's no way it's worth it.

So without further ado, these are the cards with the what/why/when/how/where/who that need a lot of practice (still in my opinion).

Honorable Mentions

Distant Lands - Many have asked the question, few have found the answer: WHEN do I start picking up these cards with this really awesome color scheme?

Duke - OK, like most other pure victory cards, I kinda forget about it until the late game. I'm not great at looking at a board in the beginning and evaluating how Duke/Duchy stacks up with Province.

Groundskeeper - Surprisingly, the only Empires card that made it even to HM for me, though a few others were close. It can be game changing at the end, but like Distant Lands, 'when' is the question. Too useless early, too late...late. And yes, gainers are an obvious solution, but without gainers, picking up a G-Keeper in the midgame over other $5s is a tough choice.

Highway - ...and other cost reducers. Less about me and more for the general public, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of most of Highway's tricks. What I don't have, however, is a good recognition of Highway's 'countertricks' (oh yeah, THAT'S why my Apprentice isn't working).

Watchtower - A cute little helper card, obviously not a powerhouse nor a card you need a lot of it, but it can do 3 separate cool things, all of which are easy to both forget about and underrate. I don't know, I feel like this is a really forgettable card for some reason, but it's usually a very useful one.

10. Tactician


When you start playing Dominion the thought process associated with Tactician goes: (see it for the first time) "Discard your hand? Ewwww" (sees somebody else use it) "+5 cards, + 1 action + 1 buy? That was awesome!" (and then more uses) "Eh".

Funny enough, Double Tactician is one of the coolest uses of Tactician, and yet, it's also not too tough to see when and why it works. It's the Single Tactician deck that's more gray area - Yes, 1 great turn is usually better than 2 good ones, but how good are those good turns I'm having, and how great is that one great one? It's that middle ground where I have a tough time seeing if sacrificing a turn is really worth it.

9. Minion


OK, fine, this one's a personal vendetta - I just can't win with Minion on the board. I can't. Minion stack is great, I was told, it's self-sufficient, I was told, and yet, there's so many cards that can combo well with Minion that I'm not aware of. In addition, I have a tough time with the main discard/+$ decision of Minion. When it's the last card left, sure, discard and get 4 new ones, but when you only have 5 total Minions in your deck, it's tough to get them to line up right.

8. Hermit



Maybe another card that is more personal, one that I don't really get...but I don't really get it. I remember watching a game from someone (I think it was Mic, could be wrong), where they butchered Coppers into Curses just to feed them to the Hermit. Yes, I see it's a nice counter to Looters and Curses, but it's still only one card you can trash, not to mention it doesn't work on treasures. As for Madman, sure it's great, but it's a 1-time use, plus you might have to sacrifice a solid turn in order to get it. I've seen games of people going after Hermits hard, and I don't see the purpose of having a bunch of them. Again, maybe this card is more of a personal sob story than one that accurately reflects the community's feelings....then again, it's my list, I can do what I want.  8)

7. Transmogrify



So here's what I know how to use Transmogrify for:
1) It can turn Estates into Silvers for some nice early game usage
2) It can turn Provinces into Provinces to help end the game faster
3) ....some other stuff

Transmogrify is nice with Summon, it's great with Fortress, but it's easy to let it sit on your mat and not feel like using it. It's a card that can be used to help smooth out rough turns and give you power to kick off, but I imagine a lot players don't see a lot of immediate gain from it and pass it up for other $4's that can give an instant impact/direct contribution to an engine. It's easy to imagine that tricks exist with Transmogrify, harder to spot, much less practice, those tricks in an actual game.

6. Stonemason



So it took me a while to figure out why this card is considered so good. It can gain things, it goes great with potion-cost cards...but still, it's a dead card whose trashing ability just isn't that good. Depending on the board, there is a point where too many Stonemasons are detrimental.

I feel like I've started to get away from the whole purpose of this topic, so I'm gonna try to get back on track here: why does this card separate good from great players when it's buy ability isn't too difficult to figure out? Keyword(s): Endgame control. Stonemason both through buying and through trashing is possibly the best card at creating quick pile outs, and it's difficult for opponents to see it coming. Finding forced wins is a vital skill, and few cards better enable it than Stonemason.

5. Butcher



Good ol' Mr. My-Bald-Cap-Doesn't-Fit-So-Well-And-My-Ear-Is-A-Doorknob. Similar to Transmogrify in a lot of respects - trashing Estates into $3s and $4s is good early on, and endgame, it can drain Provinces quickly. And playing a Butcher just for the coin tokens is also a reasonable play. And then the questions come: When do you start burning those coin tokens? Is it worth to use 5 coin tokens turning a copper into a $5? Should I save them for later in the turn when I can use them with my multiple buys? When do I start turning my expensive actions and treasures into Provinces? Coin tokens are in general tough because it's a tough call when to use them, though the earlier the better is a good rule of thumb, but Butcher complicates the issue by giving you two different, useful ways to use coin tokens to get better cards.

4. Jack of All Trades



OK, I know what you're thinking: how the heck did this make the list, let alone get to 4? Haven't you heard of the fabled Double Jack, of whom many stories have been spread across the lands.

Why, yes, I do know of the legends! But do you mean to tell me that unless your deck contains 2 Jacks and a bunch of silvers that it's a useless card? The fact is Jack of All Trades is a jack of all trades. It does 4 things, each to be utilized weaponized (I like that word better!) in their own way. And it seems to me the best players can spot when one or multiple of those abilities can be used to better an engine. Maybe it is a little high on the list but....eh, I'm committed. The 4-word card shall stay at #4!

3. Develop



Say what you want about the last 12 cards so far, I'm pretty confident in my choice for top 3. Starting with Develop. Gains a card costing more and less. There aren't that many cards that make you trash backwards in cost, but here's one of 'em. It's a poor copper trasher, a mediocre estate trasher (at least you get a $3 on top of you deck), the real power lies in knowing when to get rid of those $4 and $5 Actions you worked oh so hard to get, just to feed them to the sinking sandcastle owned by an alien (seriously, why is his face GREEN‽‽‽‽). Again, maybe more of a personal issue, but I imagine a lot of players are reluctant to trash actions as 1) You bought them with your own hard-earned cash at some point and 2) and more importantly, it's tough to justify trashing over playing them.

But the flip side is you get two more cards, one of which is stronger than the trashee, plus you'll probably be playing them real soon, and adding engine cards to an engine is always smart. I haven't even mentioned endgame yet; you can use it to add some endgame victory cards and can get in some sneaky pileouts. Upon seeing the card for the first time, it should be obvious that there are tricks you can find with it, it's just a matter of managing to spot them and pull off a https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmFb-BLxzpQ with it.

2. Procession



It's a Throne Room! It's an Upgrade! It's...Procession. Does it seem to strange to you that Procession is a Throne Room that improves the card you throne, gives you a chance to play that card on the same turn, costs the SAME as Throne Room, and despite all that, is still rated lower by the community. Huh? Well, the main reasoning isn't too hard to see it turns out - Throne Room can be used on your best, most expensive actions, while Procession...could technically too, it would just be dumb.

Regardless of how it stacks up against Throne Room, it's still a tough card to play right. On the face of it, even if you don't play the new card this turn, at least instead of paying $5 for the next card you need for your deck, you only need $4 to replace the card you just got rid of it. Frugality! Save a buck! Well, not so simple. Village/Terminal balance is key, and Procession can upset the balance. As with Develop, even when you're getting a more expensive card, it can still be discouraging to trash those o-so-precious Actions of yours.

But what really makes this card shine is when you Procession the Procession. Think about it for a couple seconds, and it's still not quite obvious what's gonna happen, even with just a chain of just 2, let alone 5. The endgame pileout the Processing a Processing a (insert recursion code here) enables is tough to underestimate unless you've done it yourself, or more likely, had it happen to you. So with both the ability to sacrifice actions for better ones and miraculously drain 3 piles like that, Procession is a well deserved #2.

And 1. Peasant and Friends



I hope you all saw this one coming. Countless articles have been written on Peasant and his 4 elders siblings, and yet, still we wander in the darkness, without a flicker of light to illuminate the proper way to play a game of Dominion with these sepia gentlemen. In a game where it's fun to find cards that thematically match what they do, perhaps no card better does this than Peasant: we Peasants don't know how to play with it, and must become the Teachers to master it.

In all seriousness - yeah, Peasant's tough. Where do I begin. How many Peasants should I get? How early should I fill my deck with these dead terminals? How many Disciples do I want? Which card should I Disciple? Do I even want a Teacher? What token do I place first? Which pile does it go on? Why am I placing my first token while my opponent just ended the game? (Been there, done that).

People have complained about Peasant ranking behind Page in the Qvist rankings. One of the main reasons (I think) Page has beaten Peasant two years is that people UNDERSTAND the Page chain. It's so beautifully intuitive! Champion stops attacks. Champion lets me ignore '+x Action'. The End. Heck, even Page is simpler than Peasant, it's just a $2 cantrip - what could be easier to get?

So yes, with a callback to the purpose of this article, when you play a game against me and Peasant is there, congrats on the victory.







Again, everything above is how I feel. I'm sure there are cards above that are much more obvious that I let them on to be and I'm just missing some simple fact about them. Those are just the cards that I see on boards that cause me to panic a little bit. I don't know, anybody else have thoughts/lists of their own? I decided to post this in General Discussion for a reason, so....Discuss! But do it generally...
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Rabid

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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2017, 08:16:16 am »
+3

Very interesting read.
Thanks.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 10:46:20 am »
+3

Agree with Stonemason and Develop for myself. Every single time I've played with someone who knew how to really leverage these cards I get soundly beaten. Whenever I try my hand at them everything falls flat.

I also see Procession ruin more decks than it helps though I rarely try to run it unless there's obvious synergy (e.g. Procession/Fortress). I would say when I do use it I use it well.

I'd HM the mixed piles like Knights and Castles.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2017, 11:59:11 am »
+2

Tactician and Hermit/Madman are both a nemesis to me.

With Tactician, I've had to learn to just do a "leap of faith" and use it in any game where I can't fire off an engine turn every turn.

With Hermit, I always underestimate what my opponent can accomplish with one Madman, but not before my opponent gained a new Hermit using the one that proceeded to go mad.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2017, 12:04:16 pm »
+3

Agree with Stonemason and Develop for myself. Every single time I've played with someone who knew how to really leverage these cards I get soundly beaten. Whenever I try my hand at them everything falls flat.

I also see Procession ruin more decks than it helps though I rarely try to run it unless there's obvious synergy (e.g. Procession/Fortress). I would say when I do use it I use it well.

I'd HM the mixed piles like Knights and Castles.

It's not always wrong to blindly go for Procession before it's completely clear what it will be good for, but only when there's a good sequence (at least length 4, like 2-3-4-5 but especially 3-4-5-6). Agreed that it's terrible a lot of the time.

Enjoyed the OP. My personal cards to add would be Counterfeit and Treasury.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2017, 05:45:15 pm »
+1

Agree with Stonemason and Develop for myself. Every single time I've played with someone who knew how to really leverage these cards I get soundly beaten. Whenever I try my hand at them everything falls flat.

I also see Procession ruin more decks than it helps though I rarely try to run it unless there's obvious synergy (e.g. Procession/Fortress). I would say when I do use it I use it well.

I'd HM the mixed piles like Knights and Castles.

It's not always wrong to blindly go for Procession before it's completely clear what it will be good for, but only when there's a good sequence (at least length 4, like 2-3-4-5 but especially 3-4-5-6). Agreed that it's terrible a lot of the time.

Enjoyed the OP. My personal cards to add would be Counterfeit and Treasury.

While I have never struggled with those two cards your post reminded me that I sure do hate Contraband. My opponent is always a mind reader and I clearly do not have ESP.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2017, 06:01:15 pm »
+1

While I have never struggled with those two cards your post reminded me that I sure do hate Contraband. My opponent is always a mind reader and I clearly do not have ESP.

Contraband is super easy to play with.

Step 1: don't buy it.
Step 2: if your opponent buys it, always deny the most important card.

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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2017, 06:16:50 pm »
+1

While I have never struggled with those two cards your post reminded me that I sure do hate Contraband. My opponent is always a mind reader and I clearly do not have ESP.

Contraband is super easy to play with.

Step 1: don't buy it.
Step 2: if your opponent buys it, always deny the most important card.

"Step 1" is wrong (Contraband is good sometimes, although admittedly it usually isn't), and your "Step 2" analysis is basically a tautology ("just deny whatever card you should be denying at that particular moment" is pretty much what you're saying, given that "the most important card" is an entirely situational definition).

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, homeslice.

EDIT: re: Minion, I think a helpful principle to keep in mind when you're playing that card is, if you're playing a Minion stack, you're playing an engine, and in terms of combos and tactical play, it works mostly like a draw-to-X engine.  The one big difference is that your "draw" also has a discard effect, which can change how you manage shuffles.  I don't know how helpful that'll be to other players, but I think that helped me improve my Minion game, fwiw.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 06:22:05 pm by jaybeez »
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Awaclus

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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2017, 07:00:26 pm »
0

While I have never struggled with those two cards your post reminded me that I sure do hate Contraband. My opponent is always a mind reader and I clearly do not have ESP.

Contraband is super easy to play with.

Step 1: don't buy it.
Step 2: if your opponent buys it, always deny the most important card.

"Step 1" is wrong (Contraband is good sometimes, although admittedly it usually isn't), and your "Step 2" analysis is basically a tautology ("just deny whatever card you should be denying at that particular moment" is pretty much what you're saying, given that "the most important card" is an entirely situational definition).

Well, the past 4000 games or so, I'm pretty sure I've bought less than 5 Contrabands. Therefore, saying that you shouldn't buy it is pretty good advice.

The second step is also not a tautology, because "just deny whatever card you should be denying at the particular moment" is only pretty much "just deny the most important card" after we have concluded that the most important card is what you should be denying at the particular moment, which is what I'm concluding in step 2. It's not a very difficult conclusion to come to, and that's why Contraband is not a very difficult card either.

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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2017, 01:27:04 am »
+1

I generally avoid Contraband whenever I can.   Only rules of thumb I can think up of for declaring restricted piles:

--early on go for Gold.  It can be a nice vicious cycle against that player if he buys more Contrabands
--a bit later on, on Platinum if available
--Late game, go Province or Colonies

--if there are multiple Contrabands, prioritize the above
--if cheap cards are desired, Contraband those
-like Copper via Goons
-if you suspect Watchtower, then also Curses if there's any benefits to buys, like Goons
-note events and special triggers (e.g. Estates if Groundskeepers are in play)

playing Contraband
--obviously, don't play 3 to 4 Contrabands and expect favorable results if there are onlhy 3 to 4 cards you'd like to buy
--if there are Events, that's immune to Contraband's restriction, so you can always just do that (especially Gold via Wedding)
--If you can't do one thing, then consider any viable alternatives.  Like not being able to buy what you want... just sit this turn out and get VP from Baths.  Perhaps also getting your Wine Merchant(s) back
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2017, 02:12:32 am »
+3

You usually don't buy Contraband, and the rare times you do are usually in games where

  • There are lots of good engine pieces.
  • There's no other source of +Buy.
  • Many of the engine pieces are interchangeable with other actions.

in which case Contraband is used to pick up actions fast enough to compete with money based strategies, and then turns into a dead card in late game.

These games are rare enough that you realistically don't need to worry about them, but when they show up, Contraband becomes HARD, because it becomes a game of "which option is least bad for me"?

There are other weird things too, like how blocking Duchy instead of Province can be the right move if they need Duchies to catch up in VP. But overall, Contraband games are rare enough that I don't think they should be on the list.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2017, 10:38:41 am »
+2

Contraband is also pretty good in any game that makes heavy use of Events (Ball?), as these cannot be blocked.

EDIT: Seen that ackmondual already mentioned this.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 10:40:46 am by faust »
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2017, 10:41:12 am »
+1

Contraband is also pretty good in any game that makes heavy use of Events (Ball?), as these cannot be blocked.

The debt cards have also helped Contraband. One way is that if you are in debt and spend all your coins for the turn paying off debt, Contraband has no drawback (though the +1 Buy does not help you either). Another way is that there are four cards that cost only debt that you can pick up with Contraband's extra buy after buying other card(s) for the turn if the opponent does not prohibit them.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2017, 10:42:59 am »
+2

Contraband is also pretty good in any game that makes heavy use of Events (Ball?), as these cannot be blocked.

EDIT: Seen that ackmondual already mentioned this.

Yeah, I have built a Contraband BM once and bought Dominates every turn.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2017, 03:33:31 pm »
+2

It's really too bad that Contraband doesn't see more play, because it's my favorite of the "interaction" cards. It's the one interaction card that feels like the opponent's decision actually matters.

That's probably because, unlike Advisor, it doesn't synergize with itself. In fact, the more of them you play the worse they are. Whereas a card like Advisor played in significant numbers can overwhelm the opponent's card-vetoes.

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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2017, 09:16:01 am »
0

The only thing on this list I don't "get" is Jack. Even Jack in an engine isn't that hard - you open with 1 of them, get something else to trash Coppers, and eventually you probably stop playing it.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2017, 10:43:03 am »
0

I agree with transmogrify. I often undervalue transmogrify due to its inability to trash copper.

Also, taxman. I keep underestimating how well my opponent can predict when I have silver or gold in hand with some careful deck-tracking, and how much taxman can matter in the endgame, even though it's definitely not the best card in the game. It's like a weird mine-cutpurse-gear.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2017, 01:42:25 pm »
+1

Transmogrify's big trick is the "to hand" part. When it's good, it's because it allows you to collide elements exactly when necessary instead of buying the parts and praying. Sure, drawing deck is better, but still.

Open Transmogrify/Urchin. Mat the Transmogrify. When you draw Urchin/Estate, Transmogrify the Estate to get your second urchin in hand and enjoy your early Mercenary.

Playing BM and stalling late? Transmogrify that Silver to a Remodel in hand and remodel that Gold to a Province. Beats the heck out of buying a Remodel early and drawing it dead several times, or settling for a Duchy.

Also, the "to hand" trick makes milling insanely fast since one Province in hand allows you to mill as many Provinces as you have Transmogrifies on the mat.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2017, 09:11:08 am »
0

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Limetime

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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2017, 11:20:23 pm »
+2

I think the most challenging cards to use in dominion are the most useless ones.
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Re: The Top 10 Most Challenging Cards to Use in Dominion*
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2017, 04:35:41 am »
+1

Here are the cards I have hard time using/don't have the right experience just yet.


1. Develop. I still don't notice a lot of tricks with it.
2. Procession
3. Villa-I understand loading up on terminals, but I don't feel I have a firm grasp on this card just yet. I'm sure I will though soon enough. I just need to play more games with it/watch other players use it.
4. Possession-It's easy to miss a lot of things or make mistakes with it. Masquerade, Ambassador, looking players out with debt. This card can get pretty complicated very fast.
5. Catapult- I think I'm getting this now, but it took me a while.
6. Enchantress. I feel comfortable with this card, but I don't feel I have as much experience with it as I would like. ie. I'm still not 100% sure when the best times to buy it are.
7. Sacrifice-I understand this card, but I feel I ignore this a lot nowadays. I am starting to practice more with using it as the only village.
8. Capital- I'm buying this more for experimentation purposes, but I still don't 100% feel I have a grasp on this card.
9. Charm-I think I got this card down, but I feel it's wonkiness makes it a little hard to 100% figure out.
10. Page-I feel I lose a good amount of these games. Also, I hate silver flooding. Yuck!

Okay, I guess most of my stuff is from Empires, so there you go.
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