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Author Topic: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion  (Read 2320 times)

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4est

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Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« on: September 08, 2017, 12:09:24 pm »
+25

I thought I'd try my hand at writing a Dominion article that's especially written with a newer player audience in mind.  This is my first stab at writing a full article so feedback and edits would be greatly appreciated!  I chose Sentry since it has very few articles written on it, yet it's a somewhat complex card new players encounter often in Base only games.



When we first saw Sentry, here is how many of us reacted (myself included):
  • First reads it: “Whoa, what a powerful trasher!”
  • Actually plays with it: “Well, that was a bit disappointing…”
As it turns out, Sentry isn’t the most powerful trasher ever (see Donate).  But it is very powerful nonetheless, and is usually the first $5 you should buy on many boards, especially on 5-2 openings. 


What does it do and how do I use it?

Sentry does two things: it trashes and it sifts.
 
Trashing
In case you haven’t heard, trashing is very, very good.  And Sentry has the ability to nonterminally trash two cards, without reducing your handsize or buying power the turn you play it.  Unlike other trashers such as Masquerade, Upgrade, or Junk Dealer which trash cards from your hand, Sentry trashes cards from the top of your deck (similar to Lookout).  Sentry’s main advantage over cards like Lookout, Upgrade, and Junk Dealer is its potential to trash two cards instead of one.  In the first few shuffles, your deck is mostly bad cards, giving Sentry’s narrow window of two targets a much greater chance of hitting two Coppers or Estates.  But as you add more good cards to your deck and move into midgame, Sentry tends to struggle to hit cards you want to trash.  For these reasons, it’s critical to start trashing with Sentry quickly. 

Sifting
While Sentry’s trashing is by far the most important aspect of the card in the early game, its sifting ability shouldn’t be forgotten.  In the endgame especially, Sentry helps you sift through Victory cards to keep your deck reliable.  Sentry is perhaps weakest in the midgame, when it slows down trashing (outside of the occasional Copper or Curse), but doesn’t have much green to discard either.  That said, it can still be useful for controlling which cards you draw next; especially once you’ve started adding draw or other power cards like Kings Court to your deck, it’s usually better to discard treasures like Silver or Gold instead of leaving them on top, to give yourself a better chance of keeping your turn going.   

Deck Inspection Interactions
It’s also good to keep in mind that Sentry’s function as a deck inspector can be very helpful with a few cards like Vassal, Wishing Well, Mystic, and Herald. 


When should I get it?

Short answer: ASAP

Since Sentry trashes most efficiently in the early game, you’ll want to hit $5 as quickly as you can.  If you’re lucky enough to open 5-2, do not hesitate to pick up a Sentry, even over powerful junkers like Witch or Cultist (by prioritizing trashing first, you’ll be able to play your junker more frequently later).  If you open 4-3, then you want to make sure that your opening buys maximize your chances of hitting $5 on your next shuffle, so consider getting at least one Silver or an Action which can produce economy like Militia, Poacher, or Mill. 

After getting your first Sentry, it is often worth aiming to get a second one as well to speed up your trashing in the early game, though on some boards it’s more important to pick up other powerful $5s first.  Unlike some mandatory trashers like Junk Dealer which can become dead cards later, Sentry will never harm your deck and it’s usually good to have several.  When available, it’s sometimes better to pick up a different trasher instead of a second Sentry since Sentry struggles to hit the last few junk cards in your deck..   

It’s very rare that you skip Sentry altogether—if you do, it’s either because stronger trashing is available (such as Donate) or it’s an extremely weak board without any engine potential or with much faster rush or money enablers.  But most often, Sentry is a must buy. 


How does it compare to Upgrade and Junk Dealer?

Many have noticed Sentry's similarities to Upgrade and Junk Dealer.  All three are $5-cost cantrips which are powerful early game trashers, and have different pros and cons.  Upgrade of course can turn Estates into $3s and function as a gainer, while Junk Dealer provides economy while trashing.  Both trash from hand and can provide greater chances of hitting trash targets than Sentry’s two-card range.  However, Sentry’s potential to trash two cards, sifting flexibility, and non-mandatory trashing are major advantages.  Additionally, the fact that Sentry doesn’t reduce your handsize or buying power the turn you play it is a huge plus.  On boards with Sentry and Junk Dealer/Upgrade, Sentry should usually be your first priority, while still aiming to get the other trasher for support. 


What does Sentry teach us about playing Dominion?

Perhaps more than any other trasher besides Chapel, Sentry vividly demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing early, since it’s easiest to line up your trashers with targets when your deck is mostly bad cards.  The difference in trashing effectiveness between opening Sentry vs. getting Sentry after the first shuffle can be significant, and even more so if you miss getting Sentry until after the second shuffle.  The same is true of many trashers—the earlier you get them, the sooner you’ll clean out your starting cards, get control over your deck, and start making more use of your better cards and playing them more often.

In general, when building an engine, trashing your starting cards should be your first priority—before adding draw or payload.  It’s painful to watch newer players open Lab or Festival instead of Sentry on a 5-2, or draw a lucky $6 on turn 3 and get Gold instead of Sentry.  By not trashing first, your Lab will draw mostly junk and you will see your Gold and Festival less frequently amid the sea of Coppers.  And then if you get your trasher afterwards, you’ll have a harder time lining it up with junk, than if you had gotten it first.
 
On a grander scale, Sentry teaches us the importance of gaining control over your deck.  If you’ve ever watched a good player build an engine, you’ll notice that they not only know exactly what’s in their deck, but often where things are in their deck.  They are meticulous in what order they buy and play cards, and their deck seems to flow so smoothly, rarely getting stuck or disordered.  Sentry’s early trashing will quickly reduce the chances of your deck stalling, and its sifting keeps things reliable, so you know that your next Village will draw a Smithy and not a Province or a Gold.  Dominion is a game that rewards control and precision and learning to use Sentry effectively will help grow these skills, even on boards without Sentry. 


Recommended Resources

If you want to see how powerful Sentry can be when played well, check out Burning Skull’s How to Base Dominion videos (especially videos #1, 5, 11, 15, and 17). 


**Revised 9/14/2017
« Last Edit: September 14, 2017, 02:12:50 pm by 4est »
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allanfieldhouse

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2017, 12:50:55 pm »
0

Great article! I really like your general approach to the article and your targeted audience.

Maybe mention that you'll often want to pick up another trasher at some point because Sentry is really bad at trashing the last couple junk cards from your deck?
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benedettosoxfan

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2017, 02:47:20 pm »
+1

I'm glad to see sentry get some discussion. Since it's too new to be on any of the previously established lists of card rankings, I don't quite know if it's as good as I think it is. I could be way off, but I think it's better than junk dealer, which is a consensus top 10 $5 card. It's probably one of the most consistently useful cards in the game regardless of what stage you're in. While of course it's elite in the first couple turns, it's still a very useful card later on where junk dealer or upgrade might be liabilities. I'm really curious to see where it ranks in the next installment of $5 cards. I would probably rank it in the 8-10 range. Am I falling into a noob trap and way overrating it, or is it actually as good as I think it is?
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2017, 02:49:36 pm »
0

I think comparing it directly to cards like Upgrade and Junk Dealer, and explaining why those trashers play differently and seem to work out better, is a good idea. Make sure people understand that if both are open, you usually get one of each, etc
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pingpongsam

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2017, 03:45:30 pm »
+1

One thing to mention while you are comparing to lookout and other trashers is that the trashing is optional (which is not immediately obvious due to the lack of the word "may" in the text). I think Sentry may qualify as the most flexible trasher. In fact, once can even use its cantrip ability to sort the top of the deck to enable a predetermined next action to fire without trashing or even discarding anything. It can synergize with many cards as you mentioned but notably omitted Tunnel.
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2017, 04:24:31 pm »
+2

I like the article, nicely structured.
I feel the synergy with Vassal is especially important. Linked with Wishing Well or Mystic, it just lets you draw an extra card; but linked with Vassal (or Herald), it lets you draw and play an extra card, potentially making the Vassal non-terminal. And Vassal will be there in base-only games.
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2017, 02:18:25 am »
+2

In your part about sifting, you discuss discarding Provinces. I would actually try and emphasize trying to get to your most important cards first. For instance, if Silver is on top, you probably want to discard that as well. And, let's say a card on the Peasant line is in your deck, you might even want to discard "good" cards to try and get to your Peasant line card quicker. Also, the same holds true for pretty much any power card. If you have King's Court, discarding two other cards will help you get to your KC quicker.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2017, 02:22:11 am by Beyond Awesome »
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dedicateddan

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2017, 03:00:06 am »
+1

Sentry interacts quite well with sifting effects like Cellar and Warehouse. You get to discard your bad cards, dig for Sentry, then play Sentry and trash the bad cards.

When there's a way to ensure that Sentry hits bad cards, I think it is one of the most powerful trashing options in the game.
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Titandrake

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2017, 04:06:07 am »
+2

Sentry interacts quite well with sifting effects like Cellar and Warehouse. You get to discard your bad cards, dig for Sentry, then play Sentry and trash the bad cards.

When there's a way to ensure that Sentry hits bad cards, I think it is one of the most powerful trashing options in the game.

I want to emphasize that this only works if you sequence things correctly.

In the best case scenario, you're at the start of the shuffle, and you have enough actions to draw through your entire deck. If you can do that, you can then do this.

1. Play your actions, using Cellar/Warehouse to find your Sentry.
2. Hold your Sentry until the end of the shuffle.
3. Play Sentry. You reshuffle - now your draw pile is all the bad cards you discarded to Cellar/Warehouse. You reveal for Sentry - now you can guarantee trashing 2 bad cards.

Just be careful not to discard too many bad cards, if you do your next hand is going to be all bad cards because your actions have missed the reshuffle. (But given how fast you're trashing, you won't have bad cards in your deck for long.)
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2017, 08:42:17 am »
+5

With all this advice (including my previous suggestion), keep in mind that a lot of what people like about your article is its simplicity/straightforwardness. I'd suggest keeping the overall article length the same, and if you want to incorporate some additional concepts, refine your existing text first.
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2017, 09:03:59 am »
0

For completeness, you might want to add that you can control how many cards are left in your deck. By doing that you control when you next shuffle your deck. (The difference between leaving four or five cards in the deck)
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4est

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2017, 06:42:50 pm »
+1

Thanks everyone for the feedback!  Very helpful. 

I’ve made a few revisions to the OP to incorporate a few of the most relevant suggestions, while trying to retain the original’s simplicity.  I’ve added two new sections: an Advanced Techniques section which details how to control reshuffles and use sifters to selectively trash with Sentry, and another section which compares and contrasts Sentry with Upgrade and Junk Dealer.  I’ve also tried to emphasize the importance of discarding treasures to get to your draw, and the value of supporting Sentry with another trasher. 

The article is about 250 words longer with the new sections, which is longer that I’d like, but if they add significant value, then that’s okay I suppose.  I’d love to get more thoughts on the revisions—do they improve the usefulness of the article for a new player audience or does the additional complexity get in the way of the most important insights?
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allanfieldhouse

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2017, 11:32:37 am »
0

I’d love to get more thoughts on the revisions—do they improve the usefulness of the article for a new player audience or does the additional complexity get in the way of the most important insights?

Looks good to me.

I like how you mentioned in the Upgrade/JD section how you should get Sentry first and then you still want the other trasher too. You might want to reword the "second trasher" paragraph of the "When to get it" section though. It sounds like you're recommending getting two Sentries and then another trasher (which I guess might be good sometimes, but might also be overkill). Maybe just something like this: "It can be better to pick up a different trasher instead of a second Sentry because Sentry struggles to hit the last few junk cards in your deck."

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2017, 12:16:44 pm »
0

Very nice article.

I would like to put some more emphasis on one part of the thrashing ability. What is different about sentry thrashing is that you don't have to draw the junk to your hand first. Whenever you thrash you also sift. Especially in the early games this can make you have good hands and thrash and speed up the shuffle at the same time. I think this is what makes sentry a very swingy card, where it sometimes determines the game early on.
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2017, 03:20:34 pm »
+1

I used to never buy Sentry, but it is actually kinda good. Trashing from the top of your deck does not keep you from buying cards on a turn you trash, and sifting is handy at a point in the game where many trashers become obsolete.

Edit: 1000th post.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 03:56:37 pm by McGarnacle »
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trivialknot

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2017, 03:38:14 pm »
+5

I think it's a little weird to say that Sentry "demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing as early in the game as possible."  Sentry is really strong early on because early trashing is good, but it's also strong early on because then you have fewer good cards to get in the way of trashing.

I mean, if a new player figures out that an early Sentry is really strong, and concluded that early trashing is strong in general, they've come to the correct conclusion but not for the correct reason.  If someone figured out that an early Mint was really weak, it would be incorrect for them to conclude that early trashing is weak in general.
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2017, 11:21:50 pm »
+1

Maybe just something like this: "It can be better to pick up a different trasher instead of a second Sentry because Sentry struggles to hit the last few junk cards in your deck."
I possibly shouldn't be suggesting this without having tried it, but I imagine Ratcatcher would have awesome synergy with Sentry: while slow as a general-purpose trasher, it's almost infallible as a surgical strike on a few cards Sentry left behind. Plus, it's cheap and it sits out of harm's way on your Tavern mat once it's outlived its usefulness.
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4est

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2017, 09:30:58 am »
+1

I think it's a little weird to say that Sentry "demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing as early in the game as possible."  Sentry is really strong early on because early trashing is good, but it's also strong early on because then you have fewer good cards to get in the way of trashing.

I mean, if a new player figures out that an early Sentry is really strong, and concluded that early trashing is strong in general, they've come to the correct conclusion but not for the correct reason. 

Thanks trivialknot for the thoughts!  It's definitely important to make sure new players are learning the correct reasons why Sentry's trashing (and trashing in general) is critical. 

However, I guess I don’t really see the distinction between “Sentry is strong early on because early trashing is good” and “Sentry is strong early on because you have few good cards to get in the way of trashing.”  Early trashing in general is good for several reasons, one of which is of course that you have fewer good cards to get in the way of trashing.  Why do you open Chapel rather than picking one up after the first shuffle?  Why on an engine board with a 5-2 opening do you buy Junk Dealer over Hunting Party?  Isn’t the answer, “because early trashing is good—and one of the reasons why it’s good is because I have fewer good cards to get in the way of my trashing”?  I certainly agree with you that “fewer good cards to get in the way” isn’t the only reason early trashing is good, however, I don’t think they are totally different things.  That said, I could perhaps add more emphasis that early trashing is also important because it allows you to play your good cards more and gives you more control over your deck. 

Quote
If someone figured out that an early Mint was really weak, it would be incorrect for them to conclude that early trashing is weak in general.

I also want to add that the Mint counter example doesn’t really apply here.  When it comes to trashers, the way that Mint trashes is completely different from almost all other trashers in Dominion.  If you’re trying to learn broad, applicable lessons about a particular card type or paradigm, you don’t start with the oddball card.  If you were trying to teach a new player the values of Remodel-style cards, you wouldn’t start by sitting them down with Transmute. 
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trivialknot

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2017, 11:04:45 am »
0

@4est,
Yeah, that makes sense.  I think the more general point is that yes, Mint is an oddball because of how bad it is at the beginning of the game.  But Sentry is also a bit of an oddball too, in the other direction.  You say so yourself in the article that Sentry is outstanding:

Quote
Perhaps more than any other trasher besides Chapel, Sentry vividly demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing as early in the game as possible.

I dunno, it just feels a bit inconsistent to emphasize how special Sentry is, and then immediately follow that up with a point about how it teaches an important general lesson.  Or maybe it isn't so much inconsistent, as each of the two points subtracts from the other.  It might help to at least put them in separate sentences.
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4est

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2017, 11:39:26 am »
0

I see, that makes sense, trivialknot.  Yeah, I can probably rephrase that first sentence such that it introduces the main lesson of that final section without tying it so directly to Sentry as the individual card.  My goal in this piece is to help newer players learn how to use Sentry specifically, but also gain a better understanding for why early trashing is important generally, and making that transition in the article is tricky, but important to get right.     

I'm planning to update the OP with a few more edits later this week and will try to incorporate some clearer wording there. 

Thanks for the feedback!
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2017, 02:21:31 pm »
0

Good cards get "more" in the way of Sentry because Sentry lets you trash up to 2 cards out of 2. So to get the best out of Sentry, nearly all your deck needs to be trash. Compare with, say, Steward, which lets you trash 2 cards out of (usually) 4. This means that to get the best out of Steward, only half your deck needs to be trash. So Steward's trashing isn't slowed down significantly by your adding good cards to the deck. And most trashers are in the Steward category, or slower.

In a sense, Chapel, Donate and maybe even Mint are in their own pseudo-category, since the risk with those is that you trash *too* fast.
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markusin

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2017, 11:40:57 pm »
+2

Good cards get "more" in the way of Sentry because Sentry lets you trash up to 2 cards out of 2. So to get the best out of Sentry, nearly all your deck needs to be trash. Compare with, say, Steward, which lets you trash 2 cards out of (usually) 4. This means that to get the best out of Steward, only half your deck needs to be trash. So Steward's trashing isn't slowed down significantly by your adding good cards to the deck. And most trashers are in the Steward category, or slower.

In a sense, Chapel, Donate and maybe even Mint are in their own pseudo-category, since the risk with those is that you trash *too* fast.

In the case of Chapel and Donate, that's more of a misplay issue. Only Mint forces you to trash at least $5 worth of treasure at a time, ignoring virtual coin.
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Shvegait

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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2017, 01:34:20 am »
+1

On the other side of the spectrum, consider Forge. Forge can be a stronger trasher in the mid-game as opposed to the early game (suppose there's Tactician or something like that), but you wouldn't say that it "demonstrates how critical it is to start trashing in the mid-game". It just happens to be when Forge is strongest at trashing (in that case). On the other hand, the particular mechanics of Sentry make it more effective at trashing in the early game, but not just because early trashing is good.

But the fact that early trashing is good in general, combined with Sentry's early peak trashing ability, makes you want Sentry as soon as possible. And there's an obvious power-level disparity between how Sentry works when you get it early vs. later. I mean, you already normally want trashers as soon as possible, but it's perhaps even more important with Sentry when it's the only trasher, and the $5 cost makes this a point worth making. I believe this is somewhat separate from the fact that early trashing is good. And I think because of this, it's not really clear that Sentry itself demonstrates that early trashing is better than mid-game trashing in general. I believe that lesson is much more clear with Chapel, which is also in Base. A more natural progression might be first understanding Chapel and why trashing at all is good, then understanding why especially early game trashing is good when Chapel is available, then building on that to understand Sentry.

I get that Chapel is old and already has plenty written about it, and Sentry is new. It's great to have an article about Sentry especially for new players. Perhaps some more comparison between Sentry and Chapel would be worthwhile, considering they will often appear together in Base-only kingdoms, or at least one of them will be in the kingdom fairly often.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 01:46:53 am by Shvegait »
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2017, 10:14:22 am »
+2

I'm curious if sentry should typically be bought over junk dealer. I don't think I'd describe sentry as better but as having a high variance (it can be better or worse). Maybe I've had unusually bad luck with it, but I've had quite a few games of a "sad sentry" (where it hardly trashes anything at all) and I'm curious if that's not that unusual. The difference of a search space of 2 compared to 5 is a big deal. When sentry trashes 4 cards on it's first 2 plays that's awesome, and it cycles you like crazy, which is awesome. When it only trashes 2-3 was it actually better than the junk dealer? Probably not. Given junk dealer's economy, junk dealer is better at helping you get to your second junk dealer. IMO junk dealer and sentry are pretty equal, it just depends if you want to take the higher risk of the variance with sentry. (I'd probably rate both of them over upgrade). I could totally be wrong here, maybe most of the time sentry hits big and it propels your deck faster and the way you state it in the article is right on. I'd be interested in other's thoughts.

Small item that might be too much of a detail to fit in: One downside to sentry I'm not sure you mention is its propensity to miss the shuffle. It is a very sad day when your opening 5 misses the shuffle and because it turns over two extra cards of your deck this will happen to it much more often.
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Re: Sentry: How to Play it and What it Teaches us about Dominion
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2017, 10:33:13 am »
+3

I'm curious if sentry should typically be bought over junk dealer. I don't think I'd describe sentry as better but as having a high variance (it can be better or worse). Maybe I've had unusually bad luck with it, but I've had quite a few games of a "sad sentry" (where it hardly trashes anything at all) and I'm curious if that's not that unusual. The difference of a search space of 2 compared to 5 is a big deal. When sentry trashes 4 cards on it's first 2 plays that's awesome, and it cycles you like crazy, which is awesome. When it only trashes 2-3 was it actually better than the junk dealer? Probably not. Given junk dealer's economy, junk dealer is better at helping you get to your second junk dealer. IMO junk dealer and sentry are pretty equal, it just depends if you want to take the higher risk of the variance with sentry. (I'd probably rate both of them over upgrade). I could totally be wrong here, maybe most of the time sentry hits big and it propels your deck faster and the way you state it in the article is right on. I'd be interested in other's thoughts.

On 5/2 I'd prefer Sentry most every time. On 3/4 maybe I'd prefer Junk Dealer, but I assume one Sentry is also close enough not to matter much.
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